Political Asylee Claims U.S. Is Following Him

     WASHINGTON (CN) – An Algerian asylee claims the United States imprisoned him for a year, but never charged him with anything, and falsely, and publicly, accused him of a plot to “plant bombs” in the United States: he sued for records of his arrest, detention and the FBI’s continued surveillance of him.
     Amine Touarsi sued the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security, in Federal Court. During his imprisonment, which included 2 weeks in solitary confinement, an immigration judge denied his application for political asylum, but the Board of Immigration Appeals overturned the ruling and granted him asylum on Dec. 28, 2000, Touarsi says in the complaint.
     Touarsi, of Massachusetts, is originally from Oran, Algeria.
     “From the age of 12, Mr. Touarsi worked at his family’s clothing business in Oran, Algeria,” the complaint states. “By 1990, he took over and ran the business.
     “Mr. Touarsi’s family knew [Ahmed] Ben Bella, the former president of Algeria.
     “Subsequently, on or about late 1990, the former president surprised Mr. Touarsi by visiting his home.
     “At the time, the Armed Islamic Group of Algeria (or ‘GIA’), an insurgent group, was beginning to target businessmen like Mr. Touarsi.
     “The visit by former President Ben Bella made Mr. Touarsi well known in the community, and made him notorious in the eyes of the GIA.
     “Mr. Touarsi left Algeria in fear for his life.
     “In 1998, Mr. Touarsi applied for political asylum in the United States from Algeria due to his religious views, political affiliations, and opinions.”
     The Immigration and Naturalization Service arrested Touarsi in December 1999, while he was waiting for a decision in his asylum case.
     “His arrest was purportedly at the direction of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, in connection with a suspected plot to ‘plant bombs’ in the United States,” the complaint states.
     “News of the investigation, including Mr. Touarsi’s name, was widely reported in the national and international press.
     “Mr. Touarsi was told by his cousin that friends living in France learned from the press that he had been arrested as a result of being involved in ‘terrorist’ activities.
     “The press reports claimed that it was the view of United States authorities that the ‘terrorist’ plotters were Algerians linked to the GIA and supported by Osama bin Laden. However, it was the Algerians linked to the GIA who had threatened Mr. Touarsi; he was never a member or supporter of the GIA.”
     Touarsi says he was never charged with a crime, but spent 12 months in prison, eight of them in a maximum security prison, where other inmates and guards verbally abused him and “threatened him with physical harm and death.”
     In overturning the immigration judge’s denial of asylum, but the Board of Immigration Appeals found that Touarsi faced a considerable risk of being detained, tortured and killed in Algeria due to his perceived association with the GIA, Touarsi says in the complaint.
     “Following his release on Jan. 12, 2001, Mr. Touarsi was monitored, followed, and harassed by law enforcement officers at social functions and at work,” the complaint states.
     “The FBI and the defendant DOJ have continued the surveillance and interference in Mr. Touarsi’s normal life. Such surveillance has deprived Mr. Touarsi of his right to live free from the government’s warrantless interference.
     “Mr. Touarsi has lost many jobs and friends because of this unreasonable surveillance.
     “To this day, Mr. Touarsi feels that he is continuously under surveillance and cannot live a normal existence.”
     Touarsi submitted a FOIA request to the FBI in March 2012, asking for all records related to his arrest and detention, surveillance by law enforcement, investigations and reports concerning him, and records the FBI relied on in its investigations.
     He says the FBI never responded to his request.
     He submitted a second request in January, and the FBI released 56 heavily redacted pages, according to the complaint.
     U.S. Customs and Border Protection released seven heavily redacted pages, with “very little information of value,” in response to his request.
     Touarsi says he appealed, but Customs denied his appeal, and the Department of Justice never responded.
     He wants to see all the records, and wants the agencies to expunge them.
     He is represented by Alan Kabat with Bernabei & Wachtel, of Washington, D.C., and Omar Mohammedi of New York City.

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