Kent resident Abdul Habeeb, right, shown Thursday with his ACLU attorney, Jesse Wing, was arrested at a Montana railroad station in 2003.

An Iraqi refugee living in Kent has received a written apology and $250,000 from the U.S. government after federal border and customs agents illegally jailed him in 2003.

Yet Abdul Habeeb and his attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) remain fiercely at odds with the government over whether Habeeb was a victim of racial profiling when he was improperly arrested in Havre, Mont., in April 2003.

Jesse Wing, board president of the ACLU of Washington, said in a news release: “The settlement is a strong reminder that the government must not engage in ethnic profiling.”

Jeffrey Sullivan, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Washington, countered that the ACLU mischaracterized Habeeb’s case.

“This settlement has nothing to do with racial profiling,” Sullivan said. “I believe the officers had a good reason to contact Mr. Habeeb beyond how he looked.”

Sullivan said federal agents acted in good faith, but incorrectly, when they concluded that Habeeb had violated immigration laws.

The issue is an extremely sensitive one in the Puget Sound area at the moment.

Muslim- and Arab-American leaders have expressed outrage that the FBI this week released photos of two men, who appear to be of Middle Eastern descent, who the agency claimed were acting suspiciously around Washington state ferries. The FBI hopes to identify the two men by publicizing their photos.

Some have accused the FBI of racial profiling by releasing the photos.


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