September 23, 2005
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette — Jury awards $2.45 million to man cleared of terrorism link; Egyptian-born doctor target of 9/11 probe.
An Egyptian-born radiologist initially suspected of having terrorist ties in the wake of Sept. 11, 2001 and later cleared was awarded $2.45 million yesterday by a federal jury that decided his right to privacy was violated.
Dr. Basem Moustafa Hussein, 40, won the award from his former landlord in Neshannock Township outside New Castle, where he was living in 2001.
The jury said his building manager at The Meadows Apartments, Sherri Lynn Wilson, was liable along with her company for violating his privacy when she walked into his unit on Sept. 11 and saw, among other items, a compact disc jacket that showed a jetliner flying through two buildings next to a fireball.
Wilson called state police, leading to a federal investigation that ended a few days later when the FBI concluded Hussein had nothing to do with terrorism.
The disc jacket turned out to be part of a flight simulator computer game, as was a flight manual Wilson saw next to it.
Hussein filed suit later that year, saying he had endured repeated questioning from agents, lost his job in New Mexico, was evicted from his apartment and had his name mentioned as a potential terrorist in news reports. He said Egyptian police also ransacked his parent’s apartment in Egypt at the request of U.S. authorities and caused $200,000 in damage.
Hussein named Wilson and her employer, Universal Development Management Inc., of Girard, Ohio, as defendants, along with UDE of Mitchell Road Ltd., of Girard, a limited partnership that owns the building.
The jury actually ruled against Hussein on three of his four civil rights claims, saying the defendants did not trespass and did not discriminate against him because of his race. Hussein had said Wilson targeted him because he’s Arabic.
But the jury did say she invaded his privacy.
He won $850,000 in compensatory damages and another $1.6 million in punitive damages for “malice or reckless indifference” to his rights.
Hussein, who travels the country as a contract radiologist, was on his way to a new job in Nashville, Tenn., yesterday and couldn’t be reached. His lawyer, Craig Fishman, said Hussein didn’t want to talk to the news media.
Eric Hall, an Allentown-based lawyer for the defendants, didn’t return a call yesterday.
For a while, the incident completely disrupted Hussein’s life.
On Sept. 11, Hussein was reading X-rays at Northern Navajo Medical Center in Shiprock, N.M., where he had started work Sept. 4.
After the search in Neshannock, FBI agents in New Mexico began questioning him. He took a leave of absence from his job but said he was fired Sept. 13.
That same day, he said, the apartment building management served notice that his lease was being terminated because his conduct “constitutes a health and safety risk to the apartment complex and other tenants.”
That night, an FBI agent in New Mexico exonerated him in the investigation. He was later subpoenaed to appear before a federal grand jury in Pittsburgh, but on Sept. 26 he met with federal prosecutors here to answer questions without having to testify. The U.S. attorney’s office said he was not a suspect.
Hussein had said previously he was singled out because he appeared to be the ideal suspect. He has Arab roots, he’s Muslim and he’s a single doctor without social ties to his neighbors. It didn’t help that he has an affinity for aviation.
Hussein moved from Egypt to Canada with his family when he was 6 years old. Although he’s a Canadian citizen, he has been a permanent resident of the United States since the 1980s and had been living in Neshannock for about two years when the terrorist attacks occurred.
By Torsten Ove
(Torsten Ove can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-2620.)
September 23, 2005