World News

Muslims given say as New York City drafts surveillance guidelines

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York City has pledged to listen to suggestions by Muslim groups when it drafts new policies for investigating political activity, part of a settlement over police surveillance conducted after the 2001 World Trade Center attack.

The agreement, announced on Thursday by both parties after two years of talks, also requires the NYPD to send high-ranking officials to meet with members of the New Jersey-based Muslim groups that brought the suit against the city.

As part of the 11-page settlement, the NYPD pledged that it would conduct no investigations motivated by race, religion or ethnicity, in keeping with current regulations.

“The resolution of this case affirms and enhances the NYPD’s commitment to conducting effective investigations to prevent crime and terrorism,” Police Commissioner James O’Neill said in a statement.

The Muslim groups filed suit in U.S. District Court in Newark, New Jersey, nearly six years ago, demanding that the city police stop surveillance of mosques, businesses, college campuses and other gathering spots as part of its anti-terrorism campaign.

Farhaj Hassan, the lead plaintiff in the suit, said in a statement that the settlement was “part of a broader effort to hold this country to account for its stated commitment and its obligation to uphold religious liberty and equality.”

The NYPD, which admitted no wrongdoing under settlement, had pursued an aggressive surveillance programme after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks that sent undercover officers into Muslim neighbourhoods, organizations and mosques. Mayor Bill de Blasio ended the programme shortly after he took office in 2014.

The NYPD agreed to consider any proposed revisions suggested by the plaintiffs to new policy guidance now being drafted.

The settlement has not yet been approved by U.S. District Court Judge William Martini, who has presided over the case, the parties said. But attorneys for the plaintiffs said they expected the judge to sign off on it.

Under the agreement, the city also will pay the plaintiffs $75,000 in damages and $950,000 for legal fees.

Reporting by Peter Szekely; Editing by Susan Thomas