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SEATTLE (AP) _ The Justice Department has apologized and paid $250,000 to an Iraqi refugee wrongly detained in 2003 when he stepped off an Amtrak train in Montana to stretch his legs, according to a settlement agreement released Thursday. Abdul Habeeb, 41, of Kent, a Seattle suburb, spent eight days in custody before officials realized their mistake. They dropped deportation proceedings against him the following month, but Habeeb sued in 2005, seeking an apology and financial compensation. “You are an Iraqi who was admitted into the United States as a refugee,” Acting U.S. Attorney Jeff Sullivan in Seattle wrote in a June 13 letter to Habeeb. “You did nothing wrong. The United States of America regrets the mistake.” “Apologies are issued by the federal government when we’re wrong,” Sullivan said Thursday. “Maybe we don’t do it as often as we should, but in this case we were wrong, and I felt good about signing the letter.” Habeeb, an artist who says he was repeatedly jailed under Saddam Hussein’s regime, came to the U.S. in 2002, settling in the Seattle area. He was on his way to take a job at an Islamic newspaper in Washington, D.C., when he was wrongfully detained by border patrol agents at a stop in Havre, Mont., on April 1, 2003. During his time in custody, Habeeb says he was subjected to a strip search and interrogations. He said after his detention, the newspaper he was going to work for no longer wished to employ him. Habeeb filed two lawsuits _ one in federal district court at Great Falls, Mont., against the Customs and Border Protection agents, and one in Seattle against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. His case in Montana was dismissed by a U.S. District Judge Sam Haddon last year; as part of the agreement settling the two lawsuits, the Justice Department and the ACLU, which took up Habeeb’s case, asked the Montana judge, Sam Haddon, to vacate his decision as erroneous. The judge did so last month.

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