An Iraqi refugee living in Kent has received an apology from the U.S. government after federal border and customs agents illegally jailed...

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An Iraqi refugee living in Kent has received an apology from the U.S. government after federal border and customs agents illegally jailed him in 2003.

Abdul Habeeb and representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union presented details of the apology during a news conference this morning at ACLU offices in Seattle. Habeeb has been living in the United States since leaving Iraq in 2002.

“The United States of America regrets the mistake,” wrote Jeff Sullivan, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington, in a letter to Habeeb on June 13.

In March 2005, Habeeb sued customs agents Thomas Castloo and Daryl Essing for unreasonable search and a violation of his right to due process. Habeeb was jailed for seven days after he was arrested in Havre, Mont. during a 2003 train trip to Washington, D.C.

A spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Havre didn’t return a call for comment this morning.

According to the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Helena, the agents stopped Habeeb when he got off the train and arrested him for not filing special immigration-registration paperwork.

Political refugees such as Habeeb — who showed the agents papers reflecting his refugee status — do not need to go through this special registration. Habeeb says he was imprisoned several times in Iraq and says his brother was executed by Saddam Hussein’s regime in 1982.

Habeeb was detained three days in Montana and four in Seattle and then released after an attorney made clear to Customs and Border Patrol that he never needed to register, Habeeb’s lawyer said.

Information previously reported in The Seattle Times is contained in this article.

Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or jensullivan@seattletimes.com