New York police agrees to stop surveillance based on religion and ethnicity

The New York Police Department has agreed not to conduct surveillance based on religion or ethnicity as part of a deal to settle claims it illegally spied on Muslims for years after the September 11 attacks.

The lawsuit came after The Associated Press revealed how the NYPD infiltrated Muslim student groups and put informants in mosques as part of an effort to prevent terrorist attacks.

In New Jersey, the department collected intelligence on ordinary people at mosques, restaurants and schools starting in 2002, the AP news agency reported.

At a news conference, the plaintiffs noted that the surveillance programme never produced a “terrorism” lead as it spied on at least 20 mosques, 14 restaurants, 11 retail stores, two grade schools and two Muslim student associations in New Jersey.

“Today’s settlement sends a message to all law enforcement: Simply being Muslim is not a basis for surveillance,” said Farhana Khera, executive director of Muslim Advocates, a legal advocacy and educational organisation.

The agreement announced Thursday by the city and the Islamic community also calls for the city to pay $75,000 in damages and nearly $1m in legal fees. 

It also requires the city to pay $47,500 to businesses and mosques harmed by surveillance and $25,000 to individual plaintiffs in $5,000 increments. The city also will pay $950,000 in legal fees for plaintiffs.

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