Muslims who felt their civil liberties had been violated have lodged more than 270 complaints with the US Justice Department.

The same department has launched six investigations into alleged civil rights abuses, including the mistreatment of Muslim prisoners, arising from Washington’s “anti-terror”  laws adopted after the 11 September attacks.

Justice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine said there were 272 complaints from mid-December to mid-June of Justice Department employees violating civil liberties.

Fine said one of the investigations involves allegations that a correctional officer verbally abused a Muslim inmate and ordered him to remove his shirt so the officer could shine his shoes with it.

In another case, an Egyptian national said the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) improperly arrested him. He said he was forced to submit to multiple cavity searches, denied access to counsel, the Egyptian consulate and was not allowed to practice his religion. 
 
In yet another probe, an Arab-American said FBI agents illegally searched his apartment, vandalized it, stole items and called him a “terrorist”.

Last month foreigners detained as part of the probe were held too long without being told of the charges against them and were subjected to unduly harsh conditions, said Fine.

The findings were published in a biannual report to the US congress.

Fine’s report was the third since the enactment of the Patriot Act, adopted after the 2001 attacks in New York City and Washington. Critics say the new legislations encroach on civil freedom.