Arsalan Iftikhar , CAIR National Legal Director, addresses members of the press during the joint CAIR /NYCLU/ACLU press conference announcing the filing of the civil rights lawsuit. From left to right: Chris Dunn (NYCLU Asst. Legal Director), Asma Elshinawy (Plaintiff), Donna Lieberman (Executive Director, NYCLU), Dr. Sawsan Tabbaa (Plaintiff) and daughter Serene
(WASHINGTON, D.C., 4/20/05) – In simultaneous news conferences held today in New York City and Buffalo, N.Y., the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) announced the filing of a federal lawsuit against the head of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) over the practice of targeting American citizens participating in religious conferences outside the United States. The lawsuit was filed this morning in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York on behalf of five American Muslim citizens who, along with dozens of other Muslims, were detained, interrogated, fingerprinted, and photographed at the Buffalo-Canadian border as they returned home from an annual Islamic conference in Toronto.
SEE: “Five Muslims to Sue U.S. Over Border Detentions” http://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/20/nyregion/20detain.html
“Muslim-Americans Sue Over Treatment at Border” http://www.newsday.com/news/local/wire/newyork/ny-bc-ny–muslimsstopped0420apr20,0,1481114.story
“Muslims to Sue Over Detentions at Border” http://www.buffalonews.com/editorial/20050420/1042096.asp
According to documents filed with the court, government officials violated the plaintiffs’ rights under the First and Fourth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution and under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner Robert C. Bonner, Buffalo Port Director Joseph J. Wilson, and CBP Director of Field Operation in Buffalo Michael D’Ambrosio are named in the lawsuit, which states in part: “None of the plaintiffs had engaged in any unlawful conduct nor any other conduct that would justify the mistreatment to which they were subjected but instead were subjected to this treatment solely because they had attended the conference.” To read the entire complaint, go to: http://www.nyclu.org/pdfs/tabbaa_v_chertoff_complaint.pdf The lawsuit asks the court to prevent the government from taking similar actions against other American citizens and seeks the return or removal from government databases of all information obtained from the plaintiffs during their detention. “When American citizens are targeted by their own government and detained, searched, fingerprinted, and photographed with threat of arrest for committing no crime, this is not only unacceptable and unlawful, but also unconstitutional and un-American,” said CAIR National Legal Director Arsalan Iftikhar. (CAIR-NY legal advisor Khurrum Wahid took part in the Buffalo news conference.) Other groups involved in the lawsuit offered similar comments. Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the NYCLU: “None of the citizens who were detained had done anything unlawful, nor were they charged with any unlawful act.
It is very troubling that citizens who were exercising their First Amendment rights were singled out because of their faith and attending the conference.” Christopher Dunn, NYCLU Associate Legal Director: “American citizens of all faiths have a right to attend religious conferences without having the government detaining and interrogating them and without the government putting their fingerprints and photographs in a database. What the government is doing is wrong and unconstitutional, and our lawsuit aims to stop this practice.” Catherine Kim, Staff Attorney of the ACLU: “The government cannot criminalize American citizens for their religious beliefs. Americans need to know that they can practice their religion and attend religious conferences without fear of government reprisals.” CAIR, America’s largest Muslim civil liberties group, has 31 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
CONTACT: CAIR – Arsalan Iftikhar, 202-488-8787 or 202-415-0799, E-Mail: email@example.com; Ibrahim Hooper, 202-488-8787 or 202-744-7726, E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Rabiah Ahmed, 202-488-8787 or 202-439-1441, E-Mail: email@example.com; NYCLU/ACLU – Sheila Stainback, NYCLU Communications Director, 212-344-3005, ext. 244; 917-573-7880; Jeanne-Noel Mahoney and John Curr, firstname.lastname@example.org, 716-852-4033; Erica Pelletreau, email@example.com, 212-519-7829; Udi Ofer, 347-645-4333
NOTE: CAIR offers an e-mail list designed to be a journalist’s window to the American Muslim community. Subscribers to the list, called ISLAM-INFONET, receive news releases and other materials dealing with American Muslim positions on issues of importance to our society.
To SUBSCRIBE to ISLAM-INFONET, go to: http://cair.biglist.com/islam-infonet/