Ruling allows CAIR lawsuit on behalf of Muslim traveler to go forward
(WASHINGTON, D.C., 1/22/14) — The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation's largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today applauded a ruling by a federal judge in Virginia that said placement on the government's no-fly list “transforms a person into a second class citizen, or worse.”
That 32-page opinion, filed today, allows CAIR's lawsuit against the government on behalf of Virginia resident Gulet Mohamed to go forward.
“We applaud this decision as a clear rebuke of the government's use of the no-fly list as applied to Americans,” said CAIR Staff Attorney Gadeir Abbas, the lead CAIR attorney on the case.
Abbas said Mohamed was prevented from boarding a flight to the United States in 2011 and has alleged that he was tortured while in detention in Kuwait and faced unconstitutional coercion to answer questions by FBI agents who ignored his repeated requests for legal representation.
CAIR filed a lawsuit against the government alleging violation of Mohamed's right to return to the United States and his right to challenge his placement on the no-fly list.
Video: Gulet Mohamed Speaks on Return to U.S. (CAIR)
The decision includes a long explanation of the grave consequences imposed on those the government places on the no-fly list, noting that the list “implicates some of our basic freedoms and liberties as well as the question of whether we will embrace those basic freedoms when it is most difficult.”Â
Judge Anthony J. Trenga found that the inability to fly “effectively limits educational, employment and professional opportunities,” and being placed on the list is “life defining and life restricting across a broad range of constitutionally protected activities and aspirations.”
In allowing Mohamed's case to move forward, the court questioned the standards the government utilizes in placing people on the list, finding it “not difficult to imagine completely innocent conduct serving as the starting point for a string of subjective, speculative inferences that result in a person's inclusion on the No Fly List.”Â
The judge noted that the government has failed to produce any evidence of “past or ongoing unlawful conduct” and he also noted the “possibility, if not the probability, that [placement on the No Fly List] may be bound up with beliefs, personal associations, or activities that are perceived as threatening but are perfectly lawful in themselves, and may indeed be constitutionally protected.”
The court rejected the government's attempt to dismiss Mohamed's claim based on his inability to return to the United States, holding that a “U.S. citizen's right to reenter the United States entails more than simply the right to step over the border after having arrived there.”
CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. 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.
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CONTACT: CAIR Staff Attorney Gadeir Abbas, 202-742-6410, 720-251-0425, email@example.com; CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-744-7726, firstname.lastname@example.org