PORTLAND, Oregon – Fifteen American Muslims, including four military veterans, are suing the federal government over being placed on a “no-fly” list for no apparent reason.
"They have been deprived of their rights without redress," Nusrat Choudhury, an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lawyer, told the court, Reuters reported.
Choudhury said her clients "want the opportunity to be heard before a decision-maker."
The plaintiffs, who are US citizens or permanent legal residents, said they learned of their "no-fly" status when they were blocked from boarding a commercial flight without prior notice.
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The original lawsuit, filed in June 2010, was first dismissed by the district court in Portland, Oregon, on the ground that the court lacked jurisdiction over the matter.
The ruling denied the plaintiffs any effective means of petitioning the government to be removed from the list.
But the ACLU appealed the decision to the 9th US Appeals Court, which heard the case on Friday and will decide the proper venue for the case.
US Attorney General Eric Holder, FBI Director Robert Mueller and Timothy Healy, director of the Terrorist Screening Center, are defendants in the suit.
Established in 2003 and administrated by the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center, the “no-fly” list includes some 20,000 people deemed by the agency as known to have, or reasonably suspected of having, ties to terrorism.
About 500 of them are US citizens, according to an agency spokesman.
The plaintiffs, who are residents of Oregon and other states and include four veterans of the US armed forces, deny any terrorism links.
Choudhury said none of the plaintiffs in the case poses any threat to airline security.
“They’re ordinary Americans like everyone else,” Choudhury told Reuters before the hearing.
“What happened to them could happen to anyone when the government operates a secret watchlist.”
The court questioned the Justice Department over the move American Muslims should take if they were denied permission to fly.
“How would you proceed? ... What should the plaintiff's do?" Chief Judge Alex Kozinski asked government lawyer Joshua Waldman.
ACLU lawyer, Choudhury, conveyed the same message.
“The plaintiffs don’t know how to fix whatever mistake or innuendo got them on the list,” she told the Daily News.
Since 9/11, Muslims, estimated between six to seven million, have become sensitized to an erosion of their civil rights, with a prevailing belief that America was stigmatizing their faith.
Last week, a Muslim-American family was kicked off a JetBlue flight because their 18-month child was flagged as no-fly.
In 2009, nine members of a Muslim family were removed from a domestic AirTran Airways flight to Orlando, Florida, after they chatted about their seats in the plane.
Another incident occurred in 2006 when six imams were removed from a domestic flight for what passengers considered suspicious behavior.They were removed from the flight, handcuffed and detained in the airport for questioning for over five hours.
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