CAIRO – A ruling by a federal judge that found US "no-fly list" violating the constitutional rights of American Muslims has been praised by the Muslim community and civil rights groups who have been arguing for years to scrap of the "unfair" code.
“We welcome Judge [Anna] Brown’s ruling as a strong affirmation of the constitutional principle that rights, such as the right to travel freely, cannot be curtailed without due process of law,” the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) National Executive Director Nihad Awad said in a statement obtained by OnIslam.net.
Awad’s praise followed a Tuesday’s decision by Anna Brown, an Oregon district judge, that 13 American Muslims who were placed on no-fly list were denied their constitutional right to due process.
The landmark ruling ordered the government to redraft the procedures "that allow people on the no-fly list to challenge that designation", considering the current code "wholly ineffective".
The 65-page opinion handed a victory to a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on behalf of 13 Americans, mostly Muslims, who have been banned from boarding flights since 2010 over alleged terrorism links.
“Without proper notice and an opportunity to be heard, an individual could be doomed to indefinite placement on the No-Fly List," US District Judge Brown said in Tuesday's ruling that was cited by ACLU.
"The absence of any meaningful procedures to afford Plaintiffs the opportunity to contest their placement on the No-Fly List violates Plaintiffs’ rights to procedural due process.”
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.
Last January, a Muslims Malaysian professor was removed from the no-fly list, marking the first victory against the much criticized American list.
A 2006 law suit alleged that the government violated Dr. Rahinah Ibrahim’s due process rights when it placed her on the “no-fly” list.
The Muslim plaintiffs cheered the long-awaited decision by the federal court on Tuesday.
"Finally I will be able to challenge whatever incorrect information the government has been using to stigmatize me and keep me from flying,” Sheikh Mohamed Abdirahman Kariye, who is the imam of Portland’s largest Mosque, one of the plaintiffs in the case, said.
“I have been prevented by the government from traveling to visit my family members and fulfill religious obligations for years, and it has had a devastating impact on all of us. After all this time, I look forward to a fair process that allows me to clear my name in court,” the imam added.
Tuesday's ruling has also won applauds from the ACLU National Security Project Director Hina Shamsi.
“For years, in the name of national security the government has argued for blanket secrecy and judicial deference to its profoundly unfair No Fly List procedures, and those arguments have now been resoundingly rejected by the court,” Shamsi said.
“Our clients will finally get the due process to which they are entitled under the Constitution.
"This excellent decision also benefits other people wrongly stuck on the No Fly List, with the promise of a way out from a Kafkaesque bureaucracy causing them no end of grief and hardship.
"We hope this serves as a wake-up call for the government to fix its broken watchlist system, which has swept up so many innocent people.”
Earlier in October 2013, a US Muslim Air Force veteran had complained of being barred from leaving the country after being allowed to care for his terminally-ill mother.
In May 2012, fifteen American Muslims, including four military veterans, sued the federal government over being placed on a “no-fly” list for no apparent reason.
Earlier in 2011, an American Muslim 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.
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