No-fly-list challenge back in court 2 years later; Va. man still barred from travel

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — It’s been 2 ½ years since Gulet Mohamed, then 19, found himself stuck in Kuwait, unable to return to the United States because of his apparent placement on the government’s no-fly list.

 

Mohamed made it back to the U.S. not long after a federal lawsuit was filed on his behalf in January 2011, but the lawsuit challenging his placement on the list remains unresolved.

 

On Friday, Mohamed was back in a northern Virginia courtroom, where his lawsuit has been revived but as a legal matter is no further along than it was in 2011.

 

U.S. District Court Judge Anthony Trenga dismissed Mohamed’s case last year, deciding he did not have jurisdiction to hear it. Earlier this year, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the lawsuit and sent the case back to Trenga.

 

Mohamed’s lawyer, Gadeir Abbas of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the court should now be in a position to rule on the substantive issue of whether the no-fly list is constitutional, and whether those placed on it must be given a fair chance to challenge their inclusion.

 

There has never been any explanation of how Mohamed — a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Somalia — ended up on the list, much less government confirmation of his placement on the list. His travel difficulties began after he traveled to Yemen and Somalia in 2009 to learn Arabic, then to Kuwait where he stayed with an uncle. He said he was questioned by FBI agents who wanted him to become an informant, and when detained by Kuwait he was beaten and tortured.

 

Mohamed’s challenge to the list was among the first in a wave of lawsuits that followed a dramatic expansion of the list that occurred after the failed plot by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to blow up a Detroit-bound flight on Christmas 2009 with a bomb hidden in his underwear.