Virginia man’s challenge to no-fly list clears hurdle

January 23, 2014

 

A federal judge on Wednesday allowed a Virginia man’s challenge to his placement on the no-fly list to go forward, three years after he was stranded in Kuwait.

U.S. District Judge Anthony Trenga issued a 32-page written ruling rejecting arguments of government lawyers who wanted the case dismissed. Trenga said that Gulet Mohamed suffers significant harm from his apparent placement on the list and the Constitution gives him the right to challenge his no-fly status.

Trenga acknowledged that Mohamed’s travel rights must be balanced against the government’s duty to protect its citizens from terrorism, but wrote that “the No Fly 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.”

The Justice Department is reviewing the ruling, department spokesman Wyn Hornbuckle said in an email late Wednesday.
The government has refused to say why it would have placed Mohamed on the no-fly list; in fact, the government won’t even confirm that Mohamed, or anyone else, is on the list at all. The government says only that people are placed on the list when it has “reasonable suspicion to believe that a person is a known or suspected terrorist.”

Mohamed, an Alexandria resident and naturalized U.S. citizen, was 19 when he was detained by Kuwaiti authorities in 2011. Mohamed says he was beaten and interrogated at the behest of the U.S. and denied the right to fly home.
U.S. authorities allowed Mohamed to fly home after he filed a federal lawsuit, but Mohamed says he remains on the list without justification.

Mohamed’s lawyer, Gadeir Abbas, who is with the Council on American-Islamic Relations, called the ruling “a stinging rebuke to the government’s use of the no-fly list.”
Washington Post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/travel/va-mans-challenge-to-no-fly-list-clears-hurdle/2014/01/23/7e063730-8432-11e3-a273-6ffd9cf9f4ba_story.html

CAIR to File Complaint Over MN Judge’s Questioning on ‘Sharia’

(WASHINGTON, D.C., 5/17/13) — The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, said today that it plans to file a complaint against a Minnesota judge who inappropriately questioned defendants on their religious beliefs and equated mainstream Islamic principles with terrorism.

Before sentencing two Muslim women to lengthy prison terms yesterday, U.S. District Judge Michael Davis asked each woman if she supported “jihad, suicide bombings and Sharia law.” Judge Davis also asked, “Does she understand there are some Muslim women who wear dresses or short skirts?” Davis said he was trying to decide whether the defendants would “support terrorist causes” when they are released from prison. The questions reportedly drew audible reactions in a courtroom packed with Muslim spectators.

“It is misguided and unethical for a judge to reference an individual’s general support of mainstream Islamic principles, known as Sharia, during sentencing to determine a defendant’s future dangerousness,” said CAIR Staff Attorney Gadeir Abbas. “By also linking modest dress to a propensity for violence, the judge revealed a disturbing bias that may have impacted his decisions in this case and his sentencing of the defendants.”

Abbas said CAIR would file a complaint based on the Judicial Conduct and Disability Act of 1980, 28 U.S.C. §§ 351-364, and Rules for Judicial-Conduct and Judicial-Disability Proceedings, 248 F.R.D. 674 (2008).

He added that CAIR’s complaint will not deal with the specifics of the cases or the charges against the defendants, but with the action of the judge in inappropriately questioning the defendants on their views about Sharia and modest attire, both of which are irrelevant to their cases.

American Muslim blames the FBI, saying he was tortured at their behest in United Arab Emirates

PORTLAND, Ore. — His interrogators usually came in the morning. Peeking under a blindfold in a cold concrete cell, Yonas Fikre says he caught only glimpses of their shoes.

They beat the soles of his feet with hoses and sticks, asking him about his Portland, Ore., mosque and its imam. Each day, the men questioning him in a United Arab Emirates prison told the 33-year-old Fikre he would be released “tomorrow,” according to an account he gave on Wednesday at a press conference in Sweden, where he has been since September.

“It was very hard, because you don’t know why you are in there and the only person you speak to is either yourself, or the wall, or when you go to the restroom or when you go to the torture place,” said Fikre, who was held for 106 days. “I have never been that isolated from human beings in my entire life.”

An advocacy group alleges that over the past two years the FBI has been using aggressive tactics against Muslim-Americans travelling abroad to try to pressure them to become informants when they got home. Gadeir Abbas, staff attorney for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, says there have been several instances of FBI agents calling travelers into embassies or consulates for questioning.

2 Libyan-Americans from Oregon now being allowed to return to US after unexplained delays

PORTLAND, Ore. — Two Libyan-Americans from the Portland, Ore., area who were denied re-entry to the United States from Libya have been granted permission to return home, although one man’s return has been delayed.

The two men — Jamal Tarhuni, 55, and Mustafa Elogbi, 60 — traveled separately to Libya last year after the revolution that ousted Moammar Gadhafi.

The pair has now received assurances from the State Department that they can travel home, said Gadeir Abbas, a lawyer for the Washington-based Council on American Islamic Relations, a Muslim civil rights group that has advocated for both men. Tarhuni has already departed Libya and is expected to arrive in Oregon Tuesday.

Elogbi was told he can leave but was ordered to delay his departure for unexplained reasons. He now plans to depart on Sunday.
Last month, both were barred from boarding return flights to the U.S. The two said they were being subjected to an overzealous and groundless investigation by the FBI.

CAIR: D.C. Hotel Uses ‘National Security’ Defense in Muslim Bias Suit

(WASHINGTON, D.C., 11/29/11) –- The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today termed “unprecedented” a claim by a Washington, D.C., hotel that it had the right to discriminate against a Muslim employee because of a “national security exemption.”

In a motion filed yesterday in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the Mandarin Oriental Hotel said the Muslim employee’s discrimination lawsuit should be rejected by the court because the hotel “was following a mandate from the federal government regarding a matter of national security.”

The hotel’s motion blames its discriminatory actions on security requirements allegedly imposed by the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security Service (DSS).

“It is chilling to see the Mandarin Hotel — a private company — claim that national security concerns shield its discriminatory conduct from the law,” said CAIR Staff Attorney Gadeir Abbas. “We are confident the court will reject this unprecedented claim.”

Abbas said CAIR’s suit on behalf of the Muslim employee alleged that in December 2010, the American citizen of Moroccan heritage was forbidden to go to the 8th or 9th floors of the hotel because an Israeli delegation was staying there.

US Teen being kept out of Country

An attorney for a Muslim rights group says it plans to file a legal challenge for a U.S. teenager it claims is not allowed to board a flight back to the U.S. According to the authorities, the teenager is on a no-fly list.

CAIR attorney Gadeir Abbas says the Alexandria, Va. teenager is on a no-fly list and the group plans to file a federal court challenge claiming the United States is wrongly blocking the return of a U.S. citizen.