US Appeals Court to Rehear Maher Arar´s Torture Case

A US federal appeals court will reconsider its decision with regards to a Canadian engineer’s lawsuit over torture he endured following being falsely mistaken for an Islamic extremist. The decision by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan was, according to the International Herald Tribune, unusual because the circuit assembles for a case but once or twice a year and because Maher Arar’s attorneys had yet to request a full hearing. The Syrian-born, Ottawa, Canada-resident was detained in 2002 after switching planes at JFK International Airport as he returned to Canada. Arar, 37, spent nearly a year in prison being tortured prior to being returned to Canada without charges. The Canadian government agreed to pay him almost $10 million and acknowledged it passed incorrect information regarding Arar’s participation with al-Qaeda to U.S. authorities. Arguments are scheduled for December 9th.

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International Herald Tribune

The National Post

The National Post

US Appeals Court to Rehear Maher Arar’s Torture Case

A US federal appeals court will reconsider its decision with regards to a Canadian engineer’s lawsuit over torture he endured following being falsely mistaken for an Islamic extremist. The decision by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan was, according to the International Herald Tribune, unusual because the circuit assembles for a case but once or twice a year and because Maher Arar’s attorneys had yet to request a full hearing. The Syrian-born, Ottawa, Canada-resident was detained in 2002 after switching planes at JFK International Airport as he returned to Canada. Arar, 37, spent nearly a year in prison being tortured prior to being returned to Canada without charges. The Canadian government agreed to pay him almost $10 million and acknowledged it passed incorrect information regarding Arar’s participation with al-Qaeda to U.S. authorities. Arguments are scheduled for December 9th.

Caribbean: Alleged plot casts light on the Caribbean

The alleged terror plot against John F. Kennedy International Airport has cast a spotlight on radical Muslim elements in the Caribbean, including a group that launched the hemisphere’s only Islamic revolt and a former Florida man wanted by the FBI. In 1990, Yasin Abu Bakr, a Muslim leader on the twin-island nation of Trinidad and Tobago, led a six-day coup attempt against the government with his 113-member Jamaat Al Muslimeen organization. The prime minister was shot and wounded and 24 others killed. In an indictment unveiled in New York on Saturday, the U.S. government accused the four men of conspiring to plant explosives at the airport and of trying to contact Abu Bakr personally to seek his support. Two of them failed, but one of them claimed to have talked to Abu Bakr, the indictment said. Three of the men are natives of Guyana and one is from Trinidad. Two of the men were arrested last week in Trinidad and police are searching for a third suspect there. The fourth man was arrested in Brooklyn on Friday night. (…) Muslims, mostly Sunnis, make up about 9 percent of Guyana’s population of about 770,000. Though Guyana has not had the same level of activity as Trinidad, the FBI has been looking for Adnan Gulshair Muhammad el Shukrijumah, a former Broward County resident and one of the few alleged al-Qaida members known to have been in Latin America – in his case, Trinidad, Guyana and Panama. The Saudi Arabia-born el Shukrijumah lived with his parents in Miramar, Fla., until four months before the Sept. 11 attacks. An FBI statement at the time said he was “possibly involved with al-Qaida terrorist activities and, if true, poses a serious threat.”

Minneapolis airport cabbies who refuse fares face tough penalties

Muslim cabdrivers at Minnesota’s biggest airport will face new penalties, including a two-year revocation of their taxi permits, if they refuse to give rides to travelers carrying liquor or accompanied by dogs, the board overseeing operations ruled Monday. The Metropolitan Airports Commission, which was responding to complaints about the liquor issue, voted unanimously to impose the penalties, which take effect in May. A large number of taxi drivers in the area of the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport are Muslim Somali immigrants. Many say they believe that the faith’s ban on alcohol consumption includes transporting anyone who carries it. Some also have refused to transport dogs, both pets and guide dogs, saying that they are unclean. The rules cover any driver who refuses a ride for unwarranted reasons. Under the new regulations, a first offense would result in a 30-day cab license suspension. A second offense would mean a two-year taxi license revocation. The current penalty requires only that drivers who refuse a fare go to the end of the taxi queue, which costs them time and money.

U.S. Entry Increasingly Being Denied

A Zimbabwe woman who arrived in San Francisco traveling on a student visa was barred from entering the United States. A Jordanian national with a valid passport and visa was denied entry in Chicago. And four University of Florida students who had gone home to China for Christmas were barred from returning for months. Since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, foreign visitors who may once have easily entered the United States are facing increased scrutiny at land borders, airports and seaports. Every year, more than 300,000 noncitizens are denied entry for reasons ranging from improper or fraudulent travel documents to suspected terrorist ties. Last week, Safana Jawad, an Iraqi-born Spanish citizen, said she was denied entry at Tampa International Airport because federal agents believed she was connected to someone they view as suspicious. Her case isn’t unusual. About 500 noncitizens last year were denied entry because of terrorism or national security concerns, said Kelly Klundt, a spokeswoman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Washington, D.C. “Ninety-nine percent of the traveling public is absolutely legitimate,” she said. “However, we will not denigrate our antiterrorism mission in any way in order to achieve being a welcoming nation.” Klundt’s agency was formed in 2003 under the Department of Homeland Security to oversee all immigration, customs and agriculture border inspections and enforcement. The following year, its agents denied entry to more than 450,000 noncitizens. The stricter border enforcement may be needed, but it also has led to an increase in fear among visitors to the United States, said Philip Hwang, an attorney with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights. “The danger is that there is a mind-set among some federal officers which allows immigrants to be seen as the enemy, and fails to recognize their value and contribution to this country,” he said. His San Francisco firm specializes in cases of abuse by federal immigration and border officials. Recently, Hwang represented Tsungai Tungwarara, a Zimbabwe woman who was denied entry at San Francisco International Airport in 2002. Tungwarara was traveling on a valid student visa and federal agents suspected she planned to stay in the United States to attend school. Hwang said she already had enrolled at a school overseas. Tungwarara was detained at the Oakland County jail and strip-searched. Last October, a federal district court ruled the strip search was unconstitutional. And last week, the U.S. government settled the lawsuit for $65,000, Hwang said. The settlement was filed April 12 at the federal courthouse in San Francisco, the same day Jawad, 45, sat in a maximum-security cell of the Pinellas County jail. She arrived at Tampa International Airport to visit her son, who lives in Clearwater with her ex-husband, Ahmad Maki Kubba, 49. After being denied entry, Jawad was taken to the jail, booked as a felon and strip-searched. “It’s shocking because Jawad’s case is strikingly similar to the one we just settled,” Hwang said. “You’d think Homeland Security would get its act together. But it’s a problem that’s not going away.” Jawad is now visiting family members in London before returning home to Spain. Homeland Security has launched its own investigation of Jawad’s treatment at the jail while in federal custody. “I love America, but this was wrong,” Kubba said. “She is innocent until proven guilty, but they dealt with her as a criminal.” Along with suspicions of terrorist ties, visitors may be denied entry for a variety of reasons, including lying about their planned visit and the possession of smuggled merchandise or fraudulent travel documents. U.S. Customs and Border Protection says the increased scrutiny has netted some big fish, including a suicide bomber. In 2003, Ra’ed Mansour al-Banna, a Jordanian national with a genuine passport and valid visa, was denied entry at Chicago O’Hare International Airport because he presented “terrorist risk factors” during questioning, Klundt said. She wouldn’t elaborate. Al-Banna, 30, was detained overnight and sent home. In 2005, he was identified as the suicide bomber who drove a vehicle loaded with explosives into a Shiite city that February, killing 132 Iraqis. Fingerprints from his severed hand, found chained to the steering wheel, were matched with those taken by federal agents at the airport. “I’m not saying everyone we deny entry to is like al-Banna. But when we’re denying people on terrorism grounds, there’s reason for it,” Klundt said. “Our primary mission is antiterrorism. But will we deny entry because of incorrect paperwork? Absolutely.” Several Florida university officials say the stricter enforcement since Sept.11 has translated into a perception of the United States as an unwelcoming nation. The view has led to a significant drop in applicants to the University of Florida, said Debra Anderson, the international student coordinator. The four Chinese students barred entry in 2004 were eventually allowed back after additional security checks. The fear of not being able to return to school continues to worry students at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. “The students are very afraid to go home during their breaks because they are afraid of having problems coming back,” said Lisa Kahn, director of International Affairs at USF. Problems may arise even before students or professors reach a U.S. port of entry. In February, a prominent Indian scientist who was offered a visiting professorship at UF was denied a visa at a U.S. consulate in Madras, said Dennis Jett, dean of the International Center. Goverdhan Mehta said he was accused of potential links to chemical weapons production. Mehta refused to come even after U.S. officials granted him a visa two weeks later. Last week, the American Civil Liberties Union asked a federal court to lift a visa ban on another professor, Tariq Ramadan, a Swiss scholar who had accepted a position at Notre Dame. His visa was revoked under a provision that allows the exclusion of foreigners who endorse terrorism, said Paul Silva, an ACLU spokesman. But Silva said Ramadan has publicly condemned terrorism, and is being barred because the Muslim scholar is a vocal critic of American policy in the Middle East. Ahme d Bedier, director of the Council on American-Muslim Relations in Tampa, said Muslims like Jawad still often feel singled out by federal authorities, though reports of racial profiling at airports have dropped significantly since Sept. 11. In 2004, of the 1,522 “anti-Muslim incidents” reported to the council, nearly 6 percent, or 88 incidents, occurred at airports, he said. The reported cases represent less than 20 percent of the total number nationwide, he said. Bedier, however, believes most incidents go unreported because many people lack the sophistication of Jawad’s family. “It was beneficial that she was educated enough that she demanded to speak to lawyers and the Spanish embassy. Not everybody reacts in real time like that,” Bedier said. “When you’re in a state of shock, you’re afraid, you’re being interrogated, you can forget your rights.”