[News] Case of American Muslims Placed on No-Fly List for Refusing to Spy on Their Communities

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Mon Oct 12 11:14:44 EDT 2020


  Supreme Court Hears Case of American Muslims Placed on No-Fly List for
  Refusing to Spy on Their Communities

updated October 8, 2020

    Justices to Decide Whether FBI Agents Who Abused List to Coerce Can
    Be Held Accountable

October 6, 2020, Washington, D.C. – Today, attorneys for American 
Muslims who were placed or kept on the No-Fly List in retaliation for 
refusing to spy on their communities argued before the U.S. Supreme 
Court, urging the Court to uphold a ruling that the men may sue the FBI 
agents for interfering with their freedom to practice their religion. 
The men initially sued to be removed from the List. After years of being 
prevented from flying, and just days before the first major hearing in 
the case, the men each received a letter informing them they were no 
longer on the List. A judge then dismissed the remaining portion of 
their lawsuit, which sought damages for the emotional and financial harm 
the men had suffered, but a federal appeals court reinstated the case. 
The Trump administration appealed to the Supreme Court.

“For years, I was frightened and intimidated by FBI agents who 
repeatedly tried to force me to go against my beliefs, even though I had 
done nothing wrong,” said *Muhammed Tanvir 
<https://ccrjustice.org/muhammad-tanvir>, a plaintiff in the case*. “I 
was being treated like I had no soul in my body. I am seeking justice in 
the hope that they don't do this to others.”

After repeatedly refusing FBI requests to spy on their Muslim 
communities—among other things, to visit online Islamic forums  or 
attend certain mosques and “act extremist” —and after years of flying 
without incident, Muhammad Tanvir, Jameel Algibhah, Naveed Shinwari, and 
a fourth man who did not join in the appeal discovered they were not 
permitted to board flights. FBI agents told each man he would be able to 
get off the No-Fly List if he agreed to work for the FBI. The suit 
alleges that the FBI's focus on the men had nothing to do with any 
criminal investigation or activity connected to them or specific 
individuals in their community. The lawsuit argues that the FBI agents 
abused the List, placing the men on it not because they posed any threat 
to aviation security, but in order to coerce them into being informants 
on their communities, thereby violating the men’s religious rights.

The case was brought under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or 
RFRA, and other statutes. The men and their attorneys say it is not 
enough simply to remove the men from the List; they say accountability 
for abuses by FBI agents is necessary to prevent those abuses from 
happening again.

“We hope the Court will recognize that RFRA authorizes damages as a 
remedy for harm that cannot otherwise be redressed, such as that 
experienced by our clients because removal from the No-Fly List was 
insufficient to make them whole,” said *Ramzi Kassem 
<https://www.law.cuny.edu/faculty/directory/kassem/>, Professor of Law 
and Director of the CLEAR project* (Creating Law Enforcement 
Accountability & Responsibility) at CUNY School of Law, who argued today.

As a result of their placement on the No-Fly List, for years the men 
were unable to see spouses, children, sick parents, and elderly 
grandparents who are overseas. They lost jobs, were stigmatized within 
their communities, and suffered severe financial and emotional distress. 
If the Supreme Court affirms the decision of the Second Circuit, the men 
will have a chance to pursue their damages claims in the district court 
and recover damages from the individual FBI agents who abused their 
power and placed the men on the List in an attempt to coerce them.

“Abuses like this happened because law enforcement officers have learned 
to expect they will never be held accountable for misusing their near 
total power to place people on the No-Fly List. Without increased 
transparency and a remedy for past abuses, the system will remain 
tailor-made for abuse,” said *Shayana Kadidal 
<https://ccrjustice.org/home/who-we-are/staff/kadidal-shayana>, a Senior 
Managing Attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights* and counsel 
in the case.

Advocates say the FBI’s abusive behavior in this case is just one 
example of the profiling, targeting, and harassment of Muslims by law 
enforcement and other government officials, which also includes 
extensive surveillance and infiltration of their religious communities 
and spaces, including mosques; holds on immigration status and other 
benefits; and the Muslim Ban.

Tanvir v. Tanzin 
<https://ccrjustice.org/home/what-we-do/our-cases/tanvir-v-holder> was 
brought by the CLEAR Project, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and 
co-counsel at the law firm of Debevoise & Plimpton LLP.

/The CLEAR project <https://www.cunyclear.org/> (Creating Law 
Enforcement Accountability & Responsibility) is based out of Main Street 
Legal Services, Inc., the clinical arm of CUNY School of Law.  CLEAR’s 
mandate is to serve Muslim and all other clients, communities, and 
movements in the New York City area and beyond that are targeted by 
local, state, or federal government agencies under the guise of national 
security and counterterrorism./

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