U.S. FEDERAL JUDGE TO MUSLIMS: “REQUEST DENIED”

22 December 2005: If you are a Muslim attending the “Reviving the Islamic Spirit” Convention in Toronto that starts  tomorrow and runs through the 29th, don’t look for any special treatment at the U.S. - Canadian border. U.S. District Judge William Skretny, while characterizing last year’s stops as “understandably frustrating,” today refused to prohibit U.S. border officers from conducting potentially lengthy security checks on Muslim-Americans on their way home from a religious conference in Toronto.

The New York Civil Liberties Union sought the court action on behalf of five New York residents who were among dozens of people fingerprinted, photographed, questioned and delayed for up to six hours at the border following last year’s Reviving the Islamic Spirit convention in Toronto.

Ruled Skretny: “Plaintiffs were delayed for an extended period of time and subjected to unexplained inspection techniques that were inconvenient and made them feel uncomfortable, The government readily admits that plaintiffs’ experience at the border was not ideal. As unfortunate as this incident may have been, I find that it was not unconstitutional.”

Homeland Security officials said the heightened inspections last year were the result of intelligence that indicated people associated with terrorism planned to attend the Toronto conference, which drew about 10,000 people, or others like it.

Customs and Border Protection “had reason to believe that these conferences would serve as meeting points for terrorists to exchange ideas and documents, co-ordinate operations, and raise funds intended for terrorist activities,” Skretny wrote.

Skretny noted that the government did not contend that the plaintiffs were anything other than law-abiding citizens.

-Douglas J. Hagmann, Director

Conference Bound Muslims Want Free Pass at Canadian Border Upon Their Return to U.S.

16 December 2005: A group of five Muslims from New York from the Buffalo, NY area filed a petition in federal court that would prohibit border agents from stopping and searching Muslim-Americans based solely on their attendance at the annual Reviving the Islamic Spirit conference in Toronto on December 23 - 29, 2005. They asked a federal judge Thursday that they not be detained at the U.S.-Canadian border upon their return from  the conference like some were last year.

Speaking on behalf of the petitioners, NYCLU lawyer Christopher Dunn accused the government of trampling the plaintiffs’ right to practice religion in the name of homeland security. The five plaintiffs - an orthodontist and her college-student son, a teaching assistant, a graduate student and a hotel manager - are suing the Department of Homeland Security to have any personal information collected during the searches destroyed and for assurances that they can return from future conferences without being subjected to similar interrogations.

During the hearing, federal judge William Skretny asked the NYCLU lawyer: “Aren’t you really asking me to give your clients a free pass?”

Arguing against the “free-pass request” was government attorney Anthony Coppolino, who referenced last year’s border stop and stated: “The concern was not that they went to a religious conference. The concern was that individuals, money, documents or weapons were going to get smuggled across the border.”  Developing…