December 15, 2005
Muslim group asks U.S. judge to ban border
searches ahead of Toronto conference
BUFFALO, N.Y. A federal judge in Buffalo is being asked to prohibit border officials from detaining Muslims who will be coming back from a religious conference later this month in Toronto.
The New York Civil Liberties Union made the request in court today.
The group filed the suit on behalf of American Muslims who were detained after attending last year's annual Reviving the Islamic Spirit conference in Toronto on Dec. 23-29. Some were held for hours while being fingerprinted and photographed.
Border agents have attended at least two training sessions since the incident and the Muslim Public Affairs Council has said that progress has been made in improving policies that protect civil rights.
Homeland Security officials acknowledged subjecting those who attended last year's conference to lengthy security checks upon their return to the United States, but said they had reason to believe that people associated with terrorism planned to attend the conference or others like it.
NYCLU lawyer Christopher Dunn accused the government of trampling the plaintiffs' right to practise religion in the name of homeland security. "We fully respect the government's concerns about terrorism. That does not mean, however, that the constitution disappears at the border," Dunn said. (Media Reports)