NEW YORK — A lawsuit claiming the FBI violated the first amendment rights of four Muslims by placing them on the no-fly List has been filed this week in U.S. Federal Court.
The United States is accused of violating the rights of four Muslim men living in the United States by placing or keeping them on the no-fly list after they declined to spy on local Muslim communities in New York, New Jersey and Nebraska.
Ramzi Kassem, associate professor of law at the City University of New York and supervisor of the Creating Law Enforcement and Responsibility Project, says this is a major constitutional issue.
“If they don’t want to work for the FBI, they have a right to do that. If they don’t want to go into their communities , pretending to be something they are not, as informants, they have a right to decline to become informants. And if they believe that their religion prohibits them from spying on innocent people, as our clients do, they have a right to," said Kassem.
Kassem says this case is precedent-setting. In the complaint to the court, the plaintiffs Muhammad Tanvir, Jameel Algibhah, Naveed Shinwari and Awais Sajjad, said the government violated their right to travel freely, and wrongly stigmatized them without justification and without due process, by placing them on the no-fly list.
Kassem told VOA how the FBI allegedly approached each plaintiff individually. One (Awais Sajjad) says he was offered U.S. citizenship and compensation for becoming an informant.
“Some of our clients were approached for questioning by the FBI. Those FBI agents would come ask them questions about their communities , not related to any specific crime. Then they would offer them the opportunity to work for the FBI as informants. Our clients would refuse and the next thing they knew they were placed on the no-fly list. The no-fly list is supposed to be about aviation safety. That is the reason the U.S. government has said it has created that list. But what we are seeing here essentially borders on extortion.," he said.
The plaintiffs at different times wanted to visit family and in one case a spouse in the Middle East.
The FBI would not comment on the lawsuit.