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Associated Press
NEW YORK – A U.S. government attorney urged a judge not to interfere with the decision to block a prominent Muslim scholar from entering the country.
But an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer told U.S. District Judge Paul A. Crotty on Thursday that the government violated the First Amendment rights of the groups that invited the scholar, Tariq Ramadan, to speak.
Ramadan, a Swiss citizen and a visiting fellow at Oxford University in England, was excluded by the U.S. in 2006 on the grounds that he aided a terrorist group by making charitable contributions to a Palestinian aid group from 1998 to 2002.
Earlier, in 2004, the U.S. had revoked his work visa, blocking him from taking a job at the University of Notre Dame, which had hired Ramadan as a professor in its Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies. He then applied for a temporary visa so he could attend conferences and deliver lectures.
Assistant U.S. attorney David Jones told the judge that Congress had made clear that courts were not to overturn State Department decisions on excluding foreigners from entering the U.S. He urged Crotty not to force the government to relax anti-terrorism policies and let Ramadan into the country.
At any rate, “there simply is not an epidemic of ideological exclusion,” Jones said.
Crotty did not immediately rule in the case, though he said the law seemed clear that he cannot second-guess the ruling by a State Department consular officer.
But ACLU lawyer Jameel Jaffer said earlier court cases showed he would be allowed to rule that the barring of Ramadan violated the rights of groups that invited him to speak, such as the American Association of University Professors.
Ramadan has said he opposes terrorism and Islamic extremism, but disagrees with U.S. government Mideast policy. He said he never intended to aid terrorism when he made $1,336 in contributions to the Association de Secours Palestinien. The U.S. government says the group has provided funds to Hamas, which the government has designated a terrorist organization.
At Thursday’s hearing, Jaffer noted that the U.S. did not outlaw contributions to the group until 2003.
During one colorful exchange, the judge asked Jones how a responsible foreigner can be sure that a legitimate charity will not let some money slip to a terrorist organization.
Among other things, Jones said, foreigners could can send a letter to the organization to specify that no donations go to support terrorism.
“I’m sure the organization will say no,” Crotty said as laughter broke out in the crowded courtroom.
The U.S. government barred Ramadan outright only after the ACLU brought a lawsuit to force a ruling on his 2005 application for a temporary business and tourism visa.
Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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