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Federal Court Rules Bush Administration Must Justify Scholar’s Visa Denial

ACLU Hails Victory, Says U.S. Must End Censorship At The Bord

BOSTON - December 8 - A federal court today ruled that it has the power to review whether the Bush administration has a valid reason for denying a visa to respected South African scholar Adam Habib. The decision comes in a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and ACLU of Massachusetts challenging the State Department's refusal to grant Professor Habib a visa based on unsubstantiated national security claims. Habib remains banned from the country and unable to attend speaking engagements in the United States.

"Today's ruling reaffirms that the Bush administration cannot manipulate immigration laws to silence critics of U.S. government policy and then shield their actions from scrutiny by the courts. The government cannot cherry pick whose voices we are allowed to hear," said Melissa Goodman, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project who argued the case in court. "As the court recognized, the government cannot bar Professor Habib from speaking in the U.S. without any explanation or substantiation whatsoever. Today's decision is a major victory for judicial review and a significant blow to the administration's failed attempt at stifling debate by banning a prominent critic of U.S. policy." Judge George A. O'Toole, Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts ruled that the First Amendment requires the government to provide a valid, substantiated reason for excluding a scholar invited to speak to U.S. audiences. Writing that "the government has not given a reason for the denial," Judge O'Toole allowed the ACLU's challenge to move forward. In late 2007, the State Department refused Habib a visa after months of inaction, claiming that he is barred because he has "engaged in terrorist activities," but the government failed to explain the basis for its accusation, let alone provide any evidence to prove it.

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It is funny how suddenly a lot of court decisions are starting to go against the Bush administration. Makes you wonder why the courts were more Bush-friendly for the last 8 years. Tom

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