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Ruling allows lengthy checks of Muslims returning to US from Canada conference

[JURIST] Muslim-Americans attending an annual international religious conference [conference website; conference trailer, WMP] in Canada that began Friday and continues through January 4 may be subject to lengthy security checks upon their return to the United States after US District Court Judge William Skretny ruled Thursday that such searches were not unconstitutional. While he acknowledged "there is no information whatsoever to suggest, and the government does not contend, that Plaintiffs are anything other than law-abiding American citizens", Skretny concluded that American border control authorities "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." The New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) [advocacy website] had filed suit on behalf of five New York residents who were among dozens of people searched, fingerprinted, photographed, and held for hours before being allowed back into the US after attending last year's convention in Toronto, which drew some 10,000 Muslims from all over the world. Skretny admitted the stops were understandably frustrating, but not illegal. The NYCLU claimed [press release] that searches without suspicion based solely on attendance at the conference treated innocent US citizens as terrorists. Several of the plaintiffs still planned to attend the 2005 conference after the ruling; the NYCLU has made available an online intake form for them and others to fill out if they are stopped again. CBC has local coverage. AP has more.

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