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Federal judge rules US can detain non-citizens indefinitely on basis of race, ethnicity

[JURIST] The US government can detain non-citizens indefinitely on the basis of religion, race or national origin, a federal judge ruled Wednesday, saying that "the executive is free to single out 'nationals of a particular country' and focus enforcement efforts on them" under his interpretation of immigration law [JURIST news archive]. Judge John Gleeson of the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York [official website] added that the same enforcement measures applied to citizens would be "highly suspicious." Gleeson's decision in Turkmen v. Ashcroft [opinion, PDF; CCR backgrounder] dismissed several claims brought against the government by a class of Arab and Muslim men who were detained and deported shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks [JURIST news archive], but allowed the suit to go forward on other claims relating to abuse while in detention. Gleeson, however, rejected the government's argument that Sept. 11 justified extreme measures and allowed the government to detain non-citizens who are simply suspicious. The government can detain non-citizens indefinitely only if their deportation is "highly foreseeable," he wrote.

Gleeson's ruling marks the first time a federal judge addressed allegations of discrimination against Muslims detained after Sept. 11. Lawyers representing the Arab and Muslim detainees said they would appeal the ruling, calling the decision a "green light to racial profiling" [press release]. Government lawyers have not yet decided whether they will appeal Gleeson's decision to allow the suit to go forward on some claims. Earlier, a US magistrate judge ruled that US Department of Justice [official website] employees must disclose whether they were aware of the government's monitoring of conversations [JURIST report] between Sept. 11 detainees and their attorneys, paving the way for Center for Constitutional Rights [advocacy website] lawyers to call FBI Director Robert Mueller and former US Attorney General John Ashcroft to testify. Nina Bernstein of the New York Times has more.

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