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Federal court rules US decision to deny visa to South Africa scholar subject to review

[JURIST] The US District Court for the District of Massachusetts on Monday ruled [opinion, PDF; ACLU press release] that it has the authority to review a decision by the US consulate in South Africa that denied a visa to a controversial South African scholar. The consulate had denied a nonimmigrant visa to Adam Habib [academic backgrounder], a Muslim scholar, political analyst, and professor, citing his alleged involvement with terroristic activities, which prevented him from accepting speaking engagements in the US. The organizations that had invited Habib to speak sued [complaint, PDF; JURIST report] US Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff [official profile, JURIST news archive] and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice [official profile, JURIST news archive] in their professional capacities for First Amendment violations. Under the US Supreme Court's 1972 decision in Kleindienst v. Mandel [opinion text] the Executive's power to exclude an alien is not reviewable if the decision was made "on the basis of a facially legitimate and bona fide reason." The district court found that the State Department lacked any such reason, making the decision reviewable. The court did not go so far as to grant the plaintiffs' request for summary judgment in their favor. The court further found that Chertoff and Habib were improperly included as parties in the suit and dismissed them.

In 2006, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] brought a similar lawsuit [JURIST report] against the US for denying Swiss Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan [ACLU profile] entry into the US under the ideological exclusion provision [ACLU backgrounder; CIS report] of the Patriot Act [JURIST news archive]. Ramadan was unable to accept speaking invitations at various functions and a teaching invitation at the University of Notre Dame in 2004 after his visa was revoked. That case is currently pending before the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

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