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Rights groups challenge NYPD over Muslim surveillance

Rights groups filed a federal lawsuit [complaint, PDF] on Tuesday accused the New York Police Department (NYPD) [official website] of unlawfully targeting Muslims for surveillance. The rights group allege that the NYPD has been sending spies into mosques, student associations and other places to gather information based solely on the fact that the targets are Muslim. The New York Civil Liberties Union, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Creating Law Enforcement Accountability & Responsibility (Clear) [advocacy websites] project of Main Street Legal Services, Inc. at CUNY School of Law argue [press release] that the program violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments [text] of the US Constitution. The ACLU said, "The lawsuit asks the court to end the NYPD's Muslim Surveillance Program, and to prevent future surveillance based solely or predominately on religion in the absence of individualized suspicion of criminal activity." The rights groups are representing [ACLU report] Hamid Hassan Raza, Masjid Al-Ansar, Asad Dandia, Muslims Giving Back, Masjid At-Taqea and Mohammed Elshinawy. The suit was filed in the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York [official website] listing New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg [official website], Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence David Cohen as defendants.

In February a federal judge granted [opinion, PDF] class action status in a lawsuit brought to stop the NYPD from continuing its "stop-and-frisk" [JURIST report] practice outside of apartment buildings in the Bronx. The lawsuit challenges the constitutionally of "Operation Clean Halls," which is part of the NYPD's broader "stop-and-frisk" policy that allows police to patrol private apartments all over New York City. The NYPD has come under scrutiny in the past for alleged discriminatory surveillance. Last June Muslim rights group filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] alleging that the NYPD had engaged in surveillance of Muslim schools, including kindergarten and elementary schools, as well as entire communities. Senior Volunteer Attorney for the Muslim Civil Liberties Union, Samar Warsi commented [JURIST hotline] that the NYPD surveillance of Muslims can have serious implication for civil liberties in the US.

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