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Man placed on no-fly list makes argument to Supreme Court

A Muslim man was not allowed to board a 2011 flight from Sweden to the U.S. after being placed on the government's no-fly list.
Man placed on no-fly list makes argument to Supreme Court
Posted at 12:24 PM, Jan 08, 2024

The Supreme Court convened on Monday to hear arguments for a case involving a man's placement on the government's no-fly list. 

The case involves Yonas Fikre, a Muslim man who was not allowed to board a flight from Sweden to the U.S. due to being placed on the government's no-fly list. The Council on American-Islamic Relations claims Fikre was placed on the no-fly list after refusing to be an informant to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. 

"When he refused, he was tortured and imprisoned in the United Arab Emirates at the behest of American officials and then stranded in Sweden because of his status on the No Fly List," CAIR alleged. 

One year after being denied access to the flight, he was charged with conspiracy to structure monetary transfers. Those federal charges, however, were later dismissed. 

He was removed from the no-fly list after a yearslong legal battle. Lawyers for Fikre argue that he could be placed on the no-fly list again without a fair process to fight the flight ban. The argument before the federal courts is whether the case is moot. 

A district court agreed with the government that the case was moot, but in two separate instances, an appeals court allowed the case to proceed. The FBI appealed the lower court's ruling to the Supreme Court.

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The American Civil Liberties Union, which filed an amicus brief on Fikre's behalf, claims that there is no due process for placement on the no-fly list. The ACLU said it has identified 40 people on the government's list who have sued to get their names off the list. Of those 40 individuals, 28 have been removed from the list, the ACLU said. 

"The no-fly List program operates in a black box of executive branch discretion and secrecy," the ACLU said. "We argue that the terse statement that a plaintiff is no longer on the No Fly List and will not be returned to it 'based on currently available information' is not enough to satisfy the Supreme Court’s voluntary cessation standard, which requires absolute clarity that 'the allegedly wrongful behavior could not reasonably be expected to recur.'"

In its filing, the government said if the appeals court case stands, "the ruling below would needlessly precipitate further litigation about legal claims that have no ongoing real-world relevance."

A ruling on the case is expected in the spring or early summer.

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