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Judge approves trial for Muslims removed from US Airways flight

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A prominent national Muslim civil rights and advocacy group today hailed what it termed a “major victory” in the case of six imams, or Islamic religious leaders, who say their civil and religious righ

A prominent national Muslim civil rights and advocacy group today hailed what it termed a “major victory” in the case of six imams, or Islamic religious leaders, who say their civil and religious rights were violated in 2006 when they were removed from a US Airways flight in Minnesota.

The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said US District Judge Ann Montgomery today denied several motions to dismiss the case and ruled that a law passed by congress after the incident did not grant protection from lawsuits to those sued by the imams.

Judge Montgomery also ruled that the actions of the imams prior to their flight did not justify their detention. She noted that the imams were subjected to “extreme fear and humiliation of being falsely identified as dangerous terrorists.”

The ruling stated: “Unquestionably the events of 9/11 changed the calculus in the balance American society chooses to make, especially in airport settings, between liberty and security … but when a law enforcement officer exercises the power of the sovereign over its citizens, she or he has a responsibility to operate within the bounds of the Constitution and cannot raise the specter of 9/11 as an absolute exception to that responsibility.”

In a statement, the imams’ attorneys Omar T. Mohammedi and Frederick J. Goetz said, “The judge’s ruling demonstrates clearly that the flying public does not lose their constitutional rights when they board an aircraft or step into an airport.”

“We thank all those who have supported the imams until now and ask for the continued support of all those who reject profiling and value religious freedom, tolerance, and mutual understanding,” said CAIR national executive director Nihad Awad.

CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.