(CN) – The 2nd Circuit on Friday overturned a ruling allowing the government to deny a visa to a renowned Islamic scholar on the basis that he donated to a charity that helped fund the terrorist organization Hamas.
The New York-based appeals court focused on whether Tariq Ramadan knew that the Swiss-based charity, the Association de Secours Palestinien (ASP), funded Hamas, and whether the U.S. consular officer had confronted him with the allegation and given him the opportunity to prove that he didn’t know about the charity’s terrorist ties.
“The record was unclear whether the consular officer had done so,” Judge Newman wrote for the three-judge panel.
Ramadan, a Swiss citizen, accepted a teaching position at the University of Notre Dame in 2004. But before he made the move, the U.S. embassy in Bern revoked his visa based on his contributions to the ASP. He was forced to resign his teaching position.
In 2005, he applied for another visa to attend conferences in the United States. Consular and Department of Homeland Security officials grilled him about his political views and associations. Ramadan told them he had donated about $1,300 to ASP between 1998 and 2002.
While his visa application was pending, Ramadan filed a lawsuit joined by the American Academy of Religion, the American Association of University Professors and the PEN American Center. They asked U.S. District Judge Paul Crotty to either grant Ramadan admission or at least make a decision on his application.
Crotty gave the government 90 days to act, and it did — by denying the application, again citing Ramadan’s contributions to a terrorist organization. (The U.S. Treasury had deemed the ASP a “terrorist organization” based on its funding of one.)
Crotty upheld the decision on the basis that the government had a “facially legitimate and bona fide reason” for denying the visa.
But the 2nd Circuit said the judge ignored the “unless” clause of the REAL ID Act, which deems the applicant ineligible “unless [he] can show by clear and convincing evidence that that [he] did not know, and reasonably should not have known, that the organization [to which he provided funds] was a terrorist organization.”
Because it was unclear if the consular officer ever confronted Ramadan about his knowledge of the ASP’s funding operations, the appeals court ordered Crotty to give him a chance to prove his claims.