JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (CN) – A Jacksonville man claims in court that he was inexplicably added to the federal no-fly list after he left on a March trip to Bosnia and he’s been unable to return until he received a one-time waiver.
In a federal lawsuit filed in Jacksonville on July 20, Zijad Bosnic says his unexplained inclusion on the federal government’s no-fly list now prevents him from visiting his family in Bosnia and even interferes with him doing his job as a truck driver.
He is being represented by attorney Omar Saleh and by attorneys with the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
During a news conference announcing the filing of the lawsuit, Saleh said, “Our government is placing U.S. citizens, who have never been charged with or convicted of a single crime let alone never been suspected of committing a terrorist act, in a serious position of systematic disenfranchisement by their arbitrary placement on the no-fly list for no cognizable reason other than the fact that they are Muslim.”
“Our client is now unable to work and earn a living due to his TWIC suspension and he’s not the only American in this position,” Saleh said.
TWIC is a federal ID issued to truck drivers and others who access the nation’s ports and other sensitive access points.
As recounted in the lawsuit, Bosnic visited his wife and three children in Bosnia, and then went to the Sarajevo International Airport only to be told by a Turkish Airlines customer rep that was not allowed to board his flight to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.
“In response to an inquiry as to why he was being denied boarding, the Turkish Airlines representative directed Mr. Bosnic to the U.S. Embassy to obtain information as to why he is no longer permitted to board a flight back to his home in the United States,” the complaint states.
Bosnic contacted the U.S. Embassy and it was then that he learned he’d been added to the federal no-fly list without notice or explanation.
He says even after getting a one-time waiver to return to the US, he was never told why he’s on the list.
“Through extra-judicial and secret means,” the complaint says, “the federal government is ensnaring innocent Americans into an invisible web of consequences that are imposed indefinitely and without recourse because of the shockingly large federal terror watch list that now includes hundreds of thousands of individuals.”
The Council on American-Islamic Relations said in helping Bosnic with his case it ultimately hopes to have the no-fly list declared unconstitutional.
The list is “based on mere guesses, hunches, and conjecture, and even simply based on matters of race, ethnicity, national origin, religion or the exercise of their constitutional rights,” the complaint says.
And according to the lawsuit, there is no recourse for people on the list to be removed from it.
“We believe this is a bigger trend since Trump took office,” Saleh told Courthouse News. “Religious questioning at the border have skyrocketed. Placement on the list has gotten larger. This could be a larger attempt at forming a Muslim registry.”
“This is a 100 percent ineffective method of making our country safer. Trump’s administration is making it harder for Muslim’s to travel,” he said. “This severely limits a person’s freedoms but these people have never done anything to have these freedoms taken away.”
Gadeir Abbas, an attorney with the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ National Legal Defense Fund, said, “There have been more than 1.5 million nominations to the federal terror watch list since 2009 and in 2013 for example, the Terrorist Screening Center converted 98.96 percent of those nominations into watch list placements — the effect is severely limiting American Muslims from the same rights afforded to non-Muslim Americans, and it’s not making the country any safer.”
Representatives of the defendants, which include the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI, did not respond to requests for comment from Courthouse News.