NEW YORK (Reuters) - A U.S. federal appeals court on Friday reversed a lower court ruling that had upheld the U.S. government’s right to bar Swiss Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan from entering the United States.
The ruling boosts the hopes of Ramadan and U.S. civil rights groups who argue that the U.S. government had unlawfully revoked Ramadan’s visa several times in 2004. The case was sent back to a lower court for further consideration.
Civil rights groups had appealed a federal judge’s ruling in 2007 that upheld the government’s right to ban Ramadan.
The U.S. government initially gave no reason for the ban but government lawyers later said he was barred because he gave 1,670 Swiss francs, then worth $1,336, to a Swiss-based charity, the Association de Secours Palestinien, or ASP, from 1998 to 2002.
Washington listed ASP as a banned group in 2003, saying it supported terrorism and had contributed funds to the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas.
On Friday, the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals said it was unclear whether the consulate officer who considered Ramadan’s case had given the professor the opportunity to answer whether he knew he had contributed funds to an organization designated a terrorist organization.
The consulate officer “was required to confront Ramadan with the allegation against him” and let him explain whether he knew “the recipient of his contributions was a terrorist organization,” the ruling said, adding that “the record was unclear whether the consular officer had done so.”
Ramadan, an Oxford University professor, has said he was unaware of any connections between the charity and terrorism.
He is the grandson of Hasan al-Banna, an Islamist thinker and activist who in 1928 founded the Muslim Brotherhood, which opposed secular and Western ideas.
Reporting by Christine Kearney, editing by Michelle Nichols and Todd Eastham