Lawyers: NY Muslim surveillance case on track
NEW YORK (AP) – Attorneys for critics of the New York Police Department’s surveillance of Muslims said Friday there’s no reason to slow their pursuit of a Brooklyn federal lawsuit challenging the practice after a similar case was dismissed in New Jersey.
“I’m not worried,” said lawyer Hina Shamsi with the American Civil Liberties Union. She added that the decision Thursday by U.S. District Judge William Martini in Newark, N.J., “by no means” meant it was more likely that the Brooklyn case would be dismissed.
For one, Shamsi said, New York City has not asked to dismiss the lawsuit. It was filed last year following a series of articles by The Associated Press based partly on confidential NYPD documents that showed how the department sought to infiltrate dozens of mosques and Muslim student groups in New York and elsewhere.
Martini ruled that the NYPD’s work in New Jersey was a lawful effort to prevent terrorism, not a civil rights violation, and said the city was not to blame because a news agency “covertly obtained the materials and published them without authorization.” The AP declined to comment Friday. Lawyers for plaintiffs have promised to appeal.
In the Brooklyn case, Shamsi said issues were being worked out as to how the police department will share information ordered by the judge to be turned over, including materials related to the plaintiffs, specific NYPD investigations and information about intelligence activities that the plaintiff will need to prove its claim of discrimination.
Shamsi said she hopes new Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration “will look with a fresh eye at policies and practices that stigmatize New Yorkers on the basis of their religion and cause harm to their personal and professional lives and religious practices.”
She said that after the lawsuit was filed, lawyers “set forth a set of really inflammatory and false allegations that increased our plaintiffs’ concerns that their surveillance was unjustified and ongoing and discriminatory.”
Arthur Eisenberg, legal director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said lawyers working on the Brooklyn case intend to show evidence that the stigma left on the Muslim community by the NYPD surveillance is created by the police department’s practices.
“So we disagree with that conclusion of the New Jersey district court,” he said.
City lawyers Friday said only that the Brooklyn case is in the early stages of evidence-gathering.
Associated Press writer Tom Hays contributed to this report.
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