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Judge criticises US over Swiss scholar's visa

Swiss philosopher Tariq Ramadan urges peaceful solutions

(Keystone)

A federal judge in the United States has criticised the Bush government for delaying a decision on a visa for one of Europe's best-known Muslim intellectuals.

Paul Crotty made his comments during a hearing on whether Swiss philosopher and lecturer Tariq Ramadan can be allowed entry to the US after being barred two years ago.

In 2004 Ramadan accepted a post at Indiana's Notre Dame University but soon afterwards had his visa revoked by the US authorities, which meant he had to resign the post.

In January 2006 the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a suit against Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for denying visas to foreign scholars, including Ramadan.

The ACLU has accused the Bush government of manipulating the Patriot Act to try to silence Ramadan, 43, who has been invited to speak in the United States later this month and twice later this year.

The ACLU argued that Ramadan should be immediately granted a visa for pending speaking engagements.

Inconsistent

Crotty said on Thursday the US government had been inconsistent in its handling of Ramadan's visa applications.

"There is not a clarity within the government as to what procedures to follow. I find that very troubling," he said.

He added that it seemed the state department was taking a long time to act on a request made by Ramadan in August 2005 to enter the country, especially since Ramadan's case had been active for more than two years.

"I've convinced myself that when the government wants to act, it can act quickly," he said, noting that the government acted promptly enough on Ramadan's request in December 2004, when he said he was withdrawing an earlier request to enter the US.

Assistant US attorney David Jones insisted the government was not trying to act slowly in the Ramadan case but he could not say when the government would make a decision on Ramadan's visa application or why he had been barred.

"The government is telling you that serious issues ... have been identified and are being investigated," Jones told the judge.

He added: "Professor Ramadan, tomorrow, could endorse or espouse terrorism."

Peaceful solutions

Ramadan, a visiting fellow at Oxford University who has published more than 20 books on Islam, has said he opposes the US invasion of Iraq and sympathises with the resistance there and in the Palestinian Territories.

He has condemned Islamic violence, has no connections to terrorism and promotes peaceful solutions but he has been dogged by allegations that he is an extremist despite his public pronouncements.

After Crotty asked both sides to submit written arguments by the end of April, ACLU lawyer Jameel Jaffer complained that further delay meant Ramadan could not attend this month's American Center's World Voices Festival in New York.

"The delay is itself a victory for the government," he told the judge.

Crotty said Ramadan could still appear at the festival through electronic means.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

Tariq Ramadan, a Swiss university lecturer, was offered a teaching position at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana in 2004 but soon afterwards had his visa revoked.

US officials say the move was based on "public safety or national security interests".

His visa has been revoked three times since then.

end of infobox

Key facts

Ramadan was born in Geneva in 1962 and is married with four children.
He is currently visiting fellow at St Antony's College, Oxford.
His maternal grandfather is Hassan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
His father, Said Ramadan, fled Egypt due to the persecution of that organisation and settled in Switzerland.

end of infobox


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