China / World

Travel ban in hands of appeals court

By Agencies in San Francisco (China Daily) Updated: 2017-02-09 14:07

Hearing on Tuesday attracts huge audience, with a million listeners

A federal appeals court will decide whether to reinstate President Donald Trump's travel ban after a contentious hearing in which the judges hammered away at the administration's motivations for the ban, but also directed pointed questions to an attorney for two states trying to overturn it.

It was unclear which way the three judges of the San Francisco-based 9th Circuit Court of Appeals would rule, though legal experts said the states appeared to have the edge.

"I'm not sure if either side presented a compelling case, but I certainly thought the government's case came across as weaker," said Stephen Vladeck, a professor at the University of Texas School of Law.

 Travel ban in hands of appeals court

A supporter of US President Donald Trump (right) argues with a protester as high school students look on during a demonstration against Trump's immigration policies in New York on Tuesday. Mike Segar / Reuters

A ruling could come as early as Wednesday and could be appealed to the US Supreme Court.

The appeals court challenged the administration's claim that the ban was motivated by terrorism fears, but it also questioned the argument of an attorney challenging the executive order on grounds that it unconstitutionally targeted Muslims.

The contentious hearing before the judges focused narrowly on whether a restraining order issued by a lower court should remain in effect while a challenge to the ban proceeds. But the judges jumped into the larger constitutional questions surrounding Trump's order, which temporarily suspended the nation's refugee program and immigration from seven mostly Muslim countries that have raised terrorism concerns.

The hearing on Tuesday attracted a huge audience, with more than 136,000 alone tuned in to the court's YouTube site to hear audio. But the audio was also streamed on the Facebook and web pages of news outlets, and carried at least in part on CNN and MSNBC. Immediate figures for all those sources were not available, but they likely took the number of listeners well past a million.

Procedural arguments

Those figures are staggering for the type of procedural arguments that would normally attract only a tiny handful of assigned reporters and other professional observers.

Judge Richard Clifton, a George W. Bush nominee, asked an attorney representing Washington state and Minnesota what evidence he had that the ban was motivated by religion. The two states are suing to invalidate the ban.

"I have trouble understanding why we're supposed to infer religious animus when in fact the vast majority of Muslims would not be affected."

Only 15 percent of the world's Muslims are affected, the judge said, citing his own calculations. He added that the "concern for terrorism from those connected to radical Islamic sects is hard to deny".


Mother of dead backpacker slams Trump's 'terror list'

The mother of a backpacker killed in Australia has slammed Donald Trump for including the stabbing death on a list of supposedly underreported terrorist attacks, claiming the president was using her daughter to demonize Muslims.

The US leader this week accused "dishonest" media of purposefully failing to report on attacks by radical jihadists, for which he provided no evidence, in the wake of his contentious travel ban on people from seven mostly-Muslim nations.

The White House distributed a list of 78 incidents it said were "executed or inspired by" the Islamic State group, saying most "have not received the media attention they deserved".

Five Australian attacks were included, including a cafe siege in Sydney in 2014 that received global headlines and the stabbing deaths of British backpackers Mia Ayliffe-Chung, 21, and Tom Jackson, 30, last year.

In an open letter to Trump posted on social media, Ayliffe-Chung's mother Rosie Ayliffe said it was wrong to connect her death with Islamic fundamentalism.

"The possibility of Mia and Tom's deaths being consequent to an Islamic terror attack was discounted in the early stages of the police investigation. ... My daughter's death will not be used to further this insane persecution of innocent people," she said.

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