US court says Trump travel ban unlawfully discriminates against Muslims

A federal appeals court ruled on Thursday that President Donald Trump’s travel ban targeting people from six Muslim-majority countries violates the US Constitution by discriminating on the basis of religion. (AFP)
Updated 15 February 2018
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US court says Trump travel ban unlawfully discriminates against Muslims

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump’s travel ban targeting people from six Muslim-majority countries violates the US Constitution by discriminating on the basis of religion, a federal appeals court ruled on Thursday in another legal setback for the policy.
The Richmond-based 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals, on a 9-4 vote, became the second federal appeals court to rule against the ban, finding that the Republican president’s own words demonstrated that bias against Muslims was the basis of the policy.
The US Supreme Court has allowed the ban, put in place by Trump with a presidential proclamation in September, to go into effect while litigation challenging it continues.
The 4th Circuit ruling went further than the earlier decision by the San Francisco-based 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals, which found the ban violated federal immigration law but did not address the question of whether it also violated the Constitution. The Supreme Court already has said it will consider both issues in deciding the legality of the ban in the coming months.
The justices are due in April to hear arguments over the ban and issue a ruling by the end of June.
“Examining official statements from President Trump and other executive branch officials, along with the proclamation itself, we conclude that the proclamation is unconstitutionally tainted with animus toward Islam,” 4th Circuit Chief Judge Roger Gregory wrote in the ruling.
The travel ban challengers “offer undisputed evidence of such bias: the words of the President,” Gregory wrote, noting Trump’s “disparaging comments and tweets regarding Muslims.”
As a candidate, Trump promised “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” The court also took note of the fact that Trump in November shared on Twitter anti-Muslim videos posted by a far-right British political figure.
In the main dissenting opinion, Judge Paul Niemeyer said the courts should be deferential to the president on matters of national security. Niemeyer criticized the majority, saying his colleagues applied “a novel legal rule that provides for the use of campaign-trail statements to recast later official acts of the president.”
Trump’s policy, the third version of the ban that he has issued since taking office in January 2017, blocks entry into the United States of most people from Chad, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. Trump has said the policy is needed to protect the United States from terrorism by militants.
Thursday’s ruling upheld a Maryland-based district court judge’s decision in a case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, which represents several advocacy groups including the International Refugee Assistance Project.
“President Trump’s third illegal attempt to denigrate and discriminate against Muslims through an immigration ban has failed in court yet again. It’s no surprise,” ACLU lawyer Cecillia Wang said.


Cobra Gold: One of Asia’s largest war drills opens in Thailand

Updated 7 min 34 sec ago
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Cobra Gold: One of Asia’s largest war drills opens in Thailand

  • Cobra Gold is one of the largest military exercises in Asia
  • On Saturday US, Thai and South Korean forces descended on Namsai beach in Chonburi province in a joint drill intended to simulate securing the territory

SATTAHIP, Thailand: With weapons drawn camouflaged troops leapt out of amphibious assault craft while explosions sounded and parachutists glided in from above as the annual Cobra Gold war games took over a placid Thai beach Saturday.
Now in its 38th year, Cobra Gold is one of the largest military exercises in Asia, bringing thousands of forces from the United States, Thailand and other countries together for 11 days of training on Thai shores.
This year’s drill includes some 2,000 US Marines, 1,000 US soldiers and hundreds from the country’s Navy and Air Force.
On Saturday US, Thai and South Korean forces descended on Namsai beach in Chonburi province in a joint drill intended to simulate securing the territory.
Captain Melvin Spiese said the goal was to “bring power from ship to shore” and be ready for “any kind of future crisis we might need to respond to with our Thai counterparts.”
Helicopters buzzed overhead and fighter jets roared across the skies.
Cobra Gold exercises span air, land and sea and feature a jungle survivalist session where participants take turns drinking blood from a severed cobra and snacking on insects and scorpions.
Singapore, Japan, Indonesia and Malaysia also took part in the war games.
A 2014 army coup in Thailand tested ties with Washington and the kingdom tilted towards China with high-profile arms buys.
But US military sales continued and the two countries have upped their engagement under US President Donald Trump, who has stepped back on human rights issues and invited junta chief Prayut Chan-O-Cha to the White House.
Prayut, who led the 2014 coup, is standing for prime minister in elections set for March 24.