A federal court in San Francisco began hearing a legal challenge on Monday to the government's “no-fly” list from a former Stanford University doctoral student who claims she was mistakenly put on it.
Rahinah Ibrahim, 48, who is now living in her native Malaysia, says she was preparing to board a Hawaii-bound plane at San Francisco International Airport in 2005 with her 14-year-old daughter when she was arrested and told her name was on the terrorist watch list, the San Jose Mercury News reported.
The Malaysian national has denied any connection to terrorism and sued the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
A bench trial overseen by U.S. District Judge William Alsup began Monday morning with opening statements.
Ibrahim's attorneys and civil liberties advocates say they are hopeful the trial will shed light on how the government assembles the no-fly list. They also hope to challenge the difficulty of getting a name off of it.
“She doesn't want this to happen to other people — to be wrongfully included on these lists that haunt them for years and years,” Elizabeth Pipkin, a San Jose lawyer who represents Ibrahim, told the Mercury News.
A U.S. Justice Department spokeswoman declined comment to the Mercury News.
The government in court papers has not publicly said why Ibrahim was added to the list. Government lawyers have argued that a trial poses an unacceptable risk of revealing classified information.
Ibrahim's arrest came after she was interviewed by the FBI about her religious affiliations and any connections she or her husband had with Malaysian terrorist organizations. She denied any knowledge of terrorist groups.
After her arrest, she was allowed to return to Malaysia, where she completed her doctorate remotely and founded the architectural department at a Malaysian university.
She had previously been a regular traveler to the U.S., according to court papers.