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US court maintains block on Trump travel ban Open in fullscreen

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US court maintains block on Trump travel ban

Trump issued his initial travel ban by executive order in January [Getty]

Date of publication: 25 May, 2017

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The decision means the case is likely to end up in the Supreme Court.
A US federal appeals court on Thursday dealt a fresh setback to President Donald Trump's controversial travel ban, upholding a lower court's decision to block the measure targeting travellers from six Muslim majority countries.

The decision - the latest in a series of stinging judicial defeats for the Republican billionaire, who took office in January - means the case is likely to end up in the Supreme Court.

At issue was the intent behind the measure - whether or not it deliberately singled out Muslims by targeting nationals from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen. Religious discrimination is forbidden by the US Constitution.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals said it "remained unconvinced" that the part of the measure naming the specific countries had "more to do with national security than it does with effectuating the president's promised Muslim ban."

The court - based in Richmond, Virginia - further said it could not find that the government's security concerns outweighed the plaintiffs' concerns about discrimination.

"Congress granted the president broad power to deny entry to aliens, but that power is not absolute," Chief Judge Roger Gregory said in the 10-3 ruling.

"It cannot go unchecked when, as here, the president wields it through an executive edict that stands to cause irreparable harm to individuals across this nation."

Gregory said the order "speaks with vague words of national security, but in context drips with religious intolerance, animus, and discrimination."

Given the high-profile nature of the case, the full appeals court in Richmond heard the arguments - bypassing the usual initial three-judge panel - for the first time in a quarter-century.

Thirteen of the court's 15 active judges took part. Two recused themselves over potential conflicts of interest.

Trump issued his initial travel ban by executive order in January, but that measure - which banned entry to nationals from seven countries for 90 days and suspended the nation's refugee program for 120 days - was quickly halted by the courts.

A revised executive order announced in March, meant to address the issues raised by the federal judges, deleted Iraq from the list and removed an indefinite ban on Syrian refugees.

The measure nevertheless earned widespread opposition, including from rights activists and states led by Democrats.

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