PETALING JAYA: Prof Rahinah Ibrahim has been "smiling all day" after a landmark win to strike her name off the United States no-fly list on Tuesday.
"It's been too long. I don't want innocent people to undergo what I had gone through," the Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) don told The Star Online of the nine-year legal battle.
It was her husband who broke the good news to her on Wednesday morning, before she received official news from her lawyers in San Francisco.
On Tuesday, US judge William Alsup sided with Prof Rahinah in her challenge against the US federal government's no-fly policy, and ruled that existing procedures to correct mistakes on that list do not provide adequate due process protection.
Asked if she was satisfied with the ruling, the 48-year-old Prof Rahinah replied in the affirmative, and hoped it could assist other innocent persons facing similar challenges.
"I pray that it can help them prevail," she added.
Asked if she already has plans to travel to the US, Prof Rahinah said she "would love to fly back, but not so soon".
Her ordeal began on Jan 2, 2005, when she was was detained for two hours at San Francisco's airport because the authorities believed she was on the no-fly list.
Though she was allowed to return to Malaysia, her US visa was later revoked and she was not allowed to travel back to the US.
Prof Rahinah continued to work with her overseas colleagues since her return, but her name on the US no-fly list proved a great hindrance to travelling for her academic work.
"It was not good for research, for attending conferences, for securing research grants. And we're doing something for knowledge contribution here," she said, citing its detrimental effect in slowing her down compared to other researchers.
Now, Prof Rahinah is looking forward to working on the innovation and commercialisation of Malaysia's local inventions.
In a statement Tuesday, she said she would like to continue her academic activities with her peers in the US.
“There will be more collaborations between Malaysian and American scientists and academicians where I can now be actively involved.
“I hope UPM can play a significant role in establishing significant collaborative work in R&D and Innovation and Commercialisation, with Stanford University’s researchers especially,” she said.
Prof Rahinah also hopes to see some of her own patented inventions commercialised by Silicon Valley investors.
Apart from the tremendous support and effort from her legal team, supporters in the US, and many other parties including UPM’s vice chancellors, what kept her going was a sense of responsibility to fellow Malaysians.
“To know that I had gone to Stanford University using Malaysian taxpayers’ funds, and if I didn’t pursue my case, I would not be effective to deliver the knowledge I gained after I graduated.
“I was most aware then that my people would lose out in our innovation and commercialisation agenda unless I did what I could to return to the US. WIth more academic collaborative work across both countries, people from both nations can prosper with due respect and dignity bestowed to one another,” she added.
Prof Rahinah's lead attorney, Elizabeth Pipkin, was also pleased that justice has been done for her client.
"After nine years working to clear her name, it's about time! She wants to continue her work with colleagues in the US and hopes that her case will help other innocent people," said the San Jose lawyer when contacted on Wednesday.
However, the fight may not be over, as Pipkin anticipates the US government may appeal the ruling.
"But we're very grateful that this Court has acknowledged the wrong that was done here," said the McManis Faulkner associate.