ACLU: Release of Detained Islamic State American to Syria a 'Death Sentence'

10 June, 2018, 18:21 | Author: Wade Massey
  • An ISIL flag on the streets of Raqqa Syria 2014

The US Justice Department announced Wednesday that an American alleged Islamic State group combatant held in Iraq for over eight months would be released, potentially defusing a troubling detainee test case for the Trump administration.

Justice Department lawyers representing the US military in the case made a commitment not to release the man until at least June 21st during an appearance in federal court on Friday, according to Dror Ladin, a staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing the detainee in the case.

The court filing by the government says the man "would not agree to the release as Respondent described it".

The intended release would be done over the objections of the man, who has been held without charges in US military custody in Iraq.

The release of the man into the war-ravaged country should happen this week, but the ACLU lawsuit is expected to delay the action.

The American Civil Liberties Union lawyer for "John Doe", Jonathan Hafetz, disputed this, saying the U.S. still contends the man was a fighter for Islamic State before he was detained, and so the SDF would consider him an enemy.

ACLU attorney Jonathan Hafetz said the government's "meager offer to return his money and give him a cellphone does not remotely provide any protection from the violence and danger that exists throughout Syria".

He claimed he entered Syria as a freelance journalist and was kidnapped and forced to work for ISIS until he fled on a water truck and turned himself in to the Kurds, who handed him over to the USA military, according to court documents.

'What the government is offering our client is no release - it's a death warrant.

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The suspect, who been held by the United States military in Iraq, was offered the choice of camp or town but has declined to choose.

He called it "a disgraceful way to treat an American citizen".

"Now, our fight for our client's right to due process has also become a fight for his right to life".

Government lawyer James Burnham defended the plan, saying the SDF is "a trusted local partner" of the USA forces and the area is "much better, much safer" than where he was taken prisoner by the SDF last September.

The plan could spark a new round of appeals challenging the US government's right to forcibly release a detainee, not least a forced release in a war-torn country like Syria.

However, according to the documents, the suspect claims to have been in Syria in an attempt to work as a journalist and had obtained press credentials. The warplanes "bombed this morning on Thursday a so-called command and control center containing leaders and fighters belonging to [IS] terrorist gang in the Hajin inside Syrian territory", the military said.

The US says the detainee worked as an IS administrator, responsible for distributing vehicles and money to members of the group.

The incident raised questions about whether Trump administration would introduce his case into the U.S. justice system, hand him over to to his home country, or, as Trump had in the past threatened, send him to the Guantanamo military prison in Cuba. Last month, a federal appeals court panel upheld the ruling. No court has yet ruled on whether the suspect's detention is lawful or not.

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