US to Release American 'Enemy Combatant' Held in Iraq
US to Release American 'Enemy Combatant' Held in Iraq
U.S. Will Return American ISIS Fighter to Syria With De Facto 'Death Warrant'
10 June, 2018, 18:25
The unnamed prisoner, identified as "John Doe" in legal documents, has been held in Iraq as an enemy combatant since September while a legal battle unfolded over whether the US military had the right to hold him or send him to Saudi Arabia.
When asked about the announcement, ACLU attorney Jonathan Hafetz condemned the government's plan, calling it a "death warrant".
At a hearing Friday, U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan asked both sides for more information before ruling and set a hearing for June 20.
Since then, the Trump administration has moved to pre-empt a fight over whether it has a legal basis for holding the man by trying to release him, which would render the debate moot.
Yet "John Doe" was never charged, and he said he was not involved with IS when he was detained in Syria. No court has yet ruled on whether the suspect's detention is lawful or not. As noted above, the ACLU has already indicated that it will challenge the government's proposal on the ground that it would be tantamount to a "death warrant"-releasing Doe into a war zone in circumstances in which he would be in very serious jeopardy".
The Hillreported that the us government said Doe attended ISIS training sessions in Syria starting in March 2015, where he swore allegiance to al-Baghdadi's deputy, Abu Hafs al-Maghrebi. He grew up in Saudi Arabia and also has Saudi citizenship.
"My view is that the government would win on the AUMF argument - but there's a lot at stake, and they don't want to roll the dice", said Robert Chesney, a former Justice Department official who has writtenextensively about this case.
In April, U.S. District Judge blocked plans to transfer the man to the custody of a third country against his will.
That would bring us back to the question that a divided panel of the D.C. Circuit resolved in Doe's favor in May with respect to the government's proposal to transfer Doe to one of two classified countries (that were nearly certainly Saudi Arabia and Iraq), i.e.
According to a court filing unsealed in February, the detainee first travelled to Syria in July 2014, returning in March 2015.
The Pentagon said in its filing Thursday that it intends to release the man with the money and clothing he had when first detained, plus food and water to last several days and the new phone.
Mark E. Mitchell, a Pentagon official, said the Defense Department "has taken all necessary and feasible precautions to ensure the safe release of the prisoner".
The court agreed with the ACLU's argument that that would violate the U.S. constitutional rights of the man, who was born in the United States to a Saudi family. The detainee, who has a degree in electrical engineering, is married with one child, according to court papers.
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 FBI said it could find no evidence of articles he wrote.
But the man "did not identify a preference between the two locations and would not agree to the release" as proposed to him, the filing said.
The Pentagon gained custody of the detainee after he surrendered in September to a Syrian Kurdish militia backed by the United States and was delivered to the US military.
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