Agencies (Qasioun) - The U.S. military plans to release in Syria a Saudi-American dual citizen suspected of fighting for ISIS there, but he has refused to agree to the move, according to a new court filing.
The new plan to release the unidentified prisoner in an undisclosed town in Syria comes after U.S. courts blocked the Trump administration’s efforts to move the prisoner from Iraq, where he is currently in U.S. custody, to Saudi Arabia. The administration’s backup plan to turn the person over to Iraqi authorities was also rejected by the courts.
In a notice filed in U.S. District Court in Washington on Wednesday evening, Justice Department lawyers said the Defense Department “intended to release Petitioner in one of two possible locations — either in a town or outside an Internally Displaced Person camp — and would allow Petitioner to choose which location he preferred.”
“Ultimately, Petitioner did not identify a preference between the two locations and would not agree to the release as [the military] described it,” the filing said.
Jonathan Hafetz, an ACLU lawyer, said the government’s action was “a disgraceful way to treat an American citizen.”
“The government has effectively admitted that it has no reason to continue detaining our client and that he does not pose a threat,” he said. “But, instead of offering a safe release, they want to dump an American citizen onto the side of the road in a war-torn country without any assurances of protection and no identification.“
“We'll be asking the court to immediately intervene and ensure the safe release of our client,” Hafetz added.
Over the Trump administration’s objections, U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan ordered that ACLU lawyers be allowed confidential communication with the prisoner, who was picked up in Syria last September by Syrian Democratic Forces and turned over to U.S. troops. The prisoner appears to have argued that he was acting as a journalist or a humanitarian aid worker, but Justice Department attorneys said he appeared to be an ISIS backer and had researched violent military tactics.
In January, Chutkan, an appointee of President Barack Obama, ordered the U.S. government to provide 72 hours’ notice before transferring the prisoner out of American custody in Iraq. Justice Department lawyers filed such a notice in April and were promptly confronted by a motion from the ACLU to block the transfer. Chutkan ultimately entered a preliminary injunction blocking the transfer.
Last month, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Chutkan’s ruling.
The government filing on Wednesday said the military would wait at least 72 hours before moving and releasing the prisoner.