Thursday, 19 July, 2018

Pentagon Plans to Release Detained US Citizen Into Syria

U.S. plans to release detained American 'enemy combatant' in Syria U.S. Will Return American ISIS Fighter to Syria With De Facto 'Death Warrant'
Melinda Barton | 10 June, 2018, 19:13

A courtroom battle over the fate of an American citizen being held in Iraq as an enemy combatant took a new turn on Friday as the US military put on hold plans to forcibly return him to Syria in the coming days. When the government suddenly announced it planned to release the man, the ACLU rushed to court arguing that a release in Syria would be a likely death sentence. The man has been held by the USA military in Iraq since September.

The judge asked lawyer James Burnham why the government was choosing to release the man where he "faced a strong likelihood of being killed" in a country that is in the middle of a civil war.

The Trump administration has said the law provides the US military with broad discretion to conduct battlefield operations, including the transfer of people captured overseas.

The government has said in court filings that the man was born in the United States but raised in Saudi Arabia.

The US Department of Justice declined to comment on the case when contacted by Middle East Eye. Wyer claimed the government gave the man a choice of being dropped either outside a town or a refugee camp, but he apparently "would not agree" to the offer.

That move would render moot John Doe's habeas corpus petition challenging the right of the U.S.to continue holding him without charges. Hafetz said releasing his client in Syria would be akin to "releasing him into a burning building".

U.S. District Court Judge Tanya S. Chutkan, saying she needed more information about the safety of releasing the detainee in Syria, set a court hearing for June 20th to decide whether to approve the ACLU's motion for a restraining order against the prisoner's release.

The release decision was an unexpected reversal after the government spent the months since the man was captured in September defending its power to hold him indefinitely, on grounds that he had been an "enemy combatant" in Syria, fighting for the Islamic State group (IS).

But his lawyers persuaded the court to block that, arguing that the USA government has no right to summarily hand a U.S. citizen over to another government with no charges or extradition proceedings. "Our fight for our client's right to due process has also become a fight for his right to life", Hafetz added. 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".

But Chutkan also expressed concern about the government's plan to release him to Syria, a country the government warns citizens against traveling to, and the fact he'd be released without a passport or other identification.

"The release plan sounds insane at first blush, but you have to keep in mind that Doe voluntarily went to Syria to begin with", said Bobby Chesney, an expert in national security law at the University of Texas School of Law.