The Pentagon plans to release a Saudi American dual citizen whom it accused of being a member of Islamic State at an undisclosed location in Syria, a move that his USA lawyers called "a death warrant".
In a hastily scheduled hearing on Friday, ACLU lawyer Jonathan Hafetz asked Judge Tanya S. Chutkan of the Federal District Court of the District of Columbia to block the move.
The court filing by the government says the man "would not agree to the release as Respondent described it".
The U.S. has held the man, whose identity has not been revealed, without charge or trial since September, when a U.S. -allied Syrian militia group captured him and turned him over to American military forces.
Hafetz said the government could release the man in Iraq, where he has been held, giving him a chance to request a new passport at the U.S. consulate there.More news: Trump may pardon Muhammad Ali, but late boxer may not need it
The man's lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union say the government isn't offering a safe release.
"The Trump administration has effectively admitted it has no reason to detain our client and he doesn't pose a threat".
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.
"It's like they are releasing him into a burning building", he said, calling it a "death warrant".
The Pentagon offered the prisoner the choice of being in an unspecified Syrian town in or outside a refugee camp there. "This is a disgraceful way to treat an American citizen", Hafetz reportedly said in a statement.More news: Former Obama Adviser Suggests Trump Is Russia's 'Chief Advocate' and Defender
Nine months ago, the man was turned over to USA forces after he was captured at a rebel Syrian Democratic Forces checkpoint in Syria and declared his American citizenship. "Our fight for our client's right to due process has also become a fight for his right to life", Hafetz added.
The United States previously said it had evidence that the man had signed up as an Islamic State foreign fighter in 2014 and entered Syria in January 2015, according to court papers. Whatever happens in Doe's case going forward, the idea that the government could hold an American citizen in military detention for over nine months without even a preliminary judicial ruling as to the legality of that detention is one that we should all find discomfiting.
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. At the moment we can say that it was defeated.
The man has been detained as an enemy combatant for nine months, and his detention has become a test case for how the government should treat USA citizens picked up on the battlefield and accused of having ties to IS extremists battling America and its allies.
Chutkan said she needed more information before deciding whether to allow the administration to send the detainee to Syria. The judge sided with the ACLU, and an appeals court upheld the decision.More news: Anthony Bourdain’s girlfriend Asia Argento speaks out after his shocking death
It's common in war detention settings, he said, to return someone to "the point of capture - at least if it's safe to do so, and that's one of the questions for the court".
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