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Government will hold off releasing American back to Syria

10 June 2018

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

At a hearing Friday, U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan asked both sides for more information. Burnham said the locations the government proposed for releasing the man are safer than where he was picked up.

The Trump administration submitted a notice Wednesday to Chutkan saying it had determined it would release the man in Syria in "no sooner than 72 hours".

He said the filing on the Syria release plan also suggests that whatever third country that had said it would accept the man had changed its position, or that the government was seeking to drop the case to avoid having to litigate thorny legal questions of the scope of its battlefield authority to hold citizens.

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". The next month, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a habeas petition on his behalf, asking a federal judge to give its lawyers access to the detainee - and arguing that the government had no legal basis for incarcerating him.

The U.S. has claimed for years that it is legally allowed to fight ISIS because of a 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) against the groups that planned and carried out the September 11 attacks.

The administration had previously sought to transfer the man to an unidentified country, possibly Saudi Arabia.

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By Friday it was clear that what started as a court case over whether the USA government had the legal authority to detain an American man suspected of fighting for ISIS had devolved into an argument over what obligations the US has to ensure his safety upon release.

Faced with the prospect of having to defend its decision to imprison a US citizen accused of fighting for ISIS, the Trump administration has settled on a different strategy: just letting the alleged terrorist go.

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.

"The government has effectively admitted that it has no reason to continue detaining our client and that he does not pose a threat", ACLU lawyer Jonathan Hafetz said. The state-believed to be Saudi Arabia-had confirmed that the man would not face torture. He attended college and studied electrical engineering in Louisiana, is married and has a 3-year-old daughter whom he tried to register as an American citizen on two trips to the United States in 2014, according to court filings.

Iraqi military forces launched air strikes on Islamic state in 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.

Government will hold off releasing American back to Syria