US Plans to Release American Captured in Syria in September

U.S. plans to release detained American 'enemy combatant' in Syria

The US Justice Department announced Wednesday that an American alleged Islamic State group combatant held in Iraq for over eight months would be released, potentially defusing a troubling detainee test case for the Trump administration. Hafetz said the ACLU will ask "the court to immediately intervene and ensure the safe release of our client".

"He was carrying a thumb drive that not only contained [IS] administrative spreadsheets consistent with some of the work that he described, but that was filled with files explaining how to make bombs, how to use different types of weapons, and how to interrogate captives, as well as other how-to manuals for an [IS] fighter", the court filing says.

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.

The Justice Department said it would release him in the unspecified town "no sooner than 72 hours hence".

"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", said ACLU attorney Jonathan Hafetz.

"The government has effectively admitted that it has no reason to continue detaining our client and that he does not pose a threat". 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.

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Nine months ago, the man was turned over to US forces after he was captured at a rebel Syrian Democratic Forces checkpoint in Syria and declared his American citizenship. "This is a disgraceful way to treat an American citizen", Hafetz said in a statement. 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.

In court papers, the USA has said the man joined the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, in 2014 in Syria, and that the man attended a training camp, pledged allegiance to its leader and was listed in an ISIS document as a "fighter". At the moment we can say that it was defeated. The detainee said he had press credentials to do freelance writing about the conflict in Syria, though the Federal Bureau of Investigation hasn't found any published articles or blogs he wrote.

Last month, in a victory for the detainee, a federal appeals court ruled that the USA could not "forcibly transfer" him to a third-party country such as Saudi Arabia, where he has dual citizenship, without proving to a court that he had fought for the enemy. The judge sided with the ACLU, and an appeals court upheld the decision.

USA officials also plan to notify the allied Syrian Democratic Forces that the man will likely be traveling through checkpoints and that the United States does not seek his detention, said Mitchell, a principal deputy assistant secretary.

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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