A federal judge barred until Tuesday the transfer by U.S. authorities of an American held for four months without charges in Iraq to another country, while she decides whether to permanently ban his transfer while he challenges his detention in court.
The government has said the man has been held by the U.S. military as a suspected member of the Islamic State and “enemy combatant” after surrendering in Syria to rebel Syrian Democratic Forces, who turned him over to U.S. forces on Sept. 14.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit Oct. 5 to represent the man, whom the government has not identified. After U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan of the District of Columbia ordered the government to allow the ACLU to speak with him, he authorized the group to file a habeas corpus petition on his behalf.
The case could test for the first time whether the right — established by the U.S. Supreme Court during George W. Bush’s presidency — of U.S. citizens suspected of belonging to al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups after the 9/11 attacks to challenge detentions after their capture on a battlefield also applies to suspected Islamic State fighters.
The case has been difficult for U.S. authorities. The Washington Post reported in October that Justice Department officials did not think they had enough evidence to charge the man, who invoked his right to an attorney, halting his interrogation.
Officials told The Washington Post that the man once had ties to the Pacific Northwest but that most of his family and roots are in the Middle East. The New York Times reported that the Trump administration was considering transferring him to Saudi Arabia under restrictions and that the man was a dual Saudi national.
His name and other personal information have not been released.