On October 5, 2017, the ACLU Foundation filed a habeas corpus petition on behalf of a U.S. citizen unlawfully detained by the U.S. military in Iraq since approximately September 14 for allegedly fighting with the Islamic State group in Syria.

The habeas case, filed in federal district court in Washington, D.C., asks the court to find the citizen’s military detention unlawful and to rule that the only lawful basis to detain him is under properly filed federal criminal charges. It also asks the court to prohibit the government from transferring the citizen until it decides his case.

The military had detained the citizen in secret, and fought for months to deny him access to counsel or a court. During the case, the government admitted that the American had asked for an attorney. On December 23, 2017, the judge rejected the government’s efforts to dismiss the case and ordered the government to provide the ACLU with unmonitored access to the citizen. On January 3, 2018, ACLU attorneys spoke with the American citizen via a court-ordered videoconference, and the citizen told the ACLU he wanted to proceed with the habeas action with the ACLU as his counsel.

The indefinite detention of an American citizen without charge and without evidence violates the Constitution’s guarantee of due process. If the government cannot justify his detention before a judge, the citizen should be released from custody immediately. If the Trump administration will not respect the citizen’s rights, then the courts must step in to protect them.

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