WASHINGTON — The Trump administration told a federal court tonight that it plans to release an American citizen it has unlawfully detained in Iraq without charges for almost nine months. But instead of safely releasing him, the government has notified the court that it will return the American citizen to Syria, a war-ravaged country that the State Department has warned American citizens from traveling to due to risk of death or serious injury.
The citizen had been fleeing violence in Syria when he was detained and beaten by Kurdish forces there before being handed over to the U.S. military.
American Civil Liberties Union attorney Jonathan Hafetz issued the following statement in response to the government's petition:
"The government has effectively admitted that it has no reason to continue detaining our client and that he does not pose a threat. But, instead of offering a safe release, 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. This is a country that the government itself has classified as an absolute 'do not travel' threat, encouraging citizens to 'draft a will' and 'leave DNA samples with [their] medical provider[s]' in the event they decide not to heed the government's warning.
"What the government is offering our client is no release — it's a death warrant. This is a disgraceful way to treat an American citizen. Now, our fight for our client's right to due process has also become a fight for his right to life. We'll be asking the court to immediately intervene and ensure the safe release of our client."
In its filing, the government said that it would not release the man for at least 72 hours. The ACLU, which represents the U.S. citizen in his legal challenge to his detention, said that it would oppose the government’s plan in court in order to protect his safety.
Today’s transfer notice filed by the government is here: