WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal judge on Tuesday ordered the U.S. government to give 72 hours advance notice before transferring an American citizen accused of fighting with the Islamic State to another country.
The unidentified detainee, who was born in the United States but raised in the Middle East, surrendered on the Syrian battlefield in mid-September. The U.S. military is detaining him in Iraq as an enemy combatant.
U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan's ruling doesn't prevent the government from ever transferring the detainee to another country, but says it has to provide advance notice of any transfer so it can be contested in court.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed court papers arguing that the government had held the detainee for months without providing him access to a lawyer. The court temporarily banned any transfer until the ACLU could speak to him.
Earlier this month, the detainee told the rights group during a video conference arranged by the Pentagon that he wanted to contest his detention. He asked to be released and told the ACLU he opposed being forcibly transferred, or handed over, to the custody of another country, said Jonathan Hafetz, senior staff attorney for the ACLU.
"He's asking for release," Hafetz said after a court hearing Monday.
The ACLU had asked the judge to continue to ban the detainee's transfer to another country until the case contesting his detention is resolved. With the judge's ruling, the government can still try to transfer the detainee — perhaps to Saudi Arabia, where he holds dual citizenship — but U.S. attorneys say no decision about his fate has been made. So far he has not been charged.