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US-Saudi ISIS suspect released without charges, held 13 months

An ISIS fighter carries the Islamic State flag. (Wikipedia/Released)
October 30, 2018

A dual U.S.-Saudi citizen, who was detained without charges in Syria 13 months ago for allegedly being an ISIS member, was released on Sunday to Bahrain, according to a Pentagon spokesperson.

The man, who has been known only as John Doe, is a dual U.S.-Saudi citizen and still has American citizenship, but his U.S. passport has been annulled. He was released to an undisclosed location in Bahrain to join his family who resides there, The Hill reported.

John Doe’s lawyer, Jonathan Hafetz, who is with the American Civil Liberties Union, said his client received a confidential settlement agreement with the U.S. government, according to ABC News.

“After our client succeeded in forcing the government to try and defend to a court its extreme and inaccurate claim of detention authority, the government opted instead to release him as a free man. This is a victory our client fought for long and hard. The victory sends a strong message that the president cannot take away an American’s liberty without due process, and it shows the continuing importance of judicial review,” Hafetz said.

John Doe said, “No one, no matter what they are suspected of, should be treated the way my government treated me. Once I got the chance to stand up for my rights, the Constitution and the courts protected me.”

John Doe’s identity has not been made public per a court order. However, one source was able to obtain an ISIS intake form and identify the man as Abdulrahman Ahmad Alsheikh, who was apprehended in Syria in Sept. 2017.

He was originally detained by Kurdish forces, but was then handed over to the U.S. military and has since been detained in Iraq.

Officials reported that Alsheikh swore allegiance to ISIS and began training for ISIS in Mar. 2015 in Syria. They also said that he used a Twitter account to promote and network with ISIS.

Alsheikh has refuted those allegations, maintaining that he was in Syria as a freelance journalist, but was captured forced to work for ISIS against his will.

In Oct. 2017, the ACLU filed a habeas corpus case for Alsheikh, whom they had never met.

While the Trump Administration didn’t agree with the group representing someone they didn’t know, a judge sided with the ACLU and permitted their attorneys to meet with Alsheikh and discuss his case.

The Trump Administration then worked to hand over Alsheikh to Saudi Arabia, but the courts denied those efforts, stating, “We know of no instance — in the history of the United States — in which the government has forcibly transferred an American citizen from one foreign country to another.”

The administration tried to get him released to Syria and proposed that he be taken to the same location where he was arrested with exactly what he had then — his clothes, $4,210 in cash, food and water to last several days, and a new cell phone. That was denied after attorneys contended it would be a death sentence.

The ACLU built the case to support Alsheikh on the foundation that since the existing congressional authorization for the use of military force doesn’t cover ISIS, detaining Alsheikh as an enemy combatant would not be legal.

Officials did not feel that they had enough evidence to take the case to federal court, which resulted in his release.