American detained by U.S. armed forces in Iraq must be allowed attorney, judge rules

By Ray Downs  |  Dec. 24, 2017 at 9:29 PM
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Dec. 24 (UPI) -- A federal judge on Saturday ruled that the U.S. government must allow a detained American citizen in Iraq to receive counsel from an attorney.

The unnamed American citizen has been detained by U.S. armed forces since September and the Defense Department hasn't been allowed the detainee to receive visits from an attorney, despite the American Civil Liberties Union attempts to provide counsel.

But Judge Tanya S. Chutkan of the Federal District Court of the District of Columbia said the Defense Department's argument to prevent the detainee from receiving counsel is "disingenuous at best" and that the ACLU must be allowed to visit the detainee.

"Having informed the detainee of his right to counsel, and the detainee having asked for counsel, the department's position that his request should simply be ignored until it decides what to do with the detainee and when to allow him access to counsel is both remarkable and troubling," Chutkan wrote.

The ACLU said the judge's decision could impact how future American citizen detainees held by U.S. armed forces in combat areas.

"This is a landmark ruling that rejects the Trump administration's unprecedented attempt to block an American citizen from challenging his executive imprisonment," ALU attorney Jonathan Hafetz said in a statement. "Ensuring citizens detained by the government have access to a lawyer and a court is essential to preserving the Constitution and the rule of law in America."

Sources told The New York Times that the detainee is a suspected Islamic State combatant who is a dual citizen of the United States and Saudi Arabia.

According to court documents, the detainee surrendered to Syrian Democratic Forces on Sep. 12 and was transferred to U.S. armed forces custody shortly after.

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