(CN) — A federal judge on Thursday night blocked the government from transferring an American citizen accused of fighting with Islamic State militants to Saudi Arabia until he can fully challenge his detention in court.
The U.S. military has held the unidentified citizen without charge in Iraq since he surrendered in Syria more than seven months ago.
U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan sided with the American Civil Liberties Union, which argued that the transfer would violate the detainee’s rights and that the government has yet to prove that it is detaining him legally.
The U.S. says he was collaborating with the Islamic State group. The ACLU says he was in Syria to chronicle the conflict.
In a statement, ACLU attorney Jonathan Hafetz said “the court is rightly protecting this U.S. citizen’s constitutional rights and checking the Trump administration’s excessive claims of executive power.
“The government cannot do whatever it pleases with a U.S. citizen without judicial review and a basis in law,” Hafetz continued. “The long detention of this American is illegal, and forcibly transferring him to another country would have further violated his rights by removing him from the jurisdiction of the American legal system, denying him the opportunity to win his freedom from a U.S. court.”