US Loses Appeal to Transfer Citizen Detainee

WASHINGTON (CN) – The D.C. Circuit refused to let the Trump administration send to another country a U.S. citizen who is suspected of fighting with the Islamic State in Syria.

Attorneys for the detainee, who is identified in court filings as John Doe, celebrated Monday’s ruling.

“The appeals court’s judgment vindicates due process, limits on executive authority, and the protection of an American’s constitutional rights,” Jonathan Hafetz with the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation said in a statement. “The president does not get a blank check to dispose of the liberty of U.S. citizens just because international relations or military actions are involved.”

A dual citizen of the United States and Saudi Arabia, Doe has been held without a charge by the U.S. military in Iraq since mid-September when he was captured by Kurdish forces.

The U.S. says Doe is an enemy combatant and that its decision to transfer him to another country, the identity of which remains sealed, is not judicially reviewable.

Complying with an order by U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan last month, the government provided 72 hours notice on April 16 of its intent to transfer Doe.

Chutkan in turn awarded Doe an injunction on April 19, setting the stage for oral arguments before the D.C. Circuit on April 27.

Both before the lower court and the D.C. Circuit, the ACLU’s Hafetz argued that Doe should get a ruling on his habeas petition before the U.S. military can transfer him.

Doe has denied being an enemy combatant in court filings, and the ACLU called it unconstitutional to transfer Doe without a positive legal authority, such as a statute or treaty.

The government argued meanwhile that judicial intervention would harm diplomatic relations and “ongoing bilateral cooperation” if the transfer fell through.

Though the ruling on Doe’s case Tuesday is sealed, an unsigned judgment shows that the court split 2-1 along ideological lines.

U.S. Circuit Judges Sri Srinivasan and Robert Wilkins, both appointees of former President Barack Obama, voted to affirm. U.S. Circuit Judge Karen Henderson, an appointee of former President George H.W. Bush, dissented.

The Pentagon and the Department of Justice did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment on the opinion.

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