- The Washington Times - Monday, October 29, 2018

The government has reportedly released an American citizen it had detained in Iraq for more than a year after accusing him of going to fight for the Islamic State in Syria.

The New York Times said the government reached a settlement with the man, identified in court documents only as John Doe, to release him in Bahrain, where his wife and child are living.

The government had originally proposed sending him to a prison in Saudi Arabia, where he also holds citizenship, or releasing him back at the Syrian border where he was originally captured.

But the American Civil Liberties Union, which represented the man in a court case in Washington, D.C., had challenged those plans.

The ACLU said it couldn’t confirm or deny the Times report because of the nature of the settlement, but said the case was an important legal statement.

“We shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that the Trump administration thought it could trample over the rights of this American citizen. This case shows the enduring importance of the courts in safeguarding the rights of Americans against government overreach,” said Jonathan Hafetz, an attorney for the ACLU.

The New York Times identified the man as Abdulrahman Ahmad Alsheikh, who was born in the U.S. but raised in the Middle East. According to the article, Mr. Alsheikh went to college in Louisiana, but did not graduate. He went to join the Islamic State in 2014.

Mr. Alsheikh claims he originally went to Syria to be a freelance journalist, but was later forced to join the Islamic State.

“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,” he said in a statement released by the ACLU.

The legal battle centered on the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), which the government argued allows the military to detain people suspected of fighting on behalf of al-Qaida, the Taliban and their offshoots. But the ACLU argues the AUMF does not extend to the Islamic State.

A spokesperson for the Department of Defense confirmed to The Washington Times an individual referred to as John Doe had been released from custody, but refused to release the man’s identity citing a court seal on that information.

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