U.S. officials remain increasingly baffled with how to proceed with the case of a U.S. dual-citizen captured fighting for the Islamic State in Syria, The Washington Post reports.
The fighter has refused to speak with U.S. investigators and intelligence officials, instead insisting on speaking with a lawyer and is currently being held as an enemy combatant in Iraq. The fighter was captured by a rival Syrian rebel group on the battlefield weeks ago and turned over to U.S.-backed forces, which in turn transferred him to U.S. military forces.
U.S. forces can hold the fighter under enemy combatant status for a short period before he is entitled to legal counsel and an opportunity to fight charges against him.
Justice Department officials reportedly cannot charge him without a confession as no direct evidence of his ties to the group exist. The U.S. now faces the difficult choice of whether to hold the fighter in the Guantanamo Bay prison, transfer him to Iraqi custody, or to the Middle Eastern country he holds dual citizenship with.
Transferring the fighter to Guantanamo Bay prison or Iraqi custody will almost certainly bring major legal fights which could imperil broader U.S. policy. The legal construct surrounding the dozens of terrorist detainee’s remaining at Guantanamo bay remains tenuous and officials reportedly fear that the ISIS fighter’s transfer to the site could disrupt the delicate balance reached after years of litigation.
Transfer to Iraqi custody also remains a possibly undesirable course of action. The Iraqi government has faced widespread allegations of torture and unjust imprisonment. Knowingly turning over an American citizen into such conditions is a violation of U.S. law.
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