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American ISIS Suspect Held in Iraq Has Right to Lawyer, Judge Rules

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Suspected Islamic State fighters detained at a courthouse in Qaraqosh, Iraq, this year. A federal judge has ruled that an American citizen detained as an “enemy combatant” has the right to a lawyer. Credit Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

Calling the Trump administration’s position “disingenuous” and “troubling,” a federal judge on Saturday ordered the Pentagon to permit a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union to meet with a United States citizen who has been imprisoned in military custody for three months after being deemed an enemy combatant.

In a novel case pitting the individual rights of citizens against government wartime powers, Judge Tanya S. Chutkan of the Federal District Court of the District of Columbia also ordered the Pentagon not to monitor that conversation — and told it not to transfer the man, who is being held in Iraq, until the A.C.L.U. conveys his wishes to her.

A Syrian militia captured the American citizen in mid-September and turned him over to American forces as someone suspected of fighting for the Islamic State. The government has refused to identify the man, but officials familiar with the matter have said he is a dual citizen of the United States and Saudi Arabia who was born on American soil to visiting Saudi parents and raised in Saudi Arabia.

The A.C.L.U. has filed a habeas corpus lawsuit on the man’s behalf challenging his indefinite detention without charges or a lawyer. The Trump administration has asked Judge Chutkan to dismiss the case, arguing that the rights organization lacks standing to file suit on the detainee’s behalf since it has not met with the man, has no relationship with him and does not know his wishes.

In a 12-page ruling, Judge Chutkan sharply criticized the government’s position as “disingenuous at best” since the Defense Department is preventing lawyers for the group from conferring with the man. She also noted that the government has acknowledged that the man asked for a lawyer after being read the Miranda warning when interrogators shifted from questioning him for intelligence purposes to questioning him in hopes of gathering evidence that is admissible in a courtroom.

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“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,” she wrote.

Wyn Hornbuckle, a Justice Department spokesman, declined to say whether the government would comply with the ruling or file an appeal.

“We’re reviewing the ruling and will decline to comment,” he said.

But Jonathan Hafetz, the lead A.C.L.U. attorney on the case, praised the judge’s decision.

“This is a landmark ruling that rejects the Trump administration’s unprecedented attempt to block an American citizen from challenging his executive imprisonment,” Mr. Hafetz said. “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.”

National security officials initially wanted to prosecute the man in an American court for providing material support for terrorism, according to officials. But that proved difficult because of a lack of courtroom-admissible evidence — in part because questioning of him ceased after he was read his rights and asked for a lawyer.

The New York Times reported last week that officials have now decided to try to transfer the man to Saudi Arabia, according to officials. That decision was reached on Dec. 15 at a meeting of the National Security Council’s “deputies committee,” which is composed of the No. 2 officials of national security departments and agencies.

Such a transfer would be contingent on diplomatic assurances. Other repatriations and resettlements of former Guantánamo Bay detainees have typically included promises not to let former detainees travel abroad and other security measures. Saudi Arabia also runs a custodial rehabilitation program for low-level Islamist extremists.

It is not clear whether the United States government would seek to make the man renounce his American citizenship — and with it his right to enter the United States — as part of any such transfer. In 2004, when the Bush administration sent to Saudi Arabia a Guantánamo detainee who similarly was born on American soil to visiting Saudi parents, the detainee, Yaser E. Hamdi, agreed to renounce his citizenship as part of the deal. But by then, Mr. Hamdi had a lawyer.

Mr. Hafetz filed last week’s Times article with the court in support of the A.C.L.U. request for immediate access to the man, and Judge Chutkan on Friday ordered the government to respond. The Justice Department told her later that day that no official has talked with the detainee about renouncing his citizenship.

But it also told the judge that “there appears to be no case law suggesting that an individual must be provided counsel before he relinquishes citizenship.”

Continue reading the main story

Calling the Trump administration’s position “disingenuous” and “troubling,” a federal judge on Saturday ordered the Pentagon to permit a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union to meet with a United States citizen who has been imprisoned in military custody for three months after being deemed an enemy combatant.

In a novel case pitting the individual rights of citizens against government wartime powers, Judge Tanya S. Chutkan of the Federal District Court of the District of Columbia also ordered the Pentagon not to monitor that conversation — and told it not to transfer the man, who is being held in Iraq, until the A.C.L.U. conveys his wishes to her.

A Syrian militia captured the American citizen in mid-September and turned him over to American forces as someone suspected of fighting for the Islamic State. The government has refused to identify the man, but officials familiar with the matter have said he is a dual citizen of the United States and Saudi Arabia who was born on American soil to visiting Saudi parents and raised in Saudi Arabia.

The A.C.L.U. has filed a habeas corpus lawsuit on the man’s behalf challenging his indefinite detention without charges or a lawyer. The Trump administration has asked Judge Chutkan to dismiss the case, arguing that the rights organization lacks standing to file suit on the detainee’s behalf since it has not met with the man, has no relationship with him and does not know his wishes.

In a 12-page ruling, Judge Chutkan sharply criticized the government’s position as “disingenuous at best” since the Defense Department is preventing lawyers for the group from conferring with the man. She also noted that the government has acknowledged that the man asked for a lawyer after being read the Miranda warning when interrogators shifted from questioning him for intelligence purposes to questioning him in hopes of gathering evidence that is admissible in a courtroom.

“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,” she wrote.

Wyn Hornbuckle, a Justice Department spokesman, declined to say whether the government would comply with the ruling or file an appeal.

“We’re reviewing the ruling and will decline to comment,” he said.

But Jonathan Hafetz, the lead A.C.L.U. attorney on the case, praised the judge’s decision.

“This is a landmark ruling that rejects the Trump administration’s unprecedented attempt to block an American citizen from challenging his executive imprisonment,” Mr. Hafetz said. “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.”

National security officials initially wanted to prosecute the man in an American court for providing material support for terrorism, according to officials. But that proved difficult because of a lack of courtroom-admissible evidence — in part because questioning of him ceased after he was read his rights and asked for a lawyer.

The New York Times reported last week that officials have now decided to try to transfer the man to Saudi Arabia, according to officials. That decision was reached on Dec. 15 at a meeting of the National Security Council’s “deputies committee,” which is composed of the No. 2 officials of national security departments and agencies.

Such a transfer would be contingent on diplomatic assurances. Other repatriations and resettlements of former Guantánamo Bay detainees have typically included promises not to let former detainees travel abroad and other security measures. Saudi Arabia also runs a custodial rehabilitation program for low-level Islamist extremists.

It is not clear whether the United States government would seek to make the man renounce his American citizenship — and with it his right to enter the United States — as part of any such transfer. In 2004, when the Bush administration sent to Saudi Arabia a Guantánamo detainee who similarly was born on American soil to visiting Saudi parents, the detainee, Yaser E. Hamdi, agreed to renounce his citizenship as part of the deal. But by then, Mr. Hamdi had a lawyer.

Mr. Hafetz filed last week’s Times article with the court in support of the A.C.L.U. request for immediate access to the man, and Judge Chutkan on Friday ordered the government to respond. The Justice Department told her later that day that no official has talked with the detainee about renouncing his citizenship.

But it also told the judge that “there appears to be no case law suggesting that an individual must be provided counsel before he relinquishes citizenship.”



Nytimes

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Syria

Turkish Army extends Syria operation to Azaz district, east of Afrin – state media

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Turkey Begins Ground Assault on Kurdish Enclave in Syria

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Turkish soldiers waiting Sunday near the Syrian border. Turkish forces renewed their assault on Kurdish militia. Credit Bulent Kilic/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

ISTANBUL — Turkish troops crossed the Syrian border into the Kurdish enclave of Afrin on Sunday morning, beginning a ground assault against American-allied militias there, as the first accounts of casualties emerged amid rising international criticism of Turkey’s military action.

Turkish fighter jets were again in the skies Sunday bombing Kurdish militia targets in the border region. Ten people were reported killed in the bombing raids, according to Kurdish militants, and three people died on the Turkish side of the border in retaliatory shelling, local people said.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim of Turkey confirmed to local journalists that his country’s troops had crossed the border into Syria on Sunday morning.

Mr. Yildirim said the forces intended to create a security zone about 18 miles deep inside Syria. The area would encompass urban centers, including the town of Afrin, with a predominantly Kurdish population, and the much larger city of Manbij, further east, as well as dozens of outlying villages.

Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has vowed to eliminate “terrorist nests” in the Kurdish enclave, but on Sunday he promised that the operation would be swift. “Hopefully, we will complete this operation in a very short time,” he said in a speech to the women’s branch of his Justice and Development Party in the city of Bursa.

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“The real issue here is to deliver Afrin to its real owners,” Mr. Erdogan said. He said that “we have 3.5 million Syrians in our lands” and that Turkey wanted “to send our Syrian brothers back to their own land as soon as possible.”

Mr. Erdogan’s comments came amid growing international dismay over Turkey’s intervention, and amid reports of Syrian fighters massing to join the fight on both sides.

Members of the Free Syrian Army have been joining to fight alongside Turkish troops. Many of them are refugees from Arab villages and towns in the region.

At the same time, hundreds of Kurdish fighters from the American-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, which has been leading the fight against the Islamic State in Syria, were assembling in towns to the east and south of Afrin, according to The Associated Press.

Photo
Syrian-Kurds demonstrating Sunday in the town of Amuda against the Turkish military action. Credit Delil Souleiman/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

A shopkeeper in Raqqa, who asked not to be named out of fear for his safety, said by text message that a large number of Arab fighters in the Syrian Democratic Forces were being sent from Raqqa to Manbij to prepare for a Turkish attack. His cousin was among 1,000 fighters gathered in Manbij and commanders were telling them an attack was imminent.

Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson spoke by telephone with his Turkish and Russian counterparts on Saturday to express concern about the situation, a State Department spokeswoman, Heather Nauert, said in a statement.

“We urge Turkey to exercise restraint and ensure that its military operations remain limited in scope and duration and scrupulous to avoid civilian casualties,” the statement said.

France called for an emergency United Nations Security Council meeting to discuss the developments and also urged Turkey to act with restraint, noting that the humanitarian situation was deteriorating in several regions of Syria.

Turkish officials have repeatedly criticized the United States for its support and arming of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, known as the Y.P.G., which are spearheading the fight against the Islamic State in Syria. Yet they made clear Sunday they did not want to confront American troops in Syria.

Mr. Yildirim said Turkish forces would seek to destroy any logistics supply routes to Kurdish units, but Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said United States officials had assured Turkey there were no American troops in the region.

“It is out of the question to have a direct clash between Turkey and the U.S. in the region,” he said at a news briefing for international reporters Sunday.

By nightfall Turkish troops seemed to have advanced only a few miles into Syria.

Syrian fighters allied with Turkish forces claimed to have seized control of Shankal, a village on the northwestern edge of the Afrin district, but Kurdish fighters rejected the claim.

Casualties were reported from both sides, but numbers varied.

Hanadi Hafsi, a homemaker who lives in Reyhanli, a border district in Turkey, said two Syrians and a Turk died Sunday afternoon from shelling by Kurdish militias. The shells fell on a market, killing three and wounding 32, she said. Turkish officials said that only one Syrian had refugee died and that 37 people were wounded.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu condemned the “indiscriminate rocket fire by #PYD/#YPG terrorists” in a Twitter post. “This attack on innocent people shows the real face of #PYD terrorists.”

Continue reading the main story

ISTANBUL — Turkish troops crossed the Syrian border into the Kurdish enclave of Afrin on Sunday morning, beginning a ground assault against American-allied militias there, as the first accounts of casualties emerged amid rising international criticism of Turkey’s military action.

Turkish fighter jets were again in the skies Sunday bombing Kurdish militia targets in the border region. Ten people were reported killed in the bombing raids, according to Kurdish militants, and three people died on the Turkish side of the border in retaliatory shelling, local people said.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim of Turkey confirmed to local journalists that his country’s troops had crossed the border into Syria on Sunday morning.

Mr. Yildirim said the forces intended to create a security zone about 18 miles deep inside Syria. The area would encompass urban centers, including the town of Afrin, with a predominantly Kurdish population, and the much larger city of Manbij, further east, as well as dozens of outlying villages.

Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has vowed to eliminate “terrorist nests” in the Kurdish enclave, but on Sunday he promised that the operation would be swift. “Hopefully, we will complete this operation in a very short time,” he said in a speech to the women’s branch of his Justice and Development Party in the city of Bursa.

“The real issue here is to deliver Afrin to its real owners,” Mr. Erdogan said. He said that “we have 3.5 million Syrians in our lands” and that Turkey wanted “to send our Syrian brothers back to their own land as soon as possible.”

Mr. Erdogan’s comments came amid growing international dismay over Turkey’s intervention, and amid reports of Syrian fighters massing to join the fight on both sides.

Members of the Free Syrian Army have been joining to fight alongside Turkish troops. Many of them are refugees from Arab villages and towns in the region.

At the same time, hundreds of Kurdish fighters from the American-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, which has been leading the fight against the Islamic State in Syria, were assembling in towns to the east and south of Afrin, according to The Associated Press.

A shopkeeper in Raqqa, who asked not to be named out of fear for his safety, said by text message that a large number of Arab fighters in the Syrian Democratic Forces were being sent from Raqqa to Manbij to prepare for a Turkish attack. His cousin was among 1,000 fighters gathered in Manbij and commanders were telling them an attack was imminent.

Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson spoke by telephone with his Turkish and Russian counterparts on Saturday to express concern about the situation, a State Department spokeswoman, Heather Nauert, said in a statement.

“We urge Turkey to exercise restraint and ensure that its military operations remain limited in scope and duration and scrupulous to avoid civilian casualties,” the statement said.

France called for an emergency United Nations Security Council meeting to discuss the developments and also urged Turkey to act with restraint, noting that the humanitarian situation was deteriorating in several regions of Syria.

Turkish officials have repeatedly criticized the United States for its support and arming of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, known as the Y.P.G., which are spearheading the fight against the Islamic State in Syria. Yet they made clear Sunday they did not want to confront American troops in Syria.

Mr. Yildirim said Turkish forces would seek to destroy any logistics supply routes to Kurdish units, but Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said United States officials had assured Turkey there were no American troops in the region.

“It is out of the question to have a direct clash between Turkey and the U.S. in the region,” he said at a news briefing for international reporters Sunday.

By nightfall Turkish troops seemed to have advanced only a few miles into Syria.

Syrian fighters allied with Turkish forces claimed to have seized control of Shankal, a village on the northwestern edge of the Afrin district, but Kurdish fighters rejected the claim.

Casualties were reported from both sides, but numbers varied.

Hanadi Hafsi, a homemaker who lives in Reyhanli, a border district in Turkey, said two Syrians and a Turk died Sunday afternoon from shelling by Kurdish militias. The shells fell on a market, killing three and wounding 32, she said. Turkish officials said that only one Syrian had refugee died and that 37 people were wounded.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu condemned the “indiscriminate rocket fire by #PYD/#YPG terrorists” in a Twitter post. “This attack on innocent people shows the real face of #PYD terrorists.”

Nytimes

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Syria

Turkey fires barrage of missiles on Kurdish-held targets in Syria (VIDEO)

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