American ISIS Suspect Detained without Charges; Released After Pressure from ACLU


The US military released an American citizen they suspected to be an ISIS member, after an year of detention without charges. According to source, the detainee was released into Bahrain, where his wife and daughter had been living. The reason for his release was both, pressure from a non-profit civil liberty advocacy organization and the lack of ‘admissible evidence’.

The American, identified by an official as Abdulrahman Ahmad Alsheikh, was captured in Syria by anti-ISIS fighters backed by the US. Alsheikh had been held captive since September 2017 by the US army in Iraq, without being tried.

Alsheikh is elated with his release, but equally disturbed by the fact that his own country detained him without trial. He said, “No one, no matter what they are suspected of, should be treated the way my government treated me.” He added, “Once I got the chance to stand up for my rights, the Constitution and the courts protected me.” Despite being kept in US military detention facilities for an year without trial, the American ISIS suspect seemed to still have faith in the judicial system for it allowed him to exercise his American rights.

Abdulrahman Ahmad Alsheikh was a dual citizen of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the US. He was detained by the US military as an “enemy combatant.” US officials admit that a lack of admissible evidence against Alsheikh stopped them from criminally charging him.

The extraordinary case of Alsheikh is seen as a victory of the due process and US justice system. It also put light on the fact that US citizens hold every right to challenge their detention, even if the arrest took place on a battlefield, suspicioning them to be an ISIS fighter.

Alsheikh’s release didn’t come as easy as it looks now. The detainee had to fight the US military that not only kept his detention a secret, but even rejected his plea for a lawyer. It was the American Civil Liberties Union, a non-profit organization advocating civil liberties that intervened. The ACLU then filed a lawsuit against the act, which was followed by a federal judge allowing the non-profit organization to contact Alsheikh. In addition, another federal appeals court validated the decision barring the US government from shifting the detainee to a third country.

The miraculous release of Alsheikh meant the US government is restricted from binding court ruling on the issue. According to officials of Defense Department, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces that detained Alsheikh, has more than 700 other ‘foreign terrorist fighters’ detained with them, from 40 countries.

Abdulrahman Ahmad Alsheikh’s release has encouraged US officials to push other countries to free citizens from SDF’s detention facilities. Nevertheless, a lot of countries are still reluctant to do so considering the difficulty in prosecuting the suspects captured from the battlefield.

The ACLU calls the release of Alsheikh a victory for US judicial system and due processes.

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