A federal judge ordered the Defense Department to allow the American held in custody in Iraq as an “enemy combatant” immediate access to legal counsel, CNN reports.
The unnamed U.S. citizen was detained by the armed forces over three months ago and has been held in custody since then with “no contact or communication with anyone except government personnel” and Red Cross representatives.
Judge Tanya S. Chutkan of the US District Court for the District of Columbia required in her ruling that the American Civil Liberties Union be allowed access to the American, who has been accused of fighting for ISIS in Syria, in order to determine who he wants to be represented by.
The ACLU filed a lawsuit last month, demanding that legal counsel is provided to the man and that the Trump administration justify detaining him without charges. The Justice Department claims the group has no grounds to sue because the individual has not made clear whether he wants the ACLU to do so on his behalf.
Court documents show that the American citizen, whose location is still undisclosed, surrendered in September, but the Defense Department has not indicated how long he would remain in custody. His only contact so far has been with the Red Cross, whose representatives have visited him twice.
“His statements indicate that not only does he want counsel, but that he is waiting for counsel to be provided. This would certainly explain why he may not have asked the Red Cross for assistance in obtaining counsel,” the judge wrote.
Chutkan also disagreed with the administration’s claim that the ACLU has no right to sue on behalf of the man, arguing it has “demonstrated that it is dedicated to the detainee’s best interests.”
The group welcomed the judge’s decision, saying in a statement that by allowing them “access to this American is an essential protection of his constitutional rights and a major victory for the rule of law against unchecked executive power.”
The Defense Department was also ordered not to transfer the American until the court is notified of his wishes.