Two Americans Transferred To US From Syria, Will Be Tried In Federal Courts


Two U.S. citizens, charged in separate cases with federal violations, have been transferred from the custody of the Syrian Democratic Forces to the United States, the Justice Department announced Tuesday.

Ibraheem Izzy Musaibli, 28, of Dearborn, Michigan, faces charges of providing and attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State. He will be arraigned Wednesday in federal court in Detroit.

Samantha Elhassani, 32, of Elkhart, Indiana, faces lesser charges of making false statements to the FBI. Elhassani, who also goes by Samantha Sally, was charged in the Northern District of Indiana.

The charges against Musaibli, unsealed Tuesday, reflect a willingess to use the criminal justice system to prosecute defendants captured on the battlefield overseas, by an administration that has voiced skepticism about using the federal courts in foreign terrorism cases.

The decision to prosecute the individuals in federal courts also is an indicator of widespread reluctance among government officials to add new cases to the military commissions used to try prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. That system has been plagued by a series of scandals, and delays and even suspects held in connection to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks have not yet faced trial.

Musaibli was detained by the Kurdish-dominated SDF, the United States’ main ally in Syria in the fight to defeatthe Islamic State, or ISIS. The indictment alleges that from April 2015 through June, Musaibli provided material support “in the form of personnel (namely, himself)” to the Islamic State, “knowing that ISIS was a designated foreign terrorist organization.”

“The National Security Division will not tolerate threats to our country from terrorist organizations like ISIS – not least of all those that come from our own citizens,” Assistant Attorney General for National Security John DeMers said in a statement.

In March, Elhassani told the news program Frontline and the BBC that her husband, Moussa Elhassani, a Moroccan national, had tricked her into traveling to join the Islamic State. She said he took her and her two children at the time on a vacation in Turkey in 2015 and then forced them over the border into Syria.

The family lived in Raqqa, Syria, for more than two years, during which time they had two more children, according to Frontline. When Elhassani’s husband was killed in an airstrike fighting for ISIS, she and her four children were taken into custody by Kurdish forces. They were interviewed in detention by the news organizations.

In an earlier case involving another American – a dual citizen – captured in September by the SDF, the Justice Department decided it lacked sufficient evidence to prosecute him.

While President Trump has declared that Guantanamo will remain open indefinitely and expressed his willingness to send new terrorism suspects there, the administration has not yet done so even as the United States and partner nations struggle to determine what to do with the hundreds of foreign fighters held by the SDF in Syria.

The Pentagon provided aircraft to transport Musaibli, Elhassani and her four children from Syria to the United States.

(c) 2018, The Washington Post · Ellen Nakashima, Missy Ryan ·  



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