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Westlake Legal Group > Kidnapping and Hostages

U.S. Moves to Take ‘High Value’ ISIS Detainees, Including Britons Who Abused Hostages

Westlake Legal Group 09dc-beatles-facebookJumbo U.S. Moves to Take ‘High Value’ ISIS Detainees, Including Britons Who Abused Hostages United States Politics and Government United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J Torture Terrorism Syrian Democratic Forces Syria Kotey, Alexanda Kidnapping and Hostages Justice Department Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Iraq Foley, James (1973-2014) Emwazi, Mohammed Elsheikh, El Shafee Defense and Military Forces

The American military is moving to take as many as several dozen Islamic State detainees out of Kurdish-run wartime prisons in northern Syria, including two British men already in custody who are notorious for their roles in the torture and killing of Western hostages, according to United States officials.

The decision comes as the Turkish military moved into northern Syria after getting a green light from President Trump. Turkey is targeting the American-backed Kurds — known as the Syrian Democratic Forces — who were the primary allies of the United States in the fight against the Islamic State in Syria. The Turkish invasion called into question the militia’s ability to continue securely holding some 11,000 captured ISIS fighters.

Mr. Trump has said that Islamic State detainees will become Turkey’s responsibility, and it is not clear what his administration’s long-term plan will be for those who would instead come into the American military’s custody.

For now, the military was taking at least some of the men to Iraq, where the United States has a base where it has held a handful of Islamic State detainees with American citizenship before transferring them to domestic soil — or, in one case, releasing a detainee in Bahrain.

But their home countries have resisted repatriating them, Iraq has been reluctant to take many ISIS members captured in Syria, and there are legal challenges to taking them to the American wartime prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

However, the government does have an eventual plan for the two British men, El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey: The Justice Department wants to bring them to trial in Virginia. They were part of a four-member British cell that the Islamic State put in charge of Western hostages, who nicknamed them the “Beatles” because of their accents.

Among their victims was James Foley, the American journalist who was beheaded in August 2014 for an ISIS propaganda video. Another member of the cell, Mohammed Emwazi, or “Jihadi John,” is believed to have killed Mr. Foley. Mr. Emwazi was later killed in a drone strike.

But a court fight in Britain has delayed their transfer. The lawsuit is over whether the British government may share evidence with the United States without an assurance that American prosecutors will not seek the death penalty.

The British government has shown witness statements about the two men to the Justice Department, but testimony from British government officials would also probably be necessary at any trial. Mr. Elsheikh’s mother has filed a lawsuit seeking to block such cooperation because the United States government has not promised it will not seek to execute her son. Britain has abolished the death penalty.

The American military had been making contingency plans to get a list of about five dozen of the highest-priority detainees from that group out of northern Syria since December, when Mr. Trump first announced that he would withdraw troops from the country before his administration slowed down that plan, one official said.

Mr. Trump’s decision to let Turkey proceed prompted the military to start getting those prisoners out, lest they escape amid the chaos and as the Kurds pull guards out of the prisons to help fight. But the detainees were scattered among numerous makeshift prisons, and it was not clear how many on the list would ultimately be taken, the official said.

The Washington Post earlier reported on the move to transfer custody of detainees, including the two British men.

Mr. Trump’s decision to clear the way for Turkey to launch its operation into northern Syria is bringing to an abrupt crisis a long-simmering problem: About 50 countries have citizens in the Kurds’ prisons for ISIS fighters — and in the displaced persons camps where tens of thousands of ISIS women and children are held — and have been reluctant to repatriate them, instead leaving them in the Kurds’ hands indefinitely.

The male fighters the Kurds are holding include about 9,000 local Syrians and Iraqis, as well as 2,000 foreign fighters — including scores from Western Europe. Many European law enforcement officials fear that if they repatriate their extremist citizens, they would be unable to convict them or keep them locked up for a long time.

After Britain declined to bring Mr. Elsheikh and Mr. Kotey home for prosecution, instead stripping them of their citizenship, the United States government weighed various options for handling them itself before deciding to prosecute them in civilian court once it obtained all of the evidence it needed.

A person familiar with the exchange said that Attorney General William P. Barr has asked Mr. Trump to make keeping the two British men detained a priority so they could eventually face prosecution in the United States. The president agreed to do so, the person said.

The Trump administration had also toyed with sending the two British men to the American military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, for a period of indefinite wartime detention without trial. Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, who is a close ally of Mr. Trump’s but has criticized his Syria policy, has advocated that step.

But the military opposes becoming more deeply involved in long-term detention operations, and there are steep legal obstacles to taking the men to Cuba.

Among those challenges, transfer restrictions Congress imposed to block President Barack Obama from carrying out his plan to close the Guantánamo prison would make it illegal to transfer the men, once at the base, to domestic American soil for an eventual trial before a civilian court, and the military commissions system at Guantánamo is widely seen as dysfunctional.

It is also not clear whether legal authority exists to hold Islamic State members — as opposed to members of Al Qaeda — in indefinite wartime detention. Once in Guantánamo, the detainees would have the right to file habeas corpus lawsuits challenging the legality of their detention, raising the risk of a ruling that the larger war effort against ISIS has been illegal.

Eric Schmitt and Katie Benner contributed reporting.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

U.S. Takes Custody of British ISIS Detainees Who Abused Hostages

Westlake Legal Group 09dc-beatles-facebookJumbo U.S. Takes Custody of British ISIS Detainees Who Abused Hostages United States Politics and Government United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J Torture Terrorism Syrian Democratic Forces Syria Kotey, Alexanda Kidnapping and Hostages Justice Department Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Iraq Foley, James (1973-2014) Emwazi, Mohammed Elsheikh, El Shafee Defense and Military Forces

The American military has taken custody of two British detainees notorious for their roles in an Islamic State cell that tortured and killed Western hostages, removing them from a wartime prison in northern Syria run by a Kurdish-led militia, according to United States officials.

The abrupt move came as the Turkish military moved into northern Syria after getting a green light from President Trump. Turkey is targeting the American-backed Kurds — known as the Syrian Democratic Forces — who were the primary allies of the United States in the fight against the Islamic State in Syria. The Turkish invasion called into question the militia’s ability to continue securely holding some 11,000 captured ISIS fighters.

The two British men, El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey, were part of a four-member British cell that the Islamic State put in charge of Western hostages, who nicknamed them the “Beatles” because of their accents. Among their victims was James Foley, the American journalist who was beheaded in August 2014 for an ISIS propaganda video.

Another member of the cell, Mohammed Emwazi, or “Jihadi John,” is believed to have killed Mr. Foley. Mr. Emwazi was later killed in a drone strike.

The Justice Department has intended to eventually bring Mr. Elsheikh and Mr. Kotey to the United States for trial in Virginia, but a court fight in Britain has delayed that transfer. The lawsuit is over whether the British government may share evidence with the United States without an assurance that American prosecutors will not seek the death penalty.

The American military was taking the men to Iraq, where the United States has a base where it has held Islamic State detainees with American citizenship before transferring them to domestic soil — or, in one case, releasing a detainee in Bahrain.

It is not clear how long the two British men will stay at that base. The Justice Department has been reluctant to take custody of them and enter them into the criminal justice system — where, among other things, they will have a right to a speedy trial — until it secures the evidence still in British hands that can help support their eventual prosecution.

The British government has shared witness statements about the two men with the Justice Department, but testimony from British government officials would also probably be necessary at any trial. Mr. Elsheikh’s mother has filed a lawsuit seeking to block such cooperation because the United States government has not promised it will not seek to execute her son. Britain has abolished the death penalty.

Because of their role in abusing Americans, the two British men were at the top of a list of ISIS detainees of concern for the American government, officials said. But that list has more than five dozen names on it, including a dozen or so other Islamic State prisoners in Kurdish hands who are considered particularly dangerous.

It remains unclear whether the Trump administration will seek to take any additional detainees from the Syrian Democratic Forces as the situation in northern Syria continues to rapidly deteriorate after Mr. Trump’s decision to clear the way for Turkey to launch its operation into northern Syria.

The move is bringing to an abrupt crisis a long-simmering problem: About 50 countries have citizens in the Kurds’ prisons for ISIS fighters — and in the displaced persons camps where tens of thousands of ISIS women and children are held — and have been reluctant to repatriate them, instead leaving them in the Kurds’ hands indefinitely.

The male fighters the Kurds are holding include about 9,000 local Syrians and Iraqis, as well as 2,000 foreign fighters — including scores from Western Europe. Many European law enforcement officials fear that if they repatriate their extremist citizens, they would be unable to convict them or keep them locked up for a long time.

After Britain declined to bring Mr. Elsheikh and Mr. Kotey home for prosecution, instead stripping them of their citizenship, the United States government weighed various options for handling them itself before deciding to prosecute them in civilian court once it obtained all of the evidence it needed.

The Trump administration also weighed sending the two British men to the American military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, for a period of indefinite wartime detention without trial. Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, who is a close ally of Mr. Trump’s but has criticized his Syria policy, has advocated that step.

But the military opposes getting more deeply involved in long-term detention operations, and there are steep legal obstacles to bringing the men to Cuba.

Among those challenges, transfer restrictions Congress imposed to block President Barack Obama from carrying out his plan to close the Guantánamo prison would make it illegal to transfer the men, once at the base, to domestic American soil for an eventual trial before a civilian court, and the military commissions system at Guantánamo is widely seen as too dysfunctional.

It is also not clear whether legal authority exists to hold Islamic State members — as opposed to members of Al Qaeda — in indefinite wartime detention. Once in Guantánamo, the two men would have the right to file habeas corpus lawsuits challenging the legality of their detention, raising the prospect of a ruling that the larger war effort against ISIS has been illegal.

The Washington Post earlier reported on the transfer of the detainees’ custody.

Eric Schmitt contributed reporting.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

U.S. Takes Custody of British ISIS Detainees Who Abused Hostages

Westlake Legal Group 09dc-beatles-facebookJumbo U.S. Takes Custody of British ISIS Detainees Who Abused Hostages United States Politics and Government United States Defense and Military Forces Trump, Donald J Torture Terrorism Syrian Democratic Forces Syria Kotey, Alexanda Kidnapping and Hostages Justice Department Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Iraq Foley, James (1973-2014) Emwazi, Mohammed Elsheikh, El Shafee Defense and Military Forces

WASHINGTON — The American military has taken custody of two British detainees notorious for their roles in an Islamic State cell that tortured and killed Western hostages, removing them from a wartime prison in northern Syria run by a Kurdish-led militia, according to United States officials.

The abrupt move came as the Turkish military moved into northern Syria after getting a green light from President Trump. Turkey is targeting the American-backed Kurds — known as the Syrian Democratic Forces — who were the primary allies of the United States in the fight against the Islamic State in Syria. The Turkish invasion called into question the militia’s ability to continue securely holding some 11,000 captured ISIS fighters.

The two British men, El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey, were part of a four-member British cell that ISIS put in charge of Western hostages, who nicknamed them the “Beatles” because of their accents. Among their victims was James Foley, the American journalist who was beheaded in August 2014 for an ISIS propaganda video.

Another member of the cell, Mohammed Emwazi, or “Jihadi John,” is believed to have killed Mr. Foley. Mr. Emwazi was later killed in a drone strike.

The Justice Department has intended to eventually bring Mr. Elsheikh and Mr. Kotay to the United States for trial in Virginia, but a court fight in Britain has delayed that transfer. The lawsuit is over whether the British government may share evidence with the United States without an assurance that American prosecutors will not seek the death penalty.

The American military was taking the men to Iraq, where the United States has a base where it has held Islamic State detainees with American citizenship before transferring them to domestic soil — or, in one case, releasing him in Bahrain.

Because of their role in abusing Americans, the two British men were at the top of a list of ISIS detainees of concern for the American government, officials said. But that list has more than five dozen names on it, including a dozen or so other ISIS prisoners in Kurdish hands who are considered particularly dangerous.

It remains unclear whether the Trump administration will seek to take any additional detainees out of the Syrian Democratic Forces’ hands as the situation in northern Syria continues to rapidly deteriorate after Mr. Trump’s decision to clear the way for Turkey to launch its operation into northern Syria.

The Washington Post first reported on the transfer of the detainees’ custody.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Eric Schmitt contributed reporting.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Wife of American Imprisoned in Iran Cites ASAP Rocky in Plea for Trump’s Help

Westlake Legal Group 08dc-detainee-facebookJumbo Wife of American Imprisoned in Iran Cites ASAP Rocky in Plea for Trump’s Help Wang, Xiyue United States Politics and Government United States International Relations Trump, Donald J Princeton University Political Prisoners Kidnapping and Hostages ASAP Rocky

WASHINGTON — The wife of an American held for three years in an Iranian prison appealed to President Trump on Thursday to help secure her husband’s release, invoking Mr. Trump’s recent assistance to another detainee navigating a foreign justice system: ASAP Rocky.

The wife, Hua Qu, said she has seen no progress on the case of her husband, Xiyue Wang, since the United States withdrew from a nuclear deal with Iran in May 2018. “My husband and our family have become innocent victims in an ever-intensifying quarrel between world powers,” Ms. Qu, a Chinese citizen, told reporters in Washington.

She urged the Trump administration to restart diplomatic talks with Tehran — if for no other reason than to help her husband and at least three other American citizens known to be detained in Iran.

Mr. Wang, a naturalized American citizen and Princeton University graduate student who traveled to Iran in 2016 for research, was convicted of espionage — a charge that his family and colleagues deny.

“Mr. Rocky just quickly got released after two days of intervention from Mr. President,” Ms. Qu said. “I believe the ordeal of my husband and other unjust detention cases deserve the same level of attention.”

Rocky was released from a Swedish jail earlier this month, pending a verdict in his assault trial, after Mr. Trump sent his international envoy for hostage affairs to Stockholm on the rapper’s behalf. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also weighed in through Swedish diplomats, and Mr. Trump used his Twitter feed to press the case for Rocky — an unlikely cause célèbre in Washington who came to the president’s attention through celebrities Kim Kardashian West and her husband, Kanye West.

By contrast, this week marked the third year of Mr. Wang’s imprisonment, which Ms. Qu was quick to point out was twice as long as the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis.

In May, United Nations officials demanded that Mr. Wang be released from his 10-year prison sentence on what they called Iran’s absurd espionage charges violating rights that should be protected under international laws.

Ms. Qu said she was largely dependent on Swiss diplomats acting as a go-between for the Iranian government and the State Department; the last such encounter occurred two months ago. She said she also appreciated help from the Chinese government — which is a trade partner with Iran — but gave no details on what that included.

She said she last discussed the case with the State Department last week, but said, “there has literally been no progress.”

In a statement on Thursday, the State Department cited Mr. Wang’s “wrongful detention” but did not respond to Ms. Qu’s request for diplomatic talks with Iran to resume.

“We again call on Iran to return Mr. Wang to his family,” the statement said. “We are determined to secure the release of all U.S. hostages and wrongful detainees. We will not rest until they are home.”

Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, offered in April to negotiate a prisoner exchange with the United States, which has charged or detained Iranian citizens accused of violating American sanctions.

But the already tenuous relations between the two countries plummeted in June, when Iran downed an unmanned American surveillance drone. Mr. Trump considered retaliating with a military strike against Iran but ultimately stepped back.

In the meantime, Ms. Qu said, her 6-year-old son is beginning to forget some of the times he shared as a toddler with his father. She last spoke to Mr. Wang by phone on Wednesday — a Chinese holiday that she described as the equivalent of Valentine’s Day. They spoke not of romance, she said, but of his enduring detention.

“We all know that nothing is impossible — all it takes is will,” Ms. Qu said in an appeal to the administration.

“My husband was criminalized only because of his American citizenship,” she said. “This must be resolved.”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com