Justice Department building
The Justice Department building is seen in Washington, D.C., March 4, 2012. REUTERS/Gary Cameron

A federal judge has ordered the Defense Department to allow ACLUF “immediate and unmonitored” access to an American citizen held by the military in Iraq as a suspected Islamic State group fighter.

The unidentified man has been kept in detention as an “unlawful enemy combatant" for more than three months. He has neither been charged nor allowed to meet lawyers.

Judge Tanya S. Chutkan of the Federal District Court of the District of Columbia criticized the government’s position as “disingenuous at best.”

IBTimes reported Dec. 1 that the Defense Department had admitted that the man was denied an attorney despite asking for one.

This was revealed after the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation (ACLUF) filed a petition for habeas corpus Oct. 5, in which the group argued the man should be allowed to have access to lawyers.

“It is indisputable that a U.S. citizen has the right to access the courts, but the government has made that right basically impossible to exercise,” ACLU lawyer Jonathan Hafetz, who argued the case then, said in Washington.

Without access to the courts, Hafetz continued, “all the rights in the Constitution are basically null and void,” according to a Huffington Post report. Each day “is an assault on his rights and on the Constitution.”

A member of the Iraqi forces walks past a mural bearing the logo of the Islamic State (IS) group in a tunnel that was reportedly used as a training centre by the jihadists, March 1, 2017. Getty Images/Ahmad Al-Rubaye

The Defense Department then moved to dismiss the petition “for lack of subject matter jurisdiction,” arguing that the ACLUF “lacks the standing to seek habeas corpus on the detainees behalf” and “circumstances do not warrant the ACLUF’s immediate access to the detainee.”

But the judge dismissed the department’s motion, stating that “the ACLUF has standing for the limited purpose of ascertaining whether the detainee wishes for it to file a petition on his behalf."

“Therefore, the court will deny the Defense Department’s motion to dismiss, and order the Defense Department to provide the ACLUF with temporary, immediate and unmonitored access to the detainee so that it may inquire as to whether he wishes to have the ACLUF or court-appointed counsel continue this action on his behalf."

The court also ordered the department to refrain from transferring the detainee “till the ACLUF informs the court of the detainee’s wishes."

The case of the alleged IS group fighter, who reportedly surrendered Sept. 12 to a Syrian rebel militia, which turned him over to the U.S. military, has revived the legal quandary of holding a citizen in long-term detention as an enemy combatant, something the Bush administration initiated post 9/11.

The ACLUF in its suit quoted the Supreme Court ruling after Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, which said U.S. citizens cannot be detained indefinitely as “members of al Qaeda or other terrorist groups.”

Though the FBI and the Justice department are working to build the case, an official in the Trump administration told the New York Times that the government was divided on how to handle the situation and “it may not be possible to prosecute the man because most of the evidence against him is probably inadmissible.”

Though President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have endorsed the idea of sending terrorist suspects to the prison at Guantanamo Bay, this case might turn out to be the beginning of a steep legal challenge to that idea.