“Having informed the detainee of his right to counsel, and the detainee having asked for counsel, the department’s position that his request should simply be ignored until it decides what to do with the detainee and when to allow him access to counsel is both remarkable and troubling,” she wrote.
Wyn Hornbuckle, a Justice Department spokesman, declined to say whether the government would comply with the ruling or file an appeal.
“We’re reviewing the ruling and will decline to comment,” he said.
But Jonathan Hafetz, the lead A.C.L.U. attorney on the case, praised the judge’s decision.
“This is a landmark ruling that rejects the Trump administration’s unprecedented attempt to block an American citizen from challenging his executive imprisonment,” Mr. Hafetz said. “Ensuring citizens detained by the government have access to a lawyer and a court is essential to preserving the Constitution and the rule of law in America.”
National security officials initially wanted to prosecute the man in an American court for providing material support for terrorism, according to officials. But that proved difficult because of a lack of courtroom-admissible evidence — in part because questioning of him ceased after he was read his rights and asked for a lawyer.
The New York Times reported last week that officials have now decided to try to transfer the man to Saudi Arabia, according to officials. That decision was reached on Dec. 15 at a meeting of the National Security Council’s “deputies committee,” which is composed of the No. 2 officials of national security departments and agencies.
Such a transfer would be contingent on diplomatic assurances. Other repatriations and resettlements of former Guantánamo Bay detainees have typically included promises not to let former detainees travel abroad and other security measures. Saudi Arabia also runs a custodial rehabilitation program for low-level Islamist extremists.
It is not clear whether the United States government would seek to make the man renounce his American citizenship — and with it his right to enter the United States — as part of any such transfer. In 2004, when the Bush administration sent to Saudi Arabia a Guantánamo detainee who similarly was born on American soil to visiting Saudi parents, the detainee, Yaser E. Hamdi, agreed to renounce his citizenship as part of the deal. But by then, Mr. Hamdi had a lawyer.
Mr. Hafetz filed last week’s Times article with the court in support of the A.C.L.U. request for immediate access to the man, and Judge Chutkan on Friday ordered the government to respond. The Justice Department told her later that day that no official has talked with the detainee about renouncing his citizenship.
But it also told the judge that “there appears to be no case law suggesting that an individual must be provided counsel before he relinquishes citizenship.”
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