(CNN)A federal judge in Washington DC postponed a decision on whether the US government can release a US citizen that it has been holding as an enemy combatant into Syria.
Judge postpones ruling whether US can release American held as enemy combatant into Syria
District Court Judge Tanya S. Chutkan of the US District Court for the District of Columbia asked the government and the ACLU -- which is representing the American -- to give her more time to make her decision and ordered a hearing on June 20 to further discuss the issue. She also urged the parties to work toward a "mutually agreeable" solution in the case.
The controversy began when the ACLU fought the man's detention in Iraq, allegedly for fighting for ISIS. When the government suddenly announced it planned to release the man, the ACLU rushed to court arguing that a release in Syria would be a likely death sentence.
Chutkan asked skeptical questions of the lawyers on each side exclaiming at one point, "As with everything in this case, we are in uncharted territory."
Jonathan Hafetz, the ACLU lawyer, said it was "truly shocking" that the government would suddenly announce that it planned to release the unnamed US citizen in a country where the US government advises its own citizens not to go.
But the judge noted that the individual had "voluntarily" traveled to Syria in the first place. She pressed Hafetz on whether she had the power to decide where he should be released. Hafetz said releasing his client in Syria would be akin to "releasing him into a burning building."
The judge asked lawyer James Burnham why the government was choosing to release the man where he "faced a strong likelihood of being killed" in a country that is in the middle of a civil war. Burnham noted that the man had been captured in Syria and that the undisclosed location is "much better" than where he was originally captured.