A federal judge struck down a request Monday to expedite the case of a woman who is begging to return to America after leaving years ago to join ISIS.
The setback for lawyers representing Hoda Muthana – whose father is suing the U.S. government over the matter – is the latest twist in a Transatlantic saga that has drawn the attention of President Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other high-ranking officials.
At a hearing Monday at the U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia, Muthana’s attorney Charles Swift argued that her proceedings should be sped up because Muthana is facing danger at a refugee camp in Syria where she currently is residing with her 18-month-old son.
But lawyers for the government say Muthana’s case is a “chain of speculation” since it’s not clear what the conditions at the camp are actually like – a sentiment agreed upon by Judge Reggie Walton.
“There hasn’t been sufficient evidence shown to me,” Walton said, in regards to whether or not Muthana would face “irreparable harm” if the case is not fast-tracked.
Walton said the case will now “adhere to the normal flow of litigation.”
Outside the courthouse, Swift told reporters that he is “disappointed but understand[s] the judge’s ruling.”
“We’re certainly concerned about her continued position in the camp and if something changes that would overcome that we will file another request with the court as circumstances warrant,” he said.
Prior to the hearing Monday, attorneys representing Pompeo – who is named in Muthana lawsuit – insisted in a new filing that she is not an American citizen. Muthana’s citizenship status is one of the key disputes between the two sides. Her attorneys contend Muthana is an American citizen and that she and her young child should be allowed to return to the U.S.
“Those claims are profoundly flawed because Muthana is not and has never been a U.S. citizen, and her son likewise is not a U.S. citizen,” Pompeo’s legal team wrote in the filing, obtained by Fox News.
“She was born to parents who enjoyed diplomatic-agent-level immunity at that time of her birth, so she was born not subject to the jurisdiction of the United States, and did not and could not acquire U.S. citizenship at birth,” it continues.
The filing also pushed back against demands from Muthana’s team for a judge to expedite the case, arguing that her current predicament is all her own doing.
“The government informed Muthana more than three years ago that she is not a citizen and canceled her erroneously issued passport,” Pompeo’s lawyers wrote in the filing. “Muthana — who was at the time a member of ISIS — failed to act timely in response to that notification, [and] remained in a war zone through hostilities for a period of years. Plaintiff should not now be permitted to turn Muthana’s own delay and acquiescence — not to mention her decision to join a foreign terrorist organization in Syria — into an emergency requiring special solicitude for granting her a speedy hearing and speedy relief. “
In addition to letting Muthana re-enter America, the lawsuit is also seeking a judgment that Muthana’s father is “entitled to send his daughter money to ensure the survival of his daughter and grandson, and enable them safe passage home, without subjecting himself to criminal liability” under U.S. law.
Muthana currently is living at a refugee camp in northeast Syria and she “is willing to pay whatever debts she has to society” – even if it means serving a lengthy prison sentence, her family’s lawyer told Fox News last week.
In 2015, Muthana allegedly operated a Twitter account that, on at least one occasion, tried to incite Americans to commit acts of violence on national holidays.
Pompeo, though, has said Muthana is not an American citizen and President Trump has vowed not to let her back into the country.
Rep. Gary Palmer, R-Ala., also has spoken out against Muthana being allowed to return to America. She is reported to have left Alabama in 2015 to join ISIS.
“Those who betray the country and fight for ISIS have to suffer the consequences for their actions,” Palmer said in a statement to AL.com. “Secretary Pompeo has expressed that she has no legal basis to return to the U.S. and I agree with him. She forfeited the privileges of citizenship when she provided aid to radical extremists seeking to kill Americans.”