Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 June 2019

Legal questions arise after Donald Trump bars Hoda Muthana from re-entry to US

The ISIS wife is being held in a camp in Syria and has pleaded to be allowed to return

Hassan Shibly, lawyer for Hoda Muthana, the Alabama woman who left home to join ISIS, speaks on a phone in Tampa Florida, February 20, 2019. AP
Hassan Shibly, lawyer for Hoda Muthana, the Alabama woman who left home to join ISIS, speaks on a phone in Tampa Florida, February 20, 2019. AP

Legal questions have arisen following US President Donald Trump’s decision to bar former Alabama resident and ISIS recruit Hoda Muthana from returning to the United States.

Mr Trump tweeted last night that that he gave instructions to his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to prohibit Ms Muthana from re-entering the United States.

Ms Muthana is currently detained in a camp in northern Syria controlled by US-backed Kurdish forces after fleeing from the last pocket of ISIS controlled territory recently.

In a statement Mr Pompeo said Ms Muthana, who fled home in 2014 to join ISIS in Syria, “is not a US citizen and will not be admitted. She does not have any legal basis, no valid US passport, no right to a passport, nor any visa to travel to the US,” he said.

But the legality of the decision has been questioned by Ms Muthana’s lawyer and her family, who insist that she is a US citizen and argue that the Constitution mandates that she cannot be stripped of that citizenship.

Ms Muthana was born in New Jersey and lived in Alabama with her parents before she secretly renewed her passport and fled to Syria in 2014.

But the occupation of her father, who was once a diplomat, at the time of her birth could prove pivotal.

Children of accredited foreign diplomats born in the US are not automatically entitled to birthright citizenship.

But the New York Times reported that her father was no longer a diplomat at the time of Ms Muthana’s birth.

Steve Vladeck, a legal scholar and professor at the University of Texas, says the only other case in which she could be stripped of her citizenship is if she was shown to have committed treason or other hostile acts against the US government. But this could only happen if she was convicted by a court martial or another court of competent jurisdiction.

Ms Muthana, who was 20 when she went to Syria and has conceived a child during her five-year-stay, appeared to have incited attacks against former US President Barack Obama and called for spilling civilian blood in her home country.

“Go on drive-bys and spill all of their blood, or rent a big truck and drive all over them. Veterans, Patriot, Memorial etc Day parades. go on drive by’s + spill all of their blood or rent a big truck n drive all over them. Kill them,” she wrote on her Twitter account before it was suspended.

But now, Ms Muthana says she “deeply regrets” those statements. In interviews with several media outlets while being held by Syrian Democratic Forces, Ms Muthana said she would be willing to seek therapy. She told ABC she “interpreted everything very wrong.”

Her lawyer Hassan Shibly told CNN his client would be willing to face jail time.

Ms Muthana is the only US born ISIS wife whose name has come publicly.

About 300 US citizens joined ISIS as fighters, according to a report by George Washington University’s Programme on Extremism. Twelve of those have returned to the US, and nine were arrested according to the report.

Mr Trump has called on “Britain, France, Germany and other European allies to take back over 800 ISIS fighters that we captured in Syria and put them on trial.”

But in the case of Ms Muthana, the US government is, for now, choosing to keep her out.

Updated: February 21, 2019 09:06 PM