Terror suspect's letter to Detroit judge: 'I have offered to give up my citizenship'
Detroit — A Dearborn man charged with supporting the Islamic State has sent a letter to a federal judge stating that he wants to fire his lawyer and is willing to forfeit his citizenship, court records show.
Ibraheem Musaibli spent nearly three years in Yemen, Iraq and Syria before he was captured by Syrian Democratic Forces on the battlefield in July 2018. He allegedly fought in those countries, fired on Syrian forces and trained in military camps, federal prosecutors said.
Musaibli was sent to Michigan to face terrorism charges in an indictment. The indictment accuses Musaibli of knowingly providing support to ISIS since April 2015 and undergoing training at an ISIS military training camp. He also conspired to possess and fire a machine gun in support of ISIS, prosecutors said.
His family members told The Detroit News in July 2018 that Musaibli, 29, was not a terrorist but was lured by fellow Muslims to Syria to study religion and work until he was kidnapped by ISIS. He remains in a North Carolina jail prison without bond pending trial.
In the letter, Musaibli reaches out to U.S. District Judge David Lawson saying he wants to replace his lawyer, who allegedly made plea request without his consent.
"I've been in prison since July 2018 and they haven't gotten much done but one motion and they are procrastinating," Musaibli wrote. "We don't see eye to eye."
Musaibli said he never consented to a 20-year plea request that his lawyer sent to prosecutors a few months ago.
"There's a lot of distrust between us, (and) I am trying to get trying to get time served," Musaibli wrote. "I've never been a felon before and I've (cooperated) with FBI."
A trial has not been scheduled, and there has been no plea deal filed with the court. An order was issued in August that Musaibli get a competency exam at the Federal Medical Center in Butler, North Carolina. There have been no further motions filed since.
Musaibli said in the letter that he offered to give up his citizenship and relocate.
His federal public defender, James Gerometta, declined to comment on the letter or Musaibli's case.
The government is not taking a position on Musaibli's letter or the dismissal of his lawyer, said Gina Balaya, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Federal officials revealed details about the case in July while trying to convince Lawson to prevent Musaibli and his lawyer from seeing classified evidence that, they say, if disclosed, could harm national security.
Musaibli's case presents one of the first times the Trump administration is using federal courts to prosecute a returning foreign fighter. Musaibli was brought back to Metro Detroit last year and charged with conspiring to provide material support to a terrorist organization.
Prosecutors want the judge to review the information privately and decide whether it is necessary for Musaibli to have while defending against charges that could send him to prison for at least 40 years and up to life.
Jonathan Weinberg, associate dean for research at Wayne State University's Law School, said it's not unheard of, in the terrorism context, for an individual to enter into an agreement under which he agrees to forfeit citizenship in order to be released.
He recalled the similar case of Yaser Hamdi, a U.S. citizen who was captured in Afghanistan in 2001 and held in Guantanamo for detention. Hamdi was a dual U.S.-Saudi citizen, so he had his other citizenship to fall back on and had not been criminally charged, he said.
"At a minimum, there would have to be another country willing to take him," he said. "More immediately, I’m quite skeptical that the U.S. government would agree to a plea deal in this case that was no worse for Musaibli than time served, loss of citizenship and deportation.
"If that deal were available to him, his lawyers would have jumped on it."