Accused ISIS soldier from Dearborn to stay behind bars ahead of trial

Robert Snell
The Detroit News
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Detroit — A federal judge Monday refused to release on bond an accused Islamic State soldier captured on a Syrian battlefield three years ago, saying there is a risk the Dearborn man could flee the state.

U.S. District Judge David Lawson said GPS tether technology is not strong enough to prevent Ibraheem Musaibli, 30, of Dearborn from fleeing Michigan while awaiting trial on terrorism charges that could send him to federal prison for up to 50 years.

Ibraheem Musaibli, 28, (as seen in his high school yearbook photo), and the home he gave up when he left the country, authorities say.

"A motivated individual has within his or her capability the means to defeat the technology," Lawson said.

Musaibli's lawyers pursued bond, saying the high school dropout and father of four was not dangerous, not a flight risk and was suffering from being held in what essentially amounts to solitary confinement at the Livingston County Jail. Prosecutors insisted Musaibli is dangerous and pointed to recorded jail calls during which he threatened to kill his lawyers if released from confinement.

His lawyers say Musaibli was frustrated and they did not take the threat literally.

Lawson on Monday directed prosecutors to pursue having Musaibli transferred to a federal detention center in Milan where there are other Muslim men. The judge threatened to revisit the bond request if Musaibli is not transferred in the next two weeks.

Musaibli is in protective custody in the Livingston County Jail due to threats and hostility he has faced due to his religion, defense lawyer John Shea said.

“I am concerned about conditions of confinement,” Lawson said. "I find that an entirely unacceptable means of detention.”

Federal prosecutors want to show jurors ISIS payroll records that the government says proves Dearborn resident Ibraheem Musaibli was an Islamic State soldier.

Musaibli's bond bid is part of a broader legal strategy that is coming into focus in a rare federal case involving an American citizen captured on a foreign battlefield and repatriated to face allegations that he waged jihad on behalf of the Islamic State. He is also trying to suppress evidence gathered by FBI investigators and statements Musaibli made while in custody.

Musaibli denies joining the Islamic State group and his lawyers provided insight into his defense, saying he was a civilian trapped in ISIS territory.

“He was essentially a prisoner,” Shea said Monday. “For some period of time prior to turning himself in to rebels, he was desperately trying to raise money to find smugglers to get him the heck out of there.”

Prosecutors, however, say Musaibli fled to the Middle East six years ago to join ISIS and point to a trove of evidence, including hundreds of pages of text messages and ISIS documents recovered overseas list him as a soldier.

Dearborn man's jihad journey to Syria chronicled in federal court

The documents help establish Musaibli was part of a conspiracy to support the Islamic State, according to the government, and that he underwent training and served as an Islamic State soldier. The evidence includes a Tariq Bin Ziyad roster recovered by Iraqi military forces in Mosul in February 2017.

The 18-page roster includes 341 names — including Musaibli's — birth dates and Islamic State census number, similar to a Social Security number, prosecutors said. The roster also contained his alleged alias, Abu ‘Abd-al-Rahman Al-Yemeni. 

Coalition forces also seized payroll records that included Musaibli's alias and census number.

"The chart shows Musaibli receiving monthly payments for most of 2016, which aligns with Musaibli having joined ISIS sometime in late 2015," Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Mulcahy wrote in a court filing.

Musaibli fought on the front lines in Hit, Iraq, and stayed with the militants for more than 2½ years and retreated with them as the group's territory shrank, prosecutors said.

“Whether he was a member or not, he clearly thought there was justification in fighting people who were oppressing Muslims,” Shea said Monday. “But not civilians. He was talking about armed forces.”

Musaibli is scheduled to stand trial in October. An ISIS soldier convicted in a separate case is expected to testify for the government — an unprecedented level of cooperation during the war on terror.

rsnell@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @robertsnellnews

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