Accused Islamic State soldier from Dearborn loses evidence fight against feds

Robert Snell
The Detroit News

A federal judge Monday refused to suppress texts and statements made to federal agents by an accused Islamic State fighter from Dearborn captured on a Syrian battlefield three years ago, dealing a setback to the defense of a rare foreign fighter brought back to America to face charges.

Texts Ibraheem Musaibli, 31, exchanged with an FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force officer and comments the Dearborn man said while being flown back to the United States aboard a customized C-17 military cargo plane were made voluntarily, U.S. District Judge David Lawson wrote in a federal court filing. Musaibli talked to the officer after being advised of his rights, the judge added.

The FBI received a tip in 2016 that included this grainy photo of Dearborn native Ibraheem Musaibli posing next to an assault rifle.

"There is no valid reason to suppress the statements or the text messages," Lawson wrote.

Musaibli is scheduled to stand trial in January on terrorism charges punishable by up to 50 years in prison.

Musaibli drew international attention three years ago when he was captured in Syria. The case has shed light on Musaibli's journey from his parents' perfume shop in Detroit to a Middle East war zone and presented the U.S. court system with a unique chance to prosecute an American accused of leaving the U.S. and fighting for the Islamic State group.

Defense lawyers tried to suppress the messages, arguing the FBI task force officer used a code name and coercion while offering to rescue Musaibli, but only if he admitted being an Islamic State soldier.

Dearborn native Ibraheem Musaibli was flown back to the U.S. aboard a retrofitted C-17 military plane. FBI counterterrorism investigators used blue tarps to create interrogation rooms so they could separate Musaibli and Samantha Elhassani of Indiana and her children. Elhassani traveled to Syria with her husband and brother-in-law, who joined ISIS, and she was convicted of financing terrorism.

Musaibli also argued he was subjected to sensory deprivation devices, sleep-deprived and hungry before being questioned for several hours during a long flight from Kuwait after being freed from custody of a foreign power.

Musaibli waived his rights, the judge wrote Monday.

Islamic State soldier set to help feds prosecute Dearborn man caught in Syria

"None of the other relevant circumstances favor a finding that the waiver here was the product of any coercive overreach by the interrogating agents or that the defendant’s free will was overborne," Lawson wrote. "The defendant is an adult."

Musaibli's lawyer, John Shea, declined comment Monday.

rsnell@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @robertsnellnews