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Woman Who Left U.S. To Join ISIS Denied Request To Expedite Her Case To Return

A federal judge ruled that a woman who left the U.S. to join the Islamic State and is seeking to return cannot have her case expedited because she does not face imminent harm where she is currently living in a Syrian refugee camp.

U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton on Monday said Hoda Muthana's lawyer had failed to show that the 24-year-old woman would face "irreparable harm" if the case remained on a normal litigation schedule.

It is a setback for Muthana who says she and her toddler have already been forced to move camps once due to ISIS threats, and that they face greater danger now that the U.S. plans to withdraw troops from the region, The Associated Press reported. She was hoping fight her citizenship claim from the U.S.

Ultimately, Walton agreed with Justice Department lawyer Scott Stewart who said Muthana's case is a "chain of speculation" and that it is unclear whether the military pullout will have any impact on the pair's safety.

Walton did not weigh in on the central question of Muthana's case: whether she is a citizen or not. But he did say that her attorney made a "valid argument" for her right to citizenship.

The Department of Justice and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo argue the New Jersey-born woman is not a U.S. citizen because her father was a Yemeni diplomat at the time of her birth, making her ineligible for automatic citizenship. Her lawyers say he had left his post before she was born.

Muthana was a college student when, without telling her family, she bolted from Alabama to Syria to join ISIS more than four years ago. Immediately upon her arrival she was married to an ISIS fighter and ran a recruitment Twitter account to lure other foreign fighters. Since then, she's been married three times – each husband replaced after dying in the conflict — and now has an 18-month-old son.

In a series of interviews, Muthana said she was brainwashed into believing in the cause and deeply regrets her decisions.

Meanwhile, on Monday Pompeo told AM Quad Cities, that allowing Muthana to return to the U.S. poses a risk to American lives.

"She's not a US citizen. She has no claim of US citizenship." Pompeo said. "In fact, she's a terrorist, and we shouldn't bring back foreign terrorists to the United States of America."

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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