Sunday, September 17

AP Photographer "Disappeared" by U.S. Military

Years ago, well not that many, but a couple - I used to post on this newsgroup from my then hometown Sacramento on political issues of the day. We had unabashed lefties, centrists and conservatives all going at it, but eventually the rancor grew too biting. Everyone was speaking past each other - so just before the 2004 election I left. But before that I do recall one specific prediction... the Administration will eventually "Disappear" not just terrorists, but innocent civilians and U.S. citizens.

Arguably the first of these was Jose Padilla, who was held secretly for about a month until BushGov decided they needed a bump in the news cycle. Now comes Bilal Hussein, an AP Photographer who has been held in Iraq - without charges - for the last five months.

The U.S. military in Iraq has imprisoned an Associated Press photographer for five months, accusing him of being a security threat but never filing charges or permitting a public hearing.

Military officials said Bilal Hussein, an Iraqi citizen, was being held for "imperative reasons of security" under United Nations resolutions. AP executives said the news cooperative's review of Hussein's work did not find anything to indicate inappropriate contact with insurgents, and any evidence against him should be brought to the Iraqi criminal justice system.

Hussein, 35, is a native of Fallujah who began work for the AP in September 2004. He photographed events in Fallujah and Ramadi until he was detained on April 12 of this year.

Hussein is one of an estimated 14,000 people detained by the U.S. military worldwide - 13,000 of them in Iraq. They are held in limbo where few are ever charged with a specific crime or given a chance before any court or tribunal to argue for their freedom.

In Hussein's case, the military has not provided any concrete evidence to back up the vague allegations they have raised about him, Curley and other AP executives said.

The military said Hussein was captured with two insurgents, including Hamid Hamad Motib, an alleged leader of al-Qaida in Iraq. "He has close relationships with persons known to be responsible for kidnappings, smuggling, improvised explosive device (IED) attacks and other attacks on coalition forces," according to a May 7 e-mail from U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Jack Gardner, who oversees all coalition detainees in Iraq.

"The information available establishes that he has relationships with insurgents and is afforded access to insurgent activities outside the normal scope afforded to journalists conducting legitimate activities," Gardner wrote to AP International Editor John Daniszewski.

Hussein proclaims his innocence, according to his Iraqi lawyer, Badie Arief Izzat, and believes he has been unfairly targeted because his photos from Ramadi and Fallujah were deemed unwelcome by the coalition forces.

This is what America has become, a country that foregoes due process out of expediency? This is what Bush wishes the entire world emulate? The sad part is - they just might.

But what's worse is that Hussein may be completely innocent according to the AP's own investigation, not only that - he may be a hero.

AP officials emphasized the military has not provided the company concrete evidence of its claims against Bilal Hussein, or provided him a chance to offer a defense.

"He's a Sunni Arab from a tribe in that area. I'm sure he does know some nasty people. But is he a participant in the insurgency? I don't think that's been proven," Daniszewski said.

Information provided to the AP by the military to support the continued detention hasn't withstood scrutiny, when it could be checked, Daniszewski said.

For example, he said, the AP had been told that Hussein was involved with the kidnapping of two Arab journalists in Ramadi.

But those journalists, tracked down by the AP, said Hussein had helped them after they were released by their captors without money or a vehicle in a dangerous part of Ramadi. After a journalist acquaintance put them in touch with Hussein, the photographer picked them up, gave them shelter and helped get them out of town, they said.

The journalists said they had never been contacted by multinational forces for their account.

Vyan

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