Afghanistan - Fixer released after being held arbitrarily and mistreated by US military for 11 months



    MONTREAL, Sept. 24 /CNW Telbec/ - Reporters Without Borders welcomes the
US military's release of Afghan journalist Jawed Ahmad, who worked as a fixer
and interpreter for Canadian broadcaster CTV. After being held for 11 months
for having Taliban contacts, he was freed on 22 September as a result of
lawsuit brought by US and Afghan human rights groups in the United States.
    "The US military must yet again recognise that it abused its authority by
detaining an innocent journalist," Reporters Without Borders said. "Despite
having no evidence, the US military in Afghanistan and Iraq arrests and
mistreats locals employed by the international media whose only crime is to
work in war zones.
    The press freedom organisation added: "The US government should
investigate this case and at the very least compensate Ahmad. We hail the US
organisations that took the decisive step of bringing a lawsuit before the US
courts."
    Known as Jojo Yazemi by his colleagues, Ahmad has returned to the
southern city of Kandahar where his family lives. The 22-year-old journalist
told Reporters Without Borders: "They obviously accused me of being a
journalist. But how can you work as a reporter in southern Afghanistan without
contacting the Taliban? It is normal and it is my right."
    Ahmad described his mistreatment. "After torturing me at the start, they
tried to destabilise me by saying, for example, that it was my TV station,
CTV, which had reported me. Those who interrogated me were American officers,
I am sure, and perhaps some Canadians. The Canadian military is 50 per cent
responsible for my arrest."
    He added: "After this period of detention, I feel even more of a
journalist than before. I am very enthusiastic about the idea of going back to
work. But above all, I want justice. I want to knock on all the doors, with my
lawyers, so that those who detained and tortured me are punished."
    Ahmad told several news media he intended to bring a lawsuit against the
US military, accusing it of detaining him arbitrarily and torturing him.
    The lawsuit filed in the United States by several organisations in June
called on US President George W. Bush and defence secretary Robert Gates to
charge Ahmad or release him. A US officer told Agence France-Presse that Ahmad
was handed over to the Afghan authorities on 22 September "under a
reconciliation programme."
    The US military originally claimed that Ahmad was an "illegal enemy
combatant." Last February, a spokesman for the US military in Afghanistan,
said his case was being examined by "an enemy combatant review board."
    But, when releasing him, the US-led coalition forces gave him documents
stating that he did not represent a "risk for the US forces in Afghanistan."
    A US defence department spokesman was questioned by Reporters Without
Borders several times about the case and on each occasion refused to provide
any information about the reason for Ahmad's detention.
    Ahmad was arrested on 26 October 2007 by US soldiers at an airbase in
Kandahar, where the Canadian journalists employing him were located. He was
transferred to Bagram airbase, north of Kabul, at the start of the following
month. The US military complained of the fact that he had the phone numbers of
Taliban leaders in his mobile phone and had interviewed them.




For further information:

For further information: Katherine Borlongan, Executive Director,
Reporters Without Borders Canada, (514) 521-4111, rsfcanada@rsf.org

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