Iraq/United States - Call for transparency in case of detained AP photographer after US authorities say they have finally brought charges against him



    MONTREAL, Nov. 20 /CNW Telbec/ - Reporters Without Borders today called
on the US authorities to act transparently in the case of Associated Press
photographer Bilal Hussein after the US defence department announced yesterday
that it has finally brought criminal charges against him before an Iraqi court
after holding him without charge since 12 April 2006.
    "It has taken more than a year and a half for the US military to initiate
judicial proceedings against this journalist and yet they still have not
revealed the charges," the press freedom organisation said. "The judicial
vagueness surrounding this case is disturbing and unacceptable. Hussein's
lawyers will have to appear in court without being able to prepare their
client's defence as the US authorities refuse to say in advance what evidence
they have."
    The exact charges against Hussein, an Iraqi national, have not been
revealed during the 19 months he has been held, although the military have
indicated several times that he is suspected of having "inappropriate" links
to insurgents because of they photos they let him take. The AP's lawyers
conducted their own investigation in Iraq and, according to one of them, found
"no evidence that Bilal Hussein carried out any activity other than that
linked to a journalist in a war zone."
    US defence department spokesman Geoff Morrell yesterday claimed that the
US military had "convincing and irrefutable evidence that Bilal Hussein is a
threat to stability and security in Iraq." The Iraqi court that has received
the US charges must now decide whether there are grounds for bringing Hussein
to trial. A first hearing is to be held on 28 November.
    AP president and CEO Tom Curley yesterday reiterated the US news agency's
call for Hussein's release. "While we are hopeful that there could be some
resolution to Bilal Hussein's long detention, we have grave concerns that his
rights under the law continue to be ignored and even abused," he added.
    Hussein, 36, was arrested on 12 April 2006 by US soldiers in Ramadi
(110 km west of Baghdad) after they entered his home in order to turn it into
a temporary observation post. He is being held in Camp Cropper, near Baghdad
airport.




For further information:

For further information: Emily Jacquard, secretary general, Reporters
Without Borders Canada, (514) 521-4111, Cell: (514) 258-4208, Fax: (514)
521-7771, rsfcanada@rsf.org

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