Friday, April 13, 2007

AP Photographer still in prison 1 year later

Bilal Hussein, an AP photographer who was detained last April by American forces in Ramadi is still in American custody at Camp Cropper one year later. US spokesmen claim Hussein is "still a security threat."

The US military has provided no credible evidence to this effect, claim Hussein's lawyers. Quoting the AP:
Dozens of journalists - mostly Iraqis - have been detained by U.S. troops or Iraqi security forces during the war, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. Most were released without a trial after short periods, and Hussein is the only one currently being held on such a long-term basis, according to CPJ executive director Joel Simon.

"It's unfathomable to me why, after an entire year, there has been no progress in terms of the legal process moving ahead," Simon said. "If the U.S. government is affirming that they need time to develop evidence ... a year is plenty of time."

Hussein, 35, is allowed one-hour visits from family members once a month. His attorney and AP colleagues also are allowed to see him.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman, in a written response Tuesday to AP inquiries, said the case against Hussein has been reviewed four times - most recently in November - by three separate entities in Iraq, among them a review board that includes representatives of the Iraqi government and the U.S.-led coalition.

"Each of these independent, objective, fact-finding reviews considered all available evidence and determined Hussein represented an imperative threat to security and recommended continued detention," Whitman said.

Gardephe dismissed the idea that such hearings constitute due process. He pointed out that Hussein was not present and had no legal representative at those reviews, and had no chance to confront any witnesses against him or call witnesses on his own behalf.

AP executives went public with news about Hussein's detention in September after months of behind-the-scenes negotiations. They said the news cooperative's review of Hussein's work for the AP found no inappropriate contact with insurgents.

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