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Update: Bilal Hussein's Case

By KJ Mullins     Dec 6, 2007 in Crime
The Pentagon says that it believes that Hussein is a "terrorist media operative" but has constantly refused to provide any evidence for that accusation. They have also refused to detail the charges that will be brought against him.
What the US military has revealed is that even if Hussein is found innocent that they have the right to keep him in prison. This will add to the suspicions that journalists in Iraq who produce photographs that are deemed unhelpful will be imprisoned. About 1 in 25 of those who have been acquitted in Iraqi court of laws have remained in detained by the United States military.
“If we deem [Hussein] a threat to the security and stability of Iraq and we decide to detain him further we will do that,” Major Brad Leighton, spokesperson for the Multi-National Force in Iraq, told Photo District News. According to figures obtained by the New York Times, around one in every 25 of those acquitted in the Iraqi courts continue to be detained indefinitely by the US forces.
Hussein is being held at Camp Cropper. He has been told that his photos present a threat to the United States. He has also been told that if his photos were shown in the US there would be huge demonstrations and they would have to leave Iraq. That is the main reason he will not be a free man.
Hussein has said that the United States offered to increase his salary and give him expensive camera equipment if he would spy for them. He refused. That would have compromised his journalistic intergrity.
There are an estimated 24,000 individuals being held by the US military for "security reasons." Since Hussein's detention he has not been interviewed by US nor Iraqi authorities since May 2006. How can a man supposed to be a security threat not even be interviewed about that charge?
He also stands accused of was living in a barricaded derelict building with two insurgency leaders. He is said to have been found with bomb making equipment and a weapons cache.
The truth? Hussein lived alone in his furnished flat. His building was not barracked nor did his apartment hold any weapons or explosives. What he did do though was allow US soldiers into his apartment so that they could monitor the street below after a explosion nearby.
He also allowed two men in after the explosion. He had never met the men before. This has been substantiated by both AP and military investigations.
Hussien though had enemies. Right wing bloggers attacked the prize winning photographer about the AP 2004 photograph of insurgents. They accused him of kidnappings and of videotaping Salvatore Santore's execution.
Michelle Malkin captioned one of Hussein’s photographs from the time as: “[Hussein] alone in the desert with the killers of Italian hostage Salvatore Santoro–and feeling safe and fine”
What really happened in the Santore case?
But an AP statement released shortly afterwards reiterates that Hussein was traveling with two other AP journalists (including a cameraman) when they were stopped at a checkpoint by insurgents. When they identified themselves as journalists, they were ordered out of their vehicle at gunpoint and told to photograph and video gunmen with the body of Santore, who had been killed some hours prior to their arrival.
There is a petition being passed around by AP and journalists around the world for the release of Hussein.
Petition:
“On April 12, 2006, Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein was detained by the US Forces in Iraq and has been held in prison ever since.
No formal charges have been presented yet against Bilal, who is behind bars for having the courage to photograph Iraqi insurgents. Bilal was part of an AP team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2005 for its coverage of the Iraq war.
Bilal’s arrest and imprisonment are a serious affront to the press as a whole, as well as to democratic traditions.
We, over 1850 professional photographers and journalists from over 90 countries, are seriously concerned for the life of Bilal Hussein, especially in view of the amount of time he has already been locked up and the prison conditions to which he is being subjected.
For these reasons we demand his immediate release.
Sincerely,
The Undersigned (see below)
Ps. The full list of signatures is available at [url=http://www.freebilal.org/]www.freebilal.org/
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