Alert Update: Iraq – US Military Release AP Photographer Bilal Hussein

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Islamic Human Rights Commission
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16 April 2008

Alert Update: US Military Release AP Photographer Bilal Hussein

Background

36-year-old Associated Press (AP) photographer Bilal Hussein was captured by the US military in Ramadi on 12 April 2006 on accusations of supporting terrorism and collaborating with insurgents. Now, after a detention of two years, he has been released on 16 April 2008, as ‘he no longer presents an imperative threat to the security’, states head of US detainee operations in Iraq, Major General Douglas Stone.

Hussein, winner of the AP team that won a Pulitzer Prize for photography in 2005, spent 20 months in detention without charge or trial. He had his first hearing in court on 9 December 2007. Bilal denied all allegations made against him and maintained that he was doing his job as a journalist. Further, AP had carried out its own investigation regarding Bilal’s case and found no evidence of any involvement with insurgents.

On 7 April 2008, the Iraqi judicial panel granted him amnesty under a new law passed in February which allows those held on suspicion of insurgent-related offences to be pardoned. The panel dismissed all terrorism-related allegations against Hussein and ordered his immediate release.

Nevertheless, Hussein continued to be held under a second charge. US military maintained that under the UN Security Council mandate, they had the authority to detain anyone they believe to be a security risk, even if the Iraqi judicial system orders that individual to be freed. He was accused of being involved in a kidnapping of an Italian citizen Salvatore Santoro. In December 2004, Hussein had photographed Santoro’s body ‘with two masked insurgents standing over it with guns.’ However, according to Hussein, he and two other journalists were stopped at gunpoint by insurgents and taken to see Santoro’s dead body. On 13 April 2008, a separate panel of judges ruled for this second charge to be dismissed as well.

Many human rights groups and journalist rights groups have campaigned for Hussein’s release, such as Committee to Protect Journalists, Reporters Without Borders and Human Rights Watch.

For details about Hussein’s campaign, please visit https://www.ihrc.org.uk/show.php?id=3077

IHRC thanks all supporters who appealed for Bilal Hussein’s release and made efforts to forward this campaign.

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