Wednesday, May 27, 2009

U.S. holds journalist without charges in Iraq

Reuters cameraman Ibrahim Jassam has been held since September. The U.S. military rejected a court order to release him, saying he is a 'high security threat.' No evidence has been presented.
By Liz Sly
Ibrahim JassamReporting from Baghdad -- The soldiers came at 1:30 a.m, rousing family members who were sleeping on the roof to escape the late-summer heat.

They broke down the front door. Accompanied by dogs, American and Iraqi troops burst into the Jassam family home in the town of Mahmoudiya south of Baghdad.
"Where is the journalist Ibrahim?" one of the Iraqi soldiers barked at the grandparents, children and grandchildren as they staggered blearily down the stairs.

Ibrahim Jassam, a cameraman and photographer for the Reuters news agency, stepped forward, one of this brothers recalled. "Take me if you want me, but please leave my brothers." The soldiers rifled through the house, confiscating his computer hard drive and cameras. And then they led him away, handcuffed and blindfolded.

That was Sept. 2.

Jassam, 31, has been in U.S. custody ever since. His case is the latest of a dozen detentions the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists has documented since 2001.

No formal accusations have been made against Jassam, and an Iraqi court ordered in November that he be released for lack of evidence. But the U.S. military continues to hold him, saying it has intelligence that he is "a high security threat," said Maj. Neal Fisher, spokesman for detainee affairs.

The Obama administration harshly criticized Iran for its imprisonment of Roxana Saberi, the U.S.-Iranian journalist who was convicted of espionage and sentenced to eight years in prison before being freed two weeks ago. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton criticized Iran's treatment of Saberi as "non-transparent, unpredictable and arbitrary."

Washington also has called upon North Korea to expedite the trial of two U.S. journalists being held on spying charges.

Yet the U.S. has routinely used the arbitrary powers it assumed after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorism attacks to hold journalists without charge in Iraq, as well as Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Committee to Protect Journalists said.

None of the detained journalists has been convicted of any charge, undermining the United States' reputation when it comes to criticizing other countries on issues of press freedom, committee executive director Joel Simon said.

"The U.S. has a record of holding journalists for long periods of time without due process and without explanation," he said. "Its standing would be improved if it addressed this issue."

Reuters has expressed disappointment over Jassam's detention and has said there is no evidence against him.,0,2581320.story

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