US seeks charges against AP photographer in Iraq
WASHINGTON, Nov 19 (Reuters) – The U.S. military will recommend criminal charges in Iraqi courts against an award-winning Associated Press photographer it accused of working with insurgents, the Pentagon said on Monday.
The military will present evidence against Bilal Hussein, an Iraqi, to Iraq’s Central Criminal Court this month, Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said.
Morrell would not discuss the evidence against Hussein, who has been held by the U.S. military since April 2006.
In a statement, the AP called for the immediate release of the photographer, who was part of an AP photo team that won a Pulitzer prize in 2005.
The U.S. military previously said Hussein was detained for possessing materials for roadside bombs, insurgent propaganda and a surveillance photo of a coalition installation.
Morrell also said the military was concerned about what it said was Hussein’s repeated access to insurgent activities “apparently risk-free to himself.”
“Since his detention, additional evidence has come to light that makes it clearer than before that Mr. Hussein is a terrorist media operative who infiltrated the AP,” Morrell said.
Hussein’s lawyers have not seen the evidence against him and an AP attorney said he does not expect to see it before the first court proceeding.
“This is not due process, not anything like due process,” said AP attorney Dave Tomlin.
AP president and chief executive officer Tom Curley said in a statement: “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.
“The steps the U.S. military is now taking continue to deny Bilal his right to due process and, in turn, may deny him a chance at a fair trial. The treatment of Bilal represents a miscarriage of the very justice and rule of law that the United States is claiming to help Iraq achieve.
“At this point, we believe the correct recourse is the immediate release of Bilal.”
Hussein, a 36-year-old Iraqi citizen from Fallujah, began working for the AP in 2004, according to the news agency. He photographed events in Fallujah and Ramadi, once hotbeds of the Iraqi insurgency, until detained by U.S. troops at his home.
He is one of a number of Iraqi journalists who have been held by the United States without charge since the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
The Committee to Protect Journalists, a U.S.-based media watchdog group, said dozens of journalists have been detained by U.S. troops and at least eight Iraqi journalists have been detained for weeks or months without charge or convictions.
Journalists working for Reuters have been among those detained by the U.S. military and then released months later without charge.
Iraq is the world’s most dangerous country to report. The Committee to Protect Journalists estimates that 173 reporters and media assistants have been killed there since 2003.
(Reporting by Kristin Roberts, Editing by Howard Goller and Stuart Grudgings