The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press today condemned the process being used by the U.S. military to prosecute an Associated Press photographer who has been held without charge in Baghdad since April 2006.
A Pentagon press spokesman said Monday that “new evidence has come to light” to prove the military’s allegation that Bilal Hussein, 36, is “a terrorist operative who infiltrated the AP.” He has been charged with unspecified crimes and U.S. military authorities in Iraq apparently will file a formal complaint against him in the Iraqi court system on Nov. 28.
While AP officials have said they believe it is possible for Hussein to get a fair trial in Iraq, they criticized the U.S. military’s failure to provide AP with specific information or evidence related to charges, which could hamper efforts to mount a defense and ultimately free Hussein, whom AP contends is innocent.
AP officials have been working for 19 months to get the U.S. military to either charge Hussein with a crime or let him go. They have repeatedly criticized the government’s failure to provide Hussein with basic due process protections found in the American court system.
Hussein is part of the AP team that won a Pulitzer Prize for photography in 2005 for coverage of the Iraq war.
“The U.S. government has exhibited complete indifference to basic due process rights in the way they have treated Bilal Hussein,“ said Reporters Committee Executive Director Lucy Dalglish. “Even if you actually consider the Pentagon’s threadbare accusations credible, it is outrageous that they would suddenly inform the AP that Hussein will be in court facing charges they won’t specify but that could carry a penalty of capital punishment, based on evidence they won’t disclose, on a day that could be as early as Nov. 29 — but they won’t tell you which day until 6:30 a.m. on the day itself. Does that sound like justice to you?”