NEWS MEDIA UPDATE · IRAQ · Newsgathering · Sep. 1, 2005
Secret tribunal orders cameraman held in Abu Ghraib
Sep. 1, 2005 · A secret tribunal has ordered a Reuters cameraman, arrested by U.S. forces Aug. 8, to be held in Baghdad’s Abu Ghraib prison until his case is reviewed sometime in the next six months, the news service reported Wednesday.
Ali Omar Abrahem al-Mashhadani was detained in the U.S.-run prison last week but he has not been charged and U.S. military officials have refused to tell Reuters why he is being detained.
“The [Combined Review and Release Board] has determined that Mr. Mashhadani remains a threat to the people of Iraq and they recommend continued internment,” Lt. Col. Guy Rudisill, a spokesman for U.S. detention operations in Iraq, told Reuters. The Iraqi-U.S. board, which meets in secret, determines which detainees are a security threat because of their involvement in anti-Iraqi activities, according to a U.S. military press release.
Reuters Global Managing Editor David Schlesinger, in a debate hosted by “Democracy Now,” a daily radio and television news program, said Wednesday that “the only evidence that it being used against him is evidence taken from his own camera, which was all gathered during legitimate news gathering.”
Mashhadani is one of four journalists working for major news organizations who are being detained, Rudisill told Reuters. A CBS television cameraman also is detained, and journalists for several international news organizations, including Reuters, were recently released, some after many months in custody, the news service reported.
Rudisill told the news service that Mashhadani will not be allowed to see a lawyer, his family or anyone else for the first 60 days of his detention. His case will be reviewed within six months.
U.S. forces arrested Mashhadani and detained and released his brother after U.S. troops searched his home in Ramadi Aug. 8 and reviewed pictures on Mashhadani’s cameras, Reuters reported. The news service assigned him to cover the Sunni Arab insurgence in Ramadi, a city in central Iraq.
Schlesinger called on authorities “to release him immediately or publicly air the case against him and give him the opportunity to defend himself,” the news service reported.
“I am shocked and appalled that such a decision would be taken without his having access to the legal counsel of this choosing, his family or his employers,” Schlesinger said.
Frank Smyth, the Washington representative for the Committee to Protect Journalists, called it “outrageous that the U.S. government is detaining journalists without due process of law.”
The U.S. military’s detention of journalists “echoes the regime of Saddam Hussein. It’s incredibly immoral and counterproductive,” said Smyth, a freelancer reporter who spent two weeks detained incommunicado in the then-Iraqi run Abu Ghraib shortly after the 1991 Gulf War.
News of Mashadani’s detention comes after Reuters soundman Waleed Khaled was shot dead by U.S. troops, in Baghdad Sunday. The U.S. military said Thursday that the shooting was “appropriate.”
“That car [driven by Khaled], approached at a high rate of speed and then conducted activity that in itself was suspicious. There were individuals hanging outside with what looked to be a weapon,” Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch told Reuters.
Schlesinger rejected the suggestion that the killing was justified, Reuters reported.
“The idea that the killing of a professional journalists doing his duty could be justified is repugnant to me,” he told Reuters.
The U.S. military on Wednesday released Reuters cameraman Haider Kadhem, who was questioned after he was pulled from the car in which Khaled was killed.
Khaled is the fourth Reuters journalist killed in Iraq since the U.S. invasion of 2003 and the second known to have been killed by American troops, Reuters reported.
Reuters continues to push the U.S. military for an explanation of why Iraqi freelance cameraman Dhia Najim, working for the news service, was killed by U.S. troops as he covered a gunbattle between the U.S. military and Iraqi insurgents.