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Journalists Held Without Charges at Abu Ghraib
By Alastair Macdonald
1 hour, 49 minutes ago
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - A cameraman for Reuters in Iraq has been ordered by a secret tribunal to be held without charge in Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison until his case is reviewed within six months, a U.S. military spokesman said on Wednesday.
But another Reuters cameraman was released after being held for three days by U.S. troops following an incident in which his soundman was shot dead, apparently by American soldiers.
Ali Omar Abrahem al-Mashhadani was arrested by U.S. forces on August 8 after a search of his home in the city of Ramadi. The U.S. military has refused Reuters' requests to disclose why he is being held. He has not been charged.
His brother, who was detained with him and then released, said they were arrested after Marines looked at the images on the journalist's cameras.
"The CRRB has determined that Mr. Mashhadani remains a threat to the people of Iraq and they recommended continued internment," Lieutenant Colonel Guy Rudisill said, referring to a hearing of the Iraqi-U.S. Combined Review and Release Board held at a secret location in Baghdad on Monday.
He said Mashhadani would be entitled to a review of his case within 180 days and would be held at Abu Ghraib.
Rudisill said he would not be allowed to see an attorney, his family or anyone else for the first 60 days of his detention, which began in Abu Ghraib last week.
Reuters Global Managing Editor David Schlesinger said: "I am shocked and appalled that such a decision could be taken without his having access to legal counsel of his choosing, his family or his employers.
"I call on the authorities to release him immediately or publicly air the case against him and give him the opportunity to defend himself."
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Marines searched Mashhadani's home, along with others in the Ramadi neighborhood, after shooting in the area.
Such shooting is common in the city, where Sunni Arab insurgents are active. Reuters assigned Mashhadani to film such incidents.
"The CRRB Board is an independent and unbiased board and consists of nine members: six representatives of the Iraqi government ... and three senior Multi-National Forces officers," the U.S. military said in a statement on the case.
Rudisill said he was aware of five journalists for major news media in detention, including Mashhadani and another freelance cameraman who has worked for Reuters, as well as a cameraman for the U.S. television network CBS.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and the media watchdog group Reporters Without Borders both voiced alarm at Mashhadani's detention.
"This is simply unacceptable," CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper said in a statement. "Through these detentions the U.S. military gives every impression that it is not accountable. That's a bad example to give the citizens of an emerging democracy."
Journalists for other major international organizations have recently been released without charge after many months in custody.
Reuters had also been pressing for the release of cameraman Haider Kadhem, who was detained in Baghdad on Sunday after an incident in which his soundman, Waleed Khaled, was killed as he drove the pair on a news assignment.
Iraqi police said U.S. troops fired on the Reuters team, both Iraqis.
The U.S. military said Kadhem, 24, was questioned about "inconsistencies" in his statements after the incident, before being released on Wednesday. He suffered superficial wounds from flying fragments.
Koichiro Matsuura, the director-general of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization UNESCO, condemned the killing of Khaled.
"I trust that the ongoing U.S. investigation will explain the circumstances of events fully and pave the way for improvements in the future," he said in a statement.
"This is essential as the ability of the press to report freely on the situation in Iraq plays a key role in the future success of the democratic reconstruction of the country."