Last month over 1,850 professional photographers and journalists from over 90 countries sent a petition to the US Government demanding the immediate release of Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein, detained by US Forces in Iraq on April 12, 2006, and held in prison ever since without charges. Hussein was part of AP’s Pulitzer Prize-winning photo team in 2005.
Last week the US Military announced that they planned to seek a criminal complaint against Bilal before an Iraqi court this Sunday, December 8. The court is due to decide whether to drop the case or bring it to trial.
Despite the fact that the US Army had said to media outlets that they have “irrefutable evidence” that Bilal is “a terrorist media operative” who had “infiltrated the AP”, they won’t say what the charges are or what evidence will be presented. After holding Bilal for 19 months without charges, they still will not reveal to AP’s defence lawyer the accusation or the evidence they feel so strongly about. Further, the US Army says that if the Iraqi justice system acquits him they could still throw Bilal back in jail.
A nearly 50-page report by former federal prosecutor Paul Gardephe on behalf of the AP and recently disclosed by the news agency concludes that there is no hard evidence for any of the allegations that the US Military has so far unofficially made about Bilal.
Among the petition’s signatories are Pulitzer Prize winners Al Diaz, David Leeson, Judy Walgren, Anja Niedringhaus, Alexander Zemlianichenko, Oded Balilty, Lucian Perkins, John Moore and Charles J. Hanley. Agency VII photographers Gary Knight and John Stanmeyer, Noor agency photographer Philip Blenkinsop and Brazilian photographer Sebastiao Salgado have also signed the petition. The full list of signatures is available at www.freebilal.org, together with more on Bilal’s incarceration, and links to news coverage of efforts to free him.
Bilal Hussein is not alone. There are eight further cases of prolonged journalist detentions by US troops in Iraq since March 2003.
To contact the Free Bilal Committee:
Annika Engvall: email@example.com
Tel +1 646-454-5953, Cell +1 (347) 582-1165
Tomas Van Houtryve: firstname.lastname@example.org
Cell +33 (678) 53 03 16