Aquitted Journalist Apparently Still Detained in Iraq - 04.06.2006

[Editor’s Note: I’m traveling today, so this post will be short. I’ll try and continue my analysis of Ali’s withdrawal plan later this evening, I’ll be in Seattle on the West Coast, so anyone not out there should look for that post fairly late or tomorrow morning.]

Abdul Ameer Younis Hussein, who I’ve mentioned previously, is an Iraqi camera operator who works for CBS News.

He was arrested on April 5, 2005 after, according to the CBS News Agency’s website:

The U.S. military alleged that Hussein was standing near a man waving a gun and inciting the crowd after the bombing a man that troops killed at the site. Hussein denied that he was with anyone who had a gun.

Hussein himself claims:

“All the time they were cursing me, and calling me a terrorist, I kept saying, I’m not a terrorist, I’m a correspondent.”

Despite this, Hussein was detained by Coalition Forces and had been detained by them until his trial yesterday. He was apparently formally charged, however those charges were not clarified publicly until his trial.

After a brief trial yesterday in Baghdad, he was acquitted due to lack of evidence. This is clearly a victory for press freedom in Iraq, however it must be noted against the backdrop of a continuing and alarming trend.

As I’ve noted here previously, numerous journalists and media workers have been detained by the Coalition since the invasion began in March 2003. The accurate numbers are difficult to find regarding journalists in detention.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, when Hussein is released it will mark the release of the last journalist known to be held by Coalition Forces.

Contradicting this statement, I was informed on April 4th by a military spokesperson that 3 known journalists were detained in what were referred to as “Coalition Theatre Internment Facilities.”

[Editor’s Note: I’m working on a longer article highlighting recent developments for journalists in Iraq, so look for more details about this soon]

As the comment came on April 4th, this certainly could include Younis Hussein, however I believe he was in Iraqi custody at that time. Also this may include facilities outside Iraq, whereas the CPJ’s statement appeared to refer specifically to Iraq.

For example, there is still an Al Jazeera correspondent, Sami al Hajj, held in Guantanamo Bay.

At the time of this writing, there have been no reports of Younis Hussein being released on his own recognizance, after the trial he was apparently released into the custody of Coalition Forces, and is pending their approval for his release.

This is appears to be in direct violation of the Iraqi Constitution:

Article 21:
First: No Iraqi shall be surrendered to foreign entities and authorities.

However, as I’ve stressed numerous times, the current Iraqi government barely holds itself together, and has taken few pains to act in concert with its constitution, except where it benefits the elites. Kurdistan is a great example of this, through their interpretation of the constitution’s articles detailing federalism. They have taken this section as license to move forward with sales of rights to new oil prospects in Kurdish territory.

And of course, the various militias engaging in torture and secret prisons to advance their own interests is another glaring violation

The news isn’t all bad. For anyone who hasn’t yet heard, in another abrupt turn of events, Kamal Sayyid Qadir was released from Kurdish prison, after the courts, bending to international pressure, again reconsidered his case.

But just in case you thought press freedom was suddenly breaking out all over Iraq, don’t miss this piece of news from the Younis Hussein’s trial:

After Hussein was cleared by an Iraqi court, guards stated at the courthouse threatened journalists covering the trial, with one guard reportedly shooting a gun into the air, then pointing it at a camera before the journalists scattered.

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