Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Press freedom, Iraq-style

Today's release of an Associated Press photographer held without charges by the U.S. military for more than two years illustrates how far the Bush administration has twisted the rule of law and how much work will have to be done to undue the damage. Bilal Hussein, 36, a Pulitzer Prize winner who was working in the Iraqi city of Ramadi when he was accused of links to insurgents and arrested, was released to family members and AP staffers in Baghdad after an Iraqi judicial panel ordered his release earlier this month. The U.S. military had referred Hussein's case to the Iraqi court system for prosecution in December. But in a statement released yesterday announcing the impending release, the military said Hussein had been freed under Iraq's new amnesty law, not cleared of all wrongdoing. We can hope the Multi-National Force, Iraq, will be able to explain exactly what it was thinking. Hussein, an Iraqi citizen, and the AP had long maintained the photographer was innocent of aiding insurgents, and that the military wanted him to stop taking pictures of what was going on in Iraq. "I want to thank all the people working in AP," he said after being released. "I have spent two years in prison even though I was innocent." Yes, people make mistakes. But this was no mistake. He was held for two years, even though the military already knew who he was, perhaps to discourage other Iraqis from cooperating with the U.S. press. Maybe this guy really should be ecstatic he got out, judging from what happened to that other Hussein guy.

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