Sunday, November 30, 2008

Iraqi court teaches U.S. military a lesson in freedom

It figures to take an Iraqi court to teach the U.S. military a lesson about the First Amendment. On Sunday, Iraq's Central Criminal Court ordered U.S. forces to release an Iraqi freelance photographer who was detained in September but never charged, according to the Reuters international news service. The court found there was no evidence that Ibrahim Jassam Mohammed, who freelanced for Reuters as well as Iraqi media, had committed any crimes. Yet Jassam had been held at the U.S. military's Camp Cropper prison near Baghdad International Airport, probably because he had photographed something the military didn't like. Jassam was arrested by U.S. and Iraqi forces and his photography equipment seized in a raid on his home in Mahmudiya, Reuters said. Mahmudiya, 20 miles south of Baghdad, was one of the most violent areas of Iraq before a recent falloff in attacks across the country. Unfortunately, Jassam's case is not so unusual. International media rights groups have repeatedly criticized the military's refusal to deal quickly with cases that arise from reporters' legitimate activities in Iraq. In August, the U.S. military freed another Reuters cameraman after holding him without charges for three weeks. "I'm pleased to learn that a court ordered Ibrahim Jassam released as there was no evidence against him," Reuters News Editor-in-Chief David Schlesinger said Sunday. "I hope the U.S. authorities comply with this order swiftly [and] reunite him with his colleagues, friends and family." Next up, a lesson about the Fourth Amendment. U.S. forces currently hold nearly 17,000 Iraqis without charges but will have to release them or charge them by next year.

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