Saturday, July 12, 2008

Review board orders AP journalist held/ Reuters seeks U.S. army video of staff killed in Iraq

There are 195 days until Jan. 20, 2009.

Review board orders AP journalist held

7/8/2008 11:05:03 PM

An Associated Press television cameraman who was detained by U.S. and Iraqi forces in early June was ordered held for at least six more months Tuesday for "imperative reasons of security," the U.S. military said.

The decision came as a surprise to the AP, which had earlier been led to believe that the cameraman, Ahmed Nouri Raziak, was likely to be released because of lack of any evidence against him.

Raziak, 38, who has worked for AP Television News since 2003, was detained by U.S. and Iraqi soldiers at his home in Tikrit on June 4. He was transferred last month to the U.S. military's detention facility at Camp Cropper near Baghdad International Airport .

The AP has been in regular contact with U.S. military officials about his case. In notifying the AP that Raziak would continue to be held, the military provided no details about any allegations against him.

Raziak's arrest occurred seven weeks after the release of AP photographer Bilal Hussein, who was held without charge for two years and four days by the U.S. military. Hussein was freed shortly after receiving amnesty from two Iraqi judicial panels.

"We are shocked that another AP journalist is to be held for at least six months without charges, and are awaiting information that could shed light on this strange decision," said John Daniszewski, AP Managing Editor for International News.

The U.S. military had told the AP on June 30 that the Central Criminal Court of Iraq had decided not to prosecute Raziak because "it did not have sufficient evidence" and that his case would be examined soon by the Combined Review and Release Board, a joint U.S.-Iraqi body that has the authority to recommend release.

On Tuesday, however, the U.S. military's Task Force 134, which operates coalition detention facilities, informed the AP that the board had voted for "continued internment based on imperative reasons of security."

Lt. Col. Kenneth Plowman, spokesman for the task force, said the next review would be in six months.

The arrest of Raziak was the latest in a series of arrests of journalists by U.S. forces in Iraq in recent years.

Another locally prominent journalist in Tikrit, Ahmed al-Majun, was arrested on June 23 but was released without charge four days later. Al-Majun, a free-lancer who is also the president of the local branch of the Iraq Journalists Union, said he was interrogated during his confinement but refused to say more, according to the Journalistic Freedom Observatory.

Raziak had been detained once before, in August 2004, when he was stopped at a checkpoint near Tikrit. He was held for two months at that time and then released without charge.

Three AP employees have been detained in Iraq by U.S. or Iraqi forces since the April 16 release of Hussein. The other two were released without charge.

U.S. authorities freed Hussein, who had been arrested in Ramadi in 2006, after two Iraqi panels reviewed his case and ordered his release under an amnesty law enacted this year to encourage reconciliation among the country's ethnic and religious groups.

At the time of his release, U.S. officials said Hussein was no longer considered a security threat.

All Original Content Copyright 2006-2008 American Family News Network - All Rights Reserved.

Fri Jul 11, 2008 12:44pm EDT

By Dean Yates

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The U.S. military said on Friday it was still processing a request by Reuters for video footage from U.S. helicopters and other materials relating to the killing of two Iraqi staff in Baghdad a year ago.

Reuters photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen, 22, and driver Saeed Chmagh, 40, were killed in a U.S. helicopter air strike in eastern Baghdad on July 12, 2007.

Reuters wants all the materials to be able to study what happened. Access to the video, taken from helicopters involved in the attack, could also help improve Reuters' safety policies in Iraq , the world's most dangerous country for journalists.

Noor-Eldeen and Chmagh had gone to eastern Baghdad after hearing of a military raid on a building around dawn that day, and were with a group of men at the time. It is believed two or three of these men may have been carrying weapons, although witnesses said none were assuming a hostile posture.

The U.S. military said the helicopter attack, in which nine other people were killed, occurred after security forces came under fire.

Video from two U.S. Apache helicopters and photographs taken of the scene were shown to Reuters editors in Baghdad on July 25, 2007 in an off-the-record briefing.

U.S. military officers who presented the materials said Reuters had to make a request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to get copies. This request was made the same day.

Reuters News Chief Counsel Thomas Kim wrote to the U.S. Central Command on Thursday, saying the media organization had not received any formal response in nearly a year.

In an email on Friday, the Central Command said the request was still being processed, adding it could not give a timeframe for when this would be completed.


Kim noted that a recent Pentagon probe into the killing of another Reuters journalist by U.S. troops in Baghdad in 2005 identified a "serious inconsistency" between media safety practices and the expectations of U.S. forces in Iraq .

That report, by the Defense Department's inspector general, the Pentagon's watchdog agency, predicted additional shootings were "likely to reoccur" unless the situation was resolved.

"The materials requested by this FOIA request may contain information relevant to the recommendations for avoiding a re-occurrence of this tragedy; accordingly, we believe that there is a compelling need for their release and that such release should be made as quickly as possible," Kim wrote.

There had been reports of clashes between U.S. forces and gunmen but there was no fighting on the streets in which Noor-Eldeen and Chmagh were moving about with the group of men.

Besides Noor-Eldeen and Chmagh, four other journalists working for Reuters have been killed by American soldiers in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

The U.S. military has said its troops acted lawfully in all those cases. An Iraqi working as a translator for Reuters was also shot dead by unknown gunmen in Baghdad on July 11, 2007.

At least 179 reporters and media assistants have been killed in Iraq since the invasion, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists.

Noor-Eldeen and Chmagh were much loved members of the Reuters Baghdad bureau.

(Editing by Janet McBride)

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