U.S. explanation needed for journalist’s lock-up

Nicole Sharp

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Should it be up to the government to call someone a “possible threat” to the country based on what his job requires of him? Should the government also be allowed to pinpoint that single person as a “possible threat” because of a few pictures they took?

My answer is no. The “possible threat” is named Bilal Hussein, an Iraqi photographer who works for the Associated Press. He has been held in a U.S. Army prison in Iraq for the past 19 months. Hussein was seized in the western Iraqi city of Ramadi in April 2006.

Hussein is part of the AP’s 2005 Pulitzer Prize winning photo team. The team took a yearlong series of pictures of different combat sites in several Iraqi cities.

Pentagon and military officials have alleged that Hussein had interactions and connections with insurgents.

Hussein awaits trial in Iraq. If he is acquitted of the charges against him, the Pentagon has insinuated that he could remain in prison anyways until he faces an American court.

A website, freebilal.org, is dedicated to trying to get Hussein out of prison.

“We, colleagues around the world, are seriously concerned for the life of Bilal Hussein, especially in view of the amount of time he has already been locked up and the prison conditions to which he I being subjected,” the website said.

Neither the Pentagon nor the military have released any substantial evidence from this case to show any legitimate reason as to why they are keeping this journalist in prison. He was doing his job taking pictures of an event that has been going on for the past four years.

The public, and especially fellow journalists, have the right to know why Hussein is still in prison.

Could it be that he took pictures of something at those bombing sites that the American government and military don’t want the general public to see?

Whatever is in those pictures, it will surface. Someone always finds a way to get them published. In fact, a 2004 picture from the series depicting four insurgents firing off a mortar has already been published on the AP’s website.

I have the right to know, just like everyone else, why this person is still in jail. I am curious as to why this specific individual has remained for more than a year and a half in prison when the accusers cannot produce evidence to support their story. Most of what the government is saying appears to be suggestions or allegations.

What is to happen to him in the U.S. if he is acquitted in Iraq?

U.S. military spokesman Major-General Kevin Bergner said in a news conference that Hussein had been detained as a result of his interactions with insurgent activities. Hussein has denied having anything to do with any such activities.

Hussein is just one of several Iraqi journalists who are being detained without charges by the U.S. military.

Hussein began as a shopkeeper, selling cell phones and computers in Fallujah. He chose to accept a job with the AP as a translator and driver. Within a year, he was taking quality pictures, among them are some of the pictures that helped win the Pulitzer Prize.

If he was arrested just for doing his job, who will they arrest next?