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AP photographer freed by US military after being held for 2 yrs without charge

AP photographer freed by US military after being held for 2 yrs without charge
Free: AP photographer Bilal Hussein holds flowers after being released from a US military prison in Baghdad on April 16, 2008.Photo: Petr David Josek-Associated Press/Handout/Reuters

The US military released Associated Press (AP) photographer Bilal Hussein on Wednesday after holding him for more than two years without filing formal charges. Hussein, 36, was handed over to AP colleagues at a checkpoint in Baghdad.

He was taken to the site aboard a prisoner bus and left US custody wearing a traditional Iraqi robe. He was smiling and appeared in good health. "I want to thank all the people working in AP ... I have spent two years in prison even though I was innocent. I thank everybody," Hussein said after being freed.

The photographer was embraced by family members, including his brother and mother, and received flowers. Hussein called other well-wishers by phone as relatives prepared a feast in his honour.

AP President Tom Curley said Hussein "is safely back with AP and his family, and it is a great relief to us. Our heartfelt thanks to all of you who supported us during this difficult and challenging period. Bilal will now be spending some quiet time with his family and resting up."

“Hussein’s release is very good news but it comes after two years of unjustified detention," Reporters sans Frontières (RSF) said. “He was deprived of his freedom on the basis of baseless allegations. We regret the slowness with which the US authorities investigated this case and the lack of transparency surrounding it.”

The US military had accused Hussein of links to insurgents, but did not file specific charges. In December, military authorities brought Hussein's case into the Iraqi court system for possible trial. But an Iraqi judicial panel earlier this month dismissed all proceedings against Hussein and ordered his release. A US military statement on Monday said Hussein is no longer considered a threat.

Hussein and AP denied any improper contacts, saying Hussein was doing the normal work of a photographer in a war zone. He was detained by US Marines on April 12, 2006 in Ramadi, about 70 miles west of Baghdad. Hussein was a member of the AP team that won a Pulitzer Prize for photography in 2005, and his detention drew protests from rights groups and press freedom advocates.

RSF urged US authorities to follow up Hussein’s release by freeing Sudanese journalist Sami Al-Haj, an Al-Jazeera cameraman held at the Guantanamo Bay detention centre in Cuba since 2002, and Afghan journalist Jawed Ahmad, who has been held at a US airbase in Afghanistan for the past five months.

Date posted: April 16, 2008 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 672