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US military frees Afghan journalist detained for 10 months as 'enemy combatant'

US military frees Afghan journalist after 10-month detention he describes as 'hell'
Afghan journalist Jawed Ahmad.

The US military has freed Afghan journalist held Jawed Ahmad who was held as an "enemy combatant" at the main American base in Afghanistan. Ahmad, who worked for Canadian TV network CTV, was handed over to Afghan authorities Sunday, a spokesman of the US-led coalition announced. He is no longer considered a threat.

Ahmad, 22, was detained October 26, 2007, at a NATO base near the city of Kandahar. He was later transferred to a detention centre at the US base at Bagram, north of Kabul. He was accused of having contacts with Taliban leaders, including possessing their phone numbers and video footage of them, the Associated Press (AP) said.

After designating him an "unlawful enemy combatant" earlier this year, the US military insisted Ahmad was not arrested because of his work as a journalist. However, it never spelled out the reasons for his incarceration.

Ahmad told Canadian Press (CP) all he ever did was try to be an honest reporter. "Why are they pursuing me?" he asked from Kabul. "There was no reason. I just set forth the truth, just like any journalist did." "That is hell, sir. That is hell," was how he summed up.

Interrogators, the Globe and Mail reported, falsely told him his family had been arrested and confessed. They even concocted wild stories about his Canadian employers, telling him that CTV had arranged for his detention - or, on another occasion, that a CTV reporter was a foreign intelligence agent.

In June, lawyers filed a lawsuit in the in US District Court in the District of Columbia accusing the Bush administration of holding him illegally. Attorneys with the International Justice Network compared Ahmad's case to that of Bilal Hussein, an Associated Press photographer who spent more than two years in US military custody. Hussein initially was accused of working with Iraqi insurgents but was released in April after Iraqi judges closed his case.

The Globe and Mail had some backgrounder about Jawed Ahmad:

Mr. Ahmad's bright career as a journalist, and his terrible fall into the darkest part of the foreign military system in Afghanistan, started with a humble beginning. He took a job as a tailor at the age of 12, earning about 75 cents a day to cover the costs of his schooling. He also became captain of a soccer team, and his excellent language skills and physical fitness made him an ideal candidate when the U.S. Special Forces arrived in southern Afghanistan looking for translators.

Mr. Ahmad spent the years after 2001 roaming the country with elite troops, who gave him the nickname Jojo and a rich network of connections in the new regime. He eventually left the military for better pay as a freelance security consultant, and started working full-time as a media translator in 2006, mostly for CTV. He became known for his dogged reporting, once suffering broken bones in a vehicle accident but returning to work the next day to record footage of a bombing scene in Kandahar city.

Date posted: September 22, 2008 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 459