US Military Releases Reuters Photographer After 17 Months in Detention

For Immediate Release

Committee to Protect Journalists
Contact: 

Mohamed Abdel Dayem, program coordinator

Phone: (212) 465-1004, x103; E-mail: m.abdel.dayem@cpj.org

US Military Releases Reuters Photographer After 17 Months in Detention

NEW YORK - The
Committee to Protect Journalists is relieved that the U.S military has released
Iraqi photographer and cameraman Ibrahim
Jassam
today after holding him without charge for 17 months in Iraq, but
calls on the U.S. government to ensure that this release marks the end of its
policy of open-ended detentions of journalists.

Jassam, a freelancer who worked for
Reuters, was arrested
on September 2, 2008, by U.S and Iraqi forces during a raid on his home in
Mahmoodiya, south of Baghdad.
Jassam was never charged with a crime, and no evidence against him was ever
disclosed; U.S.
forces made only vague assertions that he was a "threat."

"We welcome the release of
Ibrahim Jassam but we remain deeply concerned by the lack of due process
exercised in this and similar, previous cases," said Mohamed Abdel Dayem,
CPJ's Middle East and North Africa program ‎coordinator. "The U.S.
military must commit to making this the last time they hold a journalist
without charge in an open-ended detention."

The Pentagon did not immediately respond
to CPJ's request for comment on today's release.

"I am very pleased his long
incarceration without charge is finally over," said Reuters Editor-in-Chief David Schlesinger. "I wish the process to release a man who
had no specific accusations against him had been swifter."

In November 2008, the
Iraqi Central Criminal Court ruled there was no evidence to hold Jassam and
ordered the U.S.
military to free him. U.S.
military authorities defied the order, saying the journalist "continued to pose
a serious threat to the security and stability of Iraq" and refused to let him go.

CPJ has repeatedly denounced the U.S
military's practice of detaining journalists without charging them with a crime
or providing them with due process. On several occasions, CPJ has raised the
matter with officials at the White House and the Department of Defense,
including in a letter
sent to President Barack Obama and in a meeting
in December 2009 with National Security Advisor Gen.
James L. Jones. In each case, CPJ lobbied for Jassam's immediate
release.

CPJ has documented 14 cases in which
journalists have been held by U.S.
forces abroad for weeks or months without charge or conviction. All were
released without charges being corroborated. Associated Press photographer
Bilal Hussein was held for two years on vague accusations that he collaborated
with Iraqi insurgents before being released
in April 2008. Jassam was the only journalist remaining in U.S. custody, according to CPJ
research.

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