Iraq photographer’s release ‘long overdue’

April 15, 2008

The US military?s decision to free Bilal Hussein, a photojournalist held in Iraq for more than two years, is ?long overdue?, say human rights campaigners.

The Associated Press photographer ? who helped win a Pulitzer Prize for the news agency three years ago ? is due to be released tomorrow.

The US military has held Hussein since 12 April 2006 but no longer consider him a security threat.

They believed he was a terrorist media operative who infiltrated the news agency.

?If the US and Iraqi authorities have evidence against detainees they should charge them and give them a fair trial, rather than holding them indefinitely,? said Joe Stork, the Middle East director of Human Rights Watch.

Hussein was detained on suspicion of working with insurgents but has always insisted that he was only doing his job as a journalist working in a war zone.

In a statement, the US military granted Hussein amnesty, though the ruling does not assume or determine guilt or innocence.

Explaining the decision, Major General Douglas M Stone said that the photographer ?no longer represents an imperative threat to security?.

Hussein is a 36-year-old Iraqi citizen who, according to the agency?s own internal investigation, does not have ?inappropriate contact with insurgents?.

Officials accused him of possessing surveillance images of military installations and ?insurgent propaganda materials? for making roadside bombs.