Railroading A Journalist In Iraq
By Tom Curley
Saturday, November 24, 2007; A17
At long last, prize-winning Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein may get his day in court. The trouble is, justice won’t be blind in this case — his lawyer will be.
Bilal has been imprisoned by the U.S. military in Iraq since he was picked up April 12, 2006, in Ramadi, a violent town in a turbulent province where few Western journalists dared go. The military claimed then that he had suspicious links to insurgents. This week, Editor & Publisher magazine reported
the military has amended that to say he is, in fact, a “terrorist” who had “infiltrated the AP.”
We believe Bilal’s crime was taking photographs the U.S. government did not want its citizens to see. That he was part of a team of AP photographers who had just won a Pulitzer Prize for work in Iraq may have made Bilal even more of a marked man.
. . . After months of stony silence, except for leaks of unsupported and self-serving allegations to friendly media outlets, military authorities are railroading Bilal’s case before a judge in circumstances designed to put Bilal and his lawyers at an extreme disadvantage.
Perhaps it is not surprising that the operators of the world’s largest prison-camp network have found a way to provide access to due process in a form that actually looks more unjust than indefinite imprisonment without charges.
If this sounds like something from behind the screen of OZ, read on . . .
- So, when is the trial going to take place? The military won’t say.
- What are the charges? Can’t say.
- What’s the evidence, so Bilal’s attorney can prepare? Sorry, can’t tell you.
- Will he be allowed to present evidence in his defense? Don’t know. Maybe, maybe not.
- And if he is found innocent? We (the military) can still hold him for as long as we want, if we decide to.
These can only be compared to lessons in legal procedure from fascist Germany and Italy in the early 1930s.
If that is truly the best we can teach Iraqis in the defense of democratic principles, what has it all been worth? What has been the purpose of American (and Iraqi) lives lost, families torn, money wasted and stolen, as well as the sundering of society on both sides of this insane conflict?
These might be more useful subjects for debate than Hillery’s view of alien driver’s licenses in New York or Rudy’s relationship to 9-11.