By: Alastair Macdonald, Reuters
(Reuters) A cameraman for Reuters in Iraq has been ordered by a secret tribunal to be held without charge in Baghdad’s Abu Ghraib prison until his case is reviewed within six months, a U.S. military spokesman said on Wednesday.
Ali Omar Abrahem al-Mashhadani was arrested by U.S. forces on Aug. 8 after a search of his home in the city of Ramadi. The U.S. military has refused Reuters requests to disclose why he is being held. He has not been charged.
His brother, who was detained with him and then released, said they were arrested after Marines looked at the images on the journalist’s cameras.
“The CRRB has determined that Mr. Mashhadani remains a threat to the people of Iraq and they recommended continued internment,” Lieutenant Colonel Guy Rudisill said, referring to a hearing of the Iraqi-U.S. Combined Review and Release Board held at a secret location in Baghdad on Monday.
He said Mashhadani would be entitled to a review of his case within 180 days and would be held at Abu Ghraib.
Rudisill said he would not be allowed to see an attorney, his family or anyone else for the first 60 days of his detention, which began in Abu Ghraib last week.
Reuters Global Managing Editor David Schlesinger said: “I am shocked and appalled that such a decision could be taken without his having access to legal counsel of his choosing, his family or his employers.
“I call on the authorities to release him immediately or publicly air the case against him and give him the opportunity to defend himself.”
Mashhadani’s home was searched along with others in the neighbourhood after shooting in the area.
Such shooting is common in Ramadi, where Sunni Arab insurgents are active. Reuters assigned Mashhadani to film such incidents.
“The CRRB Board is an independent and unbiased board and consists of nine members: six representatives of the Iraqi government … and three senior Multi-National Forces officers,” the U.S. military said in a statement on the case.
Rudisill said he was aware of five journalists for major news media in detention, including Mashhadani and another freelance cameraman who has worked for Reuters, as well as a cameraman for the U.S. television network CBS.
Journalists for other major international organisations have recently been released without charge after many months in custody.
Reuters is urgently seeking a detailed account of any accusations against Mashhadani.
Reuters soundman Waleed Khaled was killed in Baghdad on Sunday, apparently by U.S. troops, and cameraman Haider Kadhem, who was wounded in the same incident, has been held ever since by the U.S. military for questioning. Reuters has demanded his immediate release.
Iraqi police said U.S. troops fired into the car carrying the Reuters team.