Petition for Detained Iraqi AP Photog Gains Backing

By: Joe Strupp Just one month after supporters of detained Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein launched an online petition to gather support for his release, more than 900 people, mostly fellow journalists, have signed on from 70 countries.

Hussein has been held in Iraq by U.S. officials since April 12, 2006, but has yet to be charged with any formal crime. A veteran photographer, Hussein was part of an AP team that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2005 for coverage of Iraq.

Among those are a handful of Pulitzer Prize winners, including Al Diaz, David Leeson, Judy Walgren, Anja Niedringhaus, Alexander Zemlianichenko, Oded Balilty, Enric Marti, Lucian Perkins and Charles J. Hanley.

Other well-known photojournalists signing are Gary Knight and John Stanmeyer of Agency VII, along with famed Brazilian photographer Sebastiao Salgado.

?We are pursuing every effort to get him free,? AP Managing Editor Mike Silverman told E&P Thursday, adding that he did not know who was behind the online petition. ?We are grateful for all support in the interest of getting Bilal freed, where he belongs.?

Joe Cavaretta, a staff photographer for The Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., said he heard about the Web site from photographers in Latin America, but did not know who was behind it.

?I think it?s great, I don?t think it is necessarily about the war, just about either charging him or releasing him,? Cavaretta, a former AP photo editor, said. ?Having worked overseas for the AP, I know they can?t do what they do without local hires.?

The site,, does not identify its creators, but includes news articles about Hussein and an image of a ?Free Bilal? T-Shirt. As of Thursday, the site had obtained 930 signatures.

?We, colleagues from around the world, are seriously concerned for his life in view of the amount of time he has been locked up and the prison conditions which he is being submitted to,? a note on the site states. ?For these reasons, we demand his immediate release.?

It is signed, ?Free Bilal Committee.?


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