Iraqi journalist held 17 months released


The U.S. military on Wednesday released a freelance Iraqi journalist
who had been held without charge for 17 months after telling him more
than a year ago that his detention had been “a mistake,” the journalist

Ibrahim Jassam, a freelance cameraman and photographer for the London-based
Reuters news agency, said in a telephone interview that his U.S.
interrogators had initially accused him of disseminating material
relating to insurgent attacks. He had been seized in an overnight raid
from his home south of Baghdad in September 2008.

Jassam denied the charge and, after several months,
the military told him “that I was captured by mistake,” he said. An
Iraqi court ordered him released for lack of evidence in November 2008.

The U.S. military refuted Jassam’s claim.

“Ibrahim Jassam’s detention was not a mistake,” said Lt. Col Patricia Johnson, spokeswoman for the U.S. military’s detainee operations. “He was detained as a security threat in September 2008 as the result of activity with an insurgent organization. … There was intelligence evidence against him.”

The evidence can’t be disclosed because the intelligence remains classified, she added.

Jassam was released, she said, under the terms of a security agreement signed with Iraq
that paves the way for the withdrawal of U.S. troops. The U.S. military
has promised to hand over all detainees to the Iraqi government by August 2010. “It was his time to be released,” Johnson said.

Jassam is the last of several Iraqi journalists to
be detained and eventually freed by the U.S. military in the course of
the seven-year-old war. None has been charged, and journalism watchdog
groups have been harshly critical of what they describe as the
military’s apparent inability to distinguish between the pursuit of
journalism and support for insurgent activities.

Jassam said he was delighted to be home with his
family but added that his captivity had taken a toll. “I feel about 15
years older, and it was very painful,” he said. “Now I just want to
help the other prisoners who are still in custody, many of whom are
innocent and are waiting to be freed.”

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