Wed, Nov 21, 2007 - Page 7 News List

US military to bring charges against AP photographer

AP , NEW YORK

The US military is seeking a criminal case in an Iraqi court against an award-winning Associated Press photographer, but is refusing to disclose what evidence or accusations would be presented.

An AP attorney on Monday strongly protested the decision, calling the US military plans a "sham of due process."

The journalist, Bilal Hussein, has already been imprisoned without charges for more than 19 months.

In Washington, Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell explained the decision to bring charges now by saying "new evidence has come to light" about Hussein, but said the information would remain in government hands until the formal complaint is filed with Iraqi authorities.

Morrell asserted the military has "convincing and irrefutable evidence that Bilal Hussein is a threat to stability and security in Iraq as a link to insurgent activity" and called Hussein "a terrorist operative who infiltrated the AP."

AP associate general counsel Dave Tomlin rejected the claim.

"That's what the military has been saying for 19 months, but whenever we ask to see what's so convincing we get back something that isn't convincing at all," he said.

The case has drawn attention from press groups as another example of the complications for Iraqis chronicling the war in their homeland -- including death squads that target local journalists working for Western media and apparent scrutiny from US intelligence officers.

A public affairs officer notified AP on Sunday that the military intends to submit a written complaint against Hussein that would bring the case into the Iraqi justice system as early as Nov. 29.

Under Iraqi codes, an investigative magistrate will decide whether there are grounds to try Hussein, 36, who was seized in Ramadi on April 12 last year.

Tomlin said the defense for Hussein is being forced to work "totally in the dark."

The military has not yet defined the specific charges against Hussein. Previously, the military has pointed to a range of suspicions that attempt to link him to insurgent activity.

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