Reuters cameraman held by U.S. military

New York, August 4, 2008–U.S. military authorities should present charges against a Reuters cameraman detained since last Tuesday, or they should release him immediately, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Ali al-Mashhadani, 39, was detained in Baghdad by U.S. military forces while he was in the Green Zone to renew his press card, Reuters said in a statement. Al-Mashhadani, based in Ramadi, capital of Anbar province in western Iraq, also works as a freelancer for the BBC. Both Reuters and the BBC have expressed concern about the detention and have urged the military to disclose the basis on which he is being held.

A spokeswoman for the Multi-National Forces-Iraq told CPJ that al-Mashhadani was detained because he posed a security risk and that his case would be reviewed within a seven-day period that began on July 29.

“This is the third time U.S. forces have detained Ali al-Mashhadani without charge,” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney. “The military has never substantiated any wrongdoing by him. The authorities must make evidence against him public or release him immediately.”

U.S. forces held al-Mashhadani for five months beginning in August 2005. Al-Mashhadani was picked up in a general sweep of a Ramadi neighborhood by U.S. Marines who became suspicious after seeing pictures on his cameras. In May 2006, al-Mashhadani was held for 12 days at a U.S. base in his hometown of Ramadi. He was initially detained while trying to recover cell phones that were confiscated from him a week earlier, Reuters reported at the time.

In each of the two earlier cases, no wrongdoing was substantiated and U.S. military officials never disclosed any evidence to justify the detention, CPJ research shows.