LSB: Remind me again of what values are soldiers are fighting for. I realize this is a war zone, but is this the image we want projected around the world?
Associated Press: The U.S. military plans to seek 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 U.S. military plans a "sham of due process." The journalist, Bilal Hussein, has already been imprisoned without charges for more than 19 months.
A public affairs officer notified the 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 the western Iraqi city of Ramadi on April 12, 2006.
Dave Tomlin, associate general counsel for the AP, 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.
[UPDATE: AFP reports late Monday, "The U.S. military has filed a formal complaint with an Iraqi criminal court accusing a detained, award-winning Associated Press photographer of being a terrorist media operative, the Pentagon said Monday. Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary, said the military made the complaint about Bilal Hussein, who has been held for more than 19 months without charges in US military custody, to Iraq's Central Criminal Court. 'We believe Bilal Hussein was a terrorist media operative who infiltrated the AP,' he said. 'MNF-I possesses convincing and irrefutable evidence that Bilal Hussein is a threat to security and stability as a link to insurgent activity."]
The AP rejects all the allegations and contends it has been blocked by the military from mounting a wide-ranging defense for Hussein, who was part of the AP's Pulitzer Prize-winning photo team in 2005.
Soon after Hussein was taken into custody, the AP appealed to the U.S. military to either release him or bring the case to trial—saying there was no evidence to support his detention. However, Tomlin said that the military is now attempting to build a case based on "stale" evidence and testimony that has been discredited. He also noted that the U.S. military investigators who initially handled the case have left the country.
The AP says various accusations have been floated unofficially against Hussein and then apparently been withdrawn with little explanation.
... Previously, the military has outlined a host of possible lines of investigation, including claims that Hussein offered to provide false identification to a sniper seeking to evade U.S.-led forces and that Hussein took photographs that were synchronized with insurgent blasts.
The AP inquiry found no support for either of those claims. The bulk of the photographs Hussein provided the AP were not about insurgent activity; he detailed both the aftermath of attacks and the daily lives of Iraqis in the war zone. There was no evidence that any images were coordinated with the insurgents or showed the instant of an attack.
[Former federal prosecutor, Paul] Gardephe, now a New York-based attorney, said the AP has offered evidence to counter the allegations so far raised by the military. But, he noted, that it's possible the military could introduce new charges at the hearing that could include classified material.
"This makes it impossible to put together a defense," said Gardephe, who is leading the defense team and plans to arrive in Baghdad next week. "At the moment, it looks like we can do little more than show up ... and try to put together a defense during the proceedings."