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U.S. FORCES FREE AFGHAN REPORTER HELD FOR 11 MONTHS

An Afghan reporter held for nearly a year without charge at U.S. military bases in Afghanistan has been released, report the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF). He vowed to fight for justice, alleging his captors tortured him while in detention.

Jawed Ahmad, a 22-year-old reporter who was on assignment for Canadian TV station CTV at the time of his arrest, was freed on 22 September, after spending 11 months in military jails at Bagram in Kandahar. According to news reports, the U.S. military released him because he was no longer considered a threat.

Ahmad was never charged with a crime. The U.S. military reportedly accused him of having contacts with local Taliban leaders and designated him an "unlawful enemy combatant", but did not provide information about the allegations or evidence against him.

"Jawed Ahmad was held for a year without charge because he was doing his job as a journalist, which is to gather information from all sides to provide balanced and fair coverage," says IFJ. "He should never have been detained, and his long-overdue release proves it."

Ahmad, also known as Jo Jo, told AFP his U.S. captors had tortured him by depriving him of sleep, beating him and putting him in a cell with "mentally sick" prisoners who had attacked him and broken two of his ribs.

"I want justice. I'll knock on the doors of (U.S.) Congress, I'll go to Bush, I'll go to Obama, to everywhere and everyone until I get justice.

"I was tortured and jailed for 11 months and 20 days for doing nothing," he said in Kabul.

His allegations could not be independently verified and the U.S. military headquarters at Bagram rejected the charge. "We don't have any evidence of his mistreatment while in detention here," a military spokesperson told reporters.

Ahmad's release comes after his legal team in the U.S. filed a lawsuit against U.S. President George Bush and the U.S. military to establish a lawful basis for Ahmad's detention or to release him immediately, says IFJ.

CPJ calls again on the U.S. military to end its practice of holding journalists without charge. At least one other journalist remains in U.S. military custody without charge, says CPJ. Freelance photographer Ibrahim Jassam, who was working for Reuters in Iraq, was detained on 2 September by U.S. and Iraqi forces.

Visit these links:
- CPJ: http://tinyurl.com/488m2t
- IFJ: http://tinyurl.com/3r45fj
- RSF: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=28700
- AFP: http://tinyurl.com/4vlh8o
(24 September 2008)

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