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Al-Maliki questioned on missing Iraqi journalist

(CPJ/IFEX) - CPJ writes to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, calling on him to clarify the whereabouts of editor Saad al-Aossi and the reasons for his continued detention:

June 25, 2010

Nuri al-Maliki
Prime Minister of Iraq
C/O Embassy of the Republic of Iraq
3421 Massachusetts Ave. N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20007

Via Facsimile: +1 202-333-1129

Dear Prime Minister al-Maliki,

The Committee to Protect Journalists is concerned about the disappearance of Saad al-Aossi, editor-in-chief of the critical weekly Al-Shahid. We call on you to clarify his whereabouts and the reasons for his continued detention.

Al-Aossi was taken from his home in central Baghdad on the morning of April 14 by what has been described as a "mixed force of policemen and soldiers," according to local news reports. More than two months after his disappearance his fate remains unknown. Al-Aossi is being held at a facility administered by the Counter-Terrorism Force, an elite unit that reports directly to you and is responsible for holding high-level security suspects, according to local press freedom advocates and journalists.

The circumstances surrounding al-Aossi's disappearance strongly suggest that he has been targeted by the Counter-Terrorism Force or another government body for his critical reporting on you, your cabinet, and your political allies. Al-Aossi was detained just six days after publishing an opinion piece criticizing you for a lack of transparency in filling high-level government positions. In February, two months before his disappearance, police searched his newspaper's office and confiscated computers. The critical weekly was also forced to shut down for two crucial weeks preceding the March parliamentary elections. Furthermore, Al-Aossi's detention took place on the same day that the military and police personnel conducted wide-ranging sweeps in numerous Iraqi cities, arresting scores of your political opponents, according to CPJ research and press reports.

In May 2009, at the Iraqi Journalism Summit organized by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the Iraqi Journalists Syndicate in Baghdad, you stated you were proud because Iraq doesn't "have a single imprisoned journalist because of freedom of expression." That is no longer the case. It is therefore crucial that you reveal the whereabouts of our colleague and ensure that his legal rights are protected. After more than two months of extralegal detention, al-Aossi should be released without delay. If you intend to charge him with a crime, you must do so without delay and he must be afforded due process of law, including access to legal counsel.

Thank you for your attention to these urgent matters. We await your reply.


Joel Simon
Executive Director

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