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AP PHOTOGRAPHER TO BE RELEASED

The U.S. military has promised to release Associated Press (AP) photographer Bilal Hussein on 16 April, after two years of detention without charge for his alleged links to insurgents, report the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and AP.

In the past week, an Iraqi judicial committee dismissed all criminal allegations against Hussein and ordered him released from U.S. custody. AP said the U.S. military has agreed to free Hussein after confirming the Iraqi committee's decision to grant Hussein amnesty under a new amnesty law, which drops legal proceedings but does not assume or determine guilt or innocence.

Hussein - who had been held since 12 April 2006 - was never brought to trial and was only in court for one day.

"The detention of Bilal Hussein has been a terrible injustice, and we are relieved that his ordeal might finally come to an end," said CPJ.

AP president Tom Curley also expressed relief. "In time we will celebrate Bilal's release. For now, we want him safe and united with his family. While we may never see eye to eye with the U.S. military over this case, it is time for all of us to move on," said Curley.

In December 2004, Hussein, a Pulitzer-Prize winning photographer from Iraq, and two other journalists were stopped by armed men and taken at gunpoint to photograph a corpse, propped up with armed insurgents standing over it. Throughout his detention, Hussein has maintained his innocence and said he was only doing his job as a journalist working in a war zone.

U.S. military officials maintain that a UN Security Council mandate allows them to detain anyone in Iraq deemed a security risk, even if an Iraqi judicial body has ordered that prisoner freed. The mandate is due to expire this year.

Hussein is one of several journalists held by the U.S. military without charge. Al Jazeera cameraman Sami al-Haj has been held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, after being detained in Pakistan in December 2001. Jawed Ahmad, a journalist for Canada's CTV, has been detained at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan since October 2007. Many of the 23,000 detainees in U.S. military custody in Iraq have not been charged but remain in jail because they are believed to be a security risk.

Visit these links:
- CPJ: http://tinyurl.com/6c33au
- Human Rights Watch: http://tinyurl.com/6z9bg4
- RSF: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=26531
- AP's site on Hussein: http://www.ap.org/bilalhussein
(15 April 2008)

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