The ONLY active voice for American Arab Journalists.

Friday, October 13, 2006

NEWS: ITN Journalist murdered by "trigger happy" US Marines 3 years ago -- coroner

US forces killed ITN man in Iraq

Terry Lloyd was not "embedded" with the military

A coroner has recorded a verdict of unlawful killing on ITN reporter Terry Lloyd, who was shot dead by US forces in southern Iraq in March 2003.

An inquest heard Mr Lloyd was killed by a US bullet near Basra. His interpreter died and his cameraman is missing.

The inquest heard Mr Lloyd, 50 and originally from Derby, was hit while in a makeshift ambulance, having already been hurt in American-Iraqi crossfire.

The Pentagon denied ever targeting non-combatants, including journalists.

The coroner is to ask the attorney general to consider pressing charges.

Oxfordshire Assistant Deputy Coroner Andrew Walker said he would also be writing to the director of public prosecutions asking for him to investigate the possibility of bringing charges.
'War crime'

Mr Lloyd's Lebanese interpreter, Hussein Osman, was also killed and French cameraman Fred Nerac is still officially classed as missing, presumed dead. Belgian cameraman Daniel Demoustier was the ITN crew's only survivor.

The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) said Mr Lloyd's killing was a "war crime" and this was echoed by Mr Lloyd's widow, Lyn.

The ITN crew

Terry Lloyd, reporter - killed
Hussein Osman, interpreter - killed
Fred Nerac, cameraman - missing, presumed killed
Daniel Demoustier, cameraman - survived

In a statement she said: "This was a very serious war crime, how else can firing on a vehicle in these circumstances be interpreted?

"This was not a friendly fire incident or a crossfire incident, it was a despicable, deliberate, vengeful act, particularly as it came many minutes after the initial exchange.

"US forces appear to have allowed their soldiers to behave like trigger happy cowboys in an area where civilians were moving around."

A spokesman for the US Department of Defense said: "An investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident was completed in May 2003.

"The investigation was limited to the engagement of the vehicle Mr Lloyd was traveling in. The investigation determined that US forces followed the applicable Rules of Engagement

'We do not target non-combatants'

"The Department of Defense has never deliberately targeted non-combatants, including journalists. We have always gone to extreme measures to avoid civilian casualties and collateral damage.

"It has been an unfortunate reality that journalists have died in Iraq. Combat operations are inherently dangerous and we do not take lightly our responsibilities in the conduct of these operations. We do not, nor would we ever, deliberately target a non-combatant civilian or journalist."

His daughter Chelsey said: "The killing of my father would seem to amount to murder, which is deeply shocking."

ITN praised

Mr Lloyd was covering the British and American invasion of Iraq as a "unilateral" journalist, rather than those "embedded" with UK or US forces, who were subject to military censorship.

The ITN crew's vehicle was completely destroyed

He and his three colleagues were caught up in a firefight between US and Iraqi forces near the Shatt Al Basra Bridge on 22 March 2003.

After an eight-day inquest Mr Walker cleared ITN of any blame for Mr Lloyd's death and praised him and his team for their "professionalism and dedication".

He said it was his view the American tanks had been first to open fire on the ITN crew's two vehicles.

He added Mr Lloyd would probably have survived the first bullet wound he received, but was killed as he travelled away in a makeshift ambulance.

Mr Walker said it "presented no threat to American forces" since it was a civilian minibus and was facing away from the US tanks.

The killing of my father would seem to amount to murder, which is deeply shocking
Chelsey Lloyd

"I have no doubt it was the fact that the vehicle stopped to pick up survivors that prompted the Americans to fire on that vehicle," he said.

ITN's editor in chief David Mannion said: "I would also like to say something that I know Terry would have wished me to say.

"Independent, unilateral reporting, free from official strictures, is crucial; not simply to us as journalists but to the role we play in a free and democratic society."

Mr Nerac's widow Fabienne said she would continue her "lonely vigil" to find out what happened to her husband.


Thursday, October 12, 2006

Houston Chronicle Editorial: Release uncharged al-Jazeera reporter who has been held 5 years

Oct. 6, 2006, 8:02 PM
EDITORIAL: In legal limbo
An Al-Jazeera cameraman in U.S. detention for five years on suspicion of terrorist activities should be brought to trial or else released

Sudanese national Sami al-Haj was 32 when he was arrested at the Pakistan border in 2001 as he and another journalist for the Middle Eastern news agency Al-Jazeera were attempting to enter Afghanistan to cover the fall of the Taliban regime. In a two-year career as a television cameraman and correspondent, al-Haj made numerous trips into the war zone and sent dramatic images of the fighting to his employer.

What he initially took for a simple passport misunderstanding turned into a five-year, continuing legal nightmare for al-Haj, who currently resides in an eight-by-seven-foot cell at the U.S. terrorist detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. He was arrested by Pakistani intelligence officers and turned over to U.S. soldiers, held in Afghanistan and later transported bound and gagged with dozens of other prisoners to the U.S. facility in Cuba. Until last year, the U.S. would not acknowledge it was holding al-Haj, who has a wife and 6-year-old son.

Al-Haj has been accused by military authorities of assisting Chechen and al-Qaida terrorists as a money courier. But al-Haj says that most of his interrogation sessions have focused on the operations of Al-Jazeera, which has frequently obtained and run terrorist videos and tapes and has been criticized by U.S. officials for biased and incendiary reporting. One of the accusations against him is that he interviewed Taliban and al-Qaida leaders, but those are legitimate journalistic endeavors. Al-Haj claims U.S. military officers offered him his freedom in exchange for becoming an informant on Al-Jazeera's activities. He refused.

After five years, al-Haj has yet to be charged or tried, and he continues to maintain his innocence. "With all due respect," he told a Guantanamo administrative review board, "a mistake has been made because I have never been a member of any terrorist group, and I never took part in any terrorist or violent act."

Before his stint with Al-Jazeera, he worked as the administrative assistant for a beverage company owned by a United Arab Emirates national, Muhammad Abdullah al-Umran. In that capacity, he says he legally transported cash for his boss to an Islamic charity in Azerbaijan that was later placed on a terrorist watch list. Al-Haj claims he was simply following instructions and thought the transactions were innocent. He also served as a driver for a visiting friend of al-Umran who later was arrested for involvement in the terrorist bombings of U.S embassies in East Africa. Al-Haj maintains he knew nothing of the man's background.

"There is absolutely zero evidence that he has any history in terrorism at all," says al-Haj's lawyer. Clive Stafford Smith, the legal director of Reprieve, a British human rights group. A report by Joel Campagna of the Committee to Protect Journalists concludes that only a fair and transparent legal process can determine whether al-Haj was a knowing or unwitting conspirator with terrorists or an innocent journalist "plucked from the field while covering the world's biggest story."

According to CPJ, in 2005 U.S. forces held five journalists without charges, including al-Haj and four others in Iraq who were eventually released. That's the same number as Burma, a nation whose military rulers have been criticized repeatedly for violating press freedoms.

Rather than remain in the same category with such unsavory human rights violators, American authorities should swiftly produce any evidence they have against al-Haj and conduct a fair and open legal proceeding consistent with the principles of American jurisprudence. Otherwise, U.S. State Department pronouncements calling for protections for international journalists will continue to have a distinctly hollow ring.

British Official: Wanted to bomb al-Jazeera during Iraq invasion


Former British Home Secretary David Blunkett has acknowledged that he urged Prime Minister Tony Blair to bomb the Baghdad facilities of the Arab news channel al-Jazeera shortly after the invasion of Iraq. As reported by today's (Thursday) London Daily Mirror, Blunkett was asked on the Channel 4 program Dispatches whether he was worried that such an attack would be considered "outside the rules of engagement." He replied: "There wasn't a worry from me because I believed that this was a war and in a war you wouldn't allow the broadcast to continue taking place." The Mirror observed that two weeks later, the station's Baghdad studios were bombed by the U.S., killing journalist Tareq Ayoub. Asked about the attack, Blunkett replied, "I think there's a big difference between taking out the transmission and taking out journalists - even if you don't agree with them."


AP Photographer detained since April 12, 2006 by US Military in Iraq


The U.S. military in Iraq has imprisoned Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein since April 12, 2006, accusing him of being a security threat but never filing charges or permitting a public hearing. "We want the rule of law to prevail," says AP President and CEO Tom Curley. "He either needs to be charged or released. Indefinite detention is not acceptable." Military officials say that Hussein was being held for "imperative reasons of security" under United Nations resolutions. A Pentagon spokesman reiterated that stance Sept. 18. Hussein is a 35-year-old Iraqi citizen and a native of Fallujah. AP executives said an internal review of his work did not find anything to indicate inappropriate contact with insurgents, and any evidence against him should be brought to the Iraqi criminal justice system. Hussein began working for the AP in September 2004. He photographed events in Fallujah and Ramadi until he was detained.Bilal Hussein is one of an estimated 14,000 people detained by the U.S. military worldwide -- 13,000 of them in Iraq. They are held in limbo where few are ever charged with a specific crime or given a chance before any court or tribunal to argue for their freedom. In Hussein's case, Curley and other AP executives say, the military has not provided any concrete evidence to back up the vague allegations they have raised about him. More information is contained in the news stories and press materials below.