Friday, May 2, 2008

US releases al-Jazeera cameraman

Martin Hodgson
The Guardian, Friday May 2 2008

"An al-Jazeera cameraman detained by American forces in Afghanistan was last night released after spending nearly six years imprisoned without charge at Guantánamo Bay.

Sami al-Haj, 39, was arrested on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan on December 15 2001, while on assignment to cover the war against the Taliban. Although he had a valid visa to work in Afghanistan, US intelligence alleged that he was an al-Qaida operative, and he was transferred to Guantánamo in June 2002.....

Prior to his release, Haj had been on hunger strike since January 2007, and was forced to undergo "assisted feeding" via a tube through his nose. According to Stafford Smith, he was suicidal and had throat cancer, but camp authorities withheld medical treatment. "We are very concerned about him, because he has been under a tremendous amount of stress and has been on hunger strike for 480 days. He has asked to be taken straight to a hospital in Khartoum," Stafford Smith said....

Robert Ménard, secretary general of Reporters Without Borders, said: "Sami al-Haj should never have been held so long. US authorities never proved that he had been involved in any criminal activity."....

Commentators in the Middle East viewed Haj's imprisonment as a proxy punishment for al-Jazeera, whose broadcasts have angered US officials.

When the BBC reporter Alan Johnston was kidnapped in Gaza, Haj appealed for his release. Johnston in turn, called on the US authorities to free Haj. But Stafford Smith said much of the western media had been slow to take up Haj's case [How do you spell RACISM??]......."

No comments: