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AP Photographer Bilal Hussein has been in American detention since April 2006. As the second anniversary of his captivity approaches, Bilal has achieved a major breakthrough. Yesterday in Baghdad, an Iraqi Judicial Commission reviewing his case took ten days to reach a conclusion: No basis existed for the terrorism-related charges which had been brought against him. The conclusion was a sweeping repudiation of accusations U.S. military figures have brought against him, backed by no evidence, but by a handful of strangely motivated American wingnut bloggers.
Other than the terrorism charges, the military had questioned the photographer’s presence on the scene following the abduction and killing of an Italian, Salvatore Santoro. I worked as Bilal Hussein’s counsel in 2006, and during this time I conducted a comprehensive review of the very vague allegations surrounding Santoro’s death, reviewing the documentary evidence with experts and interviewing the available witnesses. The AP photographer had been stopped with others at a check point and asked to take “trophy photos” of Santoro, who had been killed earlier in the day. A study of the photos and examination of other witnesses bore out the account, and military investigators also acknowledged off the record that there was no real basis for charges. But they continued to raise them nonetheless — apparently because they were under relentless pressure to come up with some charges.
U.S. military authorities in Baghdad could of course recognize the Judicial Commission determination and release Bilal. Notwithstanding vaguely positive statements from Bush Administration figures about the Iraqi courts and judicial system, their private remarks are far more negative. I recall from conversations with General Gardner, who was charged with detainee affairs in 2006, that in his view the United States was under no obligation to respect the decisions and directions of the Iraqi Courts. Notwithstanding that statement, however, he ordered the release of CBS cameraman Abdul Amir Younis Hussein following his exoneration in the Central Criminal Court of Iraq.
Yesterday’s decision in any event may put the Pulitzer Prize-winning AP photojournalist one step closer to freedom.
More from Scott Horton:
Conversation — March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm
Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.
i. stand with israel
I listen to a lot of conservative talk radio. Confident masculine voices telling me the enemy is everywhere and victory is near — I often find it affirming: there’s a reason I don’t think that way. Last spring, many right-wing commentators made much of a Bloomberg poll that asked Americans, “Are you more sympathetic to Netanyahu or Obama?” Republicans picked the Israeli prime minister over their own president, 67 to 16 percent. There was a lot of affected shock that things had come to this. Rush Limbaugh said of Netanyahu that he wished “we had this kind of forceful moral, ethical clarity leading our own country”; Mark Levin described him as “the leader of the free world.” For a few days there I yelled quite a bit in my car.
The one conservative radio show I do find myself enjoying is hosted by Dennis Prager. At the Thanksgiving dinner of American radio personalities (Limbaugh is your jittery brother-in-law, Michael Savage is your racist uncle, Hugh Hewitt is Hugh Hewitt) Dennis Prager is the turkey-carving patriarch trying to keep the conversation moderately high-minded. While Prager obviously doesn’t like liberals — “The gaps between the left and right on almost every issue that matters are in fact unbridgeable,” he has said — he often invites them onto his show for debate, which is rare among right-wing hosts. Yet his gently exasperated take on the Obama–Netanyahu matchup was among the least charitable: “Those who do not confront evil resent those who do.”
Average number of Americans who are injured by chain saws each year:
A farmer in Kenya bit a python who tried to eat him.
A former prison in Philadelphia that has served as a horror-movie set was being prepared as a detention center for protesters arrested at the upcoming Democratic National Convention, and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump fired his campaign manager.
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“Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'”