CBS cameraman on trial in Iraq, case delayed
BAGHDAD, Mar 22 (Reuters) An Iraqi cameraman for the US television network CBS was scheduled for trial in Baghdad on terrorism charges today but the case was put back by two weeks.
CBS staff in Baghdad said the US military had notified them of the hearing less than 12 hours before he was due to appear.
The case of Abdul Amir Yunis Hussein has drawn concern from human rights groups over the transparency of the process run by the US military. Several Iraqis working for international media were detained last year. Only Hussein is still held.
The freelance cameraman was shot and arrested by US troops in his home city of Mosul a year ago after filming clashes in the aftermath of a roadside bomb attack on a US patrol.
Lieutenant Colonel John Carroll, a U.S. officer involved in the case, told reporters at the Central Criminal Court of Iraq that the trial should now go ahead on April 5.
That is the first anniversary of Hussein's arrest.
''So far, the handling of this case has been alarming,'' said Ann Cooper, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists in New York. ''It's unacceptable that Hussein was held without charge or due process for so long.'' ACCUSATIONS The television network's Baghdad bureau chief Larry Doyle said the US military had told CBS Hussein faced a possible life term. Among accusations were that the cameraman had appeared to be ''instigating a crowd''. They also mentioned he was ''standing next to a man with a rifle''.
That man was shot dead by troops and Hussein was wounded.
''The allegations against him appear to have changed regularly throughout the year,'' Doyle said, adding that CBS had found obtaining information from the military very difficult.
''We reiterate our longstanding request and sincere hope that (he) be afforded a fair and impartial hearing in a timely manner,'' CBS said in a statement issued in New York.
Major General Jack Gardner, the commander of US detention operations, told Reuters that the military had requested the postponement to give Hussein's lawyers more time to prepare.
Hussein would probably face charges under headings including acts of terrorism but specific accusations would not be made public until the trial itself, he said. Hussein's lawyers should have details from earlier, pre-trial hearings, he added.
Three Iraqi journalists working for Reuters were among at least seven reporters held by the US military for months without charge since late 2004. All but Hussein are now free.
Gardner told Reuters this week the military was anxious not to discourage media coverage of events in Iraq and had installed new procedures that would give media organisations an immediate opportunity to vouch for any employees arrested by US troops.
He said an increase in the number of lawyers and investigating magistrates should accelerate the pace of trials at the Central Criminal Court, so that some 2,000 cases might be heard in the next six months as opposed to fewer than 1,000 to date. ''The pace of cases should pick up substantially,'' he said.
Reuters DH VP0226