6 May 2008


An Al Jazeera cameraman held at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay for six years without charge was freed on 1 May, report the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and Al Jazeera.

Sudanese-born Sami al-Haj, who has been suffering from health problems after a hunger strike that started in January 2007, arrived in the Sudanese capital Khartoum on 2 May on a U.S. military aircraft along with two other Sudanese prisoners at Guantanamo. He was immediately rushed to hospital.

"I'm very happy to be in Sudan, but I'm very sad because of the situation of our brothers who remain in Guantanamo. Conditions in Guantanamo are very, very bad and they get worse by the day," al-Haj told Al Jazeera from his hospital bed.

"Our human condition, our human dignity was violated, and the American administration went beyond all human values, all moral values, all religious values. In Guantanamo ... rats are treated with more humanity."

Al-Haj was arrested by Pakistani security forces near the Afghan border in December 2001 while covering the U.S.-led fight to oust the Taliban. He was handed over to the U.S. military and then transferred to Guantanamo in June 2002. No charges were brought against him although he was accused of being an "enemy combatant", working as a money carrier for armed groups and assisting al-Qaeda.

Al-Haj was the only known journalist held at Guantanamo. IFEX members instigated a number of protests over the years campaigning for his release.

According to CPJ, 10 journalists have been held for extended periods by the U.S. military and then released without charge. On 16 April, Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein was released from U.S. custody in Iraq after two years in jail. Jawed Ahmad, a journalist for Canada's CTV, has been detained at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan since last October.

Visit these links:
- CPJ: http://tinyurl.com/5fzlxl- CPJ special report on al-Haj, "The Enemy?" (October 2006): http://www.cpj.org/Briefings/2006/DA_fall_06/prisoner/prisoner.html- IFJ: http://tinyurl.com/6pghgw- RSF: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=26786- Al Jazeera: http://tinyurl.com/56k9og(6 May 2008)

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IFEX members working in this country 1

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