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Friday, January 02, 2004

Incident: Reuters staff detained, abused

Today, it will be reported that three Iraqi journalists will be detained by US military and taken to a prison near Fallujah. Their names are Salem Ureibi (Reuters camera operator since 1991), Ahmad Mohammed al-Badrani (freelance Reuters video since 2003), and Sattar Jabar al-Badrani (driver).

It will be claimed that the following things occurred while the journalists were detained:

  • They were hooded.
  • They were subjected to load music and forced to dance around to it.
  • They were forced to lie on the ground and wiggle their backsides to the music.
  • They were deprived of sleep. This was denied by a report from the military.
  • They were forced to do press-ups and "ups and downs" (stand from crouching position and then crouch repeatedly) (c.f. Dec 2002, Incident: Abu Kenami dies.
  • Salem was threatened with rape and the rape of their wives.
  • They were slapped, hit with torches.
  • Ahmad was forced to insert his finger into his anus and then lick it.
  • Sattar was forced to insert his finger into his anus and then lick it, insert his finger into his nose during questioning.
  • Ahmad was forced to lick and chew upon a shoe.
  • All three were badged with the letter "C", which caused all soldiers who saw the badges to yell at them or slap them.
There are several claims that US forces knew that the men were journalists, yet did not act accordingly.

First, when US forces first approached the men, Ureibi shouted "Reuters, Reuters, journalist, journalist".

Second, Soldiers found their camera equipment and press badges in their car during a search.

Finally, Bureau Chief Andrew Marshall will observe that "the bulk of their mistreatment -- including their humiliating interrogations and the mental and physical torment of the first night which all agreed was the worst part of their ordeal -- occurred several hours AFTER I had informed the 82nd Airborne Division that they were Reuters staff. I have e-mail proof of this."

A report into the incident by US military conducted before the Abu Ghraib scandal becomes public will deny all accusations that the men were abused. The investigation will not include interviews with the three journalists. It will be reported that on 17 May 2004, Reuters will receive a letter from Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez dated 05 March 2004 stating that he is confident that the investigation into the incident was "thorough and objective".

Global Managing Editor for Reuters, David Schlesinger, will request that the military's findings be reviewed in light of the Abu Ghraib scandal. Of particular concern to Reuters is the fact that the investigation relied upon the sworn oath of the soldiers alone, and did not interview the journalists (c.f. other internal investigations where victims and key witnesses were not interviewed: March 2005, Rape investigation, 07 October 2003, Incident: alleged sexual assault). The investigation will never be reopened.


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