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US declines to free Iraqi photographer

The US military in Iraq refuses to obey a court order to release a freelance photographer working for Reuters and said on Tuesday it will hold him into 2009.

The Iraqi Central Criminal Court ruled on 30 November that there was no evidence against Ibrahim Jassam Mohammed, detained in a raid on his home in Mahmudiya, 30 km south of Baghdad on 2 September. It ordered the US military to release him from Camp Cropper prison near Baghdad airport.

Iraqi prosecutors acknowledged there was a lack of evidence and said they were closing the case against Jassam.

“Though we appreciate the decision of the Central Criminal Court of Iraq in the Jassam case, their decision does not negate the intelligence information that currently lists him as a threat to Iraq security and stability,” Major Neal Fisher, spokesman for the US military’s detainee operations in Iraq, said in an e-mail to Reuters on Tuesday.

“He will be processed for release in a safe and orderly manner after December 31st, in the order of his individual threat level, along with all other detainees.”

Editor-in-chief David Schlesinger said: “I am disappointed he has not been released in accordance with the court order.”

The International Federation of Journalists "strongly condemned" the decision. It "makes a mockery of the coalition's handover of powers to Iraqi sovereign institutions," said Aidan White, IFJ general secretary. "The American military officials in Iraq should stop interfering with the Iraqi justice and free Ibrahim." ■