AP chief Tom Curley takes to the Washington Post op-ed page to make the case for detained Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Bilal Hussein. Hussein's been held for 19 months, and has yet to be charged. He will apparently now get his first day in an Iraqi court on or around November 29. I don't know enough to have an opinion on whether Hussein is a terrorist, as the U.S. military now alleges. Problem is, it appears that his actual guilt or innocence doesn't much matter.
Now, suddenly, the military plans to seek a criminal case against Bilal in the Iraqi court system in just days. But the military won't tell us what the charges are, what evidence it will be submitting or even when the hearing will be held.
Not that former federal prosecutor Paul Gardephe, Bilal's attorney, hasn't asked. The conversation went pretty much like this:
When will the court hold its first hearing? Sorry, can't tell you, except it will be on or after Nov. 29. Since we're trying to be cooperative, we will let you know the exact date at 6:30 a.m. the day of the hearing, if you're in Baghdad by then.
What will Bilal be charged with? Sorry, can't tell you. The Iraqi judge who hears the evidence is the one who decides what charges will be filed.
What evidence will the judge be basing that decision on? Sorry, can't tell you. In the Iraqi court system, we don't have to show our specific evidence until after we file the complaint with the court.
Will Bilal be allowed to present evidence refuting your evidence that we can't see in advance? We don't know. He might be. Ask an Iraqi lawyer if you don't know how this works.
It's almost like a bad detective novel: Go to the phone booth at Third and Jones at 6:30 in the morning and wait for a call for further instructions. How is Gardephe to defend Bilal? This affair makes a mockery of the democratic principles of justice and the rule of law that the United States says it is trying to help Iraq establish.