Free Junis!

Junis Kuthair is a freelance camera operator in Iraq. His footage has been used by Channel 4 in the UK and PBS in the USA, among others. His colleage Michael Burke, who is a member of London Freelance Branch of the NUJ, has asked that we do what we can to assist in securing his release, and the Branch agreed so to do at its meeting on 8 March.

On 23 September 2003 Junis was arrested by Coalition forces. Since then colleagues have discovered the following information on his detention:

  • Sequence number - 151186
  • Capture tag - 0923004
  • date of birth 27th July 1966
  • unit that arrested him HHB-3FA (a US unit of the Coalition).

At Tuesday 24th September, American troops stormed the house of Junis Kuthair, 33, an Iraqi journalist. Junis was arrested along with his brothers Kais, a lecturer in Technical Drawing at a local college, and Khaled, a student of political science at Mustanseria University. Video tapes, papers and money were taken during the raid. Junis' family and colleagues have not been able to find out why he was arrested or where he and his brothers are been held. Kais has a wife who also teaches at the college and two young daughters, Moon and Star. With the lists of those disappeared into American custody growing ever longer, the family are frantic with worry.

Junis is currently being held in Abu Grabe jail. He has had no visitors and despite many requests and even protests at the jail we have no further information.

Junis was incarcerated in the same jail by Saddam Hussein's regime. He is a veteran of the Iran-Iraq war; he was than imprisoned for writing "subversive poetry".

Since May 2003 Junis he has been working with Insider Films as a cameraman.

It seems that his arrest is another signal that the Coalition is unwilling to tolerate a free press in Iraq. We note that the Iraq Governing Council says it has decided to limit the operations of two leading Arabic news channels for "encouraging terrorism", and has decided to ban al-Jazeera and al-Arabia from covering council activities and official press conferences.

Some initial questions:

  • What, if anything, has Junis been charged with?
  • What steps are Coalition forces taking to ensure that he can be visited by relatives?
  • ... by the Red Cross or other independent observers?
  • ... by lawyers?
  • What steps is HMG taking to ensure that those held by Coalition forces but not charged are released promptly?
  • ... and to ensure that those charged receive a fair hearing?
  • How many journalists are being held in total by Coalition forces?

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