Tarik free!

TARIK Ramadam "probably saved my arse in Iraq on at least three occasions," Gary Trotter told the Branch meeting on 8 October - and on 28 October Tarik was freed after 32 months' illegal detention in Sulaymaniyah in Northern Iraq. His family called Gary at 8:54 GMT.

photo © Ziyad Ramadan
Tarik Ramadam shortly after his release

Tarik, who had worked as a "fixer" for Gary when he was in Iraq, was arrested by US troops on 3 February 2005 as he left work on Kirkuk Airbase in Northern Iraq. He was handed over to the Asaish (Kurdish Security Force).

He was never formally charged with any offence nor subject to trial of any kind. He was given no documents by the Asaish or the Iraqi courts relating to his imprisonment or to any alleged offences. He had no access to a lawyer or legal assistance of any kind.

His family only found out where he was being held when the Red Cross/Red Crescent discovered him in Sulaymaniyah prison four months after his arrest.

Tarik went on hunger strike in mid-December 2006, relented in mid-February - the point at which worries about permanent damage become very serious - and was reported to have started another hunger strike in early October.

London Freelance Branch members have provided informal support to Gary's campaign to free Tarik. The Branch voted on 8 October to weigh in as an organisation.

LFB Vice-Chair Phil Sutcliffe praised Gary Trotter as a "British journalist taking responsibility for those they leave behind after they have looked out for them. It's entirely appropriate and a proper precedent."

LFB's pledge came at the same time the UK government promised to give asylum to Iraqi translators who had put themselves at risk by assisting British forces. In the House of Lords, also on 8 October, Conservative Norman Fowler called for asylum for Iraqi fixers who have worked with British journalists.

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