The Committee to Protect Journalists is gravely concerned that 11 current and former employees of the independent production company Wasan Media have been held by the Interior Ministry for nearly four months on specious criminal charges and without due process.
On February 25, Interior Ministry forces raided the Baghdad offices of Wasan Media and detained general manager Shaker Mahmoud Khalaf al-Falahi; broadcast engineers Omar Luqman Mahmoud and Mohammed Jassim Mohammed; video editor Mohammed Qassim Nuhair; cameramen Mohammed Luqman Mahmoud and Hassan Kadhum Hameed; guards Majed Youssif Mansour, Mohammed Kurdi Abid, and Adnan Abdullah Abid; driver Qusai Fu’ad Obaid; and former driver Omar Mohammed Baseem.
The Interior Ministry claims that Wasan Media, which provides technical support to news organizations, supplied footage to Al-Jazeera of a controversial interview with Sabrin al-Janabi, an Iraqi woman who alleged she was raped by three Iraqi police officers in February.
Wasan Media has denied the accusations. Mohammed Shekhly, a lawyer representing the production company, said the 11 men were charged with incitement to terror for allegedly producing footage for Iraq’s insurgency; working for Al-Jazeera, which is officially banned in Iraq; and supplying Al-Jazeera with the al-Janabi interview.
Shekhly says there is no evidence the Wasan Media employees have committed any crime and believes their arrest is an attempt by the Iraqi government to intimidate the media.
Interior Ministry spokesman Brig. Gen. Abdul Karim Khalaf told CPJ that the case is under judicial investigation and the employees were brought before a judge who ordered them held.
Shekhly vehemently disagreed. He told CPJ that his clients have yet to be brought before a judge as required by Iraqi law, and he has not seen any judicial orders in the case.
Wasan Media officials deny supplying footage of the al-Janabi interview to Al-Jazeera, and note that the interview was filmed by several news organizations and was widely available.
The Wasan Media employees are currently being held in an Interior Ministry prison in Baghdad. Their families have been able to visit them three times since their arrest. CPJ has spoken with some of the families, who said that the men have not been physically harmed but are psychologically “collapsing”.
These men are facing serious charges, but they have yet to see any evidence against them or to appear before a judge. We believe the charges are false, and the men are being held arbitrarily.
We call on you to use your influence to ensure that these employees of Wasan Media are released at once.