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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: À Bagdad, la détention d’un journaliste français se prolonge

by Rosa Moussaoui

In Baghdad, the arbitrary detention of a French journalist continues

Translated Friday 1 February 2013, by Henry Crapo

The support committee for the liberation of Nadir Dendoune has called for a demonstration in Paris, at the Fontaine des Innocents this Friday, 1 February, at 17h30.

Nine days, already, that our colleague and friend Nadir Dendoune is detained in Baghdad, where he was arrested, while engaged in his work as journalist, making a report concerning the ten years of the American invasion of Iraq. Having left France with a press visa, valid and in due form, and with accreditation by the Monde Diplomatique, he was to have returned on Wednesday. He had set a rendezvous on Thursday with his close friends and colleagues for a projection of his film Palestine at the Institut du monde arabe, in Paris. The projection indeed took place, but without him. In the auditorium of the IMA, before passing to the images of the occupied territories, the support committee for his liberation provided, in a press conference, information that was unfortunately rather sparse and quite disturbing concerning the welfare of the journalist, who had been imprisoned without official reason.

The first source of disquiet, Nadir is not held in a civil prison, but in a military compound, where he finds himself in the custody of military security forces, and is subject to daily interrogation. The reasons for his arrest have not been disclosed to French authorities, and charges have not been laid. The request by French consular authorities for a visit to the prisoner remains, for the moment, a dead letter. Received on Thursday by the Iraqi Minister of Foreign Affairs, the French consul returned with only a promise of aid in exercising his right to visit. "He is detained by the military, outside all the bounds of the law, and is without a lawyer. This is not reassuring at all, in a regime backed by the USA, for whom the profile of Nadir could be considered suspect," said with alarm the journalist and producer Emilie Raffoul, a member of the support committee.

The services of the Quai d’Orsay, the embassy in Baghdad, multiply their contacts with the Iraqi authorities, who are little inclined to help. It was held against Nadir to have photographed a station for water purification, an installation considered "sensitive", in the Dora neighbourhood, south of Baghdad. This factory, Nadir knew well. He had participated, in 2003, in a human chain of militant pacifists to protect the equipment, at a time when American bombs rained down of Baghdad. He returned, shortly before his arrest. He found, at this site, some Iraqi workers he had met in 2003, and had counted on coming back, to find them again. On Thursday, the spokesman for the Iraqi Minister of the Interior, the Brigadier General Saad Maan, questioned by the Associated Press, once again invoked the inconsistent motive of photographs taken, according to a police source cited by the agency, "without the necessary official authorisation". The Iraqi authorities assure that he is in good health, information that is impossible to verify: Nadir was able to call a woman friend only on last Monday, five days after his arrest, to give the alarm. He said he shared his cell with 28 other prisoners. Since then, nothing.

In Paris, the Iraq Embassy, which had delivered the press visa to the journalist, seemed embarrassed by the developments in the affair, and by the official protests voiced, demanding the release of Nadir. In Baghdad, the affair is more complex for other reasons. "The state power is unstable, fraught with battles between factions. The relations between civilians and military are very complicated. In Iraq, the police and th army resemble militias rather than state institutions," explains Alain Gresh, editor in chief of le Monde Diplomatique in a press conference.

The mobilisation is proportional to the disquiet, and support is flowing in. Reporters without Boundaries has joined the committee for the liberation of Nadir. Its general director, Christophe Deloire, calls for "putting maximum pressure for his release from prison". The non-governmental organization, in association with its Iraqi correspondents in the Journalistic Freedom Observatory, delivered Thursday a letter of protest to the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki. In Baghdad, the National Union of Iraqi Journalists has taken position in the matter. According to Patrick Kamenka, of the International Federation of Journalists, the union has received assurance that it may visit their colleague on Saturday.

The SNJ-CGT, the SNJ, the CFDT journalistic unions have, one after another, demanded the liberation of our colleague. Some political leaders have expressed themselves in that direction: the Deputy Pouria Amirshahi (PS) the European deputies Karima Delli (Greens) and Patrick Le Hyaric (Front de Gauche), the national secretary of the French Communist Party, Pierre Laurent, as well as several elected officials of Saint-Denis, the department in which Nadir lives. In New York, the Committee for the Protection of Journalists, which denounces this "arbitrary arrest", blames the "ambiguities" of Iraqi law, which have multiplied the obstacles to the exercise of the journalistic profession.

Nadir Denoune is a passionate journalist, involved, talented, and with irreproachable professional ethics. He must be liberated without delay. Friday, at 17h30, his support commitee calls for a demonstration in Paris, at the Fontaine des Innocents.

For an excerpt of his film Palestine, see the video at the bottom of the French version of this article.

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