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Afghanistan 19 February 2008

Robert Gates asked to intercede on behalf of Afghan journalist held by the US military at Bagram

Reporters Without Borders is concerned about Jawed Ahmad, an Afghan journalist employed by Canadian Television (CTV), who has been held by the US military at Bagram airbase, north of Kabul, since November 2007. According to Afghan colleagues, the Americans are holding him without trial because of his contacts with the Taliban as a journalist.

"We call on US defence secretary Robert M. Gates to intercede on behalf of this young Afghan reporter who is clearly the victim of an arbitrary decision", the press freedom organisation said. "The lack of legal procedures and material evidence confirms that his detention is unjustified. We point out that it is not illegal for journalists to have professional contacts with all parties to a conflict including, in Afghanistan, the Taliban".

The US military are currently holding at least two other journalists : Al-Jazeera cameraman Sami Al-Haj, in Guantanamo, and Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein, in Iraq.

Aged 22 and also known by the pseudonym of Jojo Yazemi, Ahmad was arrested by US soldiers in an airbase in the southern city of Kandahar where he was accompanying Canadian journalists working for CTV. According to Afghan colleagues, the US soldiers accused him of having the numbers of Taliban leaders in his mobile phone and of interviewing them.

His brother, Siddique Ahmad, told Reporters Without Borders that, with the help of the International Red Cross, he was able to talk to him by video link on 29 January 2008. He said he had been beaten and had lost weight since being held in Bagram. CTV has also confirmed that he is being held.

The detention centre at Bagram airbase has often being criticised for its harsh conditions and mistreatment of prisoners. The New York Times reported in 2005 that two detainees, who were later cleared, were beaten to death there by guards in 2002.

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