IFJ backs Palestine Hotel arrest warrants

By Caitlin Pike

The International Federation of Journalists has backed the Spanish
authorities after they issued warrants for the arrest of US soldiers
who were said to be involved in the 2003 Palestine Hotel attack that
killed Spanish cameraman Jose Couso and Reuters journalist Taras
Protsyuk.

The events in Baghdad on 8 April when a US tank fired on the
Palestine Hotel, a media centre in the heart of Baghdad, and an earlier
attack on the offices of Al-Jazeera television that killed reporter
Tareq Ayyoub, were highlighted when Spanish judge Santiago Pedraz
called for the extradition of three soldiers to face charges of murder
and a “crime against the international community”.

Aidan White,
IFJ general secretary, said: “This decision is a victory for
thosecampaigning for justice and the truth behind the killings of media
staff. There must be an end to the arrogant disregard by the US
authorities of the outrage felt by many in journalism over the sense
that these deaths have not been fully explained and that the
responsible authorities have not been made accountable.”

The
arrest warrants have been issued against Sgt Thomas Gibson, a tank
commander, and his superior officers Captain Philip Wolford and Lt
Colonel Philip D Camp, all of them assigned to the 3rd infantry
division, which carried out the attack. The examining magistrate in
Spain issued the warrants after failed attempts to question the
soldiers over the Palestine Hotel attack. The US authorities refused to
respond to requests for access to the men.

Meanwhile, the IFJ
said the confirmation by French authorities that cameraman Fred Nerac
had died drew to a close a period of painful uncertainty about his
fate. Nerac, along with reporter Terry Lloyd and translator Hussein
Osman, was one of three members of an ITN team killed in a fire fight
near Basra on 21 March 2003. “Our thoughts today are with his wife
Fabienne and his children,” said White.

“But now we must redouble our efforts to find out what really happened on the road to Basra on that fateful day.”

The IFJ has condemned the murder of Mohammad Harun Hassan, an editor
and the executive secretary of the Iraqi Journalists Syndicate, who was
gunned down by unknown attackers in Baghdad city centre.

This brings to 100 the IFJ’s total of journalists and media staff killed in Iraq since the US invasion in March 2

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