Prezza pics photographer pledges cash for 'falsely jailed' Iraqi journalist

The photographer who got the exclusive pictures of John Prescott playing croquet is using the cash from the sale of the photographs to try to save the life of a journalist and interpreter whom he claims has been falsely imprisoned in Iraq.

Gary Trotter, director of Images Sans Frontieres photo agency, told Press Gazette that money from the sales of the picture, widely used by the national press, will go towards paying for legal help and mounting a campaign to free Tarik Ramadan.

Trotter met Ramadan when he employed him as an interpreter and guide when on assignment in Iraq in 2004.

Trotter said: "My first priority is to use the money from the Prescott pics to try to get my friend Tarik Ramadan set free from jail, where he has been imprisoned without charge by the Asayesh Kurdish security service for almost a year and a half.

"The Kurds have been quietly moving towards the ethnic cleansing of non-Kurds in Kirkuk for some time and if I don't get Tarik out soon he will almost certainly be killed."

American soldiers arrested Ramadan in February last year as he was leaving Kirkuk airbase, where he had been working as an interpreter, before handing him over to Asayesh, who took him to Sulaymaniyah prison, where he is still held.

Trotter said that describing Ramadan as "my interpreter" did not do him justice.

"I trusted him with my life on a daily basis, and his willingness to put his own life in danger to ensure my safety was humbling."

Trotter said Ramadan was previously jailed several times for criticising Saddam Hussein's regime while working as a journalist.

"I have been asking the Foreign Office, Downing Street, MPs, the White House and the US State Department for help in getting him free. They have all been less than useless."

In a letter to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Trotter wrote: "The Asayesh have now accused Tarik of involvement in ‘The Anfal', Saddam Hussein's attacks on the Kurds, which included the chemical attacks on Halabja.

"This accusation is entirely false and in investigating this situation, I now know that this is a common excuse the Asayesh uses for holding almost all former Iraqi air force personnel they have abducted and imprisoned."

A letter Trotter received from Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs minister Kim Howells, dated 11 April, said: "The Head of our Kirkuk office Colin Crokin has written a letter to the regional Minister of Interior for clarification on why Mr Ramadan is still being held in detention and to ask that his case be considered as a matter of urgency."

On Wednesday a Foreign Office spokesman said: "We are still pursuing the matter with the Iraqi authorities."

Trotter said he had been going to grace and favour residence Dorneywood on and off for a period of weeks while Prescott had been in the news.

After seeing Prescott and his colleagues from a public footpath behind Dorneywood, Trotter knew he could get a better shot from a road 600 yards in front of the mansion.

He said: "By the time I got there, they were already playing croquet. With the naked eye, you could clearly see them on the lawn. When I looked through a long lens and saw what they were doing, I had to laugh."

Trotter added: "It makes me laugh, he keeps going on about the paparazzi. I've been covering war zones for 20 years."

The pictures were first published by The Mail on Sunday on 29 May and have run in most of the nationals, including the front page of the Daily Mirror, and led to Prescott giving up the use of Dorneywood.

Trotter wouldn't reveal how much money the photos earned him but said: "It was a pleasant surprise. It's not as much as Prescott earns and I still can't afford one Jag, let alone two."

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