Foreign & Commonwealth Office
King Charles St
London SW1A 2AH
Dear Mr Straw,
I am writing on behalf of the Committee of the London Freelance branch of the National Union of Journalists.
One of our branch members, Michael Burke of Insider Films, has brought to our attention the situation of one of his Iraqi employees, Yunis Kuthair. Since September 24th last year, Yunis has been interned at Abu Ghraib prison. Yunis was seized, along with his three brothers, during a night-time raid on his family's home in Baghdad. The soldiers also took videotapes, papers, and approximately five million Iraq dinar in cash. The Coalition Press Information Centre in Baghdad have confirmed to us that Yunis is in American custody, as detainee number 151186, but have declined to give us the reasons for his detention, or any idea when he might be released.
Yunis is 33 years old, and an experienced journalist and cameraman - footage he has shot in Baghdad and Fallujah has appeared on Channel 4 news, among others. His family have thus far been unable to see him, or find out anything about his condition, and they are, of course, very worried about him, particularly following the recent attacks on Abu Ghraib, and the revelations of abuse and torture inside it. It may also be of interest to you that Yunis has been imprisoned at Abu Ghraib before in 1994, Yunis was jailed for six months by Saddam Hussein for writing poetry that was deemed as subversive.
Yunis was not a combatant, and has not been charged with any crime. We believe that there is no justification for his continuing detention. On behalf of the 3,200 members of London Freelance branch of the NUJ I urge you to do what you can to secure Yunis Kuthair's release, and in the meantime ensure that he is not being mistreated in any way. Specifically, we ask that you: i) write to the Coalition Provisional Authority and the US Secretary of State to ask if they can explain why he is being held and what is the legal basis for his detention; (ii) ask the British representation in Iraq to approach the Abu Ghraib prison authorities to ask whether a group of Yunis's colleagues from the UK may be given passes to visit him and arrangements made to facilitate such a visit, and; (iii) ask an appropriate civil servant within the Foreign office to liase with us on this case.