Page last updated at 10:26 GMT, Friday, 11 April 2008 11:26 UK

US stalls on Iraq amnesty order

Bilal Hussein protest in Madrid, 8 April
There have been international rallies for the release of Bilal Hussein

The US military says it will continue to hold Iraqi news photographer Bilal Hussein while it reviews a government amnesty order.

The Associated Press (AP) man has been held for two years on suspicion of helping Iraqi insurgents.

But Iraqi judges on Wednesday dismissed the accusations and ordered his release under this year's Amnesty Law.

A US military spokesman said Mr Hussein would still be held as a "terrorist" threat pending a review of the order.

Lt Cdr Kenneth Marshall said the order related to only one of the charges against Mr Hussein.

Cdr Marshall said: "An amnesty panel has concluded that one of the charges is covered by amnesty; a separate panel considering the other charge has not yet announced its conclusion."

He added: "By its own terms, the Amnesty Law does not purport to compel release of detainees in [US] detention facilities."

The US says it has a UN Security Council mandate to detain anyone believed to be a security risk, notwithstanding Iraqi judicial orders.

'Do the right thing'

AP says Mr Hussein was taken into custody in April 2006 after sheltering strangers in his home following an explosion near his home in Falluja.

The US military says the photographer aroused suspicion as he was often at the scene of militant attacks.

It says soldiers setting up an observation post entered his home and allegedly found bomb-making materials and propaganda.

AP president Tom Curley has said officials must "finally do the right thing" and free Mr Hussein.

The Human Rights Watch group also appealed for his release.

"The US military held Bilal Hussein for nearly two years without charging, then transferred him to the Iraqi justice system, which apparently sees no reason to detain him," said the group's Middle East director, Joe Stork.

Mr Hussein was part of an AP photo team that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2005.

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