Reuters: The U.S. military said on Tuesday it had detained a senior journalist at one of Iraq’s biggest television stations because he may have information about “Iranian-sponsored criminal activity”. BAGHDAD (Reuters) – The U.S. military said on Tuesday it had detained a senior journalist at one of Iraq’s biggest television stations because he may have information about “Iranian-sponsored criminal activity”.
The U.S. military accuses Iran of financing, arming and training rogue Shi’ite militia groups that attack U.S. and Iraqi forces, a charge Tehran denies. The military has intensified operations to kill or capture members of these groups.
Hafedh al-Beshara, news editor and manager of political programming of the al-Furat television station, was detained along with his son, who is accused of belonging to one of the Iranian-backed groups, in a raid on his home last week.
The U.S. military initially said Beshara was being held after an unauthorised machinegun was found in his home.
In a statement to Reuters on Tuesday, U.S. military spokesman Major Brad Leighton said: “Coalition forces assessed (Beshara) to have key information on Iranian-sponsored criminal activity and he was detained.”
He said the journalist would be questioned in the next 48-72 hours to determine the level of his involvement.
“If there is no probable cause linking him to criminal activity, (Beshara) will be released as soon as possible.”
The military said in an earlier statement that Beshara’s son was a suspected intelligence operative for the “special groups”, jargon for the Iranian-backed cells, and had helped in attacks on U.S. and Iraqi forces.
Iraq’s main journalists’ union demanded Beshara’s release and criticised the military raid, which also involved a search of Furat’s studios in central Baghdad.
“We condemn the U.S. forces’ raid against an Iraqi media organisation. These institutions are protected by the constitution,” said Jabbar Tarrad, deputy director of the Iraqi Journalists’ Syndicate.
Furat is owned by the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, the biggest Shi’ite party in Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s government. Its leader is Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, one of Iraq’s most influential politicians, who has been courted by Washington and met President George W. Bush at the White House in November.