CBS Cameraman Cleared; Chaos Follows

We've been following the story of Abdul Ameer Hussein, an Iraqi cameraman who was working for CBS News when he was wounded and taken into custody by the U.S. military in April 2005 on suspicion of terrorism. Hussein has been held without charge since the incident, and CBS News has called for evidence against him to be produced.

Today the story had a happy ending, at least as far as Hussein is concerned: He was cleared after an Iraqi court ruling that there was no evidence to support accusations that he had recruited Iraqis for the insurgency and instigated a crowd as he filmed clashes in Mosul. He is still in Army custody, but is expected to be released soon.

''I am so happy,'' Hussein's brother, Mohammed Younis Hussein, told the Associated Press. ''I have cried a lot these months, but now I feel I can rest. It's incredible.''

The scene outside the courtroom after the ruling was chaotic.

According to a CBS News employee who was at the scene, a dispute broke out between the Iraqi guards at the courthouse and the journalists covering the trial. An agreement had been in place to allow cameras into the parking area near the courthouse, but the guards decided they did not want the cameras there. Eventually they relented and allowed the cameras. However, after the ruling, when the cameramen tried to film people coming out of the courthouse, one guard "freaked out" and shot his gun in the air. He then pointed it at a camera.

Not soon after, a number of guards started shooting into the air and pointing their weapons at the reporters in the area. Scott Horton, one of Hussein's lawyers, and a CBS television crew were held at gunpoint for 15 or 20 minutes, despite the fact that the guards apparently knew who they were. Eventually most of those at the scene were able to climb into cars and armored vehicles and leave the courthouse area. "It was very scary," said the CBS News employee. "It escalated with no warning from nothing to a lot. It could easily have escalated much further. It was our nightmare scenario."

Scott Horton, the lawyer for Hussein, has agreed to write a firsthand account of the experience for Public Eye. We will post it later today.*

*UPDATE: Looks like Horton's account is going to be a bit delayed. Look for it in the coming days.

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