Trial For Detained CBS News Cameraman Set For April

Around 10 PM Baghdad time last night, Larry Doyle, the CBS News bureau chief in Baghdad, received an email informing him of the trial date for Abdul Ameer Younis Hussein, an Iraqi cameraman who had worked for CBS until he was wounded and taken into custody by the U.S. military in April 2005.

Hussein has been held at the Abu Ghraib prison since the incident, though no charges have been made against him publicly. CBS News has been pushing for more information about why Hussein is being held, but has not taken a position on his guilt or innocence. "Our position from the beginning is we're not able to take a position, because we're stymied in finding out what evidence there is against him," says Doyle.

The email Doyle received informed him that Hussein's trial was scheduled to take place the following morning. That would give Hussein's lawyers less than 12 hours to prepare their defense, in the middle of the night, with little idea of the charges that would be brought against him.

After receiving the email, Doyle contacted a number of the people involved in the case, including Scott Horton, one of Hussein's lawyers. Horton then contacted a military public affairs officer connected to the case. He complained that the email received by Doyle, sent such a short time before the trial was to take place, did not constitute adequate notice. In addition, Horton pointed out that neither he nor Hussein's other lawyer had been given any notice of the trial at all.

The trial was subsequently delayed by an Iraqi judge, and is now scheduled to take place on April 5. While the charges against Hussein remain unclear, Doyle has been told that the military believes that Hussein was inciting a crowd in Mosul while videotaping.

The CBS News Baghdad bureau has conducted its own informal investigation of the incident. The investigation included recreating the events of the day by talking to witnesses who were at the scene in Mosul, interviewing Hussein on two occasions, and double checking with Hussein's references from when he was first hired, as well as references in Mosul, says Doyle. It has uncovered no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of Hussein.

I asked Doyle whether he ever has concerns about the Iraqi freelancers with whom he works. "We have a staff here, some of whom we've had since 1990, who I would trust with my life," says Doyle. "I know their character. And these are the people, because of their language skills, who do a lot of the vetting work for us. They've never once gotten a bad apple. So I'm fairly confident, although we could be proven wrong. But so far our record is spotless."