Guantanamo prisoner urges release of BBC reporter

MIAMI Tue May 29, 2007 8:41am BST

A poster of the missing BBC journalist Alan Johnston, who disappeared in Gaza on March 12, is displayed during the World Economic Forum in the King Hussein Convention Centre at the Dead Sea May 18 2007. A television cameraman held prisoner for years at the U.S. Navy base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has issued an impassioned plea for the release of a fellow journalist kidnapped in Gaza. REUTERS/Ali Jarekji

A poster of the missing BBC journalist Alan Johnston, who disappeared in Gaza on March 12, is displayed during the World Economic Forum in the King Hussein Convention Centre at the Dead Sea May 18 2007. A television cameraman held prisoner for years at the U.S. Navy base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has issued an impassioned plea for the release of a fellow journalist kidnapped in Gaza.

Credit: Reuters/Ali Jarekji

MIAMI (Reuters) - A TV cameraman held prisoner for years at the U.S. Navy base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has issued an impassioned plea for the release of a BBC journalist kidnapped in Gaza.

"While the United States has kidnapped me and held me for years on end, this is not a lesson that Muslims should copy," said Guantanamo detainee Sami al-Hajj of the al-Jazeera satellite television network.

His comments came in an open letter to the kidnappers of BBC correspondent Alan Johnston, in which he stressed that Muslims should never be responsible for illegal detentions like the one he said he has endured at the hands of the United States.

"What the Americans are doing to me is very, very wrong," al-Hajj, a native of Sudan, said in the letter, which was made public by his lawyer on Monday.

"Yet this can never mean that a Muslim should similarly hold a British journalist, and put him and his family through similar suffering," he said.

"Please, then, as brothers in one faith, consider this gift that I request of you: That you release Alan Johnston as soon as possible, without conditions."

Al-Hajj, 38, has been held at Guantanamo for nearly five years on suspicion of having links to Islamic militant groups. He has been accused of making videos of Osama bin Laden.

Johnston, who disappeared on March 12 while driving his car in the Gaza Strip, has been held captive longer than any other foreign journalists who have been seized by gunmen in Gaza.

A little-known Islamist group claimed responsibility for the abduction in an audio recording earlier this month.