Sunday, July 16, 2006

Wife of Al-Jazeera Journalist Files Lawsuit Against Bush, Rumsfeld

Dima Tahboub, the widow of Tareq Ayyoub, has announced she is suing the White House and the Pentagon for $30,000,000 over her husband’s death. Ayyoub, a 35-year-old Palestinian who lived in Jordan, had traveled to Baghdad to report the war for Al-Jazeera five days before he was killed when US bombing shattered their bureau in Baghdad. His widow told reporters from her home in Jordan, that she was unable to comment on the lawsuit.

Hamdi Rifai — Tahboub’s lawyer — told Arab News in a phone interview yesterday that prior to the bombings in 2003, Al-Jazeera had provided the coordinates of their bureau in Baghdad to the US military “to ensure there would be no accidental bombing, particularly in light of the fact that the US allegedly accidentally bombed in Kabul, Afghanistan in 2001.” He said Al-Jazeera was aware “there was anti-Al-Jazeera rhetoric coming from the US Administration at that time.” Rifai said more facts “will be revealed as the case proceeds, demonstrating with clear and convincing evidence of the US Administration’s intent to bomb Al-Jazeera in Baghdad.”

Rifai also referred to ‘The Number 10 memo,” which he said showed the US Administration’s efforts to seal the content of that memo, and the discussions where Bush suggested the bombing of Al-Jazeera to Blair.” It is because of these facts, said Rifai that: “We proceeded with filing of the notice of claim, pursuant to the tort claims act, under US federal law, to enforce the Geneva Convention protocols for the protection of civilians within areas of armed conflict.”

Rifai said the Bush Administration — the lawsuit specifically names President George W. Bush as the Commander in Chief, and Donald Rumsfeld as the Secretary of Defense — has six months to respond. “If they fail to respond, we will proceed with the filing of the lawsuit in the federal district court in Washington D.C.”

On April 8, 2003, US forces bombed the Baghdad offices of Al-Jazeera, killing Ayyoub. Moments later and less than a mile away, another explosion, reportedly from US artillery, damaged the offices of Abu Dhabi TV trapping as many as 30 journalists in the debris. A US tank then fired on the Palestine Hotel, where almost all the international journalists were staying. A Ukranian cameraman with the Reuters news agency Taras Protsyuk, and Jose Couso, who worked for Telecinco Spanish televison, were killed.

Pentagon officials adamantly maintain US military forces “absolutely did not” target the journalists. At the time, a US military spokeswoman denied the missile strike was intentional. “We did not target Al-Jazeera. We only target legitimate military targets,” said Maj. Rumi Nielson-Green at US forward headquarters in Qatar. Al-Jazeera accused the US military of deliberately targeting its offices and recalled that the station’s Kabul bureau had been hit in November 2001 during the US-led assault on Afghanistan.

Last November, in what is has become know as the “Downing Street Memo,” the Daily Mirror, a British newspaper, reported that President Bush had also wanted to bomb Al-Jazeera’s headquarters in Doha, Qatar. The memo allegedly reported that during a 2004 meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Bush discussed the bombing. Blair allegedly talked him out of it.

The meeting between Bush and Blair occurred as US troops were engaged in brutal combat in Fallujah (west of Baghdad) — an offensive aired with all its gore by Al-Jazeera but mostly sanitized in the United States. Bush was reportedly outraged that Al-Jazeera was reporting the high number of Iraqi civilians killed in the assault.

The Bush Administration described the Daily Mirror’s report as “outlandish.” After refusing to comment on the story for close to a week, Blair called the Mirror report a “conspiracy theory.” Blair then responded to a parliamentary request whether he had any information on the Bush administration’s plans to bomb Al-Jazeera. Blair’s written response was one word: “None.” The British government then banned the British media from disclosing the memo’s contents. It also pressed charges against two former government officials for leaking classified government information.


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