Saturday, May 03, 2008

Samy is Free

December 15, 2001, dawned overcast at Pakistan’s Chaman crossing point into Afghanistan, and Al-Jazeera reporter Abdelhaq Sadah and cameraman Sami Muhyideen al-Haj were anxious to get moving. Just across the border, the Taliban had fled Kandahar, their rule effectively ended by a fierce U.S. air and Afghan ground assault. The pair’s assignment was to cover the aftermath.

They wouldn’t get far, as Sadah recalls today. When they presented their passports, a Pakistani border guard grew angry. Sadah could go through, the officer barked, but there was a problem with al-Haj’s passport. The officer produced an English-language notice from Pakistani intelligence instructing border guards to apprehend al-Haj for suspected links to al-Qaeda, Sadah recalled.

Both journalists were puzzled. Several times over two months, al-Haj had crossed Chaman with another Al-Jazeera crew without incident. Just a few days earlier, Sadah and al-Haj had traveled across the border to Spinboldak, where they reported on damage to the main Afghan road from Chaman to Kandahar.

Al-Haj thought there was a misunderstanding. The written order that the border guard produced listed the number of his old Sudanese passport, which he had lost two years earlier. A Pakistani intelligence official identifying himself as Major Nadeem arrived at the border later that day and told the two journalists not to worry. The next morning, Sadah said, the major drove off with al-Haj.

“Since that time, I have not seen Sami,” Sadah told CPJ. Neither have al-Haj’s colleagues, family, and friends.

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