Two journalists who believe they are on a US “kill list” are suing President Donald Trump and other top administration officials.
POLITICO reports that prominent Al Jazeera reporter Ahmad Zaidan and freelance journalist Bilal Abdul Kareem, who has risen to prominence with his reports from rebel-held areas of Syria, filed a lawsuit on Thursday in the US District Court in Washington. They contend that they were erroneously placed on the “kill list” during the Obama administration and that Trump has illegally maintained that designation.
Files leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and published by The Intercept in 2015 indicate that US officials claimed in a private presentation that Zaidan, a Pakistani and Syrian citizen who has conducted a series of interviews with top Al Qaeda figures, was a member of Al Qaeda and of the the Muslim Brotherhood and appeared on a terror watch list.
Abdul Kareem, a US citizen reporting from the rebel perspective in Syria in recent years, claims in the suit that he has “narrowly avoided being killed by five separate air strikes” over the past year.
In the suit, filed by human rights group Reprieve, both men deny any association with Al Qaeda or the Taliban. The suit says the Intercept report led to Zaidan being forced to leave Pakistan, where he’d worked for Al Jazeera for 20 years, and take a new post in Qatar. Abdul Kareem is still reporting from inside Syria.
Meanwhile, advocacy group CAGE has called for Bilal Abdul Kareem’s name to removed from the kill-list immediately.
Moazzam Begg, CAGE Outreach Director, said: “Abdul Kareem provides valuable insight into the conflict in Syria, being one of the only accredited journalists there reporting in English from the ground. His material has been widely used by mainstream media and he has become a powerful voice in the Syrian war.
“The killing of an American journalist in the course of his work by its own government would be an unprecedented act in the War on Terror. It would send a deplorable message about the state of independent reporting in the US, which would resonate across nations.”
And Bilal Abdul Kareem told CAGE: “What does the US government have to fear from me? They fear the truths that we have been revealing about their ‘war on terror’ in Syria. They fear that the American people are starting to hear that the drone programme that has killed so many innocent people creates more enemies than the government could ever fight. They are afraid that people are going to see the reality that not every Islamic fighter is planning an attack on Americans. This is why they want me dead.
“My religion is the most important thing to me. I also see that helping people see the truth through journalism brings them closer together rather than feeding them false narratives to keep them apart. If my religion and principals cost me my life then I’m ready for that. Until that time I will continue my work here in Syria.”