|Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein was released in Baghdad. (HADI MIZBAN/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)|
BAGHDAD - Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein was reunited with family and colleagues yesterday, ending more than two years in US military custody after Iraqi judges dropped all legal proceedings against him.
Tearful relatives rushed to embrace Hussein, who had been given just a few hours' notice of his release. He thanked co-workers and supporters around the world who had worked on his behalf.
"I have spent two years in prison even though I was innocent. I thank everybody," said Hussein, 36, looking healthy and dressed in a brown, traditional Iraqi robe.
American military police handed over Hussein to AP colleagues at a checkpoint near Baghdad International Airport two years and four days after US Marines detained him in Ramadi, 70 miles west of the capital.
Hussein, who is unmarried, was brought out of the detention facility at Camp Cropper to the checkpoint aboard a prison bus. There he was hugged by two colleagues before being driven to a Baghdad location for his reunion with more than a dozen family members.
He spoke to other well-wishers on a mobile phone as he was showered with flowers and sweets. Later, he attended a traditional feast with colleagues and relatives.
Two judicial amnesty committees had ruled in recent days that there would be no trial on any of the accusations raised again Hussein. After confirming those decisions, the US military's detention command said Monday it no longer deemed Hussein a security threat and he would be freed.
US military investigators had asserted that Hussein had links to insurgents and was found in possession of bomb-making materials when he was detained in 2006.