Two Newsday reporters among 4 freed

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NEW YORK, April 1 (UPI) — Four journalists, including two who worked for Newsday, last seen in Iraq March 24, are safe in Jordan, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Tuesday.

Matthew McAllester, a reporter for Newsday, and Moises Saman, a photographer for the newspaper, were freed by Iraqi authorities along with free-lance photographer Molly Bingham and Johan Rydeng Spanner, a free-lance photographer with the Danish daily Jyllands Posten.

“CPJ received word of Bingham’s release from her mother, who confirmed that her daughter was safe and traveling with Spanner and the Newsday journalists,” the organization said in a statement.

Newsday said McAllester told his editors, “We are fine. We are well.”

The journalists were last seen March 24 in Baghdad’s Palestine Hotel. They were handcuffed by Iraqi authorities and taken to a prison.

“They were interrogated several times by Iraqi intelligence officials who suspected they may have been American spies — something (the journalists) adamantly denied,” Newsday reported.

The newspaper said, however, the journalists “were never physically mistreated or abused although the conditions were harsh …(and) they heard and felt bombs exploding in Baghdad throughout the night.”

Spanner was in Iraq on a tourist visa, Danmarks Radio reported.

He told the Jyllands Posten newspaper he and the others were accused of being spies for the CIA and the Pentagon.

“I very much doubted that I would get out alive,” he said. “One of those leading the interrogations formed a pistol with his fingers every time he walked by me, but none of us has been struck.”

Spanner said they were held in solitary confinement for five days in a large prison some 20 miles west of Baghdad. He said though they were not officially charged, the Iraqis sometimes blindfolded them during interrogation.

He said in the last 24 hours of his imprisonment, some 50 coalition bombs landed near the prison. He said that on Tuesday the journalists were put into two vehicles and driven to the Jordanian border.

CPJ said it was still investigating the whereabouts of Fred Nerac, a cameraman for Britain’s ITV and translator Hussein Othman. They were last seen in southern Iraq March 22 when their was reportedly fired upon by coalition forces.

Copyright 2003 by United Press International. All rights reserved.

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