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Iraq holds first hearing of detained French reporter

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

A French reporter held for two weeks for taking unauthorised photos in Baghdad appeared before an Iraqi judge for the first time Tuesday, looking dishevelled but in good health, an AFP journalist said.

Nadir Dendoune, who also holds Australian and Algerian nationality, was arrested last month in the south of the capital for allegedly taking photos of security installations without a permit, and a judge is set to decide soon whether he should be released or charged with an offence.

Dressed in a jacket and jeans, the journalist appeared handcuffed at the Central Criminal Court of Iraq in Baghdad's heavily-fortified Green Zone, unshaved and visibly thin.

"Trying to keep in good spirits is not so simple," Dendoune told AFP briefly, speaking in French. "But I am being treated well at the moment."

In a 30-minute hearing which took place with French embassy officials in attendance, the reporter "was coherent, but quite weak", according to a witness who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The judge handling the case, who cannot be named under Iraqi law, told AFP he would "carefully consider (Dendoune's) testimony."

"We will keep him in custody until the investigation is complete," he said, but declined to say how long Dendoune would be held.

A judicial source said when Dendoune was arrested on January 23, he was carrying a camera with which he took photographs of offices of Iraq's intelligence services, police and army.

Journalists in Baghdad are required to seek prior approval from the capital's security command centre in order to take photographs at checkpoints and of members of the security forces.

Dendoune's lawyer Naama al-Rubaye, however, argued that Dendoune was simply "exercising his journalistic duties. He had no intention of breaking the law."

"We have asked for his release," he added.

The reporter was visiting Iraq to compile a series of stories on the upcoming 10th anniversary of the US-led invasion of the country for French monthly magazine Le Monde Diplomatique.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130205/iraq-holds-first-hearing-detained-french-reporter