King: LI man released from Iraq detainment

Dec 27, 2011 Issues: -

Newsday -- by Zachary R. Dowdy

A Long Island man who was detained by Iraqi military forces for over two weeks has been released, said Rep. Peter King.

U.S. Army veteran Alex Antiohos and two other men, National Guardsman Jonas March of Savannah, Ga., and Kevin Fisher of Fiji, all security contractors, were released Tuesday after being detained since Dec. 9, said King (R-Seaford), who launched his own diplomatic effort to free them after the Long Island man's wife contacted his office.

"This never should have happened," King said shortly after hearing the men had arrived safely in Baghdad. "The fact that it did is unsettling. They may have been caught in a bureaucratic fight between factions in Iraq. But Iraq is supposed to be our ally."

The apparent mishap troubled King, who said it could be a sign of problems ahead as Iraq adjusts to a postwar society. The last U.S. troops, whom King called a "stabilizing force," left the country this month to close the nearly nine-year war that toppled Saddam Hussein.

King said he first heard of the problem on Dec. 19 when Melissa Antiohos of North Babylon called his office to say that her husband, who was an Iraq War veteran, was being held by Iraqi Army forces in Mahmudiyah, part of the infamous "Triangle of Death," as they traveled in a convoy.

The men were being held on an Army base by the 17th Commando Brigade of the 25th Division of the Iraqi army for vague reasons, King said. Their mission authorization paperwork was being questioned despite being granted by the Iraqi Ministry of Interior, he said.

On Dec. 21, King wrote a letter to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki saying "it would be deeply meaningful to me if Mr. Antiohos and his colleagues, Messrs. Fisher and March, could be released from administrative detention immediately."

Iraqi and U.S. officials could not be reached for comment.

In the letter, King requested they be released before Christmas Day, but the release took place Tuesday.

"It's a good-news story," King said. "This was tense for me. I don't know the people involved but I can only imagine what it was like for the Americans who were detained, especially over Christmas."