April 27, 2005
Brad Clift, a Courant photographer documenting the plight of refugees in Sudan, was detained by security forces and placed under house arrest Tuesday.
Clift had been working as a freelance photographer in Sudan's Darfur region since Thursday, when he traveled to Africa and met up with a relief group from the Hartford Catholic Worker. The ministry is distributing food at refugee camps near the western Darfur town of Nyala.
It is not clear why Sudanese security officials initially detained Clift, but U.S. State Department officials confirmed Tuesday afternoon that he had been placed under house arrest at a U.S. Agency for International Development office near Nyala. State department officials told Thom McGuire, the Courant's assistant managing editor for photo and graphics, that Clift would be confined to the AID office until a hearing before Sudanese officials, probably this morning.
"I was arrested unjustly for trying to do something good," Clift said in a statement delivered by cellphone to Tracy Gordon Fox, a Courant reporter and close friend. The two worked together in 2002 on a story about Willimantic's decades-long struggle with drug abuse.
"I am being accused unjustly for trying to take a picture of someone suffering in a camp," Clift said.
Clift has won numerous national and international awards for his photographs, often of refugees and war victims, and is well-known for traveling to international hot spots. In 1987, Clift won an honorable mention in the RFK Journalism Awards program for a Courant series called "Stevie's World of Pride."
"We don't really know why they picked Brad up," said Jacqueline Allen-Doucot of the Hartford Catholic Worker. Her husband, Chris Doucot, had seen Clift earlier in the week before heading to Khartoum to travel back to the U.S. "There could have been confusion about his photo permits, or all the other countries stamped in his passport, which aroused suspicion on the part of the Sudanese."
McGuire said Clift traveled to Sudan as an independent photographer after the Courant had considered, but decided against, an assignment to the troubled region. The western province of Darfur has been torn by civil war for the past two years, and the central government in Khartoum is accused of supporting Arab militias that have killed, brutalized and raped refugees in the region. The United Nations estimates that as many as 2 million Sudanese have been forced from their homes or into neighboring Chad and that as many as 180,000 Sudanese have been killed.
McGuire said he was in touch yesterday with the Sudanese and Egyptian consulates and with State Department officials. The State Department is attempting to arrange for a lawyer to be present at the hearing tomorrow where Clift's detention will be considered, McGuire said.
"The State Department is certainly aware and they are working on it," McGuire said. "We're hoping that a favorable solution can be worked out."