Hassoun's Family Wanted $1 Million for Story

Hassoun's Family Wanted $1 Million for Story

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The brother of a Utah Marine charged with desertion had been trying to negotiate a $1 million deal for book and movie rights until the military this month said Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun was AWOL again.

"I doubt there's any deals right now," Mohamad Hassoun told The Associated Press.

Military officials labeled Wassef Hassoun a deserter Jan. 5 when he failed to report for duty at Camp Lejeune, N.C., after taking an authorized holiday leave.

Mohamad Hassoun said he doesn't know his brother's location.

"We are worried for his safety. We pray, that's all we can do for him," he said.

Wassef Hassoun, 24, already faced a desertion charge after disappearing from his Marine unit in Iraq last summer, even though he claimed he had been abducted.

His brother began negotiating with the Los Angeles public relations firm Sands Digital Media in August, just weeks after the Marine was returned to the United States, said the firm's owner, Michael Sands.

No contract was ever signed, and negotiations have broken off.

"Everything is off the table after what happened to my brother," Mohamad Hassoun said. "He would have to tell his story, and I don't know his story."

Sands also said a $1 million fee is unlikely, mainly because whatever sympathy factor there may have been for Wassef Hassoun is gone with the second desertion.

"I asked him what he wanted, and he said a million dollars," Sands said. "A million dollars? This is not Jessica Lynch."

Lynch, an Army supply clerk, was rescued in a daring commando raid 20 days after her convoy took a wrong turn and was ambushed in Nasiriyah, Iraq, in March 2003. Nine soldiers from Lynch's unit and two others traveling with them were killed.

"Jessica Lynch got a million," Sands said, but "there was proof she got captured."

Hassoun was an Arabic translator for his unit in Iraq when he disappeared and was listed as missing June 20.

On June 27, the Arabic news network Al-Jazeera broadcast the photo of Hassoun looking as if he was a hostage, blindfolded and with a sword behind his head. A group called the National Islamic Resistance/1920 Revolution Brigade claimed to be holding him and was threatening to decapitate him unless detainees in "U.S.-led occupation prisons" were released, Al-Jazeera said.

Hassoun contacted American officials in Beirut, Lebanon, on July 8, and he was taken to the American Embassy there. He spent about a week in a U.S. military hospital at Landstuhl, Germany, then returned to the United States, and eventually to Camp Lejeune.

He has made one statement since returning to the United States, saying he was captured and held against his will by anti-coalition forces.

During fighting in November in Fallujah, U.S. troops recovered Hassoun's personal belongings in a box on the third floor of a three-story commercial building. The property included an identification card, a uniform and a book.

The military charged Hassoun last month with desertion, theft, loss of government property and wrongful appropriation of a government vehicle. He was allowed to take his holiday leave at his brother's suburban Salt Lake City home last month, but the military says he never returned to North Carolina.

Sands said he would only reopen negotiations with the Hassoun family if the military were to drop all charges against Wassef.

"I think he should give himself up, and come back and tell us the real story," Sands said. "He should come clean."

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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