June 2005 Archives


White House opposes extending terrorism insurance law
Holly Manges Jones on June 30, 2005 9:31 PM ET

[JURIST] The Bush administration indicated Thursday that it is against extending the current Terrorism Risk Insurance Act [PDF] when it expires at the end of the year, saying it was meant to be temporary. The law was enacted after 9/11 and offered government aid to insure against losses as a result of terrorist attacks, mainly for large construction projects. US Treasury Secretary John Snow [official profile] released a report [PDF] saying that an extension would "crowd out innovation" [press release] and hinder private development, while Senator Charles Schumer [official website], a supporter of the extension, criticized the report as being "slanted" [press release] and said it will be difficult for large projects to go forward without the insurance. The White House will, however, consider an extension if the act is amended to reflect higher deductibles and an increase in the size of the types of catastrophic events that would be covered. Insurers have joined with a coalition of businesses and industry members in saying that the Treasury report does not reflect the current terrorism insurance marketplace. AP has more.






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UN commission finalizes reparations for victims of 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait
Holly Manges Jones on June 30, 2005 8:59 PM ET

[JURIST] The UN Compensation Committee [official website] approved the final claims [press release] from victims of the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait [BBC backgrounder] Thursday, bringing the total award payments to $52.5 billion. The panel, which consists of the fifteen permanent members of the UN Security Council [official website], made awards Thursday to the governments of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iran, and Jordan totaling over $366 million. The commission has processed more than 2.68 million claims over the past twelve years, which were funded by five percent of Iraq's oil sales. The claims processing goal of the committee is finished, but the panel will continue to make payments in the amount of $200 million every three months. Individuals receive payments first over oil companies, which will be paid last. AP has more.






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UPDATE ~ Spanish bishops call for public opposition to same-sex marriage law
Holly Manges Jones on June 30, 2005 7:54 PM ET

[JURIST] The Spanish Catholic Bishops Conference Thursday deplored the 187-147 vote by the country's Congress of Deputies [official website in Spanish] to legalize same-sex marriage [JURIST report], calling for citizens to publicly oppose the law "through all legitimate means". In a statement [press release in Spanish] the bishops said "Today the words 'husband' and 'wife' have been systematically eliminated from the Code, in such a way that marriage, insofar as union of a man and a woman, is no longer contemplated by our laws." ZENIT has more.






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Corporations and securities brief ~ Glassman named as acting SEC Chair
James Murdock on June 30, 2005 7:04 PM ET

[JURIST] Leading Thursday's corporations and securities law news, as expected, SEC Chairman William Donaldson [official profile] officially stepped down today, having announced his resignation earlier this month [JURIST report]. Donaldson steered the regulatory agency for the last two-plus years through an era of intense activity and litigation. President Bush has named SEC Commissioner Cynthia Glassman [official profile] as the acting SEC Chairman until the Senate confirms Donaldson's permanent replacement, expected to be White House nominee and Congressman Christopher Cox [JURIST report]. AP has more.

In other corporations and securities law news...

  • KPMG's Canadian auditing unit has settled with the SEC. KPMG Canada [corporate website] was censured for providing bookkeeping services to the now-bankrupt Southwestern Water Exploration Co. while also auditing the company. In a press release, the SEC announced that KPMG has agreed to pay $76,000 in fees and that two of KPMG Canada's executives have agreed to temporary bans from representing companies before the SEC. KPMG Canada said in its own statement that the settlement "reflects KPMG LLP (Canada)’s commitment to work constructively with regulators." AP has more.

  • As reported earlier on JURIST's Paper Chase, Bernard Ebbers [Wikipedia profile] has forfeited almost all of his possessions as part of a settlement with former shareholders of his bankrupt company, WorldCom [JURIST news archive]. Ebbers will be forced to liquidate his nearly $40 million fortune to settle the multiple lawsuits brought against him by shareholders who lost billions in the company's bankruptcy. Ebbers was convicted of corporate fraud in March [JURIST report] and faces up to 85 years in prison. The New York Times has more.





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House votes to cut funding for developments involving property seizures
Holly Manges Jones on June 30, 2005 7:03 PM ET

[JURIST] The US House of Representatives passed a measure Thursday which would cut federal funding for development projects that involve seizure of private property. The legislation approved 231-189 was proposed in response to last week's US Supreme Court ruling on eminent domain [JURIST report] and was inserted as an amendment to a spending bill [text] for the Treasury, Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development departments. Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ) [official website] sponsored the bill and denounced the Supreme Court's eminent domain decision by saying, "Once again, the highest court in the land has shown its inability to interpret the Constitution and defend the liberties and freedoms our forefathers so desperately envisioned when they established our great nation." Reuters has more.

Meanwhile, members of both the House and Senate Thursday promised similar bills to pull funding from government projects where individual homeowners are forced to sell their property in order for strip malls or hotels to be built in their place. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-WI) [official website], chairman of the House Judiciary Committee [official website], and ranking minority member Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-MI) [official website] said they will propose the Private Property Rights Protection Act to combat eminent domain. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) [official website] and Bill Nelson (D-FL) [official website] are also joining forces to introduce the Protection of Homes, Small Businesses and Private Property Act [text, PDF] which will limit eminent domain to "public use" situations rather than promote private economic development.

The debate over the high court's ruling [JURIST report] has nonetheless not been without its partisanship. Within the Wisconsin Congressional caucus, for example, Rep. Sensenbrenner has criticized the Supreme Court's ruling by saying it "has the potential of becoming the Dred Scott decision] of the 21st century" while fellow Wisconsan Rep. David Obey [official website], ranking Democrat of the House Appropriations Committee [official website] and a supporter of the eminent domain ruling, has reminded Congress of the "system of separation of powers." The Washington Post has more.






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States brief ~ WA high court finds for Seattle Times in joint operating agreement dispute
Rachel Felton on June 30, 2005 5:33 PM ET

[JURIST] Leading Thursday's states brief, the Washington Supreme Court ruled today that the Seattle Times [newspaper website] could count monetary losses it incurred during a 2000 strike in its effort to end its joint operating agreement with the Seattle Post-Intelligencer [Wikipedia profile; newspaper website]. In its opinion [text], the Supreme Court agreed with the Times that the monetary losses from the strike were "agency expenses" under the agreement and could be used to calculate "agency revenues." The Times is seeking to invoke a clause in the joint operating agreement that allows either paper to end the agreement if it suffers three consecutive years of losses. The Hearst Corporation [official website], the parent company of The Seattle P-I, argued that losses caused by extraordinary events should not be counted. Further litigation regarding the joint operating agreement is expected. AP has more.

In other state legal news ...

  • Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch announced [RI Attorney General press release] today a $10 million settlement with DuPont Co. [corporate website] over a lawsuit in which the state claimed the company created a public health threat in the form of lead paint. Several million dollars of the settlement will go to the Children's Health Forum to remove lead paint and educate the public, and one million dollars will go the Brown University Medical School for research. The settlement is the result of a 1999 lawsuit by the state against seven manufacturers of lead-based paint. The first trial resulted in a hung jury, and a new trial involving the six remaining defendants is scheduled for September. AP has more.

  • The Mississippi Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a state law providing an inherent characteristic defense does not bar all lawsuits against tobacco companies. RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company [corporate website] argued a lawsuit against them should be dismissed in its entirety because of the law and a 2003 state Supreme Court decision which prohibited lawsuits for damages caused by manufactured commercial cigarettes. In the opinion [PDF text] Justice Mike Randolph said, the 2003 case concluded that the state law precludes tobacco cases based upon product liability, but not all tobacco cases "which could be based on other possible theories of recovery." An inherent characteristic under the Mississippi Products Liability Act [text] is a generic aspect that can not be eliminated without substantially compromising the product's usefulness or desirability and which is recognized by the ordinary person with ordinary knowledge common to the community. AP has more.

  • Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski [official website] has signed legislation making public the disciplinary records of school employees convicted of sexually abusing students. The bill [text] also requires school boards to adopt policies about reporting child abuse and to place a school employee on paid administrative leave when there is "reasonable cause" to support a sex abuse report until the state Department of Human Services or the police decide to pursue or dismiss an investigation. Oregon's Statesman Journal has local coverage.





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Defendant in Egyptian forgery case changes plea to not guilty
Tom Henry on June 30, 2005 4:56 PM ET

[JURIST] Ismail Hussain, a defendant in the forgery trial [JURIST report] of Egyptian presidential candidate Ayman Nour [Wikipedia profile], on Thursday changed his plea to not guilty, saying he earlier made a false confession, acknowledging forging signatures under pressure from security officials. Nour's lawyers said afterwards that his own acquittal was more likely now. The retraction comes two days after a contentious start to Nour's trial [JURIST report] in which hundreds gathered outside the courthouse to protest what they saw as attempt to eliminate any rivals to current President Hosni Mubarak [official profile]. Aljazeera has more.






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Ohio Governor vetoes prohibition on stem cell funding
Tom Henry on June 30, 2005 3:58 PM ET

[JURIST] Ohio Governor Bob Taft [official website] Thursday vetoed as too restrictive [press release] a ban on using funds from a high-tech job initiative [Third Frontier program website] to pay for embryonic stem cell research. Taft said that the ban in its current form would ban funding for stem cell work that is currently acceptable under federal regulations supported by President Bush. The Republican governor received praise from some Democrats for his decision to veto the ban and Democrats may now be willing to back a proposed $500 million bond package held up over the stem cell issue. AP has more.






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US unveils $55M plan to bolster legal protection of African women in G8 run-up
Tom Henry on June 30, 2005 3:38 PM ET

[JURIST] US President George W. Bush unveiled a $55 million initiative "to support women's justice and empowerment in Africa" at the White House Thursday. The stated goals of the plan [White House fact sheet], part of a larger $400 million committment to aiding Africa announced in advance of the upcoming G8 summit [official website] focused on Africa [G8 issue backgrounder] and implementation of the UN's Millenium Development Goals [official website], are to" strengthen the capacity of the legal system to protect women and punish violators by training police, prosecutors, and judges in sexual violence and abuse cases against women, and developing or strengthening laws which protect women and empower their role in society" while addressing the various needs of women who have already become victims of abuse and violence. In his remarks [text] Thursday the President talked about the need to "give more girls in Africa a real chance to avoid exploitation and to chart their own future." AFP has more.






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UK rights groups denounce government terror lists as arbitrary
Tom Henry on June 30, 2005 3:02 PM ET

[JURIST] UK-based human rights groups Statewatch [advocacy website], Campaign Against Criminalising Communities [advocacy website], and the Human Rights and Social Justice Institute [advocacy website] at the London Metropolitan University have collectively denounced [report] the practice of "proscribing” - or labelling groups and individuals as terrorists - to criminalize their behavior in an manner that provides no opportunity for appeal. According to the groups, Britain, the US, the UN, and the EU all have banned various listed [Statewatch list of UK, US, UN and EU terror lists; comparative analysis] "international terrorist organizations" and individuals and the US has frozen the assets of groups who are believed to "support terrorism" while the normal judicial processes governing such serious accusations have been swept aside. Statewatch provides additional background. IPS has more.






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US to investigate new Iran leader link to 1979 hostage crisis
Tom Henry on June 30, 2005 2:31 PM ET

[JURIST] US officials said Thurday that the US would investigate allegations that Iranian president-elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad [BBC profile] was among the revolutionary students responsible for taking American embassy staff in Tehran hostage in 1979 and holding them for 444 days [Jimmy Carter Library backgrounder]. Five former US hostages claim Ahmadinejad was one of their captors while one says he was interrogated by the president-elect. Associates of Ahmadinejad deny the claims, although his website [in Farsi] says that he helped to found the student union which took over the US embassy. Aljazeera reported last week that

As a young student, Ahmadinejad joined an ultraconservative faction of the Office for Strengthening Unity, the radical student group spawned by the 1979 Islamic Revolution and staged the capture of the US Embassy. According to reports, Ahmadinejad attended planning meetings for the US Embassy takeover and at these meetings lobbied for a simultaneous takeover of the Soviet Embassy.
White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said “we are looking into [the reports and statements of former hostages] to better understand the facts.” The allegations could further deepen a rift between Washington and Tehran as disagreements over nuclear developments and human rights records in Iran have caused tensions between the two countries. More specific legal consequences would likely be limited, however, as the Algiers Accords [PDF] that ended the crisis contained a provision precluding former hostages from suing their captives, and in court cases the US Department of Justice has discouraged litigation over the general issue. The Financial Times has more.





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Cyprus approves European Constitution
Tom Henry on June 30, 2005 1:59 PM ET

[JURIST] Cyprus [government website] on Thursday ratified the European Constitution [JURIST news archive] after a special two-day session of the country's parliament [official website]. Lawmakers approved the charter 30-19 in an attempt to counteract the devastating rejections handed down by France [JURIST report] and the Netherlands [JURIST report]. Cyprus was one of 10 new members that joined the EU in May 2004 [EU enlargement website] despite the failure of a UN peace plan to reunify the eastern Mediterranean island after nearly thirty years of division. The sole abstention came from Cyprus Greens [official website] MP George Perdikis, whose party had called for a referendum and suspended vote on the charter. The next significant test for the comatose constitution is a referendum in Luxembourg [JURIST report] scheduled for July 10. AFP has more.






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EU bans trade of devices used to torture
Tom Henry on June 30, 2005 1:27 PM ET

[JURIST] The European Union on Thursday banned the trade of instruments "that have no use other than for capital punishment or torture" according to a European Commission statement. Banned goods include belts that shock with electricity, electric chairs and guillotines. Strict controls will also be imposed on other items, such as leg irons and electric shock weapons, which are able to be used to torture or other cruel or inhumane punishment. A Commission spokesperson acknowledged that the ban was largely symbolic given the small market for such items but stressed that it brought the rules "in line with our political principles." Amnesty International [advocacy website] called the ban a positive step but added that it would do nothing to stop many kinds of mental or moral torture. Review the Guidelines to EU policy towards third countries on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. EUobserver has more.






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Suspected file-swappers arrested in worldwide sweep
Tom Henry on June 30, 2005 12:59 PM ET

[JURIST] The Dutch government said Thursday that police in more than a dozen countries have confiscated computers and made arrests in an illegal file-swapping sweep led by US authorities. The raids occurred Wednesday in the Netherlands, Australia, Israel, Germany, South-Korea, Norway, France, Sweden, Denmark, Russia, Poland, Canada and Hungary, said a spokeswoman for the Dutch Finance Ministry [official website; press release in Dutch]. Most of those arrested are suspected of infringing the copyright of films, software and video games. The raids come in the wake of a landmark US Supreme Court ruling [JURIST report; PDF opinion] Monday that Internet file-trading networks, including Grokster and Morpheus, can be held liable when users copy music, movies and other media without permission. Reuters has more.

3:45 PM ET - The US Justice Department has since issued this press release on "Operation Site Down", described as

the culmination of three separate undercover investigations conducted by the FBI. In the past 24 hours, more than 70 searches were executed in the United States, and more than 20 overseas. Four individuals were arrested in the United States, and searches and/or arrests occurred in the following 10 countries: Canada, Israel, France, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, United Kingdom, Germany, Portugal and Australia. At least eight major online distribution sites were dismantled, preventing tens of millions of further losses to the content industry. More than 120 leading members of the organized online piracy underground were identified by the investigation to date, and as the investigations continue, additional targets will be identified and pursued.
.





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EU leaders urged to "reconnect with citizens" after constitution crisis
David Shucosky on June 30, 2005 11:44 AM ET

[JURIST] European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso [official website] Thursday called for a "period of reflection" on the proposed European constitution [JURIST news archive], now largely in political limbo, in order to "reconnect with our citizens and stimulate a genuine, wide-ranging - but focused - debate." Barroso said "no" votes by France and the Netherlands would be respected [UK Press Association report], but also called the proposed constitution "the best possible compromise" and a "victim of circumstance" [full text of speech]. The French in particular are said to have been more concerned with perceived failures of President Jacques Chirac [JURIST report] than with the constitution itself. RTE News has more.






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Lawmakers defend Guantanamo conditions at hearing
David Shucosky on June 30, 2005 11:15 AM ET

[JURIST] Reporting on their weekend visit [JURIST report] to Guantanamo [JURIST news archive], lawmakers told the US House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday that conditions at the facility were better than expected. Committee Chair Duncan Hunter (R-CA) [official site] said the hearings should lay to rest "irresponsible allegations" about poor conditions there. Army Brig. Gen. Jay Hood, the general in charge of the prison, said investigators were "just beginning" to get useful information [Los Angeles Times report] from detainees and that it was "obvious" that the facility needs to remain open. Democrats complained that the hearing was skewed by a refusal to hear testimony from a lawyer representing the detainees themselves. Reuters has more. The House Armed Services Committee provides recorded audio of Wednesday's hearing, as well as a copy of the Guantanamo detainee menu [PDF].






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Amnesty International slams Australian detention of asylum seekers
David Shucosky on June 30, 2005 10:52 AM ET

[JURIST] Despite the Australian government's recently-announced changes to the system [Sydney Morning Herald report], Amnesty International said Thursday in a new report [text] that Australia's asylum policy is still "tragically flawed" [interview with AI Australia president]. AI says the controversial policy [JURIST report] of mandatory administrative detention results in "prolonged and potentially indefinite" detentions for those seeking relief from human rights violations. While it said new changes to reporting and review procedures [Daily Telegraph report] are a step in the right direction, more change is necessary. Read the AI press release.






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Ex-White House media strategist warns Saddam trial could "easily backfire" for US
David Shucosky on June 30, 2005 10:29 AM ET

[JURIST] Robert Weiner, a former public affairs aide in the Clinton White House and now head of a Washington, DC media relations firm [firm website], said in an op-ed [text] in Thursday's Boston Globe that the upcoming trial of Saddam Hussein [JURIST news archive] "could easily backfire and go haywire from the US government's point of view". Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari wants the trial "over and done with" [JURIST report] and said Wednesday it could start in "a month or two" [Reuters report], but other officials have mentioned outside pressure to delay the trial [JURIST report], with one even accusing the US of pressing for delay because it has "secrets to hide" [JURIST report]. Weiner and co-author Alexis Levinthal write:

Saddam could easily point out that our interests were protected when he was in power and remind the world of US and European support and arms to Iraq during the Iran-Iraq conflict. Even more embarrassing to the United States, he could bring out that the CIA used and paid him...
US Newswire has more.





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AMD takes Intel antitrust case to Japan, public
David Shucosky on June 30, 2005 10:08 AM ET

[JURIST] Just days after filing a federal antitrust lawsuit [JURIST report] against rival Intel, Advanced Micro Designs (AMD) [corporate website] has filed two similar suits against Intel in Japan. The company announced [corporate press release] Thursday that its Japanese arm, AMD Japan, had made two claims in Tokyo High Court and Tokyo District Court against Intel KK [corporate website in Japanese], Intel's Japanese subsidiary. Japan's Fair Trade Commission [official website, English version] had previously warned [JURIST report] Intel of possible violations, and ruled in March [JFTC press release] that they violated antitrust laws by offering rebates [Reuters report] to companies that either limited or avoided AMD purchases.

On Wednesday, AMD also took the battle against Intel to the court of public opinion, running full-page ads in major newspapers nationwide and publishing an open letter on their litigation on their website. Attorneys not party to the case cited the advertising campaign as "unusual", some dismissing it as merely for "publicity purposes". The San Jose Mercury News has more.






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BREAKING NEWS ~ Ebbers to forfeit personal assets in civil settlement
David Shucosky on June 30, 2005 9:43 AM ET

[JURIST] Wire services are reporting that former WorldCom CEO Bernard Ebbers [JURIST news archive], convicted of fraud [JURIST report] in March for his part in an $11 billion accounting scandal, will forfeit as much as $45 million worth of personal assets in a settlement of related civil charges. The deal, announced by the New York Attorney General's office Thursday, will require him to pay $5 million directly and transfer almost all his other assets - worth as much as $40 million -into a liquidation trust to be sold off. This arrangement will, however, allow Ebbers to avoid paying restitution which could have been much more costly. A judge must still approve the settlement, and Ebbers still faces life in prison [AP report] at his sentencing, now scheduled for July 13 after a month's postponement [AP report].






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TIME to turn over reporter's notes
David Shucosky on June 30, 2005 9:42 AM ET

[JURIST] TIME magazine said in a statement Thursday that it will turn over notes by reporter Matthew Cooper to a grand jury investigating the leak of a CIA operative's name despite Cooper's own willingness to go to jail rather than provide them. After the US Supreme Court Monday declined to hear an appeal [JURIST report] by Cooper and New York Times reporter Judith Miller, Judge Thomas F. Hogan [official profile] Wednesday gave Miller and Cooper one week to reveal their sources or face up to 120 days imprisonment, equivalent to the duration of the grand jury's term. In its statement TIME complained that "the Supreme Court has limited press freedom in ways that will have a chilling effect on our work and that may damage the free flow of information that is so necessary in a democratic society", but observed:

The same Constitution that protects the freedom of the press requires obedience to final decisions of the courts and respect for their rulings and judgments. That Time Inc. strongly disagrees with the courts provides no immunity. The innumerable Supreme Court decisions in which even Presidents have followed orders with which they strongly disagreed evidences that our nation lives by the rule of law and that none of us is above it.
Read the full TIME statement. AP has more. The New York Times says it is preparing a statement but none has yet been released.





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Sudan justice minister rejects Darfur extradition calls
David Shucosky on June 30, 2005 8:49 AM ET

[JURIST] Ali Mohammed Osman Yassin, Sudan's justice minister, has rejected calls for the extradition of 10 suspects to face charges for war crimes in Darfur before the the International Criminal Court [official website] in The Hague. Yassin said the men are already on trial in a Sudanese court [JURIST report], where they have pleaded not guilty [JURIST report]. Rights groups have questioned the effectiveness [JURIST report] of Sudan's recently-established Darfur court, concerned that it was created only to sidestep international justice. On Wednesday, ICC Chief prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo [BBC profile] asked the UN Security Council and UN members - including Sudan - to support the ICC's efforts [JURIST report] to punish war criminals. BBC News has more.






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DOJ: No prosecution of Shell Oil for reserves overstatement
David Shucosky on June 30, 2005 8:38 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Justice Department has officially ended its probe into Royal Dutch/Shell Group [corporate website], announcing on Wednesday that it will not prosecute the company for overstating gas and oil reserves [JURIST report]. Shell had previously settled civil investigations [JURIST report] by both the US and UK governments, and accepted the resignation of its chief financial officer [JURIST report]. Shell said it "appreciates" [press release] the decision. AP has more.






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Spain legalizes same-sex marriage
David Shucosky on June 30, 2005 8:05 AM ET

[JURIST] Despite being voted down in the Senate [JURIST report], the Spanish parliament on Thursday passed a law legalizing same-sex marriage [JURIST news archive] and allowing same-sex couples to adopt and inherit each other's property. Read the text of the legislation [PDF, in Spanish]. Spain now joins the Netherlands and Belgium as the only countries to recognize gay marriages. The Canadian House of Commons approved them on Tuesday [JURIST report], with full legal status to follow in July after the Canadian Senate gives its anticpated approval. The Spanish Senate serves an advisory function only, with the Congress of Deputies [official website, English version] having the final say. The 350-member body voted 187-147 to approve, despite protests from the Roman Catholic Church [JURIST rpeort], which officially endorsed protests against the Spanish government [JURIST report] for the first time in 20 years. Reuters has more. From Madrid, El Mundo provides local coverage in Spanish.






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Federal jury convicts East St. Louis Democrats of election fraud
Alexandria Samuel on June 29, 2005 7:47 PM ET

[JURIST] A federal jury Wednesday convicted five East St. Louis (Illinois) Democratic Party officials on charges [Belleville News-Democrat report] of felony conspiracy to commit vote fraud, and election fraud in the November 2004 election. Charles Powell Jr., the local Democratic Party chairman, and four party employees were found guilty of misappropriating $76,150 to buy votes for cash, cigarettes and liquor. St. Louis Today has local coverage.






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US Justice Department assails city use of Patriot Act against homeless man
Alexandria Samuel on June 29, 2005 7:24 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Justice Department Wednesday called a city invocation of the Patriot Act [text] as a defense in a suit by a homeless man an "overreaching application of the law." Summit, New Jersey [official website] cited the act in response to a lawsuit by Richard Kreimer [AP profile], alleging that the it violated his and other homeless persons' constitutional rights when local police officers forcefully removed them from the train station. The city argued that the Act allowed it to take actions to protect against potential "attacks and other violence against [the] mass transportation system". In 1991, Kreimer won a lawsuit against the town of Morristown when a federal judge held that the policy of evicting persons from public libraries based on personal hygiene violated the freedom of speech, due process and equal protection rights of homeless persons. The ruling was reversed on appeal [opinion text]. AP has more.






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States brief ~ California Supreme Court allows domestic partner law to stand
Rachel Felton on June 29, 2005 5:22 PM ET

[JURIST] Leading Wednesday's states brief, the California Supreme Court has let stand a new law granting registered domestic partners [PDF text] many of the same rights and protections of heterosexual marriages. Without comment, the Supreme Court upheld the decision of a California court of appeals which ruled that the law did not conflict with voter initiative Proposition 22 [text] that defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman because the Proposition was clearly limited to "marriage." The constitutionality of Proposition 22 is still at issue as a ruling by a superior court judge which declared the Proposition unconstitutional is being appealed. AP has more.

In other state legal news ...






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Corporations and securities brief ~ SEC votes to keep controversial mutual fund rule
James Murdock on June 29, 2005 4:25 PM ET

[JURIST] Leading Wednesday's corporations and securities law news, on the day before SEC Chairman William Donaldson [Wikipedia profile] steps down, the Commission has voted 3-2 to keep a rule forcing mutual funds to be overseen by an independent chairman. The vote was a result of a federal appeals court ruling last week [JURIST report] that the SEC had not adequately considered the financial burden the rule placed on mutual funds. The ruling did not require the SEC to scrap the rule, only to reconsider it. As a part of the vote, the SEC added language to the rule concerning compliance costs. The US Chamber of Commerce [official website] vowed today in a press release to file suit again to prevent the SEC from enforcing the rule. Reuters has more.

In other corporations and securities news...






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Bush approves FBI-DOJ intel shakeup, asset freezes for WMD suspects
David Shucosky on June 29, 2005 3:39 PM ET

[JURIST] As anticipated [JURIST report], President Bush Wednesday announced the creation of a new intelligence service within the FBI, endorsing 70 of 74 recommendations presented by the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the US Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction [official website]. Bush also adopted changes that will consolidate US Justice Department counterterrorism, espionage, and intelligence units and will also ask Congress to create a new assistant attorney general position. The White House provides a full list of the changes. Sen. Charles Robb, D-Va, co-chairman of the committee, said it was "truly extraordinary" for Bush to adopt so many of their suggestions. AP has more. The President also signed an executive order [text] authorizing the freeze of US financial assets for individuals or companies suspected of trafficking WMDs. A government official said eight organizations - four in Iran, three in North Korea, and one in Syria - are being targeted. AP has more.






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Restrictive Russian election law changes advance in parliament
Tom Henry on June 29, 2005 3:38 PM ET

[JURIST] The Russian parliament on Wednesday gave second reading approval to amendments to the country's election law that could further strengthen President Vladimir Putin's government. The proposals would ban the formation of blocs by political parties and block the use of "against all" protest votes on ballots. The changes come after Putin previously abolished gubernatorial elections allowing the Kremlin to appoint regional leaders. New election rules in the State Duma [official website in Russian] functionally prohibit small parties and independent candidates from having access to the chamber. The pro-Putin United Russia party [official website in Russian; Wikipedia backgrounder] already controls enough of the Duma to pass legislation regardless of opposition. Reuters has more.






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Iraqi women call for 40% National Assembly representation quota
David Shucosky on June 29, 2005 2:49 PM ET

[JURIST] A group of Iraqi women attending an international meeting of women's rights activists in Amman, Jordan, called Wednesday for a 40 percent representation quota in the Iraqi National Assembly. The two-day event, hosted by Women for Women International [advocacy website] was attended by 12 current members of the National Assembly. Currently, Iraqi law requires that women make up 25 percent of the Assembly. Zainab Salbi [profile], president of Women for Women, said protection for women's rights needs to be "clearly stated" in the new Iraqi constitution. Reuters has more.






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Malaysian lawmakers demand release of terror suspects held without trial
Tom Henry on June 29, 2005 1:58 PM ET

[JURIST] According to a report in Malaysia's News Straits Times [newspaper website], government and opposition politicians in Malaysia are pushing for the release of dozens of terror suspects, many suspected of ties to al-Qaeda, held without trial for the past two years. The report says that over 100 detainees are being held at a prison camp in northern Malaysia under the authority of the Internal Security Act [Human Rights Watch backgrounder], a law which allows a two-year detention without trial that can be renewed indefinitely. The recent demand to free the prisoners comes after a group of lawmakers toured a facility earlier this month and heard concerns from the detainees themselves. Aljazeera has more.






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Canada law could stop prescription drug exports to US
David Shucosky on June 29, 2005 1:51 PM ET

[JURIST] Canadian Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh [official website] announced plans on Wednesday for Canada to ban the bulk export of prescription medicines [Health Canada press release] under certain circumstances and conditions. Legislation to change the Canadian Food and Drugs Act [text] to allow the government to ban the export of drugs as necessary will be introduced in the fall. Dosanjh said the proposed changes come in response to the possibility of the US allowing such imports and concerns about consequential shortfalls in Canadian supplies. "Canada cannot be the drugstore for the United States of America," Dosanjh said. CBC News has more.






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Former Bosnian Serb police chief released after sentence commuted
Tom Henry on June 29, 2005 1:25 PM ET

[JURIST] The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia [official website] announced [press release] Wednesday that it has ordered the release of former Bosnian Serb police chief Stevan Todorovic [PDF indictment] after only two-thirds of his ten year sentence had been served. Todorovic had been serving his sentence in Spain since 2001, when he struck a deal with prosecutors by pleading guilty to one charge of "ethnic cleansing" and agreeing to cooperate with the tribunal in other cases. Tribunal president Judge Theodor Meron commuted the rest of Todorovic's sentence last week. AP has more.






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ICC prosecutor says Darfur probe already reveals "grave crimes"
David Shucosky on June 29, 2005 12:48 PM ET

[JURIST] Chief prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo [BBC profile] of the International Criminal Court [official website] told the UN Security Council in a statement [PDF] Wednesday that the ICC's preliminary investigation into the situation in Darfur [JURIST report] begun June 1, had already revealed "a significant amount of credible information disclosing the commission of grave crimes within the jurisdiction of the Court having taken place in Darfur...". He said:

These crimes include the killing of thousands of civilians, the widespread destruction and looting of villages, leading to the displacement of approximately 1.9 million civilians. The conditions of life resulting from these crimes have led to the deaths of tens of thousands from disease and starvation, particularly affecting vulnerable groups such as children, the sick and the elderly. Information also highlights a pervasive pattern of rape and sexual violence.
Ocampo called on UN members to give their full support to the ICC and its probe and for the cooperation of Sudan and all other parties. Sudan has set up its own court in response to the investigation, but observers have ongoing doubts about its sufficiency [Reuters report]. AP has more.





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Egyptian court rejects law on multiple-candidate presidential elections
David Shucosky on June 29, 2005 12:28 PM ET

[JURIST] Egypt's Higher Constitutional Court on Wednesday ruled that a new law that would have allowed more than one person to run for president is unconstitutional. The proposed change, seen as an important political reform, was ordered by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak [JURIST report] in February 2005, passed by the Egyptian parliament [JURIST report], and finally approved by popular referendum [JURIST report] in late May. A number of opposition groups had opposed the law [JURIST report], saying that associated regulations imposed too many strictures on candidates who did not have the support of members of Mubarak's National Democratic Party. The court's official ruling in the case is expected later this week. UPI has more.






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Algeria sentences UK ricin plot leader to 10 years
Tom Henry on June 29, 2005 11:52 AM ET

[JURIST] An Algerian court Wednesday sentenced Mohamed Meguerba [BBC profile] to 10 years in prison for masterminding an al-Qaeda plot to execute a bio-terror attack on London using ricin [BBC backgrounder] and other agents. Meguerba, an Algerian native, skipped bail in Britain in 2002 and was rearrested in Algeria later that year. Information he gave Algerian interrogators was crucial to the capture and conviction in Britain of another Algerian, Kamel Bourgass, accused of being the leader of the group [London Metropolitan Police Service press release] and found guilty in April this year [JURIST report] of plotting to "use poisons or explosives to cause disruption, injury or fear" and jailed for 17 years. Reuters has more.






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Iranian Supreme Court upholds "eye-for-eye" sentence
Kate Heneroty on June 29, 2005 11:06 AM ET

[JURIST] Iranian daily newspaper Etemaad is reporting that the Iranian Supreme Court [official website] has rejected the appeal of a man, known only as Vahid, sentenced to have his eyes surgically gouged out for throwing battery acid in the face of another man during a fight 12 years ago. The court judged the crime on "Qesas" [Islamic law backgrounder], a Koranic term for strictly defined penalties where the judge has no discretion. Originally, the sentence called for acid to be sprayed into Vahid's eyes, but his lawyers argued the rest of his face could be damaged. Vahid could escape punishment by paying $330,000 in blood money, which he does not have. Human rights groups, including Amnesty International, have denounced the sentence [press release] as "judicial torture," but say that these punishments are rarely carried out and are used as leverage in collecting financial compensation for the victim. IRIN has more.






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Russian parliament nixes amendment that could have given Putin third term
David Shucosky on June 29, 2005 11:02 AM ET

[JURIST] A proposed amendment to the Russian Constitution [text in English] that would have allowed President Vladimir Putin [official website] to serve a third term [JURIST report] fell far short of approval by the State Duma on Wednesday. Only 32 members of Russia's lower house voted for it, with 99 voting against. The measure needed 226 votes to pass. Putin's term expires in 2008; he took no public position on the amendment, introduced by a member of the United Russia party. MosNews has more.






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Two US citizens plead not guilty to terror charges
David Shucosky on June 29, 2005 10:36 AM ET

[JURIST] Two US citizens pleaded not guilty to terror-related charges against them in federal court on Tuesday. Tarik Shah, 42, of New York, and Rafiq Abdus Sabir, 50, of Boca Raton, Florida, each face a single count of conspiracy to provide material support to al-Qaida [PDF complaint]. Prosecutors say [JURIST report] Shah agreed to teach hand-to-hand combat and that Sabir, a doctor, agreed to treat jihadists in Saudi Arabia. The two are being held without bail [JURIST report]. Shah's lawyer said the charge was "ridiculous" and Sabir's lawyer said his client was a victim of entrapment. AP has more.






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Corruption trial of fired South Africa Deputy President postponed until October
Tom Henry on June 29, 2005 10:34 AM ET

[JURIST] Former Deputy President of South Africa Jacob Zuma [ANC profile] was released on $150 bail Wednesday after prosecution lawyers asked for more time to prepare a corruption case against him and trial was postponed until October 2005. Bail was granted on condition that witnesses "not...be interfered with directly or indirectly". South Africa President Thabo Mbeki [BBC profile] fired Zuma [JURIST report] earlier this month, shortly after one of Zuma's advisors, South African businessman Schabir Shaik [Wikipedia profile] was found guilty [JURIST report] of corruption and fraud. Zuma, once believed to be a strong presidential candidate, was found to have had a "generally corrupt" relationship with Shaik according to the judge who convicted the businessman. BBC News has more.






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Former Milosevic officials sentenced for attempted assassination of rival
David Shucosky on June 29, 2005 10:25 AM ET

[JURIST] A Serbian court Wednesday sentenced 10 former members of the Slobodan Milosevic [JURIST news archive] regime to jail for their roles in 1999 assassination attempt on then-Yugoslav opposition leader Vuk Draskovic [Wikipedia profile]. Draskovic is now the Minister of Foreign Affairs for Serbia-Montenegro. Six individuals were sentenced to 15 years for orchestrating a highway crash intended to kill Draskovic, including special police commander Milorad Ulemek. Radomir Markovic, then the chief of state security, was sentenced to 10 years for covering up the plot; three others were sentenced to 1 to 3 years, and two were acquitted. Markovic was originally convicted in 2003 but the verdict was overturned on appeal. Ulemek is also suspected of being involved in three other assassination plots, including the 2003 murder of Serbian prime minister Zoran Djindjic [Wikipedia profile]. Draskovic said the sentences were too lenient. Reuters has more.






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Ireland drops charges against Omagh bombing suspect
Kate Heneroty on June 29, 2005 10:16 AM ET

[JURIST] The Irish Public Prosecution Service [official website] has dropped charges against Anthony Joseph Donegan, suspected of providing the car used in the Omagh car bombing in 1998. A spokesman for the PPS said Wednesday that the "test for prosecution was not met." Twenty-nine people were killed and 220 were injured when a car bomb [BBC backgrounder] set by the Real IRA [DOS backgrounder], a splinter group of the former provisional Irish Republican Army opposed to the peace process, exploded in the Northern Ireland town of Omagh. Sean Gerard Hoey remains the only person in custody [JURIST report] for the attack. BBC News has more.






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Kuwait clears former Guantanamo prisoner
Tom Henry on June 29, 2005 9:45 AM ET

[JURIST] A Kuwait court Wednesday cleared Nasser al-Mutairi of committing an act of aggression against a foreign nation. Mutairi, the first Kuwait to be freed from Guantanamo Bay [JURIST report] in January, had been charged with endangering Kuwait's foreign relations by taking up arms against a foreign nation. He had been captured by the US in the wake of operations in Afghanistan in 2001. Mutairi maintained his innocence claiming he was relief worker rather than a trained terrorist; his lawyer argued at the outset of his case that a Kuwaiti court had no jurisdiction to try him [JURIST report]. AFP has more. For more information on Kuwaiti prisoners at Guantanamo, visit Project Kuwaiti Freedom [advocacy website], sponsored by the Kuwaiti Family Committee.






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Saddam said to have turned down US death penalty deal
David Shucosky on June 29, 2005 9:41 AM ET

[JURIST] Al-Quds al-Arabi [newspaper website], a London-based Arabic-language newspaper, reported Wednesday that Saddam Hussein [JURIST news archive] turned down an offer from US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to take the death penalty off the table in his upcoming trial if Hussein would call for insurgents to lay down their arms. The report also says Saddam has refused to meet with any US officials as a prisoner but only as "the President of Iraq." UPI has more.






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Over half of all Iraqi detainees being released after case reviews
Kate Heneroty on June 29, 2005 9:37 AM ET

[JURIST] The US-led Combined Review and Release Board [military press release] created in August 2004 to expedite the screening process for detainees taken into custody in Iraq by US and Iraqi forces has so far approved the outright release of more than 2,700 detainees, released another 5,300 to guarantors, and denied the release of 6,500, a spokesman for detention operations said Tuesday. The board meets 3-4 times a week and is comprised of 15 members, including six Iraqi government officials, two representatives each from the Iraqi justice, interior and human rights ministries and three Multinational Forces officers. A second panel of the same size was created last month "to cut the time detainees wait for board review in half." The Iraqi government and the military examines each case within the first 90 days of detention while the review board examines the files within 180 days. Iraq's Central Criminal Court [Wikipedia profile] also screens detainees for possible prosecutions, and has so far flagged more than 1,700 detainees and conducted 286 trials leading to more than 338 convictions. AP has more.






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Europe rights group urges US to drop subpoenas against journalists
David Shucosky on June 29, 2005 9:33 AM ET

[JURIST] The intergovernmental Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe [official website] has urged US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to drop subpoenas against two journalists demanding that they name their sources to a grand jury investigating the leak of a CIA operative's name. The US Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear the reporters' case [JURIST report]. While there is no federal shield law to protect journalists, many states have them. In a letter to Gonzales quoted in an OSCE press statement Wednesday, OSCE media freedom representative Miklos Haraszti noted that "A journalist's right to freely access information and deal with sources in confidence is paramount for free reporting and discussion of public issues." Reuters has more.






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Late Canadian PM's son derides detentions without charge in court hearing
Tom Henry on June 29, 2005 9:14 AM ET

[JURIST] The son of late Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau [Wikipedia profile], the architect of Canada's civil rights charter, denounced the Canadian government's controversial use of security certificates [official backgrounder] to indefinitely detain uncharged terror suspects in a court hearing Tuesday. Alexandre "Sasha" Trudeau [Wikipedia profile] took the witness stand in Federal Court on behalf of Hassan Almrei [CBC profile], a Syrian national with alleged links to al-Qaeda. Trudeau had offered to be one of several people who would voluntarily accompany Almrei if he were granted bail and left his home at any point, and told a prosecutor that "It's in the interest of Canada to not be detaining people who haven't been charged." Canada's security certificate policy has also been criticized by the UN and Amnesty International [AI call for reform] as a violation of fundamental human rights. Almrei, who has been held in solitary confinement for four years in Toronto, argues that he must not sent back to Syria because he will face torture. Canadian Press has more.






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Saddam may sue over underwear photos
Kate Heneroty on June 29, 2005 9:08 AM ET

[JURIST] Saddam Hussein's family has approached a leading London media lawyer about suing the Sun [newspaper website] for publishing secretly-taken pictures [JURIST report; BBC photo] of the former Iraqi leader in his underwear. Hussein's Iraqi lawyers also threatened to sue the paper for $1M after the photos were released. Some believe the deposed Iraqi president has a good chance of winning a misuse of private information claim, a new form of action which has developed under Britain's Human Rights Act [text], because there is little public interest in showing him partially dressed. Others argue "the Sun's public interest defense was that they were showing that he was fit and healthy and wasn't being treated the way a mass murderer should." Even if Saddam were to prevail in such a case, damages awarded would likely be very small. The Guardian has more.






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Ireland prepares to bring Britain before European human rights court
Kate Heneroty on June 29, 2005 8:31 AM ET

[JURIST] Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern [Wikipedia profile] said Tuesday he would begin discussions with Attorney General Rory Brady [official profile] about bringing London before the European Court of Human Rights [official website] for failing to release files about car bombings occurring in 1974 [BBC report]. The bombings by Protestant loyalists resulted in the largest loss of life in Ireland's recent history, killing 34 people in Dublin and Monaghan. Ireland sought the documents after an Irish judicial inquiry two years ago suggested there had been collusion between British security forces and the loyalist bomb teams, though UK Prime Minister Tony Blair claims Britain has found no similar evidence. A group of victims' relatives, Justice for the Forgotten [advocacy website], has already filed a complaint with the Strasbourg-based court alleging the Ulster Volunteer Force [BBC backgrounder] was assisted by British Army intelligence in planting the bombs. AFP has more.






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British lawmakers narrowly back national ID card plan
Tom Henry on June 29, 2005 8:23 AM ET

[JURIST] The government of British Prime Minister Tony Blair [official website] won a key vote in Parliament late Tuesday on the proposed national ID card plan [official background; PDF text of the bill], but its 66-seat majority was cut in half with Conservatives and some Labor Party members voting against the measure. The proposed cards would use biometric technology in fingerprint, face, and iris recognition and would be the first ID cards in Britain since just after World War II. Opponents in the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties point to the government's projected $10.5 billion cost over the next decade and the risks posed to civil liberties as reasons for rejecting the plan. Liberty UK and other British rights groups also oppose the plan [Liberty UK background materials]. Blair maintains that the cards would combat fraud and slow illegal immigration [press release]. The bill will be debated further in the House of Commons then go to the House of Lords before it can be sent to the Queen and signed into law. Reuters has more.






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Israeli soldier gets stiff jail sentence for refusing to help Gaza clear-out
Tom Henry on June 29, 2005 8:01 AM ET

[JURIST] US-born Israeli soldier Avi Bieber was sentenced to 56 days in jail Tuesday for refusing to participate in the evacuation of settlers from Gaza [JURIST news archive]. Military officials said the stiff sentence is meant to send a message to other soldiers who claim they will refuse similar assignments and an Israeli Defense Force [official website] statement said "soldiers can under no circumstances choose their own missions." New Jersey native Bieber claimed he was motivated to refuse the mission by his belief that God had given the land to the Jews. Bieber is expected to appeal the conviction. AP has more.






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UN panel calls for tribunal for East Timor atrocities
Kate Heneroty on June 29, 2005 7:55 AM ET

[JURIST] A new report by a UN Commission of Experts [JURIST report] says Indonesia's efforts to examine atrocities committed in East Timor [BBC backgrounder] in 1999 was "manifestly inadequate" and show "scant respect for or conformity to relevant international standards," after Jakarta failed to jail any senior officials [BBC report], and all but 1 of the 18 tried were acquitted. In 1999, 1,400 supporters of East Timorese independence from Jakarta were killed by pro-Indonesian militia allegedly directed by the Indonesian army while some 250,000 people were forcibly deported and much of the country's infrastructure was destroyed. The three member panel has recommended that the UN Secretary General require Jakarta to account for the prosecutions within 6 months or allow an international tribunal to handle the matter. Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda [profile] has denied any need for a UN tribunal and said last month that the country's human rights tribunal was "imperfect" but emphasized they were "trying to move forward." AFP has more.






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Mexican lawmakers approve postal absentee voting
Kate Heneroty on June 29, 2005 7:32 AM ET

[JURIST] Mexican lawmakers Tuesday approved a law permitting Mexicans living abroad to vote by mail in next July's presidential election. The lower house of Congress passed the measure 455 to 6, with 6 abstentions. The measure has already been passed by the Mexican Senate [official website] and will be presented to President Vincente Fox [official profile] for signing, which he has promised. Approximately 11 million Mexicans, or 14% of the country's population, live abroad with most of that number residing in the United States, but up to now they have been effectively unable to participate in the Mexican political process. Despite the law's popularity, some have expressed fears that the country's notoriously corrupt and slow postal service will be charged with mailing out the ballots. AP has more. So-called "postal voting" has run into problems in other Western democracies, most recently including the United Kingdom [JURIST report], where the mails are considered relatively secure.






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BREAKING NEWS ~ Canada passes same-sex marriage bill
Bernard Hibbitts on June 28, 2005 9:22 PM ET

[JURIST] In a Tuesday evening sitting Canada's House of Commons has passed a bill [C-38 text] that will legalize same-sex marriage across Canada. The legislation, presented by the minority Liberty Party government as a non-partisan "free vote" for MPs other than Cabinet ministers, was approved 158-133. Most members of the opposition Conservative Party voted against the measure, with leader Stephen Harper promising that if his party is voted in at the next election the measure will be "revisited". Once the bill in approved by the Liberal-dominated Senate and given royal assent Canada will become only the third country in the world to legalize gay marriage, joining the Netherlands and Belgium. CBC News has more.






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US court refuses to hear lawsuit by WWII sex slaves
Holly Manges Jones on June 28, 2005 9:05 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Tuesday rejected a lawsuit [PDF text] against the Japanese government filed by 15 Asian women who claim Japanese soldiers forced them to act as "comfort women" [Wikipedia backgrounder], or sex slaves, during World War II. The court said it is not allowed to hear the case because the Japanese government has "absolute immunity" from defending the suit in the US for legal and political reasons. The lawsuit was filed by women from the Philippines, Taiwan, China, and South Korea, and this is the second time a US court has turned back the case. From Japan, Kyodo News has more.






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BREAKING NEWS ~ Bush urges Iraqis to write "good constitution", meet deadlines
Holly Manges Jones on June 28, 2005 8:32 PM ET

[JURIST] In a primetime TV address to the nation from Fort Bragg, NC, marking the one-year anniversary of the return of local sovereignty to Iraqi hands [JURIST report] President Bush has focused primarily on security-related issues relating to the ongoing American military presence in the country, but also called on Iraqis to write a "good constitution" drawing together all groups in Iraqi society and urged them to meet the deadlines already established for the key stages in the constitional process:

The challenge facing Iraqis today is to put [the] past behind them and come together to build a new Iraq that includes all its people. They are doing that by building the institutions of a free society, a society based on freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion and equal justice under law. The Iraqis have held free elections and established a transitional national assembly. The next step is to write a good constitution that enshrines these freedoms in permanent law. The assembly plans to expand its constitutional drafting committee to include more Sunni Arabs. Many Sunnis who opposed the January elections are now taking part in the democratic process, and that is essential to Iraq's future.

After a constitution is written, the Iraqi people will have a chance to vote on it. If approved, Iraqis will go to the polls again to elect a new government under their new, permanent constitution. By taking these critical steps and meeting their deadlines, Iraqis will bind their multiethnic society together in a democracy that respects the will of the majority and protects minority rights.
The White House has posted the full text of President Bush's address.





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Nader VA campaign coordinator to serve time for fraudulent election practices
Holly Manges Jones on June 28, 2005 8:25 PM ET

[JURIST] The Virginia co-ordinator of Ralph Nader's 2004 presidential campaign [campaign website] pleaded guilty to charges of election fraud on Tuesday. James Polk will serve 30 days of house detention and pay a $2500 fine for attempting to put Nader on the Virginia ballot by illegally certifying petitions. Nader's name was ultimately left off the state's ballot. AP has more.






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Belgian court finds Rwandan businessmen guilty of genocide crimes
Holly Manges Jones on June 28, 2005 7:45 PM ET

[JURIST] Two Rwandan businessmen were found guilty by a Brussels court Tuesday on 81 charges of murder and war crimes related to the country's 1994 genocide [BBC backgrounder] during which 800,000 people were killed. Half-brothers Samuel Ndashyikirwa and Etienne Nzabonimana, who have repeatedly denied any involvement in the genocide, were accused of giving weapons, vehicles and beer to the Hutu ethnic group [Wikipedia backgrounder], leading to the massacre of 50,000 people in the Kibungo region, mostly of the Tutsi minority group [Wikipedia backgrounder]. The genocide trial is the second in Belgium, allowable under its universal jurisdiction law [JURIST report], and commenced after a decade-long investigation by Belgian authorities. The first trial resulted in jail sentences for four Rwandans in June 2001. AFP has more.






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Corporations and securities brief ~ UK fines Citigroup for disruptive bond trading
James Murdock on June 28, 2005 7:10 PM ET

[JURIST] Leading Tuesday's corporations and securities law news,the UK's Financial Services Authority [official website] has fined Citigroup [corporate website] $25 million for flooding the market with bonds. Though the transaction was not illegal, it was against standard practice for European bond trading. In a press release, the FSA said that the transaction caused a sharp drop in bond prices. Reuters has more.

In other corporations and securities law news...






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White House expected to OK proposed intelligence changes
Holly Manges Jones on June 28, 2005 7:06 PM ET

[JURIST] The White House is expected to approve 70 changes proposed by the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction [official website] after a three-month investigation by the National Security Council which will be made public Wednesday. The recommendations were outlined in a report [PDF] issued by the commission in March [JURIST report] which denounced the intelligence community's assertion that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction as "one of the most public - and most damaging - intelligence failures in recent American history." The panel, led by former Democratic Senator Charles Robb [Wikipedia profile] and Republican Judge Laurence Silberman [Wikipedia profile], has included in its recommendations the creation of a National Counter Proliferation Center to coordinate US intelligence and the creation of a national security division at the US Department of Justice [official website]. AP has more.






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States brief ~ WI Supreme Court allows power plant expansion
Rachel Felton on June 28, 2005 5:20 PM ET

[JURIST] Leading Tuesday's states brief, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled [PDF text] today that the state's Public Service Commission [official website] acted properly in approving a coal-fired power plant in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. S.C Johnson & Son and the environmental group Clean Wisconsin [press release] challenged the plant saying that the Commission did not give enough scrutiny to the project and failed to considered cleaner alternatives. Wisconsin Energy subsidiary We Energies [official website] said the expansion of an already existing power plant will cut emissions by half because of new technology and new environmental controls. Read the Public Service Commission's press release. AP has more.

In other state legal news ...






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UN torture investigator: US may be detaining terror suspects on warships
Tom Henry on June 28, 2005 4:15 PM ET

[JURIST] UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Manfred Nowak [ICJ profile] said Tuesday that the UN has learned of serious allegations that the US is secretly detaining prisoners aboard military vessels, perhaps in the Indian Ocean in the vicinity of the US island base at Diego Garcia [official website]. Nowak acknowledged that the allegations were only rumors but added that they were "very, very serious" and "appear sufficiently well-based to merit an official inquiry." Last week Nowak publicly complained [JURIST report] that the US was stalling on his request to visit detainees at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] and urged a swift response which has not yet been forthcoming. British security expert Francis Tusa said that if the US is holding prisoners aboard ships in international waters it would allow them to interrogate the prisoners outside the reach of US laws, in the same fashion that Guantanamo was deemed to be beyond the reach of US law before a Supreme Court ruling last year that gave detainees there recourse against the US government in federal courts. AFP has more.






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Canadian cabinet minister quits over same-sex marriage bill
Tom Henry on June 28, 2005 3:49 PM ET

[JURIST] Canadian Minister of State Joe Comuzzi [official profile] resigned from the government Liberal cabinet Tuesday hours before a scheduled parliamentary vote on a controversial same-sex marriage bill [C-38 text]. Comuzzi, Minister of State for Northern Ontario, informed Prime Minister Paul Martin [official website] early Tuesday that he could not vote in opposition to his constituents, who he claims overwhelmingly oppose government sanctioned marriages for homosexual couples. Martin said in a statement [text] that he was sad to lose the cabinet minister but was pleased Comuzzi was not giving up his seat in the Parliament and planned to run for re-election. The same-sex marriage bill that would legalize gay marriage across Canada is scheduled for a vote at 8:30 PM ET Tuesday and is widely expected to pass. CBC has more.






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US requests $14 billion in penalties in tobacco trial
Tom Henry on June 28, 2005 3:21 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Department of Justice [official website] has formally asked a federal judge to impose $14 billion in penalties on cigarette companies in a massive racketeering trial. The request made late Monday elaborates on smoking cessation proposals made earlier this month during the trial's closing arguments. The proposed program of $14 billion, slightly more than the $10 billion requested earlier in the month, is still only about one-tenth the original $130 billion sought by the government, a drop criticized by Democrats and anti-smoking groups [JURIST report] but later defended by the Department of Justice [JURIST report]. Defendant Altria Group, parent company of Phillip-Morris, said the proposal will not meet the standards of the civil racketeering law. The DOJ has documents and background material on the tobacco litigation. AP has more.






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Egyptian presidential contender denies forgery charges
Tom Henry on June 28, 2005 2:50 PM ET

[JURIST] Egyptian opposition presidential candidate Ayman Nour [Wikipedia profile] pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges of forgery as hundreds outside the courthouse protested his trial as a attempt to eliminate any rivals to current President Hosni Mubarak [official profile]. The case, in which Nour is accused of forging signatures [JURIST report] to get his opposition al-Ghad party registered, has created tension between the US and its closest ally in the Middle East, Egypt. Lawyers on both sides shouted arguments back and forth Tuesday before the judge regained control and ordered a recess. Nour is the most prominent figure to announce his plan to run for president in the upcoming September elections, the first to be opened to challengers [JURIST report] to the current president. Mubarak is widely expected to run for a fifth term in office and has called the open election a major democratic reform. Aljazeera has more.






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Canadian high court says Rwandan accused of war crimes must be deported
Tom Henry on June 28, 2005 2:18 PM ET

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Canada [official website] Tuesday ruled unanimously [text] that Rwandan Leon Mugesera [CTV profile], accused of inciting genocide, must be deported from Canada. In 1992 Mugesera gave a speech in Rwanda encouraging Hutus to kill Tutsis, a speech the Supreme Court of Canada concluded could be reasonably viewed as a crime against humanity. Lawyers for Mugesera had argued that their client did nothing to incite the genocide and instead aided in protecting Tutsis during the violence. It is unclear when the deportation is to take effect or whether Mugesera has any further options to appeal his case. Reuters has more.






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Federal appeals court upholds contempt finding against 4 reporters
Tom Henry on June 28, 2005 1:52 PM ET

[JURIST] A three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia on Tuesday upheld civil contempt of court findings against four reporters unwilling to reveal their sources for articles about Los Alamos [official website] nuclear scientist Wen Ho Lee [Wikipedia profile]. The court did overturn a lower court's contempt ruling for a fifth journalist, Jeff Gerth. Read the opinion [PDF]. The four journalists found in contempt are Robert Drogin and James Risen of the Los Angeles Times, H. Josef Hebert of the Associated Press, and Pierre Thomas, previously with CNN and now with ABC. Lee lost his job at Los Alamos in 1999 over allegations of espionage and later pled guilty to a lesser charge. He sued for the disclosure of personal information by US agencies but the four reporters refused to provide details about their sources. AP has more.






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US Senate passes energy reform bill
Tom Henry on June 28, 2005 1:29 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Senate on Tuesday passed a controversial energy bill [text] giving large sums of money to industry in incentives and pushing for more efficient use of energy through renewable resources. Republican and Democrats came together to pass the bill 82-12 [roll call] but it can only become law if the language can be reconciled with a similar House bill passed in April [JURIST report]. Previous attempts to find common ground between the House and Senate have failed over the issue of liability for makers of MTBE [EPA overview], a substance which makes fuel burn more completely. Environmental group Sierra Club [advocacy website] expressed opposition [press release] to the Senate bill saying it does "virtually nothing to lower our dependence on oil." AFP has more.






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BREAKING NEWS ~ Scrushy acquitted on all charges in corporate fraud trial
David Shucosky on June 28, 2005 1:04 PM ET

[JURIST] A jury has found former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy [JURIST news archive] not guilty on charges of wire and mail fraud, money laundering, conspiracy, and violations of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act [summary]. Scrushy was the first CEO to be charged with violating the act. The jury, originally given the case on May 19, was deadlocked for weeks [JURIST report] and had to start deliberating again on June 22 when a juror was replaced [JURIST report] for health reasons. The charges stemmed from a scheme to overstate earnings and inflate the company's stock price between 1996 and 2002. Prosecutors claimed Scrushy was in charge of the scam, while Scrushy's defense blamed aides, 15 of whom pleaded guilty [AP report]. CNN has more.






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Supreme Court to hear RICO abortion case
Krista-Ann Staley on June 28, 2005 12:38 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to review for the third time a 19-year old abortion case. In 1994 the Court held that the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) [text] could be used to challenge anti-abortion blockades of clinics. When the suit went back to trial plaintiff National Organization for Women [advocacy website] won $276,000 in damages from anti-abortion demonstrators and a nation-wide injunction against blockades. However, when the case returned to the Supreme Court again in 2003, the Justices found a lack of evidence of extortion and lifted the injunction. Now, while anti-abortion forces argue that decision put the issue to rest, the court will hear Scheidler v. NOW [Duke Law backgrounder] and Operation Rescue v. NOW as a consolidated case beginning in October of the 2005-2006 term. The Court is expected to address whether the 2003 decision was intended to eliminate all bases for a RICO violation with respect to clinic blockades. Bloomberg has more.

The Court also granted certiorari Tuesday in Rice v. Collins, a Ninth Circuit case involving a prosecutor striking a black woman from the jury panel in the trial of a black man for drug charges, and a Sixth Circuit capital case, House v. Bell involving the standard for judging a claim of actual innocence. The Court's full Order List [PDF] is available online.






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CORRECTED ~ Senior lawmaker assassinated by insurgents in Iraq
Krista-Ann Staley on June 28, 2005 11:32 AM ET

[JURIST] Insurgents struck the convoy of Dhari Ali al-Fayahd with a suicide car bomb on Tuesday, killing the senior member of Iraq's parliament along with his son and three bodyguards. Al-Fayahd, a Shiite in his 80s who was misidentified as Sunni in early press reports, was the second parliamentarian killed since the April elections [JURIST news archive]. The attack came on the one-year anniversary of the formal transfer of power from the US to Iraqis [JURIST report], an event due to be marked by a speech by President Bush from Fort Bragg Tuesday evening. While the insurgency has become more deadly since the elections, Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari [Wikipedia profile] said Monday two years would be "enough" to establish security in Iraq. US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said over the weekend, however, that the process could take up to 12 years. Reuters has more.






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Army contractor accuses Halliburton of contract abuse
Krista-Ann Staley on June 28, 2005 11:29 AM ET

[JURIST] US Army Corps of Engineers' top contracting official Bunnatine Greenhouse testified [opening statement PDF] Monday at a hearing [PDF] before the Senate Democratic Policy Committee [official website] that after "exhausting all internal avenues" she had to "disclose to appropriate members of Congress serious and ongoing contract abuse" by Halliburton [official website] subsidiary Kellogg Brown and Root (KBR) [official website]. Greenhouse cited government favoritism for KBR and overcharging for goods and services. Greenhouse's statement came as the minority staff of the House Government Reform Commitee and the staff of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee released a report [PDF] detailing results of an investigation by the Defense Contract Audit Agency [official website]. According to the report, Halliburton's total "questioned" and "unsupported" costs exceed $1.4 billion. Halliburton strongly rejected the accusations voiced at the hearing, and the Pentagon and the Corps have denied any special treatment for KBR. Reuters has more.






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Australian anti-terror raids draw criticism
David Shucosky on June 28, 2005 11:27 AM ET

[JURIST] Australian officials Tuesday announced a new series of anti-terror raids in Sydney and Melbourne, re-igniting a debate over the country's tough anti-terrorism laws. No arrests were made or individuals detained as a result of the second sweep in a week by agents of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization [official website]. Attorney-General Philip Ruddock has denied claims that his office leaked details [Melbourne Age report] of the raids to the media. Brian Walters, president of Liberty Victoria [advocacy website], complained that the laws promote "demonizing people who cannot defend themselves" [World Today interview]. "The press have not surprisingly camped outside these people's homes wanting a response, but if, as the Government well knows, if these people are to give any response at all, they run a grave risk of being charged with a serious criminal offense," he said. Former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser said the raids have created a "police state" [News.com.au report] atmosphere in the country. Ruddock and New South Wales Premier Bob Carr defended the raids [News.com.au report], saying they address matters of "utmost seriousness" [The Australian report]. Reuters has more.






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Kyrgyzstan promises not to deport Uzbek refugees
Krista-Ann Staley on June 28, 2005 10:12 AM ET

[JURIST] According to a senior United Nations official, top Kyrgyz officials promised Monday not to forcibly deport Uzbek refugees who fled a bloody May uprising in Andijan [JURIST report]. Approximately 450 of the 500 Uzbeks who originally fled to Kyrgyzstan remain, with four of the refugees deported [JURIST report] earlier this month against UN objections. Assistant UN High Commissioner for Refugees Kamel Morjane stated that Acting Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev [Wikipedia profile] "confirmed that nobody will be sent back forcibly," including the 29 Uzbek refugees detained by Kyrgyz authorities and previously scheduled for return because of alleged crimes [JURIST report]. AP has more.






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Computer-chip maker AMD sues Intel for anti-trust violations
David Shucosky on June 28, 2005 9:52 AM ET

[JURIST] Advanced Micro Designs (AMD) [corporate website] announced [corporate press release, open letter from CEO] Tuesday that it has filed a federal anti-trust lawsuit [complaint, PDF] against rival chip-maker Intel [corporate website]. The suit was filed yesterday in US District Court in Delaware and alleges that Intel bullied 38 companies into using Intel products to gain a monopoly [Clayton Anti-Trust Act backgrounder] in the microprocessor market. Intel holds an 80 percent market share by units sold and a 90 percent market share by revenue. The AMD suit claims Intel forced companies into exclusive deals and punished or discouraged them from using AMD products. Japan and the European Union have also scrutinized Intel's practices [Reuters report]. Intel has denied accusations from Japan's Fair Trade Commission that it curbed competition [JURIST report]. AP has more.






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Nepal ex-prime minister cleared of corruption charges
Krista-Ann Staley on June 28, 2005 9:45 AM ET

[JURIST] Nepal's anti-corruption panel has cleared ex-prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba [Wikipedia profile] and six former ministers of charges of misusing funds. According to a spokesman for the corruption commission, there was not enough evidence to find the accused guilty. Deuba and another former minister, Prakash Man Singh nontheless remain in jail for an additional corruption charge relating to a water project. Following his February takeover of the government of Nepal [JURIST news archive; BBC Q&A], Nepal's King Gyanendra [Wikipedia profile] set up the commission and provided it the power to investigate and arrest anyone on corruption charges, then to sentence those found guilty. Deuba and Singh argue the commission is unconstitutional and politically motivated and refuse to recognize it. BBC News has more.






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Israeli soldier to face military hearing for refusing to help Gaza disengagement
David Shucosky on June 28, 2005 9:20 AM ET

[JURIST] An American-born Israeli soldier who refused to participate in the evacuation of settlers from Gaza [JURIST news archive] will face a disciplinary hearing on Tuesday, pending a possible continuance by his lawyer. Cpl. Avi Bieber was pulled away by fellow soldiers on Sunday [AP report] after telling his commander he wouldn't participate in the evacuation and shouting support to settlers, the first Israeli soldier to refuse orders related to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's controversial disengagement plan. Bieber now faces charges [Jerusalem Post report] of refusing to obey an order and conduct unbecoming a soldier. Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz Tuesday cautioned soldiers that the government would not tolerate or overlook refusing orders [Haaretz report], and warned settlers not to interfere with the evacuation process. The IDF also denied reports [Haaretz report] that other soldiers from Bieber's unit planned on joining him in the future.






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First sentences handed down in Parmalat trial
Krista-Ann Staley on June 28, 2005 9:19 AM ET

[JURIST] A Milan judge Tuesday sentenced 11 men to up to two and a half years in jail for their roles in one of Europe's biggest financial scandals, the 2003 collapse of Parmalat [official website in English; BBC Q&A]. Based upon a plea bargain, the convicted men, including founder Calisto Tanzi, former chief financial officers Alberto Ferraris and Luciano Del Soldato, former finance chief Fausto Tonna, internal auditors, and Tanzi's brother and son, will not have to stand criminal trial in Milan. They could, however, still be indicted in Parma for false book-keeping, which carries much steeper charges than the market-related crimes tried in Milan. Reuters has more.






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Russian released from Guantanamo sues US for alleged abuses
David Shucosky on June 28, 2005 9:18 AM ET

[JURIST] A Muslim Russian national held at Guantanamo [JURIST news archive] from summer 2002 to February 2004 has filed a lawsuit against the US government alleging rights abuses. At a press conference on Tuesday in Moscow Airat Vakhitov - formerly an imam at a mosque in Tatarstan - said the abuses, such as being denied sleep, were mostly psychological [MosNews report], but he also echoed reports by other prisoners and US personnel [JURIST report] of abuse to the Koran [JURIST report], saying it was "thrown in the toilet in our presence." Captured in Afghanistan after being kidnapped by Islamic militants and taken there, he said one of the hardest parts of his ordeal was a flight from Kandahar to Guantanamo where he and other prisoners had to wear glasses, masks, and chains bound so tight as to leave scars: "Many people fainted due to a lack of oxygen [and] some went crazy during the flight." Vakhitov was released without facing charges months after he was returned to Russia. RIA Novosti has more.






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Pakistan high court orders re-arrest of 13 in gang-rape case
David Shucosky on June 28, 2005 8:17 AM ET

[JURIST] Pakistan's Supreme Court [official website] Tuesday overturned the acquittals of 13 men in a gang-rape case and ordered them re-arrested after an appeal by the victim, Mukhtar Mai [BBC profile]. The attack was supposedly ordered by village elders in retaliation for an affair her brother had with a higher-caste woman. At first, six men were convicted and sentenced to death for the June 2002 attack but five were acquitted on appeal and the sixth had his sentenced reduced [JURIST report]. Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf [Wikipedia profile] also temporarily revoked Mai's passport, but it has since been returned. The Supreme Court will hear appeals from Mai and the suspects at a future date. AP has more.






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Senators say Gitmo should remain open, but detainee rules need to be defined
Alexandria Samuel on June 27, 2005 8:32 PM ET

[JURIST] After spending the weekend at Camp Delta at Guantanamo Bay, US Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) [official website] and Ben Nelson (D-NE) told reporters Monday that while closing the military detention center is not necessary, establishing a precise legal status for prisoners and clarifying the rules governing them is. In a statement [text] posted on his website, Nelson noted that recent changes in management and increased oversight of the facility warrant it remaining open. Earlier this month, US Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter opened hearings [JURIST report] on the legal rights of detainees. The committee is expected to propose legislation delineating the rights and legal status of terror suspects in US detention. AP has more.






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UN commissioner urges asylum for refugees
Alexandria Samuel on June 27, 2005 8:02 PM ET

[JURIST] New United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres [Wikipedia profile] Monday urged countries to grant asylum to refugees rather than seal borders because of fears of terrorism. His call came at the end of a three-day visit to Kyrgyzstan [press release] by assistant high commissioner Kamel Morjane, and one week after that nation announced plans to deport a group of 29 Uzbek asylum seekers [JURIST report] despite UN contentions that the group might qualify as refugees under the UN Refugee Convention of 1951 [PDF]. More than 500 Uzbeks fled to Kyrgyzstan after troops shot into crowds of protestors to put down a feared uprising last month. Reuters has more.






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Defense Department releases new medical policies for detainees
Alexandria Samuel on June 27, 2005 7:24 PM ET

[JURIST] US Department of Defense officials Monday released [press statement] a new policy on responsibilities of military healthcare providers to detainees. The memorandum [PDF], circulated internally last week [JURIST report], reaffirms standards similar to those used in US federal prisons, indicating that military healthcare personnel have a duty to protect the physical and mental health of detainees, and establishes a clear separation of duties between "personnel providing healthcare to detainees and behavioral science personnel consulting with interrogators". Earlier this month, an article published in the New England Journal of Medicine [text] alleged that military interrogators at Guantanamo had access to detainees' medical records, and had exploited information from the records during questioning. A Pentagon spokesman insisted again Monday that DOD had "no credible evidence that a military physician participated in detainee abuse."






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Former Guantanamo detainees allege Koran desecration
Alexandria Samuel on June 27, 2005 6:42 PM ET

[JURIST] Six Pakistanis formerly held at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] told reporters Monday after their release from subsequent detention in a Pakistani prison in Lahore that US personnel at the camp had abused the Koran in their presence. After being greeted by their families the men alleged that American interrogators threw, tore, and otherwise desecrated the holy book as part of their interrogation techniques. A Pentagon spokesman dismissed the charges by stating that claims of mistreatment are "standard operating procedure in al-Qaida training manuals". In May, a later-retracted [JURIST report] story of Koran abuse in Newsweek magazine sparked deadly anti-US rioting in Afghanistan, and helped prompt Senate Judiciary Committee hearings [JURIST report] on the treatment of detainees at Guantánamo. Human Rights Watch has an overview of the religious abuse allegations. AP has more.






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Corporations and securities brief ~ SEC investigating IBM disclosures
James Murdock on June 27, 2005 6:42 PM ET

[JURIST] Leading Monday's corporations and securities law news, the SEC [official website] is investigating IBM [corporate website], the company announced today. In a press release, IBM said that it received a request to voluntarily comply with the SEC's informal investigation. The inquiry is related to IBM's first-quarter report and how it disclosed methods of expensing employee equity compensation. AP has more.

In other corporations and securities law news...






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States brief ~ Colorado Supreme Court upholds juror questioning of witnesses
Rachel Felton on June 27, 2005 5:38 PM ET

[JURIST] Leading Monday's states brief, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled [PDF text] today that allowing jurors to submit questions to witnesses is not a per se violation of a defendant's right to a fair trial in criminal cases. One defendant's attorney argued that the threat of unfair questions from the jurors should be reason to bar the practice of juror questioning, while the state's Assistant Attorney General argued in support of juror questioning as the questions are filtered through the judge, and the prosecuting and defense attorneys before being asked to the witness. Rule 24(g) of Colorado's Rules of Criminal Procedure [text] allows jurors to ask witnesses questions and became effective in July 2004. AP has more.

In other state legal news ...






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Iraqi VP says other nations pressing for delay of Saddam trial
David Shucosky on June 27, 2005 4:39 PM ET

[JURIST] Iraqi Vice President Adel Abdulmahdi told local leaders in the southern Iraqi province of Nassriya on Monday that some countries are pressing for a delay in the trial of Saddam Hussein. He did not specific which countries, but Iraq's justice minister has previously accused the US of stalling the trial because it has "secrets" to hide [JURIST report]. On Friday, Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari [BBC profile], on a state visit to the US, said he wanted the trial to be "over and done with" [JURIST report]. From Jordan, Al Bawaba has more.






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Turkey seeks life sentences for Istanbul bombing conspirators
David Shucosky on June 27, 2005 3:32 PM ET

[JURIST] A Turkish prosecutor has asked for life sentences for four alleged conspirators in the November 2003 bombings in Istanbul [BBC report] that killed 61 people and wounded hundreds more. The trial [JURIST report] actually encompasses 71 defendants; in addition to the four life sentences, prosecutor Zekeriya Oz asked the court for sentences ranging from 1 to 22.5 years for 36 defendants and acquittal for the remaining 31. Reuters has more.






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Italy may seek extradition of CIA agents who kidnapped imam in Milan
Tom Henry on June 27, 2005 3:21 PM ET

[JURIST] An Italian judicial source told Reuters Monday that Italy plans to formally seek the extradition of 13 agents working for the CIA for their alleged role in the 2003 seizure and deportation from Italy of Egyptian imam Abu Omar [Washington Post report]. The same source said Italy might put out a general international arrest warrant for the agents as common fugatives. An extradition request would be the first time that a major US ally has sought the extradition of American agents involved in US "renditions" of terror suspects to other jurisdictions for questioning. The news comes after an Italian judge last week issued domestic arrest warrants on the 13 agents [JURIST report] for abducting Abu Omar. International legal experts consider it highly unlikely [NYT report], however, that the US government would voluntarily turn over its own agents in such circumstances. Reuters has more.






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Iraqi Special Tribunal questions Aziz about Kurd killings
David Shucosky on June 27, 2005 3:15 PM ET

[JURIST] The Iraqi Special Tribunal [JURIST news archive; official website] has questioned former Iraqi deputy prime minister Tariq Aziz [BBC profile]. The urbane onetime Iraqi foreign minister, the only Christian in the Iraqi leadership and often the global media face of Saddam Hussein's government, was shown in court footage released Monday, in which he was asked about correspondence with Hussein discussing the UN inquiry into the 1991 killings of Kurds. The tribunal did not say when Aziz was questioned, but his lawyer says it was June 21. Ali Hassan al-Majid, or Chemical Ali [JURIST news archive], was also seen being questioned in other footage released. The questioning of former officials has stepped up light of recent government pushes to start Saddam's trial [JURIST report]. Reuters has more.






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Judge denies Killen request for new trial
David Shucosky on June 27, 2005 2:35 PM ET

[JURIST] Mississippi Circuit Judge Marcus Gordon Monday denied a request for a new trial by lawyers for Edgar Ray Killen [JURIST news archive]. Last week Killen was convicted of manslaughter [JURIST report] for the 1964 killing of three civil rights workers in Mississippi and sentenced to 60 years in jail [JURIST report]. His lawyers argued that the trial was for murder and they didn't expect the option of a manslaughter conviction to be presented to the jury, but Gordon ruled that under Mississippi law manslaughter is a lesser included offense. AP has more.






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High court declines to take reporters' appeal on confidentiality of sources
Tom Henry on June 27, 2005 1:38 PM ET

[JURIST] In a significant denial of certiorari Monday, the US Supreme Court refused to hear appeals from two reporters asking the Court to allow them to refuse to identify their sources and not risk facing fines or jail time. Matthew Cooper of TIME [JURIST report] and Judith Miller of the New York Times [JURIST report] face up to 18 months in jail for refusing to reveal their sources as part of an investigation into who revealed the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame [Wikipedia profile], whose husband, US Ambassador Joseph Wilson [Wikipedia profile], had been critical of US policy on Iraq. After the DC Circuit Court of Appeals refused to rehear the case [JURIST report] in April, intervention by the Supreme Court was sought by news groups arguing for the need to protect confidentiality. AFP has more. In a statement Monday, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press [advocacy website] said it was "disappointed" and "troubled" by the ruling: "Because of the split in the federal and state courts, the decision not to hear the case leaves reporters with little guidance on whether or not they can assure sources that promises of confidentiality will be upheld in court. It also provides no guidance to the federal courts reviewing the reporter's privilege in at least four other pending cases.." Read the full text of the RCFP statement. The RCFP offers more on reporters and federal subpoenas.

The Supreme Court Monday did granted certiorari in five other cases, including Bank of China v. NBM, regarding whether plaintiffs in civil RICO cases alleging mail and wire fraud as the acts on which they base their litigation need to establish reasonable reliance and Whitman v. DOT, regarding whether the Civil Service Reform Act [text] prevents suits by federal employees in federal court asserting statutory or constitutional violations relating to their employment. Other cases are Hudson v. Michigan, Hartman v. Moore, and Texaco v. Dagher, consolidated with Shell Oil Co. v. Dagher. Read the court's full Order List.






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French interior minister joins call for EU expansion halt after constitution crisis
Tom Henry on June 27, 2005 1:21 PM ET

[JURIST] French interior minister Nicolas Sarcozy [BBC profile] said Monday that the European Union should suspend any further enlargement [EU overview] given the strong rejection of the European Constitution [JURIST news archive] by French and Dutch voters. The statement was understood to be directed mostly at Turkey as Sarcozy added that Bulgaria and Romania should be allowed to join because of the progress made in including them already. Sarcozy's comments come in the wake of a similar statement by EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner [JURIST report] some two weeks ago. French President Jacques Chirac has said that the EU must follow through with its decision to start the entry process with Turkey. British Prime Minister Tony Blair also backed the inclusion [10 Downing Street press release] of Turkey in a recent press conference, but stressed that admission criteria are "absolute and must be met in full." Reuters has more.






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Israeli soldier convicted of manslaughter in death of UK activist
David Shucosky on June 27, 2005 12:54 PM ET

[JURIST] An Israeli military tribunal Monday convicted former Israeli soldier Taysir Hayb of manslaughter in connection with the killing of Tom Hurndall [JURIST report], a British peace activist [Guardian obituary]. Hurndall was shot while helping Palestinian children avoid gunfire in Gaza. His family was barred from entering Israel to view the trial, which a source in the Israeli government said was because his brothers refused to promise not to participate in any pro-Palestinian activities while in the country. Hurndall was a member of the International Solidarity Movement [advocacy website], which complained that the verdict didn't "question the policy and decision makers responsible" [statement]. Reuters has more.






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Lawyers frustrated by lack of hearings for Guantanamo detainees
David Shucosky on June 27, 2005 12:42 PM ET

[JURIST] Lawyers for detainees at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] say they are frustrated by delays that have prevented any court hearings for their clients, despite a US Supreme Court order from almost a year ago that granted them access to US courts [JURIST report]. Differing interpretations of the order have stalled appeals from detainees, with a ruling still months away. Attorneys for a number of Kuwaiti and Yemeni detainees claim their clients have been directly and indirectly pressured by US interrogators to drop their cases, a charge which has been denied. USA Today has more.






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Putin set to abolish inheritance tax in Russia
David Shucosky on June 27, 2005 12:26 PM ET

[JURIST] Russian President Vladimir Putin [official website, English version] is set to sign into a law a measure passed by both houses of the Russian parliament that will abolish the country's inheritance tax, according to reports on Monday. After Putin made the proposal in an April address his plan was swiftly enacted, receiving 414 votes of approval in the 450-seat lower house and garnering widespread public support. A small group opposed the law, claiming it benefitted only the few richest people. The US debate over its inheritance taxes [Wikipedia backgrounder] has prompted change, but so far nothing as far-reaching as this Russian initiative. MosNews has local coverage.






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Advocacy tribunal verdict accuses US, UK of war crimes in Iraq
David Shucosky on June 27, 2005 12:25 PM ET

[JURIST] The World Tribunal on Iraq [advocacy website] an unofficial grouping of antiwar activists and intellectuals who have held some 20 meetings around the world over the last two years, concluded its final session [JURIST report] in Istanbul Monday by releasing a scathing preliminary declaration [full text] insisting that the Iraq war was an illegal war of aggression based on false information, that US and UK forces had committed war crimes in the country, and that the United Nations had breached its responsibilities under the UN Charter for failing to stop the war or hold countries properly accountablke for it. US, UK and serving UN officials did not participate in the Tribunal's process, although invited to do so. Reuters has more.






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Spanish prosecutor insists on primacy of "rule of law" at end of 9/11 trial
David Shucosky on June 27, 2005 11:49 AM ET

[JURIST] A Spanish prosecutor Monday called for legal rather than military means of fighting the war on terror during closing arguments in the trial of three men suspected [JURIST report] of aiding the 9/11 attacks. Apparently referring to US strategy in Afghanistan and Iraq, he said "We don't need wars. We don't need detention camps, but rather this kind of trial that strengthens the rule of law" and called for "exemplary sentences" against the accused - jail terms in excess of 74,000 years [JURIST report] for Imad Yarkas [JURIST report], Driss Chebli, and Ghasoub al Abrash Ghalyoun, on charges that they helped prepare and plan the attacks. Chebli is also charged in connection with the Madrid train bombings [JURIST report]. AP has more.






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Supreme Court says cable companies can keep broadband lines to themselves
Tom Henry on June 27, 2005 11:42 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court on Monday upheld an FCC determination [FCC press release] that broadband cable modem companies are free from the mandatory regulations that apply to common-carriers. The 6-3 ruling means cable companies are allowed to keep rival internet providers from using their lines, a decision that lessens competition and consumer choice. The decision is likely to be seen as a victory for a Bush administration seeking to promote broadband investment. Read the Court's opinion [PDF] in the consolidated cases of Nat'l Cable and Telecomm. Ass'n v. Brand X Internet Servs. and FCC v. Brand X Internet Servs. [Duke Law backgrounder]. AP has more.






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High court rules police can't be sued over enforcement of restraining orders
Tom Henry on June 27, 2005 11:25 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court ruled Monday that police officers are immune from suits based on how they enforce restraining orders. In a 7-2 decision the Court said that a woman whose estranged husband murdered her three children did not have a constitutional right to police enforcement of the restraining order in place against her husband. Read the Court's opinion [PDF] in Castle Rock v. Gonzales [Duke Law backgrounder]. AP has more.

Also Monday, the Court ruled 5-4 that the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit abused its discretion by ordering consideration of new evidence in a Tennessee death row inmate's case. Read the Court's opinion [PDF] in Bell v. Thompson [Duke Law backgrounder].






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No retirement announcement from Rehnquist as court recesses
Bernard Hibbitts on June 27, 2005 11:16 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court recessed for the summer Monday morning without any announcement from Chief Justice William Rehnquist [OYEZ profile] on his possible retirement from the bench after 33 years of service. Speculation had been rife that the ailing and increasingly frail Rehnquist, 80, might take the occasion of the court's last sitting of the term to indicate that he would be stepping down, setting the stage for a critical nomination battle over his replacement. Recently, however, Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Arlen Specter, had ventured a "strong suspicion that he [Rehnquist] may be with us a while" [JURIST report]. A retirement announcement could, however, still be forthcoming by press release or publicly-disclosed letter to the President. AP has more.






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BREAKING NEWS ~ High court allows Commandments display on capitol grounds
Tom Henry on June 27, 2005 10:53 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court has ruled that the Ten Commandments can be displayed on the grounds of a state capitol building. The US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals had previously ruled [PDF] in Van Orden v. Perry [Northwestern University backgrounder] that a six-foot-tall display of the Commandments on the grounds of the Texas state capitol in Austin was constitutionally acceptable because it had a secular purpose and a resaonable viewer touring the capitol grounds would not conclude that the state was endorsing the Commandments' religious message. Read the Court's opinion [PDF]. AP has more.

The high court ruling follows one announced earlier Monday that held that courthouse displays of the Commandments were constitutionaly prohibited [JURIST report].






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BREAKING NEWS ~ Supreme Court rules Grokster violates copyright law
Tom Henry on June 27, 2005 10:41 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court ruled unanimously Monday that developers of software violate federal copyright law when they provide computer users with the ability to share music and movie files downloaded from the internet. Read the Court's opinion [PDF]. AP has more.

The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit had previously held [PDF ruling] in MGM Studios v. Grokster [Duke Law backgrounder] that Grokster was not liable for vicarious copyright infringement. The court determined that Grokster had neither the right nor the capability to stop the direct infringements.






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BTK killer pleads guilty to 10 murders
David Shucosky on June 27, 2005 10:34 AM ET

[JURIST] Dennis Rader [Court TV profile], charged with 10 murders [JURIST report] that took place between 1974 and 1991 as the "bind, torture, kill" (BTK) killer, pleaded guilty on Monday as his trial began in Wichita, Kansas. Prosecutors said before the hearing that no deal had been made. No date was set for sentencing, but Rader cannot face the death penalty because the crimes were committed before the establishment of a capital punishment statute in Kansas. AP has more.






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BREAKING NEWS ~ Supreme Court rejects Commandments displays in courthouses
Bernard Hibbitts on June 27, 2005 10:19 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court has ruled that the Ten Commandments cannot be displayed in courthouses. The US Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled in McCreary County v. ACLU of Kentucky [Northwestern University backgrounder] that Kentucky counties that had put framed copies of the Ten Commandments in county courthouses and schools were in violation of the Establishment Clause because they were predominantly religious had the effect of endorsing religion. Read the Court's opinion [PDF] written by Justice Souter, with a dissent by Justice Scalia. AP has more.

The issue of Commandments displays - which profoundly divides religious conservatives and liberals and has come up in repeated court contests - was recently highlighted in the case of former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore [advocacy website], who was removed from office last year by Alabama's judicial ethics board after he refused to comply with a federal court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument he had placed in the rotunda of the his state's courthouse.






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Greece to investigate possible involvement in Srebrenica killings
David Shucosky on June 27, 2005 10:18 AM ET

[JURIST] A Greek prosecutor launched an investigation on Monday to probe possible Greek involvement in the Srebrenica killings in Bosnia in 1995 [JURIST news archive]. Several Bosnian Serbs have already been arrested [JURIST report] for their roles. Many of the arrested were members of a paramilitary group [JURIST report] alleged to be under the direct control of former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic [JURIST news archive]. Greece is concerned about a number of citizens who volunteered to join Christian Serb forces during the war, but has ruled out any participation by Greek government soldiers. Reuters has more.






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Three acquitted of conspiracy charges for Kenya hotel bombing
David Shucosky on June 27, 2005 10:14 AM ET

[JURIST] A Kenyan magistrate on Monday acquitted three men charged with conspiracy in connection with a 2002 suicide bombing at a hotel. The attack, which al-Qaida claimed responsiblity for, killed 15 people [Jersualem Post file report]. Earlier, four other defendants were acquitted [JURIST report] on charges of actually carrying out the bombing. The ruling marks the third high-profile terrorism case in Kenya to result in no conviction [JURIST report]. Reuters has more.






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World prison population tops 9 million; US leads incarceration rate
David Shucosky on June 27, 2005 10:13 AM ET

[JURIST] Over 9 million people are now in prison worldwide and the number is growing, according to a new report [PDF text] by the London-based International Centre for Prison Studies [NGO website]. The statistical survey included convicts and persons held in pre-trial detention. The US, China, and Russia account for about half of the total, with the US holding 2.09 million, China holding 1.55 million (plus pretrial detainees and prisoners in what is termed "administrative detention") and Russia 760,000. The US has the highest incarceration rate by population: 714 persons per 100,000. Guardian News Services has more.






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US military planning new prison in Iraq
Tom Henry on June 27, 2005 9:05 AM ET

[JURIST] The US military is planning to expand the current Abu Ghraib [JURIST news archive] and Camp Bucca [Wikipedia backgrounder] detention facilities in Iraq and build a third major facility in the north of the country to accommodate a growing number of Iraqi prisoners. Military officials say the existing prisons - now holding over 10,000 detainees - are nearing their maximum "surge" capacities with no decrease in the number of new prisoners expected. Expansion and a new facility for 2,000 could allow the US to hold as many as 16,000 detainees. Both Abu Ghraib and Camp Bucca have been scenes of repeated riots and escape attempts [JURIST report] and the notoriously hot summer in Iraq plus a likely rise in violence as the constitution drafting and ratification process continues through the summer and early fall are only expected to increase intake and problems with inmates. The Los Angeles Times has more.






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Gang-rape victim Mai appeals to Pakistan Supreme Court
Tom Henry on June 27, 2005 8:08 AM ET

[JURIST] Pakistan's Supreme Court [official website] on Monday began hearing an appeal by Mukhtar Mai [BBC profile] against the acqittal of five men who allegedly brutalized her in a gang-rape that attracted national and international attention and condemnation. Mai was raped in 2002, allegedly on the orders of a traditional village council after her younger brother offended the honor of a large clan by befriending a female member. Originally, six men were convicted of the crime but these five were acquitted on appeal and the sixth had his sentenced reduced [JURIST report] to life in prison. The decision was widely denounced around the globe, but Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf [Wikipedia profile] fueled more anger earlier this month by temporarily banning Mai from leaving the country to speak about her ordeal. Mai's passport has since been returned to her and she is now free to travel. AFP has more.






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Iraq tribunal releases new interrogation footage of Saddam deputies
Holly Manges Jones on June 26, 2005 4:15 PM ET

[JURIST] The Iraqi Special Tribunal [official website] released silent footage Sunday from a judicial interrogation last week of six of Saddam Hussein's former lieutenants concerning the killing and deportation of Shiite Kurds and the repression of a Shiite revolt in 1991 after the first Gulf War. Saddam's half-brothers Barzan Ibrahim Hassan al-Tikriti [profile] and Watban Ibrahim Hassan al-Tikriti [profile], three senior Ba'ath party [BBC backgrounder] leaders, and a former paramilitary commander were among those questioned. The interrogations occurred before investigating judges, a defense lawyer, and prosecutors. Earlier this month the Iraqi tribunal released video of Saddam Hussein himself being questioning [JURIST report]. The special court's independence and competence to try Saddam have been criticized, most recently by Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari [Wikipedia profile] who blamed the judges [JURIST report] last week for not beginning Saddam's trial sooner after his capture in December 2003. AFP has more.






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Rights groups say US wrongly applies witness law to hold Muslim terror suspects
Holly Manges Jones on June 26, 2005 3:30 PM ET

[JURIST] The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] and Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] released a joint report [text] Sunday claiming that the Bush administration has violated the material witness law by detaining nearly 70 terrorism suspects since September 11 without enough criminal evidence to keep them. All but one of the detainees were Muslims. The law permits witnesses who could potentially flee prior to testifying in criminal cases to be arrested and detained. The two groups say the law "has been twisted beyond recognition," alleging that just 28 of the 70 suspects held were ultimately charged and 30 had never been called to testify in front of a court or grand jury. The US Department of Justice [official website] has declined to come forward with information on how many times it has used the material witness law. Senior Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] Sen. Patrick Leahy [official website] said he is contemplating proposing legislation to put parameters around the law's usage. Read a preliminary report [PDF] on the abuse of the material witness law by Anjana Malhotra, who also authored the advocacy report released Sunday. AP has more.






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Iraq constitution committee chief says drafting 80% done, deadline will be met
Holly Manges Jones on June 26, 2005 3:06 PM ET

[JURIST] Hammam Hammoudi, head of the drafting committee for the permanent Iraqi constitution [JURIST news archive], has said that 80% of the draft is completed and he anticipates the August 15 target date will be met with a national ratification referendum to follow as scheduled in October. An arbitration committee has been created to deal with conflicting issues that remain, such as the decision on whether to include the word "federation" in the constitution or revert back to the Iraqi Republic title. Hammoudi's announcement comes two days after President Bush said he was sticking to the August 15 draft deadline [JURIST report]. The drafting commission includes 55 Shiites and Kurds and 15 Sunnis who were added last week [JURIST report]. UPI has more.






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China considers first sexual harassment ban
Alexandria Samuel on June 26, 2005 2:43 PM ET

[JURIST] Legislation to criminalize sexual harassment was presented Sunday to the Standing Committee [Wikipedia backgrounder] of China's National People's Congress [official website in Chinese]. The draft amendment to the Law of the People's Republic of China on the Protection of Rights and Interests of Women [text], designed to protect women's rights, mandates that no one shall be allowed to subject women to sexual harassment and all employers shall take measures against sexual harassment in working places. The proposed amendment is said to be part of a larger initiative to give legal recognition to gender equality In China. AFP has more. China Daily has local coverage.






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Jerusalem court overturns city ruling, allows gay pride parade
Alexandria Samuel on June 26, 2005 11:32 AM ET

[JURIST] The Jerusalem District Court Sunday approved the city's annual gay pride parade, clearing the way for an international gay pride event [Jerusalem World Pride 2005 factsheet] later this summer. The parade, planned for this Thursday, had caused a divide in the deeply religious capital city. Opponents, including Jews for Morality, had sent an open letter [text] to city officials voicing objection, while supporters had petitioned Jerusalem Mayor Uri Lupolianski [Ynet news report] to allow the march. Jerusalem city officials said last Thursday that the parade would be banned [JURIST report], prompting legal action. The court said Sunday that a ban was outside the city's jurisdiction, and that the mayor could not cancel the parade simply because he did not agree with the marchers. The ruling directed the city and the mayor personally to cover the organizers' legal expenses. The Jerusalem Post has more.






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Syrian human rights leader acquitted of anti-government activity
Alexandria Samuel on June 26, 2005 11:00 AM ET

[JURIST] Leading Syrian human rights activist Aktham Naisse [Human Rights First profile], was acquitted of all charges by a Syrian State Security Court Sunday. Naisse, chairman of the Committees for the Defense of Democratic Liberties and Human Rights in Syria, was arrested in 2004 and charged with spreading false information and forming an underground association after publishing a report on human rights and leading a campaign to end 40 years of emergency law in Syria, which greatly limits freedom of expression, association, and assembly. He was later released on bail [JURIST report], AP has more. Earlier this month the congress of Syria's ruling Baath party called for political reforms and a broadening of press freedom in an effort to move away from the emergency law [JURIST report], in place since the party took power in 1963.






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UPDATE ~ US House members report improved conditions at Gitmo
Alexandria Samuel on June 26, 2005 10:35 AM ET

[JURIST] After visiting the Guantanamo Bay detention center Saturday [JURIST report], House Republicans and Democrats reported that conditions at the facility are improving. The lawmakers traveled to the detention facility to witness interrogations and observe living conditions of the suspected terrorists. Representative Ellen Tauscher (D-CA) [official website] said that "[t]he Guantanamo we saw today is not the Guantanamo we heard about a few years ago". The visits come amid mounting pressure from human rights groups and some lawmakers to pierce the veil of secrecy surrounding conditions at the camp [JURIST news archive], and end the use of torture techniques. A Senate visit is scheduled for Sunday. AP has more.






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US lawmakers visit Guantanamo prison
Christopher Tate on June 25, 2005 4:38 PM ET

[JURIST] Sixteen US House members visited the Guantanamo Bay detention center [JTF-Guantanamo official website] on Saturday, with a Senate delegation to follow. The trip was planned in response to mounting concerns on both sides of the partisan aisle [JURIST report] about alleged human rights violations at the prison. Military officials gave a classified briefing to lawmakers and then led them on a tour. These 16 members join the 77 Congressmen and 11 Senators to have visited the camp since it opened in 2002. AP has more.






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Losing Iranian presidential candidate condemns "illegal" efforts to defeat him
Christopher Tate on June 25, 2005 3:39 PM ET

[JURIST] Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani [Wikipedia profile; campaign website in Farsi], the relatively-moderate cleric and former president of Iran who lost Friday's run-off election to hardline conservative Mahmoud Ahmadinejad [Wikipedia profile, campaign website in Farsi], contended Saturday that there had been what he called "organized and illegal" efforts to ensure his defeat. Rafsanjani, president from 1989 to 1997, ran on a platform calling for better relations with the West. Despite his misgivings, however, he said he he will not dispute the result, favoring Ahmadinejad won with 62% of votes cast amid high turnout [Wikipedia report]. Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei [official website in English] called the result a "profound humiliation" for the United States, which has expressed concern about the lack of democratic safeguards in the Iranian electoral process [JURIST report]. BBC News has more.






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Proposed Russian constitutional amendment could give Putin third term
Christopher Tate on June 25, 2005 3:01 PM ET

[JURIST] A bill due to be considered in the Russian state Duma next week would allow Russian President Vladimir Putin [official website] to circumvent the two-term limit on presidents set by the Russian Constitution [text in English]. The legislative amendment introduced Thursday by United Russia [party website in Russian] lawmaker Alexander Moskalets would allow Putin to run again if he stepped down before his second term concluded in 2008 and the election in that year (in which he could not participate) was declared invalid. Critics of Putin's administration, who have long speculated he would attempt to stay in power after his second term, have described the legislation as self-serving attempt to retain office at the expense of the Constitution. AP has more. MosNews has local coverage.






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Afghanistan starts voter registration amidst UN security concerns
Holly Manges Jones on June 25, 2005 11:20 AM ET

[JURIST] Afghanistan began to register voters Saturday for the parliamentary elections scheduled for September 18, a day after UN Special Representative Jean Arnault [official profile] told the UN Security Council that greater security will be necessary [excerpt of statement] to prevent violence at the polls. The Wolesi Jirga and Provincial Council election [background briefing, PDF] has been threatened by the Taliban and regional militants attempting to gain power. Increased security will come from the 20,000 US soldiers already in Afghanistan fighting the Taliban and 8,300 NATO peacekeepers whose number may be increased by another 2,000 [NATO update]. The Joint Electoral Management Body [official website] hopes to register approximately two million voters over the next month. Reuters has more.






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Former CEO of Italian Parmalat ordered to stand trial for fraud
Holly Manges Jones on June 25, 2005 10:32 AM ET

[JURIST] An Italian judge ruled Saturday that Calisto Tanzi [profile], founder and CEO of Italian dairy and juice company Parmalat [corporate website], will stand trial in the $18 billion fraud case that caused the company's downfall. Parmalat Finanziaria SpA admitted in 2003 that a $5 billion account with Bank of America was fake, leading investors to lose their savings accounts. The judge also ordered Italian Bank of America [corporate website] executives, Grant Thornton [corporate website], and the company's auditors Deloitte & Touche [corporate website in Italian] to stand trial. Enrico Bondi, appointed by the Italian government as a special administrator covering the Parmalat scandal, has also filed claims against several Italian and international banks. Earlier this week, Morgan Stanley [official website] agreed to settle [JURIST report] with Parmalat by paying $187 million. The trial against Tanzi is expected to start in Milan this September. AP has more.






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Murder verdict opens door for death penalty sentence in Vermont
Holly Manges Jones on June 25, 2005 10:03 AM ET

[JURIST] A jury found Donald Fell guilty for murder in federal court Friday allowing the jurors to next determine if he should receive the death penalty, which has not been applied in Vermont for nearly 50 years. In November 2000, Fell and his friend kidnapped Terry King in Vermont and killed her in New York, and because they crossed state lines with King, the case was brought in federal court [JURIST report]. Vermont has no death penalty under state law, but the federal charges for kidnapping with death resulting and carjacking with death resulting allow the jury contemplate a death sentence in the next phase of the trial. The sentencing process is expected to start Tuesday. From Vermont, the Burlington Free Press has more.






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UPDATE ~ Iran hardliner sweeping to victory in run-off amid fraud allegations
Bernard Hibbitts on June 24, 2005 7:36 PM ET

[JURIST] An official with Iran's Guardian Council said early Saturday local time that hardline Tehran mayor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad [Wikipedia profile; campaign website in Farsi] had a commanding lead over former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani [campaign website in Farsi] in the country's run-off presidential election. With roughly 12.9 million of 22 million ballots counted, Ahmadinejad had taken 61% of the vote, thanks largely to widespread support among conservative and religious voters in poorer provinces. Rafsanjani supporters had earlier claimed "massive irregularities" in the poll due to alleged pressure on voters by the hardline Basij militia; the Interior Ministry, whose officials are largely Rafsanjani backers, at one point called for some polling stations to be closed [JURIST report]. An Anti-Ahmadinejad blogger in Iran also says he has heard news of "extensive fraud" [blog post]. Reuters has more. Iran's IRNA news agency has local coverage.

8:17 PM ET - Updated figures from IRNA [report in Farsi] at 3:30 AM local time are translated [blog post] as 15 million votes for Ahmadinejad and 9 million for Rafsanjani of 24 million counted.

8:32 PM ET - AP is reporting that Iran's Interior Ministry has declared Ahmadinejad the winner of the presidential run-off election.






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Corporations and securities brief ~ Nextel, Sprint face legal action over planned merger
James Murdock on June 24, 2005 7:00 PM ET

[JURIST] Leading Friday's corporations and securities law news, affiliates of both Sprint [corporate website] and Nextel [corporate website] plan legal action relating to the companies' planned merger. In a filing with the SEC today, Nextel Partners [corporate website], a Washington state company that distributes Nextel services, declared its intention to vote on forcing a stock buy-out by the new company. US Unwired Inc. [corporate website], a Louisiana company that distributes Sprint services, is suing to stop the merger because they claim it infringes on their contract to be the exclusive Sprint distributor in six southern states. AP has more.

In other corporations and securities news...






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States brief ~ FL Governor signs state growth legislation
Rachel Felton on June 24, 2005 5:14 PM ET

[JURIST] Leading Friday's states brief, Florida Governor Jeb Bush Friday signed legislation overhauling Florida's state growth and development guidelines [press release] for the first time in twenty years. The legislation calls for $1.5 billion of state money to be spent on highways, water facilities and classrooms in the next year. Senate bills 360 [bill summary], 444 [bill summary], and 362 [bill summary] require adequate roads and schools to be in place or under construction within three years of the local government's approval, an adequate water supply to be available before residents can move into a new development and creates the Water Protection and Sustainability Program to clean up polluted waterways. The funding will also help pay for new classrooms under a constitutional amendment limiting the number of children in public school classrooms. Florida is projected to grow by 5 million residents in the next 17 years. AP has more.

In other state legal news ...






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International brief ~ Sudan Darfur court questions status in light of ICC probe
D. Wes Rist on June 24, 2005 5:07 PM ET

[JURIST] Leading Friday's international brief, the special criminal tribunal [JURIST report] created by the Sudanese government [official website] to begin the process of trying individuals alleged to have committed war crimes in Darfur is reportedly questioning its legal status to try certain individuals in light of the recently opened investigation by the International Criminal Court [official website]. Several Sudanese government ministers have suggested the that tribunal is a substitute for the ICC and eliminates the need for any international investigation. The Rome Statute [official PDF text] of the ICC allows for complementarity between domestic courts and the international judicial body, so long as the legitimacy and validity of the local judicial system is considered to meet the minimum of international standards. Rights groups have charged Sudan with creating the special tribunal merely to avoid the ICC [Amnesty International press release], criticizing the Sudanese judiciary as incapable of conducting truly fair and impartial trials. Sudanese President Umar al-Bashir [Wikipedia profile] has repeatedly stated that no Sudanese citizen will be surrendered to the ICC's jurisdiction. JURIST's Paper Chase has continuing coverage of Sudan [JURIST news archive]. IRIN News has more.

In related news, the Sudanese National Constitution Commission announced Thursday that all of the international charters and conventions addressing human rights and individual freedoms that have currently been signed and ratified by the current Sudanese government are being included in the Sudanese Interim Constitution. The Commission spokesperson announced that the conventions and charters, included in Article 27 of the Interim Constitution, will be given full weight before domestic courts, allowing individual citizens to bring private causes of actions against the government for failure to maintain those rights. The Commission also announced the inclusion of a provision that will prevent any of those rights and freedoms from being confiscated or revoked by any form of legislation. The Commission is made up of members from several of the larger rebel groups in Sudan, as well as government representatives and domestic legal experts and was a result of the historic January peace accords [JURIST report] in Sudan. The Sudan Tribune has local coverage.

In other international legal news ...






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UPDATE ~ Iran extends polling hours for presidential runoff vote for 5th time
Kate Heneroty on June 24, 2005 4:16 PM ET

[JURIST] Iran state television announced Friday that the Iranian Interior Ministry would extend the polling hours of the country's second presidential runoff election for the fifth time. The voting started at 9 AM local time and was scheduled to end at 7 PM, but has now been extended until 11 PM at the request of many provinces, which are experiencing long lines. In last Friday's inconclusive vote, polling hours were also extended several times. The runoff occured after neither Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani [BBC profile] or Mahmood Ahmadinejad [BBC profile] obtained the required 50% vote. In the first round, Rafsanjani received 21 percent of the votes cast, and Ahmadinejad received 19.5 percent. The final result is expected by midday Saturday. IranMania has more.






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Anti-war tribunal: US caused more deaths in Iraq than Saddam
Tom Henry on June 24, 2005 3:23 PM ET

[JURIST] The World Tribunal on Iraq [advocacy website] on Friday accused the US of committing war crimes during the invasion of Iraq and claimed the United States has caused more deaths in Iraq than former dictator Saddam Hussein. The tribunal, a group of NGOs, intellectuals, and legal experts with no binding authority is based on so-called Russell Tribunal [Wikipedia backgrounder] convened by English philosopher and anti-war activist Bertrand Russell during the Vietnam War in the 1960s. It will deliver a "verdict" Monday during its Istanbul convention [press release] to condemn US and British action in Iraq. Militant Indian novelist and tribunal member Arundhati Roy [Wikipedia profile] called on the International Criminal Court [speech transcript] to utilize the evidence gathered by the group "to try as war criminals George Bush, Tony Blair, John Howard, Silvio Berlusconi, and all those government officials, army generals, and corporate CEOs who participated in this war and now benefit from it." AFP has more.






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Tight Iranian presidential vote marred by abuses
Kate Heneroty on June 24, 2005 3:09 PM ET

[JURIST] Iranian Interior Ministry officials said Friday that intimidation and other abuses were impairing the presidential run-off election between relative moderate and former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani [BBC profile] and hard-liner and mayor of Tehran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad [BBC profile]. The Interior Ministry, dominated by Rafsanjani supporters, has requested that some polling locations be closed because of irregularities, such as the presence of Basij religious militiamen. A Rafsanjani aide said police harassed and arrested Rafsanjani representatives and in some locations women voters were turned away for inappropriate Islamic dress. Reuters has more. BBC News compares where the candidates stand on important issues.






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UN to ask France to bring case against employee accused in Rwandan genocide
Tom Henry on June 24, 2005 3:01 PM ET

[JURIST] Chief of Staff to UN-Secretary General Kofi Annan Mark Malloch Brown [official profile] told AP Friday that the UN will ask France to pursue a former UN employee accused in the murders of 32 Rwandans during the genocide of 1994, after pressure on Rwandan authorities has yielded little success. Callixte Mbarushimana [Wikipedia profile], who has lived in France since 2003 with refugee protection, worked for the UN Development Program [official website] in Rwanda from 1992-1994. He is believed to have shot two people to death and coordinated the murders of 30 others, including other UN employees. Mbarushimana denies the charges and said he welcomed the opportunnity to clear his name. Former chief prosecutor for the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda [official website] Carla del Ponte says the ICTR did not file an indictment against Mbarushimana because it lacked sufficient evidence against him. AP has more.






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Judge adds $130M to verdict against Morgan Stanley
Kate Heneroty on June 24, 2005 2:40 PM ET

[JURIST] A judge has added $130 million to the $1.45 billion verdict against Morgan Stanley [corporate website] a jury awarded last month [JURIST report] to billionaire financier and Revlon Inc. chairman Ron Perelman. The judge took off about $84.5 million because of previous settlements, but added more than $208 million in interest. Perelman attorney, Jack Scarola said he believed a settlement was possible because more than $300,000 in interest accrues every day. Morgan Stanley spokesman Andrew Walton reiterated the company's previous statement [press release] that it will appeal the verdict. AP has more.






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Bush sticking to Iraq constitution timetable
Tom Henry on June 24, 2005 2:32 PM ET

[JURIST] In a White House press conference [transcript] Friday with visiting Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari [Wikipedia profile], President Bush reiterated his goal of sticking to the scheduled timetable for a permannet Iraqi constitution which contemplates completion of a a draft by August 15, a referendum on the draft by October 15, and a new election under the constitution by December 15:

...the only timetable that I think is going to -- that I know is out there is the timetable that says let's have the constitution written by a certain date, and let's have it ratified by a certain date, and let's have the election by a certain date. That's the timetable. And we're going to stay on that timetable. And it's important for the Iraqi people to know we are.
The President's statement comes after Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld made a similar declaration [JURIST report] Thursday in a Senate Armed Services Committee [official website] hearing, commenting that a delay in Iraq's adoption of a constitution would be "an enormous disservice" while "coalition people are being killed. Iraqis are being killed."





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Amnesty presses US on Guantanamo access, commission
Kate Heneroty on June 24, 2005 2:27 PM ET

[JURIST] Amnesty International [official website] Friday called for the US to open detention centers around the world to UN experts, expressing "deep regret" at the reluctance to to allow human rights experts to visit with detainees. The organization again called on Congress to create a commission to implement a full investigation into US detention and interrogation policies and practices. In a press statement, Amnesty said:

Allowing UN experts full access is a vital part of ensuring the international credibility of such an investigation...Shunning international law and denying detainees basic human rights will not bring security to the USA. It is time for the USA to fully re-engage with the international community in upholding human rights rules which the USA was material in shaping.
In a human rights report last month, Amnesty controversially labeled the Guantanamo detention camp the "gulag of our time." [JURIST report].





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Medical marijuana indictment unsealed
Kate Heneroty on June 24, 2005 1:57 PM ET

[JURIST] Federal law enforcment authorities in San Francisco have unsealed an indictment charging 19 people with drug trafficking and using three San Francisco medical marijuana dispensaries as fronts for organized crime. In marijuana raids conducted earlier this week [JURIST report] federal agents seized 9,309 marijuana plants, ecstasy, 3 firearms, and pot laced sweets including candy, cookies and brownies, in a raid of 26 different locations, including homes and businesses. The criminal complaint in the case alleges a large scale drug trafficking organization grew, imported, distributed and sold large quantities of marijuna and engaged in money laundering. US Attorney Kevin Ryan [official biography] would not say whether the raids were a result of the recent Supreme Court ruling in Gonzales v. Raich [PDF] making medical marijuana illegal, noting that the investigation had spanned the last 2 years, but San Francisco drug enforcement agents say they are empowered by the decision and vow to enforce it. The San Francisco Chronicle has more.






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Swiss court says arrested ex-Russian minister must stay in prison
Kate Heneroty on June 24, 2005 1:34 PM ET

[JURIST] A federal court in Lausanne, Switzerland ruled Friday that former Russian nuclear minister Yevgeny Adamov [Wikipedia profile] must remain in a Swiss prison pending hearings on an extradition request from Russia, overruling a decision [Bellona report] two weeks ago ordering his release. Switzerland's Supreme Court [official website, in German] held that "in extradition procedures, the incarceration of the person sought is the rule, from which only exceptional cases should deviate." Adamov was Russia's atomic energy minister from 1998 to 2001, when he was accused of corruption. Adamov faces fraud charges in Russia and may also face extradition to the US [MosNews report], where he is charged with embezzling $9 million [JURIST report] designated for nuclear safety upgrades in Russia. He was arrested in Bern in May on a US warrant. Swiss Info has local coverage.






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Appeals court sides with EPA on relaxed anti-pollution plant upgrades
Kate Heneroty on June 24, 2005 1:12 PM ET

[JURIST] A three judge panel of the US DC Circuit Court of Appeals Friday rejected claims by thirteen states that the Bush administration's decision to let older power plants emit more pollution violates the Clean Air Act [text]. The policy upheld in State of New York v. EPA [PDF opinion] allows plants to modernize without requiring installation of expensive new pollution controls. The administration feared the mandatory upgrades would hinder innovation and changes that increase productivity. The court indicated it was unclear that the administration's changes in the New Source Review [EPA backgrounder] will lead to greater pollution. The EPA New Source Review rules apply to 17,000 facilities, including power plants, refineries, steel mills, and pharmaceutical factories. AP has more.






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Zimbabwe police report 46,000 arrests in squatter sweep
Krista-Ann Staley on June 24, 2005 10:54 AM ET

[JURIST] Zimbabwe's police chief has confirmed that 46,000 people have been arrested in "Operation Restore Order," a highly controversial government initiative to reduce crime and illegal buildings in Harare and other towns. The state demolition of "illegal" backyard shacks and showstalls, the arrest of street vendors and the confiscation of their property has drawn international condemnation for targetting the poor and for employing extreme violence which has left a rumber of people dead, including children. On Thursday a coalition of more than 200 NGOs called for a halt [JURIST report]. President Robert Mugabe has insisted that the Operation's goal is to "bettter the common man", improve infrastructure and fight crime in urban areas. According to the United Nations and the opposition, the exercise has left between 200,000 and 1.5 million people homeless, respectively. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation has more.






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Italian judge orders arrest of 13 CIA agents over imam deportation
Tom Henry on June 24, 2005 10:34 AM ET

[JURIST] An Italian official speaking anonymously said Friday that a judge in Milan has ordered the arrest of 13 CIA agents for their alleged role in aiding the deportation of an imam to Egypt [Washington Post report]. Italian newspapers claim the Milan seizure and deportation of an Egyptian known as Abu Omar in 2003 was part of the CIA's "extraordinary rendition" program to move terror suspects to a third country without court approval. The reports claim six other agents are under investigation for the deportation of Omar, believed to have fought alongside jihadists in Afghanistan and Bosnia before being taken to a joint US-Italian military base for interrogation. The US Embassy in Rome [official website] would not comment on the report. AP has more.






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Reproductive rights groups challenge Florida parental consent law
Krista-Ann Staley on June 24, 2005 10:23 AM ET

[JURIST] The Center for Reproductive Rights [advocacy website; press release] and Planned Parenthood Federation of America [advocacy website; press release] have filed a federal suit claiming Florida's new Parental Notice of Abortion Act [text], taking effect July 1, can delay emergency treatment to girls. The Act, signed by Governor Jeb Bush [press release] in May and implementing a constitutional amendment [Vote Smart summary] passed by Florida voters in November 2004, requires doctors to phone or meet with parents 48 hours before a girl under the age of 17 has an abortion, unless that girl is married or already has a child. If such notification is not possible, the doctor can use certified mail 72 hours before the procedure. The law also provides a bypass of the requirements if the doctor determines there is not enough time to comply, and a judge can grant a waiver based on the patient's best interest, her level of maturity, and past abuse by her parents. According to state Senator Paula Dockery [official website], a sponsor of the bill, its wording already addresses the organization's concerns. The US Supreme Court is scheduled to address the requirement of health exceptions in abortion laws this fall in Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England [Duke law backgrounder]. AP has more.






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UN source says US admits torture in Iraq, Afghanistan, Gitmo
Tom Henry on June 24, 2005 10:04 AM ET

[JURIST] A member of the UN Committee against Torture [official website], speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP Friday that the US has acknowledged to the United Nations for the first time that instances of prisoner torture have occured in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay. In a report to the Committee, the US admitted isolated incidents of torture committed by low-ranking members of the military that resulted in the guilty parties being punished. "They haven't avoided anything in their answers," AFP quotes the source as saying. The documents will be made public when Committee hearings are held in May 2006 to monitor adherence to the Convention against Torture and Other Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment [text]. Word of the acknowledgement of torture comes after a day after a UN investigator complained of US delays [JURIST report] in allowing a UN visit to Guantanamo. AFP has more.






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Canadian parliament extends session to pass same-sex marriage bill
Krista-Ann Staley on June 24, 2005 9:51 AM ET

[JURIST] Canadian lawmakers will extend their current session into the summer to push through the contentious Civil Marriage Act [text], which would legalize same-sex marriage across Canada. Government Liberals thwarted the plan of opposition Conservatives, who have staunchly opposed the bill, to end the session on a final budget vote next week. Instead, Liberals allied with the New Democratic Party [offical website] and forced a sudden budget vote late Thursday, which passed 152 to 147 and brought the same-sex marriage bill to the forefront. A majority of Canadians support same-sex marriage legislation. A New Brunswick judge ruled Thursday that the definition of civil marriage as between a man and a woman violated the rights of gay persons, and would have to be changed to "between two persons" [CBC News report]. That decision leaves Prince Edward Island., Alberta and the Northwest Territories as the only remaining Canadian jurisdictions that do not recognize same-sex marriage. AFP has more.






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Vioxx lawsuits could start in fall
Tom Henry on June 24, 2005 9:24 AM ET

[JURIST] Lawyers involved in the huge litigation [official website; JURIST news archive] against Merck [corporate website] over its drug Vioxx [FDA overview] said Thursday that federal lawsuits against the drug company could begin in late autumn 2005. The first state trial begins in Texas next month with two more to follow in the late summer and a fourth in New Jersey. Disagreements over the turning over of evidence by Merck have slowed the process in the federal courts but a plan is being implemented to speed up the process and begin the first trials in New Orleans. The painkiller Vioxx was taken off the market [Merck press release] in September when a link was found between heart attacks and strokes and prolonged use of the drug. Some 3500 Vioxx-related lawsuits have since been launched in US federal and state courts. AP has more.






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Iraqi PM wants Saddam trial start, expresses exasperation with judges
Krista-Ann Staley on June 24, 2005 9:07 AM ET

[JURIST] Speaking to the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington Thursday, visiting Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari [BBC profile] called for the trial of ousted Iraqi president Saddam Hussein to get under way and be "over and done with", expressing exasperation with the Iraqi Special Tribunal (IST) [official website] constituted to investigate and hear his case. According to Jaafari, "There has indeed been some time wasting and I have spoken to the main judge responsible for trying Saddam Hussein... [Hussein] has committed all types of crimes and we do not want an extensive investigation. All we want is a verdict." Earlier this month the IST publicly balked [JURIST report] at government suggestions [JURIST report] that Saddam's trial was imminent. Jaafari himself has previously called for a swift trial [JURIST report] and said that Hussein could face the death penalty. AFP has more.






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At least seven more Bosnian Serbs arrested over Srebrenica killings
Tom Henry on June 24, 2005 8:51 AM ET

[JURIST] A senior Bosnian Serb police officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Friday that seven Bosnian Serbs have been arrested in the past two days for involvement in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre [BBC timeline; JURIST news archive]. The attorney general is reportedly pushing for a crackdown on the remaining Srebrenica fugitives though the attorney general's office was unwilling for comment. AFP has more. In Belgrade meanwhile, another report, Radio B92 says a source inside the Republic of Srpska Ministry of Interior [official website] is reporting 15 arrests, including four former and current police officers, on charges of involvement in the Srebrenica massacre. More arrests are expected over the next few days.






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Ethiopia releases 2,600 election demonstrators from prison
Krista-Ann Staley on June 24, 2005 8:41 AM ET

[JURIST] Ethiopian federal police Friday confirmed the release of 2,665 people arrested during recent election-related protests [JURIST report]. The Ethiopian Human Rights Council [advocacy website] had estimated over 3,000 arrests were made during demonstrations. According to police, the released prisoners were only minomally involved, but the cases of the others would require further investigation and the remainder would be tried in court. Pressure from the European Union [EU press release], donors and international humanitarian agencies is believed to have resulted in the mass release. Diplomats from the Irish, Swiss and US embassies inspected conditions at the federal prison where the protestors were held earlier in the week. South Africa's Mail & Guardian has more.






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Florida A&M law profs threaten to stop teaching over back pay
Tom Henry on June 24, 2005 8:29 AM ET

[JURIST] Interim Dean of Florida A&M University Law School [official website] James Douglas said Thursday that about 10 professors at the law school who have not been paid for the first summer session have threatened to stop teaching if they do not receive their agreed upon salaries. Douglas also said that some at the university felt that the salaries, $20,000 for four credit hours taught, were too high though they are comparable to salaries the past two summers and were agreed to by provost Larry Robinson. The University had budgeted only $13,000 for each professor. The unusual controversy comes as Florida A&M University [official website] is under criminal investigation [JURIST report] for misuse of taxpayer dollars in connection with a law school endowment and the law school dean has been suspended pending an payroll investigation. AP has more.






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Stolen art threatens Iraqi culture, funds terrorism, says Iraq museum chief
Krista-Ann Staley on June 24, 2005 8:09 AM ET

[JURIST] The director of Iraq's looted [missing artifacts database] National Museum warned a UNESCO meeting [official website] of the International Coordinating Committee to Safeguard the Cultural Heritage of Iraq Thursday that the purchase of stolen artifacts [BBC report] from Iraq is funding terrorist activity. "Rich people are buying stolen material . . . Money is going to Iraq and (terrorist groups) are buying weapons and ammunition to use against Iraqi police and American forces," Donny George [NPR interview] said. The UNESCO group is examining, planning, and creating new policies to reinforce international cooperation to safeguard Iraq's heritage. According to the committee, "Iraq's cultural treasures have been subjected to severe damage, including destruction, pillaging, and vandalism, during the revent conflict." George praised police in the US for doing an "excellent job" of reducing the flow of stolen artifacts there, but said many objects are still arriving there. The committee praised Jordan, Kuwait, Syria, Italy, Saudi Arabia and the US for efforts to hold Iraqi artifacts for safekeeping, but requested more cooperation from Turkey and Iran. AP has more.






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Wisconsin Assembly approves broad human cloning ban
Tom Henry on June 24, 2005 8:04 AM ET

[JURIST] The Wisconsin Assembly [official website] voted Thursday to approve one of the country's broadest bans on human cloning [bill text, PDF] in the state where embyonic stem cell research was pioneered [U. Wisconsin Stem Cell Research Program website] and a huge biotechnology infrastructure exists. In a 59-38 vote the Republican-dominated Assembly passed a measure that bans not only cloning to create another human life but also "therapeutic cloning" aimed at procuring stem cells. The Wisconsin Senate is expected to begin debating the issue as soon as next week but Democratic Governor Jim Doyle [official profile], who pushed hard to have "therapeutic cloning" removed from the ban, has said he will veto the measure. The University of Wisconsin-Madison holds the patents to the only US stem cell lines approved for federal funding. In a politically-related move earlier this month the Wisconsin Assembly voted to ban the "morning-after" emergency contraceptive pill [JURIST report] from state college campuses AP has more.






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Supreme Court eminent domain ruling riles private property champions
Holly Manges Jones on June 23, 2005 8:23 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court's Thursday ruling in Kelo v. New London [text] allowing local governments to expropriate private property for development [JURIST report] has sparked intense negative reaction from defenders of private property rights, with a number hailing this as a "dark day for American homeowners". David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union (ACU) [official website], called the ruling a "slap in the face" [press release] saying, "It is outrageous to think that the government can take away your home any time it wants to build a shopping mall." In an online chat [transcript] on the Washington Post website Carol DeGrasse, president of Property Rights of America, compared the ramifications of the high court's decision on middle class neighborhoods with the condemnations that ruined black communities during the 1950s and 60s.

The Institute for Justice [official website], a conservative public interest law firm, expects a strong battle over the issue [statements by the Institute for Justice and its clients] in the state supreme courts. The National Taxpayers Union (NTU) [official website], a non-partisan group that filed an amicus brief [PDF] in the case, stressed that that the implications go beyond affecting property owners to also burden taxpayers [press release].

Meanwhile, the National League of Cities (NLC) [official website] praised the decision, calling it a "victory for cities" [press release] and said eminent domain is "one of the most powerful tools city officials have to rejuvenate their neighborhoods."

University of Florida law professor Michael Allen Woolf, holder of the law school's local government chair, said late Thursday, however, that the wash of negative reaction may be unwarranted:

The only thing that was surprising about the decision was that Justice Sandra Day O?Connor wrote the dissent, supporting the homeowners. One of the reasons why the majority sided with the city of New London was that the Supreme Court, in a 1984 opinion written by Justice O?Connor herself, upheld a very broad-based use of the takings clause by the state of Hawaii, allowing property to be taken from one private party and transferred, upon payment of just compensation, to another private party.

Contrary to the horror stories spread by the supporters of the homeowners in New London, not all Americans? homes are at risk. In fact, in many states the state and local governments are restricted in their use of eminent domain power. For example, in several states, like Florida, only blighted property may be taken in cases such as this by the government. Also, it must be remembered that the United States Constitution guarantees all property owners just compensation when their property is taken. This is not a token payment, but fair market value.

Finally, the political alignments in this case are somewhat surprising. On the one hand, the five justices who refused to strike down the taking (Stevens, Breyer, Kennedy, Ginsburg, and Souter), that is, the justices who restrained themselves and allowed state and local officials to proceed, are not the most conservative members of the court. These moderate and left-left leaning judges respected states? rights, refusing to elevate federal law over local law. In the process, they ignored the pleas of homeowners and elevated the interests of the powerful Pfizer Corporation and its allies in government. That sounds like pro-business conservatism to me. On the other hand, the dissenters (O?Connor, Rehnquist, Scalia, and Thomas) attempted to play the role of judicial activists in this case and tried to use federal constitutional law to reverse the decisions of duly elected lawmakers, railing against "those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms." That sounds like good old-fashioned liberalism to me.

The bottom line is that, after this decision, the future of eminent domain law is in the hands of state and local elected and appointed officials. While the Michigan Supreme Court did recently reverse its previous position and rendered an opinion more in line with the Kelo dissent than the majority, we can expect that most of the moves for change will now be in state legislatures, not courtrooms. And, conservatives, moderates, and liberals alike can probably agree that that is the best place to make these socially and politically charged decisions.
US Newswire also offers a statement on the Supreme Court decision by Ralph Nader [official website].





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Mexican Congress votes to remove death penalty from constitution
Holly Manges Jones on June 23, 2005 7:28 PM ET

[JURIST] Mexico's House [official website in Spanish] voted for an constiutional amendment Thursday that expunges the death penalty language from the country's present constitution [document in Spanish] by a margin of 412-0. The amendment calls for the current language to be replaced with verbiage that prohibits legal executions, mutilations, and forms of cruel and unusual punishment. While Mexico had not carried out a death penalty in the last 43 years and has regularly refused to hand over suspects to the US who faced a potential death sentence, the practice was still legal in military courts. Mexico recently launched a successful International Court of Justice case against the United States [JURIST report] for putting Mexican nationals on US death row without giving them access to consular assistance. The amendment, which was passed by the Mexican Senate [official website] in March, now must go before the nation's 31 states for approval, but significant opposition is not anticipated. AP has more.






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California high court declares coastline commission constitutional
Holly Manges Jones on June 23, 2005 7:04 PM ET

[JURIST] The California Supreme Court [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Thursday that the membership configuration of the California Coastal Commission's [official website] does not violate the separation of powers clause of the state's constitution. Four of the commissioners are appointed by the governor while the remaining eight are selected by the state legislature. The commission, created in 1972 and locked in as a permanent body by the California Coastal Act [text] of 1976, regulates coastal development, conservation, and public access [CCC responsibilities backgrounder]. Opponents of the commission are among the state's real estate developers and waterfront property owners who say the group's decisions are too environmentally-based and hinders private property rights. The case before the state's high court arose when the commission ordered the Marine Forests Society [official website] to stop constructing a Newport Beach underwater reef. AP has more.






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Rumsfeld opposes Iraq constitution delay
Holly Manges Jones on June 23, 2005 7:03 PM ET

[JURIST] US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld [official profile] told the Senate Armed Services Committee [official website] in a heated hearing [witness list] on Iraq Thursday that a delay in Iraq's adoption of a constitution would be "an enormous disservice" while "coalition people are being killed. Iraqis are being killed." Rumsfeld did not specify the potential repercussions of a delay, but said, "To the extent there were, for whatever reason, a delay in moving forward with drafting a constitution or a referendum on the constitution or holding the elections, it would retard the entire process." Senator Carl Levin [official website], the committee's ranking Democrat, noted that the approved timetable under the interim Iraqi constitution gives the country's National Assembly only until August 15 to draft a constitution with but one six-month extension possible. Earlier this month Iraq asked for UN assistance [JURIST report] in drafting the charter to avoid potential delays. Read Levin's hearing statement. Reuters has more.






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Corporations and securities brief ~ Morgan Stanley, Parmalat settle
James Murdock on June 23, 2005 6:27 PM ET

[JURIST] Leading Thursday's corporations and securities law news, Morgan Stanley [corporate website] has settled with stumbling Italian dairy giant Parmalat [corporate website]. Parmalat sued Morgan Stanley in February to recoup money Parmalat gave to Morgan Stanley shortly before the food maker's bankruptcy. Parmalat's press release is available. Reuters has more.

In other corporations and securities law news...






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States brief ~ CA high court rules "forgetting" to register as sex offender no excuse
Rachel Felton on June 23, 2005 5:22 PM ET

[JURIST] Leading Thursday's states brief, the California Supreme Court ruled Thursday in a 4-3 decision that forgetting to register for Megan's Law [ CA Attorney General website] because of stress is an insufficient excuse. The Supreme Court overturned the decision of the Court of Appeals, ruling that forgetting is only a valid excuse when the sex offender suffers from an "involuntary condition" such as amnesia or Alzheimer's disease. In the opinion [PDF text], Justice Janice Rogers Brown, recently elevated to the federal appeals bench, wrote, "It is simply not enough for a defendant to assert a selective impairment that conveniently affects his memory as to registering, but otherwise leaves him largely functional." Joseph Sorden showed up to register two weeks late, saying he had forgotten to register earlier because he was suffering from depression. AP has more.

In other state legal news ...






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International brief ~ 200 NGOs appeal to UN, AU to stop Zimbabwe evictions
D. Wes Rist on June 23, 2005 5:16 PM ET

[JURIST] Leading Thursday's international brief, in an immense demonstration of cooperation, over 200 African and international NGOs have made a collective appeal to the United Nations and the African Union [official website] to force Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe [Wikipedia profile] and the Zimbabwean government [official website] to cease "Operation Restore Order", the program of systematic evictions and arrests of illegal squatters and merchants that has resulted in over 30,000 arrests and an unknown number of homeless individuals, with estimates ranging from 300,000 to closer to one million being completely without shelter. The petition, spearheaded by Amnesty International [advocacy website] among other leading NGOs, calls on the UN to take immediate action to cease the evictions, now moving into rural areas, instead of waiting to hear from UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's recently appointed special envoy [JURIST report]. JURIST's Paper Chase has continuing coverage of Zimbabwe [JURIST news archive]. Read Amnesty International's press release. ZimOnline has local coverage.

In related news, the Zimbabwe government has authorized Local Government Minister Ignatius Chombo and Agriculture Minister Joseph Made to approach national and international NGOs for assistance in caring for those left homeless by "Operation Restore Order" and the destruction of hundreds of thousands of homes. The decision is a reversal of a previous refusal [JURIST report] to allow NGOs to help in aid efforts and is seen as highly embarrassing for President Mugabe and the ruling Zanu PF party [official website]. Chombo and Made have already begun speaking to NGO representatives, and some, such as the Red Cross and Christian Care, have already sent workers in to begin aiding families in the affected zones. The first official complaints of deaths caused directly by police action [ZimOnline report] in razing 'illegal' housing were filed Thursday, as reports indicated that three children had been killed, two by direct police orders to send bulldozers into buildings that had children still sleeping inside. The exact ages of the children have not been reported, but one was a toddler and one was a high school student. Zimbabwean police deny direct responsibility and blame the parents of the children instead for failing to evacuate their condemned building fast enough. ZimOnline has local coverage

In other international legal news ...






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Bush to consult with Democrats if Supreme Court opening occurs
Tom Henry on June 23, 2005 4:21 PM ET

[JURIST] White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said [press briefing transcript] Thurday that President Bush was willing to consult to a degree with Senate Democrats if a vacancy in the Supreme Court should occur. With widespread speculation of at least one opening on the court after this term, other White House officials nonethless noted that Bush will stick to his goal of nominating a conservative who will not "legislate from the bench." Democrats in the US Senate sent a letter to Bush Thursday [Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid statement] urging him to consult with members of both parties prior to a Supreme Court nomination. The current Supreme Court term ends next week and Chief Justice William Rehnquist is generally expected to step down. The Washington Post has more.






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Jerusalem to ban gay pride parade as offensive
Tom Henry on June 23, 2005 3:41 PM ET

[JURIST] City officials in Jerusalem said Thursday that they will ban the annual gay pride parade planned for the city next week to prevent offending Jerusalem's conservative religious communities. Parade organizers sought an intervention from the Israeli Supreme Court [official website] claiming that the ban ammounted to a violation of freedom of expression. A similar ban put in place recently in Warsaw resulted in violence [JURIST report] earlier this month when protestors threw eggs and placed barricades in front of those who chose to ignore the ban and march anyway. Three previous parades have passed without much incident [2002 Jerusalem Post report] in Jerusalem, the population of which is mostly made up of conservative Orthodox Jews, Muslims, and Christian Palestinians. AP has more.






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Dutch authorities arrest three suspected terrorists
Tom Henry on June 23, 2005 2:49 PM ET

[JURIST] The national prosecutor's office in the Netherlands announced Thursday that three people have been arrested as suspected members of a terrorist organization. The two women and one man, all in their early 20s, are alleged members of Hofstadgroep, the group thought to be responsible for the shocking murder last year of Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh [BBC report]. The three suspects are due in court Friday in Rotterdam, when a judge will decide whether police can continue to detain them without the benefit of the proposed new terror laws [JURIST report] in the Netherlands. The arrest brings the number of Hofstadgroep members in custody to 13. AFP has more.






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Kyrgyzstan plans more deportations for Uzbek 'criminals'
Tom Henry on June 23, 2005 2:18 PM ET

[JURIST] The Kyrgyz prosecutor general's office said Thursday that Kyrgyzstan plans to deport a group of 29 Uzbek asylum seekers despite UN denunciation [JURIST report; UN press release] of four earlier deportations over the possibility that the returned individuals may face torture in Uzbekistan. A top Kyrgyz prosecutor referred to the refugees as "criminals" and said "they need to be punished, their place is in prison." Hundreds of Uzbeks fled to Kyrgyzstan in May after government troops opened fire on protestors, reportedly killing hundreds [JURIST report] in the city of Andijan. The 29 asylum seekers are expected to be turned over to the Uzbek government within a week. BBC News has more.






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Sunnis endorse 15 for Iraq constitutional committee
Tom Henry on June 23, 2005 1:33 PM ET

[JURIST] A group of 50 Sunni Muslim religious, political, and tribal leaders Thursday endorsed a list of 15 men to sit on a special committee to help draft Iraq's new constitution [JURIST news archive]. The announcement ends any debate over whether improperly endorsed appointments [JURIST report] should be deemed invalid. The 15 men, whose appointment was anticipated by a Sunni spokesman [JURIST report] Wednesday after agreement with Shiite and Kurd leaders, will be joined by a single representative for the small Sabian community [Wikipedia backgrounder] and the 16-person group will work with the current 55-member body composed of elected legislators. The unconventional set-up [JURIST report] was a result of a general Sunni boycott of the January elections leaving them with a disproportionately small number of representatives. AP has more.






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FDA warns states about new prescription drug import laws
David Shucosky on June 23, 2005 12:35 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Food and Drug Administration [official website] has warned Texas Governor Rick Perry [official website] that a law he signed requiring the Texas State Board of Pharmacy [official website] to provide information about Canadian pharmacies may violate federal law [FDA letter to Perry]. The agency would inspect up to 10 Canadian pharmacies and allow consumers to decide which ones were safe options to purchase lower-cost drugs from. Nine other states operate similar websites [JURIST report], and the FDA has issued similar warnings [JURIST report] about all of them, including earlier this week to Nevada Governor Kenny Guinn [AP report]. The FDA prohibits importing drugs [official website] because it cannot guarantee their safety. A US industry coalition has also introduced a website lobbying against importing drugs. The Houston Chronicle has more.






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Medical records used in Guantanamo interrogations
David Shucosky on June 23, 2005 12:34 PM ET

[JURIST] Military interrogators at Guantanamo [JURIST news archive] had access to detainees' medical records until early 2003 and possibly later, and exploited information from the records during questioning, according to a new article in the New England Journal of Medicine [PDF full text]. The authors, Gregg Bloche of Georgetown University law school and Jonathan Marksof of London's Matrix Chambers, known for its human rights work, cite a policy statement from US Southern Command that such information is not privileged and that caregivers are required to provide information upon request. Such policies are not in effect at other US prisons, either civilian or military. Additional Protocol 1 of the Geneva Conventions also provides that medical personnel "shall not be compelled to perform acts or to carry out work contrary to the rules of medical ethics." AFP has more.






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Texas commutes death sentences of juvenile offenders
David Shucosky on June 23, 2005 12:22 PM ET

[JURIST] Following the March Supreme Court ruling [JURIST report] that juveniles may not be sentenced to death, Texas Governor Rick Perry [official website] has commuted the sentences [official press release] of 28 offenders to life in prison. They will be eligible for parole after 40 years. Twelve other US states have juveniles on death row [advocacy website]. The Houston Chronicle has local coverage.






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Chalabi: Saddam trial to start within 90 days
David Shucosky on June 23, 2005 11:42 AM ET

[JURIST] Iraqi deputy prime minister Ahmad Chalabi [Wikipedia profile; JURIST news archive] said on Thursday that the trial of Saddam Hussein [JURIST news archive] will begin within 90 days, before the end of September 2005. The government had previously stated that they wanted the trial to begin before the constitutional referendum [JURIST report] scheduled for October 15. On Tuesday, Iraq's justice minister accused the US of stalling the trial [JURIST report]. Saddam's defense team meanwhile continues to object to the proceeding, saying that preliminary stages required by the governing statute [text] of the Iraqi Special Tribunal [official website] had not been completed, and that Hussein is protected from charges by sovereign immunity. AKI has more.






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BREAKING NEWS ~ Killen gets 60 years jail for 1964 deaths of civil rights workers
Bernard Hibbitts on June 23, 2005 11:36 AM ET

[JURIST] ABC News is reporting that ex-KKK member Edgar Ray Killen [JURIST news archive], now 80, has been sentenced to the maximum 60 years in prison for manslaughter in connection with the 1964 killings of three civil rights workers. Killen was found to have organized a group to kidnap, assault, and shoot the three young men. He was taken to state prison where his condition will be evaluated before he is placed in solitary confinement according to Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood [official website]. Killen's attorney said he will appeal the decision. AP has more. CBS-TV 12 in Jackson provides recorded video of the sentencing.






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Arrests made in California medical marijuana raids
David Shucosky on June 23, 2005 11:20 AM ET

[JURIST] Following the Supreme Court's early June decision that Congress can criminalize the use of marijuana with a doctor's permission [JURIST report], federal agents executed search warrants and made arrests on Wednesday in raids on medical marijuana providers in northern California. Almost 25 different locations were searched, and in Sacramento a doctor and her husband were arrested after being indicted for marijuana distribution [AP report]. The San Francisco Police Department said they were not part of the operation [press release], but have complained in the past that some medical marijuana clubs were fronts for larger drug organizations. They did not specify if any of the clubs targeted by the federal authorities were under larger suspicion. The New York Times has more.






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Japanese court overturns compensation for WWII forced laborer
David Shucosky on June 23, 2005 11:20 AM ET

[JURIST] The Tokyo High Court [official site in English] overturned a 2001 Tokyo District Court ruling on Thursday that awarded compensation to the family of a Chinese man who was forcibly brought to Japan as a laborer during World War II. The lower court originally ordered compensation not for labor but because the man hid in the mountains of Hokkaido for 13 years after the war had ended. The ruling was overturned [Kyodo News report] on the grounds that there was no duty to find or rescue him, and there was no agreement on redress between the two nations. The Japanese government holds that individual claims for compensation were settled by a 1972 diplomatic agreement. A similar Japanese ruling in April that victims of atrocities in occupied China were not entitled to compensation [JURIST report] strained relations between the two countries. Reuters has more.






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Supreme Court says city can expropriate land for private redevelopment
Bernard Hibbitts on June 23, 2005 10:50 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court ruled 5-4 Thursday in Kelo v. New London [Duke Law backgrounder] that a local government authority can expropriate private property - land, homes and businesses - for private redevelopment that confers economic benefits on the community such as more jobs and tax revenue so long as it is not just a private use of the property for private benefit. The City of New London Connecticut had authorized expropriation of properties to accommodate a development plan for its Fort Trumbull area which included condominiums, hotels, and a conference center, as well as a new Pfizer pharmaceutical plant. Homeowners had objected, insisting that legal expropriation for public use under the Fifth Amendment was limited to clear public purposes such as roads, school, or renewal of urban blight. Read the opinion [via Cornell LII]. AP has more.

In other rulings Thursday...

The Ten Commandments cases, which some observers expected to be handed down Thursday, were not decided, leaving them to be announced next week before the end of the current Court term. Five other cases remain to be disposed of.





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Lawmakers call on Bush to push for human rights during Vietnam PM visit
David Shucosky on June 23, 2005 10:42 AM ET

[JURIST] US lawmakers Wednesday called on the White House to encourage expansion of human rights and religious freedoms in Vietnam as Vietnamese Prime Minister Phan Van Khai [Wikipedia profile] continued his landmark visit to the US, the first by a Vietnamese head of government since the end of the Vietnam War 30 years ago. The meetings were largely about trade and Vietnam's possible admission to the World Trade Organization, and some US lawmakers want any trade agreements or concessions to be closely linked to reform. Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) [official website] said there are "serious issues" in Vietnam, and Representative Ed Royce (R-CA) [official website] said "there is a lack of freedom and a lack of prosperity" in Vietnam. A bill has been introduced in the House that would restrict aid to Vietnam unless certain human-rights conditions are met. President Bush has promised a visit to Vietnam next year. AFP has more.






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NY legislature approves over-the-counter sales of morning-after pill
David Shucosky on June 23, 2005 9:39 AM ET

[JURIST] The New York Senate on Wednesday approved a bill which would provide for over-the-counter sales of emergency contraceptives. The current law requires a physician's visit, which State Sen. Nicholas Spano (R-Westchester) [official site], the bill's sponsor, said involves "frequent difficulties". Similar measures had passed New York's Assembly three years in a row, but this was the first time the Senate approved it, by a 34-27 party line vote. A spokesman for Governor George Pataki had no comment on whether the bill would be signed or vetoed, citing the need to review specifics first. AP has more. Morning-after pills have recently become politically and legally contentious, becoming a proxy for the more general abortion debate. Earlier this month Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle threatened to veto [JURIST report] a bill that would ban the emergency contraceptive pill from Wisconsin college campuses; in Washington, House Democrats have introduced a bill that would require [JURIST report] pharmacists to fill prescriptions for the pill.






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DNC report finds no evidence of vote fraud in Ohio during 2004 election
David Shucosky on June 23, 2005 9:26 AM ET

[JURIST] A report [text, PDF] released Wednesday by the Democratic National Committee [party website] found problems during the voting process in Ohio during the November 2004 election, but also found no evidence of fraud. A large number of complaints were made about long lines, intimidation, and misfunctioning machines; these prompted various legal actions [JURIST news archive] but those ultimately went nowhere. DNC chairman Howard Dean said "The purpose of this study was not to challenge the results of the election," but rather to bring about change in the voting process, such as new machines and different rules for absentee ballots. The New York Times has more.






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UN torture investigator complains of US delays in approving Gitmo visit
David Shucosky on June 23, 2005 8:48 AM ET

[JURIST] Manfred Nowak [ICJ profile], the UN special investigator on torture, complained Thursday that the US was stalling on his request to visit detainees at Guantanamo [JURIST news archive]. A US spokeswoman denied any delay, however, and put the lack of response to the mid-April request down to the request review process, which involves the White House, Congress, and the courts. So far, only the International Committee of the Red Cross has been allowed to visit the prison [JURIST report]. Allegations of abuse in their report to the US government were leaked, but the Red Cross would not confirm or deny them. UN human rights investigators have been trying to visit Guantanamo since 2002. The UN has issued this statement on the visitation delay. AP has more.






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Iran announces arrests for election violations
David Shucosky on June 23, 2005 8:48 AM ET

[JURIST] Iran's official news agency reported on Thursday that at least 26 people, including a military figure, have been arrested for suspected election violations commited during last week's first round of presidential voting. The close voting required a partial recount [JURIST report] and raised immediate allegations of fraud [JURIST report], an issue which is still a concern in Friday's runoff [JURIST report] between former prime minister Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and conservative Tehran mayor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Iran's armed forces have denied any wrongdoing, which leaves the Revolutionary Guards or the paramilitary "basiji" vigilantes as possible suspects. Both groups are strong supporters of Ahmadinejad, who some say benefitted from strong-arm tactics, multiple votes, and other illegal acts. AP has more.






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Panel recommends Congress tighten charity tax laws
Holly Manges Jones on June 22, 2005 9:01 PM ET

[JURIST] The independent Panel on the Nonprofit Sector [official website] released a report [PDF] Wednesday recommending that Congress require charities to develop stricter policies on the disclosure of financial information by retaining external independent accountants, reveal more details on executive compensation, and complete government information returns. The panel also suggested that Congress request audits of charities reporting annual revenues of $1 million or more and that policies should be developed to regulate travel expenses and whistleblower protection. The panel includes philanthropic leaders who are advising the US Senate Finance Committee [official website], which has already suggested stricter laws [JURIST report] to regulate charities. US Senator Chuck Grassley [official website], chairman of the Senate committee, plans to introduce the widest reforms to charity tax laws [press release] since 1969. Reuters has more.






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G-4 nations want UN Security Council expansion vote in July
Holly Manges Jones on June 22, 2005 8:21 PM ET

[JURIST] Four countries seeking permanent representation [JURIST report] on the UN Security Council [official website] - Japan, Brazil, India, and Germany - said Wednesday at a foreign ministry meeting in Brussels that they would request a July vote on their Security Council reform resolution [draft, PDF]. The countries, known collectively as the G-4, originally planned to call for a vote later this month but decided to delay based upon input from the US and Africa, according to Japanese Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura [official profile]. The G-4 has proposed six more permanent seats on the Security Council, two of which would be given to Africa, and also has suggested delaying the veto rights of new members for 15 additional years. India nemisis Pakistan and UN veto-holder China have already voiced their opposition to the proposal [JURIST report]. The US has said it will support expanding the council [JURIST report] by "two or so" seats. The four countries need at least a vote of two-thirds to pass the resolution. From Japan, Kyodo News has more.






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Colombia passes bill intended to induce paramilitary warlords to disarm
Holly Manges Jones on June 22, 2005 7:43 PM ET

[JURIST] The Colombian Congress passed a bill Wednesday which gives lesser punishments to paramilitary leaders who disarm, admit their crimes, compensate victims, and return stolen goods. The bill, announced last week [JURIST report], was approved after Colombian President Alvaro Uribe [official website in Spanish] made it more stringent after a warning by US lawmakers that its impact would not be strict enough to punish the crimes of far-right leaders of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) [ICT backgrounder], who have been in a civil war [Wikipedia backgrounder] with Marxist rebels since 1964. Although the bill's purpose is to reduce the power of the AUC, opponents say it will let the warlord killers off too easily. President Uribe, who has been in peace negotiations with the AUC for over two years, is expected to sign the legislation later this week. AP has more.






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Boy who identified Lionel Tate as robber retracts story
Holly Manges Jones on June 22, 2005 6:48 PM ET

[JURIST] A young boy who claimed that Lionel Tate [Wikpedia profile] robbed a pizza delivery man at gunpoint [CNN report] in May "took back" his story Wednesday, which could mean freedom again for Tate, once the youngest American to receive a life prison sentence [Court TV report; Amnesty International legal concern]. Thirteen-year old Taquincy Tomkins said he had named Tate as the robber because he was pressured by the police and also because the person Tomkins says actually robbed the man threatened to kill him. In 2001, when Lionel Tate was 14 years old, he was convicted for the 1999 killing of a 6-year old girl by beating and stomping her to death. Tate's life sentence was appealed and overturned and he was resentenced to receive one year of house arrest and 10 years of probation, which was ongoing when he was re-arrested and charged with the pizza robbery. Tate's original life sentence set off a heated debate about Florida's practice of trying juveniles as adults [Justice Policy Institute study, PDF]. AP has more.






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Corporations and securities brief ~ SEC to vote on mutual funds rule
James Murdock on June 22, 2005 6:11 PM ET

[JURIST] Leading Wednesday's corporations and securities law news, the SEC [official website] has announced that its five-member panel will vote again on a controversial rule requiring mutual funds to be overseen by independent chairmen. The announcement comes after a federal appeals court ruled that the SEC had not adequately investigated the cost [JURIST report] of implementing the plan. The panel will vote June 29th, the day before current SEC chairman William Donaldson [Wikipedia profile] is to step down from his post. Reuters has more.

In other corporations and securities law news...






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States brief ~ PA Supreme Court upholds slot-machine law
Rachel Felton on June 22, 2005 5:12 PM ET

[JURIST] Leading Wednesday's states brief, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has upheld the state's slot-machine gambling law [text]. While rejecting some parts of the law, the court found that the process used by the legislature to enact the law was constitutional. Attorneys argued over constitutional provisions that say a bill cannot be amended to change its original purpose and the requirement that legislation address a single subject. In the opinion [PDF text], Chief Justice Ralph Cappy wrote, "we conclude, that as a matter of law, there was a single unifying subject to which most of the provisions of the act are germane, the regulation of gambling." The court threw out the section of the Gaming Act which gave the state Gaming Control Board the power to override local zoning ordinances when determining where to locate the casinos. View Governor Ed Rendell's Chief of Staff John Estey's statement here. AP has more.

In other states news ...






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Pentagon report finds no religious discrimination at Air Force Academy
David Shucosky on June 22, 2005 4:53 PM ET

[JURIST] A Pentagon report released Wednesday detailed troubling relgious insensitivity at the US Air Force Academy [official website], but found no overt acts of religious discrimination. The Department of Defense investigated the constitutionality of certain religious practices [JURIST report] and reports of religious intolerance [JURIST report] at the elite Colorado Springs institution. The report nonetheless calls for more "operational guidance" [Air Force Print News report] as to what is and is not acceptable. AP has more. Read a transcript of the Pentagon briefing on the report.






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Peru upset by high court rejection of fraud case against ex-president Fujimori
David Shucosky on June 22, 2005 4:18 PM ET

[JURIST] The Peruvian government on Wednesday condemned a Peru Supreme Court decision to drop allegations that former President Alberto Fujimori [Wikipedia profile; personal website] used forged signatures to register for the 2000 elections. The Peruvian Congress has a list of charges [JURIST report] against Fujimori, and is seeking to extradite him from Japan [JURIST report]. The government called the dismissal "scandalous" and "unfortunate". Fujimori has denied the charges against him as being politically motivated. Reuters has more.






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International brief ~ South Africa Assembly approves controversial Children's Bill
D. Wes Rist on June 22, 2005 4:14 PM ET

[JURIST] Leading Wednesday's international brief, the South African National Assembly [official website] has approved the highly controversial national Children's Bill [PDF text], nine years after its first introduction. The bill, which will be presented to the National Council of Provinces [official website] for approval next before being submitted to President Thabo Mbeki, contains numerous changes widely hailed as beneficial, such as the lowering of the age of majority from 21 to 18, the outlawing of virginity testing, stricter punishments for child trafficking, and a framework for the implementation of a child sex abuse registry. The legislation also contains several contested provisions, from the right of Legal Aid [official website] to determine whether it is fiscally feasible to represent a child in a civil legal case, to the lowering of the age of consent for medical and surgical procedures to 12. The most controversial provisions of the bill, however, are the protection of the right of a surrogate mother to have an abortion after agreeing to an adoption procedure and the creation of a right to allow same-sex couples to adopt children. JURIST's Paper Chase has continuing coverage of South Africa [JURIST news archive]. South Africa's News 24 has local coverage.

In other international legal news ...






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Palestinians to void security court verdicts
David Shucosky on June 22, 2005 3:55 PM ET

[JURIST] Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas [BBC profile] asked his government's Justice Minister Wednesday to set aside verdicts by the much-criticized state security courts [Amnesty International press release]. Human rights groups have said the courts, set up under Yasser Arafat in 1995, were too quick, violated due process and handed down too severe sentences, including the death penalty. The move is part of a larger plan to increase accountability and reduce lawlessness. Abbas wants the cases retried in civilian courts. Reuters has more.






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Spanish Senate votes down gay marriage bill
David Shucosky on June 22, 2005 3:49 PM ET

[JURIST] The Spanish Senate voted 131-119 Wednesday against a bill that would legalize gay marriage. The bill had already passed the lower house of parliament [JURIST report], but faced fierce opposition from the Catholic Church and conservative groups [AP report]. The bill is still likely to pass [Scotsman report], however, since it now returns to the lower house [El Mundo report, in Spanish] for another vote on June 30. If the law is enacted Spain would join Belguim and the Netherlands as the only European countries to allow gay marriage . BBC News has more.






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UPDATE ~ House approves flag burning amendment
Tom Henry on June 22, 2005 3:29 PM ET

[JURIST] The US House of Representatives Wedneday afternoon approved a proposed constitutional amendment [text] that would make it a crime to desecrate the American flag by a vote of 286-130 [roll call], eight more votes then necessary for the two-thirds required. The measure will now go to the Senate, where many believe it has a strong chance of passing, and then must be ratified by 38 states within seven years to take effect. The proposed amendment is opposed by the ACLU [press release] and other rights groups who feel it infringes on First Amendment rights. Other groups like the Citizens Flag Alliance [advocacy website] argue that the majority of the public wants flag protection and have praised the House vote [press release]. AP has more.






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UNESCO calls for action against illegal digging, theft of artifacts in Iraq
David Shucosky on June 22, 2005 3:27 PM ET

[JURIST] Fearing damage to historic sites, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) [official site] has called for action against illegal digs and looting in Iraq. Director-general Koichiro Matsuura [official profile] said archeological sites as well as museums [BBC News report] are being damaged by thefts of items. He also expressed concern that construction of new military bases might ruin ancient historic sites. UNESCO provides a press release in French. Xinhua has more.






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UPDATE ~ Scrushy juror replaced; deliberations to start over
David Shucosky on June 22, 2005 3:11 PM ET

[JURIST] After meeting with lawyers from both sides earlier today [JURIST report], US District Judge Karon Bowdre ordered a juror replaced in the fraud trial of former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy [JURIST news archive], citing health reasons that interrupted deliberations. The replacement and Bowdre's instruction to the jury that they must start their deliberations all over again will further delay an already-lengthy case that went to the original jury on May 19. Bloomberg has more.






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Italian court convicts former SS for wartime massacre in Tuscany
Tom Henry on June 22, 2005 3:07 PM ET

[JURIST] A panel of Italian judges on Wednesday convicted 10 former Nazi SS soldiers in absentia for their roles in the 1944 massacre of over 500 Tuscan villagers [Wikipedia entry]. The 10 men all received life sentences after the three-judge panel deliberated for seven hours. Italian authorities began their investigation into the atrocity a few years ago when they discovered Allied reports of the killings, supposedly meant to weed out partisans but resulting in the rounding up of random villagers who were later shot to death or killed in groups with grenades. A lawyer for two of the defendants expressed disappointment with the verdict and an appeal is expected. AP has more. From Germany, Deutsche Welle provides additional coverage.






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German court accepts soldier's anti-Iraq war defense to not following orders
Tom Henry on June 22, 2005 3:05 PM ET

[JURIST] Germany's Federal Administrative Court [official website in German; Wikipedia entry] ruled Wednesday that a German army officer who refused to follow orders because he thought they would aid the US-led war in Iraq could not be forced to comply with orders that ran counter to his conscience. The soldier, who was demoted from the rank of major to captain last year, saw his rank reinstated by the court which noted that his right to object existed even though he did not file conscientious-objector paperwork. German law now offers stronger protection for soldiers who refuse orders in an effort to break from the abuses of its Nazi past. Reuters has more. From Germany, Deutsche Welle provides local coverage.






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White House interviewing Supreme Court candidates
Tom Henry on June 22, 2005 1:46 PM ET

[JURIST] With the likely retirement of US Chief Justice William Rehnquist [profile] in the coming weeks, senior White House officials are cutting down their list of candidates and interviewing the final contending federal appeals court judges to replace him. The short list includes Judge J. Michael Luttig [Wikipedia profile], Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. [Wikipedia profile], and Judge John G. Roberts Jr. [profile]. Also included is current Attorney General Alberto Gonzales [JURIST report] because of President Bush's long and trusted relationship with him, though he would likely meet strong opposition from conservatives who see him as too moderate a replacement for Rehnquist. A White House official, speaking anonymously, said that Bush had been briefed on all the candidates but had yet to make a decision out of respect for Rehnquist, whom some speculate may not step down as soon as expected [JURIST report]. The Chicago-Tribune has more.






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US indicts two in connection with Brazil killing of environmentalist American nun
David Shucosky on June 22, 2005 1:27 PM ET

[JURIST] A grand jury in Washington, DC has indicted two men for the February 12 killing of Dorothy Stang [Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur profile], an American nun who was working in Brazil as an environmentalist. A landowner allegedly offered the two $20,000 for the killing, and faces separate charges in Brazil [official press releases]. It is thought that Stang's work got in the way of land development projects. The killing led Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva [Wikipedia profile] to step up efforts to ease conflicts between loggers, ranchers, and peasants. Bloomberg has more.






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Judge summons lawyers in Scrushy case
David Shucosky on June 22, 2005 1:17 PM ET

[JURIST] With the jury still unable to reach a verdict [JURIST report] and former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy [JURIST news archive] unwilling to cut a deal [JURIST report] in his trial for accounting fraud, US District Judge Karon Bowdre summoned lawyers from both sides for a closed-door meeting Wednesday. Jurors earlier resumed deliberating after a two-day break, caused by one juror's undisclosed emergency and another's illness. Jury deliberations have been on and off for over a month. AP has more.






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Western diplomats visit Ethiopian jails holding election protestors
Tom Henry on June 22, 2005 1:09 PM ET

[JURIST] Diplomats from various Western nations have been permitted to examine conditions at Ethiopia's largest jail for the hundreds of protestors arrested after the disputed May 15 election [JURIST report] erupted into demonstrations and violence [JURIST report]. Officials from Ireland, Switzerland and the US visited the facilities Wednesday and a statement from the Irish Embassy said conditions at the jail were similar to those in other jails but questioned the justification in holding some prisoners being detained, especially women and children. Final results for the disputed election, only the second multi-party election in Ethiopia's history, are due July 8. Reuters has more.






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Sunni negotiators approved, but Iraq constitution talks beset by water shortage
Jamie Sterling on June 22, 2005 11:24 AM ET

[JURIST] A Sunni spokesman said Wednesday that a list of names submitted for the fifteen full committee seats on the drafting committee for the new Iraqi constitution [JURIST news archive] had been approved by the Shi'ite and Kurd politicians, despite earlier reports that the appointments had hit a snag when they were not properly endorsed [JURIST report] by a larger Sunni political group. The 15 seats were allocated to Sunni Muslims under a recent deal [JURIST report] with representatives of the other groups; 10 non-voting Sunni members are expected to be named later. In the meantime, however, full talks have been complicated by an electrical and water shortage in Baghdad affecting the National Assembly, now housed in a convention center in Baghdad's heavily-protected Green Zone. The initial deadline for agreement on a permanent national charter is August 15. Reuters has more.






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Japanese lawmaker criticizes WWII war crimes tribunal
Jamie Sterling on June 22, 2005 10:47 AM ET

[JURIST] A member of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party [party website] said in a speech Wednesday that the International Military Tribunal for the Far East [Wikipedia profile] established after World War II may have unjustly tried and convicted Japanese war criminals. Lawmaker Masahiro Morioka [official website, in Japanese] previously enraged Japan's neighbours which suffered destruction and Japanese occupation in the conflict when he made a similar statement [Japan Today report] earlier this month, claiming that the Class-A war criminals [China Daily list] tried by the tribunal were not considered criminals in Japan, effectively enraging Japan's neighbors. Morioka's remarks were made at a conference honoring Japan's history and the passage of the country's traditions from one generation to the next. Reuters has more. The Asahi Shimbun has local coverage.






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Darfur crimes suspects plead not guilty in Sudan court
Jamie Sterling on June 22, 2005 10:25 AM ET

[JURIST] The first ten men to be tried in Sudan [JURIST news archive] for atrocities committed in the volatile Darfur region [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] all pleaded not guilty Tuesday. The men, associated with the government-allied political group called the Popular Defense Forces, face charges [JURIST report] of rape and robbery. The trials commenced last Saturday in a Sudanese special court [JURIST report] after the government refused to have suspects tried abroad. The UN Security Council has asked the International Criminal Court [official website] to investigate war crimes in Darfur, but Sudan is thusfar refusing to allow the ICC to try its citizens abroad. Reuters has more.






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Russia balks at amended border treaty with Estonia
Jamie Sterling on June 22, 2005 10:08 AM ET

[JURIST] The Russian Foreign Ministry [official website, in English] said Wednesday that Russia would be unable to submit an amended border treaty [JURIST report] with Estonia to the Russian parliament because amendments inserted by Estonia were an "unambiguously negative assessment in Russian society" [press release]. The changes made include indirect references to the Soviet-era occupation of the Baltic states, although Russia maintains that Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia all voluntarily joined the Soviet Union. The announcement comes after almost a decade of difficulties trying to establish a border treaty between the two nations. Russia also refused to sign a similar treaty with Latvia [MosNews report] last month after similar amendments were made by Latvia to that treaty. AP has more; MosNews has local coverage.






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Evidence of Iraq reconstruction fraud handed over to federal prosecutors
Kate Heneroty on June 22, 2005 10:03 AM ET

[JURIST] The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction [official website] told a House subcommittee hearing focused on the US handling of the Development Fund for Iraq (DFI) [official website] on Tuesday that evidence relating to finances used for reconstruction has been handed over to the US Attorney [official profile] for the Eastern District of Virginia. Stuart Bowen Jr. [backgrounder] said the evidence points to three potential fraud cases, following an audit that found nearly $100 million from the DFI fund derived from Iraqi oil revenue and other Iraqi assets unaccounted for. Lawmakers have criticized the Pentagon for hiding information from auditors, especially regarding disclosures concerning government contractor Halliburton. The Washington Post has more.






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Lawyer says Kuwait has no jurisdiction to try former Gitmo inmate
Jamie Sterling on June 22, 2005 9:56 AM ET

[JURIST] A lawyer for the first Kuwaiti inmate to be freed [JURIST report] from the Guantanamo Bay detention center [JTF Guantanamo official website] argued before a Kuwait City tribunal Wednesday that his client should not be tried in Kuwaiti court and complained he was only given a summary of US interrogations. Nasser al-Mutairi was detained in Afghanistan in 2001 and freed after being held for three years. Following his release in January, al-Mutairi was charged for his involvement with foreign military forces without his country's permission, harming Kuwait by serving a "foreign country" and undergoing banned weapons training. Al-Mutairi's lawyer argued that Kuwait's criminal court system does not have jurisdiction because the alleged crimes were not committed in Kuwait and were not punishable in Afghanistan at the time. If convicted, al-Mutairi faces a minimum of three years in prison. AP has more. For information on other Kuwaiti detainees, visit Project Kuwaiti Freedom [advocacy website], sponsored by the Kuwaiti Family Committee.






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Iraqi judge nominated for constitutional committee killed by gunmen
Kate Heneroty on June 22, 2005 9:37 AM ET

[JURIST] Jassim al-Issawi, a Sunni Muslim Iraqi judge whose name was at one point on the list to serve on a parliamentary committee to draft Iraq's new constitution [JURIST news archive] was killed by gunmen in Baghdad on Wednesday. Al-Issawi, who was later dropped from the committee, also served as a law professor at Baghdad University [Wikipedia profile] and was the former editor-in-chief of Al-Siyadah newspaper. Al-Issawi's son was also killed in the attack. AP has more.






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Spanish judge jails suspected suicide bombing recruiters
Kate Heneroty on June 22, 2005 9:22 AM ET

[JURIST] Eight men accused of recruiting people to carry out suicide bombings in Iraq have been jailed in Spain following several days of questioning, officials of the National Court [court website, in Spanish] announced Tuesday. Spanish Judge Fernando Grande-Malarska freed 3 other men, who were also part of the group arrested [JURIST report] last week, suspected of being members of al-Qaida in Iraq. Officials did not release the suspects names, but most are Moroccan. Reuters has more.






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Documents show UN knew Hussein violated sanctions
Kate Heneroty on June 22, 2005 8:46 AM ET

[JURIST] Documents released [linked list] by a US congressional panel Tuesday show that the UN Security Council was aware that Saddam Hussein was violating UN sanctions, but was so split that many breaches went unchecked. Among the breaches were maintaining diplomatic ties to other nations, encouraging other nations to start commercial flights to Baghdad, reopening an oil pipeline between Iraq and Syria and illegally imposing oil surcharges. In a statement to the US House Energy and Commerce Committee's Oversight and Investigations panel [official website] yesterday, Thomas Schweich, chief of staff at the US mission to the United Nations, described the UN sanctions committee [testimony transcript] as "increasingly contentious" and said US and British efforts to curb Hussein's abuses were often "negated by other members' desires to ease sanctions on Iraq." Reuters has more.






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Israel resumes militant assassination policy
Kate Heneroty on June 22, 2005 8:21 AM ET

[JURIST] Citing recent attacks, Israel announced Wednesday it has resumed a policy of "targeted assassinations" of Islamic Jihad militants, abandoned in February as part of a ceasefire deal. The policy has proved controversial, with critics disputing its legality [EJIL article] and questioning whether such killings are committed in self-defense, whether they necessary to prevent immediate threats, and whether those targeted should be considered enemy combatants. Israeli Public Security Minister Gideon Ezra [official profile] confirmed a failed missile attack against militants in Gaza Tuesday following a meeting [BBC coverage of the summit] between Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian National Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. Reuters has more. The American Society for International Law provides a backgrounder.






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France to appeal light sentences of soldiers convicted of Africa bank robberies
Kate Heneroty on June 22, 2005 8:09 AM ET

[JURIST] France's Justice Ministry [official website] announced Wednesday that it would appeal the "lenient" sentences imposed on French peacekeeping soldiers convicted Tuesday [JURIST report] by a Paris military court of robbing an Ivory Coast bank while supporting a UN peacekeeping operation in the area. Eight of the soldiers were sentenced to a year in jail, while the other four were given sentences of between two and eight months. Defense Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said "given the facts, the sentences are insufficient." BBC News has more.






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House to vote on constitutional amendment against flag burning
Kate Heneroty on June 22, 2005 7:37 AM ET

[JURIST] The US House of Representatives [official website] is scheduled to vote Wednesday on HJ Res. 10 [text of resolution], a proposed constitutional amendment to criminalize the desecration of the American flag. If it passes in the House, it will go to the Senate for approval, then must be ratified by 38 states. Opponents [ACLU press release] of the measure believe it restricts First Amendment freedom of expression rights [First Amendment Center flag burning webpage] and argue that a constitutional amendment has not been used to restrict personal freedoms since Prohibition. Proponents [Citizens Flag Alliance website] argue there is public support for protecting the flag. Previous votes on flag burning have passed in the house, but failed to win support of two-thirds of the Senate. The US Supreme Court has ruled that flag burning is a form of protected speech [Supreme Court history on flag burning]. Lawmakers believe the measure may pass because of the conservative leanings of the current Senate. AP has more.






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US official: Pakistan has seized gang-rape victim Mai's passport
Tom Henry on June 21, 2005 9:19 PM ET

[JURIST] In a swift reversal from its announcement last week, the Pakistani government has taken away the passport of gang-rape victim Mukhtar Mai [BBC profile], according to an official from the US State Department speaking Tuesday. The official, who asked not to be named because of sensitive US-Pakistan relations, said Pakistan has taken possesion of Mai's passport just days after it had announced that she was free to travel [JURIST report] outside the country. A State Department spokesman declined to confirm the report but reaffirmed the US position that Mai should be free to travel. Mai, the victim of a gang-rape ordered by a village council, sought to leave Pakistan after 12 men involved in the case were freed [JURIST report]. Reuters has more.






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UK religious hate bill survives Commons challenge
Tom Henry on June 21, 2005 8:46 PM ET

[JURIST] The British government Tuesday weathered an attempt by opposition MPs and some Labour Party backbenchers to stop its proposed [JURIST report] Racial and Religious Hatred Bill [BBC backgrounder; bill text] when an amendment to block the bill failed by a vote of 303-246. The controversial measure has been criticized as a limit on free expression [JURIST report] that would go so far as to prohibit some religious jokes. UK Home Secretary Charles Clarke denied that the bill would have any chilling effect on religious humor and emphasized that the proposal was aimed at "hatred and incitement to hatred." Current UK laws aimed at curbing racial hatred have resulted in 76 prosecutions and 44 convictions over 20 years. BBC News has more.






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White House rejects independent probe of Guantanamo
Tom Henry on June 21, 2005 8:22 PM ET

[JURIST] The White House Tuesday snubbed a proposal to create an independent commission to look into detainee abuse at US detention facilities, especially Guantanamo. White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan pointed to some 10 previous investigations [press release] and maintained that Defense Department and Pentagon investigations would continue as necessary with any guilty parties being held accountable. McClellan also noted that the Pentagon included outsiders in some of its investigations. The formation of an independent commission has been pushed by Democrats like House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi [official website], citing concerns about US reputation abroad and particularly in the Muslim world. AP has more.






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Corporations and securities brief ~ NYSE to investigate more traders
James Murdock on June 21, 2005 8:00 PM ET

[JURIST] Leading Tuesday's corporations and securities law news, the New York Stock Exchange [corporate website] has announced that it is investigating the possibility that more traders have acted inappropriately. In April, 17 NYSE traders were charged with securities fraud violations [JURIST report]. Reuters has more.

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States brief ~ Indiana high court hears arguments on "implied consent" abortion law
Rachel Felton on June 21, 2005 5:27 PM ET

[JURIST] Leading Tuesday's states brief, the Indiana Supreme Court heard oral arguments today [RP recorded audio] on whether abortion clinics should be allowed to pursue their challenge to the state's abortion "implied consent" law [text], which requires women seeking an abortion to have in-person counseling and then wait at least eighteen hours before having the procedure. An attorney for the abortion clinics argued that the clinics should be allowed to pursue their challenge because privacy is a core right under the state constitution and extends to women seeking to terminate their pregnancies. The state argued that privacy is not a specific right enforceable by the courts, and that the legislature has broad discretion to protect state citizens. The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled [opinion] that the clinics could continue their challenge after determining that privacy is a core issue that extends to all citizens. AP has more.

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International brief ~ Annan envoy to investigate Zimbabwe mass evictions
D. Wes Rist on June 21, 2005 5:08 PM ET

[JURIST] Leading Tuesday's international brief, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has appointed Anna Kajumulo Tibaijuka [official profile], Executive Director of the UN Human Settlements Programme [official website], as Special Envoy to Zimbabwe [government website] to investigate the continuing mass evictions [JURIST report] taking place under Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe [Wikipedia profile] and "Operation Restore Order". Mugabe reportedly agreed Tuesday to allow Tibaijuka access to the country and the right to inspect affected areas. She is expected to arrive sometime next week from Nairobi, Kenya. JURIST's Paper Chase has continuing coverage of Zimbabwe [JURIST news archive]. Read the official UN Press Release. Read the UN News Centre official report. ZimOnline has local coverage.

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French soldiers convicted for Ivory Coast bank robberies
Jamie Sterling on June 21, 2005 4:32 PM ET

[JURIST] A military court sentenced 12 French soldiers to prison for up to one year on Tuesday for robbing an Ivory Coast bank [Africa News report] regularly while stationed with France's Licorne Force [Wikipedia entry, in French] backing up a UN peacekeeping mission [official website]. The Licorne forces are supporting the UN forces [JURIST report] in Côte d'Ivoire [Wikipedia profile], where troops are needed to enforce a ceasefire and disarmament plan [BBC News report] between the government supported south and rebels in the north. The soldiers admitted to most of the charges against them, leading to a prison sentence of 12 months for the eight men charged with theft and two to eight months for the four accomplices to the robberies. AP has more.






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Pinochet suffers stroke day before immunity hearing
Tom Henry on June 21, 2005 4:07 PM ET

[JURIST] Former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet [JURIST news archive; BBC profile] suffered a stroke Tuesday and was taken to the hospital a day before the Santiago Appeals Court was to consider whether he could be tried for crimes against his regime's opponents. Pinochet, who reportedly collapsed while eating breakfast and lost conciousness, was to face the court as it decided whether to remove his immunity and try him for involvement in "Operation Colombo" [BBC report] which resulted in the murder and abduction of many of his political opponents. It is the second stroke Pinochet has suffered in a month and his son claims he is not able to comprehend the charges against him. AFP has more.






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Appeals court rules SEC must reconsider mutual fund governance rule
Jamie Sterling on June 21, 2005 2:14 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit Tuesday ruled [opinion, PDF text] that the US Securities and Exchange Commission [official website] should reconsider its rule that requires mutual funds to be run by boards with independent chairmen. The SEC originally enacted the rule to combat trading and sales abuses in the industry. Citing costs, the US Chamber of Commerce had opposed the new standard along with firms like Fidelity Investments and Vanguard Group, run by corporate "insiders.". The court only asked that the rule be reviewed, so it is possible that it will not be thrown out completely. Bloomberg has more.






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Poland delays EU constitution vote indefinitely
Tom Henry on June 21, 2005 2:05 PM ET

[JURIST] Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski [official website] said Tuesday that holding a planned referendum in Poland on the EU constitution [JURIST news archive] in October was "unrealistic." Kwasniewski, set to leave office after his second term expires this October, said he would allow his successor to decide when a referendum should be held, but added that it certainly would not be this year. The decision follows speculation that the vote would be delayed [JURIST report] because of the charter's recent rejection by French [JURIST report] and Dutch [JURIST report] voters. AFP has more.






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ACLU report says Bush administration restricting free flow of scientific info
Jamie Sterling on June 21, 2005 2:00 PM ET

[JURIST] The American Civil Liberties Union [advocacy website] released a report [PDF text] Tuesday describing what it calls an "assault on scientific and academic freedom" by the Bush Administration. The report purports to detail how the US government has attacked the free exchange of technology information in the name of homeland security by imposing more restrictions on the flow of scientific data [ACLU press release]. Since September 11, the act of classifying information for reasons of Homeland Security has increased greatly, affecting many areas of science. AP has more.






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Federal appeals court dismisses college newspaper censorship suit
Tom Henry on June 21, 2005 1:33 PM ET

[JURIST] A federal appeals court in Chicago has thrown out a lawsuit filed by student journalists at Governors State University [official website] who claimed that the Dean of Student Affair's demand to review their newspaper before it went to press was a violation of their First Amendment rights. The US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit [official website] ruled Monday that Dean Patricia Carter could not be held responsible for "constitutional uncertainties" and that the University had some discretion to regulate the content to be published because it supported the paper. Read the opinion [PDF]. The journalists, now all graduates of the university, plan to appeal. AP has more. The Student Press Law Center provides extensive background materials on the case.






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BREAKING NEWS ~ Edgar Ray Killen convicted of manslaughter
David Shucosky on June 21, 2005 12:40 PM ET

[JURIST] Edgar Ray Killen [JURIST news archive] has been convicted of three counts of manslaughter in connection with the 1964 killings of three civil rights workers. The conviction came on the 41st anniversary of the rights workers disappearance and a day after jurors reported being deadlocked at 6-6. Killen faces upt to 20 years in prison for each of the three manslaughter counts. AP has more.






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AG Gonzales urges judges to stick to sentencing guidelines
David Shucosky on June 21, 2005 12:17 PM ET

[JURIST] Attorney General Alberto Gonzales urged judges on Tuesday to adhere to federal sentencing guidelines, citing a growing disparity since the US Supreme Court invalidated mandatory guidelines in US v. Booker [JURIST report]. Addressing the National Center for Victims of Crime [advocacy website], he said he has seen a "drift toward lesser sentences". A report by the US Sentencing Commission [official website] says 11.4 percent of sentences since the ruling do not comply with the guidelines. Pending legislation in Congress would set new mandatory minimums, but former Attorney General Edwin Meese and former Deputy AG Philip Heymann are urging Congress not to rush into making changes. Read the full text of Gonzales' speech [US DOJ transcript]. AP has more.






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Specter not expecting Supreme Court resignations
Krista-Ann Staley on June 21, 2005 12:08 PM ET

[JURIST] In a speech to the Philadelphia Bar Association Monday Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Arlen Specter [official website] implied that he does not expect to see the resignation of any Supreme Court Justice by the end of the current term. Specter based his comments on observations of Chief Justice Rehnquist [official profile], who is battling thyroid cancer, saying he "looked really good" and had "a strong suspicion that he may be with us a while" [Philadelphia Inquirer report]. Specter also commented that while the judicial filibuster compromise averted a potential disaster, "we're not beyond the issue" and spoke in favor of embryonic stem cell research. Law.com has more.






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Iran Interior Ministry flags fraud danger in upcoming presidential run-off
Krista-Ann Staley on June 21, 2005 11:56 AM ET

[JURIST] Iran's Interior Ministry [official website, in Arabic] Tuesday warned of the danger of fraud in Friday's scheduled run-off presidential vote, with a spokesman referring darkly to "some people who are ready to do anything to stay in power." The Ministry spokesman also alluded to fraud in the first round last Friday, blaming "people belonging to institutions whose job is to protect people and reinforce order". The statement appeared to contradict an earlier assertion by Iran's Guardian Council [BBC profile] finding no fraud in the first round of the voting. The Council has, however, authorized a partial recount [JURIST report] of first-round ballots. The Iranian Judiciary said Tuesday that approximately 150 violations of electoral laws [IRNA report] had been reported in last Friday's vote and would be investigated. AFP has more.






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Iraqi Justice Minister accuses US of stalling Saddam trial
David Shucosky on June 21, 2005 11:56 AM ET

[JURIST] Abdel Hussein Shandal, Iraq's Sunni justice minister, accused the US on Tuesday of trying to delay Iraqi efforts to interrogate Saddam Hussein. While he said he expects Saddam's trial for war crimes [JURIST news archive] to be over by the end of the year [AHN report], he also said the US has been hampering efforts to question him and that "it seems there are lots of secrets they want to hide" [Aljazeera report]. US officials had no comment about his remarks, but have previously warned against rushing the trial and letting it interfere with the constitutional process. AP has more.

4:25 PM ET - Hours after Shandal's comments, Saddam Hussein legal advisers Giovanni di Stefano criticized the Justice Minister from commenting on the trial, stating that "the Iraqi government should desist from making political statements." Di Stefano also repeated the defense call for the trial to be held in a safe country like Sweden. AP has more.






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Immigration judge rules accused Nazi can be deported
David Shucosky on June 21, 2005 11:54 AM ET

[JURIST] A federal immigration judge ruled on Monday that John Demjanjuk [Wikipedia profile], who lost his US citizenship [JURIST report] for serving as a guard at a concentration camp, can be deported. The case dates back to 1977 [Cleveland Plain Dealer report], when the Justice Department originally asked for his citizenship to be revoked. That was granted in 1981. In 1983, he was sentenced to death in Israel for war crimes, but the Israeli Supreme Court overturned the conviction in 1993 and he returned to the US. His citizenship was restored in 1998 and proceedings began against him again. Demjanjuk has until June 30 to file motions [AP report] against his deportation. Reuters has more.






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Luxembourg to go on with EU constitution referendum as PM puts job on line
David Shucosky on June 21, 2005 11:25 AM ET

[JURIST] Luxembourg leaders say they will stick to their original plan for a July 10 referendum on the embattled European Union constitution [JURIST news archive]. Following popular rejection of the charter in France and the Netherlands, seven other European countries have thusfar postponed similar votes [JURIST report] and the ratification deadline has been extended to at least 2007 [JURIST report]. Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker [official website], whose country has held the EU Presidency [official website] for the past tumultuous six months, says he will resign [AFP report] if his country votes against it. Opinion polls show the issue getting tighter, with the Yes side holding a 10-point lead, down from 18 points since May. Xinhua has more.






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UK considers abandoning juries for complex fraud trials
David Shucosky on June 21, 2005 11:08 AM ET

[JURIST] British Attorney General Lord Peter Goldsmith [official profile] Tuesday announced a government plan to abolish jury trials in complicated fraud cases. The move follows the collapse of a fraud trial [Guardian report] earlier this year, partly because of jury problems. Goldsmith estimates about 15 to 20 trials each year would be affected by the proposal, and denied that the proposal reflected any government judgment on the jury system as a whole [Telegraph report]. The plan faces stiff opposition from both major parties in Parliament and the Criminal Bar Association [profession website]. A vote on the plan is expected in the fall. BBC News has more.






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TSA collected air passenger personal data despite Congressional ban
Krista-Ann Staley on June 21, 2005 10:50 AM ET

[JURIST] According to documents obtained by the Associated Press Monday, the Transportation Security Administration [official website] collected private information about commercial airline passengers who flew in June 2004, despite Congressional instructions not to do so. The documents indicate the information was gathered to test Secure Flight [official website], a passenger pre-screening program which, along with its predecessor CAPPS II [JURIST report], has been criticized for failing to protect private personal information. The documents will be published in the Federal Register [official website] this week. AP has more.






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Turkish militant gets life for plan to fly plane into Ataturk tomb
Krista-Ann Staley on June 21, 2005 10:33 AM ET

[JURIST] A Turkish court sentenced Metin Kaplan [BBC profile] Monday to life imprisonment for plotting to kill members of the country's ruling elite by flying a plane into the mausoleum of Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the modern Turkish republic. Kaplan's lawyer did not agree with the ruling, stating "we believe such a decision was reached beforehand" and that there will be an appeal. The so-called "Caliph of Cologne" was extradited from Germany to face charges in Turkey [JURIST report] in 2004 after serving a four-year prison term in Germany for ordering the murder of a rival religious leader. Reuters has more.






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Cambodia accepts Japanese offer to help fund Khmer Rouge trials
David Shucosky on June 21, 2005 10:29 AM ET

[JURIST] The Cambodian government announced Tuesday that it will accept Japan's offer of $11 million [JURIST report] to fund a shortfall in the estimated budget for trying former leaders of the communist Khmer Rouge [Wikipedia backgronder] regime, considered responsible for the genocide of the "killing fields" in Cambodia [Yale CGP backgrounder] after taking power in the 1970s. Opposition groups in Cambodia had initially called for public contributions [JURIST report] when Cambodia was able to offer only about $1 million of its own money towards the trials and international donations fell short. Japan had already committed to paying half of the tribunal's $70 million cost, which is also being defrayed [JURIST report] by major contributions from France, Britain, and Australia. Radio Australia has more.






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Saudis rebuff Rice call for rights, democratic reform
Krista-Ann Staley on June 21, 2005 10:11 AM ET

[JURIST] US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice [official website] called for democratic reforms by US allies across the Middle East [text; recorded audio] in a major foreign policy address in Cairo Monday, and publicly called on Saudi Arabia to release "three individuals...imprisoned for peacefully petitioning the government." Rice was referring to Ali al-Demaini, Abdullah al-Hamed and Matruk al-Faleh [Middle East Online report], activists sentenced to six to nine years in May for demanding a constitutional monarchy. The activists had also allegedly questioned the king's role as head of the judiciary. After talks, Saudi Prince Saud parried the request to free the trio by saying that "[the activists] are in the hands of the court. The government cannot interfere until the court action is taken in this regard." AFP has more.






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California upholds state sentencing guidelines
David Shucosky on June 21, 2005 9:48 AM ET

[JURIST] The California Supreme Court upheld state sentencing guidelines [opinion, PDF] on Monday, ruling that allowing judges to impose a discretionary range of sentences for various crimes did not give them too much power. The ruling follows the recent US Supreme Court holding in US v. Booker [JURIST report], which invalidated federal sentencing rules insofar as those had allowed judges to increase sentences based on facts not decided by a jury. A convicted child molester's sentence was upheld by the California court because they found that the trial judge didn't base the highest sentence on a factual determination he made. AP has more.






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International commission upholds whaling ban despite Japan objection
David Shucosky on June 21, 2005 9:39 AM ET

[JURIST] The International Whaling Commission [official website] voted 29-23 against lifting its ban on commercial whaling Tuesday at its 2005 annual meeting [agenda]. Japan had recently threatened to leave the organization [JURIST report] if it didn't allow for some sort of sanctioned whaling. The ban has been in place since 1986. Only Norway continues to practice commercial whaling in spite of the ban, but Japan's practice of research whaling [government press release] has drawn criticism as being disguised commercial whaling. AP has more.






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Acquitted 9/11 suspect leaves Germany, avoids deportation
Krista-Ann Staley on June 21, 2005 9:30 AM ET

[JURIST] Moroccan Abdelghani Mzoudi [Wikipedia profile], acquitted by a Hamburg court in February on charges of helping the September 11 hijackers, flew home Tuesday to avoid deportation. Hamburg city officials had given Mzoudi two weeks to leave the country, or face arrest or deportation after the June 9 confirmation of the acquittal on appeal [JURIST report]. Hamburg authorities have said Mounir El Motassadeq [Wikipedia profile; JURIST report] will face the same treatment if he is acquitted of complicity in the attacks. A new German law, introduced January 1, makes it easier to expel suspected foreign militants. Reuters has more.






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Terri Schiavo's remains buried by husband
Krista-Ann Staley on June 21, 2005 8:26 AM ET

[JURIST] Michael Schiavo buried the cremated remains of his late wife Terri Schiavo [JURIST news archive] Monday at Sylvan Abbey Memorial Park [funerary website] in Clearwater, Florida. He had previously said he would bury her remains in his family plot in Pennsylvania [JURIST report]. Schiavo's parents were not notified of the interment. Michael inscribed the words "I Kept my Promise" at the bottom of his wife's gravemarker, listed the date of her 1990 collapse as the date his wife "Departed this Earth," and the date that she actually died as the date she was "at peace." Terri Schiavo's death [JURIST rpeort] on March 31 this year ended an intense legal and political struggle between right-to-life and right-to-die advocates over the status and interpretation of her wishes concerning her care while in an apparent persistent vegetative state. AP has more.






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Ninth Circuit blocks portion of California privacy law
Alexandria Samuel on June 20, 2005 8:34 PM ET

[JURIST] A panel of the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled [opinion] Monday that portion of a California law giving consumers the right to block banks from selling their personal information to other institutions is preempted by federal law. The court considered whether the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) [text] trumps the California Financial Information Privacy Act (CFIPA) [text] in the exchange of information among financial institutes, and reversed a lower court ruling [American Bankers Ass’n v. Lockyer, PDF] that it does not. The court reasoned that the FCRA, which has less stringent "information swapping” provisions, preempts portions of the CFIPA, and remanded the case to the district court to decide if any consumer information can be shielded from affiliated companies under the state law. AP has more.






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UPDATE ~ Bolton UN confirmation stalled again in Senate
Alexandria Samuel on June 20, 2005 7:55 PM ET

[JURIST] The controversial confirmation of UN ambassador nominee John Bolton. [JURIST news archive] stalled in the Senate again late Monday after Republicans failed, in a 54-38 vote, to gain the 60 votes needed to invoke cloture and commence a roll call. Earlier today, President Bush called on Senators [JURIST report] to vote on Bolton’s nomination, and rebuked requests for more information about Bolton's prewar assessments of Iraq. Read Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's press release on the matter here. AP has more.






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Corporations and securities brief ~ GE subpoenaed in federal reinsurance probe
James Murdock on June 20, 2005 7:39 PM ET

[JURIST] Leading Monday's corporations and securities law news, General Electric Company [corporate website] has been subpoenaed by the US Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York. In a press release issued Monday, GE said that the subpoena is part of an on-going government probe into the reinsurance and finite risk industry. AP has more.

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Judge urges settlement in tobacco litigation
Alexandria Samuel on June 20, 2005 7:12 PM ET

[JURIST] In a closed door meeting Monday, US District Judge Gladys Kessler [profile] urged the government and tobacco company executives to settle the multibillion dollar racketeering lawsuit filed by the Justice Department 5 years ago. In the suit, the government alleges that tobacco manufactures violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) [text] by conspiring to downplay the dangers of smoking. Closing arguments [JURIST report] ended June 9, after the government reduced the proposed penalty [JURIST report] against major tobacco companies from $130 billion to $10 billion. Judge Kessler also issued an order denying a Washington Post request to attend the meeting and have access to related documents. Also on Monday, Harvard University business professor Max H. Bazerman [profile], an expert witness for the government, told reporters [Washington Post report] that federal prosecutors threatened to remove him from the witness list if he did not "water down" his recommended penalties for the tobacco industry. Reuters has more.






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States brief ~ NJ high court orders assessment of financial privacy protections
Rachel Felton on June 20, 2005 5:13 PM ET

[JURIST] Leading Monday's states brief, the Supreme Court of New Jersey [official website] ordered its criminal practice committee to assess whether financial records should be given more protection as a matter of public policy. In upholding the conviction of a woman whose bank records were subpoenaed and shown to a jury, the Supreme Court found that privacy protections are sufficiently protected by existing subpoena procedures where no notice to the bank account holder is required when the bank is ordered to turn over its records. In the court's opinion [PDF text], the court said that "although notice to account holders is not constitutionally required, additional protections may be desirable as a matter of policy." The committee is to recommend whether the court should consider "additional safeguards for account holders." AP has more.

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International brief ~ Kenya wants permanent seat on UN Security Council
D. Wes Rist on June 20, 2005 4:42 PM ET

[JURIST] Leading Monday's international brief, Kenyan Foreign Affairs Minister Ali Chirau Mwakwere [Wikipedia profile] has announced that Kenya [government website] would actively be seeking to obtain one of the two permanent regional seats for Africa under the current proposed reform plans [JURIST report] for the UN Security Council [official website]. The reform plan calls for the addition of 10 Security Council seats, 6 of which would be permanent, four going to the 'G4 Nations' of India, Japan, Germany, and Brazil, and two more permanent membership slots designated according to regional representation. Mwakwere said that Kenya was uniquely positioned to fill one of these spots as it had taken leadership positions in the peace process in both Sudan and Somalia. Kenya would face off against regional giants such as South Africa and Nigeria for a permanent Security Council seat from the African region. JURIST's Paper Chase has continuing coverage of the United Nations [JURIST news archive]. Kenya's Daily Nation has local coverage.

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BREAKING NEWS ~ Adelphia founder John Rigas sentenced to 15 years
Tom Henry on June 20, 2005 3:57 PM ET

[JURIST] Adelphia Communications Corp. [corporate website] founder John Rigas has been sentenced to 15 years for bank fraud, securities fraud, and conspiracy.

5:02 PM ET - AP is reporting that former Adelphia chief financial officer Timothy Rigas has been sentenced to 20 years in prison. Bloomberg has more.






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Unapproved Sunni list of names for Iraqi constitution committee could pose problem
David Shucosky on June 20, 2005 3:51 PM ET

[JURIST] Having last week reached a deal [JURIST report] on Sunni representation on the parliamentary committee to draft the Iraqi constitution [JURIST news archive], Iraqi politicians are now debating over who exactly should be named to the new seats. Sunni leaders have submitted a list of 15 candidates for the positions with full voting rights, but without getting support for the 15 from a larger group of Sunnis, as the committee had wanted. A spokesman for the committee that submitted the list of 15 said there's "no need" for such wide approval and doing so would only "complicate things". A new consitution must be finished by August 15, a deadline which some say should be postponed [JURIST report]. AP has more.






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World Health Organization urges new laws to protect mentally ill
David Shucosky on June 20, 2005 3:36 PM ET

[JURIST] A new report [PDF] released by the World Health Organization [official website] on Monday urges countries to pass laws protecting the mentally ill, a group categorized by a WHO press release as "among the most vulnerable and the least legally protected". The report says almost a quarter of all countries have no mental health law, and many more have laws that do not adequately protect mental health patients or are outdated. In addition to releasing the new report, the WHO has created a network of experts to help countries modernize their law. AP has more.






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Bush demands vote on Bolton; recess appointment not ruled out
David Shucosky on June 20, 2005 3:28 PM ET

[JURIST] President Bush on Monday demanded a vote in the Senate on his nomination of John Bolton [JURIST report] as the US Ambassador to the United Nations, and White House officials would not rule out the possibility of a recess appointment [CRS backgrounder, PDF] to sidestep the Senate if necesary. Senate Democrats last week rejected a new Republican compromise offer [JURIST report] on his nomination, requesting more information about his pre-war assessments of Iraq. They have also objected to his outspoken criticism of the UN and have made other claims of wrongdoing [JURIST report]. Bush says Bolton is the right choice to help push for UN reform. Reuters has more.






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Presbyterian church formally adopts new sex abuse policy
Tom Henry on June 20, 2005 3:10 PM ET

[JURIST] The Presbyterian Church (USA) [official website] has formally adopted 11 changes [press release, summary of amendments] to its constitution in an effort to prevent and deal more harshly with sexual abuse by members of the clergy. The changes, to be incorporated into the church's Book of Order [PDF text] on July 3, allow victims more involvement in the offender's punishment as well as stricter requirements for reporting sexual abuse to civil authorities. The amendments, announced last week, come three years after a report [PDF text] on sexual abuse by clergy of the children of missionaries in the Congo. AP has more.






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UK details plans for smoking ban
David Shucosky on June 20, 2005 3:05 PM ET

[JURIST] The British Department of Health [official web site] Monday began an 11-week program [official site] to survey the public on a proposed smoking ban [BBC backgrounder] that would prohibit smoking in restaurants, bars that serve food, and enclosed public places in England. The DoH is asking citizens what exemptions they think should apply, and if the ban should eventually include more areas. The proposal has gotten complaints from both sides; those for it say the exemptions will make the ban ineffective, and those against it say it's unnecessary. In the US, state and local governments are responsible for most of the anti-smoking laws [Wikipedia profile, JURIST news archive], creating a wide variety of places where people can and cannot smoke. BBC News has more.






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Romanian prosecutors summon ex-president to testify in riots inquiry
David Shucosky on June 20, 2005 2:55 PM ET

[JURIST] Prosecutors on Monday summoned former Romanian President Ion Iliescu [Wikipedia profile] to testify in a criminal investigation into deadly riots by coal miners [Wikipedia backgrounder] in the 1990s. Iliescu refused to appear personally and instead sent his lawyers, who asked for a continuance to review evidence. No charges have been filed against him yet, but prosecutors are looking to charge Iliescu with undermining state authority or even crimes against humanity. The investigation stems from accusations that Iliescu asked coal miners to come to Bucharest and quell protests against his ruling party. He denies encouraging or asking for the miners. Reuters has more. Last week a Romanian court freed the militant leader of a 1991 miners strike [JURIST report].






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Afghans detain three in US envoy murder plot
Tom Henry on June 20, 2005 2:13 PM ET

[JURIST] An Afghan government official said Monday that Afghan security forces have arrested three young Pakistani men on charges of planning to assassinate US ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad [Wikipedia profile]. The men were arrested Saturday in the province of Laghman, a day before a scheduled trip by Khalilzad to the area. A spokesman for the US Embassy in Kabul [official website] expressed US gratitude for the Afghan help in protecting its diplomats but would not comment further. Khalilzad has been a vocal opponent of Pakistan's alleged status as a safe-haven for Islamic militants in recent days, a position which may have led to the assassination plot. Last week Khalilzad was also confirmed by the US Senate as the next US ambassador to Iraq [AFP report], taking over from John Negroponte, who has been named the new US Director of Intelligence. Reuters has more.






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Supreme Court declines to hear federal sentencing case
Tom Henry on June 20, 2005 1:39 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court Monday declined to consider whether hundreds of criminals sentenced prior to US v. Booker [JURIST report; opinion] - a landmark ruling on federal sentencing guidelines - should receive reduced prison sentences, despite Justice Department urging that the dispute be heard. AP has more. The Court also took no action to resolve a dispute over the meaning of a 2003 decision involving the use of a federal RICO anti-racketeering law to stop blockades seeking to obstruct the operation of abortion clinics.

The Court granted certiorari in two cases to be heard next term: Illinois Tool Works v. Independent Ink, regarding patented and unpatented products and restraints employing antitrust law; and Buckeye Check Cashing v. Cardegna, a dispute over whether arbitration can be avoided by filing a second case claiming a contract is illegal. Monday's full Order List is here [PDF].






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Supreme Court upholds imposition of registration fees on trucks by states
Tom Henry on June 20, 2005 11:59 AM ET

[JURIST] In two related cases, the US Supreme Court ruled Monday that states are permitted to impose registration fees on trucks and other commercial vehicles that travel at least part of the time on a state's roadways. Read the Court's opinion [PDF text] in American Trucking v. Michigan Public Service Commission [Duke Law backgrounder] and the opinion [PDF text] in Mid-Con Freight Systems v. Michigan Public Service Commission.

Also Monday, the Court issued two rulings to clarify deadlines for filing. In Graham County Water District v. US [Duke Law backgrounder; PDF opinion] the Court ruled that the 6-year statute of limitations in the False Claims Act does not govern FCA civil actions for retaliation and in Dodd v. US [Duke law backgrounder; PDF opinion] the court held that the statute of limitations for filing a petition of habeas corpus begins to run on the date that the Supreme Court first recognizes a new right.

Finally, the Supreme Court Monday affirmed a lower court decision holding that a Fifth Amendment Takings claim was barred by issue preclusion of being relitigated in federal court after having been decided in state court. Read the Court's opinion [PDF text] in San Remo Hotel v. San Francisco [Duke Law backgrounder].






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Saddam prison guards say he was friendly, "clean freak"
Tom Henry on June 20, 2005 11:28 AM ET

[JURIST] In an article [excerpt] published Monday in GQ magazine, young US soldiers given the job of guarding former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein say they found him to be friendly, talkative, and a "clean freak." Three soldiers from the Pennsylvania National Guard [official website] provided details such as what snacks and breakfast cereals the incarcerated former Iraqi leader prefers as well as his preoccupation with cleanliness. Though the soldiers reported that Saddam's anger towards both the current US president and his father Bush Sr. eased over time, his belief that he would be restored to power in Iraq never wavered and he even invited the guards to stay at his palace. Hussein is expected to be tried before the Iraqi Special Tribunal [official website] for crimes against humanity in what senior Iraqi officials describe as a "matter of months". AP has more.






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UPDATE ~ Iranian authorities order partial recount of presidential vote
Jamie Sterling on June 20, 2005 11:20 AM ET

[JURIST] A partial recount of votes in last Friday's Iran presidential election was ordered by Iranian electoral authorities Monday after reformist candidates accused military organizations of rigging the first round of voting [JURIST report]. The close first election resulted in a run-off election planned for June 24 between former president, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani [Wikipedia profile], and his surprise rival and a close second, conservative Tehran mayor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad [Wikipedia profile]. Iran's Guardian Council [BBC backgrounder] called for a recount in four provinces, including Tehran. The Guardian Council is expected to release the recount's results no later than Monday night and the two candidates will be able to begin their campaigning Tuesday [IRIB report]. Reuters has more; IRIB has local coverage.






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Former South African deputy president to be charged with corruption
Jamie Sterling on June 20, 2005 11:05 AM ET

[JURIST] A spokesman for South Africa's National Prosecution Authority [official website] announced Monday that former South African deputy president Jacob Zuma [ANC profile] will be charged with two counts of corruption. After one of Zuma's advisors, South African businessman Schabir Shaik [Wikipedia profile] was found guilty [JURIST report] on charges of corruption and fraud, President Thabo Mbeki [BBC profile] fired Zuma from his post last week [JURIST report]. Zuma, once believed to be a viable presidential candidate, was found to have had a "generally corrupt" relationship with Mr. Shaik according to the judge who convicted the businessman. AFP has more. From Johannesburg, South Africa's Mail & Guardian provides local coverage.






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Human rights report criticizes UK detention of asylum seekers
Jamie Sterling on June 20, 2005 10:52 AM ET

[JURIST] Human rights watchdog group Amnesty International [advocacy website] released a new report Monday detailing and assailing the UK's detention of asylum seekers, which it said is "inappropriate, unnecessary, disproportionate and, therefore, unlawful" and has led to mental illness and even suicide attempts. The report concludes that in 2003 the UK detained 27,000 potential refugees in jail-like conditions. The report examines "the ability of detainees to challenge their detention. . . the difficulties that those who have sought asylum face in accessing justice while in detention have been compounded by the recent restrictions to publicly funded immigration and asylum work. . . and the human cost of the increased use of detention in the UK." Amnesty International also released related information on the detaintion of asylum seekers in Europe [press release] and, specifically, in Italy [press release]. AP has more.






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Supreme Court orders new trial in death penalty case
Tom Henry on June 20, 2005 10:18 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court ruled Monday in a 5-4 decision that public defenders had wrongfully failed to review records showing evidence of mental retardation and a troubled childhood in the case of Pennsylvania death row inmate Ronald Rompilla. In the second death row sentence overturned [JURIST report] in as many weeks, the Court found that a defendant's lawyer must make reasonable efforts to seek out evidence of mitigating factors in a defendant's case. Duke Law provides a case backgrounder. Read the opinion [Cornell LII]. AP has more.






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CardSystems CEO says lost credit data unlawfully retained
Jamie Sterling on June 20, 2005 10:14 AM ET

[JURIST] The CEO of CardSystems Solutions Inc. [corporate website], the corporation responsible for a security breach [JURIST report] that may have left up to 40 million credit card owners vulnerable to credit card fraud and identity theft, said Monday that the data stolen was improperly kept and that the records should not have been retained. The files were being saved to use for a study determining why some transactions registered as unauthorized or uncompleted. Rules established by VISA and MasterCard state that credit card processors are prohibited from retaining files after transactions are completed. The FBI advised CardSystems not to release information about the breach [JURIST report], but MasterCard [corporate website] informed its customers [JURIST report] about the stolen records in a press release [text] Friday. Mastercard customers comprise 13.9 percent of those who may be affected by the security breach. The New York Times has more.






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Iranian papers banned after publishing fraud allegation by reformist candidate
Jamie Sterling on June 20, 2005 9:53 AM ET

[JURIST] Two reformist newspapers in Iran have been banned after publishing a letter from defeated opposition candidate Mehdi Karoubi claiming the first round of presidential elections was rigged [AFP report]. The Aftab Daily [official website, in Arabic] and the Eghbal Daily, the newspaper of the main reformist party, the Islamic Iran Participation Front [official website, in Arabic], are both unsure whether the ban applies narrowly to the issue on election rigging or if the ban will be long-term. The Iranian Judiciary detained a number of people Saturday for possible election fraud [JURIST report] after conservative and anti-Western Tehran mayor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad [Wikipedia profile] finished in a close second to moderate cleric Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani [Wikipedia profile]. AFP has more.






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Ten on trial in Sudan special court for Darfur atrocities
Jamie Sterling on June 20, 2005 9:36 AM ET

[JURIST] Ten men have gone to trial so far in Sudan [JURIST news archive] on charges of rape and robbery in the troubled Darfur region [BBC backgrounder], according to the head of Sudan's special court [JURIST report], which began proceedings last Saturday. The Sudanese court was formed by the national Sudanese government after the UN Security Council asked the International Criminal Court [official website] to investigate alleged war crimes in Darfur; the government refuses to have suspects tried abroad. The formation of the special court will be a substitute for the ICC, according to Sudan, as all suspects cannot be tried by the ICC. The UN appointed inquiry commission [UN report on Darfur, PDF text] does not believe that the Sudanese judiciary can handle the case, but the head of the court, Mahmoud Mohamed Saeed Abkam, announced that he will resign from the court should there be any Sudanese governmental interference. The men on trial so far are minor criminals, but the court should eventually move on to the prosecution of more senior officials. Reuters has more.






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Change in judge possible in EU Microsoft antitrust case
Tom Henry on June 20, 2005 9:34 AM ET

[JURIST] Court of First Instance [official website] President Bo Vesterdorf is planning to move the Microsoft EU antitrust case [JURIST report] from the current panel headed by Judge Hubert Legal to a panel headed by himself. The proposed change comes after Judge Legal published an article in the French journal Concurrences [journal website] in which he referred to some of the judges' clerks as "ayatollahs of free enterprise" and expressed concern over the amount of control they had over the deliberations. Every member of the 25-judge court will meet to vote on Vesterdorf's proposal some time after this Friday. Reuters has more.






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Clinton, McCain say reform needed at Guantanamo Bay
Jamie Sterling on June 20, 2005 9:18 AM ET

[JURIST] Former President Bill Clinton said in a Financial Times interview [transcript] published Monday that the US government should "close down or clean up" Guantanamo Bay prison [FT report]. On the weekend leading GOP Senator John McCain also pressed for change if not closure, urging the United States [NJ Star-Ledger report] to try the hundreds of detainees being held at the detention center designated for terror suspects after the September 11 attacks. The Pentagon estimates the number of detainees at Guantanamo to be approximately 520 men, of which only four have been charged. These latest comments follow calls for change from former President Jimmy Carter [JURIST report], Democratic Senator Joseph Biden [JURIST report], GOP Senator Mel Martinez [JURIST report], and many human rights groups [JURIST report]. Despite increasing opposition to the detention center, President Bush [JURIST report] and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld [JURIST report] have thusfar rejected calls to close it down, citing the necessity of holding terror suspects who cannot be transferred elsewhere. Reuters has more.






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Charges dropped against two Dutch aid workers in Sudan
Tom Henry on June 20, 2005 9:08 AM ET

[JURIST] Medecins San Frontieres [NGO website] said Monday that the Sudanese government has dropped charges [MSF press release] against two aid workers accused of publishing false information in a report detailing widespread rape [PDF text] in the volatile Darfur region. The group received word Sunday that the charges were dropped when a notice was issued by the Sudanese Justice Ministry stating that no action would be taken against medical workers Paul Foreman and Vincent Hoedt. The Sudanese government continues to deny that it adopted an organized and widespread policy of rape during the conflicts among rebels, government forces, and tribesmen. JURIST's Paper Chase has continuing coverage of Sudan. AP has more.






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Rare death penalty case to begin in Vermont
Tom Henry on June 20, 2005 8:35 AM ET

[JURIST] A federal court in Burlington, Vermont is expected to hear opening statements Monday in the first death-penalty case in the state since 1957. Vermont does not have a death penalty but Donald Fell was charged under a federal capital murder law after abducting one of his victims, Terry King, in Vermont before later killing her in New York. In 2002, Fell's attorneys and prosecutors had reached a plea deal in which Fell would plead guilty in exchange for a life sentence but the US Department of Justice later intervened, insisting on the death penalty. Fell, who has a long history of substance abuse and was abandoned by both parents at childhood, is expected to argue that because of his troubled upbringing he should be given a sentence of life in prison. AP has more. The Vermont Rutland Herald provides extensive local coverage.






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Bush said to be weighing three possible candidates for new Supreme Court CJ
Tom Henry on June 20, 2005 7:57 AM ET

[JURIST] With many predicting a retirement announcement from current Chief Justice William Rehnquist [CNN profile] when the US Supreme Court's current term ends June 27, advisors to President Bush are said to be concentrating on three possible replacements: Judge John Roberts of the US DC Circuit Court of Appeals [profile], Judge J. Micheal Luttig [Wikipedia profile] of the US Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, and perhaps US Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales [DOJ profile]. While Roberts and Luttig are both seen as solidly conservative and therefore likely to prompt a confirmation showdown with Democrats, Gonzales is seen as more of a centrist on issues like abortion and affirmative action and could have an easier time being confirmed, although he himself ran into some Democratic opposition at his AG confirmation hearings because of his involvement as White House Counsel in the writing of memos that appeared to sanction torture of prisoners. A Gonzales nomination, however, might put the President at risk of alienating some of his conservative political base. The Washington Post has more.






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Suspected war criminal Mladic to turn himself in for $5M
Kate Heneroty on June 19, 2005 4:11 PM ET

[JURIST] Former Bosnia Serb General Ratko Mladic [BBC profile], who has been indicted [indictment] for war crimes, has agreed to turn himself over to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia [official website], in exchange for $5 million for his family and associates, according to the London Sunday Times. Mladic has been in hiding for 10 years, since the Srebrenica massacre [Domovina.net backgrounder] in Bosnia where more than 7,000 Muslim men and boys were killed by troops under Mladic's command as they tried to flee a UN "safe area." Though the Serbian government originally denied negotiations [JURIST report] were occurring, prosecutors appear to be willing to overlook the methods used to capture Mladic and worry that he may try to kill himself rather than surrendering. The Sunday Times has more.






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"Chemical Ali" questioned by Iraqi tribunal
Kate Heneroty on June 19, 2005 3:47 PM ET

[JURIST] Ali Hassan al-Majid, otherwise known in Western media as "Chemical Ali" [BBC profile], was questioned Thursday by an Iraqi tribunal preparing for the trials of the leaders of Saddam Hussein's regime. The Iraqi Special Tribunal (IST) [official website] released the tape publicly on Sunday. It was the third tape related to tribunal questioning [JURIST report] released by the IST this month. Ali was questioned about suppressing religious political parties and about the killings and detentions of the Fayli Kurds. Eight other senior officials have been questioned, including Taha Yassin Ramadan [BBC profile], Hussein's former vice-president, Abid Hamid Mahmud [BBC profile], Hussein's secretary, and others believed to be involved in the suppression of Shi'ite and Kurdish uprisings following the Gulf War. Reuters has more.






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Soldier won't be charged with Iraqi deaths
Kate Heneroty on June 19, 2005 3:25 PM ET

[JURIST] Charges will not be brought against a US Army captain for allegedly ordering his subordinates to kill Iraqi insurgents in retaliation for an attack on a US base, the Army announced Friday. Captain Michael Cunningham was facing possible charges of solicitation of murder and involuntary manslaughter, but following the acquittal of one of Cunningham's subordinates [coverage of acquittal], a 4th Infantry Division spokesperson said the case had "lost prosecutorial merits." Prosecutors believed Cunningham gave subordinates a list of insurgents who were "not to come back alive" if they were found alive. Cunningham was also one of three officers reprimanded last year [JURIST report] for covering up an incident where an Iraqi man drowned after US soldiers forced him into a river for violating a curfew. AP has more.






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Cameras to be allowed in UK appeal courts
Alexandria Samuel on June 19, 2005 11:57 AM ET

[JURIST] An announcement allowing limited use of cameras in the UK Court of Appeal is expected shortly, according to an article in the Sunday Times. The decision to televise appellate proceedings comes after a six week pilot program [JURIST report] and a government consultation paper on court broadcasting. The appeal of a former city council leader from a misconduct conviction made legal history in 2004 as the first case in the UK to be filmed by TV cameras [BBC report]. Although the appeal was not televised, the footage was used for evaluation purposes. Supporters contend that televised proceedings will demystify the judicial system, while opponents fear sensationalism of proceedings and disruption of court work. In an effort to avoid problems which have developed in the United States, broadcast of UK trial proceedings will remain prohibited. The Sunday Times has more.






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Hundreds of thousands march in Madrid to protest gay marriage bill
Alexandria Samuel on June 19, 2005 11:11 AM ET

[JURIST] Hundreds of thousands of protesters converged on Madrid Saturday to protest proposed legislation that would recognize same sex marriage. The lower house of the Spanish Parliament [official website] approved the measure in April [JURIST report], and the Senate is expected to vote in upcoming weeks. Public response to the measure has been mixed. The Catholic Church [Spanish Catholic Bishops website, in Spanish] and Spain’s Popular Party [party website, in Spanish] have led opposition against the measure [JURIST report], while an opinion poll conducted by the Center for Sociological Investigations indicates 66 percent of Spaniards favor legalizing gay marriage. AP has more.






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