September 2005 Archives


Spanish conservative party challenges gay marriage law
Holly Manges Jones on September 30, 2005 4:41 PM ET

[JURIST] Spain's conservative Popular Party [official website in Spanish] Friday filed a constitutional challenge against a law passed earlier this year which legalizes gay marriage [JURIST report] and allows homosexual couples to adopt children. The party filed the case in Spain's Constitutional Court [official website in Spanish], saying that the new law "denaturalizes the fundamental institution of marriage." Since it was passed, dozens of gay couples have married and several others, including high-ranking public officials, have applied for marriage licenses. Popular Party head Mariano Rajoy [BBC profile] said the party had presented a civil union alternative to marriage when the measure was passed. Spain is the third European nation to have legalized gay marriage, following Belgium and Holland. EFE has more.






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Ebbers petitions appeals court to throw out fraud convictions
Holly Manges Jones on September 30, 2005 4:11 PM ET

[JURIST] Attorneys for former WorldCom [MCI/WorldCom website] CEO Bernard Ebbers [JURIST news archive] have filed a brief urging the US Second Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn fraud and conspiracy convictions against Ebbers [JURIST report] saying his trial earlier this year was "fundamentally flawed," and arguing that his 25-year prison sentence [JURIST report] is "unreasonable and legally erroneous." The 96-page brief said the lower court made critical mistakes during the trial by not giving prospective defense witnesses governmental immunity to testify on Ebbers' behalf, and by wrongly instructing the jury that they could convict Ebbers based on his "conscious avoidance" of knowledge about the corporation's fraudulent activities. Ebbers' attorneys argued, "These errors greatly hindered Ebbers' ability to present a defense, unfairly lowered the government's burden of proof and offered the jury a compromise path to conviction." The government's reply brief is due on October 28. Reuters has more.






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Rights groups allege mass kidnappings, torture by Russian authorities
Holly Manges Jones on September 30, 2005 3:26 PM ET

[JURIST] Amnesty International [advocacy website] and Russia's Memorial Human Rights Center [advocacy website, English version] Friday accused Russian authorities of arbitrary and prolonged detentions of civilians, torture, and forced confessions [AI press release]. Amnesty International has released a new report [PDF] claiming that Russia is utilizing its own "war on terror" to commit the human rights abuses, alleging that between 3,000 and 5,000 kidnappings have taken place since 1999. It is urging UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, whose country currently holds the presidency of the European Union [official website], to call upon Russian President Vladimir Putin at the upcoming EU-Russia summit [summit information] to put a stop to the abuses and confirm the commitment of the Russian Federation [official website in Russian] to comply with international human rights standards. From Russia, MosNews has local coverage.






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Rwandan radio broadcaster pleads not guilty to genocide charges
Jeannie Shawl on September 30, 2005 2:51 PM ET

[JURIST] Joseph Serugendo, the former technical director of a Rwandan radio station that promoted the 1994 Rwandan genocide [BBC backgrounder], pleaded not guilty Friday to five counts [indictment, PDF] of genocide and crimes against humanity at the UN-backed International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda [official website]. ICTR prosecutors allege that Serugendo "planned, instigated, ordered, committed or aided and abetted in the planning, preparation or execution of ... crimes" that were part of the 1994 genocide which lead to the killing of over 500,000 members of Rwanda's Tutsi ethnic minority. Serugendo, who is also said to be a leader of the Interahamwe militia, was arrested in Gabon earlier this month and transferred to the ICTR [JURIST report] earlier this week. A trial date for Serugendo has not yet been set. Read the ICTR press release on Serugendo's not guilty plea. AP has more.






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No Child Left Behind rules relaxed for schools hit by Katrina, Rita
Holly Manges Jones on September 30, 2005 2:44 PM ET

[JURIST] US Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings [official profile] has announced that No Child Left Behind [official website] yearly academic accountability standards will be eased for schools affected by Hurricane Katrina [JURIST news archive] and Hurricane Rita. Spellings said that schools in the five "major disaster" states - Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, Florida, and Alabama - could delay compliance under the education act without requesting a waiver if they were greatly damaged or closed due to the hurricanes. Other schools not showing closures or major damages would be responsible for complying with NCLB testing requirements, including schools which are accommodating displaced students, but Spellings said they could request a waiver if displaced students' test scores prevent them from meeting the annual standards. Spellings' decision was prompted in part due to pressure by the National Education Association [union website], the nation's largest teachers union, and school advocates are also pushing for waivers to the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act [HUD backgrounder] which prevents schools from segregating the homeless and mandates schools to pay for student busing services. The National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth [advocacy website; McKinney-Vento implementation materials] contends that proposed waivers to the law would be discriminatory. Friday's Washington Post has more.






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Record industry sues over 750 for music swapping
Holly Manges Jones on September 30, 2005 1:59 PM ET

[JURIST] A US music industry trade group has filed another 750 lawsuits [RIAA press release] against individuals who allegedly used on-line file sharing networks to trade copyrighted songs illegally. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) [official website], representing labels such as Vivendi Universal [corporate website] and Sony/BMG [corporate website], is suing 64 individuals at universities who allegedly swapped music using the high speed Internet2 [consortium website] network which connects schools nationwide, including Columbia University, Boston University, and the University of California, Berkeley. RIAA claims the remaining defendants used internet networks, including eDonkey and LimeWire, to download and share copyrighted music files. The recording industry has sued approximately 14,800 computer users to date [JURIST news archive], resulting in 3,400 settled cases which have averaged between $4,000 and $5,000. AP has more.

Previously in JURIST's Paper Chase...






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Hong Kong government challenges gay sex ruling
Holly Manges Jones on September 30, 2005 1:18 PM ET

[JURIST] The Hong Kong government [official website] Friday appealed a high court ruling [decision text, in English] last month that said a criminal law preventing consenting males under the age of 21 from having sex was a violation of human rights [JURIST report]. The criminal law allowed lesbians and heterosexuals to engage in sex from the age of 16, but prohibited sex between consenting males, who faced potential life sentences if caught and convicted. The case had been brought by a 20-year old male and the high court said the law was "an arbitrary interference in his private life," discriminatory against homosexual males, and was inconsistent with Hong Kong's Basic Law [text and background] and Bill of Rights [text]. The plaintiff's lawyer said he was surprised by the government's appeal. Reuters has more.






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Kevorkian says he will not assist in suicides if released
Holly Manges Jones on September 30, 2005 1:03 PM ET

[JURIST] Jack Kevorkian [BBC profile] has said that he would not assist people in committing suicide if released on parole, but said that he would campaign to legalize assisted suicide. The former doctor is serving 10-25 years in prison on a second-degree murder conviction for giving a patient with Lou Gehrig's disease an injection of drugs that killed him in 1998. In an interview [transcript] with MSNBC, Kevorkian said, "I have said publicly and officially that I will not perform that act again when I get out. What I'll do is what I should have done earlier, is pursue this from a legal standpoint by campaigning to get the laws changed." The ex-doctor will not be eligible for parole until 2007. The US Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments next Wednesday in Gonzales v. Oregon [Duke Law backgrounder], where the government is appealing [JURIST report] a 9th Circuit decision [PDF opinion; JURIST report] upholding Oregon's Death with Dignity Act [text], which allows assisted suicide. AP has more.






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States brief ~ CT to offer same-sex civil unions Oct. 1
Rachel Felton on September 30, 2005 12:16 PM ET

[JURIST] Leading Friday's states brief, as Connecticut becomes the second state to offer same-sex couples civil unions [JURIST report] October 1, town clerks are saying they are ready, but some employers may not be prepared. While only a few town clerks offices plan to be open tomorrow and there is no way of knowing how many of the state's approximately 7,400 same-sex couples will seek a civil union, Sandra Hutton, president of the Connecticut Town Clerk's Association [official website], said, "We're ready. We have the proper documentation. We won't have any problems at all." As for employers, employee benefits attorney Bruce Barth stated, "I think employers are going to start getting requests (for benefits) as soon as Monday. And they're not prepared." Connecticut will also recognize civil unions [JURIST report] from Vermont beginning tomorrow. AP has more.

In other state legal news ...






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Japan court rules PM shrine visits unconstitutional
David Shucosky on September 30, 2005 11:37 AM ET

[JURIST] The Osaka High Court ruled on Friday that visits by Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi [official website, English version] to a Shinto shrine for war dead [official website, English] violate Japan's constitutional provisions for separation of church and state. The visits are also controversial because China and South Korea consider the shrine a monument to Japanese militarism during the early 20th century. The ruling seems to conflict with Thursday's dismissal by a Tokyo court of a suit seeking damages for the visits [JURIST report], in which the court held that the visits were private acts. Still, it doesn't prevent Koizumi from making the visits, and Japanese legal and political experts say it likely won't influence his decisions. Koizumi last visited in January 2004 and has not announced whether or not he will return this year. Reuters has more.






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International brief ~ South Sudan legislature inaugurated
D. Wes Rist on September 30, 2005 11:35 AM ET

[JURIST] Leading Friday's international brief, the South Sudan legislature has been inaugurated, marking a key step in the development of a functioning government for the now autonomous southern region of Sudan. In accordance with the January 9 Comprehensive Peace Agreements [JURIST report], South Sudan will create an independent government that will work together with the main Sudanese government [official website] in the capital city of Khartoum until 2011, when South Sudan will hold a national referendum to decide whether to remain in Sudan or become an independent nation. The legislature was sworn-in in Juba, the operating capitol of South Sudan. The legislature's primary responsibility in its early stages will be the ratification of the newly-drafted Sudan Constitution [JURIST report] that delineates the power-sharing agreement reached in the January CPA. JURIST's Paper Chase has continuing coverage of Sudan [JURIST news archive]. The Sudan Tribune has local coverage.

In other international legal news ...






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Algeria peace plan approved in nationwide referendum
David Shucosky on September 30, 2005 10:59 AM ET

[JURIST] Algeria's proposed Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation [AP key points] was approved by over 97 percent of the vote in Thursday's referendum [JURIST report] as part of an effort to end a 13-year civil war in the country [CIA Factbook backgrounder]. Nationwide voter turnout topped 80 percent, but was skewed by some regions having near total participation and others hardly any in response to calls for a boycott. Some denounced the plan's broad amnesty for Islamic extremists and said while it did not exempt war criminals, it would make their prosecution more difficult. The plan does not grant amnesty to anyone involved in rape, massacres, or public bombings, but doesn't specify how to make that determination. Anywhere from 100,000 to 150,000 people were killed during the conflict; the plan provides for reparations for families of victims. AP has more.






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Italy issues three more arrest warrants in CIA abduction case
David Shucosky on September 30, 2005 10:44 AM ET

[JURIST] Milan Prosecutor Armando Spataro announced Friday the approval of three new arrest warrants in connection for purported CIA operatives with the kidnapping of a radical Muslim in 2003 [Washington Post report] in Milan. A total of 22 purported CIA operatives are now sought by Italian police. Italy may request extradition [JURIST report] for those accused, but US cooperation in such a request is not likely. The US embassy in Rome [official website] on Friday reaffirmed their position of not commenting on the case. The incident has strained relations with Italy [JURIST report] and created suspicion that the US took cleric Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, to Egypt so that he could be tortured, a tactic called "extraordinary rendition". AP has more.






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Rumsfeld to address Iraq journalist detentions, accidental killings
David Shucosky on September 30, 2005 10:25 AM ET

[JURIST] Sen. John Warner (R-VA) [official website], chairman of the US Senate Armed Forces Committee, said Thursday that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld [official profile] has promised to give "immediate consideration" to concerns about the increased detentions [JURIST report] and accidental shootings of journalists covering the conflict in Iraq. Representatives from Reuters and the Committee to Protect Journalists [advocacy website, press release] have complained to Warner [Reuters report] about "a long parade of disturbing incidents whereby professional journalists have been killed, wrongfully detained, and/or illegally abused by US forces in Iraq." Gen. George Casey [Washington Post report], the top US commander in Iraq, also said the concerns would be taken "very seriously" and promised to work with local journalists when he returned to Iraq. At least 66 journalists and media workers have been killed in Iraq since the invasion began in March 2003. At least seven journalists have been detained this year, with four still in custody. Reuters has called for Rumsfeld to resolve the problem in a way that balances the security interests of US forces in Iraq with "the equally legitimate rights of journalists in conflict zones under international law." Reuters has more.






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DeLay court appearance on conspiracy charges set for Oct. 21
David Shucosky on September 30, 2005 10:02 AM ET

[JURIST] US Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) [official website, JURIST news archive] was ordered on Thursday to appear in a Texas court on October 21 for his initial appearance in connection with charges that he violated Texas election law [JURIST report]. DeLay is accused [indictment text, PDF] of conspiring to use corporate donations to support candidates for the Texas legislature; state law allows corporate donations to be used only for administrative expenses. Indictments were earlier issued against associates of DeLay [JURIST report]. DeLay attacked the indictment in interviews Thursday, saying that he thought prosecutors were convinced that he had not participated in any wrongdoing and categorized the indictment as politically motivated. Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle [official website] denied any such motivation and pointed out that he has prosecuted more Democrats than Republicans. AP has more.






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Pentagon officials predict approval of Iraq constitution, but fear chaos if rejected
Jeannie Shawl on September 30, 2005 9:10 AM ET

[JURIST] US military officials said Thursday in testimony before the US Senate Armed Services Committee that they are confident that Iraq will vote to approve the draft constitution [English translation; JURIST news archive] in the upcoming October 15 referendum, but warned that approval is "critically important" to avoid a descent into anarchy. Under Iraq's Transitional Administrative Law [text], a majority must vote in favor of the charter, but if two-thirds of voters in any three of Iraq's provinces reject the draft, the constitution will be defeated. Those monitoring the situation in Iraq have indicated that there has been a massive effort to encourage Sunni Arabs to register to vote while Sunni leaders are campaigning for a rejection of the charter. Pentagon officials are predicting that the constitution will fail in the Sunni-dominated Anbar province, but that only one other province will reject the constitution by a two-thirds majority. Sunni leaders, meanwhile, repeated Thursday their pledge to vote 'no' [Reuters report] and rejected efforts by US ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad [official profile] to broker a last-minute deal to ease Sunni concerns about the draft [JURIST document]. Earlier this week, the International Crisis Group, issued a report [PDF text] criticizing Iraq's constitutional process for deepening the country's political fractures and expediting Iraq's violent break up. Friday's New York Times has more.






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Former Abu Ghraib commander says little done to prevent detainee abuse
Jeannie Shawl on September 30, 2005 8:35 AM ET

[JURIST] US Army Reserve Colonel Janis Karpinski [JURIST news archive], former US commander of Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison [JURIST news archive], said Friday that the US military has done little to ensure that abuses first exposed by the Abu Ghraib photos are not continuing in US-run facilities in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive]. In an interview [recorded audio] with BBC's Today program, Karpinski also welcomed Thursday's federal court ruling [PDF text; JURIST report] that the government must release additional photographs and videotapes that depict detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib. Karpinski said that the release, which has been delayed for at least 20 days, will allow the "opportunity to get a more balanced view and certainly a fair assessment of where the blame belongs." Karpinski, who was relieved of her command [JURIST report] over the Abu Ghraib scandal and subsequently demoted for dereliction of duty [JURIST report], has consistently said that she was the only high-ranking officer that was dealt with harshly and that others implicated in the scandal "walked." AFP has more.






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UK government rethinking provisions of anti-terror proposal
Greg Sampson on September 30, 2005 8:02 AM ET

[JURIST] Government officials in the United Kingdom are rethinking plans to enact a new law [JURIST report; draft text, PDF] that would criminalize the act of "glorifying terrorism." In an interview [recorded audio] Thursday with BBC's Today program, Prime Minister Tony Blair noted that because the proposed law needed to strike a balance between security and civil rights, it needed to be "very clear and very right." Other government ministers have admitted privately the current language of the law is still too broad. Apart from his reservations regarding the disputed law, Blair reasserted his support for legislation that would authorize deporting foreign Islamic extremists [JURIST report]. The Financial Times has more.






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ICC to issue arrest warrants for Uganda rebel leaders
Greg Sampson on September 30, 2005 7:25 AM ET

[JURIST] The International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] will soon issue arrest warrants for leaders of the Uganda rebel group Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) [BBC backgrounder], according to statements from a UN official Thursday. The LRA leaders, who have taken refuge in Congo, have been accused of raping and maiming children over the past two decades. Some diplomats believe ICC could issue the warrants, the first-ever to be issued by the ICC, as early as next week. Reuters has more.






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Schwarzenegger vetoes gay marriage bill as promised
Greg Sampson on September 29, 2005 8:45 PM ET

[JURIST] California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger Thursday followed through on his promise to veto [JURIST report] the gay marriage bill [AB 849 text] passed by the California Assembly [JURIST report] earlier this month. In a veto statement [PDF] issued late Thursday in Sacramento Schwarzenegger said he supports the current rights and benefits extended to same-sex partners in the state, but that signing the current bill would have confused a constitutional issue already before the state courts. The San Francisco Chronicle has more.






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BREAKING NEWS ~ NYT reporter Miller released from jail, will testify
Bernard Hibbitts on September 29, 2005 8:32 PM ET

[JURIST] AP is reporting that New York Times reporter Judith Miller has been released from federal prison [JURIST report] after agreeing to testify to a grand jury investigating the leak of a CIA operative's identity, according to legal sources. Her time at the Alexandria Detention Facility [official website] in Virginia marks the longest any journalist has ever served to protect a source.

8:48 ET - Miller was released after her source, apparently I. Lewis Libby [official profile], Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, voluntarily released her from her pledge of confidentiality. Miller has issued a statement saying she will appear before the grand jury on Friday. The New York Times has more.






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Preparations for first federal Vioxx trial underway in Houston
Greg Sampson on September 29, 2005 8:09 PM ET

[JURIST] Trial preparations commenced Thursday in federal court in Houston for the first federal civil trial involving the Merck-manufactured Vioxx [JURIST news archive] painkiller. Earlier this month, New Orleans-based US District Judge Eldon Fallon, charged with managing the hundreds of federal civil suits involving the withdrawn prescription drug, decided to move the trial from New Orleans to Houston [JURIST report] in the wake of Hurricane Katrina [JURIST news archive]. The trial is scheduled to begin November 28. AP has more.






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Bush waiting to announce next Supreme Court nominee
Greg Sampson on September 29, 2005 7:19 PM ET

[JURIST] The White House said Thursday that President Bush will probably wait until next week to announce his next nominee to the US Supreme Court. Bush was earlier expected [JURIST report] to announce his nominee to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor [Wikipedia profile] almost immediately after the Senate confirmed John Roberts [JURIST news archive; Wikipedia profile] to be Chief Justice. Because Justice O'Connor's replacement will likely affect the balance of the Court, Senators anticipate more intense scrutiny of the new high court pick. AP has more.






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Canada high court upholds constitutionality of tobacco damages recovery law
Greg Sampson on September 29, 2005 6:57 PM ET

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Canada [official website] ruled [judgment] unanimously Thursday that provincial governments can pass laws to recover health care costs incurred in taking care of people sickened by smoking. Canadian tobacco companies had challenged the constitutionality of the 1998 Tobacco Damages and Health Care Costs Recovery Act [text] which authorized British Columbia to seek damages against the companies for both past harm and future health complications. Canadian anti-tobacco activists hope that other provinces use the BC legislation as a model for future recovery actions against the tobacco industry. The Toronto Globe and Mail has more.






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US House votes to overhaul Endangered Species Act
Greg Sampson on September 29, 2005 6:50 PM ET

[JURIST] The US House of Representatives Thursday approved by 229-193 legislation that would overhaul the 1973 Endangered Species Act [official website]. Rep. Richard Pombo (R-CA) [official website] steered the Threatened and Endangered Species Recovery Act of 2005 (TESRA) [PDF summary] through the House Resources Committee last week [JURIST report]. If enacted, the law will eliminate the designation of "critical habitat" for those areas inhabited by protected species; authorize the Interior Secretary [official website] to determine the standards for scientific data on which agencies would base their decisions; and require the federal government to compensate land owners if the Endangered Species Act prohibits development on their land. AP has more.






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States brief ~ OR Supreme Court rules law banning live sex shows unconstitutional
Rachel Felton on September 29, 2005 4:36 PM ET

[JURIST] Leading Thursday's states brief, the Oregon Supreme Court ruled in separate decisions today that a state law [decision text] banning live sex shows and a local ordinance [decision text] that requires nude dancers to stay four feet away from customers both violate the state constitution [text] guarantee of free expression. The majority opinion in the first case stated that freedom of expression extends "to the kinds of expression that a majority of citizens in many communities would not like," but lone dissenter Justice Paul De Muniz found live public sex shows were not intended to be protected by the drafters of the constitution. Both rulings overturned decisions of the Oregon Court of Appeals. AP has more.

In other state legal news ...






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New Orleans police department investigating officer involvement in post-Katrina looting
Greg Sampson on September 29, 2005 3:46 PM ET

[JURIST] The New Orleans police department Thursday launched an investigation into police officers' alleged participation in looting that occurred in the wake of Hurricane Katrina [JURIST news archive]. News reports filed in the wake of the hurricane placed some officers at the scene of some of the heaviest looting in the city. A spokesperson for the New Orleans police department stated today that approximately 12 police officers are currently suspected in having a role in post-Katrina looting. The investigation comes two days after New Orleans Police superintendent resigned after announcing the establishment of a tribunal [JURIST report] to contend with the 250 police officers who went missing from their posts in the wake of the storm. AP has more.






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Ravelston to plead not guilty to fraud charges in Hollinger scandal
Christopher G. Anderson on September 29, 2005 3:18 PM ET

[JURIST] Canadian holding company Ravelston Corp. will plead not guilty to US fraud charges alleging the company participated in a scheme to swindle more than $32 million from US-based Hollinger International [corporate website]. Ravelston, the holding company of former Hollinger CEO Conrad Black [CBC profile], and other former Hollinger executives were indicted last month [JURIST report] on federal fraud charges for allegedly diverting $32 million from Hollinger through a complex series of fraudulent, self-dealing transactions. According to the indictment [PDF text; DOJ press release], Ravelston is alleged to have enriched certain corporate officers by funneling payments disguised as non-competition fees to a company they controlled at the expense of Hollinger's public shareholders and corporate assets. David Radler, also named in the indictment, pleaded guilty [JURIST report] last week to mail fraud. Canadian Press has more.






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US asks federal appeals court to reconsider case against accused Cuban spies
Greg Sampson on September 29, 2005 3:15 PM ET

[JURIST] Federal prosecutors in Miami have asked the full US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit [official website] to reconsider a decision [JURIST report; PDF opinion] by a three judge panel to throw out the convictions of five accused Cuban spies [advocacy website] for spying for Cuban leader Fidel Castro [Wikipedia profile]. In its August decision that was praised by the Cuban government [JURIST report], the panel found that excessive publicity, community prejudice, and extreme remarks by the prosecution substantially biased the trial against the defendants. The court called for a new trial outside Miami. Although the five accused spies admit being Cuban agents, they said they were spying on anti-Castro exile groups in the United States, not on the US government. AP has more.






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BREAKING NEWS ~ John Roberts sworn in as Chief Justice
Jeannie Shawl on September 29, 2005 3:02 PM ET

[JURIST] Following this morning's confirmation vote [JURIST report] in the US Senate, John Roberts [JURIST news archive] has been sworn in as Chief Justice of the United States at a ceremony at the White House. Justice John Paul Stevens administered the oath of office. CBS News has more.

5:39 PM ET - Speaking at the swearing-in ceremony, President Bush said:

Today we complete a process set forth in Article II of the Constitution, which provides that the President shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint the judges of the Supreme Court. The nomination power is one of the most serious responsibilities of a President. When a President chooses a Supreme Court justice he is placing in human hands the full authority and majesty of the law.

Each member of our highest court holds a position of extraordinary influence and respect, and can hold it for a lifetime. The office of Chief Justice has added responsibilities as leader of the Court, and as presiding officer of the Judicial Conference of the United States. To carry out all these duties, I submitted to the Senate a nominee of integrity, deep humility, and uncommon talent. ...

As Judge Roberts prepares to lead the judicial branch of government, all Americans can be confident that the 17th Chief Justice of the United States will be prudent in exercising judicial power, firm in defending judicial independence, and above all, a faithful guardian of the Constitution.
After taking the oath of office, Roberts remarked:
The process we have just completed epitomizes the separation of powers that is enshrined in our Constitution. My nomination was announced some 10 weeks ago here in the White House, the home of the executive branch. This morning, further up Pennsylvania Avenue, it was approved in the Capitol, the home of the executive [sic] branch. And tomorrow, I will go into the Supreme Court building to join my colleagues, the home of the judicial branch, to undertake my duties. The executive and the legislature have carried out their constitutional responsibilities and ensured the succession of authority and responsibility in the judicial branch.

What Daniel Webster termed, "the miracle of our Constitution" is not something that happens every generation. But every generation in its turn must accept the responsibility of supporting and defending the Constitution, and bearing true faith and allegiance to it. That is the oath that I just took. I will try to ensure, in the discharge of my responsibilities, that with the help of my colleagues, I can pass on to my children's generation a charter of self-government as strong and as vibrant as the one that Chief Justice Rehnquist passed on to us.
Read the full text of the President's and Chief Justice Roberts' remarks.





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Japanese government presents asbestos compensation plan
Tom Henry on September 29, 2005 2:54 PM ET

[JURIST] The Japanese government Thursday proposed providing relief for asbestos victims in a plan that will have companies involved in asbestos-related activities picking up most of the cost. The bill mandates compensation for workers handling asbestos [JURIST news archive], their families and residents near businesses who have suffered from asbestos-induced diseases but are not covered by the workers' accident compensation program. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi [official website] said that the government is preparing to submit the proposal during the Diet session to begin in January 2006. Nearly 2,000 people die in Japan each year from mesothelioma or asbestos-induced lung cancer, but only 10 to 20 percent of them are believed to be receiving compensation under the current program according to government officials. In the United States, the US Senate is expected to take up legislation [PDF text] next month that would establish a $140 billion asbestos compensation fund [JURIST report]. Kyodo News has more.






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Belgium issues international arrest warrant for former Chad leader
Christopher G. Anderson on September 29, 2005 2:17 PM ET

[JURIST] Belgium has issued an international arrest warrant for Hissene Habre [Wikipedia profile], the former leader of Chad [CIA backgrounder], lawyers said Thursday. Habre, rumored to be in exile in Senegal, is wanted for crimes against humanity that were allegedly committed during his 1982-90 rule of the African country. Under current Belgium law, prosecution for such crimes is allowed to proceed regardless of where the crimes were committed or where the defendant resides. Belgium watered down its universal jurisdiction [Wikipedia backgrounder] laws in 2003 under pressure from the United States after individuals brought complaints against President Bush and other senior officials. Universal jurisdiction principles have also been invoked by Belgium prosecutors to convict two Rwandan men [JURIST report] accused of war crimes committed during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. AP has more.






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Algeria votes in referendum over amnesty for Islamist rebels
Tom Henry on September 29, 2005 1:43 PM ET

[JURIST] Algerians voted Thursday in a referendum [AP key points; BBC backgrounder] that seeks to bring peace to Algeria after a 13-year-long civil war. Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika [official profile in French] says the Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation seeks to close the wounds of the battle between Islamic militants and government forces that left over 100,000 people dead and resulted in thousands of disappearances. Those found guilty of taking part in massacres, rapes and bombings in public places are not included in the amnesty, but opponents say the document is too vague and will be difficult to enforce. Family members of victims of the conflict will receive compensation under the charter as well. Human rights groups have been critical of the document [Human Rights Watch report], claiming it prevents some war crimes from being investigated. BBC News has more.






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Connecticut hedge fund founder, CFO plead guilty to fraud charges
Tom Henry on September 29, 2005 1:14 PM ET

[JURIST] Bayou Group hedge fund founder Samuel Israel, III and Chief Financial Officer Daniel Marino on Thursday pleaded guilty to fraud charges for their roles in a scandal that has led to the collapse of the fund [JURIST report] and wiped out investors' money. Both Israel and Marino pleaded guilty to charges that included mail fraud, wire fraud, investment adviser fraud, and conspiracy to commit investment adviser fraud. Bayou is the most recent example of what authorities say is a growing amount of fraudulent activity involving the loosely regulated hedge funds. Hedge funds currently manage $870 billion in assets in the US, up from less than $300 million five years ago. Earlier this month, SEC Chairman Christopher Cox said the agency would implement a rule [JURIST report] that would allow the government to take a stronger role as watchdog over the hedge fund industry. AP has more.






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DOD analyst to plead guilty to leaking top secret info
Christopher G. Anderson on September 29, 2005 1:01 PM ET

[JURIST] Lawrence A. Franklin [Wikipedia profile], an analyst for the US Department of Defense, plans to plead guilty to charges [JURIST report] that he provided classified information to an Israeli official and a pro-Israeli lobbying group, according to the US District Court clerk's office in Alexandria, VA. Franklin's indictment [PDF text] stems from allegations that he divulged top secret information in 2003 regarding potential attacks on US forces in Iraq to Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, two members of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) [official website], neither of whom had the security clearance to receive the sensitive information. Franklin allegedly told Rosen and Weissman, both of whom have also been charged [JURIST report], that the information was "highly classified" and asked them not to "use" it. Franklin is scheduled to enter his guilty plea next week, although the exact charges to which he will enter his plea have not yet been disclosed. AP has more.

Previously in JURIST's Paper Chase...






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UN tribunal transfers war crimes suspect to Bosnian court
Tom Henry on September 29, 2005 12:53 PM ET

[JURIST] In the first case of a transfer from a UN tribunal [ICTY press release] to a Balkan country, Bosnian Serb war crimes suspect Radovan Stankovic [UN indictment, PDF] has been moved from the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia [official website] in The Hague to be tried in a Bosnian state court. Tribunal spokesman Matias Hellman confirmed the move Thursday. The decision bolsters the credibility of the Bosnian court system and helps to reduce the case load of the tribunal, which is expected to wrap up its work around 2010. AFP has more.






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BREAKING NEWS ~ Federal judge orders release of Abu Ghraib photos
Jeannie Shawl on September 29, 2005 12:50 PM ET

[JURIST] US District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein has ordered the release of photographs and videotapes of detainee abuse at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison [JURIST news archive], despite government arguments that the images could damage America's image in Iraq and Afghanistan. The ruling comes in an ACLU lawsuit [ACLU case backgrounder] seeking information on the treatment of detainees in US custody and the transfer of prisoners to countries known to use torture. During arguments, Hellerstein expressed hesitation over ordering the photos' release [JURIST report], but in his ruling [PDF text] Thursday, Hellerstein wrote that "fear of blackmail is not a legally sufficient argument to prevent us from performing a statutory command." The new photos and video will not be released immediately, however; at the very end of his ruling Hellerstein stayed his own order 20 days to allow either side to appeal. AP has more.






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Saddam attorney petitions for trial delay
Holly Manges Jones on September 29, 2005 12:07 PM ET

[JURIST] The defense lawyer for Saddam Hussein [JURIST news archive] has filed a motion petitioning the Iraqi High Criminal Court, previously called the Iraqi Special Tribunal [official website], to delay the first of Hussein's several expected trials set to begin on October 19 [JURIST report]. Khalil Dulaimi said he only gained access to the prosecution's evidentiary file over the weekend, and in his motion cited Rule 45 of the court's Rules for Proceedings and Evidence Gathering [PDF text], which requires the defense attorney to have such information at least 45 days before a trial. Dulaimi also pointed out that the prosecution has not identified over 100 witnesses giving testimony for an 800-page dossier against Hussein, and said the document should be sent back to an investigative judge. An anonymous court official said the tribunal will review Dulaimi's motion for an extension but that it will probably not be accepted since a previous member of Hussein's defense team received a copy of the prosecution's case file on August 10, which technically gave the defense the requisite 45-day time period. Earlier this month, Dulaimi said that the reorganization of Hussein's defense team would not give him enough time to prepare for the October trial date. The Los Angeles Times has more.

Meanwhile, Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari [Wikipedia profile] responded Thursday to arguments by Saddam's defense team that they were not officially informed of the trial date by the Iraqi Special Tribunal, but rather by a government spokesman. Jaafari said: "Saddam's trial date is scheduled for October 19 and it is not possible to postpone this case which has already been pending for too long. Given that judicial authorities are independent we will not be interfering, but we have asked them to deal speedily, but without rashness, with the case." AFP has more.






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BREAKING NEWS ~ Senate confirms John Roberts as Chief Justice
Jeannie Shawl on September 29, 2005 11:43 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Senate has approved the nomination of Judge John Roberts [JURIST news archive] to serve as the 17th Chief Justice of the United States by a vote of 78-22 [roll call vote]. Roberts is expected to be sworn in at a ceremony at the White House later today.

Previously in JURIST's Paper Chase...

1:11 PM ET - Roberts' swearing-in ceremony will be held Thursday afternoon at the White House, with Justice John Paul Stevens administering the oath. Roberts' confirmation comes as the US Supreme Court prepares to begin its new session October 3. AP has more.





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UN defends decision to hold Internet summit in Tunisia despite rights record
Holly Manges Jones on September 29, 2005 11:17 AM ET

[JURIST] The United Nations Wednesday defended its decision approving Tunisia to host a UN summit on Internet access in the developing world, despite protests that the country is unfit due to repeated allegations of press and civil society abuses. The Tunisia Monitoring Group (TMG) [official website] issued a report [PDF text] earlier this week saying the country should not be permitted to host [TMG press release] the November World Summit on the Information Society [official website] because the Tunisian government [official website in French] has increased efforts to monitor email and internet cafes and currently blocks access to web sites created by Reporters Without Borders [official website] and the independent press. A spokesman for UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan defended the UN's decision saying, "These kinds of international conferences can be beneficial to the people in the country hosting them. It opens up the country to the outside world and such a spotlight of attention gives the government strong incentives to try to meet international standards, including on human rights." Earlier this year, Tunisian police came under protest [JURIST report] for storming a courthouse to remove 50 lawyers gathered in opposition of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's future attendance at the summit. AP has more.






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Wisconsin governor promises to veto ban on human cloning
Holly Manges Jones on September 29, 2005 10:52 AM ET

[JURIST] Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle [official website] has said that he will veto a ban on human cloning [PDF bill text] approved by the state senate Wednesday by a margin of 21-12. The ban, previously approved by the Wisconsin Assembly [JURIST report] in June, would prohibit reproductive cloning and Doyle said it would also hinder research for curing certain diseases and would harm the University of Wisconsin-Madison's efforts in stem-cell research. Doyle, whose mother suffers from Parkinson's disease, said in a statement [text]: "Allowing our scientists to search for cures to the world's deadliest diseases isn't about being liberal or conservative. It's about being compassionate. And respect for human life means you don't turn your back on cures that can save lives." Earlier this year, Massachusetts lawmakers overrode the governor's veto [JURIST report] of a bill that allows stem-cell research, but prohibits human cloning. AP has more; from Milwaukee, the Journal Sentinel has local coverage.






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EU to hold weekend talks on Turkey membership
Holly Manges Jones on September 29, 2005 10:17 AM ET

[JURIST] The European Union [official website; JURIST news archive] will hold a meeting Sunday to discuss Austria's objections to beginning negotiations with Turkey [JURIST news archive] on the country's proposed membership to the EU [EU enlargement backgrounder]. All 25 of the EU nations must agree on a negotiating mandate before discussions with Turkey can begin, and Austria refused to vote in favor of the mandate Thursday, thereby creating a deadlock. Austria does not want Turkey to gain full membership to the EU, but rather be offered the option of a lesser partnership, saying the country is "too big and unready" to join fully. A British official speaking on the condition of anonymity said that bilateral talks will continue to take place between London and Vienna to attempt to get Austria to release its demands. If the EU fails to come to a consensus on Sunday, the negotiations with Turkey, currently scheduled to begin Monday, will be delayed. AP has more.






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International brief ~ Security Council warns about cease-fire violations in Darfur
D. Wes Rist on September 29, 2005 10:07 AM ET

[JURIST] Leading Thursday's international brief, the current president of the UN Security Council [official website], Philippine Ambassador Lauro Baja [official profile] condemned the renewed violence in the Darfur region [JURIST news archive] of Sudan [government website], and warned that the Security Council was seriously concerned by the continued violations of the April 2004 cease-fire by both government and rebel forces. UN relief coordinator Jan Egeland [official profile] warned Sudan at the same time that the continued violence had led to serious discussions concerning the complete withdrawal of all humanitarian aid workers in the Darfur region. New cease-fire agreements between the rebel forces and the government are currently underway, but the talks have stalled over accusations of cease-fire violations. JURIST's Paper Chase has continuing coverage of Sudan [JURIST news archive]. The Sudan Tribune has local coverage.

In other international legal news ...






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Japan court dismisses war shrine lawsuit against PM
Holly Manges Jones on September 29, 2005 9:42 AM ET

[JURIST] A Tokyo court dismissed a lawsuit against Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi [official website, English version] Thursday that claimed his visits to a Shinto war shrine violated Japan's constitutional separation of religion and state. The court denied the plaintiffs' requests for 3.9 million yen ($34,433) in compensation and ruled that Koizumi's visits to Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine [official website, English version] were private acts. China and South Korea, both victims of Japan during times of war, have spoken out against Koizumi's visits because the countries believe that the shrine is a symbol of Japan's past militarism, honoring Japan's military war dead and World War II war criminals. The plaintiffs in the case were appealing a decision earlier this year by a Japanese lower court, which rejected their petition to stop Koizumi from visiting the shrine [JURIST report]. Koizumi has defended his decision to make visits to the shrine, saying he goes to pray for peace and to honor those who died in war. Reuters has more.






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Chavez slams US ruling against extradition of Cuban terror suspect
Holly Manges Jones on September 29, 2005 9:08 AM ET

[JURIST] Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez [Wikipedia profile] Wednesday strongly criticized a ruling from a US immigration judge [JURIST report] earlier this week that Cuban exile Luis Posada Carriles [Wikipedia profile; JURIST news archive] would not be handed over to Venezuela or Cuba for prosecution on alleged terrorist acts because he could potentially face torture. The former anti-Castro CIA operative is wanted in Venezuela regarding allegations that he played a role in the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner, and Posada is also wanted in Cuba where he is accused of making numerous assassination attempts on Cuban President Fidel Castro [Wikipedia profile]. Chavez had strong words for the US, saying, "Now the US government has decided in favor of the terrorist Posada . . . see the cynicism of the imperialists. They torture in Guantanamo Bay, they are the ones who torture. They kill, assassinate and bomb people." Chavez said if Posada is not handed over, he may review current ties between the US and Venezuela, which is a key exporter of oil to the US. Venezuelan lawyers are drafting a legal response to the US judge's decision. Reuters has more. From Caracas, El Nacional has local coverage.






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Bush grants presidential pardons to 14
Chris Buell on September 29, 2005 9:00 AM ET

[JURIST] President Bush granted pardons [JURIST backgrounder; Wikipedia backgrounder] to 14 people Wednesday, according to a list released by the US Justice Department [official website; DOJ Pardon Attorney website]. Among those pardoned was a mineworker union member who was convicted for bombing a West Virginia coal mine in 1990 following an extended strike. Bush, who has granted 58 pardons during his tenure, has pardoned far fewer people than his predecessors [JURIST clemency statistics]. Former President Bill Clinton granted 396 pardons, former President Ronald Reagan granted 393, and former President Jimmy Carter pardoned 534 people. Also, the majority of Bush's pardons have been for people convicted of lesser crimes who have already served their prison sentences. The DOJ has a news release on the pardons. AP has more.






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FBI chief seeks faster extraditions from Europe
Chris Buell on September 29, 2005 8:37 AM ET

[JURIST] FBI Director Robert Mueller [official profile] has said the US is still seeking to improve the extradition [Wikipedia backgrounder] of terror suspects from European governments. Mueller on Wednesday said more efficient measures were needed to increase the intelligence value of suspects and to bring justice to the victims of terror attacks. Mueller did not signal specific countries in his comments, although they appeared to be directed at the EU. Mueller was in Scotland to give a speech [transcript] to European law enforcement officials, in which he stressed increased cooperation among them. The US and EU most recently signed an extradition agreement [Guardian report] in June 2003, but European human rights activists have opposed the agreement as allowing extradition of suspects without sufficient evidence. Mueller pointed to the US and UK as an example of successful cooperation, although some UK trials have held up the extradition [JURIST report] of suspects to the US. The US and UK have a separate extradition treaty [text]. Read a CRS report [PDF text] for Congress on US-EU cooperation in law enforcement. The Financial Times has more.






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Violence increases in run up to Kenya constitutional referendum
Chris Buell on September 29, 2005 8:15 AM ET

[JURIST] International representatives and Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki [official profile] have called for a halt to violence that continued to escalate among rival groups over constitutional reforms [JURIST report] to be voted on in November [JURIST report]. A statement signed by 26 countries, including the US, Japan, Canada and the EU, called for a free and transparent reform process that maintained human rights in the country. US Ambassador to Kenya William Bellamy [official profile] called on all parties to adhere to regulations during the reform campaign. The constitutional reforms, the first since the country gained independence in 1963, have split the government and public in Kenya [JURIST news archive]. Violence most recently broke out in a Nairobi suburb, leaving several people injured after rival groups fought. From Kenya, the Standard has local coverage. AFP has more.

Previously in JURIST's Paper Chase...






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Myanmar still detaining 1,100 political prisoners, UN investigator reports
Chris Buell on September 29, 2005 7:58 AM ET

[JURIST] More than 1,100 political prisoners continue to be held by the military government in Myanmar [Wikipedia backgrounder], despite pledges by the government to release dissidents as part of democratic reforms, the UN Special Rapporteur to Myanmar Paulo Sergio Pinheiro [official website] reported Wednesday to the UN General Assembly [official website]. Pinheiro, who has been barred from the country since 2003 but said his report was based on independent sources, said the immediate release of the remaining prisoners would show the world that the government was serious about reforms. The government previously released several hundred prisoners [JURIST report], but many others, including Nobel laureate and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi [advocacy website; Wikipedia profile], remain in detention. US and British diplomats have said they will attempt to bring abuses in Myanmar to the UN Security Council agenda after previously being blocked by Russia. Reuters has more.






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Bolton opposes bill to withhold UN dues over failed reforms
Chris Buell on September 29, 2005 7:41 AM ET

[JURIST] US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton [official profile] said Wednesday he opposed legislation [JURIST report] that would withhold US dues of more than $130 million until the UN adopted US-backed reforms. Bolton appeared before the US House International Relations Committee [official website], his first congressional appearance since his recess appointment [JURIST report] to the post after failing to win Senate confirmation. Bolton said the proposal to withhold funds, sponsored by Committee Chairman Henry Hyde [official profile] and pushed through the House [JURIST report] last June before stalling in the Senate [JURIST report] after Bush administration opposition, would limit the discretion of the executive by requiring the funds be withheld unless the conditions were met. Bolton made the appearance to brief Congress on the results of a UN summit [World Summit 2005 website] held earlier this month that fell short of its goal to implement major reforms [JURIST news archive], although an agreement [PDF text] was reached in several areas. The Committee has recorded video of the hearing. The Washington Post has more.






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Roberts headed for bipartisan Senate confirmation
Chris Buell on September 28, 2005 8:27 PM ET

[JURIST] With Democratic Senators divided on Chief Justice nominee Judge John Roberts [Wikipedia profile; JURIST news archive], it appeared all but certain Wednesday that he would be confirmed as early as Thursday by a solidly bipartisan Senate vote. At least 76 senators - including 21 Democrats - have thusfar indicated they will support the 50-year-old Roberts, set to be the youngest chief justice on the Court since Chief Justice John Marshall [Oyez profile] took the center seat in 1801. At the same time, Democrats have warned President Bush that he should nominate a moderate to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor [Wikipedia profile]. Bush is expected to make that nomination [JURIST report] soon after Roberts is confirmed. The full Senate [official website] is scheduled to continue its week-long debate on Roberts' confirmation at 9:30 AM ET Thursday. Watch a live webcast of the session. AP has more.






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Judge rejects Ashcroft claim that appeal rules not applicable in emergencies
Chris Buell on September 28, 2005 8:05 PM ET

[JURIST] A federal district judge Wednesday rejected a claim by former US Attorney General John Ashcroft [Wikipedia profile; JURIST news archive] that the government should be exempt from certain regulations during national emergencies and allowed the continuation of a lawsuit by two Muslim men who said they were abused after being arrested after the Sept. 11 attacks. In a 70-page opinion, US District Judge John Gleeson [official profile] said Ashcroft's argument had no statutory or constitutional basis. The lawsuit naming Ashcroft and other federal officials as defendants was filed by Egyptian Ehab Elmaghraby and Pakistani Javaid Iqbal, who allege that they were beaten, starved and violated with a flashlight while they were held in solitary confinement [New York Times report] at the federal detention center in Brooklyn following the terror attacks. Both men were deported after serving time for non-terror offenses, but they argued they were not allowed to appeal their placement in solitary confinement. In seeking to have the suit dismissed, Ashcroft argued that the government did not need to follow regulations allowing appeals due to the threat of terror attacks. AP has more. A number of reports by the US Department of Justice Inspector General, the most recent [JURIST report] in February 2005, flagged mistreatment of Arab and Muslim detainees held at the Brooklyn detention center after 9/11.






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SEC opens formal probe into Frist stock sale
Chris Buell on September 28, 2005 7:24 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Securities and Exchange Commission [official website] has opened an official investigation into the finances of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist [official profile]. Sources close to Frist said the SEC had authorized an investigation into Frist's sale of HCA Inc. [corporate website] stock in June, although the SEC has not yet publicly announced the investigation. A formal investigation gives the SEC greater powers, including authority to subpoena documents and witnesses to testify. Frist requested his stock in HCA, the nation's largest hospital chain founded by Frist's father and brother [HCA backgrounder], be sold in early June, only weeks before the company said its second-quarter earnings would not meet expectations. HCA stock prices fell by almost $5 following the announcement. Frist's brother, Thomas F. Frist, Jr. [official profile], serves as a director for HCA. The US Justice Department is also investigating Frist's stock sale, while both HCA and Frist said they intended to fully cooperate with the investigation. Several ethics groups, including Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington [advocacy website], also urged the Senate ethics committee to look into the matter [CREW news release]. Frist released a statement [text] regarding his finances on his website earlier this week. Bloomberg has more.






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Appeals court revives IPO price-fixing lawsuits against investment banks
Chris Buell on September 28, 2005 7:04 PM ET

[JURIST] Two class action lawsuits accusing major US investment banks of price-fixing practices during initial public offerings of technology stocks during the late 1990s were reinstated Wednesday by the US Second Circuit Court of Appeals [official website]. The court wrote that the plaintiffs had alleged an "epic Wall Street conspiracy" on the part of Bear Stearns, Credit Suisse First Boston, Lehman Brothers, Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch and other banks to drive up prices of technology stocks from their issue prices and that a district judge had erred in dismissing the case on the basis of conflicts between antitrust and securities laws. The plaintiffs have also alleged that the banks used "tie-ins" to unload less valuable stocks by requiring investors to purchase them to have a shot at stocks in the highest demand. Judge William H. Pauley originally dismissed the class actions [JURIST report] in November 2003. AP has more.






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Iraqis outraged over Lynndie England sentence
Chris Buell on September 28, 2005 4:32 PM ET

[JURIST] Many Iraqis on Wednesday expressed outrage after Pfc. Lynndie England [JURIST news archive], notorious for her role in abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib, was sentenced to three years [JURIST report] in prison on Tuesday. Some accused the US of having a double standard, arguing that the sentence would have been more severe if England had been accused of abusing Americans. England faced a maximum nine-year sentence after she was convicted [JURIST report] of abusing Iraqi prisoners, photos of which ignited a scandal over US military practices for interrogation and detention. England was the last of a group of soldiers charged in connection with events at Abu Ghraib [JURIST news archive]. Prosecutors had sought a four- to six-year sentence for England, who apologized for her actions [JURIST report] following her conviction. Reuters has more.






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No charges filed for release of Iraqi corpse photos, Army says
Chris Buell on September 28, 2005 4:14 PM ET

[JURIST] US Army investigators have not found sufficient evidence to charge any one for the release of graphic photos of Iraqi war casualties on the Internet, an Army spokesman said Wednesday. Although the Army Criminal Investigation Division [official website] is unlikely to file criminal charges, spokesman Paul Boyce said disciplinary action was possible under Article 134 [text] of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which bars behavior that undermines order and discipline. The photos, which graphically showed the remains of Iraqis allegedly killed in US attacks, were anonymously posted, leaving the Pentagon concerned that the photos may have been released by US soldiers. News reports earlier this week suggested soldiers were trading the corpse pictures for access to online pornography. The Council on American-Islamic Relations [advocacy website] protested the photos [CAIR news release] in a letter to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on Tuesday. AP has more.






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EU parliament postpones key Turkey vote, calls for recognition of Armenian genocide
Chris Buell on September 28, 2005 3:47 PM ET

[JURIST] The European Parliament [official website] Wednesday postponed a key vote on Turkey's potential membership in the bloc and also approved a resolution calling for Turkey [JURIST news archive] to recognize the Armenian genocide [Wikipedia backgrounder]. EU [JURIST news archive] legislators agreed by a 311-285 margin to delay ratification of a expanded Turkey-EU customs union out of frustration with Turkey's refusal to recognize Cyprus, part of the expanded union along nine other new EU members. The delay is not, however, expected to impact the start of negotiations over Turkey's potential membership in the EU [EU enlargement backgrounder] expected to start Oct. 3. The EU resolution on the Armenian genocide follows an expression of European displeasure [JURIST report] at a Turkish court's recent effort to block a conference on the post-1915 killings [JURIST report], which Turkey has traditionally claimed were not genocide. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey would ignore the resolution. The European Parliament has a news release on the session. AP has more.






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Environmental brief ~ Swiss urge consolidation of chemical conventions
Tom Henry on September 28, 2005 3:45 PM ET

[JURIST] In Wednesday's environmental law news, the Swiss delegation at the Conference of the Parties of the Rotterdam Convention, currently meeting in Rome, has called for the Secretariats of three international environmental conventions to be combined into one headquarters. The Rotterdam Convention [official website] is aimed at regulating the international trade of certain hazardous chemicals, the Stockholm Convention [official website] is focused on limiting the production and use of certain chemicals, and the Basel Convention [official website] is a comprehensive agreement on the movement and disposal of hazardous and other wastes. The proposal hopes to consolidate some of the administrative tasks of the Conventions to avoid duplication and improve efficiency. All three Conventions will need to approve the proposal. Swissinfo has more.

In other environmental law news...






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Anti-war protestors acquitted of conspiracy, guilty on lesser charges
Chris Buell on September 28, 2005 3:22 PM ET

[JURIST] Four Iraq war protesters have claimed victory after they were acquitted on federal conspiracy charges and convicted on lesser trespassing charges in the first federal conspiracy trial of anti-war protestors [JURIST report] since the Vietnam War. The group, known as the St. Patrick's Four [advocacy website], were arrested after throwing blood on the walls of a Army recruitment office in 2003 outside Ithaca, NY to protest the war in Iraq. The protesters were charged in federal court after a state court prosecution ended in mistrial in 2004. The four were all acquitted of felony charges of conspiracy to force, intimidate and threaten federal officers, but all four were convicted of damage to property and trespass. The four called the trial a victory, even though they were convicted on lesser charges and were prevented from testifying on certain subjects throughout the trial. Sentencing is scheduled for January. The St. Patrick's Four have a news release on the outcome of the trial. The Ithaca Journal has local coverage. The New Standard has more.






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Federal judge affirms rejection of 'choose life' license plates
Chris Buell on September 28, 2005 3:02 PM ET

[JURIST] A federal judge has ruled that a decision by the Arizona License Plate Commission [AZ DOT website] to reject "choose life" license plates supported by pro-life groups in the state did not violate the constitutional rights of the groups. District Judge Paul G. Rosenblatt held that the Commission's decision did not violate the free speech and equal protection rights of the Arizona Life Coalition [advocacy website], which had sought special license plates. The Arizona Life Coalition said it would appeal the ruling to the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. The Coalition had sought the plates under a state program [ALC backgrounder] allowing specialty license plates. Other courts around the country have previously ruled on the issuance of special license plates before. Last year, the US 4th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down anti-abortion plates [JURIST report] in South Carolina, while the US 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in April upheld similar plates [JURIST report] against a challenge in Louisiana. AP has more.






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Dutch prosecutors try 250 for violating ID law
Krista-Ann Staley on September 28, 2005 2:12 PM ET

[JURIST] Dutch prosecutors have begun to try 250 of the almost 50,000 people fined for failure to produce valid identification since the country's ID law came into effect on January 1, 2005. The law, intended to stop terrorism and passed in the wake of the murder of outspoken filmmaker Theo Van Gogh [JURIST report] by an Islamic extremist, requires all Dutch citizens over the age of 14 to produce a passport, driver's license or national ID card at the demand of a police officer, or face a fine of 50 euros ($60). Dutch civil rights groups have criticized the legislation as infringing on civil liberties and being an ineffective protection against terrorism and crime in general. Similar concerns have been voiced elsewhere with regard to UK Home Secretary Charles Clarke's proposal [Guardian report] to require those in the EU with ID cards to also provide their fingerprints, and government plans in the US to speed travel through voluntary iris scans, finger printing and background checks. US federal identity legislation inserted in an emergency appropriations bill [JURIST report; Real ID Act JURIST news archive] in May of this year mandates that after 2008, anyone without an approved state ID issued under the act will not be permitted to travel by air or Amtrak, enter federal buildings, or open a bank account. Bloomberg has more.






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Iranian MPs vote to suspend nuclear inspections
Krista-Ann Staley on September 28, 2005 1:16 PM ET

[JURIST] Over seventy percent of Iranian MPs Wednesday supported a draft bill to suspend International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) [official website] inspections of the country's nuclear facilities until the UN watchdog acknowledges Iran's right to pursue nuclear technology. The move is in response to a recent IAEA resolution [PDF; JURIST report] declaring Iran in "non-compliance" with safeguards required by the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) [text]. Currently, the IAEA inspects Iran's nuclear facilities under an Additional Protocol [IAEA report] to Iran's NPT safeguards agreement intended to improve international confidence in the country. According to parliamentary Speaker Gholam Ali Haddad-Adel, the voluntary nature of the agreement allows Iran to ignore its terms when necessary. Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) [official website] Secretary Ali Larijani said Tuesday the latest IAEA action lacked a legal foundation, called for a member-state review of the resolution, and stated that Iran's response would be based on the agency's statues and the NPT. To become law and suspend IAEA inspections, the draft bill must now be approved by the parliamentary energy, security and foreign policy commissions and the Guardian Council. IRNA and Radio Free Europe have more.






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BREAKING NEWS ~ Tom DeLay indicted in campaign finance investigation
Jeannie Shawl on September 28, 2005 12:41 PM ET

[JURIST] AP is reporting that a Texas grand jury has issued an indictment for US House Majority Leader Tom DeLay [official website]. Earlier this month, an indictment was issued [JURIST report] against a political action committee formed by DeLay and a Texas business group on charges relating to campaign contributions for DeLay's 2002 congressional campaign. Subsequently, two campaign group officials were charged [JURIST report] with violating Texas election law and criminal conspiracy to violate the election law.

12:49 PM ET - According to his lawyer, DeLay has been charged with criminal conspiracy along with John Colyandro, the former executive director of Texans for a Republican Majority [Wikipedia backgrounder], and Jim Ellis, the head of DeLay's national political committee. Under Texas state law the charge is a felony punishable by up to two years in prison. According to House Republican party rules, DeLay will be forced to temporarily step down from his leadership post. AP has more.

1:36 PM ET - The indictment [PDF text] is now available, via FindLaw.

2:53 PM ET - In a statement Wednesday, DeLay said that he has "done nothing wrong" and will be cleared of all allegations. AP has more.






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Nepal military court sentences 3 in death of teenager
Alexandria Samuel on September 28, 2005 11:17 AM ET

[JURIST] In the wake of increased international pressure, a military court in Nepal has sentenced an army colonel and two captains to six months in jail for their involvement in the 2004 death of a 15-year old teenage girl accused of being a Maoist rebel. The court noted that Colonel Bobby Khatri and his men failed to follow proper procedure when interrogating the girl, and were ultimately responsible for her death. According to the human rights group Informal Sector Service Center [advocacy website], the ongoing battle between the government and Maoist rebels [SAAG backgrounder; HRW report] has resulted in the deaths of nearly 300 civilians at the hands of the police. Earlier this month, the UN Special Rapporteur on torture visited the nation and concluded that the use of "torture and ill-treatment is systematically practiced by the police" [UN press release; JURIST report]. AFP has more.






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Torture, 'egregious' rights abuses occurring in North Korea, UN report shows
Alexandria Samuel on September 28, 2005 10:46 AM ET

[JURIST] Torture, absence of the rule of law, violence against women and political persecution are among the laundry list of "egregious" human rights violations occurring in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea [official website], according to a new report from the United Nations. Vitit Muntarbhorn was appointed to the position of Special Rapporteur [UN press release] last year and tapped with investigating allegations of human rights violations in the nation. The 22-page report [PDF text] to the UN General Assembly outlines human rights violation accusations received from citizens, and Muntarbhorn has not been invited by the North Korean government to conduct an in-country visit. Among the critical challenges to be addressed in North Korea, Muntarbhorn lists the following:

the right to food and the right to life; the right to security of the person, humane treatment, non-discrimination and access to justice; the right to freedom of movement, asylum, and protection of persons linked with displacement; the right to the highest attainable standard of health and the right to education; the right to self-determination/political participation, access to information, freedom of expression/belief/opinion, association and religion; and the rights of specific persons/groups, including women and children.
The report also urges that the nation be forced to abide by the provisions of several treaties to which it belongs: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [text], the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights [text], the Convention on the Rights of the Child [text] and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women [text]. UN News Centre has more.





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Army interrogator charged with abusing Afghan detainees to plead guilty
Alexandria Samuel on September 28, 2005 10:05 AM ET

[JURIST] US Army Sgt. Joshua R. Claus is expected to plead guilty to charges that he abused detainees in Afghanistan, at his military trial Wednesday. Last month, Claus, a military intelligence interrogator, was charged [JURIST report] with dereliction of duty and assault of two Afghan detainees in his custody at the Bagram Control Point [Global Security profile] in Afghanistan in 2002. The government alleges that Claus forced an unnamed detainee to roll across the floor and kiss another soldier's boots, forced water down the throat of another detainee, known as Dilawar [Wikipedia profile], and also tightly twisted a hood over the man's head. Dilawar later died from injuries he sustained at the hands of interrogators. Last week, military officials charged two more soldiers [JURIST report] in the ongoing investigation into abuse at the Afghan facility [Wikipedia backgrounder]. To date, 14 soldiers have been charged in the investigation, one has been convicted, and two acquitted. AP has more.






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Army officer investigated after reporting Iraq prisoner abuse
Sara R. Parsowith on September 28, 2005 8:42 AM ET

[JURIST] US Army Capt. Ian Fishback [NY Times report], who served as an anonymous source for a recent Human Rights Watch report on the alleged abuse of Iraqi detainees, said Tuesday that Army investigators tried to track down young soldiers reporting misconduct rather than following up accusations of abuse. Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] issued a report [text] last week that members of the US Army's 82nd Airborne Division [official website] systematically tortured Iraqi prisoners in 2003 and 2004 at a military base near Fallujah [JURIST report]. Fishback said investigators from the Criminal Investigation Command and the 18th Airborne Corps inspector general had pressured him to reveal those who had reported the abuse that was revealed in the report. The abuse included beatings, exposure to extreme temperatures, sleep deprivation and stacking prisoners in human pyramids. Fishback had no luck getting higher-ranking officers to act on his complaints and so he brought his concerns [LA Times report] to aides of Rep. John W. Warner (R-VA) and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), which according to Fishback, prompted the Army to start investigating the allegations. Fishback accuses his commanders of believing that they did not have to follow Geneva Conventions [ICRC backgrounder] with prisoners in Iraq. After the HRW report was released, Fishback was summoned for six hours of questioning by investigators. The allegations add to the already large number of allegations of prisoner abuse at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison [JURIST news archive]. The New York Times has more.






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Turkey EU bid threatened by abuse allegations
Sara R. Parsowith on September 28, 2005 8:23 AM ET

[JURIST] Advocacy group Mental Disability Rights International (MDRI) [advocacy website], Wednesday released a report of human rights abuses [PDF text; PDF press release; video press release] revealing a high prevalence of torture and starvation in Turkey's psychiatric institutions. The results of MDRI's two-year investigation could further hinder Turkey's attempts to join the European Union [official website]. The report shows findings of routine abuse of electroconvulsive therapy said to breach European regulations and urges the EU to investigate further. The report surfaced prior to the planned formal EU accession process scheduled to begin Monday. Austria, France and Cyprus have expressed reservations about Turkey joining the EU while the UK is a strong supporter of Turkey's entry. Earlier this year, Turkey vowed to make progress on human rights reforms [JURIST report] in pursuit of EU membership. The EU has background on the enlargement process. The Guardian has more.






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Federal judges, ABA slam death penalty appeals proposal
Sara R. Parsowith on September 28, 2005 7:55 AM ET

[JURIST] The Judicial Conference of the United States [official website], the policy making body for federal judges, and the American Bar Association (ABA) [group website] have sent a letter [PDF text] to US Senate Judiciary Chairman Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) opposing proposed legislation that would limit death penalty appeals. The proposed Streamlined Procedures Act [text], is designed to stop ongoing delays between convictions and executions in capital cases and is based on the premise that the restrictions on appeals passed by Congress in 1996 have proven to be inadequate. An earlier letter [PDF text] from the ABA to the Judiciary Committee highlighted concerns that the proposal could prevent federal courts from considering claims if a state court has found no constitutional error. The letter asserted that the effect of the bill would effectively demolish federal court review of habeas corpus [LectLaw definition] protections and demanded a hearing before the bill was passed. A hearing on the proposal is scheduled for Thursday. Wednesday's Los Angeles Times has more.






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US judge prevents deportation of Cuban terror suspect on torture concerns
Sara R. Parsowith on September 28, 2005 7:35 AM ET

[JURIST] Texas Judge William L. Abbott ruled Tuesday that former anti-Castro CIA operative Luis Posada Carriles [Wikipedia profile] will not be deported to either Cuba or Venezuela where local officials want to prosecute him for alleged terrorist acts. US attorneys agreed that Posada should not be deported to Cuba, where he is accused of making numerous attempts to assassinate Cuban President Fidel Castro [Wikipedia profile]. Abbott relied on the Convention against Torture [text] in reaching his decision not to deport Posada to Venezuela. Venezuelan officials have requested that Posada be sent to Venezuela in order to face charges for his alleged role in a 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner that killed 73 people. Posada escaped from a Venezuelan prison while awaiting trial, but his attorneys told the US immigration judge that Posada would likely be tortured if he were returned to Venezuela. Posada will remain in the custody of Immigration and Customs officials for up to 90 days and the Department of Homeland Security has not ruled out the possibility of deporting Posada to a third country that will agree not to turn him over to Cuba or Venezuela. Wednesday's Sun Sentinel has more.

Previously in JURIST's Paper Chase...






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British police arrest suspect in failed bomb attack
Sara R. Parsowith on September 28, 2005 7:11 AM ET

[JURIST] Scotland Yard [official website] announced Tuesday that anti-terrorist officers have arrested a suspect in connection with the failed July 21 London bomb attacks [JURIST report], which occurred just two weeks after the fatal July 7 London bombings [JURIST news archive]. Four other bombing suspects are in custody and ten other people have been charged with withholding information on other suspected July 21 bombers. One of the suspects, Ethiopian-born Hamdi Issac [Wikipedia profile], also known as Hussain Osman, appeared in court Friday after being apprehended and extradited from Italy where he fled after the attack. Charges against Issac [JURIST report] include conspiracy to commit murder, attempted murder and the possession of explosives. Issac was arrested under a European Union arrest warrant [EU backgrounder], a new device designed to speed the return of suspects to countries where they are wanted. AP has more.






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Saudi Shiites petition king for greater rights
Sara R. Parsowith on September 27, 2005 9:51 PM ET

[JURIST] Minority Shiites who make up about about ten percent of Saudi Arabia's population have petitioned King Abdullah [Wikipedia profile] for prisoner releases and equal opportunities a month after the new monarch in his first address to the nation [excerpts] pledged to "work for justice and serve all citizens without discrimination" [JURIST report]. The Shiites have complained about marginalization by the government and its links to Sunni religious conservatives who consider Shia beliefs to be heretical. Earlier this month, the King pledged to set up an independent human rights agency [JURIST report] to "protect human rights and spread awareness about them." Aljazeera has local coverage.






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BREAKING NEWS ~ England sentenced to three years prison for Abu Ghraib abuses
Bernard Hibbitts on September 27, 2005 8:52 PM ET

[JURIST] Wire services are reporting that a military jury at Fort Hood, Texas, has sentenced Pfc. Lynndie England [JURIST news archive] to three years in prison in connection with abuse of Iraq prisoners at Abu Ghraib. She was also given a dishonorable discharge. The sentence was substantially lighter than the nine years she faced under the full range of charges she was convicted on [JURIST report] Monday. Reuters has more.






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Trial of Egyptian opposition leader adjourned
Sara R. Parsowith on September 27, 2005 7:37 PM ET

[JURIST] An Egyptian court has adjourned the forgery trial of Ayman Nour [Wikipedia profile], the Egyptian opposition leader who was ordered to re-appear in court [JURIST report] earlier this week on charges connected to the submission of forged signatures [JURIST report]. The Cairo appeals court adjourned the case in response to a defense petition to move the case to another court on grounds that the original tribunal had impeded defense access to required evidentiary support. The court will rule on the request on October 8. AFP has more.






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UN refugee head says obligations to 'internal refugees' being recognized
Sara R. Parsowith on September 27, 2005 7:03 PM ET

[JURIST] Antonio Guterres [Wikipedia backgrounder], the new UN High Commissioner for Refugees [official profile] and former Portuguese prime minister, said Tuesday that international awareness of internal refugee issues was increasing and that countries had started to act to set and fulfil obligations towards them. There are around twenty to twenty-five million internally displaced people (IDPs) [IDP watchdog website] worldwide, yet only nine million are recognized as "refugees" because they have crossed the border into another countries. Although border-crossing refugees are covered by the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees [text] which spells out the obligations of host countries and host agencies like the United Nations refugee agency [official UNHCR website], there is no legal equivalent outlining the rights of those who are displaced but remain within their own borders. There are general international guiding principles for the treatments of IDPs [GPID text], but Guterres said the UN was developing a new policy for this problem under which UN agencies and other humanitarian organizations would be given specific obligations to fulfil in the event of an IDP crisis. The UNHCR already handles some IDP situations on an ad hoc basis but the new policy would require the organization to manage camps, provide shelter and protect those in danger of persecution. The move reflects evolving international attitudes to sovereignty and mirrors recent UN General Assembly resolutions which emphasize that governments have a duty to protect their citizens. Guterres said that countries cannot refuse to act just because their refugees haven't crossed a frontier. Internally displaced persons from various regions in Africa and Asia have been in the news lately, and legal scholars and rights groups have pointed out that in the US the Hurricane Katrina evacuees qualify for IDP status and protections [JURIST report], despite the Bush administration's resistance to the suggestion. Reuters has more.






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England apologizes for Iraqi prisoner photos as defense bids for light sentence
Greg Sampson on September 27, 2005 6:52 PM ET

[JURIST] Pfc. Lynndie England [JURIST news archive] Tuesday apologized for posing for pictures with humiliated Iraqi prisoners, saying that she had been used by her then-boyfriend Spc. Charles Graner [JURIST news archive; after his own conviction in January for abusing prisoners Graner was demoted to Private]. As the sentencing phase of her trial following her Monday conviction on six of seven abuse-related charges [JURIST report] got under way at Fort Hood Texas, a military jury of officers also heard testimony from Stjepan Mestrovic, a sociology professor at Texas A&M University, that officers' failure to control guards at Abu Ghraibprison created a chaotic environment that allowed England to participate in the abuse. Graner later corroborated Mestrovic's testimony, saying he once severely beat a prisoner while intelligence personnel watched. Defense psychologist Xavier Amador added that England suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder [backgrounder] and was prone to depression. Her pre-existing psychological condition, combined with her romantic relationship with Graner, affected her ability to discern right from wrong. AP has more.






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Environmental brief ~ EC places international flights under CO2 cap
Tom Henry on September 27, 2005 5:25 PM ET

[JURIST] In Tuesday's environmental law news, the European Commission [official website] has approved a plan [EC press release, EC backgrounder] to add international airline flights to the European Union's carbon dioxide (CO2) emission trading scheme (ETS) [EU backgrounder]. The ETS sets an overall cap on CO2 emissions, and participating industries can buy and sell emission allowances as needed. Previously, domestic European flights were included, and the proposal is expected to draw criticism from foreign airlines that fly from the EU to other countries. From London, the Independent has more.

In other environmental law news...






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Pentagon sets date of military commission trial for Australian Gitmo detainee
Greg Sampson on September 27, 2005 5:09 PM ET

[JURIST] The Pentagon announced Tuesday that David Hicks [Wikipedia profile], the only Australian held at the US terror suspect detention camp at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive], will go to trial before a special military commission on November 18, about a month later than earlier expected [JURIST report]. Hicks was captured in Afghanistan in 2001, and is accused of fighting alongside the Taliban militia against US-led forces. He faces charges [charge sheet, PDF] of conspiracy, attempted murder by an unprivileged belligerent and aiding the enemy. In July the US DC Circuit Court of Appeals, in the case of Hamdan v. Runsfeld, upheld the constitutionality of the military tribunals [JURIST report] under which Hicks will be tried. AFP has more.






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New Orleans police chief resigns as tribunal for missing officers announced
Greg Sampson on September 27, 2005 4:25 PM ET

[JURIST] The embattled chief of the New Orleans Police Department [official website] resigned his position Tuesday on the same day he announced the establishment of a special tribunal to contend with the nearly 250 New Orleans police officers who went missing from their posts [JURIST report] in the wake of Hurricane Katrina [JURIST news archive]. Police Superintendant Eddie Compass said a panel of four Assistant Police Chiefs would hear their cases, and those found to have deserted would have an opportunity to appeal. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin [Wikipedia profile] said that the New Orleans City Attorney would review the Police Department's plan to ensure it did not violate civil service regulations. Lieutenant Ray Banelli, president of the Police Association of New Orleans [official website] insisted that only a small fraction of police officers deserted their posts, while a vast majority were tending to legitimate family and safety concerns. Compass's resignation comes after weeks of criticism of the police department's response to the hurricane and the disorder that followed. Neither Compass nor Nagin has said whether Compass was pressured to resign. AP has more.






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States brief ~ WA Supreme Court hears arguments on legality of motor excise tax
Rachel Felton on September 27, 2005 4:22 PM ET

[JURIST] Leading Tuesday's states brief, the Washington Supreme Court [official website] heard oral arguments today on whether the 1.4% motor vehicle excise tax approved by voters in November 2002 for the financing of Seattle's Monorail Project [official website] is illegal. Currently, Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels [Mayor's press release] and the city council [Mayor's press release] have dropped support for the monorail, but a proposal for a shorter monorail line will be on the November ballot. Regardless of whether the project is developed or not, the tax will have to be in effect for two and a half years to cover existing debt. Opponents argue the tax is arbitrary because the cars are assessed at a higher value than Kelly Blue Book value. Washington's KOMO-TV has local coverage.

In other state legal news ...






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Mississippi legislature reconvenes to take up Katrina relief bills
Chris Buell on September 27, 2005 4:00 PM ET

[JURIST] The Mississippi Legislature [official website] convened for a special session Tuesday to begin work in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina [JURIST news archive]. Gov. Haley Barbour [official profile] addressed lawmakers [AP report; full transcript] at the session and challenged them to help rebuild coastal areas devastated by Katrina. One of the most contentious aspects of the rebuilding effort is the legal question of whether formerly river-based casinos should be allowed to move to land in the state. Under the Mississippi Gaming Control Act [text], the state's 13 casinos are restricted to the Mississippi or the Gulf of Mexico, which left the lucrative barges helpless under winds and surges caused by the storm. Barbour proposed allowing casinos to build inland up to 1,500 feet, if facilities remained touching the water. Barbour also proposed other legislation to provide relief for schools and small businesses hit by the hurricane. The State of Mississippi has more on recovery efforts [relief website]. From Jackson, the Clarion Ledger has local coverage. AP has more.






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EU pro-business initiative cuts proposed regulatory bills
Chris Buell on September 27, 2005 3:29 PM ET

[JURIST] The European Commission [official website] Tuesday withdrew 68 pieces of pending legislation [legislation withdrawn, PDF] as part of its initiative [EU backgrounder] to cut back on regulatory restrictions on EU businesses. A review committee led by EU Enterprise and Industry Commissioner Guenter Verheugen [official profile] reviewed 183 legislative proposals currently pending in the European Parliament. Some of the more notable measures to be cut included a weekend ban on truck traffic and certain food labeling requirements. European businesses previously expressed some skepticism [EU Observer report] about the initiative and argued that much of the legislation set to be cut would have been scrapped anyways. Instead, industry called on the European Commission to go farther in its efforts. The European Commission has a news release on the results. The Commission has said it will continue its efforts to simplify regulation by reviewing legislation [EU backgrounder] currently on the books. AP has more.






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President Bush close to picking next Supreme Court nominee
Greg Sampson on September 27, 2005 3:23 PM ET

[JURIST] White House spokesperson Scott McClellan said [official transcript] Tuesday that President Bush is close to completing the process of picking the next Supreme Court nominee. According to McClellan, the President has met with 50 Senators, including all but one member of the US Senate Judiciary Committee [members roster]. He is currently expected to announce his choice to replace retirring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor [Wikipedia profile], shortly after the Senate votes on confirming Judge John Roberts, Jr. [Wikipedia profile; JURIST news archive] as Chief Justice on Thursday. AP has more.






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Trial set for Parmalat execs facing fraud charges
Chris Buell on September 27, 2005 3:04 PM ET

[JURIST] The trial of 16 former Parmalat [corporate website; Wikipedia backgrounder] directors and executives, including the company's founder and former chairman Calisto Tanzi [OpenFacts profile; JURIST report], is set to open in Milan Wednesday, nearly two years after massive accounting fraud was uncovered at the Italian dairy giant. The 16 are accused of artificially boosting Parmalat's stock prices, misleading regulators and falsifying accounting information. Tanzi faces a maximum five-year prison sentence if convicted. Parmalat filed for bankruptcy in 2003 after revealing that a $5 billion bank account it claimed it held did not exist and that its debt had reached $18 billion. Prosecutors charged 27 people in the accounting scandal, and 11 pleaded guilty [JURIST report] in June. Prosecutors have also pursued accounting firms Deloitte & Touche and Grant Thornton and several banks, including UBS AG, Citigroup and Morgan Stanley for their alleged roles in the fraud. Prosecutors in Parma may also seek to bring more serious charges against the 16 to stand trial. AP has more.






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Putin says no major changes to Russian constitution
Greg Sampson on September 27, 2005 2:57 PM ET

[JURIST] In a televised interview Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin [official website] stated he foresaw no major changes to the Russian Constitution [English translation] while he was in office. Putin's statement comes after proposed legislation [JURIST news report] that would have allowed Putin to serve as president after his second term concludes in 2008, if he were to step down before the conclusion of his current term and the 2008 election were declared invalid. Without the proposed legislation or a constitutional amendment, Putin is constitutionally barred from seeking a third term. Last year, Putin expressed his reluctance in amending the constitution [JURIST report] in order to restructure the Russian government. When asked Tuesday if he would call for a national referendum on the issue, Putin suggested that he would not, because any radical changes to the constitution would be inconsistent with the "long-term development" of the country. Putin's answer was a part of an almost three-hour interview [Russian transcript], in which he answered questions posed by pre-selected "representatives of the people." AP has more. MosNews has local coverage.






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Belgium asks for transfer of Rwanda priest case
Greg Sampson on September 27, 2005 2:28 PM ET

[JURIST] Belgian Foreign Minister Karel de Gucht has formally asked that Guy Theunis, a Belgian priest, be brought to Belgium to face trial for his alleged role in the Rwandan genocide [Wikipedia backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. Earlier this month, Theunis was the first foreigner to be brought before community gacaca courts for crimes relating to the 1994 genocide. His case was subsequently referred to a higher court that has authority to impose the death penalty for genocide crimes, which then charged Theunis with inciting and planning genocide [JURIST report]. Under de Gucht's proposal, a Belgian judge would investigate the charges before deciding whether to prosecute Theunis. Rwanda's foreign minister has said that the country will consider Belgium's request but said that Rwanda would need guarantees about how the investigation would be carried out. BBC News has more.






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State judge issues second TRO against Missouri abortion law
Christopher G. Anderson on September 27, 2005 2:02 PM ET

[JURIST] Missouri Judge Charles Atwell [official profile] has issued a further temporary restraining order against Missouri's abortion law [SB 1 text], the second TRO to be issued since the law was signed eleven days ago. Atwell said a provision allowing parents to sue people who helped their minor daughters get abortions without their consent would unconstitutionally restrict the right to free speech [LII backgrounder] of abortion-provider Planned Parenthood [advocacy website]. Earlier this month, a federal judge reached essentially the same finding and also issued a temporary restraining order [JURIST report]. The federal court, however, also struck down the law's provision which affected the clinical privileges of physicians who perform abortions. AP has more.






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European Parliament decides against data retention plan
Brandon Smith on September 27, 2005 1:27 PM ET

[JURIST] The European Parliament [official website] Tuesday Tuesday a joint proposal by several EU governments to retain phone and e-mail data [JURIST report] for up to three years for use in anti-terror investigations. The parliament said the proposal from Britain, France, Sweden and Ireland that was introduced last year and pressed in the wake of the London bombings [JURIST report] in July did not establish the need for such strict EU-wide rules and expressed concern that the plans could violate citizens' privacy rights [EP press release]. The EU will instead focus on a European Commission [official website] counterproposal [press release] featuring a shorter retention periods - one year for phone records and six months for e-mail records. AP has more.






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Shiite cleric denies issuing fatwa on how to vote in Iraqi constitution referendum
Christopher G. Anderson on September 27, 2005 1:03 PM ET

[JURIST] Influential Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani [official website] has denied reports that he will issue a fatwa [JURIST report], or religious edict, telling Shiite Muslims to vote "yes" in the upcoming referendum on the Iraqi constitution [English translation; JURIST news archive]. Rather, Al-Sistani said in a statement reported by the Pentagon-backed Iraqi TV channel al-Iraqiya [media website] that he only intended to invite "voters to vote, yes," but did not intend to order Shiites to vote 'yes' in favor of constitution. The fatwa, al-Sistani insisted, was only instructing Iraq's Shiites that it was their religious duty to vote in the country's landmark elections scheduled for October 15. AKI has more.






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Antitrust suit filed against Visa, Mastercard, major banks
Brandon Smith on September 27, 2005 12:30 PM ET

[JURIST] Four merchant groups have filed an antitrust lawsuit against Visa [corporate website], Mastercard [corporate website], and dozens of major banks, over interchange fees, which retailers pay to issuing banks to receive payment for transactions involving the banks' cards. The fees, says Hank Armor of the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) [group website], serve "as a hidden tax, both on merchants and consumers, and raises costs of all products." The plaintiffs, NACS, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores [group website], the National Community Pharmacists Association [group website] and the National Cooperative Grocers Association [group website], represent the operators of over 138,000 convenience stores, 60,000 pharmacies and 120 cooperative groceries. The defendants include Bank of America, Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase, among the largest US credit card issuers. Representatives from Visa called the fees a "fair mechanism for fueling growth and sharing system costs," while Mastercard issued a statement chiding the plaintiffs' suit as "another example of merchants wanting the benefits of accepting payment cards without having to pay for the value of the services they receive." Reuters has more.






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Illegal immigration into US on the rise, report shows
Christopher G. Anderson on September 27, 2005 12:16 PM ET

[JURIST] The rate of illegal immigration into the United States has increased despite tighter security measures in place since the September 11 terror attacks, but only at a pace that parallels the rate of economic growth, according to a report [PDF text] released Tuesday. The report from the Pew Hispanic Center [organization website], a nonpartisan research organization, found that the implementation of tighter security measures [JURIST report] has created processing backlogs and delays that have hindered legal immigration [JURIST news archive], while the lure of high-paying jobs has continued to attract both legal and illegal immigrants into the United States [US CIS guide]. Tighter security measures, however, have led to an overall decrease in the level of legal immigration into the US. The report comes one month after the governors of New Mexico and Arizona declared states of emergency in order to free up money to combat illegal immigration. Four California lawmakers also announced last month their intent to introduce legislation [JURIST report] that would declare a state of emergency to deal with illegal immigration from Mexico. AP has more.






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US Supreme Court to hear tax incentive, campaign finance cases
Kate Heneroty on September 27, 2005 11:41 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] granted certiorari Tuesday in several cases, including a review of how states use tax incentives to attract companies that will create jobs in their regions. In DaimlerChrysler Corp. v. Cuno, the Court will consider an appeal of ruling [PDF text] from the Sixth Circuit that Ohio's investment tax credit program is unconstitutional. AP has more. Also among the cases the Court agreed to hear is Vermont Republican State Committee v. Sorrell, where the Court has been asked to overturn [JURIST report] a federal appeals court ruling that upheld Vermont's 1998 campaign finance law limiting spending in all state races. AP has more. Read the Court's full Order List [PDF].






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Serious flaws exist in distribution of Byrd Amendment subsidies, GAO report shows
Kate Heneroty on September 27, 2005 11:11 AM ET

[JURIST] Two-thirds of the $1 billion distributed to US companies from 2001 to 2004 under the Continued Dumping and Subsidy Offset Act (CDSOA) [text], otherwise known as the Byrd Amendment, went to only three industries - ball bearings, candles and steel - according to a Government Accountability Office report [PDF text] released Monday. The law allows US companies who have successfully alleged unfair pricing claims against foreign competitors to get the benefit of higher penalty tariffs placed on competitors, as well as receiving the actual proceeds from the tariff. The World Trade Organization has held the law to be a violation of global trade rules [JURIST report] and has authorized certain countries to impose up to $134 million in retaliatory tariffs [JURIST report] on a wide range of US exports. Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee Bill Thomas said the law "has provided windfall subsidies to a handful of large corporations while other US companies have paid the price." However, the law is unlikely to be repealed [JURIST report] because it has strong support in Congress. AP has more.






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Reports of widespread crime, violence after Katrina said to be unsupported
Kate Heneroty on September 27, 2005 10:05 AM ET

[JURIST] Television and newspaper reports of widespread crime and violence in the days following Hurricane Katrina [JURIST news archive] are proving to be largely unsupported or exaggerated, according to recent reports by journalists and officials. The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported Monday that news stories of rapes, murders, sniper attacks and body counts after the hurricane have not been substantiated; only four homicides in New Orleans have been confirmed since Katrina, a number that is consistent with the city's average 200 murders per year. Even atrocities detailed by public officials are proving to be unsubstantiated by the evidence. In interviews, Police Chief Eddie Compass reported rapes of babies and Mayor Ray Nagin mentioned hundreds of armed gang members killing and raping people inside the Superdome. Compass later said the rumors damaged authorities' ability to respond to the devastation by misdirecting scarce resources. A Times-Picayune editor blamed the false reports on lack of communication due to downed phone lines and rampant rumor spreading among the city's stranded residents. The Los Angeles Times has more.






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International brief ~ China high court regains right to review death sentences
D. Wes Rist on September 27, 2005 10:04 AM ET

[JURIST] Leading Tuesday's international brief, China's Supreme Peoples' Court [official website] regained the power to review death sentences on Tuesday, after nearly six months of intense criticism of the old process, which allowed regional courts to review death sentences. Chinese media highlighted nearly a dozen cases over the last six months of miscarriages of justice, including two sensational cases where the alleged murder victims later turned up alive, one after the execution of her 'murderer.' The Supreme Peoples' Court will create three criminal trial courts to review all death sentences in the nation. China executed an estimated 3,400 individuals in 2004, more than all other nations put together. JURIST's Paper Chase has continuing coverage of China [JURIST news archive]. BBC News has more.

In other international legal news ...






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European rights court to hear frozen embryo case
Kate Heneroty on September 27, 2005 9:32 AM ET

[JURIST] A woman who was ordered by a British court to destroy frozen embryos produced with her former partner is taking her case to the European Court of Human Rights [official website] Tuesday, claiming the refusal to allow her to implant the embryos is a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights [PDF text], which protects the "right to family life," and violates discrimination laws by allowing one partner to make the final decision. Natallie Evans and her former partner Howard Johnston created the six embryos in 2001 after Evans was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and began treatment which would make her infertile. When the couple split up, Johnston revoked his consent for use of the embryos. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act [text] requires consent of both partners at all stages of the IVF process. Evans has exhausted her UK legal options; an appeals court dismissed her claim [JURIST report] last year and the UK's highest court has refused to consider the case. This is the first fertility treatment case to be considered by the human rights court. A decision is not expected until early 2006. The Guardian has more.






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Egyptian PM says abolishing emergency laws will take time
Kate Heneroty on September 27, 2005 9:05 AM ET

[JURIST] Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif [Wikipedia profile] told newly-appointed US Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy Karen Hughes Monday that his government plans to lift the state of emergency [EOHR backgrounder] that has been in place in the country for 24 years. Nazif told Hughes that the process would "take some time because it involves legal and constitutional challenges" but said that his government was committed to lifting the restrictive law. Newly re-elected [JURIST report] Egyptian President Honsi Mubarak [official profile] and other candidates made campaign promises to end the state of emergency [JURIST report], which he imposed in October 1981 following the assassination of his predecessor Anwar Sadat [Wikipedia profile]. Mubarak promised to replace the state of emergency with laws that place fewer restrictions on civil liberties. Hughes, a longtime Bush advisor, was on a tour of Egypt [JURIST news archive] as part of a plan to improve the image of America in the Arab world. AFP has more.






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New Jersey sues gas and oil companies for Katrina price hike
Sara R. Parsowith on September 27, 2005 8:26 AM ET

[JURIST] New Jersey Attorney General Peter C. Harvey filed lawsuits Monday against Hess [corporate website; PDF complaint], Shell [corporate website; PDF complaint], and Sunoco [corporate website; PDF complaint], alleging that the oil and gas giants and several independent gas-station owners illegally hiked prices in the days surrounding Hurricane Katrina [JURIST news archive]. The separate suits, believed to be the first civil actions in the US responding to recent rising gasoline prices, allege [NJ AG press release] that the companies violated New Jersey's Motor Fuels Act [text] and Consumer Fraud Act [text] by failing to display sale prices and making multiple price increases within a 24-hour period. The defendants are also charged with failure to maintain books and records, failure to provide access to books and records to regulators, engaging in unconscionable commercial practices and violating advertising regulations. The cases arose after widespread complaints from motorists that some dealers were raising gas prices several times a day. The state will also sue several independently-owned Citgo [corporate website] stations. Violations of the Consumer Fraud Act, which include unconscionable commercial practices and false or misleading advertising, carry a penalty of up to $10,000 for a first offense and up to $20,000 for subsequent offenses. Violations of the Motor Fuels Act carry a $50 to $200 penalty. Harvey said the state is taking a hard-line approach because consumers are at the mercy of gasoline suppliers and retailers. The Newark Star Ledger has more.






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Australian leaders reach agreement on strict anti-terror laws
Sara R. Parsowith on September 27, 2005 7:54 AM ET

[JURIST] Australian state and territory leaders Tuesday agreed to strict new anti-terror measures [official news release] proposed by the federal government of Prime Minister John Howard [official profile] which include detaining terror suspects for up to 48 hours without charge and using electronic tracking devices to keep tabs on suspects. There was also agreement Tuesday to tighten citizenship laws to make new immigrants wait three years rather than two before eligibility. The new measures, originally proposed in the aftermath of the London bombings [JURIST news archive], have drawn widespread criticism [ABC report] from Australian rights groups, and moderate Australian Muslims have called the proposed laws unfair [IslamOnline report], saying they could contribute to the development of a fascist state. The country's National Counter-Terrorism Committee [official website] will now draft amendments to Australia's Criminal Code to reflect Tuesday's agreement. Australia's ABC News has local coverage. Reuters has more. The Australian government provides background material and advice on Australian national security [official website].

Previously in JURIST's Paper Chase...






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Federal judge says Pentagon must act to reveal names of Gitmo detainees
Sara R. Parsowith on September 27, 2005 7:28 AM ET

[JURIST] US District Judge Jed. S. Rakoff Monday denied government claims that he was interfering with the president's constitutional authority to wage war when he ordered that Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainees [AP detainee list] be asked if they want their names to be publicized. The government objected to this procedure last month when Judge Rakoff first ordered the Defense Department to ask permission from the detainees before making their names public. In April, the Associated Press filed suit [AP report] asking for transcripts of 558 tribunals to give detainees the opportunity to challenge their incarceration at Gitmo. The government released the required documents [JURIST report] but redacted information on the identity of each detainee, and the government had argued that the identities of the Gitmo detainees should be kept secret for privacy reasons. Later the government then argued that questioning the detainees encroached on the relationship between the military and enemy combatants. Rakoff rejected this argument outright Monday, giving the government until October 14 to question the detainees and until October 28 to summarize the responses to the court. AP has more.






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Trial begins in 1993 World Trade Center truck bombing
Sara R. Parsowith on September 27, 2005 7:08 AM ET

[JURIST] A New York court Monday commenced proceedings in the civil trial arising out of the 1993 truck bombing of the World Trade Center [Wikipedia backgrounder]. The court will need to determine whether the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey [official website] is liable for their failure to act on several warnings that the World Trade Center was vulnerable to attack before Islamic militants exploded a truck bomb in an underground parking garage in 1993, killing six and injuring more than a thousand. The plaintiffs argue that the underground parking garage was left unguarded even when presidential limousines and the Secret Service's ammunition were stored there and that security assessments made by the Port Authority predicted the attack. In response, the Port Authority claims that it received no specific threat or intelligence report to anticipate the blast. If the Port Authority is deemed liable, this could open up the floodgates for separate suits from hundreds of victims and business owners. Reuters has more. Islamic militant Ramzi Yousef was found guilty in 1997 of masterminding the 1993 WTC attack.






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Gun opponents to campaign against new Florida 'shoot first' law
Sara R. Parsowith on September 26, 2005 7:36 PM ET

[JURIST] Gun control advocates are set to start an intensive media campaign to alert travelers about a new Florida law that allows people to respond to threats by using guns at home or in public [JURIST report; SB 436 text]. The NRA-supported "force with force" or (to opponents) "shoot first" law formally takes effect Saturday. Peter Hamm of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence [advocacy website] says the new law poses a risk for tourists coming into Florida because they are unaware that this new law exists, hypothesizing that a simple road rage dispute could end up in the death of a tourist. Michigan gun-control advocates have been campaigning to prevent a similar "force with force" bill [JURIST report] being passed in their state. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel has local coverage.






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Egyptian opposition leader ordered to re-appear in court
Sara R. Parsowith on September 26, 2005 7:23 PM ET

[JURIST] Egyptian judges Monday ordered opposition leader and recent presidential candidate Ayman Nour [Wikipedia profile] to appear in court again Tuesday to answer charges connected to the submission of forged signatures [JURIST report] when his party applied for official recognition last year. Nour's wife and spokesperson, Gameela Ismail, suggested that the timing of the trial session deliberately coincided with the parliamentary swearing-in ceremony of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak [official profile]. Nour recently claimed fraud in the election vote count [JURIST report] after Mubarak claimed a landslide victory [JURIST report] in the multi-candidate poll earlier this month. In Monday's court session, Nour's lawyers asked for a new panel of judges, claiming bias with the current members of the panel. The court will decide how to respond to Nour's request Tuesday. If Nour is convicted, he could be imprisoned for up to ten years. Reuters has more.






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UN accuses Togo of human rights abuses during election riots
Sara R. Parsowith on September 26, 2005 6:52 PM ET

[JURIST] UN human rights officials have accused the government of Togo [JURIST news archive] of using over-zealous force at the time of the heavily disputed April presidential elections [JURIST report], saying that government security and armed forces killed 400-500 people and wounded thousands more. A report [accompanying press release] released Monday by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] concluded that the primary blame for the violence belonged to the government. Togo's long-time President Gnassingbe Eyadema died in February 2005; the army's installation of his son as leader precipitated a political crisis [JURIST report] which forced the elections. Human rights and forensic experts sent to Togo in June found evidence of torture, rape, sexual violence and widespread inhumane treatment of the Togo people. The Togolese government has not commented on the report. Voice of America has more.






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Environmental brief ~ Virginia settles river wastewater case
Tom Henry on September 26, 2005 6:33 PM ET

[JURIST] In Monday's environmental law news, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality [official website] has announced a proposed settlement with Colonna's Shipyard Inc. [corporate website] for polluting the Elizabeth River. Colonnas has agreed to pay a $40,000 fine for mistakenly flushing thousands of gallons of wastewater contaminated with tributyltin [EPA factpage] into the river. Tributyltin is a paint additive used to control barnacles and other nuisance growth on ship hulls. The Virginia State Water Control Board [official website] will consider the settlement later this week. AP has more.

In other environmental law news...






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Rwanda hate radio broadcaster transferred for genocide trial
Sara R. Parsowith on September 26, 2005 6:29 PM ET

[JURIST] Joseph Serugendo, the former Technical Chief of Rwanda's Radio Télévision Libre des Milles Collines (RTLM) [Wikipedia backgrounder], nicknamed “Radio Machete” for inciting its listeners to commit murder, has been transferred to a United Nations detention facility in Tanzania [UN report; International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) press release] after being arrested in Gabon last Friday. Serugendo has been charged with five charges including genocide and conspiracy to commit genocide in connection with the 1994 genocide in Rwanda [JURIST news archive]. The ICTR [official website] hopes to bring 65-70 criminals accused of committing genocide and other crimes against humanity to justice by 2008, a trial termination date set by the UN Security Council [official website; ICTR status report, PDF]. Twenty-two people have been convicted so far, three acquitted. Twenty-five others are currently on trial, including a former prime minister and 11 government ministers. UN News has more.






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International brief ~ UN genocide chief blasts Sudan war crimes court as sham
D. Wes Rist on September 26, 2005 4:56 PM ET

[JURIST] Leading Monday's international brief, UN Special Representative on the Prevention of Genocide Juan Mendez [UN appointment profile] has slammed the domestic war crimes court [JURIST report] set up in Sudan [government website] earlier this year, saying it has failed to deal with "the major crimes committed during the conflict." Mendez said that the reports about the court received by the UN pointed towards a continued attitude of impunity for upper level government officials that would otherwise be implicated in atrocities in the counrty's Darfur region. The domestic Sudanese court was set up as a response to UN Resolution 1593 [JURIST report], which authorized the International Criminal Court [official website] to conduct an investigation into the situation in Darfur. The Sudanese government has repeatedly stated that it will not allow judicial proceedings against any of its citizens by any foreign court. The US and many major NGOs have categorized the situation in Darfur as genocide, and have called on the UN to take steps to prevent any further violence in the region. The UN currently has a large peacekeeping force in the area as part of the peace accords between the now-autonomous Southern Sudan and the Khartoum government. JURIST's Paper Chase has continuing coverage of Darfur [JURIST news archive]. The Sudan Tribune has local coverage.

In other international legal news...






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States brief ~ CT brings first challenge to new Energy Policy Act
Rachel Felton on September 26, 2005 4:12 PM ET

[JURIST] Leading Monday's states brief, Connecticut has became the first state to challenge the new federal Energy Policy Act [JURIST report], allowing the developers of power projects to appeal directly to the federal government when state officials deny or delay permits. Attorney General Richard Blumenthal [AG press release] filed a motion to dismiss a federal petition filed by the backers of the proposed Islander East Pipeline Project [website], saying the law undermines states' environmental autonomy and violates the 11th Amendment of the US Constitution, which provides states with immunity from lawsuits by private parties. The state Department of Environmental Protection denied Islander East Pipeline's water quality permit in 2004 and the issue has been tied up in state courts and regulatory agencies since. AP has more.

In other state legal news ...






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Challenge to Oregon same-sex marriage ban returns to court
Alexandria Samuel on September 26, 2005 3:42 PM ET

[JURIST] Oregon Circuit Judge Joseph Guimond heard oral arguments Monday in the latest case to challenge the constitutionality of Measure 36 [text], a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage [JURIST news archive] approved by Oregon voters on November 2, 2004. Representing Basic Rights Oregon [advocacy website; case factsheet, PDF], Portland lawyer Mark Johnson argued that Measure 36 revised rather than amended the Oregon Constitution [text] and the amendment was invalid because it made several constitutional changes which under the constitution require separate amendments. For the state, assistant attorney general Charles Fletcher contended that the Measure was a straightforward, one-sentence provision that really clarified the already existing standard that the only valid marriage recognized by Oregon state or local governments in Oregon is one between a man and a woman. AP has more.






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BREAKING NEWS ~ Lynndie England convicted on Abu Ghraib charges
Jeannie Shawl on September 26, 2005 3:33 PM ET

[JURIST] AP is reporting that Pfc. Lynndie England [JURIST news archive] has been convicted on six of seven counts in court-martial proceedings for her role in the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal [JURIST news archive].

4:35 PM ET - After some two hours of deliberation the military jury of five officers found England guilty of one count of conspiracy, four counts of maltreating detainees and one count of committing an indecent act. It acquitted her of another conspiracy count. The court-martial now moves to sentencing, where England faces up to 10 years in prison. AP has more. AP also offers a review of all nine US Army reservists - none above the rank of sergeant - who have go far been convicted of Abu Ghraib-related abuse






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Anti-war protest leader arrested outside White House
Bernard Hibbitts on September 26, 2005 3:25 PM ET

[JURIST] Anti-war protestor and Gold Star Mother [Wikipedia backgrounder] Cindy Sheehan [Wikipedia profile] was arrested Monday while protesting outside the White House. Sheehan and dozens of other Iraq war protesters were taken into custody by police after they were warned three times that they were breaking the law by sitting on the sidewalk on Pennsylvania Avenue and failing to keep moving. The White House demonstration, billed as "non-violent direct action" [UPJ action alert] was organized at the end of three-day Wasshington campaign by United for Peace and Justice [advocacy website], a group urging members of Congress to work to end the war in Iraq and bring home the troops. A massive rally Saturday on the National Mall drew at least 100,000 protestors and is widely said to have been the largest anti-war protest in the US capital since Vietnam. AP has more.






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Croatian journalist pleads not guilty in ICTY contempt case
Alexandria Samuel on September 26, 2005 3:19 PM ET

[JURIST] Croatian journalist Marijan Krizic pleaded not guilty Monday before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia to charges that he revealed the identity of a protected witness in the Tihomir Blaskic case [ICTY factsheet] earlier this year. Krizic and fellow journalist Josip Jovic were charged with contempt under Rule 77 [text] of the court's Rules of Procedure and Evidence [text] after the witness's name appeared in their Croatian newspapers Hrvatsko Slovo [media website] and Slobodna Dalmacija [media website]. Jovic did not appear in court Monday; his lawyer instead filed a motion with the court to request postponement of appearance so that he may "use all legal means at his disposal to see if there is any reason for him to cooperate with the tribunal". If convicted, both men face a maximum sentence of seven years in prison. Reuters has more.






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Italian court clears Berlusconi of false accounting charges
Alexandria Samuel on September 26, 2005 3:08 PM ET

[JURIST] Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi [official profile] was acquitted of false accounting charges by an Italian court Monday. Prosecutors had charged the leader and media empire mogul with numerous counts of false accounting, including false bookkeeping charges, in connection to his alleged involvement in a plot to illegally move money from his media holding company, All Iberian, to fund the Socialist Party of former Italian Premier Bettino Craxi [BBC profile]. The court found that Berlusconi could not be charged with the crimes under Italian law because of changes made 2001 that decriminalized some false accounting crimes. In May, the European Court of Justice ruled [JURIST report] that EU law could not overrule Italian law in the matter. Berlusconi has been tried in several corruption cases, and has always maintained his innocence, arguing that all charges have been politically motivated. Reuters has more.






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Bush administration appeals 'partial birth' abortion ruling to Supreme Court
Tom Henry on September 26, 2005 2:29 PM ET

[JURIST] The Bush administration has asked the US Supreme Court to reinstate a legislative ban on late-term "partial birth" abortions, appealing a July ruling by the US Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis that upheld [JURIST report] a Nebraska federal district court ruling [JURIST report] finding the federal Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act [PDF text] unconstitutional because it lacks an exception for the health of the mother. The appeal in Carhart v. Gonzalez [PDF text] was filed Friday and released Monday. The "partial birth" abortion case has been a contentious two-year legal battle, but it is as yet unclear if the Supreme Court will take the latest appeal. It has already scheduled arguments in November in another abortion case involving New Hampshire's parental notification statute [text]. AP has more.






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Lynndie England abuse case heads to jury
Tom Henry on September 26, 2005 2:06 PM ET

[JURIST] Prosecutors wrapped up closing arguments Monday in the Abu Ghraib prison abuse [JURIST news archive] case involving Pfc. Lynndie England [Wikipedia profile; JURIST news archive] by describing her as a willing participant in the scandal while defense attorneys portrayed her as impressionable and easily influenced by a manipulative boyfriend. England faces a prison sentence of up 11 years if convicted on all seven abuse counts, which include posing for photographs with Iraqis who were forced to masturbate and holding a leash attached to the neck of a naked detainee. Her ex-boyfriend Army Spc. Charles Graner Jr. [Wikipedia profile] was sentenced to 10 years in prison [JURIST report] in January for his role in the abuses. A jury of five Army officers is set to begin deliberations Monday afternoon. AP has more.

Previously in JURIST's Paper Chase...






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Conflict monitors say Iraq constitutional process worsening insurgency
Brandon Smith on September 26, 2005 1:31 PM ET

[JURIST] The International Crisis Group (ICG) [advocacy site] of conflict monitors Monday criticized Iraq's constitutional process for deepening the country's political fractures and expediting Iraq's violent break up. A new ICG report [PDF text; press release] noted that the draft Iraqi constitution [English translation; JURIST news archive] to be put to a referendum October 15 reflects Shiite and Kurdish influence, but not significant Sunni input. The group said that the fifteen Sunni Arabs added to the drafting committee [official website] in an effort at inclusiveness were increasingly marginalized after the August 1 decision [JURIST report] against a six-month extension of the drafting deadline. The ICG admits it is too late to renegotiate but has called for the US to sponsor efforts to reach a political agreement prior to October 15 on steps the parties would commit to take after December elections. In June the ICG warned that the interim Transitional Administrative Law had set an unrealistic deadline [JURIST report] for the drafting of the country's permanent charter. Reuters has more.






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UPDATE ~ 18 convicted in Spanish 9/11 trial
Brandon Smith on September 26, 2005 1:05 PM ET

[JURIST] In addition to the conviction and sentencing [JURIST report] of al Qaeda cell leader Immad Yarkas [BBC profile], the head of al Qaeda in Spain, the Spanish High Court Monday also sentenced [PDF verdict, 447 pages] 17 other men to jail terms varying from 6 to 11 years and freed the remaining six defendants in Europe's largest trial of those suspected of involvement in the September 11 attacks. Among the 24 men accused of having links to the terrorist organization was Syrian-born Aljazeera reporter Tayssir Alluni [Aljazeera report] who interviewed Osama bin Laden weeks after the September 11 attacks. Alluni maintained his innocence throughout, as did all of the defendants, and argued that he was simply a journalist performing his duties. AFP has more. From Madrid, El Mundo has local coverage.






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Ten UK terror suspects appeal against deportation
Holly Manges Jones on September 26, 2005 11:11 AM ET

[JURIST] Ten foreign nationals arrested in Britain after the July 7 suicide bombings in London are appealing their potential deportation to their home countries to Britain's Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) [official website], saying that they have no connection to the London bombings [JURIST news archive]. Human rights groups are also calling for deportation proceedings to be stopped, saying that British agreements with the detainee's home countries that they will not be tortured upon their return are insufficient guarantees of their right under the UK Human Rights Act [text] not to be deported to any country where they may be subject to persecution. BBC News has more. The detainees are also at the center of the first terror case to come before the UK's highest court since the July bombings. Next month, seven law lords will consider whether evidence extracted by torture abroad should be admissible in British courts. Last year, an appeals court ruled that the SIAC could consider evidence [JURIST report] obtained by interrogations in foreign countries, even if obtained by torture, as long as Britain did not take part in the torture and did not condone it. The upcoming case is seen as a test of whether judges will interfere with the government's anti-terror policies. The Guardian has more.






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Australian PM rejects claims that new terror laws target Muslims
Kate Heneroty on September 26, 2005 10:25 AM ET

[JURIST] Australian Prime Minister John Howard [official profile] rejected allegations Monday that Muslims were being targeted by new proposed anti-terrorism laws [JURIST report], saying that the laws were necessary to "protect the Australian community at a time of unprecedented and different threat." Zachariah Matthews, a moderate Islamic leader and head of Mission Islam [advocacy website], has said the proposed law could lead to intolerance and has already incited hatred against Muslims in a small section of the community, adding "the feelings of the general Muslim population in Australia is that we are being collectively punished for actions that are beyond our control." State leaders will convene a security summit Tuesday to discuss the new legislation, which includes stricter investigation of citizenship applicants, jail terms for inciting violence and detention of suspects without charge for up to two weeks. State leaders have threatened to introduce sunset provisions [AAP report] into the terror legislation if the federal government does not agree to the inclusion of time limits at the security summit. AFP has more. The Australian has local coverage.






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Federal trial begins in challenge to 'intelligent design' theory
Holly Manges Jones on September 26, 2005 10:05 AM ET

[JURIST] A Pennsylvania federal court Monday was set to consider whether school districts may teach a concept known as "intelligent design" [Wikipedia backgrounder] prior to teaching biology lessons on evolution. Eight families in Dover, Pennsylvania, claim that teaching the theory in schools is a violation of the separation of church and state [Wikipedia backgrounder]. The "intelligent design" concept, developed by scholars over the last 15 years, sets forth the belief that Charles Darwin's theory of evolution [BBC backgrounder] cannot completely explain the origin of life, contending that an unidentified intelligent force played a role. The eight families suing the school district claim that the theory is not appropriate for the classroom [PDF complaint; ACLU case materials] because it is just a "masked" version of the Bible's story of creation. The Dover Area School District is the first known district in the nation to require teaching of the concept to ninth-graders. In a related decision in 1987, the US Supreme Court ruled in Edwards v. Aguillard [opinion] that states may not mandate public schools to teach creationism in order to balance evolution lessons. AP has more.






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US Senate to take up Roberts nomination
Holly Manges Jones on September 26, 2005 10:04 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Senate Monday afternoon will take up the confirmation of Chief Justice nominee Judge John Roberts [JURIST news archive], with two-thirds of the 100 senators having already announced their support. The Senate Judiciary Committee voted to recommend Roberts [JURIST report] for nomination last week by a margin of 13-5, and Roberts is expected to reach the necessary majority vote by the full Senate since all 55 Republicans are anticipated to vote in favor of his confirmation. Of the 44 Democratic Senators, 13 have announced their support of Roberts thusfar, saying that despite their concerns about how Roberts will rule, he is certainly qualified for the Chief Justice role. Meanwhile, Democrats opposing Roberts worry that he will be "staunchly conservative" like Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia. The Senate vote is expected to take place no later than Thursday in time for the opening of the Supreme Court's 2005-2006 term on October 3. AP has more. A live webcast of the Senate debate will be available beginning 1:00 PM ET.






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Japan court awards benefits to atomic bomb victims living abroad
Kate Heneroty on September 26, 2005 9:33 AM ET

[JURIST] Japan's Fukuoka High Court [backgrounder] held Monday that a survivor of the 1945 Nagasaki atomic bombing [Wikipedia backgrounder] living abroad is entitled to the same medical benefits and funeral costs [benefits summary, PDF] as survivors living in Japan, without returning to Japan to file claims. Monday's ruling comes after a 2002 court ruling that attempted to force the government to abandon its policy of excluding overseas survivors from benefits an channel more relief to victims living outside Japan. Choi Kye-chul, a South Korean, filed suit in February 2004 after he was denied benefits even though a certificate granted in 1980 made him eligible for state health care allowances. Of the 285,600 survivors of the Nagasaki and Hiroshima nuclear attacks, 5,000 live abroad, and many have developed radiation-related illnesses, including cancer and liver problems. Survivors living in Japan are currently eligible for monthly allowances of up to $1,250 and free medical checkups and funeral costs. AP has more. Asahi Shimbun has local coverage.






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Australian detainee seeks British citizenship to secure release from Gitmo
Kate Heneroty on September 26, 2005 9:04 AM ET

[JURIST] Australian Guantanamo Bay detainee David Hicks [Wikipedia profile; advocacy website], arrested in Afghanistan following the September 11th attacks and facing imminent trial by military commission, is seeking dual citizenship in the UK with the hope that the British government will secure his release from Guantanamo Bay. Unlike Hicks' native Australia, Britain has negotiated the release [JURIST report] of all its citizens detained at the US Naval facility. Lawyers recently discovered that Hicks' mother is a British citizen and under a 2002 citizenship law [UK Home Office backgrounder], children of British mothers are eligible for citizenship. Hicks is scheduled to face a US military trial in October [JURIST report] on terrorism charges including attempted murder and aiding the enemy and the Australian government has welcomed the resumption of Hicks' trial [JURIST report]. AFP has more.






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IAEA chief approved for third term
Sara R. Parsowith on September 26, 2005 8:30 AM ET

[JURIST] Mohamed ElBaradei [official profile] received unanimous approval Monday to continue as head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) [official website] for his third four-year term, after the US ended its opposition to his tenure. ElBaradei's reappointment had been postponed [JURIST report] earlier this year in the face of US criticism over ElBaradei's handling of the agency's negotiations with Iran and nuclear inspections in Iraq prior to the March 2003 war. Last week, European negotiators agreed to drop their demands that Iran be referred to the UN Security Council over its nuclear program and the IAEA board approved a resolution [JURIST report] this weekend declaring Iran in "non-compliance" with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty [PDF text; JURIST news archive]. ElBaradei denies that Iran is making nuclear weapons and also denies that Saddam Hussein's regime had an active atomic weapons program. AP has more.






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US to free 1,000 Abu Ghraib detainees
Sara R. Parsowith on September 26, 2005 8:17 AM ET

[JURIST] In a goodwill gesture that was requested by the Iraqi government for Muslim holy month Ramadan [Wikipedia backgrounder], the US military Monday freed 500 detainees from Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison [JURIST news archive] and the military has said that an additional 500 detainees will be freed [press release] later this week. The released detainees are those deemed to not have committed violent crimes such as bombing, torture, kidnapping or murder. The detainees must also have admitted their crimes and be committed to living a non-violent lifestyle as good citizens of Iraq. The release may also be a tactic to persuade Iraqis to vote in the October 15 referendum on the draft Iraqi constitution [JURIST news archive]. Sunnis who have been involved in the drafting of the constitution have demanded the release of thousands of prisoners and are also calling for a boycott or a vote of no in the referendum. AP has more.






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BREAKING NEWS ~ Spanish court convicts al Qaeda leader on 9/11 charges
Jeannie Shawl on September 26, 2005 8:01 AM ET

[JURIST] AP is reporting that a Spanish court has convicted a suspected al Qaeda cell leader of conspiracy to commit murder in connection with the September 11 attacks [JURIST news archive] in the US.

8:11 AM ET - Immad Yarkas, the accused leader of al Qaeda's presence in Spain [BBC backgrounder], received a 27 year jail sentence. Two other al Qaeda suspects were acquitted. The verdicts come in Europe's largest trial of alleged al Qaeda members, with 3 men faces charges for helping to organize the September 11 attacks and 21 others charged with membership or association with a terrorist group, weapons possession, falsifying documents and fraud. AP has more.

Previously in JURIST's Paper Chase...






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Reports of violent crime in US at 30-year low, DOJ statistics show
Sara R. Parsowith on September 26, 2005 7:58 AM ET

[JURIST] Reports of violent crime in the US in 2004 were at their lowest level since the US Department of Justice began compiling statistics 32 years ago, according to a report [PDF text; press release] released Sunday. The Bureau of Justice Statistics study mirrors an FBI report earlier this year [JURIST report] which suggested that murder and violent crime rates were down. Those who are multiracial were reportedly victimized at higher rates than others, with a level of 51.6 per thousand, with blacks victimized at a rate of 26 per thousand and whites at 21 per thousand. Youths, at a rate of 49.7 per thousand, and males, with a rate of 25, were also more likely to be victimized than their elders or females. In addition, 24 million violent and property crimes were reported, echoing the rate reported in 2003. Although guns were used in only 6 percent of non-lethal violent crimes, down 11 percent from the decade-earlier rate, they were used in 71 percent of 2003 murders committed, the most recent year reported. 49 percent of murder victims were black in 2003, the same rate as whites. The report said the violent crime rate fell 57 percent while the crime rate for property fell by 50 percent from 1993 through 2004. The Justice Policy Institute [advocacy website] has said the statistics highlight the need to stop overzealous spending on incarceration in favor of state involvement in the reduction of crime and community building. Reuters has more.






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Bush call for Pentagon lead in disaster response raises law enforcement issue
Sara R. Parsowith on September 26, 2005 7:10 AM ET

[JURIST] In a briefing [White House transcript] Sunday to military task force officials participating in Hurricane Rita relief efforts, President Bush suggested that the Pentagon, rather than state and local agencies, should be in charge of the response to future substantial disasters. Bush called for "greater federal authority and a broader role for the armed forces," saying the military is "the institution of our government most capable of massive logistical operations on a moment's notice."

Giving the military greater authority to respond to disasters could, however, require changing the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 [text; NORTHCOM factsheet], which prohibits federal soldiers and National Guard troops under federal control from conducting law enforcement on US soil. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina [JURIST news archive], US lawmakers have already started to consider relaxing the Act's standards [JURIST report] and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is said to be investigating possible reforms to the legislation, considered archaic by some Pentagon officials. Supporters of Posse Comitatus counter that relaxing its terms leaves the federal government poised to embrace further centralization and militarization at home [Cato Institute commentary] and shunts aside state and local officials who are more familiar with local conditions and more connected with local communities [2001 Congressional testimony on potential legal and other problems with federalizing the National Guard during state emergencies, PDF]. Watch recorded video of a 2002 Cato Institute debate on the Posse Comitatus Act. Learn more about the history of the Posse Comitatus Act [USAF backgrounder; RAND Corporation backgrounder, PDF]. The Washington Times has more.

Previously in JURIST's Paper Chase:






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Israeli cabinet approves legal aid for officers charged abroad with war crimes
Bernard Hibbitts on September 25, 2005 4:51 PM ET

[JURIST] The Israeli cabinet Sunday approved the provision of legal aid and support services to any Israeli military officer past or present who is charged outside of the country with war crimes. Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni proposed the undertaking after it was disclosed that former Israeli Maj. Gen. Doron Almog, once commander of Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip, narrowly avoided arrest for war crimes on a recent trip to London [JURIST report], and that private legal proceedings in Britain against other Israeli officers were planned. UK law authorizes universal jurisdiction [Amnesty International backgrounder] for war crimes under the 1957 Geneva Conventions Act. Israel has already asked the British government to act to limit such suits [JURIST report]. The government estimates that roughly $1 million will be required to underwrite the services. From Israel, Haaretz has more.






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New French anti-terror law to intensify e-surveillance, travel controls
Christopher G. Anderson on September 25, 2005 4:10 PM ET

[JURIST] Acting in the aftermath of the London bombings [JURIST news archive], the French government [official website] has finalized a new draft anti-terror law that would bolster the country’s video, telephone and Internet surveillance as well as tighten travel controls into “countries at risk”. French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy [official profile; BBC profile] said in a speech [text in French] in Paris Friday that the 16-article draft law would bolster the government's ability to track suspicious activity. The draft, which will be presented to the Cabinet on October 19, will also extend prison terms for leaders and members of extremist groups. Addressing concerns of civil liberties groups, the bill's provisions on police wiretap and Internet monitoring powers have a three-year limit. AFP has more.






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Iran minister calls nuke resolution "illegal", but leaves negotiations door open
Sara R. Parsowith on September 25, 2005 3:00 PM ET

[JURIST] Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki Sunday called Saturday's International Atomic Energy Agency resolution [PDF] declaring Iran in "non-compliance" with safeguards [JURIST report] under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT) a "politically and illegally motivated decision" made to a "US pre-planned scenario", but told reporters [offical text] that Iran had not ruled out further negotiations with Germany, France and Britain, the so-called EU-3. Under the resolution, Tehran could be subject to UN Security Council sanctions. Iran has been accused by Western governments of using its nuclear program as a cover for the development of atomic weapons. Mottaki said that "Iran will not abandon its right to develop nuclear technology, including development of the fuel cycle for peaceful nuclear energy purposes guaranteed under the NPT." Voice of America has more.






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Turkey conference on Armenian genocide opens despite court order
Bernard Hibbitts on September 25, 2005 12:56 PM ET

[JURIST] A conference in Turkey on the alleged genocide of 1.5 Armenians [Wikipedia backgrounder] in the then-Ottoman Empire between 1915 and 1917 went ahead on Saturday despite a court ban that prompted protests from EU representatives [JURIST report] who saw it as casting a continuing shadow over Turkey's human rights record as it seeks EU membership. The court ruling was circumvented by having the conference venue changed to Bilgi University [university website], a private institution in Istanbul. The meeting, which continued Sunday, has infuriated Turkish nationalists who deny or minimize the killings, and has been problematic under Turkey's penal law which even in its recently-revised form [JURIST report] makes promoting certain interpretations of Turkish history a criminal offence. Aljazeera has more. From Istanbul, Hurriyet provides local coverage in English.






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Judge rules Visa, MasterCard need not notify consumers of data theft
Bernard Hibbitts on September 25, 2005 12:36 PM ET

[JURIST] A California judge ruled Friday that credit card companies Visa [corporate website] and MasterCard [corporate website] do not have to notify individual consumers whose account data was stolen by an as-yet-unknown hacker in a mass cybertheft disclosed by MasterCard [JURIST report] earlier this year. San Francisco Superior Court Judge Richard Kramer denied the contention of plaintiffs in a class action suit [complaint, PDF] that there was any immediate threat of harm to affected consumers. The theft is deemed to have exposed some 40 million accounts to potential abuse, and to have yielded sufficient information to permit fraud against some 264,000 accountholders. Visa and MasterCard have said that the danger of identity theft to individual cardholders is low, in part because the data did not include Social Security numbers and home addresses, and in part because the companies and affiliated banks have zero liability [Visa backgrounder] policies that would reverse any fraudulent charges. AP has more.






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UN nuclear watchdog declares Iran in "non-compliance" with NPT
Bernard Hibbitts on September 24, 2005 6:20 PM ET

[JURIST] Delegates to the International Atomic Energy Agency [official website] board of governors meeting [JURIST report] concluding in Vienna Saturday adopted a resolution that for the first time declares Iran in "non-compliance" with safeguards set under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) [text], a move that allows the IAEA to refer Iran to the UN Security Council for the administration of sanctions. Although the resolution passed by the ostensibly wide margin of 22-1, twelve nations abstained, including Russia and China, which have supported Iran's right to produce nuclear energy for civilian purposes. The United States and European Union countries have opposed the program, claiming it is a means to develop nuclear weapons. The single direct vote against the measure was cast by Venezuela, which under the presidency of Hugo Chavez has recently opposed the US on a range of international issues. American diplomats say that the finding of non-compliance requires that Iran be referred to the Security Council, but IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei stressed after the vote that there was still time for diplomacy [IAEA press briefing]. In any event, Iran would not be referred until ElBaradei reports on Iran at the next IAEA board meeting in November. An Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman in Tehran called the resolution "illegal and unacceptable"; another official dismissed it as a "Western vote" [IRNA report]. Read the full text of the IAEA resolution [PDF] and review the complete IAEA board report [PDF]. AFP has more.






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Iraqi judge issues arrest warrants for British soldiers freed in Basra jail break
Kate Heneroty on September 24, 2005 11:51 AM ET

[JURIST] An Iraqi lawyer said Saturday that an Iraqi judge has issued warrants for the arrest of 2 British soldiers freed in a UK raid on a Basra jail [JURIST report] Monday. The soldiers, reported to be undercover SAS [Wikipedia backgrounder] members, are accused of killing an Iraqi policeman and wounding another, carrying unlicensed weapons and holding false identification. Judge Raghib Hassan is said to have actually issued the warrants Thursday. Britain's Ministry of Defence [official website] said Saturday that it had not received the warrants and even so, the arrest warrants would have no legal basis because "All British troops in Iraq come under the jurisdiction of Britain."

Meanwhile in Basra, thousands of Shiites rallied Saturday to show their support of the proposed Iraqi constitution [JURIST news archive]. Leading Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani [Wikipedia profile] called earlier this week for Shiites to support the document, which will be put to a national referendum on October 15. Another key Shiite cleric in Basra, Ayatollah Mohammed Yaqubi, has come out against the charter [Telegraph report], however; his stance as head of the popular conservative Fadhila party is said to have shocked British diplomats in the area and prompted fears of violence in the run-up to the referendum. Reuters has more.






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US continues holdout against nuclear test ban treaty
Kate Heneroty on September 24, 2005 11:17 AM ET

[JURIST] The US boycotted a 3-day UN conference [conference website; JURIST report] that ended Friday designed to encourage the 11 nuclear countries who have not signed the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty [text, PDF; Wikipedia backgrounder] to do so. Thirty-three of the 44 signatories possessing nuclear research and power capabilities have ratified the treaty, but support of the holdouts is necessary for the treaty to take effect. Of the 11 states that have refused to ratify - China, Colombia, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, United States and Vietnam - five (India, Pakistan, North Korea, Vietnam and Iran) joined the US in boycotting the latest round of UN talks. UN Undersecretary-General for Disarmament Nobuyasu Abe [official profile] told reporters "many speakers expressed impatience with excuses given by some countries for their failure to ratify." A declaration by all 117 nations participating said there was near-universal support for the measure, but putting it into operation was elusive because of the holdouts. The US has signed the CTBT, but it has not been approved by the Senate and it is opposed by President Bush. AP has more.






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Rights group claims 82nd Airborne systematically abused Iraqi prisoners
Kate Heneroty on September 24, 2005 10:43 AM ET

[JURIST] Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] claimed in a report [text] issued Friday that members of the US Army's 82nd Airborne Division [official website] systematically tortured Iraqi prisoners in 2003 and 2004 at a military base near Fallujah. A captain and two sergeantsts, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said in the report that detainees were deprived of sleep, food and water, subjected to extreme heat and cold, stacked in human pyramids, kicked in the face, hit by baseball bats and doused with chemicals. The soldiers said the abuse came almost daily under orders to "smoke" or physically abuse detainees until they lost consciousness and that anything less than death was acceptable. US Defense Department spokesman Lt. Col. John Skinner said the military has investigated all allegations of abuse, but the captain quoted in the HRW report said his complaints were ignored and after returning to the US he was denied permission to leave Fort Bragg[base website] to meet with Senate staff members. Human Rights Watch has called [report recommendations] for US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to appoint special counsel to investigate officials accused of war crimes, a congressional commission to investigate detainee abuse, legislation which prohibits abusive interrogation, and a DOD investigation of all levels of the chain of command. AP has more.






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England defense blames obedience dysfunction for Abu Ghraib conduct
Kate Heneroty on September 24, 2005 10:08 AM ET

[JURIST] Defense psychologists testified in court-martial proceedings Friday that learning disabilities and her "compliant personality" made Pfc. Lynndie England [Wikipedia profile; JURIST news archive] so blindly obedient to her boyfriend and now-incarcerated superior officer Charles Graner [Wikipedia profile; JURIST news archive] that she thought nothing of posing in Abu Ghraib [JURIST news archive] prisoner abuse photos. Clinical psychologist Xavier Amador told the 5-officer jury that England had "no contemplative process" and "She doesn't understand things that are so obvious to us." Military judge Col. James Pohl later instructed the jury that the issue of whether England knew right from wrong is legally irrelevant because the defense is not arguing criminal insanity. A school psychologist who knew England from age 4 testified that she has "a very complex language-processing disfunction" and is "overly compliant in social settings, especially in the presence of perceived authority." The defense claims that England has only "partial mental responsibility" because of her compliant personality and did not intend to participate in the criminal conspiracy which constitutes 2 of the 11 charges against her [US DOD charge sheet]. Reuters has more.






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US considers Jones Act waiver to allow oil shipments after Rita
Holly Manges Jones on September 23, 2005 4:51 PM ET

[JURIST] The Bush administration may again decide to temporarily suspend the Jones Act [text] in order to facilitate petroleum shipments between US ports if Hurricane Rita [Wikipedia backgrounder] hinders supplies from reaching refineries, according to a government source Friday. The law says that only vessels built and owned by citizens of the United States and flagged in the United States can carry merchandise between US ports, but the act was waived [US DHS Jones Act waiver, PDF] after Hurricane Katrina [JURIST news archive] because of lost supplies of crude oil and gasoline. The first waiver has expired, with the exception of crude oil being transported from the government's Strategic Petroleum Reserve [official website] to refineries, but is an option for the government to consider after Hurricane Rita passes and the supply levels of pipelines and refineries can then be assessed. Reuters has more.






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BREAKING NEWS ~ FDA commissioner resigns
Jeannie Shawl on September 23, 2005 3:57 PM ET

[JURIST] AP is reporting that Lester Crawford [official profile], commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration [official website], has resigned.

4:08 PM ET - Crawford's resignation comes just two months after his Senate confirmation as FDA chief [JURIST report]. During the confirmation process, Crawford was criticized for dragging his feet while serving as the FDA's acting commissioner on making a determination about the sale of an emergency contraceptive, Plan B [FDA backgrounder]. Last month, a high-ranking FDA official resigned in protest [JURIST report] over the agency's continued delay in deciding whether to approve the contraceptive pills for over-the-counter-sale. A memo circulated by Crawford to his staff Friday cited his age as the reason for his retirement. AP has more.






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EU calls for IAEA condemnation of Iran nuclear program, but not UN sanctions
Holly Manges Jones on September 23, 2005 3:55 PM ET

[JURIST] The European Union Friday presented a motion to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) [official website] in Vienna that would condemn Iran's nuclear program as a violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty [PDF text; JURIST news archive], but would not refer Iran to the UN Security Council [official website] for possible sanctions. Earlier this week, Germany, France and Great Britain dropped their demand [JURIST report] for Security Council review of Iran's nuclear activities after resistance from China, which purchases Iranian oil, and Russia, which is constructing Iran's first nuclear reactor. Iran said Friday that it would view a referral by the IAEA to the Security Council as a "confrontation," and would then carry out the last steps in making nuclear fuel. AFP has more.






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Environmental brief ~ CA county approves plan to shut windmills during bird migration
Tom Henry on September 23, 2005 3:34 PM ET

[JURIST] In Friday's environmental law news, Alameda County California supervisors [official website] have approved a plan that would mandate the shutdown of windmills during the winter migratory bird season. The Altamont Pass has over 5,000 windmills and is located along the Pacific Flyway [advocacy website], the main route for the winter migration of birds. According to studies [PDF report ]by the California Energy Commission [official website], about 1000 birds are killed annually at Altamont Pass, more than at any other wind power area in the nation. The plan will shut down 100 to 200 windmills permanently, turn off half of the windmills in November and December, and then turn off the other half in January and February. Environmentalists argue that all the turbines should be turned off for the entire season. The San Francisco Chronicle has more.

In other environmental law news...






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New UN treaty against forced disappearances drafted
Holly Manges Jones on September 23, 2005 2:50 PM ET

[JURIST] Diplomats said Friday that a French-led working group of the UN Human Rights Committee has completed drafting a treaty [UN statement] that would bind signing countries to prevent enforced or involuntary disappearances [Wikipedia backgrounder], calling them "crimes against humanity". The International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances [working paper, PDF] proposes the prosecution of any "arrest, detention, abduction or any other deprivation of liberty committed by agents of the state." Participating countries will also commit to search efforts and compensation for missing victims. According to the draft, a 10-expert committee will be established to ensure compliance by signing members, but the committee will only have jurisdiction over cases that arise after the document is approved. The working group plans to submit the 26-page draft at the next session of the UN Human Rights Committee [official website], expected to take place next March or April in Geneva. AFP has more.






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States brief ~ AL judge overrides jury recommendation, sentences man to death
Rachel Felton on September 23, 2005 2:38 PM ET

[JURIST] Leading Friday's states brief, an Alabama Circuit Court [official website] judge has overridden a jury's recommendation of life imprisonment, and sentenced Kerry Spencer to death for the murders of three police officers. Under Alabama law, a judge may override the sentencing recommendation of the jury, and in this case Circuit Judge Tommy Nail felt the horrors of the crime outweighed the recommendation. Spencer, who said he shot out of fear when the officers entered the crackhouse, is entitled to an automatic appeal. AP has more.

In other state legal news ...






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NRA fights 'arbitrary' weapons seizures in New Orleans after Katrina
Holly Manges Jones on September 23, 2005 2:19 PM ET

[JURIST] A federal district court sided with two national gun rights groups Friday by issuing a restraining order [NRA press release] to stop Louisiana law enforcement officials from taking weapons away from individual gun-owners in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina [JURIST news archive], according to the National Rifle Association (NRA) [advocacy website]. The NRA and the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF) [advocacy website] called the seizures unlawful because they were "arbitrary" and "without warrant or probable cause." The motion for a restraining order [SAF press release] was filed following a lawsuit brought by two Louisiana gun owners who had their firearms confiscated. NRA vice president Wayne LaPierre said Thursday that New Orleans Police Superintendent P. Edwin Compass III "completely overstepped his bounds" two weeks ago when he said that only law-enforcement personnel should be carrying weapons. SAF founder Alan Gottlieb called the confiscation of weapons "outrageous" and said it leaves New Orleans citizens "defenseless against lingering bands of looters and thugs." The Washington Times has more.






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North Korea refuses to help Japanese probe of abductions
Holly Manges Jones on September 23, 2005 1:54 PM ET

[JURIST] A North Korean official said Friday that his country has "fully resolved" all issues regarding North Korean abductions of Japanese citizens [Wikipedia backgrounder; Japanese government backgrounder, PDF], and would not cooperate in any further investigations regarding missing Japanese nationals taken to the Communist state to teach Japanese language and culture at North Korea spy schools because it has "already done all that is required." Japan has requested information on several Japanese who were abducted during the 1970s and 1980s, including a young girl named Megumi Yokota, who was kidnapped at age 13. Last year, North Korea handed over remains that the country claimed were Yokota's, but Japan determined through DNA testing that they actually belonged to two other individuals [JURIST report]. The abductions controversy has been a major strain on Japanese-North Korean relations in the last few years, with Japan considering economic sanctions [JURIST report] against North Korea if the issue remains unresolved. From Japan, Kyodo has more.






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EU condemns Turkish court ruling canceling Armenian genocide conference
Holly Manges Jones on September 23, 2005 12:59 PM ET

[JURIST] The European Commission [official website] Friday strongly condemned a Turkish court's decision to cancel an academic conference to discuss and question the accuracy of Turkey's version of events between 1915 and 1917 leading to 1.5 million deaths in what has been called the Armenian genocide [Wikipedia backgrounder]. Turkey is pursuing membership in the European Union, but the EU has been hesitant about the application, in part because of the country's questionable human rights history. Earlier this year, Turkey committed to reform [JURIST report], but the Commission said if the court's order is not overruled, it will have a detrimental effect on continuing questions about Turkey's eligibility to join. Also weighing on the commission's evaluation of Turkey's potential EU membership is a decision by Turkey's parliament earlier this year to delay implementing a new penal code [JURIST report]. Conference participants plan to appeal the court's decision, while membership negotiations between the EU and Turkey are expected to begin early next month. AFP has more.






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New Orleans prisoners left in locked cells during Katrina, rights group says
Holly Manges Jones on September 23, 2005 12:34 PM ET

[JURIST] Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] has accused prison officials at the New Orleans Templeman III prison facility of leaving hundreds of inmates to fend for themselves [HRW press release] during Hurricane Katrina [JURIST news archive], calling the prisoners' experience a "nightmare." The human rights group interviewed prison staff and dozens of prisoners who said they had been locked in their cells for four days with water rising to their necks and above, and were without food, water, or electricity. Prison officials did evacuate the Templeman I and II buildings one day after the levees broke, but only after the prisoners were almost overcome by the water. Some Templeman III prisoners were able to escape from their cells in time, while others were reported to have drowned. Almost 520 prisoners are still missing and prison officials are uncertain whether they escaped or perished. Last week, an Australian tourist who had been arrested and jailed just before Katrina hit New Orleans said that guards at the jail fled their posts [JURIST report], leaving prisoners to fend for themselves without food, water, toilets or power. The Independent has more.






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British man found guilty of possessing secret codes, manual linked to al Qaeda
Holly Manges Jones on September 23, 2005 12:01 PM ET

[JURIST] A British Muslim man was found guilty in London Friday for "possessing articles useful for terrorists" including a hand-written instruction manual explaining how to fire mortars and secret codes that British police linked to al Qaeda. Andrew Rowe [BBC profile] had been under surveillance by British police prior to his arrest and several searches of his homes uncovered videos glorifying the September 11 attacks on the US, traces of explosives, and a notebook containing secret codes using cell phone numbers to identify airports, army bases and weapons. A jury at London's Old Bailey Central Criminal Court [Wikipedia backgrounder] convicted Rowe of possessing the codes and weapons manual, but did not reach a verdict regarding the traces of explosives which were found in two rolled-up socks. Both charges have a maximum sentence of 10 years. Rowe has denied the charges [BBC report] but an anti-terrorism official said he was a "committed jihadist" known worldwide and "the evidence suggests he was planning an attack." Reuters has more. BBC News has local coverage.






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Hurricane Rita has Texas legal system on the move
David Shucosky on September 23, 2005 11:45 AM ET

[JURIST] Judges, lawyers, and even prisoners are on the move across Texas as residents prepare for the arrival of Hurricane Rita [Wikipedia backgrounder]. The US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit [official website], already bounced from its usual home in New Orleans [JURIST report], has announced closures [press release] for its temporary location in Houston. The US Marshals Service [official website] has moved federal prisoners out of the projected path of the storm in Corpus Christi, and temporarily moved its Houston office. State, county and municipal [City of Houston press release] courts have also suspended operations, and lawyers are advising clients that they will be unavailable. Some are even moving files to safe locations. The Texas Lawyer has more.






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New indictment brought against California terrorism suspect
David Shucosky on September 23, 2005 11:20 AM ET

[JURIST] Federal prosecutors said Thursday that new charges [PDF indictment] have been filed against one of the men arrested in California earlier this year [JURIST report] on terrorism charges. Hamid Hayat, 23, now faces charges of providing material support to terrorists in addition to accusations that he lied to the FBI about attending a terrorist training camp in Pakistan. He faces up to 31 years in prison if convicted on all charges. Hayat's father was also arrested on for lying to the FBI, but does not face the new count, which is the most serious that can be brought absent an actual terrorist act. Hayat's lawyer says the new charge is just "relabeling" and the prosecutors have not presented evidence that Hayat attended the camp. AP has more.

Previously in JURIST's Paper Chase...






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FEC dismisses complaints of Republican wrongdoing in assisting 2004 Nader campaign
David Shucosky on September 23, 2005 10:47 AM ET

[JURIST] The Federal Election Commission [official website] on Thursday dismissed complaints [official press release] that Republican and conservative groups acted improperly to get third-party candidate Ralph Nader [JURIST news archive] on the ballot during the 2004 presidential campaign. Nader said the complaints were "frivolous". The FEC said they had no reason to believe that any of the groups broke the law. Earlier this year, the FEC dismissed a complaint that Democrats [JURIST report] were working illegally to keep Nader off the ballot. AP has more.






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Khodorkovsky to appeal conviction to European rights court, lawyer told to leave Russia
David Shucosky on September 23, 2005 10:26 AM ET

[JURIST] Lawyers for jailed Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky [JURIST news archive; defense website] said Friday that they will appeal his conviction [JURIST report] on tax and fraud evasion charges to the European Court of Human Rights [official website]. A Moscow court Thursday denied Khodorkovsky's appeal [JURIST report] and an appeal to the Russian Supreme Court is also planned, but a ruling from the Russian court is not required before the European Court could act. AP has more. Also Friday, Khodorkovsky's lawyer said his visa had been revoked and he is being forced to leave the country. Robert Amsterdam, a Canadian lawyer who sharply criticized the Kremlin during the case, said government agents came to his hotel room on Thursday night and gave him 24 hours to leave the country. Amsterdam argued that the government engineered the case to punish Khodorkovsky for his political ambitions. In a related development, a spokesman for Russia's General Prosecutor's Office said Friday that the department will seek to strip most of Khodorkovsky's defense team of their licenses to practice law [RIA Novosti report], saying that the lawyers used methods "which were close to criminal." Reuters has more.





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HealthSouth whistle-blower sentenced to 27 months in prison, $1.5 million fine
David Shucosky on September 23, 2005 10:06 AM ET

[JURIST] Former HealthSouth [corporate website; JURIST news archive] finance chief Weston Smith was sentenced to 27 months in prison followed by one year of probation and ordered to forfeit $1.5 million in assets Thursday for his role in the company's accounting scandal [Wikipedia backgrounder]. In June, the company's former CEO Richard Scrushy [defense website] was acquitted of all charges [JURIST report] during his trial in connection with the scheme to overstate earnings. Smith's sentence is the harshest yet given to those convicted. Prosecutors sought a 5-year prison term, and said Smith deserved more if he hadn't come forward when he did. Defense attorneys countered that Smith was being made an example since Scrushy was acquitted, and that the scandal might never have been uncovered if Smith hadn't revealed it. Former HealthSouth investments vice president Will Hicks received two years probation in a separate proceeding on Thursday, the ninth executive to avoid prison in the case. Three others previously received prison terms of five months, three months, and one week. AP has more.






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Jailed Abu Ghraib abuse leader testifies in Lynndie England court-martial
Jeannie Shawl on September 23, 2005 9:49 AM ET

[JURIST] Army Spc. Charles Graner [Wikipedia profile; JURIST news archive] took the stand Thursday in court-martial proceedings against Pfc. Lynndie England [Wikipedia profile; JURIST news archive], who is facing conspiracy, maltreatment of subordinates and indecent acts charges stemming from the Abu Ghraib [JURIST news archive] prisoner abuse scandal. Graner, who was found guilty [JURIST report] and sentenced to 10 years [JURIST report] in January for leading the prisoner abuse, did not testify at his own trial and this was the first opportunity for military prosecutors to cross examine Graner about the abuse. Graner testified that he did not do anything wrong by putting a leash around the neck of a detainee or by forcing naked detainees to form a human pyramid. Graner also testified that he told England to pose in photographs taken inside the prison [JURIST report]. England's defense [AP report] is expected to emphasize that she did what she was told to by Graner, a higher ranking soldier. Reuters has more.






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Property rights bill top priority in US House committee
Jeannie Shawl on September 23, 2005 9:06 AM ET

[JURIST] Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH), chairman of the US House Subcommittee on the Constitution [official website], said Thursday that legislation restricting state and local government's ability to take private property for private development could be presented to the full House Judiciary Committee in the next few weeks and could be ready for a vote in the US House later this fall. The subcommittee held a hearing [committee materials] Thursday on potential congressional responses to the June US Supreme Court ruling in Kelo v. New London [opinion text; JURIST report], where the court held that local governments can take homes for private development. The committee is reviewing legislation [HR 3135 text, PDF] that would ban the use of federal funds for private development projects that rely on state and local government takings to acquire land and would also bar the federal government from using eminent domain to foster economic development. Similar legislation is also being considered [JURIST report] by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Reuters has more.






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House committee approves revisions to Endangered Species Act
Jeannie Shawl on September 23, 2005 8:36 AM ET

[JURIST] The US House Resources Committee [official website] Thursday approved [press release] the Threatened and Endangered Species Recovery Act [PDF text; committee backgrounder], legislation that would overhaul the Endangered Species Act [PDF text] by limiting the government's ability to protect plant and animal habitat while giving new development rights to property owners. The House Committee says that the new legislation is needed because "the Endangered Species Act (ESA) has failed to achieve its purpose of recovering endangered species to healthy and sustainable populations. In addition, the unintended consequences of this law have caused a tremendous amount of conflict with landowners and local communities alike." However, environmental protection group Oceana [advocacy website] has criticized the proposed legislation [press release], in particular provisions that would repeal parts of the ESA that ensure protection for endangered and threatened species. The bill now goes to the full House where a favorable vote is anticipated. However, it is unclear whether the legislation would be approved by the US Senate. AP has more.






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Shiite cleric endorses Iraq constitution, Sunni leaders call for rejection
Jeannie Shawl on September 23, 2005 8:13 AM ET

[JURIST] Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani [official website], Iraq's most powerful Shiite cleric, said Thursday that he endorsed the draft Iraqi constitution [English translation; JURIST news archive] and called for officials in the Shiite Muslim hierarchy to promote a "yes" vote in the upcoming national referendum. Al-Sistani's endorsement comes as Sunni Arab clerics and tribal leaders called for rejection of the charter [AP report]. Sunni leaders are holding three days of meetings designed to firm up their opposition to the draft [JURIST document], which largely centers on the role of federalism. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia's foreign minister warned that provisions in the proposed constitution that give more power to Iraqi regions show that Iraq is moving toward disintegration and cautioned that neighboring countries could be drawn into conflicts [USA Today report] between Shiites and Sunnis. Iraqis will vote on the draft constitution on October 15; under Iraq's Transitional Administrative Law [text], a majority must vote in favor of the charter, but if two-thirds of voters in any three of Iraq's provinces reject the draft, the constitution will be defeated. AP has more.






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States brief ~ FL Supreme Court rules gun makers' insurance will not cover lawsuits
Rachel Felton on September 22, 2005 6:30 PM ET

[JURIST] Leading Thursday's states brief, the Florida Supreme Court ruled [PDF text] today that gun makers, sued by cities and counties seeking to recover the costs of providing services for gun-related violence, are not covered by their commercial liability insurance policies. The court found the gun makers' insurance policies excluded property damage and injuries occurring away from the gun makers' premises and resulting from a product not in their physical control. Taurus International Holdings and Taurus International Manufacturing Inc. [corporate website] sought to have their insurers defend several suits filed against them by cities across the nation. AP has more.

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UPDATE ~ Russian court rejects Khodorkovsky appeal, cuts sentence
Jeannie Shawl on September 22, 2005 3:14 PM ET

[JURIST] A Moscow court Thursday rejected the appeal of jailed Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky [JURIST news archive; defense website] against his conviction [JURIST report] on fraud and tax evasion charges, but reduced his nine-year sentence [JURIST report] to eight years. The decision, which followed several postponements of the proceedings [JURIST report], came after just one day of arguments from the prosecution and defense. Khodorkovsky's lawyers have said that their client did not get a fair appeal and likened the proceedings to a Soviet-era hearing. This would appear to end Khodorkovsky's intended parliamentary run [JURIST report]. Russia's Central Election Commission [official website] has indicated that Khodorkovsky is only eligible to run while his case is under appeal or if his conviction is overturned. AP has more. MosNews has local coverage.






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London bombing suspect charged with attempted murder after extradition from Italy
Tom Henry on September 22, 2005 2:25 PM ET

[JURIST] Scotland Yard [official website] said Thursday that bombing suspect Hamdi Issac [Wikipedia profile], also known as Hussain Osman, has been charged with attempted murder over the failed 21 July London bomb attacks [JURIST report]. Issac was apprehended in Rome [JURIST report] days after the failed attacks on the London subway and his case is seen by many as a test case for the new European Arrest Warrant [EU backgrounder], which was implemented to speed up extradition in terror and other extraordinary cases. After being flown back to London Thursday, Issac will appear Friday before magistrates sitting at Belmarsh jail, where three other suspected bombers - Ibrahim Muktar Said, Yassin Hassan Omar, and Ramzi Mohamed - are currently being detained. BBC News has more.

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Indonesian militant sentenced to 10 years for Australian embassy attack
Tom Henry on September 22, 2005 1:50 PM ET

[JURIST] An Indonesian court on Thursday sentenced the last of six Muslim militants accused in the 2004 suicide bombing at the Australian Embassy in Jakarta [BBC report; Wikipedia backgrounder] to 10 years in prison for aiding those who carried out the attack. Syaiful Bahri was found guilty of violating anti-terrorism laws by "providing assistance" in the suicide bombing that killed 12 and left 100 people wounded in the crowded business district of Jakarta. Bahri's courtroom supporters shouted "God is great!" after the verdict was read. Last week Iwan Dharmawan, believed to be a mastermind of the plot, was sentenced to death [JURIST report] for his role in the bombing. The Jakarta Post has local coverage. AP has more.






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Small firms get second one-year reprieve on Sarbanes-Oxley rules
Tom Henry on September 22, 2005 1:22 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Securities and Exchange Commission [official website] voted 5-0 at a public meeting Wednesday to give small public companies an additional extra year to comply with requirements to file reports on the strength of their internal financial controls under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 [PDF text]. As with last year's extension for small businesses [JURIST report], the SEC decision was driven by complaints from smaller companies that they lack the resources to easily undergo the expensive reviews. SEC Chairman Christopher Cox [official biography], recently chosen by President Bush to lead the agency, stressed that the additional reprieve "in no way reflects any desire to back away" from the requirements of the Sarbanes-Oxley law. Thursday's Washington Post has more.






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New Jersey announces investigation into alleged voter fraud
Tom Henry on September 22, 2005 12:59 PM ET

[JURIST] The office of the New Jersey Attorney General [official website] has announced that the state will oversee a county-by-county probe into allegations of election irregularities [JURIST report] brought by Republicans. NJ Attorney General Peter Harvey [official profile] said the state would have some involvement in the investigation and report its findings but added that county officials would lead the probe because that is where official voter registration records are retained. According to Republican leaders, more than 6,500 voters cast ballots in New Jersey and another state in last November's election, nearly 5,000 ballots were cast by deceased voters, and thousands more cast votes in multiple counties. AP has more.






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BREAKING NEWS ~ Senate Judiciary Committee approves Roberts nomination
Holly Manges Jones on September 22, 2005 12:55 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Senate Judiciary Committee has approved the nomination of Judge John Roberts [JURIST news archive] as Chief Justice of the United States by a vote of 13-5 with all Republican members voting for and five Democrats voting against. Earlier this week, Roberts received an endorsement [JURIST report] from Sen. Arlen Specter, chair of the Judiciary Committee, and also received support [JURIST report] from Sen. Patrick Leahy, the ranking Democrat on the committee. Roberts' nomination will now go before the entire US Senate for a final confirmation vote.

8:45 PM ET - The five committee Democrats voting against the recommendation were Senators Joe Biden [committee statement], Richard Durbin, Dianne Feinstein [committee statement], Ted Kennedy [committee statement], and Charles Schumer [committee statement]. Kennedy said:

We examined the only written record before us and saw John Roberts, aggressive activist in the Reagan Administration, eager to narrow hard-won rights and liberties, especially voting rights, women's rights, civil rights, and disability rights. As Congressman John Lewis eloquently stated in our hearings, 25 years ago John Roberts was on the wrong side of the nation's struggle to achieve genuine equality of opportunity for all Americans. And, despite many invitations to do so, Roberts never distanced himself from the aggressively narrow views of that young lawyer in the Reagan Administration....

Based on the record available, there is insufficient evidence to conclude that Judge Roberts's view of the rule of law would include as paramount the protection of basic rights. The values and perspectives displayed over and over again in his record cast doubt on his view of voting rights, women's rights, civil rights, and disability rights.

In fact, for all the hoopla and razzle-dazzle in four days of hearings, there is precious little in the record to suggest that a Chief Justice John Roberts would espouse anything less that the narrow and cramped view that staff attorney John Roberts so strongly advocated in the 1980s.
Three Democrats supported Roberts' nomination: Russ Feingold [committee statement], Herb Kohl and, as indicated above, Patrick Leahy [committee statement]. The San Francisco Chronicle has more.





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Race of victim among factors in California death sentences, study shows
Holly Manges Jones on September 22, 2005 12:29 PM ET

[JURIST] More prisoners are on California's death row for murdering whites than for killing people of any other race, despite the fact that were more black and Hispanic murder victims during the same time period, according to a new study to be published in the Santa Clara Law Review [official website]. The study, which has not yet been released, focused on over 260 death sentences in California during the 1990s and determined that murder suspects who killed whites were three times more likely to be sentenced to death than those who killed blacks and nearly four times more likely to be on death row than those who killed Hispanics. The study also looked at whether a defendant's race had an impact on whether juries recommended a death sentence or prosecutors sought the death penalty, but concluded that race did not contribute significantly to these decisions. In McCleskey v. Kemp [opinion], the US Supreme Court ruled in 1987 that studies such as this one are not grounds to reverse death penalties, unless a defendant can prove there was racial bias against him individually. AP has more.






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ICTY to hold joint trial for nine suspects in Srebrenica massacre
Holly Manges Jones on September 22, 2005 11:15 AM ET

[JURIST] The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] said Thursday that it will combine the cases of nine Bosnian Serb military officers [ICTY press release; PDF decision] accused of participating in the Srebrenica massacre [Wikipedia backgrounder] that resulted in the murders of nearly 8,000 Muslim men and boys. The massacre, which the UN-backed war crimes tribunal has ruled a genocide, was committed ten years ago during the Bosnian war by Bosnian Serb officers under the rule of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic [Wikipedia profile; JURIST news archive], who is currently on trial at the ICTY for multiple charges, including the Srebrenica massacre. The charges against the nine accused men include genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. Eight of the nine men are currently in custody while the last has said he will surrender himself to the court. The joint trial, expected to begin in 2006, will be the largest tried before the ICTY to date. AFP has more.






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New charges filed in Afghan prisoner abuse investigation
Holly Manges Jones on September 22, 2005 10:28 AM ET

[JURIST] Two US Army soldiers have been charged with prisoner abuse in an ongoing investigation into the deaths of two Afghan prisoners while in US custody, which has already led to charges being filed against 14 soldiers, the military said Wednesday. Both Sgt. Alan J. Driver and Spc. Nathan Adam Jones have been charged with assault and maltreatment, while Jones also faces allegations that he made a falsified official statement. The two Afghan prisoners, known as Habibullah and Dilawar [Wikipedia profiles], were taken into US custody in December 2002 and died shortly after their arrests at the Bagram Airfield [Global Security profile] detention facility in Afghanistan. Of the 14 soldiers charged in the investigation into the abuse, three soldiers were charged last week, one has been convicted, four have pleaded guilty, two have been acquitted of charges, and another has announced his intention to enter a guilty plea. AP has more.

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Khodorkovsky appeal hearing delayed again
Holly Manges Jones on September 22, 2005 9:51 AM ET

[JURIST] A appeals hearing for Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky [JURIST news archive; defense website] was delayed again Thursday after his lawyer asked for more time to prepare, saying he had been unable to meet with Khodorkovsky in prison before Thursday's hearing. Hearings in Khodorkovsky's appeal of his conviction for fraud and tax evasion had previously been rescheduled [JURIST report] because his main lawyer Genrikh Padva was too sick to appear and three other lawyers on Khodorkovsky's defense team declined to defend him. Prosecutors have accused Khodorkovsky of intentionally delaying the appeals process in order to ensure his eligibility for a planned bid for parliament [JURIST report] in the upcoming December election. Khodorkovsky is only eligible to run while his case is under appeal or if his conviction is overturned. Meanwhile, his attorneys have said the court is trying to stop Khodorkovsky from registering for the election. BBC News has more. From Moscow, MosNews has local coverage.






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EU drops demand to refer Iran to UN Security Council over nuclear program
Holly Manges Jones on September 22, 2005 9:19 AM ET

[JURIST] France, Germany and Great Britain, the EU's three major powers, have decided to drop their support for a US-backed draft resolution calling on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) [official website] to report Iran's nuclear program to the UN Security Council [official website], according to statements from diplomats Thursday. The countries opted to discontinue their support after resistance from almost a dozen of the 35 IAEA members, including Russia and China. Eliminating the demand from the draft resolution being considered by the IAEA board should result in a unanimous vote on the resolution. The revised document will declare Iran in "non-compliance" with the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) [PDF text; JURIST news archive], but will allow the IAEA to refrain from its normal procedure of reporting such non-compliance to the Security Council. Iran has continued to insist that its nuclear program is peaceful and says it has no plans to leave the nuclear treaty [JURIST report]. Reuters has more.






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Nepal government sets timetable for democratic elections
Chris Buell on September 22, 2005 8:51 AM ET

[JURIST] After months of absolute rule by King Gyanendra [official profile; BBC News profile], Nepal [JURIST news archive] will move forward with local elections by April 2006 and national elections within two years, Nepalese Foreign Minister Ramesh Nath Pandey told the UN General Assembly [official website] on Wednesday. The announcement was the first clear signal by Nepal's government as to when it plans to hold elections that it has promised for months in the face of continuing pro-democracy protests [JURIST report]. In his address, Pandey said, "the King's commitment to multiparty democracy is unflinching and total." The elections announcement comes shortly after Maoist rebels announced a unilateral cease-fire that suggested peace talks could follow. Years of conflict involving the rebels led Gyanendra to sack the elected government and seize power in February [JURIST report]. A UN human rights investigator recently condemned the human rights record [JURIST report] of Nepal, citing rampant violations by both the government and rebel forces. The UN has Pandey's complete statement [PDF text] before the General Assembly. AP has more.






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Judge denies arrest warrant for former Mexican president
Chris Buell on September 22, 2005 8:06 AM ET

[JURIST] A Mexican judge on Wednesday refused to issue an arrest warrant for former President Luis Echeverria [Wikipedia profile] and seven other officials for a 1968 massacre of student protesters, ending a second attempt by prosecutors [JURIST report] to bring the former leaders to trial. Judge Ranulfo Castillo held that the statute of limitations for genocide had run with respect to most of the officials and that the 1968 killings did not qualify as genocide. Prosecutors had filed charges against Echeverria and the others earlier this week for the 1968 incident, in which dozens of protesters were killed by police and military officers. Special prosecutor Ignacio Carillo had also charged Echeverria with illegally detaining a student activist while he served as interior minister in 1968. Prosecutors previously tried to charge Echeverria [JURIST report] for another student massacre in 1971, but the Mexican Supreme Court dismissed the charges [JURIST report]. La Cronica de Hoy has local coverage [in Spanish]. AP has more.






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Iraqi constitution could allow religious discrimination, Christian leaders warn
Chris Buell on September 22, 2005 7:50 AM ET

[JURIST] Christian leaders in Iraq have warned officials that the draft constitution [English translation; JURIST news archive] "opens the door widely" to discrimination of religious minorities in the country. Patriarch Emmanuel III Delly of the Chaldeans [Wikipedia backgrounder] met with the Iraqi president and prime minister earlier this week and said that certain parts of the draft constitution were contradictory. In particular, Delly pointed to Articles 2.1(b) and 2.2 of the text, which promise religious rights and freedom, compared to Article 2.1(a), which forbids laws that are inconsistent with the rules of Islam. Christian leaders have warned that the latter provision could allow the passage of discriminatory laws and urged an amendment to the draft. Minorities have previously expressed concern [JURIST report] with the draft. A referendum on the constitution is planned for Oct. 15. Zenit.org has more.

In a related story, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari [Wikipedia profile] told the UN Security Council on Wednesday that the government expected insurgents to attempt to disrupt the Oct. 15 referendum and that the coming months could be determinative for the country's democratic future. He urged the UN to take a larger role in the constitutional referendum and December elections, through increased funding and security efforts. Echoing UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's calls for a more transparent constitutional process [JURIST report], UN Special Envoy to Iraq Ashraf Qazi told the Council that restoring an inclusive, participatory political process remains a challenge. Qazi also said the UN is encouraging the Iraqi government "to step up its efforts to promote and protect human rights." The UN has a news release on the meeting. AP has more.






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Katrina leaves New Orleans justice system shaken
Chris Buell on September 22, 2005 7:31 AM ET

[JURIST] In the wake of Hurricane Katrina [JURIST news archive], local law enforcement and federal agents have expressed increasing concern over the damage the storm wreaked on the New Orleans justice system and how quickly it can recover. Among the larger problems faced by the city is the possible loss of evidence in some 3,000 criminal cases that were pending in the court system [Orleans Parish Criminal Court website] due to the toxic floodwaters in the city. Many of the witnesses and victims in those cases have fled the region for other areas of the country with no way to track them. The 1,700-strong New Orleans Police Department [official website] has struggled to regain footing, after one third of its officers went missing or left the area during the storm and much of its equipment was destroyed or damaged in the rising waters. Prisons in the city have been similarly affected, with prisoners having to be transferred to state and local jails in other areas. Some local and federal officials said it might take years for the city to be able to maintain order on its own again. USA Today has more.

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Lawyers request federal judge to oversee Gitmo hunger strike
Chris Buell on September 22, 2005 7:08 AM ET

[JURIST] Expressing concern over the condition of Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainees participating in a hunger strike, attorneys for some of the detainees have told District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly that the detainees are in worse condition than the military has admitted and asked the judge to oversee the military's management [New York Times report] of the hunger strike. Attorneys Tom Wilner and Kristine Huskey said Wednesday that they had visited five of their clients who were participating in the hunger strike [JURIST report], and that at least two of them were being force fed. The detainees, many of whom were arrested by US forces in 2002 in Afghanistan, are protesting their continued imprisonment without charge or trial, and the five visited by Wilner and Huskey said they would starve themselves to death unless they were released or charged. The military has reported that the number participating in the strike has dropped to 36 from a high of 131, and that all of them were in stable condition. Attorneys said, however, that two detainees who were being force fed, Fawzi al Odah [Project Kuwaiti Freedom profile] and Abdullah al Kandari [Cageprisoners profile], could barely sit up or talk. AP has more.

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Annan urges nuclear test ban treaty ratification at UN conference
Chris Buell on September 21, 2005 8:36 PM ET

[JURIST] UN Secretary General Kofi Annan [official profile] on Wednesday called on nations to quickly sign and ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty [PDF text] as he opened the fourth conference [CTBTO backgrounder] on bringing the treaty into force. Annan said countries' inability to agree on the issue was a "significant failure" that the world should be "gravely concerned about." A week after a major UN summit failed to address [JURIST report] nuclear non-proliferation, Annan and representatives of Canada, Australia, Kazakhstan and the UK urged ratification of the treaty to prevent future testing of nuclear weapons. Among the issues expected to be discussed at the conference which continues through Friday is the creation of a verification system that could also be used for early detection of tsunamis. The comprehensive test-ban treaty, originally signed in 1996, has collected 176 signatures, but has been ratified by only 33 of the 44 nuclear powers necessary for it to take effect. The US has signed but not yet ratified the treaty [JURIST report]; other key countries such as Pakistan, India and North Korea have not even signed it. Read Annan's complete conference statement [PDF text]. AFP has more.






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Grand jury slams Philadelphia archdiocese for clergy abuse, but lays no charges
Chris Buell on September 21, 2005 8:07 PM ET

[JURIST] A grand jury in Philadelphia on Wednesday issued a 418-page report severely criticizing the Archdiocese of Philadelphia [diocesan website] for alleged cover-ups of widespread clergy abuses [JURIST news archive] in the Archdiocese over the course of decades, but handed down no charges due to statute of limitations applying in most cases. The grand jury, convened in 2003, concluded that at least 63 priests, and possibly others, sexually abused hundreds of minors over the course of several decades. Jurors also found that abuse was known about and covered up by two previous archbishops, Cardinal John Krol [Wikipedia profile] and Cardinal Anthony J. Bevilacqua [Wikipedia profile], who transferred priests among parishes and ignored complaints to preserve the reputation and financial interests of the Archdiocese. The Archdiocese issued an equally stinging 70-page response [text] to the grand jury's findings, calling them "vile, mean-spirited diatribe." The response condemned abuses by priests, but it discounted allegations against Krol and Bevilacqua as unfounded. The Philadelphia District Attorney's Office has the complete grand jury report. The Philadelphia Inquirer has more [registration required].






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House OKs tax relief bill for Katrina victims
Chris Buell on September 21, 2005 7:59 PM ET

[JURIST] The US House of Representatives [official website] on Wednesday unanimously approved H.R. 3768 [bill summary], providing $6 billion in temporary tax relief aimed at helping people and organizations hit by Hurricane Katrina [JURIST news archive]. In particular, the legislation offers $500 tax credits for those providing temporary housing for Katrina victims and raises caps on charitable donations made to charities helping those affected by the hurricane. The bill also allows temporary withdrawals from retirement plans, ensures that tax credits for child care and debt are based on 2004 income and offers businesses tax credits for hiring victims of the hurricane. The legislation focuses on short-term relief for those affected by the disaster, with Congress expected to work on longer-term relief efforts over the coming months. The tax bill is expected to receive quick approval from the US Senate and President Bush. A major issue of contention in Congress remains how the government should finance the recovery for the Gulf region that is expected to cost in the billions. Democrats and Republicans have jousted over whether to cut existing programs, increase the deficit or raise taxes to cover the costs. Reuters has more.






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UPDATE ~ Specter says Pentagon obstructing "Able Danger" inquiry
Chris Buell on September 21, 2005 7:55 PM ET

[JURIST] US Senate Judiciary Chairman Sen. Arlen Specter [official website] said Wednesday that the US Defense Department was blocking an investigation by the Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] into a highly-classified Army intelligence program that allegedly identified four of the September 11 hijackers a year prior to the attacks. The Pentagon Tuesday ordered officers and analysts involved with "Able Danger" [Wikipedia backgrounder; JURIST report] not to testify [JURIST report] at a public hearing held by the Judiciary Committee Wednesday. An attorney representing two of those barred from testifying by the Pentagon testified before the Committee [testimony transcript] in their place. Specter said the Pentagon's actions appeared to be obstruction, citing the Department's failure to deliver documents on Able Danger until the night before the hearing. The Committee has full transcripts of all the witnesses' testimony.

Investigations into the clandestine intelligence program that used high-power computers to scan public records to find intelligence information are also being conducted by the House Armed Services Committee and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, a Defense Intelligence Agency liaison to the program, has claimed that it identified Sept. 11 ringleader Mohamed Atta [Wikipedia profile] and three other hijackers as potential members of al Qaeda, but that intelligence agencies failed to act on the information. The September 11 Commission [official website] has said, however, that it did not find any evidence to verify the claims. US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has insisted that the Able Danger program is classified and information about it cannot be publicly disclosed. Reuters has more.






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Italy to extradite suspect in failed London bomb attacks
Chris Buell on September 21, 2005 4:36 PM ET

[JURIST] Hamdi Issac, one of four suspects in a spate of failed bomb attacks [JURIST report] in London on July 21, will be extradited Thursday to the UK, Italian sources reported Wednesday. The Italian high court had previously upheld a ruling [JURIST report] that Issac had to be extradited to British authorities within 35 days under a new EU arrest warrant [EU backgrounder]. Issac faces several terrorism charges in Italy under the country's new anti-terror laws. He was arrested [JURIST report] at his brother's apartment in Rome a week after managing to leave the UK on a train to Paris. Three other suspects in the attacks are currently being held by UK authorities. AKI has more.

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England court-martial begins; judge to allow implicating statement
Chris Buell on September 21, 2005 4:14 PM ET

[JURIST] Court-martial proceedings against Pfc. Lynndie England [Wikipedia profile; JURIST news archive], 22, one of the highest-profile but lowest-ranking suspects in the Abu Ghraib [JURIST news archive] prison abuse scandal, began Wednesday in Fort Hood, Texas, with jury selection and opening statements. England faces seven counts of abuse and conspiracy in connection with actions depicted in widely published photos [JURIST report]. Unlike other defendants in the scandal, she has opted for a jury made up entirely of officers. Her defense, however, has already been complicated by a ruling by presiding Judge Col. James Pohl late Tuesday that prosecutors can use a statement that she made to investigators that implicates her in the abuses. Pohl had previously indicated that the statement and another similar one would not be admissible [JURIST report] because England allegedly did not understand the consequences of her actions. The first witnesses in the case are expected to begin testifying Thursday. AP has more.






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Governors call for federal gas price gouging probe
Chris Buell on September 21, 2005 3:45 PM ET

[JURIST] Eight Democratic governors have called on President Bush and Congress to investigate reports of gas price gouging following Hurricane Katrina [JURIST news archive]. Citing a study [PDF text] by a University of Wisconsin economist that concluded rising gas prices were not solely attributable to Katrina, the governors said in a letter [PDF text] dated Tuesday that an investigation was needed into possible profiteering by some oil companies. Economist Don Nichols [official profile] concluded in the study that crude oil prices had been relatively steady following Katrina, which differs markedly from soaring prices at the pump. Governors from Wisconsin, Oregon, Michigan, Illinois, New Mexico, Iowa, Montana and Washington signed the letter. A spokesperson for the president said he has asked Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to handle allegations of profiteering, and the Senate passed legislation last week that requires the Federal Trade Commission [official website] to investigate possible price gouging. WI Gov. Jim Doyle [official website] has a news release on the governors' request. CBS News has more.






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Italian refugee camp violates human rights, European lawmakers say
Chris Buell on September 21, 2005 3:14 PM ET

[JURIST] A group of European legislators have accused Italy of violating international human rights laws in its treatment of refugees after visiting a camp for asylum seekers on the island of Lampedusa [Wikipedia backgrounder]. The 12 socialist MEPs said conditions at the camp, located off the coast of Sicily, did not meet the standards set down in the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees [text], as the facility lacked fresh water, proper hygiene, and access to legal and medical aid. The MEPs noted suspicions that Italian authorities had removed many of the refugees prior to their visit, as the camp was empty despite chronic complaints about overcrowding. One of the legislators, French MEP Martine Roure [official website, in French] said she believed the Italian government had improperly deported the refugees to Libya under a controversial agreement between the two countries. The group said they planned to gather evidence of violations at the camp for a future legal challenge. The UN High Commission for Refugees [official website] has previously condemned the deportation of refugees from Lampedusa, claiming that Italy had not afforded them sufficient legal process to determine their status. Italian MEP Stefano Zappala [official website, in Italian] warned that observers should not be quick to judge the situation and that the national context of Italy should be taken into account. The EU Observer has more.

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European Commission chief expects no EU constitution for at least two years
Krista-Ann Staley on September 21, 2005 2:37 PM ET

[JURIST] European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso [official profile] told reporters in Brussels Wednesday that he does not expect a European constitution [JURIST news archive] for another two to three years. While referendum failures in France [JURIST report] and the Netherlands [JURIST report] led to a June EU "crisis summit" [press release regarding agenda] and a "period of reflection", Barroso said "There hasn't been much reflection so far." He added, however, "That . . . should not be a source of paralysis for Europe" and vowed to push ahead with economic reforms, security improvements, and environmental protection. EU leaders are scheduled to meet in Britain next month to discuss developments and new initiatives with respect to the EU constitution. BBC News has more; Reuters offers additional coverage.






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BREAKING NEWS ~ Federal judge approves WorldCom settlements
Jeannie Shawl on September 21, 2005 1:39 PM ET

[JURIST] AP is reporting that a federal judge has approved settlements worth over $6 billion in civil litigation related to the WorldCom accounting fraud [JURIST news archive].

1:49 PM ET - Under the deals approved by District Judge Denise Cote, several corporate defendants involved in the fraud, including Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase, and former WorldCom directors will be required to pay back over $6.1 billion to approximately 830,000 investors who lost money when the telecommunications company collapsed in 2002. AP has more.






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Harvard Law waives nondiscrimination pledge for military recruiters
Krista-Ann Staley on September 21, 2005 1:36 PM ET

[JURIST] Harvard Law School [official website] will open its career services office to military recruiters beginning this fall, despite the Pentagon's refusal to sign the school's nondiscrimination pledge, Dean Elena Kagan [official profile] said Tuesday in a letter [text] to the law school community. According to Kagan, the Pentagon notified the University it would withhold federal grants, from which Harvard receives more than $400 million per year, under the Solomon Amendment [text] if the school continued to bar the Pentagon from the office. The military has traditionally not been allowed to recruit within the law school because the military's "don't ask don't tell" policy [text] violates the school's nondiscrimination policy, but the Solomon Amendment allows the US Defense Secretary to block federal grants to "institutions of higher learning that prevent ROTC access or military recruiting on campus." The Pentagon announced last week [Federal Register notice] that New York Law School [official website] is also ineligible for federal funds because of the institution's prohibition on military recruitment on campus and a Pentagon spokeswoman has also named Vermont Law School [official website] and William Mitchell College of Law [official website] as being in violation of the amendment and potentially facing loss of federal funding.

The US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit suspended enforcement [opinion PDF] of the Solomon Amendment last year in a case brought by a group of law students and professors against Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, stating it "requires law schools to express a message that is incompatible with their educational objective," thus violating the school's rights to free speech. The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case [Duke Law backgrounder] in May and oral arguments are scheduled for December. A group of over 40 Harvard faculty members announced Wednesday that they have filed an amicus brief [PDF text] in the case. The Harvard Crimson has more. Inside Higher Ed has additional coverage.






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Congress considering revisions to Endangered Species Act
Jamie Sterling on September 21, 2005 12:30 PM ET

[JURIST] The US House Resources Committee [official website] is considering Wednesday possible changes to the Endangered Species Act [text, PDF], which has been in effect for 32 years. Rep. Richard Pombo [official website] has introduced [press release] the bipartisan Threatened and Endangered Species Recovery Act of 2005 (TESRA) [PDF summary], and the House committee is expected to vote on the bill Thursday. The act would not require the government to set aside critical habitat for threatened plants and animals, which makes many environmentalists worry about taking away a key to many species' survival. Pombo has said the bill compensates for the elimination of critical habitat by strengthening the focus on species recovery. AP has more.






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Ukraine ex-president, current parliament speaker implicated in journalist murder
Jamie Sterling on September 21, 2005 12:00 PM ET

[JURIST] A commission investigating the murder of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze [Wikipedia profile] five years ago reported their findings Wednesday, concluding that the slaying was instigated by former Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma [Wikipedia profile] and the current speaker of the Ukrainian Parliament [official website] . Gongadze, an Internet journalist who reported high-level corruption, was kidnapped and killed in 2000. The commission said that the voices of Kuchma, Parliament speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn, and other officials are heard on recordings where they are allegedly conspiring against Gongadze. The inquiry also accused former President Leonid Kuchma of ordering the kidnapping and murder. In an address to parliament Tuesday, the head of the investigatory commission called for Lytvyn's resignation and asked for a no-confidence vote for Prosecutor General Svyatoslav Piskun. AP has more. Reporters Without Borders has a press release.






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Specter asks Bush to delay second Supreme Court nomination
Jamie Sterling on September 21, 2005 11:50 AM ET

[JURIST] US Sen. Arlen Specter [official website], chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee [official website], asked President Bush Wednesday to delay nominating a replacement for retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor [Oyez profile]. Specter's announcement came after leading senators met with President Bush to suggest possible nominations [AP report]. Specter said he spoke with O'Connor, who is willing to remain on the court through the upcoming term ending in June. Specter believes the delay would give the county time to adjust to John Roberts [JURIST news archive] as Chief Justice. The Judiciary Committee will vote on Roberts' nomination on Thursday, with a full Senate vote following next week. Many names have been mentioned as O'Connor's replacement, and there is pressure on Bush to nominate a woman or a minority. Bloomberg has more.






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Lawyers for Gitmo detainees on hunger strike request medical records
Jamie Sterling on September 21, 2005 11:40 AM ET

[JURIST] Attorneys for some Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainees asked for access to their clients' medical records Wednesday as they worried that the detainees' eight-week-long hunger strike [JURIST report] may be severely harming their clients' health. Lawyers for a group of 17 Yemeni detainees complained that their clients looked ill and many of their conditions were deteriorating. The detainees are participating in their second hunger strike to protest beatings and their indefinite imprisonments. A lawyer for 11 detainees believes that 90 percent of prisoners are participating in the strike [JURIST report] in some fashion. The military had previously stated that 128 detainees were participating, but yesterday, they reported that only 45 detainees have refused food or water for at least three consecutive days. The Washington Post has more.






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Accused 'chief' confesses to leading Uzbekistan uprising
Alexandria Samuel on September 21, 2005 11:27 AM ET

[JURIST] In trial proceedings in Uzbekistan, Muidin Sobirov confessed Wednesday to his role as a key planner of the bloody demonstrations in the Uzbekistan city of Andijan in May [JURIST news archive]. Sobirov is among the 15 men charged [JURIST report] with being Muslim extremists and trying to overthrow the Uzbek government. The 15 defendants have pleaded guilty to all charges against them. Speaking from within a metal cage Wednesday, Sobirov confessed to his involvement with the Andijan religious group known as the Akramists, and the group's plans to overthrow the government and start an Islamic state. Prosecutors in the case also argued on the opening day of the trial that Western aid groups and media helped in the effort to overthrow the government [Guardian report], by "blacken[ing] the actions of the Uzbek government and help[ing] destabilise society." Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] released a report [text; press release] Tuesday alleging that the Uzbekistan government went to extremes to cover-up the killing of 187 demonstrators during the uprising; including torturing people to confess religious extremist involvement, and state that government force against protestors was warranted because the demonstration turned violent. The group has also called on the European Union and the United States to impose an arms embargo on Uzbekistan as well as a visa ban on senior Uzbek government officials. BBC News has more. The Uzbekistan National News Agency has local coverage.






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BREAKING NEWS ~ Leahy to vote to confirm Roberts as Chief Justice
Jeannie Shawl on September 21, 2005 11:19 AM ET

[JURIST] Sen. Patrick Leahy [official website], ranking Democrat on the US Senate Judiciary Committee, said Wednesday that he will support the confirmation [Leahy statement] of John Roberts [JURIST news archive] as Chief Justice of the United States.

11:34 AM ET - In his statement to the Senate [text], Leahy expressed disappointment with the administration for failing to properly consult the Senate on Roberts' nomination or release all of the necessary documents for Senate consideration. Still, he announced that as with all judicial nominations, he has carefully weighed Roberts' nomination and concluded that:

Judge Roberts is a man of integrity. I can only take him at his word that he does not have an ideological agenda. For me, a vote to confirm requires faith that the words he spoke to us have meaning. I can only take him at his word that he will steer the court to serve as an appropriate check on potential abuses of presidential power.

I respect those who have come to different conclusions, and I readily acknowledge the unknowable at this moment, that perhaps they are right and I am wrong. Only time will tell.

All of us will vote this month but only later will we know if Judge Roberts proves to be the kind of Chief Justice he says he would be, if he truly will be "his own man." I hope and trust that he will be.
AP has more.





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Environmental brief ~ European Commission proposes air quality regulations
Tom Henry on September 21, 2005 11:05 AM ET

[JURIST] In Wednesday's environmental law news, the European Commission [official website] will introduce [press release] a package of measures aimed at improving air quality. In July, the Commission shelved its initial air quality plans, which were criticized as being too costly. The plans [Clean Air for Europe website] have been amended, and are expected to be less expensive to implement. Reuters has more.

In other environmental law news...






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Federal appeals court reinstates gag order against librarians in Patriot Act case
Alexandria Samuel on September 21, 2005 10:49 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit [official website] has granted a stay of US District Court Judge Janet Hall's decision to lift the gag order [JURIST report] imposed on plaintiffs suing the government over an FBI order issued under the Patriot Act. The ruling, issued late Tuesday, will prevent the unidentified library plaintiffs represented by the ACLU [press release] from discussing its lawsuit initiated last year after it received a National Security Letter [form letter, PDF] ordering it to turn over patron information. The ACLU has argued that the gag order prevents its client from participating in the debate over the USA Patriot Act [PDF text; JURIST news archive]. Wednesday's New York Times has more.

Previously in JURIST's Paper Chase...






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Australia government welcomes resumption of trial for Gitmo detainee
Sara R. Parsowith on September 21, 2005 10:26 AM ET

[JURIST] The Australian government said Wednesday it was pleased with the US decision [JURIST report] to resume military commission proceedings against Australian Guantanamo detainee David Hicks [Wikipedia profile; advocacy website] in light of a US federal appeals court ruling in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld [PDF text]. In a radio interview, Australian Attorney General Philip Ruddock [official website] said it was appropriate that the trial should proceed [ABC recorded audio]. However, Tim Bugg of the Law Council of Australia [profession website] said Wednesday that it is concerned [press release] that the trial would be a "true travesty of justice" arguing that

Mr Hicks could be months away from being placed at the mercy of a system that has been described by many as unfair, rigged and flawed. The constantly changing military commission process has been heavily criticised by legal experts from both Australia and abroad. Even the United States' own military lawyers have been scathing in their opinion of the system's ability to deliver justice.
The council's comments echo concerns expressed by Maj. Michael Mori, Hicks' US military lawyer, who has worried that Hicks is being used as a "guinea pig" for the military commission process [ABC recorded audio] would not be given a full and fair trial. AP has more.





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Iraqi tribunal defendants refused right to defend themselves
Alexandria Samuel on September 21, 2005 10:04 AM ET

[JURIST] Iraqi ex-president Saddam Hussein [JURIST news archive] will not be allowed to represent himself at trial, according to new procedural rules adopted by the National Assembly [Wikipedia overview]. Under the new rules adopted late last month, the rights of all defendants appearing before the Iraqi Special Tribunal [official website] were altered, allowing defendants only to "procure legal counsel of [their choosing]." Under the previous rules in force while the nation was under allied forces control, defendants were allowed to act pro se. It is suspected that the change was prompted as a way to avoid political grandstanding and propaganda that has the potential to delay proceedings and incite further violence in the region. Wednesday's Los Angeles Times has more.

Previously in JURIST's Paper Chase...






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Congress urged to end government involvement in takings for private development
Sara R. Parsowith on September 21, 2005 9:55 AM ET

[JURIST] Susette Kelo, whose case led to the June US Supreme Court ruling in Kelo v. New London [opinion text; JURIST report; Institute for Justice backgrounder], where the court held local governments can take homes for private development, urged [prepared testimony] the Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] Tuesday to end government involvement in these seizures and protect people's homes. The panel is considering proposals [hearing materials] to bar federal money from construction projects that benefit from the Kelo ruling. Addressing the committee, Kelo urged:

I sincerely hope that Congress will do what judges and local legislators so far have refused to do for me and for thousands of people like me across the nation: protect our homes under a plain reading of the U.S. Constitution. Federal lawmakers should pass legislation that will withhold federal development funding for cities that abuse eminent domain for private development - such as the one that could take my home, which received $2 million in federal funds. What we have now at the local, state and federal level amounts to "government by the highest bidder," and that has got to stop.
Sen. John Cornyn, (R-TX) [official website] is pushing a bill that would ban the use of federal funds in any construction relying on Kelo. At the hearing, Cornyn testified [prepared statement] that "[t]he protection of homes, small businesses and other private property rights against government seizure and other unreasonable government interference is a fundamental principle and core commitment of our nation's founders" and asserted that "the power of eminent domain should not be used simply to further private economic development." At least 25 states are currently considering changes to eminent domain laws [JURIST news archive] to prevent the taking of land for private development. AP has more.





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European court rules EU can freeze terrorist assets
Sara R. Parsowith on September 21, 2005 9:35 AM ET

[JURIST] The European Court of First Instance [official website] Wednesday ruled that the European Union [official website] can freeze the assets of suspected terrorists under its treaty powers [PDF press release; judgment text]. The court dismissed complaints from alleged al Qaeda associates, Yassin Abdullah Kadi, Ahmed Ali Yusuf, and the Al Barakaat International Foundation, who had their bank accounts blocked by the EU. The court held that the bloc had the power to enforce the decisions of the UN Security Council [official website], which recommends whose assets should be frozen for alleged links to Osama bin Laden, the al Qaeda network and the Taliban. The court found the European Community competent to order the freezing of funds in connection with the fight against terrorism. Reuters has more.






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Iran says it won't leave nuclear non-proliferation treaty
Sara R. Parsowith on September 21, 2005 8:59 AM ET

[JURIST] Iranian Vice President Gholamreza Aghazadeh said Wednesday that Tehran does not plan to leave the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty [PDF text; JURIST news archive], despite threats from its nuclear negotiator [JURIST report] Tuesday. Iran [JURIST news archive], which has opposed the attempts of the US and Europe to refer Iran to the UN Security Council [official website] for alleged failures and breaches of the treaty, met with representatives from Russia, China and the Nonaligned Movement [Wikipedia backgrounder], on the sidelines of a meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency [official website] board in Vienna. Aghazadeh told reporters that leaving the non-proliferation treaty is not on Iran's agenda and said that Iran is looking to include other countries in its ongoing talks with European negotiators. AP has more.






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Gun control advocates working to stop Michigan deadly-force bill
Sara R. Parsowith on September 21, 2005 7:56 AM ET

[JURIST] The Michigan Partnership to Prevent Gun Violence [advocacy website] and other gun control advocates are gearing up to block a Michigan bill [PDF text] that would allow people to use deadly force for self-defense. Earlier this year, the groups were unable to block similar legislation in Florida [JURIST report; bill text]. The National Rifle Association [advocacy website] is working for the deadly-force legislation to become nationwide while the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence [advocacy website] and the Million Mom March [advocacy website] are publicly critical of the legislation and are trying to prevent the bills from leaving Michigan's House Judiciary Committee. Peter Hamm, director of communications for the Brady Campaign, said the group has been on the lookout for new legislation after the failure to block the Florida bill. The proposed Michigan bill, which mirrors Florida's measure, would enable people who feel threatened, even in public spaces, to meet force with force without liability or criminal culpability. The Brady Campaign worries that the bill will lead to increased use of concealed weapons by Michigan residents. Half of each chamber of the state legislature has recently been endorsed by the Michigan Coalition for Responsible Gun Owners [advocacy website], making it likely that the bill will be passed should it emerge from committee. However, Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm [official website] would still need to approve the legislation before it is enacted. AP has more.






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Pentagon blocks Able Danger testimony to Judiciary Committee
Sara R. Parsowith on September 21, 2005 7:18 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Defense Department [official website] said Tuesday that it has banned military officers and intelligence analysts from testifying on "Able Danger" [Wikipedia profile; JURIST report], the highly classified US Army intelligence program alleged to have identified Mohammed Atta [Wikipedia profile] and three other 9/11 hijackers as suspected al-Qaeda terrorists prior to the 9/11 attacks [JURIST news archive]. The personnel were scheduled to testify at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing [witness list] Wednesday. This news follows a report that an unnamed Pentagon employee had been ordered to destroy Able Danger documents [JURIST report] prior to the hearing. A Defense Department spokesperson said that it is not possible to discuss Able Danger in an open public forum. Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA) expressed surprise at the decision and said that the American people had a right to know about the program's findings, thought to have been ignored by the 9/11 Commission [official website]. The Defense Intelligence Agency's liason officer to Able Danger, Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, said that he was told that the hearing would be classified [NewsMax report]. The New York Times has more. A live webcast of the committee hearing is available beginning Wednesday at 9:30 AM ET.






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Trial of Australian Gitmo detainee to start in October
Sara R. Parsowith on September 20, 2005 8:23 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Defense Department [official website] Tuesday directed that suspended military commission proceedings against Australian Guantanamo detainee David Hicks [Wikipedia profile; advocacy website] be resumed following a July US appeals court ruling in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld [PDF] that military commission trials did not have to be predicated by a ruling on terror detainees' POW status by another "competent tribunal". Hicks has been accused of fighting with the Taliban against US forces in Afghanistan and is charged with conspiracy, attempted murder and aiding the enemy. His trial is set to be held no earlier than October 3 and no later than October 20, 2005. The news is not good for Hicks himself, whose lawyers had been hoping to avoid a trial [JURIST report], citing worries about the lack of time the defense team would have to prepare. AP has more.






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Writers group sues Google for copyright infringement
Sara R. Parsowith on September 20, 2005 8:16 PM ET

[JURIST] The Authors Guild [advocacy website], an advocacy organization for published writers, together with a former Poet Laureate, a Lincoln biographer and a children's book author, Tuesday sued search engine and advertising giant Google [press release; complaint, PDF] alleging "massive copyright infringement at the expense of the rights of individual writers." The class action suit filed in federal court in Manhattan alleges that Google [Google backgrounder] has engaged in unauthorized scanning and copying of books through its Google Print Library Project [Google backgrounder; advocacy copyright analysis, PDF]. The project, which involves the scanning and digitizing of library books, is a "plain and brazen violation of copyright law" according to Nick Taylor, the president of the Authors Guild, who added:

It's not up to Google or anyone other than the authors, the rightful owners of these copyrights, to decide whether and how their works will be copied.
Last month, CNET reported that Google said it would temporarily halt [CNET report] book scanning for the project after widespread criticism from publishers [CNET report].

Google is no stranger to lawsuits for copyright infringement. Earlier this year, Google News was sued by AFP for alleged intellectual property infringement [JURIST report]. AFP alleged that Google pulled and displayed photos, headlines and leads from the AFP subscription website.

The named plaintiffs who seek damages in addition to an injunction to stop the digitizing, are New York Times writer Herbert Mitgang, children's author Betty Miles and Daniel Hoffman, 1973-1974 US Poet Laureate [Encyclopædia Britannica backgrounder]. CNET has more.





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Saudi human rights group banned from visiting Gitmo prisoners
Sara R. Parsowith on September 20, 2005 8:05 PM ET

[JURIST] The Saudi National Organization for Human Rights, the only human rights watchdog in Saudi Arabia [JURIST news archive], said Tuesday it has been banned from visiting Saudi prisoners in the US terror detention camp at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive]. Dr. Bandar bin Mohammed, head of the group, said the US ambassador in Riyadh [official website] would not allow the group to travel to meet prisoners and inspect the conditions of their detention. The group had hoped to visit the detainees, investigate allegations of rights violations, including physical and psychological torture [Center for Constitutional Rights backgrounder] and ensure that the estimated 121 Saudi prisoners were afforded rights stipulated by treaty. UPI has more.






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Environmental brief ~ Judge rules EPA must review airborne lead standard
Tom Henry on September 20, 2005 5:18 PM ET

[JURIST] In Tuesday's environmental law news, Judge Richard Webber [official website] of the US District Court of Eastern Missouri has ruled that the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) [official website] has failed to review its health standard for lead pollution in the air, and has ordered the agency to do so. The national standard for airborne lead is to be reviewed every five years, but the EPA has not reviewed the lead standard since 1990. The St. Louis Post- Dispatch has more.

In other environmental law news...






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Judge seals photos in Lynndie England court-martial
Chris Buell on September 20, 2005 4:45 PM ET

[JURIST] The military judge in the court-martial of Pfc. Lynndie England [Wikipedia profile; JURIST news archive] for her role in the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq on Tuesday barred the release of photos in her upcoming trial [JURIST report], many of which were published when the scandal came to light in early 2004. Many of the photos depict England posing while taunting Iraqi prisoners. Some of the photos have still not been publicly released, including several sexually explicit ones, and the unreleased shots will only be shown to officers on the jury. Echoing comments he made in England's initial mistrial earlier this year, Judge Col. James Pohl also expressed some doubt in a final pre-trial hearing about England's central defense that she was complying with orders from superiors and was unable to make her own judgments. Although she originally pleaded guilty [JURIST report] to abuse charges, Pohl subsequently threw out that plea deal [JURIST report] after hearing evidence that England thought she was following orders at the time of the abuse. Jury selection in England's new trial is expected to begin Wednesday. Reuters has more.






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States brief ~ CT to recognize other states' civil unions
Rachel Felton on September 20, 2005 4:30 PM ET

[JURIST] Leading Tuesday's states brief, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal [official website] announced today that his state will recognize the civil unions and domestic partnerships of other states, although not same-sex marriages. In a legal opinion [text], Blumenthal stated, "Civil unions performed in other states are entitled to full faith and credit in Connecticut and cannot be repeated here." The state will not recognize same-sex marriage because state law defines marriage as between one man and one woman. Legislation allowing for civil unions in Connecticut [JURIST report] itself takes effect October 1. Gay rights activists said the ruling highlights that civil unions, currently available only in Vermont and Connecticut, need to be replaced with full marriage rights. Mary Bonauto, a lawyer for Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) [advocacy website] said that Massachusetts couples who work in neigboring Connecticut would need to get civil unions in order to get the same legal protections afforded to heterosexual couples. Bonauto also pointed out that a Massachusetts resident could be barred from hospital visiting rights if their same-sex partner had an accident in Connecticut, adding that couples might find it degrading to have to pretend that they are not married. AP has more.

In other state legal news ...






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Senate Democrats leader to oppose Roberts nomination
Chris Buell on September 20, 2005 4:23 PM ET

[JURIST] Senate Minority Leader Sen. Harry Reid [official website] said Tuesday that he would vote against the nomination of Judge John Roberts [Wikipedia profile; JURIST news archive] for Chief Justice of the United States because he had too many questions remaining about him. Reid's announcement while speaking on the Senate floor came as a surprise, as many expected him to support the nomination. Some speculated that Reid's declaration was a warning to President Bush to nominate a moderate to fill the second Court vacancy left by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor [Wikipedia profile], a perennial swing vote in the Court's decisions. Reid said Roberts had not been completely forthcoming in his answers during confirmation hearings and did not distance himself sufficiently from his writings as an attorney in the Reagan administration. Reid admitted, however, that his decision was a close one and said he would not favor the use of a filibuster to block Roberts' nomination. That statement, which follows Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter's Monday backing of Roberts [JURIST report] in another Senate floor statement, makes it increasingly likely that Roberts will be confirmed by the Senate. A committee vote is expected on Thursday. The New York Times has more.






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US says Pope immune from clergy abuse lawsuit
Chris Buell on September 20, 2005 4:02 PM ET

[JURIST] The US government has argued in a court filing that Pope Benedict XVI [official profile] has immunity as the head of the Vatican state [official website] and that a lawsuit against him should be dismissed. The lawsuit pending in the US District Court for the Southern District of Texas charges the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in his role as head of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith [official website; Wikipedia backgrounder] with covering up clergy sex abuse [JURIST news archive], including that of a seminarian at a Houston church in the mid-1990s. Similar lawsuits against high-ranking Catholic officials typically are unsuccessful because they are not served, but Pope Benedict XVI was in this case. Motions by the US government that such suits would interfere with the nation's foreign policy interests have typically resulted in their dismissal. US District Judge Lee Rosenthal did not immediately rule on the government motion. Meanwhile a Catholic website reported [CWNews.com report] Monday that Pope Benedict has recently approved an internal church policy barring the ordination of gay men [Newsday report] as priests, even if they are chaste. The instruction, which is to be made public in October, is said to be part of an effort to protect the church from future sex abuse scandals. AP has more.






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China warns of abuse of UN agreement on genocide intervention
Chris Buell on September 20, 2005 3:32 PM ET

[JURIST] China [JURIST news archive] has warned the UN against abusing a new international right to intervene to protect those threatened by genocide or war crimes agreed to last week [JURIST report] at a UN summit. Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing [official profile] in a speech [PDF text] before the UN General Assembly [official website] said that the right to intervene remains subject to UN Security Council authorization, warning that "We are against any willful intervention on the ground of rash conclusion that a nation is unable or unwilling to protect its own citizens." As a permanent member of the Security Council, China holds one of the vetoes and has been largely responsible for the slow progress in addressing war crimes in the Darfur [JURIST news archive] region of Sudan. As part of a group of principles agreed to at the summit, member states agreed to a "responsibility to protect" civilians where their government has failed to do so. The provision was approved to address the UN's past failures to intervene in Rwanda, Bosnia and Kosovo to halt ethnic cleansing. Li also said that China opposed revising the definition of self defense to clarify when pre-emptive action may be used against threats such as terrorism or nuclear proliferation. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan advocated such a revision at last week's reform summit [JURIST news archive], but the US blocked the effort. AP has more.






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Labor Department grants affirmative action exemption for Katrina contractors
Chris Buell on September 20, 2005 3:11 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Department of Labor [official website] has implemented an exemption to requirements that government contractors have a written affirmative action plan if the contractors are working with the government for the first time on reconstruction projects following Hurricane Katrina [JURIST news archive]. Although its unclear whether the temporary exemption will have much impact, the Department said it was aimed at minimizing government paperwork and encouraging more contractors to assist in the reconstruction effort. The announcement, released in a Labor Department memo [PDF text] dated Sept. 9, comes as President Bush has been hit with criticisms that the government's response to the disaster was unfair to minorities. Under the typical regulations, contractors with more than 50 employees and $50,000 in federal contracts must have an affirmative action plan aimed at women, minorities, Vietnam veterans and those with disabilities. The exemption will last for three months unless further extended. Earlier this month, President Bush announced a suspension of a prevailing wage law [JURIST report] for federal contractors to facilitate the relief effort. The Labor Department has more on recovery assistance following Hurricane Katrina. The New York Times has more.






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Iran threatens to quit nuclear treaty if referred to UN Security Council
Jeannie Shawl on September 20, 2005 2:41 PM ET

[JURIST] Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani [Wikipedia profile] said Tuesday that Iran would consider quitting the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) [PDF text; IAEA backgrounder] if the US or EU takes Iran before the UN Security Council over "breaches" of international atomic safeguards. The Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency [official website] is meeting in Vienna this week and one of the items on its agenda [IAEA statement] is Iran's implementation of the NPT safeguards agreement. The EU circulated a draft resolution [Reuters report] Tuesday that would report Iran to the Security Council for violating its obligations, but Iran said Tuesday that if negotiators deal with the county "in the language of humiliation, threat or introduce the so-called trigger mechanism or take it to the United Nations Security Council" this will prompt Tehran to withdraw from the NPT and resume uranium enrichment. AFP has more. IRNA has local coverage. The IAEA has background on Iran's nuclear activities.






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Federal lawsuit filed against Georgia voter photo ID law
Jeannie Shawl on September 20, 2005 1:52 PM ET

[JURIST] Several rights groups and two African-American registered Georgia voters have filed a lawsuit [PDF complaint; ACLU press release] challenging a Georgia law [PDF text; ACLU fact sheet, DOC] that requires voters to show government-issued photo identification at the polls. The plaintiffs - including Common Cause/Georgia, the League of Women Voters of Georgia, the NAACP, the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus - are seeking to have the law declared unconstitutional on the grounds that it "imposes an unauthorized, unnecessary and undue burden on the fundamental right to vote" in violation of the Georgia and US constitutions and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. According to plaintiffs' lawyers, the law discriminates against minorities, the elderly, poor and disabled and the $20 fee to obtain state identification is an unconstitutional poll tax. The US Department of Justice in August approved the Georgia law [JURIST report], as is required under the 1965 Voting Rights Act [DOJ backgrounder] for all changes in voting requirements in states with a history of suppressing minority votes. Though DOJ approval is meant to ensure that the changes do not have a discriminatory purpose or effect, it does not prevent a subsequent court challenge. Three other states also require voters to show photo identification, but Georgia is the only state to require that the ID be government-issued. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has more.

Previously in JURIST's Paper Chase...






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Khodorkovsky to face fellow prisoners in race for Russian parliament seat
Jeannie Shawl on September 20, 2005 1:31 PM ET

[JURIST] Six fellow inmates of jailed Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky [JURIST news archive] are planning on running against him for a seat in Russia's State Duma. Candidates began registering with the elections commission Monday as the race officially began, though neither Khodorkovsky nor any other inmates have yet filed their registrations in Moscow's Universitesky district. Khodorkovsky, who is serving a nine-year jail sentence [JURIST report] following his conviction [JURIST report] on tax evasion, fraud and embezzlement charges, announced his parliamentary bid [JURIST report] last month. Khodorkovsky is currently appealing his conviction and is only eligible to run while his case is under appeal or if his conviction is overturned. On Tuesday, the Moscow court considering his appeal agreed to another delay in proceedings [AP report] while Khodorkovsky's lawyer recovers from illness. Russian political analysts are calling the emergence of additional candidates from Khodorkovsky's prison a Kremlin ploy aimed at discrediting Khodorkovsky's campaign, while still ensuring high voter turnout. The Moscow Times has more.






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BREAKING NEWS ~ Ex-Hollinger president pleads guilty to fraud charges
Jeannie Shawl on September 20, 2005 11:24 AM ET

[JURIST] AP is reporting that former Hollinger International President and COO and former Chicago Sun-Times publisher David Radler has pleaded guilty to his role in diverting $32 million from Hollinger.

11:34 AM ET - Radler was indicted last month on federal mail and wire fraud charges [PDF indictment] and Tuesday's plea was widely expected [JURIST report]. Radler was charged with five counts of mail fraud and two counts of wire fraud; each count carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. Details of the plea agreement are not yet available, but it is expected that Radler will testify against former Hollinger CEO Conrad Black, who is facing the prospect of criminal charges [JURIST report] for looting the company. Canadian Press has more.

4:17 PM ET - Radler pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud and agreed to serve a 29-month jail term and pay a $250,000 fine, but will be sentenced after he cooperates with US prosecution of other cases relating to the alleged Hollinger fraud. Canadian Press has more.






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US file-sharing companies seek agreement with recording industry
Kate Heneroty on September 20, 2005 11:13 AM ET

[JURIST] Discussions are ongoing between at least five online music file-sharing companies and recording industry executives in an attempt to convert the networks, which allow users to freely swap music over the internet, to paid services. Several companies have initiated settlement discussions following the US Supreme Court's decision in June in MGM v. Grokster [opinion], which that held that owners of file-sharing services can be held liable for contributing to copyright infringement. Record industry executives say they are seeking settlements which require file sharing networks to transition to paid services which prohibit the trading of copyrighted files without the permission of the copyright owner. Grokster [corporate website; Wikipedia profile], which still faces a copyright infringement lawsuit after the Supreme Court's decision, has agreed in principle to be acquired by Sony-funded Mashboxx [website; formation press release], the Wall Street Journal reported Monday. The New York Times has more. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has in-depth coverage of the Grokster case.

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US mining company, executive facing Indonesian trial for water pollution
Kate Heneroty on September 20, 2005 10:50 AM ET

[JURIST] An Indonesian court Tuesday rejected a request to drop a pollution case against US gold mining company Newmont Mining [US corporate website; Indonesian website] and the company's local subsidiary president director Richard Ness. Ness, from Ada, MN, will stand trial on October 7 and faces up to 10 years in prison and a $68,000 fine if convicted of dumping mercury and arsenic containing pollutants into Buyat Bay on Sulawesi Island. Although the government claims the pollutants depleted fishing stocks and caused villagers to develop skin diseases and other illnesses, the World Health Organization [official website] and an initial Environment Ministry report found the bay to be unpolluted. The trial is of interest to potential foreign investors who have expressed anxiety regarding the nation's legal system [BBC report]. The company is also facing a $133.6 million civil suit on the claim. AP has more. Newmont has a press release on Tuesday's decision.






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UN prosecutor accuses Vatican of hiding Yugoslav war criminal
Kate Heneroty on September 20, 2005 10:22 AM ET

[JURIST] Carla del Ponte, the United Nations' chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia [official website; JURIST news archive], said Monday that the Roman Catholic Church [official website] and Vatican officials are concealing the location of the third most wanted war criminal from the Yugoslav conflict, General Ante Gotovina [ICTY case backgrounder; Wikipedia profile]. Gotovina is believed to be hiding in a Franciscan monastery in Croatia, but Vatican officials refuse to pinpoint which of the nation's 80 monasteries it is. Del Ponte said Vatican officials refuse to cooperate because they were not a state and had "no international obligations" to help the UN hunt war criminals. The Vatican has also refused to refute a statement by Bishop Mile Bogovic [profile] calling Gotovina a "symbol of victory" and declaring the tribunal a "political court" determined to distort Croatia's past. Gotovina, who is Croatian, is accused of overseeing the execution of at least 150 Serb civilians and the forced deportation of approximately 200,000 others. The Telegraph has more.

2:21 PM ET - A Vatican spokesman rejected Del Ponte's allegations [press release, in Italian] Tuesday, saying that the Vatican's foreign minister met with Del Ponte over the summer to discuss her claims that the Vatican is protecting Gotovina. The Vatican said it asked Del Ponte in July "to indicate with as much precision as possible the evidence on which she based her belief that General Gotovina had taken refuge in certain religious buildings in Croatia, in order to contact the relevant religious authorities," but Del Ponte did not respond to the request. AFP has more.






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Saddam lawyer decries lack of trial notice, cooperation
Kate Heneroty on September 20, 2005 9:54 AM ET

[JURIST] A lawyer for Saddam Hussein [JURIST news archive] said Tuesday that his defense team still has not been informed by Iraqi authorities of the trial date and charges pressed against the ousted Iraqi leader and reiterated doubts about the impartiality of the proceeding. Khalil Dulaimi said in a statement to AFP, "We have not been duly informed about any certain date for a trial... The defense has not been enabled to review any files of the charges or even any paper of investigation, despite the fact that we have made many and repeated requests to this effect." Dulaimi also said that the Iraqi Special Tribunal [official website] had denied requests to include Arab and Iraqi lawyers as part of Hussein's defense team [JURIST report] and that he had been "prevented from exchanging legal documents with his lawyer." Dulaimi refused to elaborate on his comment that the defense team "have not and will not recognize any date for the trial if it comes within weeks or months." Hussein is scheduled to face trial on October 19 [JURIST report] for the killing of 143 Shiites in Dujail. AFP has more.






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Military, detainee lawyers clash on number of Gitmo hunger strikers
Kate Heneroty on September 20, 2005 9:34 AM ET

[JURIST] A lawyer for 11 detainees held at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archives] says that 90 percent of the 505 prison camp detainees are participating in a hunger strike [JURIST report] in "varying degrees," while US military officials have said that only 91 detainees are participating. The military defines a hunger strike as missing 9 or more consecutive meals, while Kristine Huskey, a Washington lawyer says detainees who miss a meal or two in a day and refuse to take liquids should be considered on strike. Army public affairs office Major Jeffrey Weir said Sunday that despite some of the detainees' desire to commit "a slow form of suicide," "no one is anywhere near death." The detainees are participating in their second hunger strike since July to protest their indefinite imprisonments. Many of the detainees have been held for three and a half years and only 4 have been charged with war crimes. British-born attorney Clive Stafford Smith [BBC profile], who represents about 40 detainees, says "The military wants to downplay this...The truth is, these guys are going to die." USA Today has more.

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DOJ says US student planned Bush assassination plot
Sara R. Parsowith on September 20, 2005 8:54 AM ET

[JURIST] Ahmed Omar Abu Ali [Wikipedia profile], an American student who was detained in Saudi Arabia, claims to be the mastermind behind the plot to kill President Bush [JURIST report], according to court papers released Monday. The US Department of Justice, who charged Abu Ali for his role in the plot and for his link to al-Qaeda [PDF indictment; JURIST report], said Monday that Abu Ali was trained to carry out attacks in the US on behalf of al-Qaeda. Abu Ali's lawyers argue that statements made to Saudi interrogators were only made after he had been tortured. The DOJ maintains that claims of torture have been fabricated. District Court Judge Gerald Bruce Lee ruled Monday that the Justice Department will be allowed to offer testimony from two Saudi officials who were involved in Abu Ali's interrogation. The two will to testify via a live video feed from Saudi Arabia using pseudonyms, because Saudi Arabia will not permit them to travel to the US to participate in the proceedings. Abu Ali is in custody in Virginia and faces life imprisonment if convicted of conspiracy to assassinate the president and attack US airliners. Tuesday's New York Times has more.

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Ex-Bush administration official charged with obstructing Abramoff investigation
Kate Heneroty on September 20, 2005 8:53 AM ET

[JURIST] David Safavian [profile], a former Bush administration official who served as the chief of staff of the General Services Administration (GSA) [agency website] and until Friday served as the administration's top procurement official [White House press release, PDF] in the Office of Management and Budget [official website], was charged Monday with making false statements and obstructing a federal investigation. The charges stem from Safavian's concealment of a 2002 golf trip to Scotland, valued at $100,000, that he took with lobbyist Jack Abramoff [Wikipedia profile], who had business before the GSA. Prior to the trip, Safavian told a GSA ethics officer that Abramoff had no business dealings with the GSA, but Abramoff was trying to access 40 acres of land at the Federal Research Center at White Oak [facility backgrounder] in Silver Spring, Maryland to build a private high school. The FBI affidavit also says that Safavian edited a letter that Abramoff was preparing to send to the GSA, and coordinated and attended a meeting involving a GSA official, the lobbyist's wife and others to discuss leasing the Silver Spring property. In an unrelated case, Abramoff was indicted [JURIST report] by federal prosecutors in Miami last month on charges of wire fraud and conspiracy. AP has more.






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Nazi war criminals hunter Simon Wiesenthal dies at 96
Sara R. Parsowith on September 20, 2005 8:51 AM ET

[JURIST] Simon Wiesenthal, an Austrian Holocaust survivor who helped to track down over 1,000 Nazi war criminals after World War II, including Adolf Eichmann and the policeman who arrested Anne Frank, died in his sleep at age 96 Tuesday. Rabbi Marvin Hier, the founder and dean of the Los-Angeles based Simon Wiesenthal Center [center website] said Wiesenthal, a survivor of five Nazi death camps "became the permanent representative of the victims of the Holocaust, determined to bring the perpetrators of the greatest crime to justice." Wiesenthal lost 89 relatives in the Holocaust and spent over 50 years tracking down 1,100 Nazi war criminals and speaking out against anti-semitism, and has been quoted as saying, "[w]hen history looks back I want people to know the Nazis weren't able to kill millions of people and get away with it." A memorial service for Wiesenthal will be held in Vienna's central cemetery on Wednesday with funeral services in Israel. AP has more. The Simon Wiesenthal Center has a press release on Wiesenthal's death.






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Mexico prosecutor makes second bid to arrest ex-president for student massacre
Sara R. Parsowith on September 20, 2005 8:14 AM ET

[JURIST] Mexican prosecutor Ignacio Carrillo has made a second bid to arrest former Mexican president Luis Echeverria [Wikipedia profile] in connection with killings of student protesters, according to a statement made Monday by Echeverria's lawyer. Dozens of students and other civilians were killed on October 2, 1968 when police and military officials opened fire on them during a protest. Activists put the death toll at up to 350, while officials say the number was 25. Carrillo has already tried to have Echeverria arrested for a 1971 student massacre [JURIST report], but a court rejected his efforts in July, saying there was insufficient evidence. In a separate attempt to prosecute Echeverria, the Mexican Supreme Court dismissed genocide charges against Echeverria [JURIST report] early last year, ruling that international law against genocide does not take precedence over Mexico's national 30-year statute of limitations. At the time of the 1968 killings, Echeverria was the interior secretary for Mexico, but later served as president from 1970-1976. In addition to the investigation into the two student massacres, Carrillo is also investigating guerrillas who went missing during Mexico's dirty war in the 1970s and 1980s. AP has more.






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UK soldiers free detained comrades from Iraqi jail
Sara R. Parsowith on September 20, 2005 7:51 AM ET

[JURIST] British forces freed two British soldiers from an Iraqi jail Monday, though British and Iraqi officials are offering different accounts of what happened. The two freed British soldiers, thought to be undercover commandos, were arrested by the Iraqis earlier Monday [BBC report] for shooting two Iraqi policeman, one of whom died. Mohammed al-Walli, governor of Basra, said the men were removed through a barbaric raid on the jail that caused its destruction, and called Britain's actions irresponsible as they allowed 150 other Iraqi prisoners to flee. The UK Ministry of Defense [official website] has said the two men were released after negotiations between the UK and Iraq, and a British military official said the men were rescued because they ended up being held by Shia militia [MoD press release]. The arrests have sparked new debate over just how much sovereignty Iraq was granted after the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority [official website] handed over power to Iraq's interim government in 2004. Brigadier John Lorimer said that Iraqi law [CPA order 17, PDF] required that Iraq immediately hand over the detained soldiers to the Multinational Force [official website]. AP has more. BBC News provides additional coverage.






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Trial starts for 15 Uzbek men accused in Andijan uprising
Sara R. Parsowith on September 20, 2005 7:18 AM ET

[JURIST] The trial of 15 Uzbek men [JURIST report], accused of organizing the May 2005 Andijan uprising [HRW backgrounder] which led to government troops killing as many as 500 protestors [JURIST report] began Tuesday, but human rights groups are questioning the credibility of the proceedings. The 15 men sat in a metal cage in Uzbekistan's Supreme Court, as the charges, which include terrorism, hostage-taking, murder and attempted coup, were read to them. Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] has continuously accused the Uzbek government of a cover-up [JURIST report] and said the government was trying to deny responsibility and silence witnesses. There are more than 100 people facing trial with the risk of a death sentence, according to Amnesty International [advocacy website]. The May rebellion started when armed supporters of imprisoned religious extremists took them out of jail, took police hostages and then seized a government building, killing anti-government protesters. Human Rights Watch said that police and secret services obtained confessions from Andijan residents of belonging to militant organizations while bearing arms during the protest. This prompted the group to suggest that the US and European Union should impose an arms embargo in Uzbekistan as well as a visa ban on senior government officials. There has been resistance by the Uzbek government to a full international inquiry [JURIST report] for an investigation when earlier this year, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights called for an independent probe [press release; JURIST report] into the killings. Recently, the UN evacuated 11 Uzbek refugees to London [JURIST report]. Reuters has more.

11:55 AM ET - The fifteen defendants pleaded guilty Tuesday to all charges against them. BBC News has more.






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Iraq anti-Baathist commission wants former minister arrested for corruption
Sara R. Parsowith on September 19, 2005 8:54 PM ET

[JURIST] A Iraqi government committee Monday lodged an official request to strip former defense minister Hazem Shaalan [Wikipedia backgrounder] of immunity so that he can face charges of corruption and working for Saddam Hussein's intelligence service. The request was made by the Supreme National Commission for de-Baathification, set up to oust members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party [Wikipedia backgrounder] from power. Shaalan briefly held the Defense portfolio in January 2004 and is now said to be living in Jordan. Commission executive director Ali al-Lami said that if immunity is taken away, Shaalan will be issued an arrest warrant and handed over to Iraqi authorities. Also pressing the case against Shaalan is Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Chalabi, who has led recent anti-Baathification drives extending even into the ranks of the Iraqi Special Tribunal [JURIST report] set up to try Hussein and his lieutenants. AP has more.






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UK racial segregation worsening, says former equality commissioner
Sara R. Parsowith on September 19, 2005 8:15 PM ET

[JURIST] Lord Ousley, former head of Britain's Commission for Racial Equality [commission website] and author of a well-known 2001 report documenting race riots in Bradford [PDF], suggested Monday that racial segregation in the UK was a serious problem and could be getting worse [BBC Radio 4 recorded audio]. Ousley urged current CRE chairman Trevor Phillips [CRE profile] to help develop preventative measures. On Thursday, Phillips intends to tell the Manchester Council for Community Relations [official website] that US-style ghettos similar to those in New Orleans, brought to the forefront by Hurricane Katrina, could evolve in the UK. UK Minister for Constitutional Affairs Harriet Harman [official website] has agreed that some of Britain's black and poor communities resemble those in the US, highlighting how, just like in the US, many Londoners who are poor and black are not registering to vote. Phillips, who is on record as saying that the government has failed in its integration efforts, has already called for predominantey white schools to increase their intake of minority students. The Guardian has local coverage.






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Senate Judiciary Committee chair formally backs Roberts for Chief Justice
Sara R. Parsowith on September 19, 2005 7:52 PM ET

[JURIST] US Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) [official website], Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee [official website], told the Senate Monday that he will vote for Judge John Roberts [Wikipedia profile; JURIST news archive], nominated by President Bush as Chief Justice of the United States. Specter nonetheless acknowledged that Roberts had dodged some questions asked of him during the confirmation hearings and admitted, "Notwithstanding his answers and my efforts to glean some hint or realistic expectation from his words and body language, candidly it is not possible to predict or have a solid expectation of what Judge Roberts would do." If confirmed to succeed the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist [JURIST news archive], Roberts at the age of 50 will be the youngest Chief Justice named to the bench in two centuries. Even though Democrats have been frustrated with Roberts' refused to answer specific questions related to gender inequality, abortion [JURIST report] and other contentious issues, Specter said that he felt Judge Roberts "went about as far as he could" on those and properly stressed the importance of legal precedent. The Judiciary Committee will vote on its recommendation for the nomination Thursday, with the full Senate voting on whether or not to confirm Roberts during the week of September 26. Reuters has more.






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FEC sues GOP advocacy group for alleged campaign finance violations
Sara R. Parsowith on September 19, 2005 7:28 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Federal Election Commission [official website] Monday sued [complaint, PDF; FEC press release] pro-Republican political group Club for Growth [advocacy website] in US District Court in the District of Columbia to get the group to comply with campaign finance limits after it spent at least $21 million during the 2004 general election campaign. The suit is the first to arise from controversial fundraising carried out during the past election and alleges that the Club spent enough money in federal races dating back to 2000 to warrant it to file with the commission. The group's president, Pat Toomey [Club for Growth profile] said the Club had legal advice throughout the campaign and that it followed all appropriate campaign finance [JURIST news archive] laws. FEC Vice Chairman Michael Toner [official website] said the case will determine whether the Club can continue to spend millions in federal elections. The FEC was prompted to investigate Club for Growth's fundraising activities after a complaint from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee [political party website] about a Club ad opposing then-Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, (D-SD) [Wikipedia backgrounder]. AP has more.






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Lynndie England to fight Abu Ghraib abuse charges in new trial
Sara R. Parsowith on September 19, 2005 7:06 PM ET

[JURIST] Pfc. Lynndie England [Wikipedia profile; JURIST news archive] goes before a military court again in Fort Hood [official website] Texas Tuesday planning to fight seven charges of abusing prisoners at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison [JURIST news archive]. Her first trial last May ended prematurely after the presiding judge threw out her guilty plea [JURIST report], saying that statements by England about her understanding of the purpose of her activities with the Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib could not be reconciled with testimony from Army Spc. Charles Graner [Wikipedia profile; JURIST news archive]. The charges against England include conspiracy, maltreatment of prisoners, and indecent acts, and follow the 2004 disclosure of graphic photos of England taken inside the prison [JURIST report]. England's trial is the last of a group of soldiers charged with Abu Ghraib abuses. Two other soldiers have been convicted while six others have entered into plea agreements. England's lawyer said her case will focus on a history of mental health problems that can be traced from England's childhood and the force that Graner, convicted for his own role in the abuse scandal [JURIST report] had exerted over her. AP has more.






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Corporations and securities brief ~ GAO tells SEC to improve funds oversight
James Murdock on September 19, 2005 6:37 PM ET

[JURIST] Leading Monday's corporations and securities law news, the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) [official website] has released a report urging the Securities and Exchange Commission [official website] (SEC) to improve its oversight of the mutual funds industry. The report [abstract, text] found that though the SEC commits substantial resources to regulating mutual funds, it does not effectively monitor the individual funds. It specifically said that the SEC focuses too much on perceived "high-risk" funds, has not improved on coordinating its investigations since 1991, does not adequately record examinations, and does not perform uniform, written examinations. The report also warned that the SEC does not have enough examiners devoted to mutual funds and that those examiners are likely to be strained further by the growing hedge fund industry. The report was presented by congressmen Paul Kanjorski (D-Pa.) and Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who urged that the SEC adopt the reports recommendations. MarketWatch has more.

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States brief ~ RI Supreme Court finds Indian casino proposal unconstitutional
Rachel Felton on September 19, 2005 4:49 PM ET

[JURIST] Leading Monday's states brief, the Rhode Island Supreme Court issued an advisory opinion [PDF text] today saying that a proposal to build a gambling casino in West Warwick does not meet the state constitutional requirement that all lotteries be state run. Supporters of the casino, proposed by the Narragansett Indian tribe [tribe website] and the Las Vegas-based Harrah's Entertainment, said the proposal was constitutional [JURIST report] because it gave the state lottery division control over all operations at the casino, but the court found the proposal would not give the state control over key aspects of the casino's operations. This is the second proposal for the casino that has been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. AP has more.

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Canadian ad exec avoids jail time in sponsorship scandal
Alexandria Samuel on September 19, 2005 4:27 PM ET

[JURIST] A Canadian judge has ruled that advertising executive Paul Coffin will not serve jail time for his part in the federal sponsorship scandal [CBC backgrounder]. Coffin was given a conditional sentence of two years to be served in the community, and must obey a 9 PM curfew, the Canadian equivalent of provisional house arrest. In May, Coffin pleaded guilty to 15 counts of fraud [JURIST report], and admitted numerous improprieties, including sending millions worth of falsified advertising invoices to the Canadian federal government. CBC News has more.






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Former Afghan secret police chiefs go on trial in the Netherlands
Alexandria Samuel on September 19, 2005 4:00 PM ET

[JURIST] Dutch prosecutors Monday began to present their case against two former leaders of the Afghanistan secret police, charging Hesamuddin Hesam and Habibullah Jalalzoy [Afghan Justice Project backgrounder] with a litany of war crimes. Both men were officers in the Khad [Wikipedia backgrounder], a group established and monitored by the KGB when the nation was under the control of a Soviet-backed regime [Human Rights Watch backgrounder] in the 1980s, and have been living in the Netherlands for years on rejected asylum applications. Prosecutors contend that Jalalzoy and Hesam tortured political opponents during their tenure with the Khad; the case was brought under a Dutch universal jurisdiction [Wikipedia backgrounder] law that enables Dutch judges to try asylum seekers for war crimes and crimes and against humanity committed in their home countries. The trial is expected to end later this month. Reuters has more.






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UN group concerned about detention conditions in South Africa
Tom Henry on September 19, 2005 3:25 PM ET

[JURIST] The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention [official website] reported Monday that pre-trial detention conditions in South Africa "fall short of international guarantees." The report comes after a two-week trip [press release] in which group members interviewed detainees in several detention centers in the cities of Pretoria, Johannesburg, Polokwane, Musina, Bloemfontein and Cape Town. Among the group's concerns were evidence that despite overcrowding in pre-trial detention facilities, bail is usually either denied or so high that it is not an option. The working group also denounced the policy of forcing alleged juvenile offenders to await trial in the same cells as adults and often in maximum-security jails. The group did acknowledge that the government of South Africa had been cooperative, and commended work being done in the area of human rights. A final report with recommendations will be presented to the UN Commission on Human Rights [official website] next year. SAPA has more.






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European parliament to address constitution problems
Alexandria Samuel on September 19, 2005 3:14 PM ET

[JURIST] Members of the European Parliament [official website] are busy trying to correct the problems faced by the now rejected European constitution [text]. A core group of MEPs have been charged with preparing a proposal to address and recommend corrections to the obstacles that lead to the constitution's rejection [JURIST news archive], and suggest action in the meantime. Current plans include the presentation of a treaty early next year on issues that met little opposition, including institution structure and decision-making processes. EU leaders have agreed to a period of reflection to analyze what went wrong during the ratification process, and initiate change. The EUobserver has more.






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SEC chief Cox plans to strengthen oversight of hedge funds
Tom Henry on September 19, 2005 2:58 PM ET

[JURIST] The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that Christopher Cox [Wikipedia profile], chairman of the US Securities and Exchange Commission [official website], plans to put into operation a rule that would allow the government to take a stronger role as watchdog over the massive US hedge-fund industry. In his first major interview since being sworn in as chairman [JURIST report] last month, Cox said that a slew of new rules would not be forthcoming and also stated that the SEC would reassess some existing regulations. The former California congressman and ex-securities lawyer also said the group will also push for companies to do a better job disclosing executive compensation to investors and the public. Reuters has more.






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Former Rwanda government officials face genocide trial
Tom Henry on September 19, 2005 2:25 PM ET

[JURIST] Trials commenced Monday at the UN-backed International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda [official website; JURIST news archive] for four former Rwandan officials, including two government ministers suspected of taking part in the 1994 genocide [PBS report] that killed 800,000 people. Ex-interior minister Edouard Karemera, ex-industry and mines minister Joseph Nzirorera and ex-director general for foreign affairs Mathieu Ngirumpatse [ICTR case materials] were all accused of giving orders to the brutal Interahamwe militia [Wikipedia profile] that slaughtered thousands of Tutsis and moderate Hutus in the conflict. Jean Mpambara [ICTR case materials], former mayor of Rukara commune, was being tried separately. He is alleged to have offered refuge to thousands of fleeing Tutsis before ordering rebels to kill them. All four men have denied the accusations. Reuters has more.






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Charges filed in first federal case involving alleged Katrina aid scam
Tom Henry on September 19, 2005 2:04 PM ET

[JURIST] Authorities in Los Angeles said Monday that two people have been charged with fraud in the first federal case involving alleged fraudulent donation solicitations related to Hurricane Katrina [JURIST news archive] relief. Tino Lee, 44, of Burbank and Gina Liz Nicholas, 19, of Glendale California, were charged Friday with posing as American Red Cross volunteers [DOJ press release] and collecting more than $2,000 outside an electronics store in Burbank, according to a statement from the US Department of Justice. The case comes after US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales earlier this month outlined priorities for a new Hurricane Katrina Fraud Task Force [JURIST report; DOJ press release] set up in the Justice Department to deter, investigate and prosecute disaster-related federal crimes like charity and insurance fraud, identity theft, and government benefit fraud. AP has more.






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Khodorkovsky appeal hearing delayed due to defense dispute
Chris Buell on September 19, 2005 12:40 PM ET

[JURIST] A hearing in the appeal of imprisoned oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky [JURIST news archive; defense website] over his tax fraud conviction was delayed Monday due to confusion over who would lead his defense. The court hearing the appeal announced a postponement on Wednesday after Khodorkovsky's attorney, Genrikh Padva, failed to appear due to health reasons. Khodorkovsky has refused to allow three lawyers appointed by the court to represent him, citing their inadequate grasp of the case in the limited time they were given to prepare. Khodorkovsky also said a quarantine placed on him [Mosnews report] by prison authorities after a sick prisoner was put in his cell has prevented him from meeting with his attorneys. One of Khodorkovsky's attorneys said the court's handling of his appeal was aimed at stopping the former Yukos CEO's parliamentary bid that he announced last month. AP has more.

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BREAKING NEWS ~ Ex-Tyco executives get up to 25 years jail for grand larceny
Holly Manges Jones on September 19, 2005 12:32 PM ET

[JURIST] Wire services are reporting that two former Tyco [JURIST news archive] executives have been sentenced to between 8 1/3 and 25 years in prison after having been found guilty of securities fraud, grand larceny and conspiracy [JURIST report] earlier this year. Former Tyco International CEO Dennis Kozlowski and former CFO Mark Schwartz were convicted of stealing hundreds of millions of dollars from the corporation by giving themselves some $150 million in illegal bonuses, forgiving huge loans to themselves, and manipulating Tyco's stock price.






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Iraqi court sentences Saddam nephew to life in prison
Chris Buell on September 19, 2005 12:26 PM ET

[JURIST] The Iraqi government on Monday announced that a nephew of Saddam Hussein [JURIST news archive] has been sentenced to life in prison for providing funding to the insurgency in the country. The verdict was the first against a member of the toppled leader's family. Ayman Sabawi is the son of Sabawi Ibrahim al-Hassan [JURIST report], a half brother of Saddam, and he was arrested in May by security forces on a raid in Tikrit. A second man arrested with Sabawi, Tareq Khalaf Mizal, was given a six-year sentence after being convicted for building roadside bombs. The Iraqi Central Criminal Court also announced that Sabawi would be tried on additional charges beginning Nov. 1 for crimes that he reportedly confessed to during interrogations. The US Treasury froze the assets [news release] of Sabawi and other Saddam nephews in July. AP has more.






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Israeli police avoid charges for killings in 2000 riot
Chris Buell on September 19, 2005 12:03 PM ET

[JURIST] The Israeli Justice Ministry [official website] has decided not to charge police for shootings that killed 13 Israeli Arabs during violent protests in October 2000. In closing all investigations stemming from the incident, the Police Investigations Unit on Monday said there was not enough evidence to charge the officers involved. The officers under investigation killed 13 men when they shot into a crowd of pro-Palestinian demonstrators that had gathered several days after the start of the most recent intifada. Relatives of those killed called the ruling "unjust" and vowed to fight it, while an Israeli Arab politician said he expected that the commission would fail to prosecute the security forces. Members of the Israeli Arab Monitoring Committee are considering whether to support a general strike [Haaretz report] in the northern region of the country to protest the decision. In addition to citing a lack of evidence, the investigating commission also suggested that some of the shootings may have been justified. A 2003 government report recommended reprimanding but not charging the security forces involved. Israeli Arabs are descended from Palestinians who chose to remain in Israel following its 1948 creation, and they make up a 20 percent minority of Israel's population. Haaretz has local coverage of the announcement. BBC News has more.






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Election commission recommends overhaul of US election system
Kate Heneroty on September 19, 2005 10:48 AM ET

[JURIST] The private Commission on Federal Election Reform [commission website], a 21-member bipartisan panel headed by former US President Jimmy Carter [Wikipedia profile] and former Secretary of State James Baker [Wikipedia profile], recommended Monday that widespread changes be made to the federal electoral process to ensure fairness and accuracy. The Commission, which spent five months studying the most pressing problems with the nation's electoral system, issued 87 recommendations [PDF summary; full text, PDF] and urged Congress to enact the changes if political parties don't change the system by 2008. The Commission's recommendations include requiring a paper trail for electronic voting machines, requiring photo ID at the polls, a reorganization of the presidential primary system, unrestricted access for all "legitimate domestic and international election observers" and prohibiting senior election officials from serving political campaigns in a partisan way. According to Commission Executive Director Robert Pastor, "Many of the recommendations build on the Help America Vote Act, while correcting its vagueness and limitations." The Help America Vote Act [text] was passed by Congress in 2002 with the intention of helping states update voting systems, streamline voter registration and provide voter and poll worker education. The Los Angeles Times has more. American University's Center for Democracy & Election Management has additional resources.






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Trial of army recruiting protestors begins in federal court
Kate Heneroty on September 19, 2005 10:13 AM ET

[JURIST] Four protestors [protestor profiles] who threw blood on the walls of an army recruitment office in 2003 will face trial in a federal court in Monday on charges of damaging government property and conspiracy to impede an officer of the United States, after a New York jury deadlocked when considering charges of felony criminal mischief. The trial marks the first time the federal government has pressed conspiracy charges against civilian Iraq war protesters and is also the first federal conspiracy trial of anti-war protestors since Vietnam [St. Patrick's Four press release]. The Irish-Catholic protestors, who call themselves the St. Patrick's Four [support website] because the protest took place on St. Patrick's Day, poured vials of their blood onto the walls, windows and American flag in an army recruiting office in suburban Ithaca, to encourage new recruits to think about the Iraqi people and American soldiers who shed blood. If convicted in federal court, they could face six years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The New York Times has more. The Ithaca Journal has local coverage. Binghamton Press & Sun Bulletin has a statement from the protestors.






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North Korea agrees to return to nuclear treaty
Jeannie Shawl on September 19, 2005 10:09 AM ET

[JURIST] North Korea agreed Monday to abandon its nuclear weapons programs and return to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty [PDF text; IAEA backgrounder] as the latest round of six-party talks [US State Dept. briefing] between North Korea, China, Japan, South Korea, Russia, and the US concluded in Beijing. According to a joint statement [text] released Monday, North Korea "committed to abandoning all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs and returning, at an early date, to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and to IAEA safeguards." International Atomic Energy Agency [official website] head Mohamed ElBaradei welcomed the agreement [IAEA press release], saying the IAEA would conduct "the necessary inspections to assure ourselves that the nuclear weapons programme in the DPRK has been abandoned and that all nuclear activity in the DPRK is subjected to safeguards and dedicated for peaceful purposes." As part of the negotiations, the US affirmed that it has no nuclear weapons in the Korean Peninsula and pledged to respect North Korea's sovereignty and to take steps to normalize relations with the country. The IAEA has background on North Korea's nuclear activities. AP has more.






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Israel presses UK to restrict private war crimes lawsuits
Kate Heneroty on September 19, 2005 9:38 AM ET

[JURIST] Israeli officials announced Sunday that they will urge Britain to restrict laws which allow private war crimes suits to be filed against foreign citizens. The request was prompted by an incident last week where Doron Almog, former commander of Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip, refused to disembark a plane [JURIST report] landing in London after being warned that a British magistrate had issued a warrant for his arrest in connection with the Israeli army's 2002 demolition of Palestinian homes [Guardian report] in a Gaza refugee camp. Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni [official profile] will ask Britain to amend the magistrate's authority to issue arrest warrants for alleged war crimes, instead proposing that the attorney-general be required to approve such suits. Another proposal would establish a list of countries exempted from war crimes suits filed privately. Livni said, "It is unconscionable that an Israeli who served as a soldier must fear to set foot in a friendly nation." British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw [official profile; Wikipedia profile] said the matter was best left for the courts to decide. Reuters has more.

11:49 AM ET - A British court has withdrawn Almog's arrest warrant because Almog is no longer in the jurisdiction. Kate Maynard, part of the legal team who brought the charges against Almog, said Monday that her law firm is calling for an investigation into the criminal liability of any embassy staff that helped Almog evade jurisdiction. Maynard also questioned why British police did not board Almog's plane to arrest him. AFP has more.






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Nepal high court orders anti-graft committee to explain ex-PM's incarceration
Kate Heneroty on September 19, 2005 8:59 AM ET

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Nepal [official website] ordered Sunday that the Royal Commission for Corruption Control, under the control of King Gyanendra [official profile; BBC profile], explain the detention of former Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba [Wikipedia profile] within seven days. Deuba and cabinet colleague Prakash Man Singh were convicted on charges of corruption [JURIST report] in July concerning a government water contract and were sentenced to two years in prison and fined $1.26 million. Lawyers for the men have appealed to the Supreme Court arguing the commission violates the Nepalese constitution [text] and that the convictions should be thrown out. The court is expected to rule on the matter next week. AFP has more.

Previously in JURIST's Paper Chase...






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Vatican says legal recognition for unmarrieds threatens Italian families
Sara R. Parsowith on September 19, 2005 8:36 AM ET

[JURIST] Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, president of the Vatican's health department, said Sunday that Italian proposals to give legal status to unmarried couples are a threat to traditional families. A "traditional" family is held by the Vatican to be a marital union between a man and a woman. Discussion on this issue began last week when Romano Prodi [Wikipedia backgrounder], the former Italian prime minister and head of the European Commission who is expected to challenge current Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi [official profile; BBC profile] in the 2006 general elections, said he favored conferring legal status on unmarried couples. Barragan expressed concern that such legislation could erode or compromise the vision of the family unit, arguing that the "traditional" family is good for society, and that ad-hoc laws could confuse people. Although Prodi said he favored legal rights for de-facto couples and made his comments to Italian gay rights association Arcigay [advocacy website], he did not specify whether he approved of legalizing same-sex unions [JURIST news archive]. Francesco Rutelli [CNN profile] of the Margherita party, proposed a contract between partners in a de-facto union that would be private but also part of Italy's civil code, specifically ruling out gay marriage in his proposal. Italian newspaper La Repubblica published a poll Saturday that found 64 percent of Italians are for granting legal rights to unmarried couples with 30 percent opposed. Of these, 31 percent favored extending these rights to homosexuals and 29 percent approved of same-sex marriage. AP has more. La Repubblica has local coverage.






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UN General Assembly working on terrorism definition for global treaty
Sara R. Parsowith on September 19, 2005 8:19 AM ET

[JURIST] UN leaders at the 60th General Assembly session now underway in New York in the aftermath of the 2005 World Summit [official website] are pressing for agreement on a definition of terrorism and are calling for a broad international convention to serve as a co-ordinating framework for governmental anti-terror efforts. Progress towards a convention has been made, with the adoption last week of a summit outcome document [PDF text; UN summary, JURIST report] detailing an international commitment to fight terrorism, human rights abuses and poverty. The report condemned terrorism "in all its forms and manifestations, committed by whomever, wherever and for whatever purpose" but did not include a definition of terrorism which rules out acts on civilians, as had been recommended by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. A draft anti-terror treaty has been stuck in the UN's legal committee for some nine years. Negotiations got under way again [JURIST report] in July. Annan Saturday called on the Assembly [JURIST news report] to "build on that simple statement to complete a comprehensive convention against terrorism in the year ahead and forge a global counterterrorism strategy that weakens terrorists. " AP has more.