October 2005 Archives


New rules call for insurers to take money laundering precautions against terrorists
Joshua Pantesco on October 31, 2005 6:56 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Treasury Department [official website] Financial Crimes Enforcement Network [official website] Monday released [press release] the final draft [text] of rules requiring certain insurance companies to launch anti-money laundering campaigns to frustrate efforts of terrorist groups. The rules, which also define which insurers will be subject to the requirements, are mandated by the federal Bank Secrecy Act [text] as amended by the 2001 Patriot Act [text; JURIST news archive]. The rules call for companies to train employees in money laundering detection techniques, establish clear policies on identifying risks and effective precautions, and seek independent audits of their practices. The rules also specify that companies must report any suspicious activity to the government. Securities traders already abide by money laundering regulations and are not subject to the new rules; companies that sell group life insurance policies or group annuity contracts are also exempt. AP has more.






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Rabin assassin may request re-trial
Joshua Pantesco on October 31, 2005 6:30 PM ET

[JURIST] Yigal Amir [Wikipedia profile], who was convicted of assassinating former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin [Wikipedia profile] ten years ago this November, may demand a re-trial. According to his wife in an interview on Israeli Army Radio, Amir believes that though he did try to kill Rabin, the fatal shot was fired by a second shooter, and that he was the victim of a conspiracy by Israeli security agents. Commentators predict that Amir has little chance of seeing his appeal granted for his involvement in the killing of the famous Israeli leader who was awarded the 1994 Nobel peace prize [press release] for signing the 1993 Oslo accords with the Palestinians. AFP has more.






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UN investigators decline Gitmo invitation unless detainees can be interviewed
Joshua Pantesco on October 31, 2005 6:03 PM ET

[JURIST] Three UN human rights experts who were invited [JURIST report] last Friday by the Pentagon to examine conditions at Guantanamo Bay prison [JURIST news archive] said [UN press release] Monday that they will refuse the invitation unless they are allowed to interview detainees. The Pentagon said Friday that the experts would not be speaking with the 505 detainees because such interviews were the responsibility of the International Committee of the Red Cross [official website]. The experts are part of a Special Procedures group overseen by the UN Commission on Human Rights [official website], and have been requesting access [UN press release] to Gitmo since 2002. The experts are also concerned that a one-day visit as offered by the Pentagon would not be enough to fully examine the prison. Human rights watchdogs have been increasingly concerned [JURIST report] with the situation at Gitmo since reports surfaced this fall that hunger-striking detainees were being forcibly fed by US personnel. Reuters has more.






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US Supreme Court denies new trial for defendant with no access to jail law library
Tom Henry on October 31, 2005 3:49 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] on Monday ruled in Kane v. Espitia that California inmate Joe Garcia Espitia isn't entitled to a new trial because he was denied virtually all access to a jail law library while representing himself in court. In an unsigned opinion [PDF text], the Court reversed the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] finding that because there is no established right of access to a prison law library for defendants representing themselves, the state court conviction could not be justifiably overturned by a federal court's own circuit precedent. Espitia's lawyer on appeal argued that his denial of legal research materials denied him any "opportunity to make a meaningful defense." Bloomberg has more.






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Abortion likely key issue in Alito confirmation hearing
Alexandria Samuel on October 31, 2005 3:36 PM ET

[JURIST] Reaction from Capitol Hill Monday to President Bush's nomination of Judge Samuel Alito [JURIST report] of the US Third Circuit Court of Appeals to fill the US Supreme Court seat left vacant by retiring justice Sandra Day O'Connor has primarily focused on one issue: Alito's judicial views on abortion. In a statement Monday, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid [official website], stated that the "[S]enate needs to find out if [Alito] is too radical for the American people". Echoing Reid's concern, ranking Senate Judiciary Committee Democrat Patrick Leahy [official website] suggested [press release] that "the person replacing [Justice O'Connor] has the potential to dramatically tilt the court's balance", and should be someone with the bipartisan support of the Senate and American people. Both statements allude to Alito's frequent comparison to conservative US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, and his participation in a 1991 Third Circuit decision [US News report] in which he voted to uphold a Pennsylvania law that included a provision requiring women seeking abortions to notify their spouses. Alito's position on abortion is viewed by many to be potential tipping point within the court. Republican Senate Judiciary Chair Arlen Specter [official website], who will oversee the confirmation hearings, said Monday that Alito's views on abortion will be the "hot-button issue" of the hearings. AP has more.






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Bahrain requests US investigation into Gitmo torture allegations
Tom Henry on October 31, 2005 3:12 PM ET

[JURIST] At the urging of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, the Bahrain Embassy [official website] in Washington has formally demanded that the US government promptly investigate charges of torture, abuse and other inhumane tactics being used against Bahraini prisoner Juma Mohammed Abdul Latif Al Dossary. Held for months at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive], al Dossary claims he is innocent and that he ended up in US custody only after being "sold" to the US military by Pakistani forces who detained him in Afghanistan. The US maintains that al Dossary is member al Qaeda who trained in Afghanistan in late 2001, before illegally crossing the border into Pakistan where he was detained by the Pakistani forces. A similar request [JURIST report] was made by Bahraini officials in 2004. Aljazeera has more






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Former El Salvador military officer faces US torture lawsuit
Alexandria Samuel on October 31, 2005 3:06 PM ET

[JURIST] The civil trial of former El Salvadoran military officer and naturalized US citizen Nicolas Carranza [CJA profile] commenced in US District Court in Memphis Monday. Carranza was vice president of defense and director of the Salvadoran Treasury police during the nations' turbulent 12-year civil war [PBS backgrounder], and stands accused of violating various domestic and international laws, including the Torture Victim Protection Act [text], by facilitating a "deliberate reign of state terror" with the "widespread and systematic" use of torture and murder. The lawsuit [amended complaint, PDF], filed by family members of those killed during the war, alleges that Carranza "exercised command responsibility over subordinates in the Security Forces of El Salvador" who murdered their family members. The Salvadoran citizens filed the case in federal court in accordance with the Alien Tort Claims Act [HRW overview], which allows foreign victims of serious human rights abuse abroad to sue perpetrators in US court. AP has more.






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Most Russians distrust courts, government, new survey shows
Tom Henry on October 31, 2005 2:37 PM ET

[JURIST] According to a recent survey from ROMIR Monitoring [website], more than half of Russians think those in positions of power, ranging from the president and parliament to government and the courts, are dishonest and corrupt. Alexander Konovalov, the president of the Institute for Strategic Assessments said the results helped to explain the "colossal level of political apathy in [Russian] society." Not even one-third of the 1,600 people surveyed described Russian President Vladimir Putin [official website] as honest, while fewer than ten percent of people surveyed referred to the government and the State Duma as honest institutions. Transparency International [advocacy website], an anti-corruption organization, ranked Russia 126th on its list of least corrupt countries [JURIST report], in line with Sierra Leone, Niger and Albania. MosNews has more.






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14-year-old boy faces execution in Saudi Arabia despite international treaty
Tom Henry on October 31, 2005 2:04 PM ET

[JURIST] After what Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] has called a flawed trial [HRW report], a 14-year-old boy is facing execution in Saudi Arabia after his conviction for the murder of a young child. The three-year-old victim was found dead with numerous stab wounds in a park in the eastern city of Dammam last year. According to the HRW report, the young man believed to be responsible for her death had "no legal assistance or representation during interrogation, detention and trial. Press and police accounts also throws into question his psychological stability and his ability to participate in his own defence." In a letter [text] to Saudi King Abdullah, Human Rights Watch urged the leader to uphold the country’s obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) [text] to protect young offenders and due process by commuting the death sentence. According to Article 37 [text] of the CRC, states party to the treaty shall ensure that "Neither capital punishment nor life imprisonment without possibility of release shall be imposed for offences committed by persons below eighteen years of age." The Mail and Guardian has more.






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British courts-martial over Iraq abuse to begin next year
Brandon Smith on October 31, 2005 12:57 PM ET

[JURIST] Britian's military court service announced Monday that the seven British soldiers facing court-martial over alleged abuse of Iraqi prisoners will not stand trial until next year. The charges against the men relate to treatment of Iraqi prisoners being held in Basra between September 13-15, 2003. Among those that will stand trial are Queen's Lancashire Regiment [official website] commanding officer Col. Jorge Mendonca, who is charged with failing to ensure that Iraqi prisoners were being properly looked after, and corporal Donal Payne, who has been charged with the unlawful killing of detainee Baha Mousa [BBC report], the abuse of eight other detainees and for perverting the course of justice. The UK Press Association has more.

Previously in JURIST's Paper Chase...






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Ex-Cheney aide Libby to make first court appearance Thursday
Brandon Smith on October 31, 2005 12:30 PM ET

[JURIST] Lewis Libby [NYT profile], Vice President Dick Cheney's long-time chief of staff, will make his first court appearance on Thursday, after being indicted [JURIST report] Friday in the CIA leak investigation [JURIST news archive], a court official said Monday. Libby, who faces charges of obstructing justice, perjury and making false statements, is expected to enter a not guilty plea at his arraignment beginning 10:30 AM Thursday. Judge Reggie Walton, the federal judge chosen to hear Libby's case, could also set a schedule for the filing of motions and possibly a trial date. Reuters has more.

ALSO ON JURIST

 Op-ed: The Devil in the Details: The CIA Leak Case | Text: Libby indictment | Audio: DOJ indictment press conference





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US Supreme Court to hear immigrant rights, patent cases
Lisl Brunner on October 31, 2005 12:10 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] granted certiorari Monday in four cases, including one where the Court will clarify the rights of illegal immigrants [AP report] upon reentering the United States after having been deported. In Fernandez-Vargas v. Gonzales , the Court will decide whether the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigration Responsibility Act of 1996 [DOJ fact sheet], which limits opportunities for reentering illegal immigrants to become legal citizens, applies to people already present in the US when the law took effect. The Court has also agreed to hear Laboratory Corp. of America v. Metabolite Laboratories, where it will decide whether a medical test that predicts strokes, heart attacks and dementia is patentable. AP has more. The Court will also hear two cases [SCOTUSblog report] involving the admissibility of crime victim's "excited utterances." Among the cases the Court declined to hear Monday was an attempt to have class-action lawsuits against cellphone makers dismissed [AP report]. Consumers have filed lawsuits against the cellphone industry for failing to protect consumers from unsafe levels of radiation, and the companies had asked that the suits be dismissed, saying federal standards pre-empt state law claims. The Court also denied certiorari in a case involving legal fees for insurance companies [AP report] that were ordered to publicize their Holocaust-era records. Read the Court's full Order list [PDF].






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Military hearings begin for US soldier accused of killing superiors in Iraq
Lisl Brunner on October 31, 2005 11:27 AM ET

[JURIST] A military tribunal began hearings Monday in the case of a US Army sergeant accused of killing two of his superior officers [JURIST report] in Iraq. The Article 32 hearing [JAG backgrounder; UCMJ text] will determine whether Staff Sergeant Alberto B. Martinez faces a court martial for the deaths of Capt. Philip Esposito and Lt. Louis E. Allen in a June bomb blast in Esposito's office in Tikrit. According to a witness, Martinez said that he hated Esposito and planned to kill him. This is the second known incident in which a US soldier has been accused of killing other soldiers during the war in Iraq. Sgt. Hasan Akbar of the 101st Airborne Division was convicted [JURIST report] and sentenced to death [JURIST report; Army News Service report] in April for killing two officers and wounding 14 other soldiers. Martinez's hearing is taking place in Camp Arifjan in Kuwait and could last until Wednesday. AP has more.






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Federal trial begins in challenge to random bag searches on New York subways
Sara R. Parsowith on October 31, 2005 11:15 AM ET

[JURIST] US District Judge Richard M. Berman will consider the constitutionality of New York City's random search of bags and packages in the city's subway system, as trial begins Monday in the case [JURIST report]. The New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) [advocacy website] filed a lawsuit [PDF complaint; press release] in August, saying the random searches are unreasonable searches and seizures. Lawyers for five subway riders [NYCLU plaintiff profiles] will argue that the search program "has no meaningful value in preventing the entry of explosive devices into the system by the terrorists the NYPD is attempting to thwart." The random searches began in July as a means to thwart terrorism and lawyers for the city will argue that an al Qaeda training manual which advises terrorists to avoid police checkpoints, justifies the random searches of those taking the subway. In an earlier protective order [Andrews Publications report], Berman ruled that NYC did not have to tell the NYCLU specific details about its random searches. The trial will likely last for three days. AP has more.






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BREAKING NEWS ~ UN adopts Syria resolution demanding cooperation with Hariri probe
Jeannie Shawl on October 31, 2005 11:13 AM ET

[JURIST] AP is reporting that the UN Security Council has unanimously approved a resolution [JURIST report] under Chapter 7 [text] of the UN Charter calling on Syria to cooperate with a UN investigation [UN background materials] into the February assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri [JURIST news archive]. A draft version of the resolution put forth by the US, France and Britain included a threat of political and economic sanctions should Damascus not cooperate with the probe, but the three co-sponsors agreed to drop the direct threat of sanctions prior to the resolution's passing Monday morning, leaving only a reference to unspecified "further action" if Syria does not comply. AP has more.






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Hartford Archdiocese pays $22 million to settle sexual abuse claims
Kate Heneroty on October 31, 2005 10:09 AM ET

[JURIST] The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford, Connecticut [diocesan website] has agreed to pay $22 million to settle sexual abuse claims [JURIST news archive] against the diocese, a plaintiff's lawyer announced Monday. The settlement included 43 plaintiffs, who had accused 14 priests of sexual assault since the 1960's. Plaintiff's attorney Jason Tremont said, "By giving victims a voice, we can change the behavior of the church and finally force the archdiocese to acknowledge responsibility for the past." AP has more.

Previously in JURIST's Paper Chase...






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Hicks lawyers claim evidence supporting torture allegations
Kate Heneroty on October 31, 2005 9:40 AM ET

[JURIST] Lawyers for David Hicks [BBC profile; advocacy website; JURIST news archive], an Australian Guantanamo Bay detainee, say that they have photographic evidence that Hicks was tortured by American soldiers, though they have declined to identify any witnesses at this point. Hicks' father told [interview transcript] Australian television program Four Corners Monday that his son was tortured and sexually abused while in American custody, claiming that he was temporarily moved to a location where UN conventions on prisoner treatment did not apply. Hicks' lawyers have uncovered records of helicopter flights where Hicks claims he was flown from a US warship to an undisclosed location, beaten and spat on. In July, a US military investigation, undertaken at the request of Australian authorities [JURIST report], concluded that there was no evidence to support allegations [JURIST report] that Hicks and Egyptian-born Australian Mamdouh Habib had been abused while in US custody. Hicks is set to face trial [JURIST report] on November 18 before a military commission at Guantanamo Bay on charges of conspiracy to commit war crimes, attempted murder by an unprivileged belligerent and aiding the enemy. Australia's ABC News has local coverage.






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Australian PM calls for oil-for-food kickback inquiry
Kate Heneroty on October 31, 2005 9:04 AM ET

[JURIST] Australian Prime Minister John Howard [official website] asked parliament Monday to establish an independent inquiry into whether any Australian companies paid bribes to Iraqi officials involved in the now defunct UN oil-for-food program [official website, JURIST news archive]. Last week, a UN report [JURIST report; PDF text] issued by an independent panel headed by former US Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker [official profile], found that officials under Saddam Hussein received more than $1.8 billion in kickbacks from more than 2,200 companies. The Australian Wheat Board (AWB) [corporate website] was named in the report for allegedly paying nearly $300 million to a Jordanian trucking company, which funneled the money to Hussein. However, the report also found insufficient evidence that AWB officials knew where the money was actually going. AWB has denied the company was involved in paying kickbacks [press release] and has promised to fully cooperate with the investigation. AFP has more. ABC Australia has local coverage.






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Strong anti-corruption agencies needed in Iraq, US investigator reports
Sara R. Parsowith on October 31, 2005 8:17 AM ET

[JURIST] Stuart Bowen, Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction [official website], said that corruption continues to cost Iraq billions of dollars each year and has called for an American-Iraqi summit in the fight against corruption in Iraq, in a report to Congress [PDF text] released Sunday. Bowen said that it is crucial that the US support new anti-corruption agencies in Iraq, arguing that "[c]reating an effective anti-corruption structure within Iraq's government is essential to the long-term success of Iraq's fledgling democracy." The report was released shortly after the United Nations found that 2,200 companies made illicit payments totaling $1.8 billion [JURIST report] to Saddam Hussein's government under the now defunct UN oil-for-food program [JURIST news archive]. Bowen's report notes that investigators have garnered evidence in investigations involving fraud, bribery and kickbacks, however, no information on potential indictments has yet been released. Reuters has more.






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Trial of Bush assassination plot suspect starts
Sara R. Parsowith on October 31, 2005 7:39 AM ET

[JURIST] The trial of Ahmed Omar Abu Ali [JURIST news archive], an American citizen accused of plotting to kill President Bush, begins Monday in federal court in Virginia. Abu Ali has pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] to a nine-count indictment [PDF] on charges of conspiring to kill the president [JURIST report] and providing resources and support to al Qaeda. Abu Ali was arrested in June 2003 and has made statements admitting to a plot against Bush and also to having ties to an al Qaeda cell. US District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee last week denied [PDF opinion; JURIST report] Abu Ali's motion to suppress the statements, which Abu Ali claimed were the result of torture [JURIST report] at the hands of Saudi Arabian domestic security police. In allowing Abu Ali's confession, Lee called into question Abu Ali's accusations of abuse, noting that "the court is left with lingering questions concerning the credibility of Mr Abu Ali and his claim that he was tortured." Earlier this month, the Saudi Arabian government denied Abu Ali's claims of torture [JURIST report]. Reuters has more.

Previously in JURIST's Paper Chase...






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Civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks honored on Capitol Hill
Sara R. Parsowith on October 31, 2005 7:08 AM ET

[JURIST] Thousands of people gathered Sunday under the dome of the Capitol Rotunda to view the closed casket of civil rights activist Rosa Parks [TIME profile], who died of natural causes at the age of 92 last week [JURIST report]. Parks is remembered most for her December 1, 1955 act of refusing to give up her seat to a white man on a Montgomery, Alabama bus. At this time, such racial segregation was still legal, despite the 1954 decision in Brown v. Board [text; Brown Foundation website] banning the "inherently unequal" segregation of blacks and whites in schools. Parks' simple gesture led to the year-long boycott [Wikipedia backgrounder] of the Montgomery public transit system which ended only once racial segregation was deemed illegal in 1956 [Gayle v. Browder text; Stetson Law School backgrounder, PDF]. In 1999, Parks received the Congressional Gold Medal [US Mint website]. Parks is the first woman to lie in honor in the Rotunda and at a Capitol ceremony Sunday, attended by the President and members of Congress, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice [official profile] noted that "without Ms. Parks, I probably would not be standing here today as Secretary of State." A memorial service at the Metropolitan A.M.E. Church in Washington is planned for Monday and Parks' funeral and burial is scheduled for Wednesday in Detroit. AP has more.






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BREAKING NEWS ~ Bush nominating Alito to Supreme Court
Bernard Hibbitts on October 31, 2005 6:24 AM ET

[JURIST] Wire services are reporting that President Bush will nominate Judge Samuel Alito [official profile; US News profile; SCOTUSblog review of notable opinions] of the US Third Circuit Court of Appeals to fill the US Supreme Court seat left vacant by retiring justice Sandra Day O'Connor. Alito would be Bush's second choice for the spot after his first nominee, Harriet Miers [JURIST news archive], withdrew her name from consideration last week.

6:39 AM ET - Republican sources say Bush will officially announce the nomination at 8 AM. AP now has more.

8:33 AM ET - Announcing the nomination, President Bush called Alito "one of the most accomplished and respected judges in America," and emphasizing Alito's longtime service on the bench said that Alito "now has more prior judicial experience than any Supreme Court nominee in more than 70 years." AP has more.

9:05 AM ET - Bush also highlighted Alito's experience as a Justice Department official and federal prosecutor in his announcement of the nomination:

As a Justice Department official, federal prosecutor and judge on the United States Court of Appeals, Sam Alito has shown a mastery of the law, a deep commitment of justice, and a -- and he is a man of enormous character. He's scholarly, fair-minded and principled, and these qualities will serve our nation well on the highest court of the land. ...

Judge Alito's reputation has only grown over the span of his service. He has participated in thousands of appeals and authored hundreds of opinions. This record reveals a thoughtful judge who considers the legal matter -- marriage carefully and applies the law in a principled fashion. He has a deep understanding of the proper role of judges in our society. He understands that judges are to interpret the laws, not to impose their preferences or priorities on the people.
Bush also emphasized that Alito was unanimously confirmed by the US Senate when nominated to serve as US Attorney for the District of New Jersey and again when nominated to serve on the Third Circuit. Accepting the nomination, Alito said:
The Supreme Court is an institution that I have long held in reverence. During my 29 years as a public servant, I've had the opportunity to view the Supreme Court from a variety of perspectives -- as an attorney in the Solicitor General's Office, arguing and briefing cases before the Supreme Court, as a federal prosecutor, and most recently for the last 15 years as a judge of the Court of Appeals. During all of that time, my appreciation of the vital role that the Supreme Court plays in our constitutional system has greatly deepened.

My most recent visit to the Supreme Court building was on a very different and a very sad occasion: It was on the occasion of the funeral of Chief Justice William Rehnquist. And as I approached the Supreme Court building with a group of other federal judges, I was struck by the same sense of awe that I had felt back in 1982, not because of the imposing and beautiful building in which the Supreme Court is housed, but because of what the building, and, more importantly, the institutions stand for -- our dedication as a free and open society to liberty and opportunity, and, as it says above the entrance to the Supreme Court, "equal justice under law."

Every time that I have entered the courtroom during the past 15 years, I have been mindful of the solemn responsibility that goes with service as a federal judge. Federal judges have the duty to interpret the Constitution and the laws faithfully and fairly, to protect the constitutional rights of all Americans, and to do these things with care and with restraint, always keeping in mind the limited role that the courts play in our constitutional system. And I pledge that if confirmed I will do everything within my power to fulfill that responsibility.
Read the full text of both President Bush's and Alito's remarks.

10:48 AM ET - Recorded video of the nomination press conference is now available from the White House. Also available is a White House summary of Alito's qualifications to serve as an Associate US Supreme Court Justice.





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Two US soldiers charged with assaulting detainees in Afghanistan
Jaime Jansen on October 30, 2005 4:28 PM ET

[JURIST] Two US soldiers have been charged [US DOD press release] with assault, conspiracy to maltreat, and dereliction of duty for allegedly punching two detainees in the chest, shoulders and stomach at a base detention site in southern Afghanistan in early July. The alleged assault did not require medical attention for either detainee. One of the detainees has since been released, while the other was transferred to Bagram, the US military headquarters in Afghanistan. US Army Brigadier General Jack Sterling, deputy commanding general for support of Combined Joint Task Force 76 [official website], stated “[t]he command remains committed to investigate all allegations of misconduct and will hold individuals responsible for their actions consistent with U.S. military law.” The two US soldiers are members of the 926th Engineers Battalion, a reserve unit from Alabama that is still deployed. If court-martialed, their trial will commence at the Bagram air base in Afghanistan. The charges announcement Sunday came just ten days after the military began investigating [JURIST report] television footage apparently showing a group of US soldiers burning the bodies of two dead Taliban rebels. In addition, 15 US soldiers have been charged for the death of two Afghan detainees at Bagram after beatings in 2002. AP has more.






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Australia PM says new anti-terror law will be in place by Christmas
Jaime Jansen on October 30, 2005 3:59 PM ET

[JURIST] The Australian Government and Prime Minister John Howard [official website] committed Sunday to passing new anti-terror laws before Christmas after weekend meetings to discuss a revised draft [JURIST report] of a proposed anti-terror bill. Howard gave premiers until Monday to respond to the revision after the initial Friday deadline passed, and hopes to introduce the final draft to the Australian parliament this week. Though the full details of the final draft have not been disclosed, the main terms include tough control orders and preventative detention, as well as a provision to give authorities the right to shoot-to-kill suspected terrorists [JURIST report]. The controversial bill has sparked free speech demonstrations outside Howard’s home, but Howard insists the legislation will not curb free speech. Reuters has more.






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New US military prison in north Iraq receives Abu Ghraib, Bucca detainees
Jaime Jansen on October 30, 2005 3:44 PM ET

[JURIST] In a bid to facilitate the transition of Iraq detention operations to Iraqi security forces, the US military has opened a new prison [JURIST report] near the Kurdish city of Sulaimaniyah in northern Iraq. Named Fort Suse, the facility can hold more than 1,700 detainees; it received its first inmates from Abu Ghraib [JURIST news archive] and Camp Bucca [Global Security profile] on October 24. Both detention centers have been criticized for overcrowding, and several riots broke out at Camp Bucca [JURIST report] earlier this year. Major General William Brandenburg, commanding general of detainee operations, said Sunday of the new prison, “[i]t will be the first facility to be completely turned over to Iraqi control” although the complete transition will not take place until the Iraqi’s are “completely confident in their ability to run the facility.” Fort Suse is an old Russian-built army training center that the US military renovated [DOD press release] in two months with 400 workers and a budget of $8 million. AFP has more.






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ICTY to rule again on Kosovo ex-PM's political activities pending trial
Jaime Jansen on October 30, 2005 3:29 PM ET

[JURIST] The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia [JURIST news archive] at The Hague is this week expected to make a final ruling on a bid by accused former Kosovo Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj [BBC profile] to return to political life in Kosovo pending his scheduled trial in 2007 [JURIST report]. The ICTY allowed Haradinaj to return to politics [JURIST report] two weeks ago, but chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte [BBC profile] succeeded in temporarily halting the move. Del Ponte opposes the decision because the media attention surrounding Haradinaj will “have a chilling effect on victims and witnesses.” Haradinaj, a former commander of the Kosovo Liberation Army, was charged with torture, murder and ethnic cleansing [JURIST report] in March. The current UN administration in Kosovo [UNMIK website] spearheaded the move to lift the ban on politics for Haradinaj because they believe he could play a crucial role in calming political hardliners during talks between Kosovo’s Albanians and Serbs. The UN Security Council approved the beginning of talks [JURIST report] on the future of Kosovo on Monday. Most Albanians hope Haradinaj will help unify Albanians during the talks. Serbs believe the move by the UN mission proves that the war crimes tribunal is biased against Serbs. The Observer has more.






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Evacuated Jewish settlers file appeals against compensation amounts
Holly Manges Jones on October 30, 2005 11:45 AM ET

[JURIST] The Jerusalem Magistrate's Court has received the first 30 appeals from Jewish families evacuated [JURIST report] from Gaza under the Israeli disengagement plan [BBC backgrounder] who are complaining about low compensation amounts and delays in payments. The Legal Forum for the Land of Israel is representing the evacuees, who argue that the Evacuation Compensation Law passed earlier this year [JURIST report] and previous decisions by Israel's Supreme Court [official website, English version] entitle them to receive higher compensation payments. The law allows settlers to appeal compensation grants within 45 days and calls for a representative from the attorney general's office to respond. The settlers are also arguing that compensation grants are not being paid to them, despite the fact that the appeals process is not supposed to delay payments already determined by the Disengagement Administration [official website in Hebrew]. The magistrate's court is expected to begin hearing the cases in the next few days. From Israel, Haaretz has local coverage.






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New Orleans court system still mired in Katrina aftermath
Holly Manges Jones on October 30, 2005 11:17 AM ET

[JURIST] The criminal court system in New Orleans still faces an uphill battle as judges and attorneys try to piece together what is left of the 3,000 trials [JURIST report] pending before Hurricane Katrina [JURIST news archive] swept through the city over two months ago. The courthouse basement of the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court [official website] held guns, drugs and other items that soaked in the floodwaters for weeks and could be ruined as evidence, which may leave attorneys and judges with no alternative but to set arrested criminals free. Motions have been postponed as lawyers are not certain which jails currently hold their clients and evacuations of citizens have not allowed attorneys to fill the necessary jury pools. Orleans Parish District Attorney Eddie Jordan said the city has been unable to pay his office, which has forced him to layoff 57 staff employees, and if the situation does not improve Jordan may be forced to fire attorneys next. Additionally, the US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals [official website] has moved temporarily to Houston [JURIST report]. AP has more.






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Fraud investigation delays Afghan election results
Holly Manges Jones on October 30, 2005 10:38 AM ET

[JURIST] The UN-Afghan Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB) [official website] said Sunday that the results from the country's September legislative election [JURIST report] are being delayed because of investigations into fraud complaints [JURIST report]. The final counts were originally supposed to be announced on October 19, but the slow pace of vote counting pushed the announcement date back to the beginning of November, and now the commission expects a delay of a few more days. A total of 2,300 complaints were filed with the commission, 500 of which stem from allegations of fraud, including ballot box stuffing, intimidation of voters, and fraudulent activities in counting the results. Candidates and their supporters have organized rallies in major cities including Kabul to protest the fraud and earlier this month, approximately fifty election workers were dismissed under suspicion of fraud [JURIST report]. According to provisional results already announced by the commission [JEMB electoral map], dozens of local warlords seem to have won seats in parliament, but this could be balanced out by women candidates who are guaranteed at least 68 of the 249 parliamentary seats. Reuters has more.






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Judges Alito, Luttig reportedly top new Supreme Court short list
Holly Manges Jones on October 30, 2005 9:58 AM ET

[JURIST] Federal appellate judges Samuel Alito and Michael Luttig [US News profiles] are reportedly at the top of President Bush's list of possible US Supreme Court nominees to replace the withdrawn Harriet Miers [JURIST news archive] as the President reconsiders the nomination at Camp David this weekend. Republicans have said Bush's short list is similar to the one he reviewed before he chose Miers and includes "highly credentialed, solidly conservative" judges. Conservatives are looking for a pick with judicial philosophies similar to Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, and Alito and Luttig seem to fit that mold. Alito, a judge on the US Third Circuit Court of Appeals [official website], has often been compared to Scalia, even earning the nickname "Scalito," while Luttig, a US Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals [official website] judge, worked for Scalia as a clerk. An anonymous source said that Bush is not planning to make a decision based on avoiding a battle with Democrats, despite receiving a letter [text] from Senators Harry Reid (D-NV) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) [official websites] warning him not to pick "an activist who would bring an ideological agenda to the Court." Bush is expected to reveal his choice in the next few days. Reuters has more.






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Kenya draft constitution breeds more violence
Joshua Pantesco on October 29, 2005 4:27 PM ET

[JURIST] At least five people were shot by police Saturday as violence again erupted in Kenya's Western Province over the country's highly controversial draft constitution [PDF text]. Security forces fired upon a crowd in the city of Kisumu while dispersing a riot during a pro-constitution rally held by four cabinet ministers. Police said mobs set fire to blockades they had erected across major highways, looted businesses and vehicles, and had attacked constitution supporters, injuring dozens. Saturday's violence follows riots last Thursday [JURIST report] in the city of Kakamega, where rioters injured dozens of constitution opponents. Critics of the draft constitution say it vests too much authority in the president, and fails to properly separate church and state. AFP has more.






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Syria appoints judicial committee to investigate Hariri killing
Joshua Pantesco on October 29, 2005 3:46 PM ET

[JURIST] Syrian President Bashar Assad [Wikipedia profile] on Saturday formed a special judicial committee to conduct a state investigation into Syrian involvement in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri [JURIST news archive]. The committee will be led by Syria's prosecutor-general, and will also include the military prosecutor and a judge yet to be named by the justice minister. Syria vigorously disputes the findings of the UN report [text, PDF] that connects the Syrian government with the killings [JURIST report], but has agreed to cooperate with the ongoing UN investigation. Earlier in the week, UN investigator Detlev Mehlis called for Syria to conduct such an investigation to assist with the UN effort; on Wednesday, the US and France proposed a UN resolution [JURIST report] calling for ecomomic sanctions against Syria if they did not fully cooperate with the UN inquiry. AP has more.






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New draft of Australian anti-terror bill an improvement, say leaders
Joshua Pantesco on October 29, 2005 3:10 PM ET

[JURIST] Australian state and territorial leaders were given a new draft of a proposed federal anti-terrorism bill Friday and are meeting this weekend to discuss it. The previous draft [text] drew heavy criticism [JURIST report] from ACT Chief Minister Jon Stanhope [official website] last week for its provisions concerning control orders and preventative detentions; Stanhope cautiously supported the new draft Saturday, citing an improvement in the control orders section, though he is still concerned with the limited role of judiciary in overseeing the detentions. New South Wales Premier Morris Iemma [official profile] said the new draft authorizes retired civilian judges acting in an executive or administrative capacity to issue the detention orders, thus taking the orders out of the domain of the courts. "We want an individual who is subjected to one of these orders to be able to appeal on the merits of the application, not just on technicalities of law," he said, calling the detention proposal "a clear breach of the COAG [Council of Australian Governments [official website]] agreement in relation to the checks and balances that would apply." ABC News has more.






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New Orleans Police Department fires 45 officers for desertion during Katrina
Joshua Pantesco on October 29, 2005 2:23 PM ET

[JURIST] The New Orleans Police Department fired 45 police officers and 6 other employees Friday after investigators concluded they had improperly abandoned their duties during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina [JURIST news archive] without giving 14 days notice as required by regulations. A total of of 240 officers out of the 1450-member force are under investigation [JURIST report] after being listed as missing during Katrina's fallout; the investigations will culminate in hearings beginning on November 8 that are expected to take 4-6 months to complete. The fired officers have no chance at appeal. Fifteen other officers under investigation have already resigned, and another 45 not under investigation resigned for personal reasons. The president of the New Orleans police union did not defend those accused of abandoning their duties, saying, "the worst thing you can call a police officer is a deserter." AP has more.






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Ex-HealthSouth CEO pleads not guilty to corruption charges
Joshua Pantesco on October 29, 2005 2:10 PM ET

[JURIST] Former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy [defense website] pleaded not guilty Friday to corruption charges after a federal grand jury indicted him [JURIST report] Wednesday. Scrushy claims that though he has no evidence to provide the court, federal prosecutors are offering him immunity if he agrees to testify against his co-defendant, former Alabama governor Don Siegelman [official profile], who has also pleaded not guilty [JURIST report]. AP has more.






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Democrats blame Treasury Department for not stopping US oil-for-food kickbacks
Andrew Wood on October 29, 2005 11:59 AM ET

[JURIST] Democrats on the US Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Investigations [official website] claimed in a minority staff report [PDF] on the UN Oil-for-Food scandal released Friday that the US Treasury Department failed to respond to UN requests for help in investigating business improprieties and missed an opportunity to stop at least one US corporation from contributing to Saddam Hussein's efforts to corrupt the UN humanitarian program. The minority report focused on Bayoil USA, the first US firm to be indicted in the oil-for-food scandal [JURIST news archive]. Bayoil is among the 2,200 companies that have been accused of diverting $1.8 billion of illegal kickbacks [JURIST report] to Saddam Hussein's government between 1996 and 2003. Bayoil itself accused of paying $37 million in illegal surcharges. The Subcommittee on Investigations is slated to hold a hearing Monday [hearing announcement] on the latest oil-for-food findings. Reuters has more.






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Libby lawyer hints at poor memory defense
Alexis Unkovic on October 29, 2005 11:10 AM ET

[JURIST] A lawyer for former Cheney chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby [JURIST news archive], who resigned Friday after a grand jury indictment [JURIST report], has outlined a possible defense for his client's alleged false statements before a grand jury. Joseph Tate [firm profile] suggested that Libby's inconsistent "recollections" to the grand jury and FBI investigators were the result of his hectic schedule and the near impossibility of recalling the details of conversations had years earlier. Libby reportedly testified before a grand jury that he learned the identity of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame from reporters, though evidence indicates that he may have learned her identity from Cheney and others a month earlier. AP has more.






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UN human rights experts invited to Guantanamo
Andrew Wood on October 29, 2005 10:56 AM ET

[JURIST] In a statement [text] released Friday, the US State Department announced that it has extended an invitation to Guantanamo Bay prison [JURIST news archive] to three UN human rights rapporteurs. State Department officials say "the invitation was extended in an effort to broaden understanding of US detention operations" and counter reports that detainees at the prison camp are treated inhumanely. The three rapporteurs invited to visit are experts in various areas, including torture and cruel and inhumane, and freedom of religion and faith. The invitation follows a June call to the US by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to open Gitmo to UN human rights experts after the US had ignored or rejected several previous requests [UN press release] by UN officials for visits. AFP has more.






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Saddam reportedly accepted exile, legal immunity offer before Iraq war
Alexis Unkovic on October 29, 2005 10:37 AM ET

[JURIST] Former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein accepted a last minute offer of exile from Arab leaders in 2003 just before the US-led invasion of Iraq, according to an Al Arabiya television [media website] documentary. According to the report, the deal could have averted war, but was thwarted when members of the League of Arab States [official website] refused to assent to the plan at an emergency summit. Saddam reportedly accepted the offer from United Arab Emirates (UAE) President Sheikh Zayed [official profile], and it would have made him immune from legal process. Saddam's current trial before the Iraqi High Criminal Court [JURIST news archive] is scheduled to reconvene on November 28. Reuters has more.






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Portugal constitutional court blocks referendum on abortion law
Andrew Wood on October 29, 2005 10:09 AM ET

[JURIST] Portugal's constitutional court [official website] has blocked a national referendum designed to relax the country's abortion laws. Prime Minister Jose Socrates [official profile, in Portuguese] and the ruling Socialist party had intended to hold the referendum on November 27 to decide whether abortions during the first ten weeks of pregnancy should become legal. Currently, Portugal has one of Europe's strictest laws on the matter, only permitting abortion before the 12th week and under strict circumstances - such as incest or fetal impairment. In May, President Jorge Sampio [official profile, in Portuguese], who supports legalized abortion, rejected a referendum because voter turnout was expected to be too low. The court ruled Friday that allowing the vote before September 2006 would be unconstitutional because the same referendum was rejected in the current legislature. BBC News has more.






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Alaska Supreme Court ends ban on same-sex partner benefits
Alexis Unkovic on October 29, 2005 10:05 AM ET

[JURIST] The Alaska Supreme Court issued an opinion [PDF text] Friday ending the state practice of denying benefits to same-sex partners of public employees. While the high court determined that the policy violated the equal protection clause of the Alaska Constitution [text] because it treated unmarried heterosexual and homosexual couples differently, the benefits plans will remain in effect until the court determines a remedy. The American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska [advocacy website] deemed the ruling a victory, and predicted it could influence courts in other states. In contrast, Governor Frank H. Murkowski [official website] expressed outrage over the ruling and directed the office of Alaska Attorney General David W. Marquez [official profile] to work to overturn it. Alaska was one of the first states to impose a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage [JURIST news archive] in 1996. AP has more.






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Bush says Libby presumed innocent, due fair trial
Jeannie Shawl on October 28, 2005 3:50 PM ET

[JURIST] In a brief statement Friday afternoon outside the White House, President Bush called Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald's "legal proceedings" against resigned Cheney chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby [official profile] "serious", but stressed that Libby is presumed innocent and entitled to due process and a fair trial. He said that Libby had "sacrificed much" in the service of his country in "extraordinary times." He added that he and the White House staff still had a lot of work to do, and that "pretty soon" he would be naming someone to the Supreme Court. Read the full text of the President's remarks [White House press release]. Bush's comments echoed an earlier written statement [press release] from Vice President Cheney, accepting Libby's resignation. Libby resigned earlier Friday shortly after his indictment [PDF text; JURIST report] on obstruction of justice and perjury charges in the CIA leak case [JURIST news archive].






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New York appeals court upholds ban on New Paltz same-sex marriages
Holly Manges Jones on October 28, 2005 3:11 PM ET

[JURIST] A New York appellate court has upheld a lower court ruling [JURIST report] banning New Paltz [official website; JURIST news archive] Mayor Jason West from performing same-sex marriages. The unanimous five-judge panel said West "acted beyond his authority" when he presided over 24 gay marriages last year. West was tried for violating New York's domestic relations law [JURIST report], but has repeatedly argued that he was attempting to uphold the constitutional rights of gay couples. Justice John Lahtinen wrote the court's opinion [PDF text] saying:

West robed himself with judicial powers and declared the marriage laws of this state unconstitutional. Having concluded that the Legislature violated the constitution, he then wrapped himself with that body's power and drafted his own set of documents for licensing marriages. In so doing, he clearly exceeded his role as a village mayor.
The appellate court has also been hearing individual cases brought by same-sex couples who were refused marriage licenses, some of which are expected to go to New York's high court to make the final determination on whether the state will allow same-sex marriage [JURIST news archive]. From Albany, 1010 WINS has local coverage.





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Prosecutor confirms Libby told Miller about Plame
Jeannie Shawl on October 28, 2005 2:45 PM ET

[JURIST] I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby [official profile], who served as chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney before resigning Friday following his indictment [PDF text; JURIST report] on obstruction of justice and perjury charges in the CIA leak case [JURIST news archive], was the first administration official known to talk to a reporter about the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame when he talked to the New York Times' Judith Miller [JURIST news archive] in June 2003, US Department of Justice Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald [official website] said in a press conference Friday afternoon. Earlier this month Miller said that she "didn't think" she got the name from Libby [JURIST report], and said she couldn't recall who she heard the name from. Fitzgerald also said that the investigation into the leak of undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity is not yet over, but noted that the bulk of the work has been completed. Fitzgerald said that the current grand jury's term has expired and will not be renewed, but said that, if necessary, another federal grand jury could be empaneled. Fitzgerald also declined to comment about possible charges [JURIST report] against top presidential advisor Karl Rove [official profile], saying that it was only appropriate to comment on indictments actually returned by the grand jury.






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Spanish court upholds arrest warrants for US soldiers in killing of journalists in Iraq
Holly Manges Jones on October 28, 2005 2:40 PM ET

[JURIST] Spain's National Court Friday upheld arrest warrants for three US soldiers charged with the 2003 killing of Spanish journalist Jose Couso [advocacy website] in Iraq. Couso was killed while filming for Spain's Telecinco [media website in Spanish] network from a balcony in Baghdad's Palestine Hotel. Prosecutors for the National Court challenged the warrants [JURIST report], which were issued last week [JURIST report], saying the Spanish court did not have jurisdiction over the matter and also because the warrants had procedural flaws. National Court Judge Santiago Pedraz disagreed, however, and denied contentions that the warrants were a "reprisal" for the lack of cooperation by US officials into a Spanish investigation of the killing. Reporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists [advocacy websites] decided to assist Couso's family in pursuing the criminal case against the three US soldiers after the Pentagon cleared the men from any wrongdoing [Reporters Without Borders report] in Couso's death. The soldiers cannot be arrested on US soil, but could face detention if they travel to any country with an extradition treaty with Spain. BBC has more; from Madrid, EFE has local coverage.






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Australian terror suspect to sue for British citizenship
Holly Manges Jones on October 28, 2005 2:07 PM ET

[JURIST] Australian terror suspect David Hicks [BBC profile; advocacy website] has confirmed his plans to sue the United Kingdom government [JURIST report] over its disinclination to grant him British citizenship. Hicks was captured in Afghanistan four years ago and is accused of fighting with the Taliban against US or coalition forces and for training with al-Qaida. He has been held in the Guantanamo Bay prison camp [JURIST news archive] since his capture and applied for British citizenship [JURIST report] last month. Hicks' interest in becoming a UK citizen stems from the British government's negotiations for the release [JURIST report] of nine UK citizens held in Guantanamo Bay. All nine were released and repatriated to the UK, but it is doubtful that Hicks will follow them since the British Home Office [official website] sent a letter to his lawyers saying his application would most likely not succeed due to "public policy considerations." Hicks will stand trial before a military commission [JURIST report] beginning November 18. From Australia, the Adelaide Advertiser has more.






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Environmental brief ~ EPA says Bush power plant pollution proposal better than current law
Tom Henry on October 28, 2005 1:15 PM ET

[JURIST] Leading Friday's environmental law news, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) [official website] has released an analysis [EPA press release] comparing a number of different proposed legislative and regulatory initiatives aimed at reducing air pollution from coal fired power plants. The analysis [text], presented by EPA administrator Steve Johnson before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, concluded that the Clear Skies [PDF text, EPA backgrounder] proposal promoted by President Bush was superior to current law and other alternative proposals. The New York Times has more.

In other environmental law news...






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UK MP Galloway received 18 million barrels of Iraq oil allocations, UN report says
Holly Manges Jones on October 28, 2005 1:00 PM ET

[JURIST] George Galloway, a member of the British Parliament, allegedly received an allocation for 18 million barrels of oil from Saddam Hussein through the UN oil-for-food program [official website; JURIST news archive] in exchange for assistance in getting UN sanctions lifted against the former regime, according to the last report [text] released [JURIST report] Thursday by the UN's Independent Inquiry Committee (IIC) [official website]. The 500-page document indicates that $445,000 made its way through the Mariam Appeal [charity website], a fund that the MP created for Iraqis with leukemia, which was also used to oppose UN sanctions against Iraq. The current IIC report further alleges that $120,000 from oil revenues were paid to Galloway's soon-to-be ex-wife, Dr. Amineh Abu Zayyad, which is separate from the alleged $150,000 in oil sales paid to Zayyad which was uncovered by a US Senate investigation. Galloway has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, claiming the report is "untrue, unjust, [and] misleading." Reuters has more; from the UK, the Independent has local coverage.

Meanwhile, reactions by the leaders of countries named in the IIC report for wrongdoing have been defensive. Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov [official biography] said Friday that many of the documents relied upon by the IIC to implicate senior Russian officials and LUKOIL Oil Company [corporate website] in the oil-for-food scandal were fakes, including the signatures of several Russian officials. Reuters has more. Also, Australian Prime Minister John Howard [official website] defended the Australian Wheat Board [corporate website] amidst allegations that the wheat exporter provided kickbacks to the Iraqi government, saying he could not "imagine for a moment that they would have knowingly been involved in anything improper." AFP has more.






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BREAKING NEWS ~ Libby indicted in CIA leak probe
Jeannie Shawl on October 28, 2005 12:50 PM ET

[JURIST] KGW.com is reporting that the federal grand jury empaneled in the CIA leak probe [JURIST news archive] has handed up an indictment for I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby [official profile], Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, on charges of obstruction of justice, making a false statement and perjury. The charges follow a two-year investigation that began when the identity of undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame [JURIST news archive] was revealed days after her husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, criticized the Bush administration's pre-Iraq war intelligence. US Department of Justice Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald [official website] has scheduled a press conference for 2 PM ET Friday. Watch a live webcast, via C-SPAN.

1:05 PM ET - According to the five-count indictment, Libby lied to investigators about how and when he learned of Plame's identity. Libby had initially told the grand jury that he first learned of Plame's identity from journalists, but earlier this week, it was reported that Cheney was the first person to discuss Plame with Libby [JURIST report]. Additionally, there had been speculation [JURIST report] earlier this week that the grand jury would also return an indictment for top presidential advisor Karl Rove [official profile]. Earlier Friday, however, Rove's lawyer said that he had been told by Fitzgerald's office that there will no indictment against Rove [JURIST report] at this time, though investigators will continue their probe into his conduct. AP has more.

1:14 PM ET - KGW.com is reporting that Libby has resigned his White House position.

1:20 PM ET - Fitzgerald has now released the indictment [PDF text]. According to an accompanying statement from the DOJ Office of Special Counsel:

Senior White House official I. Lewis Libby was indicted today on obstruction of justice, false statement and perjury charges for allegedly lying about how and when in 2003 he learned and subsequently disclosed to reporters then-classified information concerning the employment of Valerie Wilson by the Central Intelligence Agency. Libby was charged with one count of obstruction of justice, two counts of perjury and two counts of making false statements in a five-count indictment returned today by a federal grand jury as its term expired, announced Justice Department Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald. ...

The charges allege that Libby lied to FBI agents who interviewed him on October 14 and November 26, 2003; committed perjury while testifying under oath before the grand jury on March 5 and March 24, 2004; and engaged in obstruction of justice by impeding the grand jury's investigation into the unauthorized disclosure - or "leaking" - of Valerie Wilson’s affiliation with the CIA to various reporters in the spring of 2003. ...

If convicted, the crimes charged in the indictment carry the following maximum penalties on each count: obstruction of justice - 10 years in prison, and making false statements and perjury -5 years in prison, and each count carries a maximum fine of $250,000, making the maximum penalty for conviction on all counts 30 years in prison and a $1.25 million fine. Note, however, that the Court would determine the appropriate sentence to be imposed.
Read the full DOJ press release [PDF].





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Italian court considers fraud indictment against PM
David Shucosky on October 28, 2005 11:46 AM ET

[JURIST] An Italian court began hearings on Friday to decide if Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi [BBC News profile, JURIST news archive] will stand trial for fraud in connection with his business holdings [JURIST report]. Berlusconi has previously been cleared of charges of false accounting [JURIST report] and bribery [JURIST report] for separate incidents. If charges are approved, it could result in a trial that coincides with next April's general election. The most serious accusation against Berlusconi resulting from a four-year investigation into a TV rights deal involving Mediaset [corporate website in Italian], controlled by a holding company controlled by Berlusconi's family, is tax fraud. Berlusconi has denied any wrongdoing. Reuters has more.






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Saddam defense team asks UN to press for venue change
David Shucosky on October 28, 2005 11:33 AM ET

[JURIST] The defense team for Saddam Hussein [JURIST news archive] renewed its call for a change of venue [JURIST report] for his trial on Friday, this time asking UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan [official profile] to put pressure on the US and Iraqi government to move the trial to The Hague. The defense team noted both security concerns in the wake of the murder [JURIST report] of a lawyer for one of Hussein's co-defendants and legal issues about the legitimacy of the Iraqi Special Tribunal [official website] and the fairness of the proceedings. AFP has more.

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New York doctor sentenced to 22 years for Iraq charity fraud
David Shucosky on October 28, 2005 11:21 AM ET

[JURIST] Dr. Rafil Dhafir, an oncologist in the Syracuse, New York area, was sentenced to 22 years in prison on Thursday after being convicted of 59 charges in February, including mail and wire fraud, conspiracy, tax evasion and money laundering. Dhafir was indicted in 2003 [JURIST report] for funneling donations for his Help The Needy charity to Iraq in violation of US sanctions. Dhafir told the court on Thursday that the prosecution's fraud case against him was politically motivated [Aljazeera report] and was misrepresented because he could not be linked to terrorism. Then-Attorney General John Ashcroft characterized Dhafir as a terrorist, but no terrorism charges were ever filed and both parties were forbidden from mentioning terrorism at trial. The Syracuse Post-Standard has local coverage.






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Former Alabama governor pleads not guilty to racketeering charges
David Shucosky on October 28, 2005 10:57 AM ET

[JURIST] Former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman [official profile] pleaded not guilty on Thursday afternoon to charges related to what prosecutors are calling a "widespread racketeering conspiracy" [JURIST report]. Former Chief of Staff Paul Hamrick and former state Transportation Director Mack Roberts also pleaded not guilty on Thursday. Richard Scrushy [defense website], the former HealthSouth CEO who was acquitted of fraud charges [JURIST report] in June, is expected in court Friday to enter a plea on bribery charges. Prosecutors say $500,000 in contributions that Scrushy made to the Alabama Educational Lottery Foundation in 1999 and 2000 were intended to secure his position on a state board overseeing hospital expansion. Scrushy's lawyer said "[he] is not guilty and will be fully vindicated at trial." The Washington Post has more. The Montgomery Advertiser has local coverage.






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Khodorkovsky promises to keep fighting Kremlin from prison
David Shucosky on October 28, 2005 10:35 AM ET

[JURIST] Jailed Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky [MosNews profile; JURIST news archive] issued a statement [full text] on his defense website Thursday criticizing the Russian government and vowing to keep his case in the news:

[The Kremlin is] hoping that Khodorkovsky will soon be forgotten. They are trying to convince you, my friends, that the fight is over. That one has to reconcile oneself to the rule of self-serving bureaucrats in Russia. That is not true. The fight is just beginning.
Russia has been accused of human rights violations and failing to uphold the rule of law [JURIST report] in connection with Khodorkovsky's conviction [JURIST report] for fraud and tax evasion in what many consider to be a politically motivated trial [JURIST report]. Earlier this month, Khodorkovsky was transferred to a Siberian prison [JURIST report] will here will serve out his eight-year prison sentence [JURIST report]. AP has more. MosNews has local coverage.
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 Op-ed: A Wake-up Call: Khodorkovsky and the Rule of Law in Russia





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Japan PM proposes changes to military clause in constitution
David Shucosky on October 28, 2005 10:04 AM ET

[JURIST] Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party [official website, English version], led by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, on Friday proposed changes to the pacifist language of the country's constitution, originally written by US occupation forces in 1947. Article 9 of Japan's constitution [text] requires Japan to renounce the right to wage war or threaten force to settle international disputes. It also forbids Japan from maintaining a military, although Japan has been allowed to maintain a Self-Defense Force [GlobalSecurity profile] of about 240,000 troops. The LDP and top opposition party the Democratic Party of Japan [official website, English version] want to amend Article 9 to clearly establish entitlement to the SDF [JURIST report]. A two-thirds majority of both houses of parliament must approve the changes. If it passes in Parliament, a nationwide referendum would be held for final approval. In July, thousands of protestors voiced disapproval for such a revision [JURIST report]. The move may also further strain relations with Japan's neighbors, especially China and South Korea. Reuters has more.






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Texas prosecutor subpoenas 2002 e-mails from DeLay associates
Nishat Hasan on October 28, 2005 8:46 AM ET

[JURIST] Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle [official website] has subpoenaed all 2002 e-mail correspondence to and from the three indicted associates of Rep. Tom DeLay [official website; JURIST news archive], though the request was not made of DeLay. John Colyandro, Jim Ellis and Warren RoBold were indicted [JURIST report] along with DeLay on conspiracy and money laundering charges for allegedly funneling corporate money to seven GOP candidates for the Texas Legislature in violation of Texas state law. DeLay has denied [campaign website legal analysis] any wrong doing and accused Earle of pursing the case for political reasons. Last week, DeLay asked [JURIST report] Judge Bob Perkins to recuse himself because of contributions made to Democratic candidates and liberal advocacy groups. A hearing on that motion is scheduled for Nov. 1 [JURIST report]. AP has more.

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 Op-ed: Tom DeLay's Challenge to Texas Grand Jury Process





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Mexico becomes 100th nation to ratify International Criminal Court statute
Nishat Hasan on October 28, 2005 8:25 AM ET

[JURIST] UN officials have announced that Mexico will become the 100th nation to ratify the Rome Statute [PDF text], the 1998 treaty creating the International Criminal Court [official website], when Mexican officials deposit their ratification documents Friday. The court was established to try individuals for serious international crimes, including genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Its governing Rome Statute took effect in 2002 [ICC backgrounder]; offences commited after that date are liable for prosecution by the ICC. The US opposes the court [State Dept. fact sheet] and has insisted that US officials, soldiers and contractors be exempted from ICC prosecution by threatening to cut military aid to countries that do not sign so-called Article 98 agreements [State Dept. backgrounder] promising not to surrender US persons to the court without US consent. Reuters has more.






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No indictment for Rove Friday in CIA leak case; charges expected for Libby
Jeannie Shawl on October 28, 2005 8:21 AM ET

[JURIST] White House advisor Karl Rove [official profile] has been told that he will not be indicted Friday by Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald [official website] in the CIA leak case [JURIST news archive], according to reports from ABC News and Sky News. Fitzgerald is expected to announce indictments [JURIST report] Friday in the two-year investigation into the leak of undercover operative Valerie Plame's identity. Administration officials could be charged for violating the 1982 Intelligence Identities Protection Act [50 USC s. 421 text] if Fitzgerald can show that any person disclosing Plame's identity knew of her covert status. According to people briefed on the case, however, Rove will remain under investigation, which may prompt Fitzgerald to extend the term of the federal grand jury [Dayton Law backgrounder]. An indictment is expected for I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby [official profile], Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff. It is thought that Libby will be charged with making false statements [JURIST report] to the grand jury, and White House officials have said that they presume Libby will resign if indicted. Friday's New York Times has more.






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French president calls for international tribunal for Hariri killers
Nishat Hasan on October 28, 2005 7:57 AM ET

[JURIST] French President Jacques Chirac has called for an international tribunal to try Syrian and Lebanese suspects in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri [JURIST news archive]. The UN International Independent Investigation Commission (UNIIIC) submitted its interim report [text; JURIST report] to the UN Security Council last week, which implicated both Syrian and Lebanese security officials in the February bomb attack which also killed 22 others. The report also named high level Syrian officials as suspects. Chirac said Thursday that he preferred an international tribunal because Lebanese courts could be prone to intimidation, but stressed that should domestic courts be used to try suspects that there be international support and guarantees of a fair trial. Hariri's son has also called for an international trial [JURIST report], but the US and other nations are reluctant to create another international tribunal fearing the cost and time involved. Meanwhile Friday, the US, France and Great Britain circulated a revised draft UN resolution [AFP report] threatening economic and political sanctions under Article 41 of the UN Charter [text] against Syria if it did not fully cooperate with the ongoing probe into Hariri's murder. The revised draft, however, tones down language on punitive measures and provides that any sanctions would be overseen by a special committee [Middle East Times report]. The draft resolution triggered immediate opposition by Algeria, China and Russia in the UN Security Council. China and Russia are both veto-holding members of the Council and would need to approve the resolution. Reuters has more.






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UN endorses international election observation standards
Greg Sampson on October 28, 2005 7:15 AM ET

[JURIST] UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan [official profile] on Thursday endorsed [press release] a Declaration of Principles for International Election Observation [PDF text] and an accompanying Code of Conduct in efforts to begin establishing new standards for international election monitoring. The new standards stress that human rights and democracy cannot be achieved without the protections of the rule of law, and require that participating observer organizations maintain impartiality through all stages of the election process. The guidelines also bar monitors from accepting funding from host governments and call for freedom of movement and full access to information for monitors. Annan said that "The presence of international election observers -- fielded always at the invitation of sovereign States -- can make a big difference in ensuring that elections genuinely move the democratic process forward. Their mere presence can dissuade misconduct, ensure transparency, and inspire confidence in the process." The guidelines are the result of a joint effort by the UN Electoral Assistance Division [official website], the Carter Center [official website] and the National Democratic Institute [official website]. UN News has more.






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Environmental brief ~ 16 companies settle CA groundwater pollution claims
Tom Henry on October 27, 2005 8:40 PM ET

[JURIST] In Thursday's environmental law news, sixteen firms, including Huffy, Lockheed Martin, Mobil Oil, and Philip Morris, have agreed to pay [EPA press release] $14.9 million for polluting groundwater in California. In 1979, a contamination plume, measuring 1 mile wide by 8 miles long, was discovered under Baldwin park in Whittier, CA. Known as the San Gabriel Valley Area 2 Superfund site [EPA backgrounder], the plume consisted of mostly rocket fuel, dry cleaning chemicals and industrial solvents. A number of companies had already settled for their role in the contamination, and this settlement includes companies that had previously refused to contribute for cleanup costs. The Whittier Daily News has more.

In other environmental law news...






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Oil-for-food report shows need for UN reform, say Annan, State Department
Joshua Pantesco on October 27, 2005 7:25 PM ET

[JURIST] Reacting Thursday to the publication [JURIST report] of the Volcker committee's final report [TOC] on the UN oil-for-food scandal [JURIST news archive], UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the US State Department both emphasized the need to reform program oversight mechanisms at the United Nations which they said allowed Iraqi ex-president Saddam Hussein to corrupt the UN's humanitarian Oil-for-Food Program [official website]. Annan also emphasized the need for UN member states to prosecute companies within their own territories that knowingly participate in illegal activities. State Department spokesperson Sean McCormack called the report "one more data point" [State Department transcript], suggesting that "reform of the UN secretariat and implementation of important management reforms" is necessary. The Independent Inquiry Committee [official website] led by former US central bank chief Paul Volcker [Wikipedia profile], confirmed its prior conclusion [JURIST report] that Annan himself was not guilty of influencing the bidding process that awarded a company employing his son Kojo a lucrative contract. AFP has more on the State Department response; the UN news service has more on Annan's position.






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Restrictive Korean medical advertising statute ruled unconstitutional
Joshua Pantesco on October 27, 2005 6:40 PM ET

[JURIST] The Constitutional Court of Korea [official website] Thursday struck down a statute limiting the scope of medical advertising to statements on types of services offered, types of facilities, and number of employees. The content of hospital and clinic advertising may now include representations as to the capabilities and methods of the provider. The 6-3 majority decision reasoned that "direct-to-consumer advertising could empower the patient to learn more about medical options if they are based on accurate information. It could also result in a healthy competition between medical institutes that could benefit the quality of health-care services eventually." The minority opinion cautioned against the potential for providers to exaggerate and distort their capabilities in order to increase earnings. The Korean Medical Association [official website, in Korean] supports the decision, but other civic groups have expressed concerns similar to the dissent. The Korea Times has local coverage.






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DOJ conditions major telecom mergers on divestures
Joshua Pantesco on October 27, 2005 6:01 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Department of Justice [official website] Thursday endorsed [press release] the mergers of Verizon Communications with MCI and SBC Communications with AT&T [corporate websites], requiring both Verizon and SBC to lease to competitors unused or "dark" communications lines that run to office buildings in several metropolitan areas. The DOJ Antitrust Division filed complaints in the US DC District Court alleging that holding these lines would unfairly increase prices for business customers in 8 of Verizon's franchise territories and 11 of SBC's franchise territories; the proposed divestitures, if approved by the court, would resolve the concerns [SBC case filings here; Verizon case filings here]. A spokesperson for the Department said that "the transactions will not harm competition and will likely benefit consumers, due to existing competition, emerging technologies, the changing regulatory environment." Verizon and MCI issued a joint press release welcoming the merger approval; SBC issued a release saying it will adopt the AT&T name. AP has more.






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Kenyans clash in riot over draft constitution
Greg Sampson on October 27, 2005 4:58 PM ET

[JURIST] Kenya's debate over its draft constitution [text, PDF] has erupted into violence, with supporters and opponents clashing in the streets in what has become an increasingly intense disagreement [JURIST report] over a controversial document. Dozens were injured during rioting by machete-wielding demonstrators Wednesday evening in the town of Kakamega in Kenya's Western Province. The incident is the latest in a series of recent violent outbreaks between opposing political factions. Critics say that the document leaves too much power concentrated in the presidency and fails to establish a clear separation between state and religion. The proposed changes are the first Kenyans have attempted to make to their constitution since the country's 1963 independence from Britain. Kenyans will vote on the new charter in a referendum scheduled for November 21. AFP has more.

Previously in JURIST's Paper Chase...






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Federal appeals court upholds injunction against Georgia voter ID law
Greg Sampson on October 27, 2005 4:03 PM ET

[JURIST] In a brief order issued Thursday, the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit [official website] denied a request from Georgia to throw out a lower court injunction barring enforcement of the state's new voter identification law [JURIST news archive]. In issuing last week's order [PDF text; JURIST report], a US District Court judge reasoned that because the new law required voters to show a photo identification card, it discriminated on the basis of voters' ability to pay for the ID, thus functioning as an unconstitutional poll tax. The Atlanta Journal Constitution has more.

Previously in JURIST's Paper Chase...






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Federal judge dismisses lawsuit to recover legal fees in Microsoft litigation
Christopher G. Anderson on October 27, 2005 3:36 PM ET

[JURIST] A federal judge sitting in Baltimore Thursday dismissed a lawsuit brought by a group of lawyers seeking $24 million in legal fees for their work in the Microsoft antitrust cases [JURIST news archive], saying he did not have jurisdiction. The lawsuit was brought by a group of 27 law firms that represented plaintiffs in federal court who sought a share of the $79 million in fees that a group of 11 law firms received for state court cases against software giant Microsoft [corporate website]. The federal court lawyers claim they did significant work for the state court lawyers, including funding the litigation, taking depositions and working with experts. Over the past five years, attorneys at both the state and federal level have represented end-user plaintiffs in antitrust overcharge class action lawsuits against Microsoft. AP has more.






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Ex-professor calls no witnesses to defend against US terror charges
Christopher G. Anderson on October 27, 2005 2:50 PM ET

[JURIST] Lawyers for Sami Al-Arian [advocacy website], the former Florida college professor charged by the US government with aiding and abetting Palestinian terrorists, rested their case Thursday without calling a single witness to refute the five months of prosecution testimony. Al-Arian's lawyer called the prosecution an "all-out assault on the First Amendment" and then rested his case. Al-Arian was indicted [PDF text; JURIST report] in 2003 on 50 counts, including charges of conspiracy to commit terrorism. Al-Arian, 47, taught computer science at the University of South Florida [official website], until being fired shortly after his indictment [JURIST report]. AP has more. The Tampa Bay Tribune has local coverage.

Previously in JURIST's Paper Chase...






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UN rights experts question fairness of Andijan rebel trial
Tom Henry on October 27, 2005 2:34 PM ET

[JURIST] Experts with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] expressed concern over the fairness of the trial of 15 men in Uzbekistan charged with terrorism and precipitating the violent uprising in the town of Andijan [JURIST news archive] in May 2005, according to a press release issued Thursday. According to the statement:

The Special Rapporteurs are concerned about allegations of irregularities in preparation of the trial and of defence procedures that are inadequate to ensure a fair trial. They also fear that the crime of terrorism is not defined in national law in a manner compatible with the requirements of articles 6 and 15 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in relation to crimes subject to capital punishment.

Moreover, as little evidence has been presented during the trial, apart from confessions; since the defendants admitted their guilt on the first day of the trial reciting the prosecutors' accusatory text and asking for the death penalty; and in light of the fact that they were not cross-examined by independent lawyers, the Special Rapporteurs express concern that the defendants' confessions may have been obtained by means of torture. The previous Special Rapporteur on torture, in his report on a visit to Uzbekistan (document E/CN.4/2003/68/Add.2) wrote that, "torture or similar ill-treatment is systematic as defined by the Committee against Torture [and that] torture and other forms of ill-treatment appear to be used indiscriminately against persons charged for activities qualified as serious crimes such as acts against State interests, as well as petty criminals and others."
UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers Leandro Despouy last week questioned the fairness of the trial [JURIST report] and the validity of the confessions from the 15 [JURIST report]. Observers said the rebellion alleged by Uzbek government officials actually entailed government troops firing on and killing as many as 500 protesters in Andijan, but Uzbekistan [government website; JURIST news archive] has resisted calls for an independent investigation into the event and denied charges of using torture [JURIST report] to extract the confessions. IRIN has more.





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Bilateral deportation agreements circumvent international law, UN official says
Christopher G. Anderson on October 27, 2005 2:18 PM ET

[JURIST] Manfred Nowak, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture [official website], has voiced concern that countries are using diplomatic assurances to circumvent the absolute prohibition in the Convention against Torture [text] against the forcible return to countries where there is a risk of torture or ill-treatment. Nowak said that some countries are deporting aliens to countries that systematically practice torture, if the accepting government promises not torture that particular deportee, and said that this practice fails to "take up the issue of the systematic practice of torture." In August, Nowak criticized [JURIST report] British Prime Minister Tony Blair's plan to deport Islamic extremists [JURIST report], saying it is likely to result in violations of international human rights law. Britain has reached "Memorandums of Understanding" with Jordan [JURIST report] and Libya [JURIST report], specifying that foreign nationals deported to those countries will not be mistreated upon their return. Earlier this week, the UK and Jordan agreed to allow an independent rights organization to monitor the treatment of deportees [JURIST report]. UN News has more.






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Australian anti-terror proposals rejected by state leader
Tom Henry on October 27, 2005 2:05 PM ET

[JURIST] Australian Capital Territory Chief Minister Jon Stanhope [official website] on Thursday became the first state or territory leader in Australia to reject the federal government's proposed anti-terrorism legislation [PDF text] in its current form. Stanhope's opposition [JURIST report] focused on provisions dealing with preventative detention and control orders. After receiving expert opinion, Stanhope concluded that he would not implement provisions that may breach Australia's obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) [text]. Australian Attorney General Philip Ruddock [official website] supported the proposed legislation [transcript] and the constitutionality of allowing judges to subject people to control orders:

These matters have been tested before in relation to powers of warrants for a range of security-related purposes. The system that is used for questioning warrants involves a judicial officer in considering a request approved by me, asked for by ASIO, before a warrant is issued. Now that is a matter that we were advised was constitutional when we implemented it. It hasn't been challenged. In relation to all of the surveillance that is undertaken by police under the telecommunications interception legislation, warrants are issued by judicial officers, again using the same power of the constitution of judicial officers acting in their personal capacity and not being involved in any review that might be undertaken when decisions are challenged. ... But the point I make is that there are a range of functions that are now carried out where judges or judicial officers exercise a personal decision-making capacity which the court in Grollo's case in 1995 upheld and our advice from our constitutional experts is that these measures are of the same character.
The Canberra Times has more.





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WorldCom institutional investors reach $651 million settlement
Christopher G. Anderson on October 27, 2005 1:38 PM ET

[JURIST] Investment banks and other defendants associated with the WorldCom accounting fraud [JURIST news archive] fallout have agreed to settle with a group of over 65 institutional investors for $651 million. The investors had opted out of a broader class action lawsuit previously brought that netted $6.1 billion [JURIST report] for WorldCom stock and bond holders. The settlement will compensate institutional investors, such as pension fund groups, who purchased WorldCom stocks and bonds from 1998 to 2001. WorldCom [MCI/WorldCom website] plunged into bankruptcy in 2002 after the accounting fraud at the company was revealed. Former WorldCom CEO Bernard Ebbers [JURIST news archive] was sentenced to 25 years in prison [JURIST news report] for his role in defrauding investors. Reuters has more.






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Few regrets over Miers withdrawal
Tom Henry on October 27, 2005 1:15 PM ET

[JURIST] After Harriet Miers withdrew her nomination [JURIST report] to the US Supreme Court in a letter [PDF] to President Bush Thursday, Republican and Democratic Senators who had generally been lukewarm about her nomination and skeptical of her experience and credentials seemed ready to move on to a new candidate. Senate Judiciary Committee member Charles Schumer (D-NY) [official website] for instance described Miers as a "fine and capable person" who was "clearly the wrong [person for the] position." He urged the President "to choose a knowledgeable and mainstream successor in the mold of Sandra Day O'Connor." Other Senator who did not bemoan Miers' demise nonetheless expressed dismay about the nomination process that brought about her withdrawal. Judiciary Committee chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA) [official website] described the events that led to her decision to pull out as a "sad episode in the history of Washington, D.C." and described the treatment she has received as "really disgraceful." Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) [official website] was more explicit, saying "The radical right wing of the Republican Party killed the Harriet Miers nomination." AP has more.

Conservative Focus on the Family [advocacy website] founder James Dobson, who at one point seemed likely to be called to testify at Miers' confirmation hearing [JURIST report] about assurances allegedly made to him about Miers' views and likely rulings, commended [press release] President Bush for "wise decision in accepting Harriet Miers' withdrawal." He said he had been "increasingly concerned about her conservative credentials." Ralph Neas, president of the liberal People for the American Way [advocacy website], called the Miers nomination and withdrawal an "astonishing spectacle" that "demonstrates [that] the ultra-right wing dominance of Republican Party politics is total." NPR has more. US Newswire maintains a running list of press releases by groups reacting to the withdrawal of the Miers nomination.






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Announcement expected Friday in CIA leak case
Christopher G. Anderson on October 27, 2005 1:03 PM ET

[JURIST] There will be no announcements in the investigation into the leak of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity until Friday, a spokesperson for Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald [official website] said Thursday. The White House is waiting for news on whether a federal grand jury will issue indictments after Fitzgerald met with the panel [JURIST report] Wednesday. The investigation is said to be focusing on two key White House aides, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby [official profile], the vice president's chief of staff, and Bush's top political advisor, Karl Rove [official profile]. The two-year investigation began when the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame [JURIST news archive; Wikipedia profile] was revealed days after her husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, criticized the Bush administration's pre-Iraq war intelligence. AP has more.

Previously in JURIST's Paper Chase...






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China high court confirms plan to review all death sentences
Holly Manges Jones on October 27, 2005 12:21 PM ET

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of China [official website in Chinese] Thursday confirmed its plan to remove the authority from lower courts to review death sentences [JURIST report], which is expected to decrease the number of execution sentences currently given and also prevent fatal miscarriages of justice. China [JURIST news archive] has been criticized by international human rights groups for the large number of executions performed in the country, but the impact of the reforms may be difficult to ascertain since Beijing keeps secret the number of people shot or executed by lethal injection. Amnesty International [advocacy website] has reported that there were 200 executions over a two-week period in February, and information from a senior Chinese lawmaker indicates that the actual annual toll could be close to 10,000. A court press release [text in Chinese] announcing the high court's decision said, "Taking back authority for death penalty approval will undoubtedly be of great service in ensuring strict control of its use, setting a unified standard and fulfilling constitutional human rights protections." The court did not give a date for the limits to be imposed. The Financial Times has more.






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'Dirty bomb' suspect appeals indefinite detention to Supreme Court
Holly Manges Jones on October 27, 2005 11:29 AM ET

[JURIST] Jose Padilla [JURIST news archive] has filed an appeal [PDF cert. petition, via How Appealing] with the US Supreme Court, asking the Court to place limits on the government's ability to hold him and other terror suspects indefinitely without filing charges against them. Padilla has been in US custody for over three years on allegations that he was involved in an al Qaeda plot to detonate a radioactive "dirty bomb" in the US. Last year, the high court dismissed Padilla's challenge to his indefinite detention in a 5-4 decision because he brought it in the wrong court, but Padilla refiled the case [JURIST report]. Earlier this year, a federal judge in South Carolina ordered the government to either charge or release him, but the Fourth Circuit decided [opinion, PDF] that he could be detained indefinitely without charges [JURIST report], prompting Padilla's latest appeal to the high court. The Bush administration has argued that terrorist suspects should not be given constitutional protections when national security is at issue, and the new make-up of the court could bring a majority decision in favor of Bush's contentions. The Justices are not expected to decide whether they will hear Padilla's case until later this year. AP has more.

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 Op-ed: Jose Padilla and the Milligan Problem | Topic: Enemy Combatants





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Malawi court delays presidential impeachment proceedings
Holly Manges Jones on October 27, 2005 10:36 AM ET

[JURIST] The Constitutional Court in Malawi [government website; BBC country profile] Wednesday issued a temporary injunction delaying impeachment proceedings by parliament against Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika [BBC profile] until the court has the opportunity to review parliamentary guidelines regarding how to remove the president. Parliament adopted the new impeachment procedures [JURIST report] last week to fill a gap in the constitution, which allowed for a president's removal but did not indicate the manner in which it should be done. Mutharika faces impeachment after charges were brought against him for misusing public funds and abusing his presidential role, and Parliament had called for him to answer the charges, but Mutharika appealed directly to the Constitutional Court which led to the court's ruling. He argued that the new impeachment procedures were unconstitutional and "not in accordance with the rules of natural justice." Parliamentary officials said they plan to appeal the court's injunction. AP has more.






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DeLay failed to fully disclose legal defense contributions
Holly Manges Jones on October 27, 2005 9:59 AM ET

[JURIST] US Representative Tom DeLay [official website; JURIST news archive] has informed US House of Representative officials that he neglected to disclose all contributions made to his legal defense fund as mandated by congressional rules. DeLay told House officials that he began an audit which uncovered an unreported amount of $20,850 contributed in 2000 and 2001 to the defense fund. Another $17,300 was listed in the defense fund's quarterly report, but was not disclosed in DeLay's 2000 annual financial disclosure report, and other donations that actually totaled $4,450 were understated as totaling $2,800. Congressional rules require the disclosure of donations in quarterly reports and mandate disclosures of donations over $250 on annual reports. DeLay said that he first realized the inconsistencies last February and called for a "full and complete" audit at that point. Meanwhile, DeLay has decided to personally attend a hearing next Tuesday on whether the judge overseeing his trial should be replaced [JURIST report]. DeLay is facing money laundering and criminal conspiracy charges for allegedly helping to funnel corporate donations to GOP candidates for the Texas Legislature in violation of Texas state law. His attorney said DeLay wants to be present at the hearing because "he wants to be involved in every facet [of the case] particularly when something is very important." AP has more.

ALSO ON JURIST

 Op-ed: Tom DeLay's Challenge to Texas Grand Jury Process





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DeLay failed to fully disclose legal defense contributions
Holly Manges Jones on October 27, 2005 9:59 AM ET

[JURIST] US Representative Tom DeLay [official website; JURIST news archive] has informed US House of Representative officials that he neglected to disclose all contributions made to his legal defense fund as mandated by congressional rules. DeLay told House officials that he began an audit which uncovered an unreported amount of $20,850 contributed in 2000 and 2001 to the defense fund. Another $17,300 was listed in the defense fund's quarterly report, but was not disclosed in DeLay's 2000 annual financial disclosure report, and other donations that actually totaled $4,450 were understated as totaling $2,800. Congressional rules require the disclosure of donations in quarterly reports and mandate disclosures of donations over $250 on annual reports. DeLay said that he first realized the inconsistencies last February and called for a "full and complete" audit at that point. Meanwhile, DeLay has decided to personally attend a hearing next Tuesday on whether the judge overseeing his trial should be replaced [JURIST report]. DeLay is facing money laundering and criminal conspiracy charges for allegedly helping to funnel corporate donations to GOP candidates for the Texas Legislature in violation of Texas state law. His attorney said DeLay wants to be present at the hearing because "he wants to be involved in every facet [of the case] particularly when something is very important." AP has more.

ALSO ON JURIST

 Op-ed: Tom DeLay's Challenge to Texas Grand Jury Process





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Possible fraud in management of Iraq rebuilding funds, US investigator says
Holly Manges Jones on October 27, 2005 9:15 AM ET

[JURIST] US officials and members of the Iraqi government have mismanaged $24 million in reconstruction grants made by the US in 2004, and fraudulent activities may have occurred in some of the cases, according to a report [text, PDF] released Wednesday by the US Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction [official website]. Inspector General Stuart Bowen [official profile] said he has recommended an investigation into several cases of potential fraud related to grants given to Iraq's south-central region to help rebuilding efforts after the US invasion in 2003. The grants were meant to be used for projects including road repair, media work, and efforts to bring heightened awareness to women's rights issues, but it is not clear that the money was actually spent on those goals. Bowen's report said that individuals working for the Coalition Provisional Authority [official website] have not been able to account for $20.5 million in funds, and audits into these monies are still ongoing. The report recommends stricter controls over grants and also calls for the creation of an investigatory team to research whether other regions in Iraq had similar issues in managing grants. Reuters has more.






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BREAKING NEWS ~ Miers withdraws Supreme Court nomination
Jeannie Shawl on October 27, 2005 9:02 AM ET

[JURIST] AP is reporting that US Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers [JURIST news archive] has withdrawn her nomination.

9:15 AM ET - In a letter [PDF] to President Bush Thursday, Miers withdrew her nomination [JURIST report], expressing concern that the confirmation process would present "a burden for the White House and our staff that is not in the best interest of the country." Citing a need to protect the independence of the Executive Branch [Findlaw executive privilege backgrounder], Miers also said that efforts to obtain documents during her service in the White House [JURIST report] as legal counsel to the President contributed to her decision to withdraw. The White House on Monday refused to release any records of White House conversations [JURIST report] between Miers and President Bush. Bush Thursday reluctantly accepted Miers' withdrawal [White House statement], saying "It is clear that senators would not be satisfied until they gained access to internal documents concerning advice provided during her tenure at the White House - disclosures that would undermine a president's ability to receive candid counsel. Harriet Miers' decision demonstrates her deep respect for this essential aspect of the constitutional separation of powers - and confirms my deep respect and admiration for her." Bush said that he would fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court, created when Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor announced her retirement [JURIST report] in July, "in a timely manner." O'Connor's retirement will not become effective until her successor is nominated and confirmed. Miers' withdrawal follows suggestions of cronyism [WSJ op-ed] in her nomination, criticism of her ideological credentials by conservative groups [JURIST report], Senators' frustration at her limited answers to written questions [JURIST report], and rarely-expressed reservations [JURIST report] from GOP legal staff on the US Senate Judiciary Committee. AP has more.






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Senate Judiciary Committee debates proposal to split 9th Circuit
Chris Buell on October 27, 2005 8:23 AM ET

[JURIST] Republican senators continued a long-running effort to build support for breaking up the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] into two circuits during a US Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] subcommitee hearing [witness list and prepared statements] Wednesday. A bill introduced earlier this month by Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) [official websites] would split the circuit into two, with one containing California, Hawaii and the Pacific Islands, and the other containing the remaining states. Proponents of the idea have argued that the circuit's caseload has grown too unwieldy for the current court structure; the circuit hears about triple the cases of the nationwide circuit court average. Many opponents, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) [official website], have called the proposal politically motivated due to the 9th Circuit's reputation as a liberal circuit. Of eight judges who testified at the hearing, three supported splitting the circuit into two. Republicans have long sought such legislation, with the House approving a measure last fall [JURIST report] that failed to make it past the Senate. Rep. James Sensenbrenner, Jr. introduced a similar bill [JURIST report] in the House last week. The Los Angeles Times has more.






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Disney shareholders appeal ruling on Ovitz severance
Chris Buell on October 27, 2005 8:09 AM ET

[JURIST] Walt Disney [corporate website] shareholders have appealed a ruling by a Delaware court that the company's directors were not liable [JURIST report] for approving a $130 million severance package for former President Michael Ovitz [Wikipedia backgrounder]. The appeal sought to have the ruling overturned on procedural and evidentiary grounds. Ovitz served as president of the company for 14 months before leaving in 1996. Reuters has more.






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US House debates bill to suspend lawyers filing frivolous suits
Chris Buell on October 27, 2005 7:54 AM ET

[JURIST] Lawyers could be suspended for a year for repeatedly filing frivolous lawsuits under a bill introduced in the US House of Representatives [official website] as part of a Republican effort to limit such lawsuits. Supporters of the legislation say frivolous claims and lawyers that bring them are clogging US courts and driving up healthcare costs around the country. H.R. 420 [bill summary], introduced by Rep. Lamar Smith [official website], would amend Rule 11 [text] of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to require a year-long suspension if a lawyer files three frivolous claims in a jurisdiction during his career. The bill also applies upon motion to state actions where the judge determines that the action affects interstate commerce, a provision that the American Bar Association [profession website] has opposed. A similar version of the bill was approved in the House [National Law Journal report] last fall, but the Senate never voted on it. With a full fall calendar this year, the Senate appears unlikely to vote on the new bill again this year. The Judicial Conference of the United States [official website] has also opposed the legislation, arguing that mandatory punishment for frivolous claims had failed to work in an earlier version of the rule. AP has more.

5:53 PM ET - The US House approved the Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act of 2005 [PDF text] Thursday afternoon by a vote of 228-184. AP has more.






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Louisiana AG subpoenas 73 hospital employees over Katrina deaths
Chris Buell on October 27, 2005 7:37 AM ET

[JURIST] Louisiana Attorney General Charles Foti [official website] has subpoenaed 73 employees of Memorial Medical Center [hospital website] in New Orleans, as part of its ongoing investigation [JURIST report] into deaths alleged at hospitals and nursing homes in the wake of Hurricane Katrina [JURIST news archive]. The subpoenas covered all levels of employees at the hospital, and a spokeswoman for the attorney general said they were needed to get employees to talk to investigators. At Memorial, 34 patients died after the hospital was cut off by flood waters, and some reports suggested that doctors at the hospital debated euthanizing some patients [CNN report] who were unlikely to survive the flood. Tenet Healthcare [corporate website], which owns Memorial, has said that it told employees that it was up to them whether to talk to investigators. Foti has been investigating at least 140 deaths at New Orleans hospitals and nursing homes, with two nursing home owners being charged with 34 counts of negligent homicide [JURIST report] for deaths that occurred during the flooding. AP has more.






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2,000+ firms paid illegal Iraq kickbacks, UN oil-for-food inquiry finds
Chris Buell on October 27, 2005 7:10 AM ET

[JURIST] More than 2,000 companies around the world paid $1.8 billion in illegal kickbacks to the regime of Saddam Hussein in abusing the now defunct UN oil-for-food program [official website; JURIST news archive], according to parts of a UN investigation obtained Thursday by the Associated Press. The Independent Inquiry Committee (IIC) [official website], led by former US Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker [official profile], is set to release its full report later Thursday. The report found that more than half of all companies participating in the program from 66 countries used illegal kickbacks and surcharges to win oil contracts from Iraq. The report is expected to be critical of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan [official profile; JURIST news archive] and the UN Security Council for failing to better monitor the program. Under the massive aid program, which ran from 1996 to 2003, Iraq was allowed to sell oil and use the proceeds to buy humanitarian goods to help citizens cope with the UN sanctions placed on the country. The report also found that Iraqi leaders, who were able to award the oil contracts, denied contracts to American, British and Japanese companies due to their government's support for the sanctions, while they favored Russia, France and China. The report, the fifth to be issued, will conclude the commission's year-long investigation. AP has more.

11:46 AM ET - The Independent Inquiry Committee has now posted online the full text of its report on The Manipulation of the United Nations Oil-for-Food Programme [PDF]. A separate table detailing Actual and Projected Illicit Payments on Contracts for Humanitarian Goods-Summary by Supplier [PDF] is also available. The 190-page list notes payments by multinationals DaimlerChrysler and Volvo as well as many other large and small businesses worldwide.

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 Text: IIC Management Report | Text: IIC 3rd Interim Report | Text: IIC 2nd Interim Report | Text: IIC Interim Report





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GM reports SEC subpoena of accounting records
Chris Buell on October 26, 2005 8:33 PM ET

[JURIST] General Motors [corporate website] on Wednesday said that records relating to its pension program had been subpoenaed by the US Securities and Exchange Commission [official website] as part of an investigation into its accounting practices. GM said the subpoena related to reporting of pension and post-employment benefits, as well as its dealings with parts supplier Delphi [corporate website]. GM said SEC and federal grand jury subpoenas had also been served on its finance branch, General Motors Acceptance Corp. [corporate website], in which GM said last week it was considering selling its majority stake. GM, which has posted about $3.8 billion in losses thus far this year, has said that it is cooperating with the investigation. Reuters has more.






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Former Alabama governor, ex-HealthSouth CEO indicted
Chris Buell on October 26, 2005 8:18 PM ET

[JURIST] Former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman [official profile] and former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy [defense website], along with two others, have been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges if a "widespread racketeering conspiracy" that included bribery for official acts in the state. According to the indictment, Siegelman and former chief of staff Paul Hamrick took bribes and used extortion during his term as governor from 1999 to 2003, with Scrushy allegedly paying $500,000 for an appointment to the state hospital regulatory board. Also charged was former Transportation Director Gary Mack Roberts, who Siegelman allegedly used to help influence state agency actions. Siegelman has maintained [Birmingham News report] that the investigation is a partisan attempt to derail his campaign to regain the governorship. Siegelman was indicted last year [JURIST report] for health care fraud, although the charges were ultimately dropped [JURIST report] after prosecutors could not prove the case. The Montgomery Advertiser has more.






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House committee OKs drilling along coast, in Alaska wildlife refuge
Chris Buell on October 26, 2005 7:48 PM ET

[JURIST] The US House Committee on Resources [official website] on Wednesday approved a budget package [PDF text] that includes provisions to relax a ban on oil and gas drilling along the nation's coast and in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge [official website]. The Committee voted 24-15 to approve the bill, which would allow states to opt out of a federal moratorium on coastal drilling and will offer leases in the wildlife refuge to oil companies within 22 months. The issue of drilling on the coast and in the Alaskan wilderness has remained a controversial one [JURIST report], with supporters unable to overcome a filibuster in the Senate last spring. However, the current measure in the House and a similar one proposed in the Senate are placed in budget packages not subject to the filibuster, making it more likely that the measures will succeed. Supporters have cited Hurricane Katrina [JURIST news archive] as evidence that the country needs to develop alternative sites for energy production, but some have warned that drilling will have adverse effects on the proposed areas. The Committee has a news release on the approval. AP has more.






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NY Port Authority found negligent in 1993 World Trade Center bombing
Chris Buell on October 26, 2005 7:29 PM ET

[JURIST] A six-person jury on Wednesday found the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey [official website] negligent in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center [Wikipedia backgrounder] by Islamic radicals that killed six and injured 1,000. According to the jury, the Port Authority, which owned the World Trade Center, did not properly maintain the building's garage, where terrorists detonated an explosives-laden van. The plaintiffs argued that the Authority knew of the possibility of an attack on the building, but did nothing to increase security. The verdict, which the jury reached after one day of deliberation and after less than a month of trial [JURIST report], comes nearly 12 years after the case was first filed. Several trials will now be held in the case to determine damages. The verdict could also open up the Port Authority to similar lawsuits filed by those hurt in the attack. AP has more.






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Judge orders more contact for lawyers of hunger-striking Gitmo detainees
Chris Buell on October 26, 2005 7:05 PM ET

[JURIST] Lawyers for Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainees on a hunger strike [JURIST report] must be notified by the Defense Department before their clients may be force fed against their will, US District Judge Gladys Kessler [official profile] ruled Wednesday. Kessler also ruled that the government must provide detainee medical records from before the hunger strike to their attorneys, although she denied access to telephones for the detainees due to security concerns. About two dozen detainees continue with a hunger strike that began Aug. 8 to protest their continued detention without charge. The US has force fed some of the hunger strikers to prevent them from dying, but some detainees have alleged harsh treatment such as inserting feeding tubes without anesthesia and reusing feeding tubes without sanitization. Dr. John Edmondson, commander of the US Navy hospital at the prison, denied the charges in a filing with the court. AP has more.

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Charges expected this week in CIA leak probe
James M Yoch Jr on October 26, 2005 4:36 PM ET

[JURIST] The federal grand jury investigating the leak of a CIA operative’s identity [JURIST news archive] adjourned on Wednesday after meeting for three hours with Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald [official profile; investigation website] and his deputies. The grand jury's term, which is set to expire in three days, can be extended by Chief US District Judge Thomas Hogan [official profile] at Fitzgerald's request. Though Fitzgerald met with Hogan [AP report] Wednesday prompting speculation that there will be an extension, White House lawyers expect Fitzgerald to decide this week whether to charge chief presidential adviser Karl Rove [Washington Post profile] and Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby [official profile]. The two-year investigation began when the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame [Wikipedia profile] was revealed days after her husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, criticized the Bush administration's pre-Iraq war intelligence. AP has more.






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Bush administration reinstating fair wage rates for Katrina workers
James M Yoch Jr on October 26, 2005 3:58 PM ET

[JURIST] The Bush administration announced Wednesday that on November 8 it plans to reinstate rules that ensure workers on federal Hurricane Katrina [JURIST news archive] projects receive fair wages that are close to the amount of local wages on similar projects. In the days following Hurricane Katrina, the President signed an executive order suspending provisions [JURIST report] of the 1931 Davis-Bacon Act [Dept. of Labor backgrounder; text], which protects federal contract workers from being underpaid, to reduce rebuilding costs and allow minority-owned companies to bid on projects. Representative Peter King (R-NY) [official website], a critic of the move, contended that its continued application would “antagonize organized labor” and result in lower pay for federal workers. AP has more.






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UK terror bill passes first Commons vote
Chris Buell on October 26, 2005 3:49 PM ET

[JURIST] The British government's proposed Terrorism Bill [PDF text; Home Office overview] passed its first test in the House of Commons [official website] Wednesday, despite a 16 MP-strong rebellion [Reuters report] of Labour Party backbenchers against the government and continued disagreement from opposition parties over controversial detention provisions. The bill, championed by Prime Minister Tony Blair [official website], passed with the support of most Conservatives. The bill outlaws "glorifying" terrorism and taking steps to prepare a terrorist act. A major point of dispute remains the period during which UK police may hold terror suspects without charge. The time set by the government in the bill is 90 days, up from two weeks, but bar leaders, rights groups and some opposition politicians have objected to the extension. UK Home Secretary Charles Clarke [official profile] Wednesday led off the Commons debate [Guardian report] on second reading by saying that the bill's critics would have the government fight terrorism with "one legal hand tied behind our back." BBC News has more.

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Uzbek prosecutors seek extended jail terms for accused Andijan rebels
Chris Buell on October 26, 2005 3:38 PM ET

[JURIST] Uzbek prosecutors in the trial of 15 men accused of plotting a rebellion in Andijan on Wednesday sought prison sentences of between nine and 20 years for the suspects. Prosecutors urged the court to issue a 20-year sentence for five men, an 18-year sentence for three, and 17 years in jail for four, as well as 15-, 16- and nine-year sentences for three others. All of the 15 men pleaded guilty to various charges of terrorism, murder and attempted coup d'etat last month, but human rights groups and the UN have questioned the fairness of the trial [JURIST report] and the validity of the confessions from the 15 [JURIST report]. Observers said the rebellion alleged by Uzbek government officials actually entailed government troops firing on and killing as many as 500 protesters in Andijan, but Uzbekistan [official website; JURIST news archive] has resisted calls for an independent investigation into the event and denied charges of using torture [JURIST report] to extract the confessions. All 15 of those arrested have testified that they trained in Kyrgyzstan and received foreign support for a plan to overthrow the Uzbek government. The government has since cracked down on foreign media in the country, leading the BBC to close its office in the country [Reuters report] on Wednesday. Reuters has more.






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Specter previews confirmation hearing questions for Miers
James M Yoch Jr on October 26, 2005 3:29 PM ET

[JURIST] US Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA) [official website; JURIST news archive] previewed a range of confirmation questions for controversial US Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers [JURIST archive] Wednesday. In a letter [AP text], he told Miers she should expect inquiries about the war on terror and whether she would give "special deference" to President Bush. Specter also said he wanted to know Miers' views on constitutional issues such as whether the president should be allowed to militarize troops without a declaration of war from Congress and whether there are limits for how long prisoners can be detained at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive]. Specter's letter follows repeated Senate requests for more information from Miers and the White House about her qualifications and record. AP has more.






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Lebanon charges two more in Hariri probe
Chris Buell on October 26, 2005 3:22 PM ET

[JURIST] Lebanese prosecutors have charged two men in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri [JURIST news archive], sources reported Wednesday. The two men, brothers Ahmad and Mahmoud Abdel-Al, were both named last week by a report [text; JURIST report] by a UN commission investigating the killing as being allegedly involved in the bomb plot. Ahmad Abdel-Al is a member of the pro-Syrian Ahbash group [Wikipedia backgrounder], whose spokesman strongly denied the charges. According to the UN report, Mahmoud Abdel-Al reportedly called the cell phone of Lebanon President Emile Lahoud [official website] shortly before the bombing in Beirut. The additional charges bring to 11 the number of people charged by prosecutors in connection with Hariri's murder. Top Syrian officials and pro-Syrian officials in Lebanon have been named in the UN report as well. Aljazeera has more.

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German court convicts 4 in terror plot against Jewish targets
Chris Buell on October 26, 2005 3:04 PM ET

[JURIST] A German court on Wednesday found four Middle Eastern men guilty of links to al Qaeda and of plotting to attack Jewish targets in Germany, and the four were sentenced to between five and eight years in prison. The four men, arrested in 2002 for alleged plots against two Jewish-owned discos in Dusseldorf and a Berlin community center, included two from Jordan and one each from Palestine and Algeria. According to the judge in the case, all four were found to have taken orders from Iraqi insurgent leader Abu Musad al-Zarqawi [BBC profile]. German leaders, including Interior Minister Otto Schily, praised the outcome as evidence of the country continued efforts to fight terrorism [JURIST report]. Three of the men were convicted of belonging to a terror cell and having forged documents allowing them to remain in the country, while the fourth was convicted of aiding the others and of weapons law violations. From Germany, Deutsche Welle has local coverage. The New York Times has more [registration required].






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UK Cabinet approves English smoking ban
Krista-Ann Staley on October 26, 2005 2:25 PM ET

[JURIST] The British Cabinet included a plan to ban smoking [JURIST report] in enclosed public places as part of its Health Improvement Bill Wednesday, exempting from the prohibition pubs and bars that don't serve food. The Department of Health [official website] initiated research [JURIST report] in June for the ban, resulting in plans [BBC report] by Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt to ban smoking in all public places except sealed smoking rooms in pubs. The final proposal accepted by the Cabinet, described by the British Medical Association as an "utter disappointment" [BBC report] and a "wasted opportunity," is less restrictive than the full bans adopted in the rest of the UK [BBC report] and those proposed by Hewitt [JURIST report], but does include a commitment to review the plan in 3 years. Hewitt stated that any additional proposals would be welcomed Thursday, when the bill will be introduced to the House of Commons. Last year, the Scottish Executive approved a ban [JURIST report] on smoking in enclosed public places. BBC News has more.






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France unveils new anti-terror law
Krista-Ann Staley on October 26, 2005 1:54 PM ET

[JURIST] French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy [official profile; BBC profile] presented the country's anti-terrorism bill to the Cabinet Wednesday, rejecting claims that the provisions of the bill would infringe on civil rights and create a police state. The bill, proposed in response to the London bombings [JURIST news archive], is intended to fill gaps in France's earlier anti-terror laws by making flight passenger lists and identification information accessible to counterterrorism officials, placing cameras in train stations, subways and airports, and increasing the prison sentences for "criminal association with a terrorist enterprise" from 20 to 30 years. The bill will also require telephone operators to keep extensive records and allow greater government access to e-communications [JURIST report]. In the private sector, it will allow increased surveillance by facilities and individuals that could be targets of terrorism and will require internet cafes to retain detailed information about their clientele. The government intends to have the bill pass through parliament by the end of the year. AP has more. From Paris, Le Monde has local coverage and an overview of the proposed legislation (in French).






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Amnesty condemns Spain, Morocco for rights violations against migrants
Krista-Ann Staley on October 26, 2005 1:19 PM ET

[JURIST] Amnesty International [advocacy website] condemned Spain and Morocco for human rights violations against all migrants and asylum-seekers of sub-Saharan origin Wednesday. Immigrants attempting to use Morocco as a conduit to Europe have recently met increased security forces along the Spanish border, resulting in violent clashes and claims of excessive use of force. Following a 10-day trip to the region, Amnesty declared [press release] the human rights violations in the area were "substantial" and "repeated" and urged the countries to immediately stop expelling the migrants, to implement a protocol for the use of force for border control, and to thoroughly investigate a recent series of border assaults [BBC report] that the organization claims resulted in 11 deaths and hundreds of injuries to sub-Saharan migrants. Both Spain [JURIST report] and Morocco [JURIST report] responded to the border rushes by expelling illegal immigrants. Deutsche Press Agentur has more.






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Saddam lawyers announce court boycott over security demands
Jeannie Shawl on October 26, 2005 12:20 PM ET

[JURIST] Defense lawyers representing Saddam Hussein [JURIST news archive] have announced that they will boycott the Iraqi Special Tribunal [official website], following through on a threat to boycott [JURIST report] made after one of the defense lawyers for a Hussein co-defendant was kidnapped and murdered [JURIST report] last week. Lead counsel Khalil al-Dulaimi said that Hussein's defense team would boycott until demands for better security [JURIST report] are met, and called for an additional delay in the proceedings. After the Saddam trial [JURIST news archive] opened in Baghdad earlier this month, proceedings were adjourned until November 28 [JURIST report]. AFP has more.

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Conviction of rights lawyer for helping terror client communicate upheld
Jeannie Shawl on October 26, 2005 11:44 AM ET

[JURIST] A federal judge Tuesday upheld the conviction [JURIST report] of civil rights lawyer Lynne Stewart [defense website] for conspiracy and providing material support to terrorists (18 USC 2339A), denying a post-trial motion for acquittal. Stewart was convicted [JURIST video] in February for helping imprisoned Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman [Wikipedia profile] communicate with his terrorist followers. Stewart had argued that Abdel-Rahman was engaging in protected speech when he expressed opinions about an Egyptian ceasefire which Stewart passed along in a press release, but Judge John G. Koeltl said that "The First Amendment lends no protection to participation in a conspiracy, even if such participation is through speech." Stewart was also convicted of defrauding the government for violating rules that had been put in place to prevent Abdel-Rahman from communicating with the outside world following his 1995 conviction of seditious conspiracy for plotting to blow up several New York city landmarks. Koeltl ruled that there was sufficient evidence to support those charges and also rejected Stewart's request for a new trial. Stewart has said she will appeal. Stewart's defense website provides legal documents in the case. AP has more.

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Australian PM willing to change shoot-to-kill provisions in anti-terror proposal
Jeannie Shawl on October 26, 2005 10:54 AM ET

[JURIST] Australian Prime Minister John Howard [official website] has said that he is willing to change controversial shoot-to-kill provisions [JURIST report] in proposed anti-terror legislation [PDF text]. Howard also said that the legislation need not be introduced next week, but said that new proposals should be passed by the end of the year. Howard's comments follow an announcement that he will send his top legal advisers to address concerns [JURIST report] by state governments about the constitutionality of the proposals. Queensland Premier Peter Beattie [official website] has said that he has contacted other states in order to arrange a discussion by lawyers on potential constitutional issues raised by the draft law. Australian Treasurer Peter Costello [official website] warned, however, that it will take a High Court ruling, not a consensus of opinion, to determine whether the legislation is unconstitutional. Australia's ABC News has more.






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Serbia arrests nine policemen over Kosovo mass grave
Jeannie Shawl on October 26, 2005 10:18 AM ET

[JURIST] Serbia [JURIST news archive] has arrested nine policemen in the 1999 murder of 48 Kosovo Albanians, a Serbian court official announced Wednesday. The arrests are the first to be linked to a mass grave discovered in 2001 outside of Belgrade, where the 48 bodies were buried along with the remains of over 800 victims of the 1998-99 Kosovo war. According to a spokesman for Serbia's war crimes prosecutor, six of the nine policemen were on active duty when arrested. Earlier this week, the UN Security Council announced that it will organize discussions on whether Kosovo should remain a province of Serbia [JURIST report] or become independent. It is thought that the latest arrests were timed to demonstrate that Serbia is dealing with war crimes ahead of the Kosovo talks. Reuters has more.






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Congress to consider allowing prosecutors multiple tries at federal death sentences
Jeannie Shawl on October 26, 2005 9:30 AM ET

[JURIST] US Senate and House negotiators are preparing to discuss conflicting versions of the USA PATRIOT and Terrorism Prevention Reauthorization Act of 2005 [bill summary], including a provision in the House version [PDF text] that would allow federal prosecutors multiple attempts at securing the death penalty. Under current law, if a capital jury cannot decide unanimously whether to impose the death penalty, the convicted defendant automatically receives a life sentence. Rep. John Carter (R-TX) [official website] successfully introduced amending legislation [press release] that would instead allow a prosecutor to empanel a new sentencing jury if at least one juror voted for the death penalty. Carter says the proposal is a "common-sense clarification to the federal death penalty," though critics of the provision say that it will only add to the advantages that prosecutors have in obtaining the death penalty. Several states, including California, already allow prosecutors to seek new capital sentencing hearings. An agreement between the Senate and House must be reached before key provisions of the Patriot Act [text] expire at the end of this year. Wednesday's New York Times has more.






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US, France threaten economic sanctions against Syria over Hariri probe
Jeannie Shawl on October 26, 2005 8:43 AM ET

[JURIST] The United States and France circulated a draft UN resolution Tuesday that demands that Syria fully cooperate with a UN investigation into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri [JURIST news archive] and threatens economic sanctions should Damascus not cooperate. The UN International Independent Investigation Commission (UNIIIC), authorized [UN SC resolution; JURIST report] by the UN Security Council to investigate the murder after Lebanon's investigation was found to be "seriously flawed," submitted its interim report [text; JURIST report] last week. The report implicates both Syrian and Lebanese security officials in the assassination. The new draft Security Council resolution would call on Syria to detain possible suspects and make them available to UN investigators. In anticipation of international pressure, Syrian President Bashar Assad sent a letter to the US, Britain and France Sunday promising that "any Syrian who could be proved by concrete evidence to have had connection with this crime" will be brought to trial [Washington Post report]. Assad's letter also denied that Syria had any involvement in the Hariri killing, an assertion repeated [JURIST report] Tuesday by Syria's ambassador to the UN. UNIIIC head Detlev Mehlis told the Security Council [UN press release] Tuesday that Syrian authorities were cooperating to a limited degree with the commission, but that several people interviewed provided false or inaccurate statements and that a letter to the UNIIIC from Syria's foreign minister contained false information. Mehlis also said that several credible threats have been made against the UNIIIC [UN News report] and called for safety and security of the commission's members be made a top priority as the UNIIIC finishes its work. Reuters has more.

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Special prosecutor reportedly finalizing CIA leak charges
Jeannie Shawl on October 26, 2005 8:17 AM ET

[JURIST] Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald [official website] could bring charges in the CIA leak case [JURIST news archive] Wednesday, wrapping up a two-year investigation into the leak of undercover operative Valerie Plame's identity. Sources close to the case say that FBI agents recently interviewed Plame's neighbors who said they had been surprised to learn that Plame worked for the CIA, suggesting that Fitzgerald is trying to establish that Plame's status was covert and that there damage caused by the news that Plame worked for the CIA. If Fitzgerald brings charges against Bush administration officials for illegally disclosing Plame's identity, under the 1982 Intelligence Identities Protection Act [50 USC s. 421 text], Fitzgerald must show that the person disclosing a covert agent's identity knew of the status. There is also speculation that Fitzgerald could bring charges [JURIST report] against Lewis "Scooter" Libby, chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, and top Bush political advisor Karl Rove for making false statements, obstruction of justice and disclosing classified information. The grand jury term expires Friday and a session is scheduled Wednesday. Before any indictments are issued, the federal grand jury [Dayton Law backgrounder] must agree unanimously that there is probable cause to bring charges. The Washington Post has more.

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Justice Department supports extension of Voting Rights Act supervision
Katerina Ossenova on October 25, 2005 7:59 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Justice Department [official website] told Congress Tuesday that it supported renewal of Section 5 [DOJ backgrounder] of the Voting Rights Act [text], preventing states with a history of discriminatory voting practices from implementing any change affecting voting until the US Attorney General or the United States District Court for the District of Columbia determined that the change did not have a discriminatory purpose or effect. Brad Schlozman, head of the DOJ's Civil Rights Division [official website] urged the House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on the Constitution [official website] to renew Section 5 as it was a major deterrent to voting rules that would potentially discriminate against minorities. A number of scholars and advocates nonetheless consider the requirement outdated and unnecessary. Congress is considering extending the requirement for a further 25-year when the current term of the Section expires in 2007. AP has more.






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Federal internet wiretapping rule challenged
Katerina Ossenova on October 25, 2005 7:27 PM ET

[JURIST] A recent Federal Communications Commission [official website] ruling that would allow wiretapping of Internet calls [FCC press release, PDF] was challenged Tuesday by privacy and technology groups in federal appeals court in Washington. The ruling makes it easier for law enforcement officials to tap Internet phone calls by mandating standards that would allow the wiretaps to be made. Internet call providers are already contesting the order, saying it would require them to rewire their networks at high costs. The Center for Democracy and Technology [advocacy website] along with other privacy groups and Sun Microsystems have petitioned the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit to review the FCC ruling. The American Council on Education [association website], representing about 2,000 colleges and universities, also filed its own appeal[press release] of the ruling Monday in federal court. The education group voiced concerns about the costs colleges and universities would incur if required to rewire their networks to comply. AP has more.






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Demonstrators calling for release of Egyptian political detainees clash with police
Katerina Ossenova on October 25, 2005 6:48 PM ET

[JURIST] Egyptian police Tuesday clashed with relatives of political prisoners demonstrating outside the country's Interior Ministry. The protesters called for the immediate release of the detainees, mostly Islamists and suspected members of the Gamaa Islamiya [Wikipedia backgrounder] and Jihad [Wikipedia backgrounder] organizations, who were imprisoned after leading a violent campaign against the regime in the 1980s and 1990s. Egyptian human rights groups and non-governmental organizations estimate that between 16,000 and 30,000 political prisoners are held in the country. More protests demanding the release of these detainees are expected by poltical opponents of President Hosni Mubarak [official profile; BBC profile]. The protests come as Egypt looks ahead to parliamentary elections scheduled for November. AFP has more.






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Guantanamo prisoner on hunger strike wants US court to let him starve to death
James M Yoch Jr on October 25, 2005 4:55 PM ET

[JURIST] A Guantanamo detainee on hunger strike [JURIST report] has asked for a motion ordering his feeding tube to be removed so that he can starve to death, his lawyers said Tuesday. Kuwaiti Fawzi al-Odah [Project Kuwaiti Freedom profile], 28, has been imprisoned without charges at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] since his arrest in Pakistan in 2002. He has been force-fed through a tube since at least a month; attorneys said in late September that he was one of two hunger-striking Kuwaiti detainees who could then barely sit up or talk [JURIST report]. His lawyers will wait to file the motion until they receive the approval of al-Odah’s doctors and family [Amnesty International video interview with father], who oppose the request. Attorney Tom Wilner, who represents al-Odah, anticipates a legal and ethical dilemma, including the "conflict" between the wishes of al-Odah and his family. US military leaders at the camp treat hunger striking as a suicide attempt and seek ways to prevent it, such as force feeding through nasal tubes. Detainee lawyers recently made allegations of prisoner abuse [JURIST report] connected to the ongoing hunger strike, which began August 8 with 76 prisoners; the Pentagon lists the current number of strikers at 26. Al-Odah was previously at the center of the 2004 US Supreme Court ruling Al Odah v. US, joined with Rasul v. Bush [PDF], holding that Guantanamo detainees have recourse to the US federal courts. AP has more.






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UN investigation of Saddam trial lawyer murder urged
Greg Sampson on October 25, 2005 4:40 PM ET

[JURIST] A group of former international political leaders supporting the defense of ousted Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein [JURIST news archive] called Tuesday for a UN investigation into last week's kidnapping and murder of Saadoun Sughaiyer al-Janabi [JURIST report], a lawyer representing one of Hussein's co-defendants. In a letter to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, former Algerian president Ahmed Ben Bella, former Malaysian premier Mahathir Mohamad, French former foreign minister Roland Dumas and former US attorney general Ramsey Clark said a US-led investigation into the crime would lack credibility. Defense counsel involved with Hussein's trial [JURIST news archive] have also requested UN protection in the aftermath of the killing. Middle East Online has local coverage. AFP has more.

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Republican senator breaks with Bush on immigration bills
James M Yoch Jr on October 25, 2005 4:27 PM ET

[JURIST] US Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NB) [official website; Wikipedia profile] introduced a package of four bills on US immigration policy [Hagel press release] Tuesday that depart from Bush administration policy. Hagel, a possible contender for the Republican nomination in the US 2008 presidential election [Wikipedia backgrounder], proposed legislation that would allow many of the 8 to 12 million illegal immigrants currently living in the US to eventually attain legal status. Under the plan, illegal aliens could become legal citizens if they have been in the country for five years and worked for three of them; pay a $2,000 fine; and apply for permanent legal status, which can be granted after another eight years. The proposal, an earlier version of which was introduced by Hagel and former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, also addresses improving border security and creating a guest worker program. The Bush administration is drafting its own proposal that would allow illegal aliens to remain in the country for up to six years as part of a guest worker program. Reuters has more.






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UK House of Lords amends proposed religious hate bill
Greg Sampson on October 25, 2005 4:16 PM ET

[JURIST] Britain's House of Lords [official website] on Tuesday substantially amended the Blair government's controversial Racial and Religious Hatred Bill [text; BBC Q/A]. The bill outlawing incitement to religious hatred was originally proposed last year [JURIST report], and Prime Minister Tony Blair began pushing again for its adoption after the July bombings in London. Critics of the proposed legislation, including comedians [JURIST report] as well as civil libertarians, have argued the measure would ban free speech. Under the amended version [official amendments] of the bill, the government would be able to apply the law only in the context of a criminal prosecution. The amended bill now goes back to the House of Commons; it is unclear whether the government will accept some of the amendments or will try to override the Lords. Reuters has more.

Previously in JURIST's Paper Chase...






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Environmental brief ~ Judge rules NJ railroad waste transfer stations can stay open
Tom Henry on October 25, 2005 4:04 PM ET

[JURIST] In Tuesday's environmental law news, Judge Katherine Hayden of the US District Court for the District of New Jersey [official website] ruled Monday that the New York, Susquehanna and Western Railway [corporate website] could continue to operate five waste transfer stations in North Bergen NJ until at least the end of the year. The New Jeresy Department of Environmental Protection [official website] wanted to close the railroad's transfer stations and collect more than $2.5 million in fines assessed against the railroad in July. The railroad argues that it exempt under federal law from state and local regulation, but is attempting to comply with the new state transload facility regulations. Judge Hayden will revisit the public health and safety issues in December, when the railroad's promised improvements are supposed to be in place. NorthJersey.com has more.

In other environmental law news...






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UN certifies Iraqi constitution referendum results
James M Yoch Jr on October 25, 2005 4:01 PM ET

[JURIST] A senior UN official said Tuesday that reported election results from the October 15 referendum [JURIST report] ratifying the Iraqi constitution [JURIST news archive] are correct. Carina Perelli, director of the UN Electoral Assistance Division [official website], called the results "accurate" and defended the standards and controls used in the election and the subsequent audit of votes. Just days after the election, the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq (IECI) [official website] announced the audit in response to concerns about an unusually high number of “yes” votes [JURIST report]. Final results released earlier Tuesday by the IECI showed that 79% of voters supported the referendum nationwide with only two provinces defeating it. Reuters has more.






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Former Rwanda president appeals criminal sentence to high court
Greg Sampson on October 25, 2005 3:56 PM ET

[JURIST] Former Rwandan president Pasteur Bizimungu [BBC profile] has asked that country's high court to overturn his 15-year criminal sentence [JURIST report] for inciting violence, embezzlement, and associating with criminals. On appeal, Bizimungu argues he was tried on charges different from those for which he was originally arrested and that his prosecution is politically motivated. First sentenced in June 2004, Bizimungu began his appeals process in April [JURIST report]. He was Rwanda's first president after that country's 1994 genocide and was viewed as a symbol of post-genocide reconciliation between Hutus and Tutsis. He stepped down in 2000, after a falling out with Tutsi president Paul Kagame [BBC profile]. CNN has more.






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Disney judge warns that government may regulate executive pay
James M Yoch Jr on October 25, 2005 3:28 PM ET

[JURIST] A Delaware Chancery Court [official website] judge on Tuesday warned that corporate directors may face US government regulation of executive pay unless they control soaring salaries and payoffs. Judge William Chandler [state court profile], who ruled [JURIST report] in August that Disney’s directors acted properly in paying $140 million to former president Michael Ovitz [Wikipedia backgrounder] when he resigned in 1996, delivered a stern warning that executive pay has become “spectacularly unhinged from the market for corporate talent.” With the average pay packet for US CEOs at $9.8 million, Chandler said that regulatory control of executive pay would be used as a "blunt instrument." Former US Securities and Exchange Commission [official website] Chairman William Donaldson [SEC profile] and Public Company Accounting Oversight Board Chairman William McDonough have also called for restraining executive pay. The warning from Chandler follows the resignation of Disney Chairman Michael Eisner [JURIST report] earlier this month. Reuters has more.






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Australian PM sending law advisers to states to ease concerns over anti-terror bill
Greg Sampson on October 25, 2005 3:12 PM ET

[JURIST] Australian Prime Minister John Howard [official profile] announced Tuesday that he plans to send his top legal advisers to address state governments' concerns about the constitutionality of that country's proposed anti-terror law [draft law text, PDF; JURIST report]. Several reservations center around a legislative provision authorizing courts to detain individuals who have not been accused or convicted of any crime. Constitutional lawyers critical of the legislation argue the provisions confuse the role of judges in Australia's criminal justice system, and would deprive terror suspects of due process of law. Howard and his legal advisers have defended the bill [JURIST report], contending it is a necessary measure and does not violate Austrialia's constitution. Australia's Sydney Morning Herald has more.






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Hearing on motion for new DeLay judge set for November 1
Greg Sampson on October 25, 2005 3:07 PM ET

[JURIST] A Texas court has appointed a retired district court judge to hear a motion filed by attorneys for Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) [official website; JURIST news archive], arguing that the initial judge assigned to DeLay's case, Judge Bob Perkins [official profile], should not preside over DeLay's trial on money laundering and criminal conspiracy charges because of personal political bias. Retired Judge C.W. Duncan, an 81-year old Democrat, will hold a hearing November 1 to decide if Perkins should be replaced. DeLay's attorneys argued that Perkins has given substantial contributions [JURIST report] to Democratic political candidates and liberal advocacy groups, suggesting he would not provide a fair trial for the former Republican House Majority Leader. DeLay's attorneys have also filed a request to expedite the trial, arguing that further delay would adversely affect DeLay's work in Washington. AP has more.

ALSO ON JURIST

 Text: Money laundering indictment | Text: Criminal conspiracy indictment | Op-ed: Tom DeLay's Challenge to Texas Grand Jury Process





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Syria refutes allegations of involvement in Hariri murder
Greg Sampson on October 25, 2005 2:37 PM ET

[JURIST] Syrian ambassador to the UN Fayssal Mekdad Tuesday angrily refuted the UN-commissioned Mehlis report [text; JURIST report], which found that the Syrian government was involved in the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri [JURIST news archive]. Speaking during a UN Security Council debate [JURIST video], Mekdad dismissed the report as biased, asserting it was influenced by the anti-Syrian political climate in Lebanon. He further accused some countries of "fanning the flames of hatred" against Syria. After the UN's release of the report last Friday, the US called for an urgent UN meeting [JURIST report] on the appropriate response to Syria's involvement. The Security Council is expected to hear calls for diplomatic action against Syria when it reconvenes. BBC News has more.






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Conservative opposition to Miers heats up
Christopher G. Anderson on October 25, 2005 1:58 PM ET

[JURIST] Conservative activist groups are stepping up their opposition to US Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers [JURIST news archive], launching two new websites Monday and also planning radio and television advertising aimed at forcing the withdrawal of the nomination. The nomination has seemingly lost all support from base conservative groups. According to Brian Burch, a spokesperson for Fidelis [advocacy website], a Catholic pro-life organization, such groups "really do want to support the administration, but we just feel like we've reached a situation with this nomination that is beyond repair." One website launched yesterday, WithdrawMiers.org [advocacy website], features articles critical of Miers, a box where readers can submit anonymous tips on her nomination and a petition calling for her to step down. Another website, BetterJustice.org [advocacy website], features a television ad proclaiming that "Even the best leaders make mistakes," referring to Bush and his Miers nomination. Tuesday's Washington Post has more.






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FEMA lifts gun ban in emergency Louisiana housing parks
Christopher G. Anderson on October 25, 2005 1:36 PM ET

[JURIST] The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) [official website] has lifted a ban on firearms in emergency housing parks built in the wake of Hurricane Katrina [JURIST news archive], officials announced Monday. FEMA spokesperson Butch Kinery said the complaints from gun-rights groups [JURIST report] that the ban violated the Second Amendment and a consultation with department lawyers prompted the lifting of the ban. Both the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the Second Amendment Foundation (SAF) [advocacy websites] had threatened legal action over the ban. Residents of housing parks are now allowed to possess and store firearms, although use of weapons is still prohibited in the parks, Kinery said. Read the SAF news release. AP has more.






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Court refuses to reconsider decision requiring FEC to toughen campaign finance rules
Brandon Smith on October 25, 2005 1:18 PM ET

[JURIST] The full US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit [official website] has declined to reconsider a decision [PDF text; JURIST report] requiring the Federal Election Commission [official website] to write new rules implementing the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 [FEC backgrounder]. The law bans congressional and presidential candidates from raising corporate and union money and from receiving unlimited donations from all sources. It also bans the use of corporate and union money for election-time ads. Last year, a district judge ruled [PDF text; JURIST report] that FEC regulations improperly weakened the BCRA. According to Commissioner Michael Toner, the FEC must now start drafting tougher rules regarding political donations, including how Internet activity will be governed. The FEC may still appeal to the Supreme Court, but has not indicated whether it planned to do so. AP has more.






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Federal judge seeks to protect Indian trust account data by putting DOI offline again
Christopher G. Anderson on October 25, 2005 1:09 PM ET

[JURIST] A federal district court judge in Washington, DC has again ruled that the US Department of the Interior [official website] must disconnect computers from the Internet that have access to data related to trust accounts it administers for American Indians. Judge Royce C. Lamberth [official profile] said in the 205-page opinion [PDF text; order, PDF] that the department's computers were vulnerable to hackers because security there was "disorganized and broken." The Interior Department plans to appeal the decision. The order is the latest in a 1996 lawsuit on behalf of a half-million Indians who claim the United States has squandered $137 billion in royalties from land set aside for Indian use under the Dawes Act of 1887 [NA backgrounder]. Congress passed the American Indian Trust Reform Management Act [PDF text] in 1994, which required the department to account for all the money in the fund. Lamberth has previously ordered [PDF injunction] that the department's Internet connections be cut off, but his most recent order had been overturned [JURIST report] by a federal appeals court, which ruled that there was no evidence of actual tampering by hackers. Tuesday's New York Times has more.

Previously in JURIST's Paper Chase...






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New Hampshire commission rejects same-sex marriage
Jeannie Shawl on October 25, 2005 12:47 PM ET

[JURIST] A New Hampshire commission on same-sex marriage [JURIST news archive] voted Monday to recommend that the state legislature not allow same-sex couples to marry, not recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages, and not establish a domestic partner registry. The commission, established [SB 427 text] in 2004 "to examine all aspects of same sex civil marriage and its legal equivalents," has held months of expert and public testimony and voted earlier this month to recommend a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman. The commission, scheduled to issue a final report to the state legislature [official website] December 1, has yet to take up the issue of civil unions. AP has more. The Nashua Telegraph has local coverage.






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US shareholders sue Russia, oil companies over Yukos sale
Brandon Smith on October 25, 2005 12:45 PM ET

[JURIST] American shareholders of Russian oil company Yukos [corporate website; JURIST news archive] have filed a civil lawsuit against the Russian government and several Russian oil companies for allegedly conspiring to renationalize Yukos without compensating its owners, the Financial News reported [subscription required] Tuesday. The complaint, filed in a Washington, DC district court, claims that the defendants violated US securities laws by falsely assuring the public that the Russian government would not renationalize Yukos. The suit also alleges that the 12 plaintiffs, holders of Yukos American Depositary Receipts, lost $3 million as a result of Yukos' takeover. While not the first lawsuit brought by shareholders [JURIST report; additional JURIST report] of Yukos, the US shareholders want to set a precedent by holding the Russian government and oil companies responsible for violating rights of shareholders protected under US securities law. Mosnews has more.






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Federal judge allows alleged torture confession in Bush assassination case
Kate Heneroty on October 25, 2005 11:18 AM ET

[JURIST] US District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee ruled Monday that federal prosecutors can use a confession made by Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, a US citizen charged [indictment, PDF; JURIST report] with conspiracy to assassinate the president, conspiracy to commit aircraft piracy, providing material support to al Qaeda and various other crimes. Abu Ali has said that he was tortured [JURIST report] into confessing to the assassination plot by Saudi Arabian security officers after he was arrested in Saudi Arabia in 2003 while enrolled at the Islamic University of Medina. Saudi Arabia has denied the torture accusations and prosecutors argued that the confession was made voluntarily and scars on Abu Ali's back were not proof of flogging, rather could have been self imposed to support his claim of torture. Judge Lee issued a one page order [PDF text] allowing the confession, but promised to explain his reasoning in a forthcoming opinion. AP has more.

Previously on JURIST's Paper Chase...






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UN reports massive human rights violations in Congo
Kate Heneroty on October 25, 2005 10:53 AM ET

[JURIST] A United Nations [official website] human rights investigator declared "massive human rights violations at all levels" in the Democratic Republic of Congo [JURIST news archive] Monday. Titinga Frederic Pacere [UN press release] attacked the nation's justice system, describing the prison system as "deplorable and inhumane" and the justice system as "powerless and lack[ing] resources." Pacere's report cites too few judges, an inadequate budget, low salaries and potential for political pressures on the judiciary as factors contributing to the human rights violations. The report also states that Congolese security forces have harassed journalists and human rights advocates and used excessive force in thwarting peaceful demonstrations. Reuters has more.






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Retired Pinochet judge doubts dictator will ever be tried for crimes
Kate Heneroty on October 25, 2005 10:19 AM ET

[JURIST] Juan Guzman [BBC profile], the retired [JURIST report] judge who led efforts to try former Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] on human rights charges, told AP Monday that he doubts the dictator will ever be brought to justice. Last week, a court ruled that Pinochet could stand trial on tax evasion charges [JURIST report] connected to money held in US bank accounts [JURIST report], and though Pinochet has been stripped of his immunity at least four times, he has never successfully been tried for any of the crimes committed during his leadership. Last month, Chile's Supreme Court upheld [JURIST report] his acquittal on murder conspiracy charges stemming from "Operation Condor" [BBC report] where Pinochet was accused of ordering the political abductions and murders of left-wing dissidents. The acquittal [BBC report] was not based on the merits of the case, but instead was a decision that Pinochet was too ill to face trial. Many of the country's judges were appointed by Pinochet and Guzman believes a secret agreement exists ensuring he will never be tried. AP has more.






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New Orleans mayor requests federal aid to run courts, jails
Kate Heneroty on October 25, 2005 10:00 AM ET

[JURIST] New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin [official website; Wikipedia profile] has requested that a portion of the $60 billion in disaster relief approved by Congress following Hurricane Katrina [JURIST news archive] be redirected to fund the city's court system, jail operations and other critical city functions. Nagin said the city of New Orleans' finances were severely strained and hinted that the city was close to bankruptcy. Earlier this month, lawyers acting on behalf of former New Orleans prisoners requested [JURIST report] that the US Justice Department assume direct supervision of a temporary holding facility amid complaints of prisoner abuse. Additionally, city officials have predicted that evidence in as many of 3,000 pending criminal cases [JURIST report] was lost during the storm. Reuters has more.






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White House hopes to excuse CIA from new torture rules
Kate Heneroty on October 25, 2005 9:20 AM ET

[JURIST] The White House has proposed absolving CIA agents working abroad from proposed legislation barring "cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment" of detainees, the Washington Post reported Tuesday. The exemption introduced by Vice President Dick Cheney and CIA Director Porter Goss, would apply to counter-terrorism operations conducted abroad and operations conducted by "an element of the United States government" other than the Defense Department. The provision [IPS report] the White House seeks to circumvent is the Senate's attempt to close a loophole in the country's anti-torture stance, requiring all US military personnel to follow detainment and interrogation procedures detailed in the Army Field Manual [interrogation manual; additional manuals]. The government has argued these manuals do not apply to foreigners on foreign soil. Earlier this month, the Senate voted 90-9 [JURIST report], over the administration's objection [JURIST report; WH policy statement, PDF], to attach the provision to a pending defense appropriations bill. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) [official website], who sponsored the legislation and himself was a victim of torture in Vietnam, has allegedly rejected the White House's proposed exemption. The Washington Post has more.






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Bush says Baghdad safe for Saddam trial
Kate Heneroty on October 25, 2005 9:05 AM ET

[JURIST] Despite last week's murder of a defense lawyer [JURIST report] involved in the proceedings, Baghdad is still a safe place to hold the trial of Saddam Hussein [JURIST news archive] and his seven co-defendants, President Bush said Monday in an interview [transcript] with Al-Arabiya television. Bush dismissed calls for an international trial and stressed the importance of the trial to Iraqis, saying "it's very important for the Iraqis to have a justice system that earns the confidence of the people. This is a new democracy, and part of a democracy is to have a fair judicial system." When asked to comment on Hussein's court appearance, Bush replied, "The key thing is that there will be a fair trial, which is something he didn't give many of the thousand people he killed." AP has more.






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Cheney reportedly told aide about CIA operative
Sara R. Parsowith on October 25, 2005 8:43 AM ET

[JURIST] US Vice President Dick Cheney was the first person to discuss Valerie Plame [JURIST news archive] with his Chief of Staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby [official profile], lawyers involved in the leak investigation said Monday according to the New York Times. The revelation seems to be inconsistent with Libby's grand jury testimony that he learned the identity of the undercover CIA operative from journalists and is the first time that Cheney has been identified as a focus of the investigation into the disclosure of Plame's identity. According to notes taken by Libby of a June 2003 conversation with Cheney, Cheney learned about Plame from CIA director George Tenet in an effort to get additional information on US ambassador Joseph Wilson, who was arguing that the administration had mishandled Iraq intelligence in the run-up to the Iraq war. The notes don't indicate whether Cheney and Libby knew of Plame's undercover status; according to the 1982 Intelligence Identities Protection Act [50 USC s. 421 text] disclosing a covert agent's identity is a crime only if the person who discloses it knows of the status. Efforts by Libby to steer investigators away from his conversation with Cheney could, however, be considered an illegal effort to impede a grand jury investigation. Charges made by Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald [official website] must be made by Friday when the grand jury term expires. Libby and White House Deputy Chief of Staff and top advisor Karl Rove [Washington Post profile] both face the possibility of indictment. The New York Times has more.






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British MP denies new US allegations in oil-for-food scandal
Sara R. Parsowith on October 25, 2005 8:06 AM ET

[JURIST] British Member of Parliament George Galloway [BBC profile] Tuesday rejected fresh accusations from US congressional investigators that he profited from the now defunct UN Oil-for-Food Program [official website; JURIST news archive] in Iraq. The new report [PDF] from the US Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations [official website] will be handed over to the US Justice Department and to British authorities. A hearing before the investigations subcommittee has been scheduled for October 31 [agenda]. Earlier this year, Galloway vehemently denied charges [JURIST report] that he benefited from the program while testifying during an investigations subcommittee hearing [agenda and prepared testimony] after the subcommittee released a report [PDF text] accusing Galloway, a staunch and outspoken opponent of the US-led invasion of Iraq, of accepting "allocations" of 11 million barrels of oil from Saddam Hussein from 1999-2003. US Congressional investigators also allege that Galloway knowingly made false or misleading statements to Congress when he denied these charges in May. Galloway called the fresh allegations "utterly preposterous" and goaded investigators to charge him with perjury. Reuters has more.






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21 detainees killed in US custody overseas, ACLU reports
Sara R. Parsowith on October 25, 2005 7:52 AM ET

[JURIST] At least 21 detainees have been killed while being held in US custody in Iraq and Afghanistan, many during or after interrogations, according to an ACLU analysis [text; press release] of Defense Department data released Monday. According to autopsy reports, at least eight of the 21 homicides resulted from abusive techniques by US military or intelligence officers, such as strangulation leading to asphyxiation, other "blunt force injuries" and smothering. More than 100 prisoners in total have died of natural and violent causes in US custody overseas. There have been more than 400 investigations of reports of detainee abuse and at least 230 military personnel have received a court-martial, nonjudicial punishment or other administrative action in connection with detainee abuse. Details about the detainee abuse and deaths were released by the US Defense Department as part of a Freedom of Information Act [DOJ backgrounder] lawsuit filed by the ACLU. The ACLU provides additional documents obtained during the litigation. AP has more.






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Civil rights activist Rosa Parks dies at 92
Sara R. Parsowith on October 25, 2005 7:05 AM ET

[JURIST] Civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks [TIME profile], known as the "mother of the civil rights movement," died Monday evening at her home in Detroit. She was 92. Parks was best known for her arrest after refusing to give up her seat to a white man on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama on December 1, 1955, when racial discrimination was still legally sanctioned. Her simple gesture resulted in a year-long boycott [Wikipedia backgrounder] of the Montgomery public transit system. The boycott only ended after bus segregation was ruled illegal in 1956, in Browder v. Gayle [text; Stetson Law School backgrounder, PDF], a decision affirmed by the US Supreme Court in Gayle v. Browder [text]. The Montgomery bus boycott came one year after the landmark Brown v. Board [text; Brown Foundation website] decision banning the "inherently unequal" segregation of blacks and whites in schools. The boycott is said to mark the start of the modern civil rights movement, which led to the 1964 Civil Rights Act [text], banning racial discrimination in public accommodations. In 1999, Parks received the Congressional Gold Medal [US Mint website] for her civil rights work. AP has more.






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BREAKING NEWS ~ Final referendum results show Iraq constitution approved
Bernard Hibbitts on October 25, 2005 7:05 AM ET

[JURIST] Wire services are reporting that final results of the October 15 Iraqi referendum announced in Baghdad Tuesday show that the draft Iraqi constitution [JURIST news archive] has been approved.

7:49 AM ET - According to officials, two provinces voted "no", but in the closest third province, Nineveh, 44% of voters had endorsed the constitution. Two-thirds of voters in at least three provinces would have had to vote "no" in order for the charter to be rejected. Nationwide, 78% of Iraqis supported the draft, and 21% opposed it. A spokesman said that the electoral commission had found no instances of fraud that would have affected the result. BBC News has more.

5:05 PM ET - The Sunni-dominated provinces of Anbar and Salahudinn (Tikrit) voted heavily against the draft, by margins of 96.96% and 81.75% respectively. AP has posted province-by-province results as reported by the IECI.

ALSO ON JURIST

 Op-ed: The Iraqi Constitution: What Would Approval Really Mean?





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Drug lord is first Afghan extradited to US
Joshua Pantesco on October 24, 2005 8:03 PM ET

[JURIST] US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales Monday announced [US DOJ statement] the first US extradition of an indicted criminal from Afghanistan. Baz Mohammad, designated a "foreign drug kingpin" under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Act of 2005 [official overview] on June 1 2005, was described by US DOJ officials as a "Taliban-linked narco-terrorist". According to an unsealed indictment filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, he is accused of controlling large Afghan opium fields and importing more than $25 million worth of heroin into the US since 1990. If convicted, Mohammed faces a minimum of 10 years in prison. The US Attorney's office has issued a press release.






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Security Council supports status talks on Kosovo
Joshua Pantesco on October 24, 2005 7:36 PM ET

[JURIST] The UN Security Council announced [presidential statement text] Monday that it would implement UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's recommendations and organize international discussions on whether Kosovo [UN Interim Administration website] should be independent or remain a province of Serbia. Annan said [text] last week that he was likely to appoint former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari [Wikipedia profile] as a special envoy to the UN in charge of the status talks. The Council also repeated their goals for the talks, which include protecting minorities, decentralizing the government, reforming local governments, implementing democratic reforms, and creating safe and secure conditions within Kosovo that would encourage a significant amount of Serbs to return to the war-torn area. Reuters has more.






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Saddam trial may stall until after December 15 elections
Joshua Pantesco on October 24, 2005 6:51 PM ET

[JURIST] A senior Iraqi official told Reuters Monday that the trial of Saddam Hussein [JURIST archive] is unlikely to make significant headway before the December 15 parliamentary elections. "The hearing on November 28 - if it happens at all - won't last more than two or three hours before it's adjourned again until after the election, or indeed until a new government is formed," he predicted. The trial began on October 15 [JURIST report] with Saddam pleading not guilty to all charges, but after three hours of proceedings the judge presiding over the Iraqi High Criminal Court, formerly the Iraqi Special Tribunal [JURIST news archive], adjourned the trial [JURIST report] until the November date. Although judges took evidence from a dying witness [JURIST report] Sunday, defense lawyers have said they will boycott further proceedings until the trial is moved out of the country [JURIST report] or authorities solve the murder of Saadoun Sughaiyer al-Janabi, a lawyer for one of Saddam's co-defendants who was kidnapped and killed by assailants late last week. Reuters has more.






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EU to warn Bulgaria, Romania that entry could be delayed by corruption, rights violations
Alexandria Samuel on October 24, 2005 4:47 PM ET

[JURIST] European Commission [official website] officials are preparing to warn Bulgaria and Romania [EU profiles] that the 2007 scheduled entry of both countries into the European Union [JURIST news archive] may be delayed until 2008 if both nations do not promptly act to address corruption and human rights violations, according a draft report obtained by Reuters. The report also calls for increased efforts to strengthen border controls and eliminate human trafficking and counterfeiting. A formal recommendation to EU governments on the matter is expected in April or May of next year. Reuters has more.






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Five hundred more prisoners to be released from Abu Ghraib
Alexandria Samuel on October 24, 2005 4:31 PM ET

[JURIST] A spokesman for Iraq's Ministry of Human Rights said Monday that 565 prisoners would be released from Abu Ghraib prison [JURIST news archive] before the Muslim religious holiday of Al-Fitr [Wikipedia backgrounder] at the end of the holy month of Ramadan. This release follows an earlier release of more than 1500 prisoners [JURIST report] at the beginning of Ramadan. More than 10,000 prisoners remain at the facility. AFP has more.






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Syrian lawyers challenge UN report on Hariri assassination
Alexandria Samuel on October 24, 2005 3:53 PM ET

[JURIST] Syrian lawyers and judges have protested in Damascus against the UN report [text] on the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri [JURIST archive] suggesting that his murder was sanctioned by the Syrian government. Members of the Syrian Bar Association marched Sunday after endorsing a letter to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan challenging the report's neutrality. In the letter, the Association challenged the methodology used during the investigation and contended that the report was riddled with "legal mistakes", charging that UN investigators relied on the testimony of numerous witnesses who are political foes of Syria, and intentionally ignored the potential role Israel played in the assassination. On Saturday, Hariri's son Saad al-Hariri praised the report [JURIST report] and called for an international trial to punish those responsible for his father's death. Civil servants and students took to the streets of Damascus Monday to add their own voices to the protests. Arabic News has more.






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UK, Jordan reach agreement on extradition oversight
Tom Henry on October 24, 2005 3:23 PM ET

[JURIST] Jordan and Britain announced Monday that the two countries have agreed to allow Adalah ("justice" in Arabic) [advocacy website], an independent human rights organization, to monitor the treatment of suspects detained pursuant to a recent UK/Jordan extradition agreement [JURIST report]. The decision comes after increased criticism following allegations that deportees could be tortured [HRW report]. The deal is likely to be used to extradite radical London-based Muslim cleric Abu Qatada as part of a crackdown on Islamists in the wake of the London bombings [JURIST news archive] this summer. Aljazeera has more.






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UK Home Secretary says anti-terror laws will impact animal rights radicals
Alexandria Samuel on October 24, 2005 3:21 PM ET

[JURIST] Speaking before the UK Joint Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights [official website] Monday, UK Home Secretary Charles Clarke [official profile] said that new anti-terror legislation [JURIST document] recently proposed by the government would have a direct impact on militant animal rights groups that encourage deadly radical behavior. A senior FBI official testified to the US Congress in May that radical environmental and animal rights groups using violence were the top US domestic terror threat [JURIST report]. Clarke also told the parliamentary committee Monday that his office would consider clarifying the definition of "glorification" of terrorist acts under proposed anti-terror legislation and would review existing policy on the use of deadly force by police officers after he receives official investigation results from the Independent Police Complaints Commission [official website] into the fatal shooting of Brazilian national Jean Charles de Menezes [JURIST report] in July after he was mistaken for a suicide bomber. BBC News has more.






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Bush will not release records of conversations with Miers
Tom Henry on October 24, 2005 2:59 PM ET

[JURIST] US President George W. Bush, citing confidentiality, said on Monday he would not release any records of his conversations with Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers [JURIST news archive] regarding advice Miers gave him while acting as his lawyer. Bush said to reporters that it was "a red line" he was "not willing to cross," a decision that could prompt a battle between the White House and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Both Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee are pushing for more documents on Miers [JURIST report], including papers from her work as Bush's counsel. Bush has declined to turn over internal documents before, including ones sought by Democrats prior to the Senate hearing that led to the confirmation last month of John Roberts [JURIST report] to the nation's highest court. AP has more.

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Alleged 'kingpin' of Rwandan genocide denies charges in court
Tom Henry on October 24, 2005 2:23 PM ET

[JURIST] Former Rwandan army officer Col. Theoneste Bagosora [profile], accused of being the "mastermind" behind the country's 1994 genocide [BBC backgrounder], took the witness stand Monday at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) [official website] and denied a role in the killing of as many as 800,000 people. Bagosora said that "the accusation that I masterminded the genocide is malicious and meant to ruin my name." Bagosora and three other military leaders, Gratien Kabiligi, Anatole Nsengiyumva and Aloys Ntabakuze, are being tried together and all have pleaded not guilty to charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. Prosecutors maintain that Bagosora oversaw the killings from his office in the Ministry of Defense during the tumultuous period following the death of President Juvenal Habyarimana [Wikipedia profile], whose plane was shot down as it attempted to land in Kigali in April 1994. Since its inception ten years ago, the ICTR has indicted 81 people, convicted 22 and acquitted three. AP has more.






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Russian human rights activists demand Khodorkovsky transfer from Siberia
Tom Henry on October 24, 2005 2:05 PM ET

[JURIST] A Russian NGO said Monday that a group of Russian human rights activists have urged Russian ombudsman Vladimir Lukin [profile] to work to secure the transfer of jailed Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky [MosNews profile; JURIST news archive] and his business partner Platon Lebedev from penal colonies in Siberia to prison camps in Moscow or the surrounding area. The call to Lukin, made by a group of artists, lawyers, politicians, and others, said that Khodorkovsky and Lebedev were treated in a highly unusual manner and had their rights violated when they were placed in remote labor camps [BBC prison profile] after receiving 8-year sentences in a process that many saw as politically motivated [JURIST report]. MosNews has more.

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Nepal groups appeal to Supreme Court to protect media
Lisl Brunner on October 24, 2005 11:23 AM ET

[JURIST] A major Nepalese radio station appealed to the country's Supreme Court Sunday after its office was raided and equipment seized [AP report] by Nepalese police on Friday. Kantipur FM filed a writ to the court to condemn the raid and to stop the government from implementing a press ordinance that prohibits FM radio stations from broadcasting. Most FM radios stopped broadcasting Monday in deference to the law approved [JURIST report] by King Gyanendra [BBC profile]. The ordinance has also been opposed by the Nepalese Bar Association and the Federation of Nepalese Journalists. Kantipur FM has been a staunch critic of the government since Gyanendra took over the government [JURIST archive] in February and suspended press freedoms under an emergency statute. PTI has more.






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Australian official says terror laws could violate international rights standards
Kate Heneroty on October 24, 2005 11:02 AM ET

[JURIST] Australian Capital Territory Chief Minister Jon Stanhope [official website] says he has a "growing concern" that the federal government's proposed anti-terrorism legislation [PDF text] does not meet international standards for political and civil rights. After posting a confidential copy of the draft bill [JURIST report] on his website last week, Stanhope says he is pleased to participate in continued negotiations over the text, but may not be willing to abide by restrictions [PDF text; ACT press release] imposed on the states and territories for receiving further drafts. Stanhope said he is still considering the constitutionality of the bill and "whether or not the Prime Minister has kept the promise he made...that the anti-terrorism bill would be consistent with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights".

Stanhope had previously requested that experts in human rights and international law from the University of New South Wales and Australian National University provide him with advice [PDF text] on the human rights implications of the bill. Focusing on provisions dealing with preventative detention and control orders, the three experts concluded that the provisions breached Australia's obligations under the ICCPR [text]:

a. The preventative detention order regime breaches the human rights to be free from arbitrary detention and to due process and cannot be said to be subject to an effective procedure of judicial review that provides adequate safeguards against violations of the human rights of the person affected.

b. The control order regime breaches the rights to be free from arbitrary detention, to a fair trial, to freedom of movement, to privacy and family life, and to the presumption of innocence.
Australia's ABC News has more.





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FBI documents show unlawful surveillance of US residents
Lisl Brunner on October 24, 2005 10:44 AM ET

[JURIST] The FBI has conducted secret surveillance of US citizens and legal residents for up to 18 months without notifying the Justice Department, according to documents [PDF] released Monday by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) [official website]. EPIC made a request [PDF text] under Freedom of Information Act [text] for documents relating to the FBI's use of Patriot Act [text] provisions, and has obtained documents that describe thirteen cases of alleged FBI misconduct during intelligence activities between 2002 and 2004. The documents reveal hundreds of FBI investigations into potential violations in secret surveillance operations, which have increased since September 11, 2001. Most of these cases involve powers derived from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act [text], which provides regulations for judicial oversight of surveillance and physical searches of suspected international terrorists or persons engaged in espionage. Congress is currently considering [JURIST report] whether to put new restrictions on the Patriot Act and, in a letter [text] Monday to the US Senate Judiciary Committee, EPIC asked for greater congressional oversight of the FBI's surveillance activities. The FBI contends that most of the cases involve administrative errors rather than major violations of Department of Justice guidelines and have not affected the civil rights of those surveyed. The Washington Post has more. EPIC provides additional documents obtained from its Patriot Act FOIA litigation.






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Former Gitmo detainee arrested in Russian rebel attack
Lisl Brunner on October 24, 2005 10:07 AM ET

[JURIST] A former Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainee was arrested in Russia's Caucasus yesterday after evidence surfaced that he was involved in a rebel attack there last week. Rasul Kudayev was one of seven Russian nationals arrested by US troops in Afghanistan, and was released from Guantanamo in March 2004 and turned over to Russian officials. He was subsequently released from Russian custody when officials could not connect him to any crimes, and has been living in Nalchik for the past 18 months. Kudayev's arrest is part of Russian security efforts to hunt down those involved in the October 13 attack [BBC report] on police and army buildings in Nalchik, the capital of Kabardino-Balkaria, [BBC profile] a Russian Federation republic in the North Caucasus. The raids, which resulted in the deaths of 36 people, were carried out by 200 rebels who have been linked to Chechen militants. Mosnews has local coverage.






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Uzbek opposition leader arrested on corruption charges
Kate Heneroty on October 24, 2005 9:55 AM ET

[JURIST] Sanjar Umarov [official profile], head of Uzbekistan's Sunshine Uzbekistan [party website] opposition coalition, was arrested and charged with corruption Sunday. The state prosecutor's office has said that Umarov is charged with stealing money through his business dealings, though Sunshine Uzbekistan officials say Umarov had no remaining business interests in Uzbekistan [JURIST news archive]. Umarov has been critical of President Islam A. Karimov [BBC profile], warning that the nation was headed for financial and social ruin. Last week, Umarov called on parliament to begin talks with the opposition over Karimov's hard line policies, but the government has banned most opposition parties and rarely tolerates public criticism.

Umarov's arrest comes as the government began forcing human rights activist Elena Urlaeva, arrested last year for allegedly distributing anti-government leaflets, to undergo psychiatric treatment [AP report]. The forced treatment began Saturday, even though the law forbids compulsory treatment until the appeals process has been exhausted, which for Urlaeva will not happen until Oct. 28. Urlaeva has been a frequent critic of the government and was involuntarily committed to psychiatric hospitals in 2001 and 2002. Human Rights Watch has called for her release [HRW press statement] or at least for the government to stop the psychiatric abuse and grant her a fair trial. The US State Department has also condemned the action [press release] stating, "Treating political dissidents as victims of psychosis has long been a tactic used by repressive regimes." Earlier this month, another rights activist highly critical of the Uzbek government, Mukhtabar Tojibaeva, was arrested on charges of extortion [JURIST report]. BBC News has more.

The Uzbek government has been a particular focus of international human right concerns in recent months following its crackdown in dissent after the May protests in the eastern city of Andijan where government troops opened fire on demonstrators [JURIST report]. Fifteen alleged rebels are currently on trial in connection with the protests, although UN officials have expressed doubts about the fairness of the proceeding [JURIST report].






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Christian evangelist may testify to White House assurances on Miers
Kate Heneroty on October 24, 2005 9:22 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Senate Judiciary Committee will likely call Focus on the Family [advocacy website] founder James Dobson [profile], to testify at confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers [JURIST news archive], Committee chairman Arlen Specter [official profile] said [Face the Nation transcript] Sunday. In an October 5 radio address, Dobson called for support of Miers and hinted to having information from the White House regarding her views on abortion [transcript], saying "When you know some of the things that I know -- that I probably shouldn't know -- you will understand why I have said, with fear and trepidation, that Harriet Miers will be a good justice." Specter has expressed interest in learning what Dobson was promised, stating Sunday that "the American people are entitled to clarification." In her initial responses [JURIST document] to a Judiciary Committee questionnaire, Miers said that she has not made any representations to any individuals or interest groups as to how she might rule if confirmed. The Washington Post has more.






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Ailing Saddam witness gives testimony without defense lawyers
Kate Heneroty on October 24, 2005 9:01 AM ET

[JURIST] Waddah al-Sheikh, who served as a senior officer in the investigations and evidence unit at Hakmiya, Iraq's main intelligence agency under the rule of Saddam Hussein, became the first witness to testify [JURIST report] in Hussein's trial [JURIST news archive] Sunday. Court officials feared that al-Sheikh, who is dying of cancer and is one of the main witnesses at the trial, would not survive until the trial resumes on November 28 [JURIST report]. Al-Sheikh gave testimony to three judges and his words were recorded and written down. Despite security reassurances, and in keeping with a boycott threat [JURIST report], defense lawyers refused to attend the proceeding following the killing of a lawyer for one of Hussein's co-defendants [JURIST report] by gunmen late last week. Reuters has more.






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Afghan magazine editor sentenced to jail for anti-Islamic blasphemy
Sara R. Parsowith on October 24, 2005 8:21 AM ET

[JURIST] Ali Mohaqiq Nasab, editor of the Afghanistan magazine Haqooq-i-Zan (translated as Women's Rights), was sentenced Sunday to two years in jail after being convicted of blasphemy for his publication of anti-Islamic articles. On Saturday, Kabul's Primary Court convicted Mohaqiq of blasphemy on advisement from the Ulema Council [Wikipedia backgrounder], Afghanistan's body of Islamic clergy. Mohaqiq was arrested [CPJ report] earlier this month after an article was published that argued that giving up Islam should not be a crime that is punished by death as is currently sanctioned by some interpretations of Islamic Shariah law. Other articles written by Mohaqiq that were deemed to be blasphemous included the criticism of punishing adultery with lashes and the notion that men and women in Islamic law should be considered equals. The US-based Committee to Protect Journalists [advocacy website] has called for the immediate release of Mohaqiq. Under a revised media law [BBC report] signed by Afghan president Hamid Karzai in 2004, content that is deemed to be insulting to Islam is banned in Afghanistan. Provisions on criminal penalties are vaguely worded, making it easier to punish journalists in accordance with Islamic law. Mohaqiq has three weeks to appeal the verdict. AP has more.

2:23 PM ET - The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) expressed concern [briefing transcript; UN News report] Monday over Mohaqiq's jail sentence, noting that Afghanistan's Media Monitoring Commission had reached a different conclusion in the case - that Mohaqiq had not committed blasphemy - and recommended Mohaqiq's release from detention. UNAMA also called for a strong defense of the freedom of expression, protected by the Afghan constitution [DOC text] and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights [text], and said the freedom applies to everyone, including journalists. AP has more.






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Female arrests, incarceration on the rise, DOJ report shows
Sara R. Parsowith on October 24, 2005 8:06 AM ET

[JURIST] The number of women incarcerated in state and federal prisons in 2004 was up by four percent compared with the year before, with women making up seven percent of all inmates, according to a report [PDF text] issued Sunday by the US DOJ Bureau of Justice Statistics. The increase in female incarcerations is more than double the 1.8 percent for their male counterparts. According to an author of the report, the upswing can be linked to the increased participation of women in drug crimes, violent crimes and fraud, though the Sentencing Project [advocacy website] says that the increase is due in large part to sentencing policies in the war on drugs. According to FBI figures [text], there were more arrests made for drug violations in 2004 than any other offense and those sentenced on drug-related offenses made up of 55 percent of all federal inmates in 2003. The Sentencing Project said US policy makers would be wise to consider alternatives to both current sentencing and drug policies. The Justice Policy Institute [advocacy website] said that the statistics do not show a relationship between prison population growth and the crime rate which has fallen in recent years. AP has more.






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UN calls reports of Afghan abuses 'unacceptable'
Sara R. Parsowith on October 24, 2005 7:44 AM ET

[JURIST] The United Nations has repeated its statements that abuses by coalition forces in Afghanistan are "totally unacceptable" and an "affront to the work of the international community in Afghanistan" after Australian TV broadcast video last week showing US soldiers allegedly burning the bodies of two Afghan Taliban prisoners and inciting the Taliban by calling them "cowardly dogs." US forces were first accused of abusing Afghan prisoners [JURIST report] in May. The Pentagon has said it will conduct an investigation [JURIST report] into the burning reports and Afghan President Hamid Karzai has ordered his defense ministry to commence its own investigation. AFP has more.






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Miers nomination lacks votes for approval, Schumer says
Sara R. Parsowith on October 24, 2005 7:21 AM ET

[JURIST] Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) [official website] said Sunday that US Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers [JURIST news archive], a longtime friend and legal counsel to President Bush, lacks the requisite votes to be approved by the Senate. Schumer's comments come just two weeks before confirmation hearings are scheduled to begin [JURIST report] on November 7. Schumer said that Miers, nominated to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, would not receive support from a majority either in the Judiciary Committee or on the floor and said "I think there is maybe one or two in the Judiciary Committee who have said they'd support her as of right now." Judiciary Committee chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA) said that Democrats cannot predict how the Senate will decide and said that most senators are waiting for the hearings before they make their mind up about Miers. The White House has said there are no plans to pull Miers' nomination despite opposition from both Republicans and Democrats. Last week Specter and Sen. Patrick Leahy, ranking Democrat on the committee, asked Miers for clarification [joint letter] of her responses to a Judiciary Committee questionnaire [JURIST report], saying Miers' answers were insufficient. AP has more.






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Brazil votes to keep gun sales legal in historic first referendum
Jaime Jansen on October 23, 2005 8:10 PM ET

[JURIST] Brazil, the country with the world's highest death rate from firearms [Independent report], Sunday firmly rejected a ban on gun and ammunition sales in its first national referendum. Initial pre-referendum surveys had indicated a favorable view of the ban, but an anti-ban advertising blitz in the run-up to the vote appears to have turned the tide. With 75% of votes reported, 64% of voters favored keeping arms sales legal ["No" website, in Portugese], while only 35% were opposed ["Yes" website, in Portuguese]. Some citizens believed a gun ban would increase corruption, while others argued that firearms did not give any protection to ordinary citizens. Most of the violence in Brazil stems from drug traffickers, who virtually control the streets. Some 36,000 gun deaths were reported in Brazil in 2004 as compared to 30,000 in the US, a country with a third more population. Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva [Wikipedia profile] voted in favor of the firearms ban. Gun control laws passed in 2003 decreased gun sales to civilians by 80 percent [Reuters article] but did not significantly reduce the number of deaths from firearms. Agencia Brasil has a breakdown of the latest referendum results by region [in Portuguese]. Many political observers welcomed the vote, regardless of the result, as a recognition of democratic popular sovereignty. Reuters has more.






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CIA employees will not be charged with prisoner deaths
Jaime Jansen on October 23, 2005 4:48 PM ET

[JURIST] The New York Times reported Sunday that federal prosecutors reviewing the involvement of CIA [official website; JURIST news archive] officials in the deaths of at least four prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan have decided not to bring criminal charges against all but one CIA employee. The US Justice Department [official website; JURIST news archive] believes the US military bears most of the blame for prisoner deaths. Contract worker David Passaro [Raleigh News-Observer report] appears to be the only person linked to the CIA who was involved in deaths of prisoners, although Passaro insists he has been scapegoated for political reasons. Another case technically still under review by the Justice Department involves an Iraqi who died during CIA interrogation in a shower room at Abu Ghraib [JURIST news archive]. The Justice Department will not pursue two additional cases involving the hypothermia of an Afghan at a detention center in November, 2002 and the death of a former Iraqi general [JURIST report] who succumbed to asphyxiation after his head was stuffed into a sleeping bag at an American base in western Iraq. AFP has more.






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New Orleans legal maneuver could allow government to rebuild private property
Jaime Jansen on October 23, 2005 3:33 PM ET

[JURIST] Officials and community advocates in New Orleans have proposed using the Roman law concept of usufruct [backgrounder] to allow authorities to gain temporary control of privately owned homes damaged by Hurricane Katrina [JURIST news archive]. Coming into Louisiana state law via the French and Spanish civil code traditions, usufruct gives a party the temporary legal right to use and profit from property that belongs to another so long as they do not change the nature of that property. The decimated homes, in neighborhoods that stretch beyond the popular French Quarter and Garden District, have no power, water or other means of recovery. Mtumishi St. Julien, a longtime community advocate, housing advisor to Mayor Michael C. Ray Nagin and executive director of the Finance Agency of New Orleans, supports the proposal because many property owners do not have the means to fix their own property. If the proposal is incorporated into legislation, authorities will form agreements with property owners not planning to return to New Orleans in the near future to sign over controlling rights of the property to the government in exchange for the government taking over mortgage payments and arranging to rebuild the homes. After an agreed-upon time, the original property owners might return if they can repay the government for the repairs made, or allow the government to sell the properties and share in the profits or losses. The Los Angeles Times has more.






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Lebanon arrests man named in Hariri killing probe
Wanda Kudrycka on October 23, 2005 12:45 PM ET

[JURIST] Lebanese authorities said Saturday that they have apprehended a man who called President Emile Lahoud shortly before the February 4 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri [JURIST news archive]. Lebanon Public Prosecutor Saeed Meerza issued a warrant for the arrest of Mahmoud Abdel-Al based on the UN report [text] on Hariri's assassination. The report also names Abdel-Al's brother, a member of pro-Syrian Al-Ahbash group [Wikipedia backgrounder]. A spokesman for Lahoud has denied that the president had been in contact with Abdel-Al. Reuters has more.






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UN says Sudan not trying Darfur crimes
Wanda Kudrycka on October 23, 2005 11:43 AM ET

[JURIST] The UN's special rapporteur for human rights in Sudan [JURIST news archive] said Saturday that the Sudanese government has failed to try persons responsible for war crimes in Darfur [BBC backgrounder, JURIST news archive]. Dr. Sima Samar [BBC profile 2003] said that organized sexual violence against women is continuing and the government is doing nothing to prevent it. He also reported that emergency laws in effect in Darfur and in the capital Khartoum were allowing security forces to arbitrarily detain, torture and kill civilians. Sudan says that all rights violations are investigated, but a domestic tribunal [JURIST report] set up for investigating and prosecuting war crimes committed in the Darfur region has so far tried just three cases out of 72,000 complaints filed. The national court is supposed to be a local substitute for International Criminal Court [official website], the jurisdiction of which Sudanese authorities have rejected. Reuters has more.






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Saddam lawyers threaten to boycott trial
Wanda Kudrycka on October 23, 2005 10:39 AM ET

[JURIST] Lawyers for Saddam Hussein [JURIST news archive] and his co-defendants announced Saturday that they would boycott their trial unless the court was moved outside of Iraq for their own safety. The statement comes after Saadoun Sughaiyer al-Janabi, a defense lawyer accused Saddam chief judge Awad Hamed al-Bandar, was kidnapped and murdered [JURIST report] late last week. The defense team has called for increased security and a full investigation into al-Janabi's murder, and has said that they hold the Iraqi government responsible for the killing. Ahmad Chalabi, Iraq's deputy prime minister, reiterated the government's earlier statement that the trial should only take place in Iraq. The Times of London has more.

2:15 PM ET - The Iraqi Bar Association Sunday urged Iraqi lawyers not to work with the court trying Saddam Hussein and his seven co-defendants until authorities solve the al-Janabi killing. Association members also passed a resolution calling for a one-day strike Wednesday to protest the killing. Reuters has more.






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Partial Iraqi constitution referendum results point towards charter approval
Bernard Hibbitts on October 23, 2005 9:42 AM ET

[JURIST] Iraqi election officials Saturday announced partial results of the country's October 15 constitutional referendum [JURIST report] that pointed towards approval of the draft charter [JURIST news archive] in the final count. Figures based on half the returns in 13 of Iraq's 18 provinces suggested that the document had been approved there by majorities of between 51 and 98 percent; in Sunni-dominated Salahuddin province [Wikipedia backgrounder], the home of Saddam Hussein's family, 81.15% of ballots rejected the constitution, which is also believed to have failed in violence-wracked Anbar province, for which no figures were cited. Under the referendum rules, the draft comstitution will fail if it is rejected by two-thirds of voters in at least three provinces. In Diyala [Wikipedia backgrounder], a "swing" province with a mixed population, the charter now appears to have been very narrowly approved (51%) after initial reports of an approval rating of some 70%, but even there the revised proportion of "no" votes seems far less than the two-thirds required to reject. Voting appeared generally to be very much along ethnic lines across the country, with eight Shiite provinces registering 95%+ approval votes, and the two Kurdish provinces of Sulaimaniyah and Dohuk voting "yes" by more than 98 percent. The Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq [official website] has issued a press release [PDF]. Scotland on Sunday has more; the Chicago Tribune provides additional coverage.






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Miers supported affirmative action initiatives as Texas bar president
Joshua Pantesco on October 22, 2005 4:47 PM ET

[JURIST] White House US Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers [JURIST news archive] supported affirmative action programs during her tenure as the president of the State Bar of Texas, according to a report in the Washington Post Saturday. The Post cited an interview [PDF text] Miers gave in June 1992 to the the Texas Bar Journal, as well as a President's Opinion [PDF text] she wrote later that year. In both articles she contended that racial and gender set-asides were justified to encourage the emergence of a legal community that "reflect[s] our population as a whole." The Post quoted a Bush administration spokesman who maintained that Miers' previous position on affirmative action is not an accurate predictor of how she would vote on such issues as a Supreme Court justice. Read the Post article here. Reuters has more.






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Sudan mistreating incarcerated human rights lawyer, says Amnesty
Joshua Pantesco on October 22, 2005 4:31 PM ET

[JURIST] Amnesty International [official website] said Saturday that Sudan has arrested and mistreated a human rights lawyer documenting the killing of 30 people in refugee camps outside of Khartoum last May. Amnesty considers the lawyer to be a prisoner of conscience, “detained solely for his work in defense of human rights.” The Sudanese government has denied firing upon refugees during the May incident, through witnesses claim they lost relatives to gunshot wounds. Amnesty claims the lawyer has been charged with “waging war against the state, murder and undermining the constitutional system,” two of which could incur the death penalty. Sudan previously suspended an independent newspaper for publishing reports on the encounter, and has arrested hundreds for their involvement. Earlier this year, Sudan was sharply criticised by human rights groups [JURIST report] for arresting refugee aid workers associated with Doctors without Borders [official website]. Reuters has more.






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South African judges address charges of racism, sexism in court system
Joshua Pantesco on October 22, 2005 3:30 PM ET

[JURIST] A committee of three prominent South African judges published a report [PDF text] Friday calling for voluntary diversity training and the founding of a national body to hear disputes over allegations of racism within the South African judicial system. The committee was formed last April in response to allegations made by the Chief Judge of Capetown accusing white judges in the former apartheid state of insulting black members of the judiciary and excluding them from social functions. The report declares that "because of our history, racism and sexism are attitudes engraved in our society. The judiciary is part of that society...we are determined to confront and deal with issues of racism and sexism that are brought to our attention." Legislative action on the report's recommendations - in particular the creation of a national oversight body - could be taken within the next year. AP has more.






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UK Commons dumps private bill to limit government war powers
Joshua Pantesco on October 22, 2005 3:20 PM ET

[JURIST] A private bill introduced by former Blair cabinet minister Clare Short [official profile] that would have given British lawmakers veto power over the Prime Minister's prerogative to declare war failed to progress Friday after the House of Commons could not muster the 100 votes required for it to progress. The government did not support the bill. Under the proposed legislation, the Prime Minister would make the case for troop deployment before both Houses, who would then authorize war by a simple majority vote. The PM would still be authorized to send troops in urgent situations, but these troops could then be recalled by a simple majority in Parliament. Historically in the United Kingdom, the decision to declare war has been exclusively the domain of PM and the government. In May 2003, Short resigned from the Blair cabinet in protest over the its decision to go to war in Iraq along with the United States. AP has more.






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DOJ indicts Houston oil tycoon in Iraq oil-for-food scheme
Joshua Pantesco on October 22, 2005 2:39 PM ET

[JURIST] US Attorney for the Southern District of New York [official website] Michael Garcia has charged and arrested Houston oil tycoon Oscar Wyatt [NYT profile] for his involvement in the Iraq oil-for-food scandal [JURIST news archive]. Garcia also charged two Swiss bank executives as well as several corporations controlled by the defendants for paying kickback money to the Saddam Hussein regime in exchange for the rights to purchase oil through the program. Sealed indictments say [DOJ press release] that the three defendants concealed the kickback payments from the UN by making cash deposits to a bank account located in Jordan that was controlled by the Iraqi government. Wyatt's lawyer has protested his client's innocence. The UN oil-for-food program lifted UN sanctions against Iraq to allow the country to sell a limited amount of oil to pay for food and medicine for its people. The US Senate estimates that the Hussein regime earned around $17.3 billion from the arrangement. Reuters has more.






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Iraqi government promises heightened security for Saddam trial lawyers
Alexandria Samuel on October 22, 2005 12:12 PM ET

[JURIST] Iraqi Deputy Interior Minister Hussein Ali Kamal said Saturday that the Iraqi government will step up security measures for the 12 remaining defense lawyers representing Saddam Hussein [JURIST news archive] and his seven co-defendants. The announcement comes two days after Saadoun Sughaiyer al-Janabi, a defense lawyer for co-defendant Awad Hamed al-Bandar, a former chief judge charged with issuing death sentences for 148 Shiites in Dujail without a hearing, was kidnapped and murdered [JURIST news report] by 10 masked gunmen. Lawyers for Hussein and his associates have voiced skepticism about the Iraqi government's ability to provide adequate security, citing frequent Sunni accusations that the Interior Ministry's security forces have been linked to militias that have carried out killings of Sunni Arabs, and ordered the execution of former Baath party members. Defense counsel Khamees Hamid al-Ubaidi has told reporters that the group is discussing protection with the Americans, and has called for a US investigation of al-Janabi's murder. AP has more.






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Former Lebanese PM's son calls for international trial of assassins
Alexis Unkovic on October 22, 2005 11:53 AM ET

[JURIST] The son of slain former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri [official website], Saad al-Hariri, has praised the findings of a UN investigation into the February 4 assassination of the former leader and 20 other people in Beirut [JURIST news archive] and called for an international trial to punish those responsible for his murder. The report [text] implicates Syrian officials in the assassination, and states that "top-ranked Syrian security officials", along with counterparts in Lebanon, must have granted approval of the assassination prior to its commission. Syria officials has denied all allegations. Aljazeera has more.






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NYT editor says he regrets handling of CIA leak case, suggests Miller misled paper
Alexis Unkovic on October 22, 2005 11:11 AM ET

[JURIST] New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller [NYT profile] sent an e-mail [text] to staff members Friday, expressing regrets about his handling of Times reporter Judith Miller [JURIST archive] and her role in the CIA operative leak case [JURIST news archive]. Keller said he missed "warning signals" about Miller's role in the case, and her "entanglement" with Vice President Dick Cheney's Chief of Staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby [official profile], signals that might have lead him to seek compromises with Special Prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald [official profile; investigation website]. In the memo, Keller also criticized Miller directly, saying she "seems to have misled" the Times Washington bureau chief by not disclosing that she was one of several reporters that had been told Valerie Plame was a CIA operative. Miller, who is taking time off from the newspaper after her release from jail, disputed Keller's allegations in an interview. The New York Times has more.






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Bush announces new Deputy Attorney General nominee
Alexis Unkovic on October 22, 2005 10:55 AM ET

[JURIST] President Bush announced [White House press release] his nomination of Paul J. McNulty [official profile] to serve as US Deputy Attorney General Friday. McNulty has served as the US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia [official website] since 2001, prosecuting a number of high-profile terrorism cases, including that of Zacarias Moussaoui. The Senate must confirm McNulty's nomination, but according to administration officials he will begin serving in an acting capacity immediately. The White House withdrew the nomination of Timothy Flanigan [JURIST report] for the position earlier this month amid skepticism from the Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] about his lack of experience as a prosecutor and alleged ties to indicted Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff [JURIST report]. AP has more.






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Iraq electoral commission announces updated referendum turnout figures
Alexis Unkovic on October 22, 2005 10:05 AM ET

[JURIST] The Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq (IECI) [official website] released updated voter turnout statistics for the October 15 Iraqi constitutional referendum [JURIST news archive] Friday, reporting a 63 percent turnout among the country's 15.5 million registered voters. The referendum drew a three-percent higher turnout than the Sunni-boycotted parliamentary elections in January [JURIST report]. Official referendum results are expected next week after the IECI conducts an audit to verify the "unusually high numbers" of "yes" votes [JURIST report] from certain unidentified provinces. Initial figures suggest that voters in 16 of Iraq's 18 provinces voted "yes" on the referendum, which would be enough to ensure its passage. Turnout in individual provinces ranged from 32 to 90 percent. AP has more.

12:31 PM ET - An Electoral Commission official said Saturday that thusfar the IECI had found no evidence of serious fraud in the October 15 poll, although its audit of returns was not yet complete. Reuters has more.






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Khodorkovsky lawyers cleared of ethics charges
Andrew Wood on October 21, 2005 9:57 PM ET

[JURIST] The Moscow Bar Association reported Friday that it had found no evidence to disbar three lawyers on the defense team of jailed Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky [JURIST archive]. On September 23 the Russian Prosecutor General's office requested that eight of Khodorkovsky's lawyers [defense website, in English] be stripped of their law licenses for dragging out his appeal, allegedly to allow him to run in parliamentary elections. Other members of the defense team have been pressured, and Canadian defense lawyer Robert Amsterdam was expelled from Russia [JURIST report] in September. From Moscow, RIA Novosti has more. Meanwhile Khodorkovsky Moscow lawyer Genrikh Padva says that Khodorkovsky has been sent to prison colony No. 10 in Krasnokamensk, a village in the Chita region of eastern Siberia near a uranium-mining complex, to serve out the remaining six years of his eight-year prison sentence.

ALSO ON JURIST

 Topic: Khodorkovsky Trial | Op-ed: A Wake-up Call: Khodorkovsky and the Rule of Law in Russia [Robert Amsterdam]





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DeLay makes first court appearance as lawyer seeks new judge
Andrew Wood on October 21, 2005 9:05 PM ET

[JURIST] Representative Tom DeLay (R-TX) [official profile] made his first court appearance in state criminal court in Austin Friday since his indictment earlier this month on criminal conspiracy and money laundering charges, but his arraignment has been postponed pending his lawyer's request for a new judge in the case [JURIST report; JURIST news archive]. DeLay defense lawyer Dick DeGuerin noted that Judge Bob Perkins [official profile] had donated money to MoveOn.org [advocacy site], an institutional supporter of the Democratic Party. Prosecutor Ronnie Earle [official website] called the request for a new judge "absurd." Judge Perkins noted that he last contributed to MoveOn prior to last year's November election, well before the organization focused on DeLay's trial. A hearing on whether Perkins should try the case will be held by Administrative Judge B.B. Schraub, a Republican. AP has more.

ALSO ON JURIST

 Topic: Tom DeLay | Op-ed: Tom DeLay's Challenge to Texas Grand Jury Process





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US calls for urgent UN meeting on Hariri assassination report
Andrew Wood on October 21, 2005 7:28 PM ET

[JURIST] President Bush Friday called [official statement] for the UN to convene an urgent meeting to consider what he characterized as the "deeply disturbing" findings of the Mehlis report [UN report; JURIST report] suggesting that the February assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri could not have taken place without Syrian involvement. US ambassador to the UN John Bolton meanwhile called on the international community to "demand cooperation from Syria" to uncover necessary facts [press release] about the murder. After it emerged that German investigator Detlev Mehlis had at the last minute deleted references from his report implicating two relatives of Syrian president Bashir Assad, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said [official statement] Friday that he had not made any attempt to influence the report's content. AP has more.






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Saddam defense team demands delay or foreign trial venue after lawyer murder
Holly Manges Jones on October 21, 2005 4:15 PM ET

[JURIST] Members of the defense team for Saddam Hussein [JURIST news archive] demanded Friday that his trial be delayed or moved outside of Iraq after the body of a kidnapped defense lawyer for one of Hussein's co-defendants was found [JURIST report] Friday. The lawyers called for the trial to be postponed past November 28 [JURIST report], the scheduled date for the trial to resume, if the investigation into Saadoun Sughaiyer al-Janabi's killing is not then complete. The defense team also called for more security and to move the trial out of Iraq, but such a request is unlikely to be met since the government has previously insisted that the trial should take place in Iraq before Iraqis. Khalil Dulaimi, Saddam's chief lawyer, confirmed that the defense team has been receiving threats via phone and e-mail since Janabi was kidnapped [JURIST report] Thursday. Another of Saddam's lawyers said that government officials and Interior Ministry members were meeting Friday night to discuss further security measures. AP has more.






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Environmental brief ~ WI legislators begin process to restrict lead paint liability
Tom Henry on October 21, 2005 4:03 PM ET

[JURIST] In Friday's environmental law news, Wisconsin state legislators held a public hearing before a joint meeting of the Assembly and Senate Judiciary Committees Thursday to discuss a bill that would require plaintiffs in manufacturer liability cases to prove a specific product caused their injuries and was made or marketed by the defendant company in order to collect damages. The legislation is in response to a Wisconsin State Supreme Court [official website] ruling [PDF text] earlier this year that held plaintiffs can sue manufacturers for their injuries even when they cannot identify which company made the harmful product. The case involved injuries caused by a lead paint pigment, and was allowed to proceed aginst the paint manufacturers despite being unable to link the companies to the paint. AP has more.

In other environmental law news...






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O'Connor says more clarity necessary in detainee rules
Holly Manges Jones on October 21, 2005 3:41 PM ET

[JURIST] Retiring US Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor [OYEZ profile] called for clearer rules regarding prisoner detention and interrogation during a speech at West Point [official website] Thursday. O'Connor said the situations at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archives] reflected the confusion of soldiers and a need for guidance. The US Supreme Court has ruled that foreign-born detainees should have access to US courts [JURIST report], but O'Connor said that it was up to Congress and the President to make broad policy decisions. O'Connor spoke to 4,000 military cadets after receiving the Thayer Award [West Point backgrounder] for exemplifying the academy's "Duty, Honor, Country" motto. Earlier this month, Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) [official websites] pushed forward legislation [JURIST report] calling for restrictions on the detention, interrogation and prosecution of terror suspects. A Senate amendment to a military appropriations bill is now in conference with the House; President Bush has threatened to veto the bill if it comes to him with detention and interrogation provisions. AP has more.






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Kansas high court overturns harsher treatment for underage gay sex
Holly Manges Jones on October 21, 2005 3:10 PM ET

[JURIST] The Kansas Supreme Court ruled [opinion text] Friday that illegal underage sex cannot be punished more harshly if it is homosexual. The case before the court involved convicted sex offender Matthew Limon [ACLU case materials], who was sentenced to 17 years in prison [JURIST report] for performing a sex act on a 14-year-old boy when he was eighteen. If the underage victim had been a girl, the state's 1999 "Romeo and Juliet" law would have applied, giving Limon a shorter sentence because the age difference between participants was less than four years. The Kansas high court ruled unanimously that illegal homosexual sex should be treated the same as illegal heterosexual sex, and the court removed verbiage from the law that stated otherwise. Justice Maria Luckert said that the law was too broad to meet the state's goal to strengthen traditional values saying, "Moral disapproval of a group cannot be a legitimate state interest." Read the ACLU press release commending the court's decision. AP has more.






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European Commission agrees to hold membership talks with Bosnia
Holly Manges Jones on October 21, 2005 2:43 PM ET

[JURIST] The European Commission [official website] agreed Friday to negotiate with Bosnia [JURIST news archive] to form a cooperation agreement that may result in the country's full membership to the European Union. The commission said that in order for talks to move forward, Bosnia should improve relations with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia [official website], adopt public broadcasting laws, and implement reforms to stop ethnic division in the police force. An agreement with Bosnia will open up economic ties and free trade between the EU and Bosnia and will bring the country's laws more in line with EU standards. Similar arrangements have been signed by the EU for Croatia and Macedonia, and are currently under negotiation for Serbia-Montenegro and Albania. The decision to negotiate with Bosnia still must be approved by the 25 current EU member states. The EU has Bosnian enlargement background materials. AP has more.






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UK High Court lifts order against resuscitating brain-damaged baby
Holly Manges Jones on October 21, 2005 1:37 PM ET

[JURIST] The parents of a brain-damaged girl in the United Kingdom won a partial victory Friday when a High Court judge lifted a non-resuscitation order [JURIST report] if she were to fall seriously ill. The judge's decision came on the second birthday of Charlotte Wyatt [BBC profile], who has never left the hospital since she was born prematurely in 2003. The judge said that doctors still have the final say in making any decision which would result in ending Charlotte's life if it is in her best interest, but the court said her parents must be consulted before such action is taken. The judge cautioned the doctors treating Charlotte to "rely on their conscience," which means they do not need to take orders from her parents, but must consider the family's wishes before making any decisions. Last year, a terminally-ill baby named Luke Winston-Jones [BBC profile] died [BBC report] after a similar non-resuscitation ruling by the High Court [JURIST report]. BBC News has more.






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Saddam trial technical glitches to be fixed before proceedings resume
Holly Manges Jones on October 21, 2005 1:00 PM ET

[JURIST] Iraqi and US officials are working to repair technical difficulties that occurred during the opening day [JURIST report] of the Saddam Hussein trial [JURIST news archive] earlier this week, which was broadcast around the world. Troubles including a courtroom audio signal that faded in and out, inability to see defendants' faces, and an English translation that continually broke up were some of the issues that agitated reporters and others present to witness the trial. US embassy spokesman David Culkin said the problems would be fixed before the trial resumes on November 28 [JURIST report], calling it a "work in progress." The US government has given $75 million to help pay for security measures, building infrastructure, training Iraqi judges, and gathering evidence for the trial. AFP has more.






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Tajikistan bans Muslim headscarves from secular schools
David Shucosky on October 21, 2005 11:40 AM ET

[JURIST] Tajikistan's Education Ministry on Friday banned female Muslim students from wearing headscarves in secular schools. Education Minister Abdudjabor Rakhmonov said wearing the hajib, a traditional Muslim head covering, violates the country's constitution and education laws. Tajikistan is a secular nation but 90 percent of its citizens are Muslims. France enacted a similar ban in 2004 [JURIST report], which drew strong criticism [JURIST report] but was characterized as successful [JURIST report] by French officials in integrating students. A Dutch employment commission recently took up the case of a Muslim woman who says she was not hired for a job because she refused to wear a headscarf [JURIST report]. AP has more.

Previously in JURIST's Paper Chase...






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Kenya constitutional referendum campaigning begins
David Shucosky on October 21, 2005 11:19 AM ET

[JURIST] Official campaigning began Friday for Kenya's controversial draft constitution, on which a referendum will be held November 21 [JURIST report]. The proposed draft [PDF text] has divided the country [JURIST report] over issues including presidential power controls, separation of church and state, and distribution of government powers. Kenya's political parties have squabbled over the document [JURIST report] and an unsuccessful bid was made at Kenya's High Court to block the vote [JURIST report]. If approved, the changes would be the first made to Kenya's government [CIA Factbook profile] since it declared independence 42 years ago. From South Africa, the Mail & Guardian has more.






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Iraq constitutional referendum results still on hold
David Shucosky on October 21, 2005 11:07 AM ET

[JURIST] Results of the October 15 referendum on the Iraqi Constitution [JURIST news archive] faced further delay on Friday, with results now not expected for at least another day or two. The release of results was already delayed once [JURIST report] in order to audit potential irregularities [JURIST report]. A commissioner from the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq [official website, English version] said Friday that results would "definitely not" be announced today, and "perhaps not even tomorrow. I can't say exactly when it will be." Reuters has more.






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Australia limits publication of proposed anti-terror bill after draft leak
David Shucosky on October 21, 2005 10:47 AM ET

[JURIST] Australian Capital Territory Chief Minister Jon Stanhope [official website] has said the federal government is excluding him from consulting on the next draft of anti-terrorism proposals after Stanhope leaked a draft of the bill [JURIST report; PDF text] last week. Stanhope received an email from Prime Minister John Howard [official profile] saying the ACT will not receive a copy of the new draft and electronic distribution of it will be forbidden. Howard has defended the law [JURIST report] from critics who reacted strongly to the leak, denying that it attacks civil liberties. Stanhope called the move "childish" and a direct breach of an intergovernmental agreement. Australia's ABC News has more.

2:01 PM ET - Prime Minister John Howard said Friday that Stanhope, despite his "discourteous" actions, will receive all versions of the proposed legislation. Howard said that he wants the agreement of all governments and that "there is no purpose served... in the people of the ACT being treated with the discourtesy that Mr Stanhope displayed towards his fellow leaders." ABC has more.






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Louisiana to lift eviction ban to help Katrina rebuilding effort
David Shucosky on October 21, 2005 10:24 AM ET

[JURIST] Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco [official website] announced on Thursday that she will not extend an eviction ban, allowing landlords to start making repairs to houses and apartments damaged by Hurricane Katrina [JURIST news archive]. Starting Tuesday, landlords may once again initiate eviction procedures [executive order, PDF; press release]. State law permits evictions if the property becomes uninhabitable; landlords had complained that the ban had prevented them from repairing properties where residents hadn't returned. Lifting the ban was urged to help speed the rebuilding process. Even with lifting the ban on evictions, legal issues remain. Landlords say the rules on abandonment and right to enter are unclear, and legislative action is expected. Key issues include removal and disposal of personal property from damaged units and possible rent control/anti-gouging regulations. From New Orleans, the Times-Picayune has more.

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 Op-ed: Mold, Mildew, and the Military Role in Disaster Response | Video: Katrina victims' Bill of Rights





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Ninth Circuit OKs government ban on donations to designated terror groups
David Shucosky on October 21, 2005 10:05 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] ruled on Thursday that the government may block Americans [PDF opinion] from giving financial support to foreign organizations designated as terrorist groups. The group in question, Mujahedin-e Khalq (also called MKO or MEK), has been classified as a terrorist group [State Dept. backgrounder] by the US State Department since 1997. The US government brought an indictment against individuals who gave money to the group; the defendants argued that MEK was not a terrorist group and that they had a First Amendment right to support them. A District Court threw out the indictment, but in June the Ninth Circuit overturned the dismissal. In reaffirming that ruling on Thursday, Judge Andrew Kleinfeld wrote, "The Constitution does not forbid Congress from requiring individuals, whether they agree with the executive branch determination or not, to refrain from furnishing material assistance to designated terrorist organizations." The court further rejected the First Amendment claim, ruling that "provid[ing] material support" is not speech. Reuters has more.






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Bush to sign law limiting gun industry liability
Christopher G. Anderson on October 21, 2005 9:47 AM ET

[JURIST] President Bush has commended the passing of legislation [press release] shielding the firearms industry from civil lawsuits brought by cities, municipalities and victims of gun crimes and says he looks forward to signing the bill into law. The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act [S. 397 bill summary], passed by the House [JURIST report] Thursday following Senate approval in July, is being hailed by the National Rifle Association [advocacy website; press release] as a "historic victory" that will end "predatory and baseless" suits often financed by the gun control lobby. Opponents of the act, including groups such as the Brady Campaign [advocacy website], claim that the act protects gun dealers from liability when they recklessly supply guns to the black market. Had the law been in effect during the Washington-area sniper attacks, the Brady Campaign claims, the families of six victims would not have been able to obtain their $2.5 million settlement against the dealer who supplied the gun to John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo. The Brady-associated Coalition to Stop Gun Violence [advocacy website] said the Act will not stop its lawsuit against the gun makers and dealers who allegedly sold the guns used by convicted felon Buford Furrow to kill five people -- four of them children -- in a 1999 shooting rampage at a Jewish community center. Roughly 20 other pending lawsuits by victims and local governments against the industry would, arguably, be affected by the new law. Friday's New York Times has more.






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Cover-up charges reportedly being considered in CIA leak case
Nishat Hasan on October 21, 2005 9:02 AM ET

[JURIST] Charges of making false statements, obstruction of justice, disclosing classified information and conspiracy are being considered by federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald [official profile] against administration officials in the investigation into the leak of a CIA operative's identity, lawyers close to the case said Thursday. The two-year investigation began after the identity of Valerie Plame [JURIST news archive] was revealed days after Plame's husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, criticized the administration's pre-Iraq war intelligence. Charges will likely be brought next week, though Fitzgerald's spokesman declined to comment on those reports. Charges could be filed against top Bush political advisor Karl Rove for failing to tell the grand jury during his initial appearances that he discussed Plame with a TIME magazine reporter [JURIST report]. Lewis Libby, chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, also faces possible charges [JURIST report] of making false statements and obstruction of justice. Fitzgerald could also charge administration officials with knowingly revealing Plame's identity, but sources say the other charges are more likely. Reuters has more.






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Gitmo doctor denies using feeding tubes to punish striking detainees
Nishat Hasan on October 21, 2005 8:22 AM ET

[JURIST] Dr. John Edmondson, chief medical officer at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive], has denied accusations that feeding tubes are being used to punish detainees. In an affidavit filed in federal court, Edmondson stated that only trained doctors and nurses were inserting feeding tubes and that anesthetic and lubricants were being used to ease the pain. The affidavit was filed in response to accusations [JURIST report] by an attorney for several detainees that troops were using dirty tubes and violently inserting feeding tubes into detainees participating in a rolling hunger strike [JURIST report] that began August 9. Defense lawyers filed an emergency petition [JURIST report] last week asking US District Judge Gladys Kessler for more frequent access to their clients, medical records and to allow their own doctors to visit the striking detainees. AP has more.






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UN Hariri assassination report implicates Syria, Lebanon
Joshua Pantesco on October 21, 2005 8:05 AM ET

[JURIST] A report, submitted [JURIST report; UN News report] Thursday to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, on the results of an independent UN investigation into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri [JURIST news archive] links high-ranking Syrian officials and top pro-Syrian Lebanese officials to the crime. According to the 60-page report [PDF text] prepared by German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis, the evidence suggests that both Syria and Lebanon were involved in the assassination plot which was planned for several months. The commission also concludes that it is highly unlikely that Syrian and Lebanese intelligence services were not aware of the plan to assassinate Hariri. According to the report's executive summary:

7. It is the Commission's view that the assassination of 14 February 2005 was carried out by a group with an extensive organization and considerable resources and capabilities. The crime had been prepared over the course of several months. For this purpose, the timing and location of Mr. Rafik Hariri's movements had been monitored and the itineraries of his convoy recorded in detail.

8. Building on the findings of the Commission and Lebanese investigations to date and on the basis of the material and documentary evidence collected, and the leads pursued until now, there is converging evidence pointing at both Lebanese and Syrian involvement in this terrorist act. It is a well known fact that Syrian Military Intelligence had a pervasive presence in Lebanon at the least until the withdrawal of the Syrian forces pursuant to resolution 1559. The former senior security officials of Lebanon were their appointees. Given the infiltration of Lebanese institutions and society by the Syrian and Lebanese intelligence services working in tandem, it would be difficult to envisage a scenario whereby such a complex assassination plot could have been carried out without their knowledge.

9. It is the Commission's conclusion that the continuing investigation should be carried forward by the appropriate Lebanese judicial and security authorities, who have proved during the investigation that with international assistance and support, they can move ahead and at times take the lead in an effective and professional manner. At the same time, the Lebanese authorities should look into all the case's ramifications including bank transactions. The 14 February explosion needs to be assessed clearly against the sequence of explosions which preceded and followed it, since there could be links between some, if not all, of them.
Syria's government has dismissed the findings as "far from the truth" and Lebanese President Emile Lahoud denied allegations in the report that a suspect said to be involved in the assassination called Lahoud minutes before the bomb exploded that killed Hariri. Hariri's family is calling for those implicated in the report to be tried by an international court. Mehlis is scheduled to brief the UN Security Council next week on the commission's report; the commission was established pursuant to Security Council resolution 1595 [PDF text]. BBC News has more.





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DeLay to appear in court on money laundering, conspiracy charges
Nishat Hasan on October 21, 2005 7:26 AM ET

[JURIST] Rep. Tom DeLay [official profile; campaign website] will appear in an Austin courtroom Friday morning to answer charges that he helped funnel corporate donations to GOP candidates for the Texas Legislature in violation of Texas state law. The appearance will be the first after DeLay voluntarily turned himself in to be booked [JURIST report] Thursday in Harris County on an arrest warrant issued [JURIST report] the day before. DeLay's first court appearance comes after three weeks of legal moves by DeLay's attorney to get the money laundering [JURIST report] and criminal conspiracy [JURIST report] charges dismissed, the prosecutor removed, and the judge replaced. DeLay was released on $10,000 bail after having his fingerprints and a smiling mug shot taken. DeLay has consistently denied [DeLay campaign website legal analysis] any wrongdoing in the matter. AP has more.

Previously in JURIST's Paper Chase...

12:56 PM ET - DeLay's arraignment was postponed Friday pending a hearing on DeLay's request for a new judge in the case. DeLay's defense lawyer Dick DeGuerin asked that Judge Bob Perkins be replaced because Perkins has donated money to the liberal MoveOn.org, which DeGuerin says has been selling T-shirts with DeLay's mug shot on them. Travis County prosecutor Ronnie Earle [official website] has said that he will contest DeLay's request for a new judge. AP has more.





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BREAKING NEWS ~ Kidnapped Saddam trial lawyer found dead
Bernard Hibbitts on October 21, 2005 6:18 AM ET

[JURIST] AP is reporting that Saadoun Sughaiyer al-Janabi, a defense lawyer for one of Saddam Hussein's co-defendants who was kidnapped by 10 masked gunmen [JURIST report] Thursday evening in Baghdad, has been found dead, according to a senior Iraqi lawyers' union official. Diaa al-Saadi warned "This will have grave repercussions. This will hinder lawyers from defending those held for political reasons." Al-Janabi was one of two lawyers for Awad Hamed al-Bandar, a former chief judge of Saddam's Revolutionary Court, and was in the courtroom for the opening session of the joint trial on Wednesday. Chief Saddam lawyer Khalil Dulaimi acknowledged Thursday that defense lawyers had received multiple threats, but did not say from whom. An Iraqi government spokesman has condemned the killing. AP has more.






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Miers hearings expected to run over White House schedule
Joshua Pantesco on October 20, 2005 8:15 PM ET

[JURIST] Senators predicted Thursday that the confirmation hearings for US Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers [JURIST news archive], scheduled to begin November 7th [JURIST report], will probably not finish before Thanksgiving as hoped for by the White House. Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) [official profile], the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] who earlier criticized Miers' questionnaire answers [JURIST report] as “incomplete” and “insufficient” after she failed to mention Texas and DC bar suspensions for non-payment of dues, said "we may not finish before Thanksgiving. We're going to have to take whatever time we need. We do not have much paperwork. We do not have much of a record." AP has more.

ALSO ON JURIST

 Text: Miers responses | Op-ed: Two Cheers for Harriet Miers





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New House bill would split Ninth Circuit, add federal judges
Joshua Pantesco on October 20, 2005 7:37 PM ET

[JURIST] Rep. James Sensenbrenner, Jr. (R-WI) [official profile], chairman of the US House Judiciary Committee [official website], introduced new legislation Thursday to split the US Ninth Ciruit that would create a new US Twelfth Circuit Court of Appeals covering Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. Under the Federal Judgeship and Administrative Efficiency Act of 2005 (HR 4093) [text not yet published] a reduced Ninth Circuit would serve California, Guam, Hawaii, and the Northern Mariana Islands. Following recommendations made by the US Judicial Conference [official website], the bill would also authorize the President to appoint five permanent and two temporary judges to the new Ninth Circuit who would sit in California. The legislation also calls for 12 new circuit court seats and 56 new district court seats, as well as 24 new bankruptcy judgeships. Said Sensenbrenner: “The Ninth has become so big -- in geographic size, in workload, in number of active and senior judges - that it can no longer appropriately discharge its civic functions on behalf of the American people." Splitting the sometimes-controversial and often relatively-liberal Ninth Circuit has been proposed before; the House approved a similar proposal [JURIST report] last October before it was quashed in the Senate. Read the House Judiciary Committee press release.






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Penalties increased for illicit peer-to-peer movie sharing
Joshua Pantesco on October 20, 2005 6:44 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Sentencing Commission [official website] has authorized emergency rules [text] increasing penalties for persons convicted of swapping as-yet-unreleased films over peer-to-peer file sharing networks such as Kazaa and Morpheus. The emergency regulations, which supplement the current guidelines [PDF text], allow judges to base sentences on the volume of copyrighted works shared, and expand the definition of infringement to include “storing an infringing item in an openly shared file.” Commentators expect the new rules to increase prison sentences for those convicted by about forty percent. The emergency rules are the end result of the Family Entertainment and Copyright Act [text; JURIST report], signed by President Bush last April, which was supported [press release] by the Motion Picture Association of America [industry association website] and the Recording Industry Association of America [industry association website], among other media groups. CNET has more.






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West ignoring Russian rule of law breakdown, expelled Khodorkovsky lawyer says
Jeannie Shawl on October 20, 2005 5:15 PM ET

[JURIST] Robert Amsterdam [profile], international defense counsel for jailed Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky [defense website], says that Western governments are turning a blind eye to the deteriorating rule of law in Russia exemplified by his client's prosecution and recent conviction. In a JURIST op-ed [Forum text] published Thursday, Amsterdam argued that instead of insisting that Russia respect fundamental human rights, Western states are playing along in their own economic interests. Khodorkovsky has started serving a eight-year prison sentence [JURIST report] for fraud and tax evasion in connection with his management of Russian oil company Yukos [corporate website]. Amsterdam, expelled from Russia [JURIST report] in September following the denial of Khodorkovsky's first appeal, says that Western governments have resorted to get-along "fuel diplomacy" rather than pressure Russia to respect judicial independence and abide by the principles of the European Convention on Human Rights [text] and other international treaties. Amsterdam also accuses Russia of allowing "grotesque violations of the right to counsel, right to liberty and right to a fair trial" in both the Khodorkovsky trial and associated Yukos litigation.

Amsterdam's comments come as Russian officials have confirmed that Khodorkovsky and business partner Platon Lebedev have been sent to remote prisons [JURIST report] to serve their sentences. Four Russian members of Khodorkovsky's defense team are currently facing disbarment proceedings for "dragging out" their appeal of the conviction. The Kremlin prosecutor has also asked the Russian Ministry of Justice to discipline four other lawyers involved in the defense. The Canadian Press has more on Russia's treatment of Khodorkovsky's legal team.

ALSO ON JURIST

 Topic: Khodorkovsky trial | Audio: Political and economic ramifications of the Khodorkovsky case [Robert Amsterdam]





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Saudi Arabia denies torturing man accused of plotting Bush assassination
Greg Sampson on October 20, 2005 4:55 PM ET

[JURIST] The government of Saudi Arabia on Thursday denied accusations [press release] that Saudi officials tortured Ahmed Omar Abu Ali while he was detained by the Saudi government in 2003. Abu Ali, an American citizen arrested in Saudi Arabia, testified in US federal district court [JURIST report] on Wednesday that Saudi officials denied his requests to contact the US embassy and tortured him while he was in custody. Abu Ali has been charged [indictment, PDF] by the US government with joining Al Qaeda and plotting to assassinate President Bush [JURIST report]. AFP has more.

Previously in JURIST's Paper Chase...






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US appeals court upholds use of race in Seattle high school admissions
Greg Sampson on October 20, 2005 4:28 PM ET

[JURIST] In a 7-4 decision issued on Thursday, a full panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] upheld the Seattle school district's use of race in its high school admissions policy. The policy allows high school students to choose their preferred school. If there is insufficient space at one of the schools, then the district will use race, as well as other factors, to make its final decision. A group of parents challenged the policy in 2000, arguing that the school district's use of race was unconstitutional. In Thursday's ruling [PDF] in Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District, No. 1, the Ninth Circuit rejected the parents' claims, finding the policy was sufficiently limited to meet the district's compelling interest in establishing and maintaining racial and ethnic diversity in the classroom. AP has more. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer has local coverage.






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Ecuador high court rejects presidential attempt at constitutional reform
Greg Sampson on October 20, 2005 4:10 PM ET

[JURIST] Ecuador's high court on Thursday rejected an attempt by President Alfredo Palacio [BBC profile] to seek a referendum on his political reforms. Palacio, a political independent in office for only seven months, has no support in the Ecuador Congress [official website] and has faced substantial opposition to his efforts to rewrite the country's constitution. Palacio assumed the presidency after Congress ousted his predecessor [JURIST report], Lucio Gutierrez, in April. Before taking his case to court, Congress had twice rejected Palacio's attempts at reform and he went to the high court in an effort to bypass the legislature entirely. The Financial Times has more.






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German court hears appeal in Mannesmann acquittal case
Greg Sampson on October 20, 2005 3:35 PM ET

[JURIST] A German appeals court on Thursday heard an appeal brought by federal prosecutors challenging last year's acquittal [JURIST report] of Deutsche Bank CEO Joseph Ackermann [WEF profile]. The appeal comes from a July 2004 court ruling that cleared Ackermann and five other former Mannesmann [corporate website] executives of corruption charges. At oral argument, a federal prosecutor told the court that Mannesmann executives improperly depleted the company's financial resources when they paid out millions of euros in bonuses. The court said it must determine whether German law permitted the bonuses paid to the executives. Expatica has more.






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BREAKING NEWS ~ Saddam lawyer kidnapped in Baghdad
Jeannie Shawl on October 20, 2005 3:22 PM ET

[JURIST] Sky News is reporting that Saadoun Janabi, a member of the legal defense team for Saddam Hussein [JURIST news archive], has been kidnapped in Baghdad.

4:07 PM ET - Reuters is now reporting the kidnapping victim, also identified by police as Saadoun Dulaimi, is actually a defense lawyer for former Iraqi judge Awad al-Bander, who is one of Hussein's co-defendants.






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Gonzales: zero tolerance for hurricane aid fraud
Christopher G. Anderson on October 20, 2005 3:15 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Department of Justice is adopting a zero tolerance policy for anyone attempting to fraudulently acquire aid money appropriated to the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast, US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales [official profile] said Thursday. Speaking to about 100 investigators [prepared remarks] from the Hurricane Katrina Fraud Task Force, Gonzales promised that every dollar directed to hurricane relief would be used to help those affected by Hurricane Katrina [JURIST news archive]. Gonzales also vowed to hold politicians accountable if they try to channel money into their own pockets or those of friends or constituents. The task force was established [JURIST report] in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita by the Department of Justice [official website; press release] to investigate and prosecute disaster-related crimes such as charity and insurance fraud, identity theft, and government benefit fraud. AFP has more.






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Motorola sues incoming Nortel head for stealing trade secrets, breach of contract
Christopher G. Anderson on October 20, 2005 2:52 PM ET

[JURIST] Motorola [corporate website] has filed a lawsuit against the incoming CEO of Nortel Networks [corporate website], claiming the Canadian telecommunication equipment company's move to hire its former chief operating officer will inevitably result in the use and disclosure of Motorola's trade secrets. Nortel hired Mike Zafirovski [press release] as its president and CEO, effective November 15, after he resigned from Motorola earlier this year. The lawsuit also claims that Zafirovski breached agreements with his former company by accepting employment with Nortel. Motorola, the world's No. 2 maker of mobile phones, is seeking, among other relief, an injunction to enjoin Zafirovski from working at Nortel for two years, from soliciting or hiring Motorola employees, and from utilizing or disclosing Motorola's confidential information. CBC News has more.






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BREAKING NEWS ~ DeLay booked on conspiracy, money laundering charges
Jeannie Shawl on October 20, 2005 2:18 PM ET

[JURIST] AP is reporting that Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) [official website; campaign website] has turned himself in for booking on criminal conspiracy [JURIST report] and money laundering [JURIST report] charges. A warrant was issued for DeLay's arrest [JURIST report] Wednesday, and DeLay arrived at Houston's Harris County Sheriff's Office [official website] Thursday, where he was photographed, fingerprinted and released on a $10,000 bond. DeLay is scheduled to appear in court on Friday morning; he has repeatedly denied [DeLay campaign website legal analysis] any improper political party contribution or criminal conspiracy. AP has more.

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 Topic: Tom DeLay | Text: Money laundering indictment | Text: Criminal conspiracy indictment





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EU outlines plan to combat human trafficking
Tom Henry on October 20, 2005 1:28 PM ET

[JURIST] The European Commission [official website] has outlined its plan to combat human trafficking during a two-day conference, Tackling Human Trafficking [overview], stressing the importance of cooperation between member states in the effort to stem the flow of adults and children smuggled into countries to work for low wages or as prostitutes. EU Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini [official website] pressed member states to implement EU policies on trafficking, including one which offers asylum to victims who cooperate in investigations against their traffickers. The EU believes that more than one million people are trafficked yearly, nearly three quarters of them women and girls, the majority of which are forced into prostitution. The EU has background on the proposals [PDF]. BBC has more. EurActiv has additional coverage.






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Annan receives report on Hariri murder, Lebanon awaits findings
Tom Henry on October 20, 2005 12:55 PM ET

[JURIST] Top UN investigator Detlev Mehlis on Thursday turned a report over to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri [JURIST news archive]. Annan is expected to send a copy of the report to the UN Security Council [official website] and to Lebanese leaders on Friday. The UN launched the investigation [JURIST report] in May after determining that Lebanon's inquiry into Hariri's murder was "seriously flawed." Lebanon has increased security and temporarily banned the issuance of gun licenses as anticipation grows over the release of the report, which diplomats and officials claim will implicate both Lebanese and Syrian officials. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad [BBC profile] has claimed Syria is "100% innocent" and was uninvolved in the murder. US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton [official profile] said Washington is consulting with other Western governments on possible follow-up measures that the Security Council may implement following the report's release. AP has more.






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Pentagon to investigate alleged desecration of Taliban dead by US soldiers
Jamie Sterling on October 20, 2005 12:50 PM ET

[JURIST] The US military announced [press release] late Wednesday that it is conducting an investigation into the alleged desecration of the bodies of two dead Taliban fighters in Afghanistan by US soldiers. The troops burned two bodies and used the charred remains in a propaganda campaign against insurgents, broadcast over loudspeakers towards a village thought to be hiding Taliban fighters. Video [transcript] of the acts was aired [Dateline summary] by Australian news program Dateline Wednesday. According to a transcript [text] of the program, the American soldiers referred to the bodies as "facing west," a mocking referral to the Muslim tradition of facing west toward Mecca. Responding to the report, US Central Command said that it "does not condone the mistreatment of enemy combatants or the desecration of their religious and cultural beliefs." General Mohammed Zahir Azimi of the Afghan Defense Ministry has called for those responsible to be punished [AP report]. The Guardian has more.






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US oil trading company pleads guilty in Oil-for-Food scandal
Holly Manges Jones on October 20, 2005 12:34 PM ET

[JURIST] A Virginia oil trading company has pleaded guilty [press release] to charges of first-degree grand larceny in connection with the United Nations Oil-for-Food scandal [JURIST news archive], according to a US prosecutor Thursday. Midway Trading was accused of paying kickbacks to Iraqi officials for oil purchases made under the program and will pay a $250,000 fine for its guilty plea. Midway and Bulf Oil are both accused in the kickback scheme for allegedly paying over $440,000 to Iraq for oil purchases, but the companies denied the payments to UN investigators. The announcement of the guilty plea was made by Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, and while the UN-backed Independent Inquiry Committee [official website] would not comment on whether it had worked with Morgenthau on the case, a committee spokesman said they have previously cooperated with the district attorney. AP has more.






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Spain court urged to drop arrest warrant for US soldiers
Jamie Sterling on October 20, 2005 12:33 PM ET

[JURIST] Prosecutors for Spain's National Court asked Thursday that the court drop an arrest warrant issued for three American soldiers who allegedly killed Spanish journalist Jose Couso [Guardian report] and a Ukrainian cameraman in Iraq, according to a court official. The prosecutor's office said that Spain does not have jurisdiction to investigate causes of death that result from military conflict. The warrant was issued [JURIST report] Wednesday and the issuing judge plans to ask that the soldiers be extradited to Spain for trial. The Pentagon cleared the soldiers [Reporters Without Borders report; JURIST report] of any responsibility. AP has more.






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Milosevic denied more time to question witnesses
Jamie Sterling on October 20, 2005 12:00 PM ET

[JURIST] Judges at The Hague Thursday refused a request by Slobodan Milosevic [ICTY case backgrounder], on trial for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website], for more time to question witnesses for his defense, and then urged Milosevic to accept the legal help offered to him. Milosevic had requested an additional 100 days on top of the 150 days already allotted so that he can question 200 witnesses. Prosecutors were concerned that if Milosevic's request were granted, the trial [JURIST news archive] may last for another four to five years [JURIST report]. The entire trial, including appeals, is expected to finish by 2010. Reuters has more.

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 Topic: ICTY | Op-ed: Meltdown at the Milosevic Trial: A Much Delayed Rush to Judgment





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Iraqi tribunal to hear testimony from ailing prosecution witness
Jamie Sterling on October 20, 2005 11:50 AM ET

[JURIST] Although the Saddam Hussein trial [JURIST news archive] has been delayed until next month [JURIST report], a key witness seriously ill with cancer will testify before the trial resumes, presiding Judge Rizgar Amin announced Thursday. The witness, Wadah Ismael al-Sheikh, was a senior Iraqi intelligence officer serving in Dujail during the 1982 massacre [NPR audio report] at issue in the trial. Hussein, along with seven co-defendants has been charged with murder, torture, forced expulsions and illegal imprisonment. Amin has said that al-Sheikh will testify shortly from his hospital bed, though lawyers involved with the case have said that testimony will occur during a Sunday session [AP report]. Reuters has more.

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New alliance proposes amendments to UK religious hate law
Holly Manges Jones on October 20, 2005 11:38 AM ET

[JURIST] An alliance of British writers, comedians, and bishops Thursday proposed amendments they want added to the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill [text], which was debated [JURIST report] last week in the UK House of Lords [official website]. Comedic actor Rowan Atkinson [profile] and former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey are part of the coalition proposing safeguards that will protect people and not ban comments or jokes made against religious beliefs. The amendments propose that only individuals with intentions to "stir up hatred" should be found guilty of religious hate crimes; only threatening words should be banned rather than abusive or insulting comments; and discussion, criticism of expressions of antipathy, dislike, ridicule, insult, or abuse of particular religions or beliefs should not be banned. The government has said that the attorney general will need to approve every prosecution under the new bill, which will lessen "frivolous" cases being brought. The proposed bill is scheduled to enter the committee stage in the House of Lords next week. BBC News has more.

Previously in JURIST's Paper Chase...






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2002 Bali bombers decline to seek presidential pardon of death sentences
Jamie Sterling on October 20, 2005 11:12 AM ET

[JURIST] Three militant fighters convicted for the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings [BBC report] that killed over 200 have refused to seek presidential pardons, saying that they are prepared to be executed, a prosecutor said Thursday. The bombing in Bali earlier this month triggered calls for the immediate execution [JURIST report] of the 2002 bombers, who are believed to be associated with al Qaeda linked militant group Jemaah Islamiah [BBC backgrounder]. Under Indonesian law, an execution can not be carried out until all legal options have been exhausted. The families of the fighters can still file requests for pardons, but so far there has been no indication that any of the families are planning to do so. Also Thursday, all five men who have been detained [JURIST report] in connection with the Oct. 1 bombing were released [Jakarta Post report] due to insufficient evidence. Reuters has more.

Previously in JURIST's Paper Chase...






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'Shoot-to-kill' provisions of Australia anti-terror proposal questioned
Holly Manges Jones on October 20, 2005 11:04 AM ET

[JURIST] Australian state leaders warned Thursday that "shoot-to-kill" provisions in the country's anti-terrorism proposals [draft law text, PDF] could lead to another wrongful police shooting similar to the one by British officers who incorrectly identified a Brazilian citizen as a suicide bomber [JURIST report] and killed him. The opposition could lead to a revision of the measure, but Australian Prime Minister John Howard [official profile] said the provisions do not actually give the Australian Federal Police [official website] any new power since they already have the right to use necessary deadly force in protecting against deaths or serious injury. Despite civil rights concerns and assertions by law academics who say the laws might breach Australia's obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights [text], six of Australia's states and two territories have already approved the laws. State leaders in Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria said the shoot-to-kill provisions were not part of their agreement with the prime minister and that they want the section changed, vowing to "bring forward legislation consistent with what was agreed to." Reuters has more.

Previously in JURIST's Paper Chase...






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Australia pressing UN to put Mugabe on trial
Jamie Sterling on October 20, 2005 10:32 AM ET

[JURIST] Australia is urging the UN Security Council to put Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe [official website] on trial before the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] for crimes against his own people. Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer [official website] says that Mugabe has ruined Zimbabwe's economy and is a "terrible threat" to its citizens. As Zimbabwe is not a party to the ICC statute, it could only initiate legal process against him through a Security Council resolution. The New Zealand government has already called for Mugabe to be put on trial [JURIST report] in front of the ICC and for Zimbabwe to be expelled from the International Monetary Fund [official website] for failing to repay its debts. The victory of Mugabe's party during March parliamentary elections has, however, guaranteed Mugabe's power and home and given him the two-thirds legislative majority needed to make constitutional changes. Mugabe has vowed to stay in office until his "revolution" is complete and is planning on serving another six-year term, which will leave him in office until the age of 84. BBC News has more.






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Bush 'faith-based initiative' wins victory, though legal challenges continue
Holly Manges Jones on October 20, 2005 10:13 AM ET

[JURIST] President Bush's "faith-based initiative" to get taxpayer funding to religious charities won a legal victory recently when a US federal judge ruled that religious groups are able to hire and fire employees based on their religious beliefs and practices, even if their salaries are funded by taxpayers. The case had been brought by eighteen Salvation Army [organization website] employees who claim they were fired or demoted for refusing to reveal what church they attended, name gay co-employees, or pledge support to the Salvation Army's message of "proclaiming Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord." H. James Towey, director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives [official website], called the decision "huge" saying, "It's certainly a vindication of what President Bush has been saying from Day One -- that religious groups do not have to sell their soul, compromise their hiring practices, in order to partner with government in providing social services."

Meanwhile, the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) [advocacy website] won a victory for critics of Bush's faith program last week when the US Department of Education [official website] suspended a $435,000 grant for Alaska Christian College [FFRF press release], a school run by the Evangelical Covenant Church, because the curriculum was almost entirely religious and the grant amounted to an "unconstitutional endorsement of religion." Another related trial brought by the Americans United for Separation of Church and State [advocacy website] is set to begin in Iowa Monday, which will challenge the constitutionality of funding for the state's prison ministry InnerChange program that describes itself as "Christ-centered." Thursday's Washington Post has more.






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Ukraine prosecutor claims he was fired for investigating president's wife
Holly Manges Jones on October 20, 2005 9:32 AM ET

[JURIST] Recently fired Ukrainian Prosecutor General Svyatoslav Piskun is claiming his termination last month was a direct result of an investigation he launched into the expenditures of the wife of Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko [BBC profile]. Piskun was looking into the costs involved when US-born Kateryna Yushchenko-Chumachenko flew a group of her US relatives to Kiev on a chartered plane for her husband's presidential inauguration earlier this year. Piskun said the bill for the trip totaled £155,000 ($274,217) and he was investigating who funded the costs, implying that there may be some link to a Ukrainian businessman wanted in the US for money laundering. Piskun said, "My dismissal was a direct consequence of my refusal to submit to political pressure." Yushchenko denies Piskun's allegations, saying he was instead fired for his incompetence in failing to finalize a politically-charged investigation into the 2000 killing of journalist Heorhiy Gongadze [JURIST report]. The Independent has more.






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Miers agrees to supplement confirmation questionnaire
Chris Buell on October 20, 2005 9:10 AM ET

[JURIST] US Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers [JURIST news archive] has said that she will provide more details to the Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] after Republican and Democratic committee leaders requested that Miers resubmit her answers to a judicial questionnaire, which some members of the committee found insufficient in her first response. Committee Chairman Sen. Arlen Specter [official website] and ranking Democrat Sen. Patrick Leahy [official website], in a joint letter [text; JURIST report], asked Miers to clarify some of her earlier responses, particularly regarding her suspension from the Washington DC bar, potential conflicts of interest due to her work for the Bush administration, and communications reportedly made by the Bush administration [JURIST report] to others regarding how Miers would rule on particular cases if confirmed. The letter indicated that some of Miers' responses were incomplete and represents another setback in the nomination process. The letter also requested more information on Miers' experience working with constitutional issues [NYT report] and whether it came while working in the Bush administration. In a letter [PDF text] to the committee Wednesday, Miers wrote that she would "work to provide additional materials" as requested. The committee is expected to begin confirmation hearings for Miers on Nov. 7. AP has more.

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Former Australian PM bashes new anti-terror laws
Holly Manges Jones on October 20, 2005 9:07 AM ET

[JURIST] Former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser [official profile] Wednesday voiced his strong opposition to new anti-terrorism proposals [draft law text, PDF] from current Prime Minister John Howard [official profile], which were leaked [JURIST report] by an Australian state leader earlier this month. The laws allow up to 14 days of "preventive detention" and planned control orders, which Fraser argues will not effectively prevent terrorism. Fraser called the laws arbitrary, saying there were no adequate judicial review measures in place, and argued that the laws are based on a trust that the Australian government "has not earned." Fraser, also a member of Howard's Liberal Party, called the process of introducing the reforms "seriously flawed" and commented, "Instead of wide-ranging discussions, the government has sought to nobble the field in secret and to prevent debate." Earlier this week, Howard said he would not be swayed toward weakening the anti-terrorism measures [JURIST report], despite voiced criticism against the laws [JURIST report] by civil liberties groups. UPI has more. From Melbourne, the Age has local coverage.






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Time served by Hicks should count toward sentence, Australia says
Chris Buell on October 20, 2005 8:52 AM ET

[JURIST] Australia [JURIST news archive] has disputed suggestions by the US Department of Defense [official website] that the four years terror suspect David Hicks [advocacy website] has been detained at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] should not count toward any sentence he receives if convicted. Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer [official profile], in a rare break with US policy in Guantanamo, said he would oppose the US [interview transcript] if it chose to ignore the time served by Hicks. Downer's comments came after a US military legal advisor said that sentences issued to Guantanamo detainees would begin at the point of their conviction. Hicks is expected to stand trial beginning Nov. 18 on charges that he fought for the Taliban against US forces in Afghanistan in 2001. AFP has more.

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Judge dismisses part of whistleblower suit by former US attorney
Chris Buell on October 20, 2005 8:26 AM ET

[JURIST] A federal judge on Wednesday dismissed half of a whistleblower suit [complaint, PDF] filed by former US Attorney Richard Convertino, who alleged that he was retaliated against [JURIST report] after cooperating with a US Senate investigation into the failed prosecution of four men on terror charges in the first major trial following the Sept. 11 attacks. US District Judge Royce Lamberth [official profile] dismissed one of two counts filed by Convertino, saying it should have been filed with the Office of Special Counsel [official website]. Convertino led the prosecution of four North African immigrants alleged to have been part of a terror cell in Detroit that was touted by the Bush administration as a major victory against terrorism. The case fell apart, however, under allegations of prosecutorial wrongdoing when the Department of Justice failed to provide the suspects with documents that could have aided their defense. The DOJ ultimately dismissed the charges in 2004, and Convertino resigned in May [JURIST report]. AP has more.

Previously on JURIST's Paper Chase...






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House expected to OK legislation shielding gun manufacturers from liability
Chris Buell on October 20, 2005 8:07 AM ET

[JURIST] The US House of Representatives [official website] is expected on Thursday to approve a bill that will block various civil lawsuits filed against US gun manufacturers. Both Republicans and Democrats predicted that the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act [S. 397 bill summary] would be approved with bipartisan support, clearing the way for President Bush to sign the law. The legislation gives gun manufacturers and dealers broad immunity from lawsuits filed by cities and municipalities, as well as for many suits filed by people harmed by guns. Opponents of the legislation, including the Brady Campaign [advocacy website], have warned that they will challenge the law in court. The legislation has been strongly supported by the National Rifle Association [advocacy website] and other gun-rights groups for years. Reuters has more.

12:21 PM ET - The House voted 283-144 to pass the legislation and it will now go to President Bush for his signature. AP has more.






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Malawi lawmakers adopt impeachment procedures
Chris Buell on October 20, 2005 7:51 AM ET

[JURIST] The Malawi [government website; BBC country profile] parliament has adopted procedures for the impeachment of the country's president, who has been accused of misusing state funds and violating the country's constitution. Legislators approved the procedures late Tuesday in a growing dispute between President Bingu wa Mutharika [BBC News profile] and opposition politicians backed by former President Bakili Muluzi [BBC News profile]. Muluzi hand-picked wa Mutharika to succeed him, but the current president later defected from Muluzi's United Democratic Front party and began to form his own political party. The United Democratic Front then began efforts with other opposition parties to impeach wa Mutharika, which is allowed under the constitution, although no procedures for doing so existed. Under the recently approved procedures, a motion to impeach may be made after a legislator collects the signatures of at least one third of the parliament, and the president may then defend himself before parliament. AP has more.






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Khodorkovsky, associate sent to remote prisons for jail terms
Chris Buell on October 20, 2005 7:32 AM ET

[JURIST] Former Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky [defense website; JURIST news archive] and his business partner Platon Lebedev have reportedly been sent to remote prisons [JURIST report] in Siberia and the far north of the country to serve eight-year sentences after being convicted of fraud and tax evasion [JURIST report]. Defense lawyers for Lebedev said his family had been notified that he was sent to a prison in Kharp, a remote village almost 1,200 miles from Moscow. Russian media were reporting Thursday that Khodorkovsky, former Yukos CEO, had been transferred [Mosnews report] to a prison in the Chita region. Russian authorities have indicated that both men could face additional charges. Khodorkovsky has filed an appeal of his conviction, both in Russia and before the European rights court. AP has more.






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Colombia high court ruling allows Uribe to seek second presidential term
Chris Buell on October 19, 2005 8:44 PM ET

[JURIST] Colombia's Constitutional Court [official backgrounder in Spanish] Wednesday upheld legislation that would change the country's constitution to allow presidents to serve more than one term, a ruling that could allow Colombian President Alvaro Uribe [official website in Spanish; BBC profile] to seek re-election next May. The amendment was approved last year by legislators. Uribe has sought to extend his crackdown against militants and drug czars during a second term, although he may still be barred [Reuters report] from running in next year's election depending on a second ruling by the Constitutional Court. Uribe has remained popular among Colombians while taking a hardline approach against rebels in the country and helping the country's faltering economy recover, and polls show him winning by a landslide if he runs in the election next May. Bloomberg has more.






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Morocco has blocked access to migrants, UN refugee agency says
Chris Buell on October 19, 2005 8:11 PM ET

[JURIST] Morocco has prevented UN officials from visiting African migrants detained in the country despite repeated requests for access, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees [official website] reported Wednesday. The agency has said it fears that Morocco has forced many of the migrants to return to their home countries [JURIST report] in the face of persecution and despite valid asylum claims, although the Moroccan government denied many of the more extreme reports of its treatment of migrants. Morocco faces an increasingly tense immigration situation, as many sub-Saharan Africans use the country's border with the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla as a means to enter the EU [JURIST report]. The UNHCR has sought access to the migrants and called for a guarantee of proper asylum procedures. The UNHCR has a news release on the situation in Morocco. In related news, the European Commission [official website] on Wednesday released a report [news release] on the immigration situation in the Mediterranean, which highlighted the situation in Morocco as a point of concern. Aljazeera has more.






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Iraq arrests Saddam nephew on charges of financing insurgency
Chris Buell on October 19, 2005 7:58 PM ET

[JURIST] Iraqi police on Wednesday arrested a nephew of Saddam Hussein [JURIST news archive] in Tikrit on charges that he has served as a leading financier of the country's insurgency, Iraqi security officials reported. Yasir Sabhawi Ibrahim is the son of Saddam's half brother Sabhawi Ibrahim Hasan, who was captured [JURIST report] earlier this year in Syria. Ibrahim reportedly was hiding in Syria, but was forced to leave by authorities, who then reported his location to the US. Ibrahim, who is said to be the second in command of the Iraqi insurgency, allegedly managed Baath Party funds in Syria, Jordan and Yemen and funneled much of it to the insurgency. He is also accused of cooperating with insurgent forces led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The US Treasury Department froze the assets of Ibrahim [JURIST report] and five other sons of Hasan in July, and another son, Ayman, was sentenced to life in prison [JURIST report] in September for funding the insurgency. AP has more.






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US Senate moves to limit Supreme Court eminent domain ruling
Chris Buell on October 19, 2005 7:32 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Senate [official website] moved Wednesday to cut federal funding for projects that seize peoples' homes for private development, continuing a backlash to a recent controversial ruling [JURIST report] by the US Supreme Court [official website]. The amendment to HR 3058 [bill summary], the Transportation-Treasury Appropriations Bill, offered by Sen. Kit Bond [official website] and approved Wednesday by a voice vote, cuts funding under the bill that would be used in any private development projects that require the use of eminent domain. The amendment also requires the Government Accountability Office [official website] to study the use of eminent domain. In Kelo v. New London [PDF opinion; JURIST report], the Court held that private property could be taken by eminent domain for private redevelopments that would benefit communities by providing jobs and economic growth. The ruling has triggered a wave of backlash, with state legislatures responding by stiffening private property rights [JURIST report] and federal legislation being proposed. Bond's office has a news release on the amendment. AP has more.

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Spanish judge orders arrest of US soldiers for killing of journalists in Iraq
Jeannie Shawl on October 19, 2005 7:08 PM ET

[JURIST] Spanish High Court Judge Santiago Pedraz on Wednesday issued an international arrest warrant for three US soldiers from the 3rd Infantry, Sgt. Thomas Gibson, Capt. Philip Wolford and Lt. Col. Philip de Camp, over the death of a Spanish cameraman during the war in Iraq. Pedraz ordered the arrest of the soldiers with the plan of extraditing them to Spain. The three soldiers' tank fired on the Hotel Palestine in Baghdad in 2003, killing Spanish Telecinco cameraman Jose Couso [Guardian report] and Ukrainian Reuters cameraman Taras Protsyuk. Three other journalists were also injured in the attack. Pedraz said he issued the warrant because US officials had failed to cooperate in an investigation into the incident and did not respond to requests [JURIST report] to question the soldiers. A US investigation into the shooting concluded that the soldiers were justified [Reporters Without Borders report] in firing on the hotel and did not pursue any charges against the soldiers. Then-Secretary of State Colin Powell said that the use of force had been justified on review of the incident. Spanish prosecutors are expected to appeal Pedraz's decision on Thursday on the grounds that Pedraz lacked jurisdiction to seek extradition of the soldiers. From Madrid, El Mundo has local coverage [in Spanish]. Reuters has more.






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Texas court issues DeLay arrest warrant
James M Yoch Jr on October 19, 2005 4:51 PM ET

[JURIST] A Texas court on Wednesday issued an arrest warrant for former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) [official website; campaign website] for his indictment on charges of money laundering [JURIST report] and criminal conspiracy [JURIST report]. The warrant, described by DeLay’s attorney Dick Guerin as a "matter of routine," orders DeLay to appear for booking at the Fort Bend County jail, where he may be fingerprinted and photographed. It is not clear when DeLay will report for booking, but he is scheduled to in court on Friday morning. DeLay’s bond is set at $10,000. AP has more.






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Senate Judiciary Committee hears testimony on journalist shield law
Chris Buell on October 19, 2005 4:38 PM ET

[JURIST] New York Times reporter Judith Miller [JURIST news archive] and US Attorney Chuck Rosenberg [official profile] on Wednesday offered differing takes on the need for federal legislation to protect confidentiality of journalists' sources during a Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] hearing [notice and witness list]. Miller, who was jailed for 85 days after refusing to reveal a source for a grand jury investigating the leak of a CIA agent's identity, testified [full transcript] that the committee should move forward on legislation currently pending in the Senate and House that would offer journalists protection from subpoenas by federal law enforcement officials. She claimed that the current situation had caused a chilling effect in the media, arguing that the Cleveland Plain-Dealer decided not to print two stories to avoid such a situation. Rosenberg said [full transcript] that no shield law was needed for reporters because federal subpoenas rarely dealt with confidential sources and that the current system functions effectively. Rosenberg also said that the current situation should not be viewed as an attack on the First Amendment [LII backgrounder]. Committee Chairman Arlen Specter [official website] voiced his support for a federal shield law, arguing that recent events in the case of Valerie Plame had an "obvious chilling effect" on the media. AP has more.

Previously on JURIST's Paper Chase...






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Environmental brief ~ 9th Circuit rules in favor of fish over farmers
Tom Henry on October 19, 2005 4:36 PM ET

[JURIST] Leading Wednesday's environmental law news, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] has ruled [PDF text] that the US Bureau of Reclamation [official website] must come up with a new plan to use water from the Klamath River. The river, which runs from northern California to the Oregon coast, has been source of controversy between farmers who want water for irrigation and environmentalists who claim water levels will become too low to support the Coho salmon, a threatened species [listing status] that lives in the river. The court ruled the National Marine Fisheries Service's alternative [PDF text], which would allow for the diversion of water for farmers, was arbitrary and capricious in violation of the Endangered Species Act [text]. The Los Angeles Times has more.

In other environmental law news...






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Detainee lawyer notes detail 'brutal treatment' at Guantanamo
James M Yoch Jr on October 19, 2005 4:34 PM ET

[JURIST] The New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights [advocacy website] said Wednesday that declassified notes, taken by a lawyer during interviews with inmate clients participating in the ongoing hunger strike [JURIST report], describe "brutal treatment" of detainees at the Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] military camp in Cuba. The notes, written by Julia Tarver, detail allegations of force-feeding without anesthesia or sedatives via tubes inserted into the stomach through the nose. The striking detainees also alleged that the tubes were re-used and conditions were unsanitary. The CCR claims that over 200 inmates have participated in the hunger strike [CCR report, PDF] since it began in August; the Pentagon says that there are 24 detainees currently on hunger strike. Responding to the hunger strike, lawyers have petitioned [JURIST report; press release] a US District Court in Washington, DC to end the alleged mistreatment and to allow them to make more frequent visits with their clients. From Melbourne, the Herald Sun has more.






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Student accused in Bush assassination plot alleges Saudi torture led to confession
Jeannie Shawl on October 19, 2005 4:24 PM ET

[JURIST] Ahmed Omar Abu Ali [indictment, PDF], a Virginia man charged with joining al Qaeda [JURIST report] and plotting to assassinate President Bush, testified Wednesday that he had been beaten and tortured after being arrested in Saudi Arabia. The testimony was offered during a pre-trial hearing to determine whether a confession he made in 2003 was coerced. Abu Ali, who attended college in Saudi Arabia, angrily said Saudi authorities had refused to allow him to contact the US embassy and later whipped him. The US has argued that Abu Ali confessed voluntarily to his involvement in the plot. Both sides presented expert testimony on Tuesday on whether scars on Abu Ali's back could have been caused by torture. If District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee finds that the confession was coerced, he could dismiss the entire case against Abu Ali. AP has more.

Previously on JURIST's Paper Chase...






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Chile court strips Pinochet immunity on tax evasion charges
James M Yoch Jr on October 19, 2005 4:05 PM ET

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Chile on Wednesday stripped former president Augusto Pinochet [JURIST news archive; BBC profile] of immunity from prosecution for charges of tax fraud connected to $27 million he holds in offshore accounts. The ruling comes a day after Judge Sergio Munoz petitioned the Santiago Court of Appeals to strip Pinochet's immunity [JURIST report] for charges of embezzlement also related to the same accounts. The former president has been stripped of immunity [JURIST report], a privilege extended to all former presidents, in several human rights cases; however, Pinochet, who suffers from diabetes, heart problems, mild dementia and mini strokes, has not yet faced any charges because of his medical condition. His defense is expected to argue that he is too ill to stand trial in this case as well. Pinochet's wife and youngest son have also been charged as accomplices in tax evasion [JURIST report]. Reuters has more.






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Canadian authorities charge Rwandan man with war crimes
Jeannie Shawl on October 19, 2005 3:55 PM ET

[JURIST] The Royal Canadian Mounted Police [official website] on Wednesday arrested and charged a Rwandan man living in Toronto with war crimes and crimes against humanity in connection with the 1994 genocide in Rwanda [JURIST news archive]. Desire Munyaneza, 39, faces seven charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity under the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act [text], making him the first person to be charged since the Act was passed in 2000. The RCMP said the arrest was the result of a five-year investigation by its war crimes unit [official website], along with help from the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda [JURIST news archive]. Authorities did not indicate what action would be taken against Munyaneza. Under the War Crimes Act, the Canadian government can deny a suspect refugee status, revoke citizenship, prosecute them or extradite them to an international tribunal for prosecution. The RCMP has a news release on the arrest. CBC News has more.






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Iraqi, foreign views mixed on opening of Saddam trial
Jeannie Shawl on October 19, 2005 3:31 PM ET

[JURIST] Many Iraqis watched intently Wednesday as the trial of Saddam Hussein [JURIST news archive] opened, but the proceeding drew mixed reviews in Iraq and abroad. Shiite and Kurdish Iraqis welcomed the start of the trial, with many watching on television as the deposed dictator pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] to charges Wednesday. Government, Shiite and Kurdish media praised the opening of legal proceedings [AFP report], touting the process as the "trial of the century." Iran [JURIST news archive], which was at war with Iraq throughout the 1980s during Saddam's rule, also welcomed the start [UPI report] of the trial and demanded that charges be levied for what it viewed as Iraqi attacks on Tehran and Kuwait. Others in the Iraqi and Arab communities took a less favorable view of the tribunal. Many Sunni Muslims in the country questioned its fairness, noting it had been organized with the backing of the US. Other Arabs offered little sympathy for the former ruler, but were similarly skeptical [Reuters report]. The trial adjourned Wednesday until Nov. 28. AP has more.

ALSO ON JURIST

 Op-ed: Saddam in the Dock: The Challenge of Didactic Justice | Op-ed: Sovereign Immunity for Saddam? Not Likely.





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Google sued by publishers for copyright infringement
James M Yoch Jr on October 19, 2005 3:27 PM ET

[JURIST] The Association of American Publishers (AAP) [trade website] announced Wednesday that it has filed a lawsuit [press release] against Google for allegedly infringing copyrights as part of Google's Print Library Project [Google backgrounder]. The complaint [PDF] seeks a declaration that the project violates copyright protections and an injunction against continuing the project, which entails scanning book collections from several universities to make them searchable via Google on the Internet. Filed on behalf of McGraw-Hill, Pearson Education, Simon & Schuster, Penguin Books, and John Wiley & Sons, the suit follows extensive discussions between the AAP and Google about the project. In September the Authors Guild [advocacy website] filed a similar lawsuit [JURIST report] related to the project, which Google claims satisfies the fair use doctrine of US copyright law. Google temporarily halted the project [CNET report] in August in order to respond to concerns, but plans to resume work on November 1. CNET has more.






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Missouri governor to continue with inmate abortion case
Krista-Ann Staley on October 19, 2005 2:20 PM ET

[JURIST] The administration of Missouri Governor Matt Blunt [official website] will continue its legal defense of a state law [text] prohibiting inmates from obtaining abortions unless a woman's life or health is endangered, despite the US Supreme Court's recent decision [JURIST report] allowing the transport of a current inmate to a St. Louis abortion clinic. The state's policy eliminating procedures facilitating inmate access to abortion, including a prohibition of the use of public funds for abortions, came into effect September 5. While the administration could have dropped the suit in response to the Supreme Court's decision, a Blunt spokesman emphasized Tuesday that the decision did not address the merits of the policy in question. The Supreme Court has yet to schedule oral arguments on a permanent injunction against enforcement of the law. AP has more.






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Homeland Security department sued for failing to issue protective visas
Krista-Ann Staley on October 19, 2005 2:14 PM ET

[JURIST] Attorneys representing undocumented immigrants who have been victims of violent crimes filed a federal suit against the US Department of Homeland Security [official website] Tuesday for the agency's failure to issue U-visas. The Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 [PDF text], allows the US Citizen and Immigration Services [official website] to issue undocumented immigrants substantially harmed by criminal activity [statutory definition] and who cooperated in the investigation of the crime a U-visa authorizing the holder to stay and work in the US. If the undocumented immigrant then holds the U-visa for three years and meets several other requirements he or she may apply for permanent legal residency in the US. To date, regulations pertaining to the application process have not been published and no U-visas have been issued. However, people who do apply for a U-visa can also obtain "deferred action" status, allowing them to work but not to leave the country. It has not yet been decided whether time spent under "deferred action" status will count towards the three years requirement. The plaintiffs in the current case are nine undocumented immigrants living throughout the southwest, but the attorneys in the case are seeking class action status. AP has more.






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Miers confirmation hearings to start November 7
Jeannie Shawl on October 19, 2005 12:31 PM ET

[JURIST] According to congressional aides, confirmation hearings for US Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers [JURIST news archives] in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] are set to begin on November 7. The aides have said that committee chairman Sen. Arlen Specter [official website] plans an announcement later Wednesday. Republicans hope to have a full Senate confirmation vote by November 24. Senators from both sides of the aisle have been hesitant about Miers, though some are warming to the nomination. Republican Sen. Trent Lott [official website], said Wednesday that he will likely end up supporting Miers [UPI report] despite earlier comments that he was not comfortable with Miers due to his past dealings with her and conservative opposition to the nomination. Judiciary Committee member Sen. Charles Schumer [official website] repeated calls for opposition to the nomination, saying that her responses to a Judiciary Committee questionnaire [JURIST report] were disappointing and unilluminating. Reuters has more.

4:05 PM ET - Senate officials have confirmed the November 7 start date for confirmation hearings on the Miers nomination, but did not commit to finishing the process by the end of November. AFP