[JURIST] A US court-martial Saturday found Army Specialist James Hayes guilty of mistreating detainees [US Central Command press release] in Afghanistan at the end of a brief trial [JURIST report]. The court-martial which convicted Hayes on one count of conspiracy to maltreat and two counts of maltreatment demoted him to the rank of private and sentenced him to four months in detention without pay. Hayes, accused of punching detainees in the chest, arms and shoulders at a base in Uruzgan in July, was held at the main US base at Bagram pending transfer to a detention center in Kuwait. Sergeant K.D. Myrick was also accused of striking two detainees, and will face court martial on January 30 [US Central Command press release]. Reuters has more.
[JURIST] In his weekly radio address [text] Saturday President Bush urged the US Senate to vote on his nomination of Judge Samuel Alito [official profile; JURIST news archive] to the US Supreme Court, insisting that senators had a "constitutional responsibility" to do so and implicitly warning against any Democratic Party filibuster. Democratic Massachusetts Senators John Kerry and Edward Kennedy have planned a last-ditch effort to talk out the nomination [JURIST report], a strategy that can only be defeated if 60 Senators vote against it. Eight Democrats have said they will vote in favor of Alito, virtually assuring Alitos confirmation [JURIST report] in the Republican-controlled upper chamber on the basis of a up-or-down majority vote. Bloomberg News has more.
[JURIST] A senior Hamas official speaking in Jerusalem has said that introducing Islamic sharia [Wikipedia backgrounder] as "a source of law" in the West Bank and Gaza Strip would be "the No. 1 thing we will do" when Hamas takes up its seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council [official website] after its shock victory [JURIST report] in Palestinian parliamentary elections earlier this week. Sheik Mohammed Abu Teir, who ran as the number two candidate on the Hamas ticket and who previously spent some 25 years in Israeli jails told a Canadian reporter "[s]haria has a soul in it and is good for all occasions". Hamas' plan to use Koran-derived sharia as "a source of law" mirrors language about sharia used in the new Iraqi constitution [JURIST news archive]. Although Hamas will try to introduce sharia quickly, it's questionable whether they could push such legislation through because Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas [BBC profile], a Fatah party moderate, would have to approve. The US has traditionally deemed Hamas [MIPT backgrounder] a terrorist organization, and its election victory has put peace negotiations with Israel on fragile ground. The Globe and Mail has more.
[JURIST] Senoir US Senate Democrats John Kerry (MA) [official website], Patrick Leahy (VT) [official website], and Russ Feingold (WI) [official website] have introduced a bill [Leahy press release and bill text] to limit expense-paid trips for federal judges underwritten by major corporations and political organizations. The three senators also included in their draft of the Fair and Independent Judiciary Act a provision to let the public know about potential judicial conflicts. Although federal judges would be barred from taking free trips to seminars sponsored by special interests under the proposal, the judges will be able to do so if their own courts paid the expenses. Paid travel by federal judges has been subject to criticism since 2002, when the public-interest law firm Community Rights Counsel [advocacy website] found that 22 federal judges took trips underwritten by major corporations and failed to list the trips on financial disclosure forms. Though US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was chastised in the media [Nightline report] earlier this week for allowing the Federalist Society [advocacy website] to underwrite his trip to a Colorado resort last fall, federal Supreme Court justices will not be bound by the new proposal. AP has more.
[JURIST] Arizona [JURIST news archive] state legislator David Burnell Smith [official website] became the first US lawmaker removed from office for violating a states public campaign financing rules when the Arizona Supreme Court [official website] declined Thursday to stay an earlier court order [text] directing him to step down. The Citizens Clean Elections Commission [official website] set the stage for a five month court battle when it voted to oust Smith [Arizona Republic report] in March. Smith overspent during his 2004 primary race, exceeding Arizonas $25,000 spending limit by $6,000. Arizonas 1998 Clean Elections Act makes candidates who voluntarily participate collect a set number of $5 contributions from voters to qualify for public funding, and in return, candidates must follow the spending limits set by the Citizens Clean Elections Commission. Maine, New Jersey, New Mexico and North Carolina have similar campaign finance systems. AP has more.
[JURIST] Lucia Pinochet Hiriart, the eldest daughter of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] was taken into custody by Chilean authorities Saturday when she flew in from Buenos Aires to face charges of tax evasion. Met at the airport by the federal judge in charge of her case, she was immediately taken away for arraignment. Officials at the US Department of Homeland Security said Friday that she had withdrawn her request [JURIST report] for political asylum in the United States and had been sent back to Argentina, the last place she had been prior to her US arrival. Pinochet Hiriart was temporarily held in US Immigration and Customs Enforcement [official website] after officials detained [JURIST report] her at Dulles Airport in Washington, DC Wednesday after she fled from Chile where she and other members of the Pinochet family have been charged with various counts of tax fraud [JURIST report]. US officials said Friday they were unsure why Pinochet Hiriart withdrew her request for asylum; after her return Pinochet Hiriart said "There was so much being said about me in Chile that I preferred to come and show my face and clear the air." Reuters has more. From Chile, La Nacion has local coverage [in Spanish].
[JURIST] In the first ruling of its kind, the British High Court on Friday ruled that two British citizens accused of illegal file-sharing must pay damages for violating UK copyright laws. The suit brought by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) [official website] is one of 139 actions brought by the trade group [JURIST report] against individuals engaged in file sharing. BPI has thusfar settled a majority of the cases [JURIST report]. In the United States, the recording industry has experienced similar success in its legal battle against file-sharing networks. Following the US Supreme Court's June 2005 decision in MGM v. Grokster [opinion], US file-sharing companies sought agreement with the record industry [JURIST report] in order to limit future legal action. The UK Independent has more.
[JURIST] US-based monitoring group Human Rights Watch [advocacy website], said [press release] Saturday that interference by Iraqi political groups may compromise the independence of the judges on the Iraqi High Criminal Court - formerly the Iraqi Special Tribunal [official website] - conducting the Saddam Hussein trial [JURIST news archive]. HRW claims the tribunal's judicial independence and even the fairness of its basic proceedings has been impaired by events such as the resignation [JURIST report] of top judge Rizqar Mohammed Amin [Wikipedia profile] amid criticism from Iraqi politicians and the transfer of initial replacement judge Sayeed al-Hammash [JURIST report] amid allegations he was a member of Saddam's Baath Party [BBC backgrounder], which he denies. Human Rights Watch also said that the non-appearance of several witnesses was another concern. The trial, which began October 19 [JURIST report], is scheduled to resume Sunday in Baghdad after a monthlong break that was extended when proceedings failed to reconvene as scheduled [JURIST report] on Tuesday. AP has more.
[JURIST] The US Department of Justice Friday announced [press release] that the Federal Bureau of Investigation [official website] has arrested two employees of the Federal Emergency Management Agency [official website] working in New Orleans in the post-Hurricane Katrina [JURIST news archive] rebuilding effort under suspicion of taking bribes. According to the US Attorney's complaint, the two workers managed a base camp in the Algiers neighborhood in New Orleans, each accepted a $10,000 bribe for inflating the number of meals served. Friday's arrest comes follows a Tuesday statement by the FBI that it had uncovered fraud by public officials [JURIST report] in the wake of Katrina. The New Orleans Times-Picayune has local coverage. Reuters has more.
[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit [official website] Friday lifted a preliminary injunction by a lower federal court that had blocked [JURIST report] a Kansas law [text] requiring health care officials to report consensual sex by underage persons to government authorities. In a 2-1 decision, a three judge panel determined that the state's interest in enforcing criminal laws, protecting the interests of children, and promoting public health outweighed the minor's right to keep private inforamtion about their sexual conduct. Under Kansas law, sexual contact with anyone under the age of 16 is illegal. In 2003, Kansas Attorney General Phill Klein [official website] issued a legal opinion [text] on the disputed law asserting that sexual contact is inherently harmful to children, and that those who worked with minors should report sexual activity among minors, even if it is between consensual partners of similar ages. AP has more.
[JURIST] The effort by Democratic Senators John Kerry (D-MA) [official website; Friday floor speech], Edward Kennedy (D-MA) [official website] and others to attempt a last-minute filibuster [JURIST report] blocking the US Supreme Court nomination of Judge Samuel Alito [JURIST news archive] has been met with opposition from fellow Senate Democrats who fear the strategy might backfire and adversely affect Democratic candidates in the upcoming 2006 elections. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) [official website] and Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) [official website] both openly oppose Alito's confirmation but are reported to have privately discouraged filibustering the nomination. GOP Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has scheduled cloture vote [Senate backgrounder] to end debate on the Alito nomination Monday; assuming a filibuster is waived or fails, a final vote on Alito will likely occur Tuesday, with approval by a majority of Senators all but assured. AP has more.
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