[JURIST] A senior judicial official in Iran said Sunday that prosecutors have completed their investigation into two Iranian-American scholars who have been detained since May. Deputy Prosecutor Hassan Haddad said that the two scholars - Dr. Haleh Esfandiari [WWC profile] of the DC-based Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and Open Society Institute consultant Dr. Kian Tajbakhsh [OSI press release] - "have some written work to do" and that a final decision would be made after that work was completed. Haddad did not elaborate further.
Esfandiari is accused of being involved in an alleged plot "against the sovereignty of the country" and there have been allegations that the two scholars were involved in a plot against the government. Iran said in July that prosecutors had expanded their investigations [JURIST report] into the alleged conspiracy after finding evidence supporting charges of endangering national security. In June, Iranian 2003 Nobel Peace Prize laureate and human rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi [advocacy website, in Persian] accused the Iranian government of interfering in judicial affairs to prevent Esfandiari's release [JURIST report]. Ebadi has also accused the Iranian government of denying lawyers access to Esfandiari [JURIST report]. Reuters has more.
[JURIST] Canadian Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin [official profile] told the Canadian Bar Association [profession website] Saturday that access to the country's legal system needs to be more affordable. She said "the price of justice should not be so dear" and called access to justice a "basic right." In March, a Toronto Starinvestigation [Star report]revealed that a three-day civil trial in Ontario costs about $60,000. The Star has more.
In May, however, the Supreme Court of Canada [official website] unanimously ruled [JURIST report] that there exists no constitutional right to access legal services in Canada. The holding overturned two lower court decisions that had declared British Columbia's seven percent tax on legal fees unconstitutional because it made hiring a lawyer prohibitively expensive for low-income people.
[JURIST] US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales [official profile; JURIST news archive] on Saturday praised Justice Department officials working in Baghdad for their "commitment to the rule of law" and their work to protect "the rights and liberties of Iraqi citizens." On his third trip to Iraq as US Attorney General, Gonzales said [press release]:
I am pleased to see first-hand ... the progress that the men and women of the Justice Department have made to rebuild Iraq's legal system and law enforcement infrastructure. They have accomplished an enormous amount of work in the past four years by assisting in the training of tens of thousands of police, security and correctional personnel and prosecutors, supporting thousands of criminal investigations, and leading the Regime Crimes Liaison Office.
The DOJ currently has over 200 employees and contract personnel working in Iraq assisting "Iraqi efforts to promote freedom and security in a variety of areas, including advice and training that will help to re-establish essential law enforcement and security functions."
In a December 2006 report [PDF text], the Iraq Study Group recommended that the Bush administration provide "strong" support for DOJ efforts in Iraq [JURIST report] "to establish courts; to train judges, prosecutors, and investigators; and to create institutions and practices to fight corruption." AP has more.
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