January 2008 Archives


Pakistan lawyers rally for release, reinstatement of ousted judges
Nick Fiske on January 31, 2008 7:25 PM ET

[JURIST] Thousands of lawyers held rallies across Pakistan on Thursday, protesting the ouster of Pakistani Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry [JURIST news archive] and other superior court judges last November when Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf declared emergency rule [JURIST report] and suspended the country's constitution. The protests followed a statement by Chaudhry [JURIST report] Wednesday in which he called Musharraf an "extremist" and chided him for deposing 60 judges and keeping Chaudhry under virtual house arrest [JURIST report] in his official residence. The lawyers are demanding Musharraf's resignation, the release of all detained judges and lawyers, and the reinstatement of all deposed judges.

Last week, Pakistani lawyers demonstrated in Islamabad [JURIST report] against Chaudhry's continued detention. Also last week, a report [text] by Pakistan's News daily suggested the government's detention of Chaudhry may be skirting constitutional limits on detentions generally [JURIST report]. The Pakistani constitution requires that preventative detention be limited to 90 days unless a review board has extended the detention. The detention period will expire as of January 31, but the government has not referred Chaudhry's case to a review board, instead saying that because Chaudhry and other deposed judges are not being held under court-ordered detention they do not qualify for review. AKI has more.






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Iraq VP opposes bill allowing reinstatement of ex-Baath party members
Benjamin Klein on January 31, 2008 6:44 PM ET

[JURIST] Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi [personal website, in Arabic; EPIC profile, PDF] said Thursday that he is opposed to a proposed law that would allow most members of Saddam Hussein's defunct Baath Party [BBC backgrounder] to be reinstated to public life. Al-Hashemi criticized the Accountability and Justice Law [ICTJ backgrounder, PDF], passed by the Iraqi parliament [JURIST report] earlier this month and later endorsed by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, because it would require that many Iraqis given jobs following the 2003 US-led invasion of the country be forced to vacate their positions for the former Baathists. Before it can become law, the bill must be ratified by the Iraqi Presidency Council, which consists of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi [BBC profiles], and al-Hashemi. Al-Hashemi said Thursday that Talabani and Abdul-Mahdi also object to the law and will not sign it. Reuters has more.

Iraq set up a De-Baathification Commission [official website] in 2003 with the approval of the US-run Coalition Provisional Authority [official website], and its early agenda was rooting out members of Hussein's Baath party from positions of power in the Iraqi government, prompting the forced removal [JURIST report] of nearly 30,000 Baathists from public life. The Bush administration, however, urged the Iraqi government to shift the commission from outright prohibition to "accountability and reconciliation" in the interests of countering the growing insurgency in the country. Passage of de-Baathification reform legislation was noted by the White House last year as an as-yet-unmet benchmark [JURIST report] of Iraqi progress towards stability. Iraqi Shiite religious leader Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani has previously called the bill "dangerous" [JURIST report] and the bill's passage stalled [JURIST report] as recently as late November 2007.






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US Supreme Court stays execution of Alabama death row inmate
Mike Rosen-Molina on January 31, 2008 6:17 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website] on Thursday stayed the execution [order, PDF] of Alabama death row inmate James Harvey Callahan "pending the timely filing and disposition of a petition for a writ of certiorari." Callahan had been scheduled to be executed at 6 PM CST on Thursday. The stay will terminate automatically if Callahan's petition for certiorari is denied. A district judge blocked Callahan's execution [opinion, PDF] in December, pending the Supreme Court's decision in Baze v. Rees [JURIST report], but the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit lifted the stay [opinion, PDF] earlier this week after finding that Callahan had filed his constitutional challenge to Alabama's execution procedures after the statue of limitations had expired. AP has more. SCOTUSblog has additional coverage.

Callahan would have been the first prisoner to be executed since September 2007, when the Supreme Court granted certiorari to hear Baze v. Rees. In that case, the Court is considering whether the three-drug lethal injection cocktail [DPIC backgrounder] now used in over 30 states violates the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. Since the US Supreme Court accepted the Baze case in September, courts have stayed executions in several states, including Texas, Arizona, Nevada, Virginia, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida [JURIST reports].






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Bush signs 15-day extension for stopgap surveillance law
Nick Fiske on January 31, 2008 6:00 PM ET

[JURIST] US President George W. Bush Thursday signed a 15-day extension to the temporary Protect America Act [S 1927 materials; JURIST report], carrying it beyond its February 1 expiration date. The Protect Act, enacted as a stopgap while Congress worked on long-term legislation to "modernize" the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) [text; JURIST news archive], currently allows the US government to eavesdrop inside of the US without court approval as long as one end of a conversation is reasonably perceived to have been outside of the US. On Monday, Bush threatened to veto any extension of the Act that did not include a provision which granted immunity to telecom companies that cooperated with the government's warrentless domestic wiretap program [JURIST news archive]. Last week, Senate Republicans defeated an attempt by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid [official website] to extend the Protect Act for an additional month without the immunity provision. Reid then sent a letter to Bush asking that he support an extension to the Protect Act [JURIST report] as it appeared unlikely Congress would agree to reauthorize FISA before February 1.

In his weekly radio address [transcript; recorded audio] Saturday, Bush urged Congress to approve the Senate's proposed Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Bill [S 2248 materials; JURIST news archive] designed to revise and extend FISA so as to - among other things - expand the oversight of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) [official backgrounder], giving it greater powers to monitor the government's eavesdropping on American citizens. AP has more.






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Russia top court upholds life sentence for ex-Yukos security chief
Benjamin Klein on January 31, 2008 5:57 PM ET

[JURIST] The Russian Supreme Court [official website; in Russian] Thursday rejected an appeal to overturn a life sentence for former Yukos [JURIST news archive] security chief Alexei Pichugin [Wikipedia profile] for his involvement in organizing a series of contract killings. Pichugin was convicted [JURIST report] by the Moscow City Court in August 2007 for organizing three murders and four attempted murders. Pichugin originally received a 24-year sentence [JURIST report], but the Russian Supreme Court overturned the sentence and ordered a retrial [JURIST report] after prosecutors appealed the sentence as being too lenient. Pichugin's lawyers said they have already filed an appeal with the European Court of Human Rights [official website], claiming his right to a fair trial under Article 6 of the European Convention of Human Rights [text] has been violated.

Pichugin has maintained that the charges against him were politically motivated as part of an effort to connect former Yukos executive Leonid Nevzlin [Forbes profile] to the deaths. Nevzlin is currently living in Israel to escape possible prosecution. Former Yukos chief Mikhail Khodorkovsky [JURIST news archive] and his business partner Platon Lebedev [JURIST news archive] are currently serving eight-year terms in a Siberian prison for fraud and tax evasion. RIA Novosti has more.






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Rights group urges Malaysia to revoke controversial security law
Brett Murphy on January 31, 2008 12:31 PM ET

[JURIST] The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) [advocacy website] Thursday called for Malaysia to lift the Internal Security Act (ISA) [HRW backgrounder], a preventive detention law that allows the Malaysian government to detain suspects for two years without trial and to renew the detention indefinitely. The FIDH said that the ISA is contrary to fundamental human rights [press release] and is being used to stifle peaceful dissent against the government. FIDH also said that five members of the Hindu Rights Action Force [Wikipedia backgrounder] who were detained [JURIST report] in December will not receive a fair trial as long as the law is in effect. A court heard the activists' appeal against their detention earlier this week and a decision in the case is expected on February 26.

In November 2007, some 20,000 protesters took to the streets of Kuala Lumpur to participate in demonstrations [TIME report] that were sparked by complaints that the predominantly Malay Muslim government economically discriminates against ethnic Indians and other minorities. Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi [official website; BBC profile] gave permission for authorities to rely on the ISA to stop the protests [JURIST report]. Twenty-six ethnic Indians were later charged with attempted murder [JURIST report] during a clash with police at a temple compound in connection with the protest. All 26 suspects pleaded not guilty. AP has more.






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Zimbabwe court affirms alleged coup plotter extradition to Equatorial Guinea
Brett Murphy on January 31, 2008 12:09 PM ET

[JURIST] The Zimbabwe High Court Wednesday ruled against an appeal filed by the legal team defending Simon Mann [BBC profile] seeking to prevent Mann's extradition [JURIST report] for trial in Equatorial Guinea. Judge Rita Makarau held that the government had enough evidence that Mann was involved in a plot to overthrow Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Ngeuma [BBC profile] to allow the extradition order. Lawyers for Mann, who is currently serving a four-year sentence after being convicted on weapons charges [JURIST report] in Zimbabwe in 2004, argued that Mann will likely face torture and possibly the death penalty if he is extradited to Equatorial Guinea, but the judge ruled that his defense failed to establish a sufficient likelihood of torture.

In 2004, Mann and over 60 mercenaries were sentenced [JURIST report] in Zimbabwe for plotting a coup against Ngeuma. In 2005, Sir Mark Thatcher [BBC profile], son of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, pleaded guilty in South Africa to charges related to the failed coup and was fined [JURIST reports]. AP has more.






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Bangladesh court hands down life sentences in 2005 bombings trial
Brett Murphy on January 31, 2008 11:16 AM ET

[JURIST] Seven Islamic militants involved in multiple bombing attacks on a town in northwestern Bangladesh were sentenced to life in prison by a Bangladeshi court Thursday. The attacks were part of a larger bombing plot [JURIST report; BBC report] allegedly organized by the Islamic group Jamaat-ul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) [SATP backgrounder] that set off more than 400 bombs nearly simultaneously throughout the country in 2005. No one was injured in the five bombings orchestrated by the seven men sentenced Thursday.

Six top JMB members were executed by hanging last year after the Bangladesh High Court in 2006 confirmed death sentences imposed by a trial court for the murder of two judges [JURIST reports] during the bombings. In 2006, three other JMB members were sentenced to death [JURIST report] and five others sentenced to life in prison for their involvement in the bombings. AP has more.






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US asks federal court to lift remaining restrictions on Navy sonar use
Brett Murphy on January 31, 2008 10:48 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Department of Justice asked US District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper Wednesday to lift a preliminary injunction restricting the US Navy's use of sonar along the coast of Southern California. President Bush granted an exemption [JURIST report] earlier this month allowing the Navy to continue using sonar, after which Cooper eased portions of the order [order, PDF]. The DOJ argued that the exemption fell within Bush's scope of duties and asked the court to remove the injunction or, in the alternative, maintain the current partial restrictions. Lawyers for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) [advocacy website] say that Bush's action was unconstitutional and asked the court to re-impose the full injunction [PDF text] creating a 12-nautical mile zone along the coast in which the use of sonar is forbidden.

Bush's order came despite a November 2007 ruling [PDF text; NRDC press release] by the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit that the Navy should limit its use of high-powered sonar. Bush exempted the Navy from the requirements of several environmental laws, including the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA) [text], on the basis of national security, but the NRDC warned that sonar is harmful to whales and other marine animals [press release], characterizing the presidential waiver as "an attack on the rule of law." AP has more.






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US Interior Department 'unreasonably delayed' Indian Trust accounting: judge
Jaime Jansen on January 31, 2008 9:19 AM ET

[JURIST] A federal judge in the US District Court for the District of Columbia Wednesday ruled [PDF text] that the US Department of the Interior (DOI) [official website] "unreasonably delayed" the accounting of billions of dollars of American Indian money [DOI Indian Trust Fund website], adding that it is now impossible for the DOI to remedy the breach. The decade-old Indian Trust case [Cobell v. Norton litigation website; JURIST news archive] returned to court [JURIST report] in October when US District Judge James Robertson held an evidentiary hearing. The class-action suit involves the DOI's alleged mismanagement of Native American money, including lease and sales revenues, permit fees and interest received and held for Native Americans by the US government over the last 120 years. Lead Plaintiff Elouise Cobell called the ruling "a great day in Indian Country" [press release], and said the plaintiffs looked forward to the next hearing in February to form a solution.

In March, the Native American plaintiffs rejected [JURIST report] a $7 billion settlement proposal from the US government. Some read the offer as a governmental acknowledgment of liability, but DOI officials disputed that interpretation. The plaintiffs criticized the settlement offer as "pennies on the dollar" in respect of the value of their claim as well as for its attempt to preclude further claims. AP has more.






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Federal judge dismisses Hurricane Katrina Army class action against Army Corps
Jaime Jansen on January 31, 2008 8:00 AM ET

[JURIST] A federal judge on Wednesday dismissed a class action lawsuit [JURIST report] brought by residents of New Orleans against the US Army Corps of Engineers [official website], ruling that the Flood Control Act of 1928 [text] grants immunity to the Corps. The residents of New Orleans sued the Corps alleging that the Corps had been negligent in the collapse of a flood wall and levee caused by Hurricane Katrina [JURIST news archive], arguing that the levee had been damaged prior to Katrina and that the Corps was negligent in maintaining it. While US District Judge Stanwood Duval, Jr. dismissed the suit, he also berated the Corps for their actions in building the levee system, saying that "millions of dollars were squandered in building a levee system...which was known to be inadequate by the corps' own calculations."

In a separate canal breach case [LAED case materials], Duval ruled in February that those plaintiffs could proceed with claims [JURIST report] that the Corps ignored warnings that the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet contained defects that exacerbated flooding during Katrina. AP has more. The New Orleans Times-Picayune has local coverage.






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Bangladesh extortion trial of ex-PM Hasina resumes
Andrew Gilmore on January 30, 2008 6:17 PM ET

[JURIST] The extortion trial of former Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed [party profile; JURIST news archive] resumed Wednesday in Dhaka, after the Bangladesh Supreme Court last week rejected Hasina's appeal of the proceedings [JURIST report]. Hasina had argued that she could not be tried under the current state of emergency rules because the alleged crimes occurred before the state of emergency [JURIST report] was declared last January. Hasina was formally charged [JURIST report] earlier this month with two counts of extortion for allegedly taking nearly $1.16 million from two businessmen while in office between 1996 and 2001. In October, Hasina denied the accusations [JURIST report] during questioning by officials. If convicted, she would be banned from running for office for 10 years. Also on Wednesday, the court ruled that the detention of Tarique Rahman [JURIST report], the son of former Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia [UN profile], was illegal.

The current interim government in Bangladesh, led by former central bank chief Fakhruddin Ahmed [official website; TIME interview], has arrested over 170 high-profile citizens since the military-backed government declared a state of emergency due to concerns that fraud would mar scheduled national elections. Both Hasina's sister, Shaikh Rehana, and her cousin, Shaikh Selim, a former minister in her cabinet, have also been charged with extortion. AFP has more. BBC News has additional coverage.






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Khodorkovsky on hunger strike to protest denial of medical care for ex-Yukos lawyer
Patrick Porter on January 30, 2008 5:37 PM ET

[JURIST] Jailed Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky [defense website; JURIST news archive] said Wednesday that he would begin a hunger strike [statement, in Russian] to protest denial of medical treatment to Vasily Aleksanian [statement], an imprisoned former executive and lawyer at the now-defunct Yukos [JURIST news archive] oil company, who has AIDS. Khodorkovsky said officials were denying medical treatment to Aleksanian, whose health is deteriorating, to coerce him into making false confessions. BBC News has more. Bloomberg has additional coverage.

Aleksanian was arrested in 2006 for charges of money laundering and embezzlement and was diagnosed with HIV a few months later. Khodorkovsky was convicted of tax evasion [JURIST report] in 2005 and is currently imprisoned in Siberia. Russian prosecutors indicted Khordorkovsky on new money laundering charges [JURIST report] in early 2007. Khodorkovsky, an opponent of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has always insisted that the charges against him are politically motivated, although Russian prosecutors say otherwise [JURIST report].






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Iran chief judge limits public executions
Deirdre Jurand on January 30, 2008 4:54 PM ET

[JURIST] Iran's chief judge issued a ban [IRNA report] Wednesday against all public executions not specially permitted by the head of the judiciary. Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi [Wikipedia profile] also banned the publication of pictures and videos of executions and ordered state prosecutors to enforce the bans. Commentators said that Shahroudi probably wants to remove executions from the public eye [BBC report] following harsh international criticism of Iran's execution practices, including stoning [JURIST report] and the execution of juveniles [JURIST report]. Shahroudi, who is a moderate conservative, was also responsible for issuing a 2002 moratorium against stoning and declaring a ban on using torture to force confessions.

Iran has reportedly hanged 20 people this year for crimes such as murder and drug smuggling, and human rights groups said that the country executed about 300 people in 2007. Last April, an Amnesty International report [text; JURIST report] named Iran as having one of the three highest execution rates in the world, along with China and Pakistan. Most executions in the country are carried out by hanging and are related to traditional capital crimes including murder and rape, although an Iranian airport customs was executed for corruption [JURIST report] earlier this week. AP has more.






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UN not meeting international justice standards in Kosovo: Amnesty report
Alexis Unkovic on January 30, 2008 4:26 PM ET

[JURIST] The International Judges and Prosecutors Programme [backgrounder] of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) [official website] has failed to meet international standards to ensure fair trials, according to a report [PDF text, press release] released Wednesday by Amnesty International [advocacy website]. The report blamed "flaws in the concept, limited resources and the low priority that international justice has been given" for systemic failures that could result in scores of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the 1990s conflict in Kosovo [JURIST news archive] going unpunished.

The report concludes that "the structure and operation of the Programme have been so flawed that the example in Kosovo cannot serve as a model for internationalizing national judicial systems without major changes." UNMIK officials declined to comment on the report Wednesday. AP has more.






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Federal appeals court reverses cattle rancher victory in price manipulation case
James M Yoch Jr on January 30, 2008 4:12 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit [official website] on Tuesday reversed [opinion, PDF] a controversial trial court judgment in favor of a plaintiff class of cattle ranchers claiming that defendant meat-packing companies underpaid them based on erroneous price data provided by the US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) [official website]. The class action plaintiffs filed suit under the Packers and Stockyards Act (PSA) [text], alleging that the meat-packing companies knew or should have known that the USDA incorrectly reported the price of select and choice cuts of meat during a six-week period from April 2, 2001, to May 11, 2001. The USDA figures, which determine the prices that meat-packers pay to cattle producers, were underestimated, resulting in lower prices being offered to the plaintiffs. According to the Eighth Circuit, the trial court erred by instructing the jury that the PSA did not require the plaintiffs to show intent to manipulate prices by the defendants. Instead, the court ascertained the legislative intent behind the PSA and ruled that the liability under the PSA requires a showing of intentional manipulation or control over prices:

In the absence of a statutory definition or clear contrary legislative intent, statutory terms are given their plain, ordinary, and commonly understood meaning. This court often turns to a commonly used dictionary to ascertain a word's ordinary meaning. Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary defines "manipulate" as follows: "to manage or utilize skillfully," or "to control or play upon by artful, unfair, or insidious means esp[ecially] to one's own advantage" or "to change by artful or unfair means so as to serve one's purpose." "Control," according to the same dictionary, means "[t]o exercise restraining or directing influence over," or "to have power over." By using words such as "manage," "artful," "insidious," and "exercise," both definitions suggest that some culpability, such as intent, is required to violate the PSA.
The Eighth Circuit's decision vacates a jury verdict of $9.25 million in favor of the plaintiffs, and remands for a decision for the meat-packing companies, including Cargill Meat Solutions Corporation, Swift Beef Company, and Tyson Fresh Meats, Inc., rather than for a new trial. AP has more.





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Red Cross chief discusses terror detainees status with US officials
Alexis Unkovic on January 30, 2008 3:48 PM ET

[JURIST] Jakob Kellenberger, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) [advocacy website], Wednesday expressed optimism [press release] after completing a two-day visit to Washington DC to speak with top US officials, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Attorney General Michael Mukasey, and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, about ICRC concerns regarding the status and treatment of US terror detainees. Kellenberger said that talks between the US and the ICRC had led to "tangible progress," but emphasized that some issues still remained unresolved, particularly in regard to protecting detainees' legal rights at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive]. The talks also addressed the need for the US intelligence community to interact with the ICRC, and the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, Darfur, Iraq, and Israel and the Palestinian territories. AP has more.

The ICRC is formally entrusted under the Geneva Conventions [ICRC materials] with visiting prisoners of war and inspecting the conditions of their detention. The ICRC in Iraq [ICRC materials] currently has arrangements with US forces allowing access to some 20,000 detainees and with Kurdish authorities to allow visitation with another 1,500 detainees.






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Australia police chief suggests limiting media coverage in terror cases
Alexis Unkovic on January 30, 2008 3:07 PM ET

[JURIST] Australian Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty [official profile] Tuesday called for restrictions on media coverage of terrorism cases, saying that media disclosure should be delayed until judicial proceedings have been completed. In a speech [transcript] entitled "Terrorism: Policing's New Paradigm" delivered to the Sydney Institute [official website], Keelty said:

In the United Kingdom, to provide a contrast with Australia, contempt of court laws prevent journalists from reporting proceedings in open court. In fact, even reporting information that has previously been in the public domain might also not be exempt from contempt of court laws. Although in the UK there is debate around when exactly proceedings become active, it is understood to be at the time a person is arrested; a warrant is issued for the arrest of a person or a person is charged with a crime. This media blackout remains in place until after the case is disposed of, abandoned, discontinued or withdrawn.

I am not saying that correct processes and procedures should be cast aside, nor should public institutions be immune from public accountability in the discharge of their public service, but I am saying that a public discussion about them should be delayed, in deference to judicial process. Not subjugated, not quashed, not silenced; just delayed, until the full gamut of judicial process has been exhausted.

If charges are laid, the right of the alleged offender to the presumption of innocence should take precedence over the public interest in knowing how the investigation was conducted and a person’s right to freely discuss elements of the crime and its investigation. Information about the investigation and wider discussion about elements of the crime become available as part of the open court processes or after the legal process has been completely exhausted.
Critics have objected to Keelty's comments, saying that the length of some terrorism trials would mean that vital information could be kept out of public knowledge for years. Reuters has more.





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Italy court acquits ex-PM Berlusconi of false accounting
Katerina Ossenova on January 30, 2008 2:40 PM ET

[JURIST] Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] was acquitted of false accounting by a Milan court on Wednesday. The charges were related to Berlusconi's membership in a group trying to buy the SME state food conglomerate in the 1980s, but the court found that the allegations against Berlusconi did not amount to a crime under amendments made to the criminal law in 2002 while Berlusconi was in power. Despite his legal woes, the former prime minister hopes to return to office and has been pushing for early elections since Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi [official profile] resigned last week after losing a vote of confidence [BBC report] in the upper house of parliament.

Berlusconi, a media mogul and Italy's richest man, has faced trial on at least six occasions involving charges of false accounting, tax fraud, money laundering, embezzlement, and giving false testimony [JURIST reports]. In October, Italy's highest court of appeal upheld Berlusconi's April acquittal [JURIST reports] on bribery charges. That trial was initially blocked in 2004 by a bill drafted by Berlusconi ally and later defense lawyer Gaetano Pecorella but went ahead after the bill was struck down as unconstitutional. Berlusconi has continually maintained his innocence, accusing prosecutors of conducting a political vendetta against him. AP has more.






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Kenya opposition leader condemns police 'shoot to kill' order as illegal
Katerina Ossenova on January 30, 2008 2:14 PM ET

[JURIST] Kenyan opposition candidate Raila Odinga [campaign profile] has condemned as illegal the latest "shoot to kill" order given to Kenyan police in response to continued violence across the country after last month's disputed presidential election [JURIST report], according to Wednesday media reports. Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in the country to help mediate [JURIST report] the conflict between supporters of Odinga and Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki [official profile], says he hopes the political issues can be resolved within four weeks and that the country can heal from this latest crisis within a year. Speaking Wednesday on the sidelines of a conference in Ethiopia, however, US Undersecretary of State Jendayi Frazer claimed that the violence had constituted "ethnic cleansing."

The controversial presidential vote has sparked simmering ethnic tensions in Kenya [JURIST news archive], where Kibaki has long been accused of using his position to favor members of the Kikuyu tribe. Fueling accusations of malfeasance, Kibaki won the December 27 election despite early opinion polls that placed rival candidate Odinga in the lead. Thousands of opposition supporters took to the streets following the election, which prompted the government to temporarily ban public rallies and institute a curfew in Nairobi, the capital city. In all, almost 1,000 people have been killed and 250,000 displaced since protests began. Thirteen nations, including several European Union members and the United States, have threatened to cut off aid [JURIST report] to Kenya's government until the crisis is resolved and democracy is restored. Odinga's opposition party, the Orange Democratic Movement [party website] earlier this week filed a formal complaint [JURIST report] with the International Criminal Court [official website], alleging that Kibaki's administration has committed crimes against humanity while using force against demonstrators. The Kenyan National Commission on Human Rights [official site] on Saturday launched an official investigation [KNCHR brief; Standard report] into the alleged human rights violations. AFP has more.






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Israel high court upholds Gaza supply cuts
Katerina Ossenova on January 30, 2008 1:35 PM ET

[JURIST] The Israeli Supreme Court [official website] ruled Wednesday that the Israeli government can continue to cut supplies of fuel and electricity to the Gaza Strip [BBC backgrounder], rejecting legal challenges [press release; JURIST report] by human rights groups that the blockade deprived Gaza residents of basic humanitarian needs in violation of international law. Israeli officials say that withholding fuel and energy supplies is the only option open to the Israeli government aside from a full-scale military operation against Hamas [BBC backgrounder], which has refused to halt indiscriminate rocket attacks against Israeli positions from Gaza. In its ruling [unofficial English translation, PDF], the court held that Israel is required to act against terror organizations in accordance with the norms of international law but that the reduced supplies currently allowed into Gaza "fulfill the vital humanitarian needs of the Gaza Strip at this time." In November 2007, the Israeli Supreme Court blocked government plans to cut electricity [JURIST report] in the Gaza Strip, while allowing fuel supply cuts. Israel currently supplies all of Gaza's fuel and more than two-thirds of its electricity.

Last week, the UN Human Rights Council [official website] adopted a resolution [draft text, PDF; JURIST report] criticizing Israel for recent military attacks and a week-long blockade against the Palestinian-controlled Gaza Strip that the Council said amounted to human rights violations. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour [official profile] has also said that Israel's policy of collective punishment, disproportionate use of force and targeted killings, coupled with the Palestinian militant practice of indiscriminate firings of bombs and rockets, has led to the current crisis [transcript; JURIST report] in the Gaza Strip. The latest Israeli blockade began mid-January, when Israel closed crossings into Gaza and cut off electricity, fuel and emergency aid to the area after more than 45 rockets hit Israeli towns. AP has more.






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Mukasey refuses to pass judgment on waterboarding during Senate hearing
Katerina Ossenova on January 30, 2008 1:11 PM ET

[JURIST] US Attorney General Michael Mukasey [official profile] on Wednesday refused to provide the Senate Judiciary Committee an opinion on whether waterboarding constitutes an illegal form of torture. Wednesday's hearing [SJC materials] is Mukasey's first appearance before the Judiciary Committee since being sworn in as attorney general in November. On Tuesday, Mukasey sent a letter to the committee confirming that he has completed his investigation [JURIST report] into CIA interrogation methods used on terror suspects and found that the agency's current methods to be legal. Despite criticism from committee chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) [official website] on his non-answer, Mukasey refused to characterize waterboarding [JURIST news archive] as torture, saying that, since the technique was not currently in use by the CIA, it would be not be responsible for him to make a final decision on its legality.

Waterboarding was a major issue during Mukasey's confirmation hearings last year when he refused to take a stance on whether the practice constitutes torture [JURIST report]. In the midst of the hearings, he wrote in a letter [PDF text; JURIST report] to Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee that he did not know if waterboarding was illegal, and that it would be "irresponsible" of him to provide a legal opinion on any specific interrogation technique without an in-depth analysis of relevant laws and more information about its use. Earlier this month, both former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge [official profile] and US Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell [official profile] expressed their opinions that the controversial interrogation technique should be considered torture [JURIST report]. AP has more.






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UK Law Lords allow lawsuit against lottery-winning rapist after limitations period
Brett Murphy on January 30, 2008 10:17 AM ET

[JURIST] The judicial panel of the UK House of Lords unanimously ruled [opinion, PDF] Wednesday that a sexual assault victim could sue a convicted attacker who later won £7 million in the National Lottery even though the six-year limitation for bringing compensation claims had expired. The Lords held that the victim could bring the claim against Iorworth Hoare [Wikipedia profile]. Writing in favor of the appeal, Baroness Hale od Richmond wrote:

the injustice to a claimant who may be deprived of his claim, perhaps as a result of the very injuries which gave rise to it, can be balanced against the injustice to a defendant who may be called upon to defend himself a long time after the event when important evidence may no longer be obtainable ... A fair trial can be possible long after the event and sometimes the law has no choice. It is even possible to have a fair trial of criminal charges of historic sex abuse. Much will depend upon the circumstances of the particular case ... Nor are the difficulties faced by a defendant, whose breach of a strict statutory duty may have resulted in some insidious industrial disease, necessarily less deserving of consideration than the difficulties faced by a defendant, whose deliberate and brutal actions towards a vulnerable person in his care may have resulted in immediate physical harm and much later serious psychiatric sequelae.
The Law Lords also allowed four additional appeals on the same issue, some of which involved children.

Known as the Lotto rapist, Hoare had been convicted of several sexual assaults, including rape, during the 1970s and 1980s before being convicted of the attempted rape at issue in the present case. Hoare was released from prison [BBC News report] under strict conditions after winning a share of a £21 million lottery prize. In 2005, a High Court judge rejected a compensation claim by Hoare's victim, finding that it had been brought after the six-year statute of limitations had expired; an Appeal Court affirmed that decision. After Wednesday's decision by the Law Lords, that compensation case against Hoare, as well as the four other appeals, will now go to the High Court for possible hearing on the issue of actual abuse compensation. BBC News has more.





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Ousted Pakistan chief justice slams Musharraf for deposing judges
Brett Murphy on January 30, 2008 9:31 AM ET

[JURIST] Ousted Pakistani Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry [JURIST news archive] labeled Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf an "extremist" on Wednesday, chiding Musharraf for deposing 60 judges, slandering judges, and keeping Chaudhry under house arrest [JURIST report]. The government of Pakistan has kept Chaudhry and several other judges and lawyers under preventative detention since Musharraf declared emergency rule [text; JURIST report] on November 3. According to a letter [DOC] released by lawyers on behalf of Chaudhry, as part of the house arrest, barbed-wire has been placed around Chaudhry's home, phone lines have been disconnected, and the family has been unable to go onto their front yard.

Last week, Pakistani lawyers demonstrated in Islamabad [JURIST report] to protest Chaudhry's continued detention. Also last week, a report [text] by Pakistan's The News suggested the government may be skirting constitutional limits on detentions [JURIST report]. The Pakistani constitution requires that preventative detention be limited to 90 days unless a review board has extended the detention. The detention period will expire as of January 31, but the government has not referred Chaudhry's case to a review board, instead saying that because Chaudhry and other deposed judges are not being held under court-ordered detention they therefore do not qualify for review. AP has more.






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Prosecutors ask for 2-year sentence for former Milberg Weiss partner
Brett Murphy on January 30, 2008 9:03 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Attorney's Office for the Central District of California [official website] has recommended that former Milberg Weiss [firm website] partner William Lerach receive two years in prison for his part in the firm's illegal kickback scheme. Lerach pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy to obstruct justice after reaching an agreement [JURIST reports] with prosecutors in September. In court documents filed Monday, the US Attorney's Office disagreed with a 15-month recommendation by probation officers, saying that it would inadequately deter others. Sentencing is scheduled for on February 11.

In October, Milberg Weiss co-founder Melvyn Weiss pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] to federal charges of conspiracy, racketeering, obstruction of justice and making false statements. In May 2006, a federal grand jury indicted [JURIST report] the firm and two name partners, David J. Bershad and Steven G. Schulman, on charges of conspiracy to make false statements and obstructing justice. Lerach was named as "Partner B" in the indictment [PDF text]. As part of the scheme, certain individuals who agreed to serve as class action representatives were promised 10 percent of the attorney fees eventually gathered by Milberg Weiss. Three individuals pleaded guilty [JURIST report] in connection with the scheme in May 2006, and Bershad pleaded guilty [JURIST report] to conspiracy charges in July. Reuters has more.






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Khmer Rouge second-in-command requests removal of ECCC judge
Leslie Schulman on January 30, 2008 8:06 AM ET

[JURIST] Lawyers for former Khmer Rouge official Nuon Chea [GenocideWatch report] on Wednesday filed a motion with the Extraordinary Chambers in the Court of Cambodia (ECCC) [official website; JURIST news archive] requesting the removal of Cambodian military court chief Ney Thol from Nuon Chea's scheduled February 4 pre-trial hearing and all future proceedings relating to war crimes and crimes against humanity charges [statement, PDF] against Nuon Chea because of alleged impartiality. According to the motion, Ney Thol, who is a member of the ruling Cambodian People's Party (CPP) [party website, in English], sentenced an opposition leader to jail in a questionable 2005 trial which was biased against the defense. The opposition leader was later pardoned. The motion claims that Ney Thol's "participation in highly questionable judicial decisions" indicates his biases and justifies his removal.

The Khmer Rouge is generally held responsible for the genocide of an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians [PPU backgrounder] who died between 1975 and 1979. Nuon Chea was known as Brother Number Two in the Khmer Rouge, indicative of his high position in the communist movement led by Pol Pot, who died in 1998 having never been prosecuted for alleged war crimes. He was arrested and charged [JURIST report] in September and said that he was never in the position to order the deaths attributed to him, but that he will cooperate with the ECCC [JURIST report]. The ECCC was established by a 2001 law [text as amended 2005, PDF] to investigate and try surviving Khmer Rouge officials, but to date, no top officials have faced trials. The first trials are expected to begin this year. AP has more.






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UN SG urges measures to combat use of child soldiers
Leslie Schulman on January 30, 2008 7:17 AM ET

[JURIST] United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon [official website] on Tuesday issued a report [text] pushing for the enforcement of sanctions against more than 12 countries who continue to use child soldiers in armed combat. According to the report, child soldiers continue to be used in African and Asian countries, including in Iraq, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Sudan and Sri Lanka, in violation of international laws that protect children in armed conflict. Ban noted that the use of child soldiers violates in particular the Geneva Convention of 1949 and its 1997 protocols, the Convention on the Rights of the Child of 1989 and its optional protocol, and the International Labour Organization Convention No. 182 [texts].

Ban listed several recommendations for the Security Council [official website] in combating child soldier recruitment in the listed countries, including imposing sanctions against those who continue to recruit children for combat. Also in his report, Ban identified ongoing abuses committed against children, including sexual assaults, abductions, and the denial of humanitarian aid, food and education. The report urges the Security Council to "give equal weight to all categories of grave violations" against children. Ban also urged individual UN member states to crack down on parties in their countries that systematically use child soldiers or commit abuses against children. Reuters has more. The UN News Centre has additional coverage.






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Spain prosecutor seeks ban on Basque parties tied to armed separatists
Devin Montgomery on January 29, 2008 8:53 PM ET

[JURIST] A Spanish prosecutor on Tuesday filed an anticipated request [JURIST report] before the Supreme Court of Spain [official website, in Spanish] to ban two Basque political parties for alleged ties to ETA [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive], the armed Basque separatist movement. Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega [official profile, in Spanish] has said the government has evidence that both the Basque Nationalist Action Party (ANV) [party website] and the Communist Party of the Basque Lands (PCTV) [Wikipedia backgrounder] have close ties to Batasuna [BBC backgrounder], ETA's banned political arm. The government wants to prevent the parties from fielding candidates for a general election scheduled for March, and prosecutors are expected to file a formal demand to the court in the coming days.

The Supreme Court of Spain banned Batasuna in 2003 for its refusal to cut ties with ETA. ETA has been blamed for more than 800 deaths in bombings and attacks since the 1960s. AFP has more. Reuters has additional coverage.






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Mukasey finds CIA interrogation tactics lawful, refuses to rule on waterboarding
Mike Rosen-Molina on January 29, 2008 8:30 PM ET

[JURIST] US Attorney General Michael Mukasey [official profile] said in a Tuesday letter [PDF text] to the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee that he had completed his investigation into CIA interrogation methods used on terror suspects, finding the agency's current methods to be legal. In the letter to Senator Patrick Leahy [official website], Mukasey again refused to characterize waterboarding [JURIST news archive] as torture, saying that, since the technique was not currently in use by the CIA, it would be not be responsible for him to make a final decision on its legality. Mukasey is scheduled to testify [witness list] at an oversight hearing before the committee on Wednesday. AP has more.

Waterboarding was a major issue during Mukasey's confirmation hearings last year, when he refused to take a stance on whether the practice constituted torture [JURIST report]. In the midst of the hearings, he wrote in a letter [PDF text; JURIST report] to Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee that he did not know if waterboarding was illegal, and that it would be "irresponsible" of him to provide a legal opinion on any specific interrogation technique without an in-depth analysis of relevant laws and more information about its use.






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US House votes to extend surveillance law despite veto threat
Devin Montgomery on January 29, 2008 6:20 PM ET

[JURIST] The US House of Representatives Tuesday voted to extend the Protect America Act of 2007 [S 1927 materials; JURIST report] for an additional two weeks past its original February 1 expiration date. The extension was passed as a last-minute compromise between House Democrats and Republicans to give the Senate time to pass new surveillance legislation that Republicans hope will include a provision granting civil immunity to telecommunications companies [JURIST report] that cooperate with the government on surveillance. To date, more than 40 lawsuits have been filed against telecom companies that participated in the NSA warrantless surveillance program [JURIST news archive]. US President George W. Bush reiterated his threat [JURIST report] to veto any legislation that did not include an immunity provision in his State of the Union address [text; JURIST report] on Monday. AP has more. The Washington Post has additional coverage.

Currently, the temporary Protect America Act, which was enacted as a stopgap measure as Congress works on passing long-term legislation to "modernize" the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) [text; JURIST news archive, expands FISA to allow the US government to eavesdrop inside of the US without court approval as long as one end of a telephone or computer conversation is reasonably perceived to have been outside of the US. The Protect America Act had been set to sunset on February 1. Both Bush [press release] and Vice President Dick Cheney [JURIST report] have recently called for Congressional action to do away with the need for future renewals by making FISA permanent.






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Rights group claims Portugal aided Guantanamo renditions
Deirdre Jurand on January 29, 2008 6:11 PM ET

[JURIST] The Portuguese government helped in the rendition [JURIST news archive] of more than 700 prisoners to Guantanamo Bay by allowing the US to use Portuguese territory and airspace, a British prisoner rights group reported [PDF text] Tuesday. Reprieve [advocacy website] said that 728 out of the 774 prisoners processed at Guantanamo came through Portuguese jurisdiction and that a significant number were tortured before their arrivals in Guantanamo. The report relies on information from Portuguese flight logs, prison arrival data from the US Department of Defense, and declassified prisoner testimony. Reprieve legal director Clive Stafford Smith said that the prisoners could not have reached Guantanamo without Portuguese complicity [press release, PDF] and urged the Portuguese government to conduct a public inquiry into possible breaches of international law.

A 2006 report [DOC text] by a European Parliament committee [official website] investigating the US Central Intelligence Agency's alleged use of European countries for the transport and illegal detention of prisoners found that many European countries were aware that the CIA operated secret prisons [JURIST news archive] or used their territory for the transfer of terror suspects. The committee found that Portugal was among 16 EU countries that had cooperated with the CIA [JURIST report] "passively or actively" in the transport and illegal detention of prisoners. In 2007, the Portuguese government opened its own investigation [JURIST report] into secret CIA rendition flights. The government has denied Reprieve's charges. Reuters has more.






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UK referendum on EU reform treaty sought in court challenge
Mike Rosen-Molina on January 29, 2008 5:17 PM ET

[JURIST] An influential UK Conservative Party donor has launched a legal effort to force the UK government to put the ratification of the new EU reform treaty [JURIST news archive] properly known as the Treaty of Lisbon [official website; PDF text] to a public vote, the BBC reported Tuesday. Stuart Wheeler [BBC profile] argues that Prime Minister Gordon Brown [official website] has broken a pledge to hold a referendum on the pact warranting judicial review; Brown has said that a referendum is unnecessary because the treaty does not affect the UK constitution or impinge on British sovereignty. MPs are currently scheduled to begin debate on whether to ratify the treaty, but Wheeler, who said he expects review to be granted, said the treaty could not be ratified while judicial review, if granted, is pending. The treaty must be ratified by all 27 EU member state signatories before it can take effect.

Last year, UK Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs David Miliband [official profile] similarly rejected calls for a general referendum on the treaty, instead insisting [transcript] that it was sufficiently "different...in absolute essence" from the earlier draft European Constitution [JURIST news archive] that would have been put to a popular vote [JURIST report]. Former Prime Minister Tony Blair rejected the referendum option [JURIST report] earlier last year before leaving office. BBC News has more.






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Russia hate crimes up 13 percent in 2007: rights group
Caitlin Price on January 29, 2008 4:38 PM ET

[JURIST] Hate crimes [JURIST news archive] in Russia rose 13 percent in 2007 over 2006, but police have done little to stop attacks, according to a Tuesday report by the SOVA Center [advocacy website] rights group. Deputy Director Galina Kozhevnikova told reporters that race-related crime resulted in 67 deaths and 550 injuries in 2007, with African students, Asian visitors, and anti-Nazi activists the most frequent victims. He criticized Russian authorities for not adequately responding to the increase in violence, saying that many hate crimes were only prosecuted as incidents of hooliganism, which would carry a lighter sentence. Kozhevnikova added that while hate group leaders were prosecuted last year for distributing "xenophobic materials," many pro-government groups, including popular youth group Nashi [group website, in Russian], have adopted ethnocentric and racist slogans.

Last June, rights watchdog Human Rights First [advocacy website] reported that hate crimes are on the rise throughout Europe [JURIST report], after conducting a study examining recent hate crimes in France, Germany, Russia, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom. That study found a "proliferation of violent hate crimes directed against ethnic, religious and national minorities" in Russia especially. AP has more.






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Turkish parliament to consider lifting headscarf ban
Caitlin Price on January 29, 2008 3:59 PM ET

[JURIST] A bill to lift a ban on women wearing headscarves [JURIST report] in universities was submitted Tuesday to the Turkish Grand National Assembly [official website, in Turkish] amidst protests by secular groups. Last week, an agreement [JURIST report] between Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party and key opponent Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) [party websites] propelled the bill forward after decades of strict enforcement of the ban. The proposal, made in response to recent calls [JURIST report] from Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan [IHT backgrounder] for the government to lift the ban immediately, would alter the constitution [text] and the Higher Education Law No. 2547 [HRW backgrounder] to allow scarves tied at the chin. Chadors, veils and burqas reportedly will still be banned. The alliance between the two parties is expected to produce the requisite two-thirds majority needed to amend the constitution in a parliamentary vote scheduled for next week.

Headscarves and other forms of Muslim traditional religious dress [JURIST news archive] are banned from many public places in modern Turkey, a majority Muslim country despite official secularism. Supporters of the ban, largely secularists, say the ban on headscarves is necessary to protect the separation of religion and state. Erdogan has repeatedly called for an end to the ban, saying it effectively denies some Muslim women access to higher education [JURIST report], but Turkish secularists believe that his insistence on ending the ban is a political statement against secular principles. Members of secular parties, including the Republican People's Party and the Democratic Left Party [party websites, in Turkish], have threatened to appeal to the judiciary if parliament approves the bill. AP has more.






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Iran executes contractor convicted of corruption
Caitlin Price on January 29, 2008 3:05 PM ET

[JURIST] An Iranian airport customs contractor convicted of corruption has been executed and three other customs workers are scheduled to face the death penalty [JURIST news archive], according to comments from the Iranian judiciary [official website] reported by Reuters Tuesday. The convicted individuals apparently accepted bribes totaling more than $1 million in connection with their positions at the Mehrabad airport in Tehran. Few other details were given about the offenses, described as "office corruption and other economic crimes" by Iranian judiciary spokesman Alireza Jamshidi. Jamshidi could not confirm whether the execution was Iran's first administered for an economic crime. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad [official profile; BBC profile] has taken a tough stance again corruption and bribery, but to date violators have reportedly been sentenced only to prison time and public lashings. An appeal is under review as the three workers seek to commute their death sentences to life in prison.

Last April, an Amnesty International report [text; JURIST report] named Iran as having one of the three highest execution rates in the world, along with China and Pakistan. Most executions in the country are carried out by hanging and are related to more traditional capital crimes including murder and rape. Reuters has more.






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EU court rules identity of file sharers should be protected in civil suits
Leslie Schulman on January 29, 2008 12:05 PM ET

[JURIST] The European Court of Justice [official website] Tuesday ruled [judgment; press release, PDF] against Promusicae [trade website], a Spanish music industry coalition, finding that telecommunication companies have no duty to disclose the names and addresses of people suspected of engaging in illegal file sharing. A lower Spanish court had asked the European Court of Justice to issue an opinion on whether EU law required member states to impose such an obligation. The court held Tuesday that European Union directives contained no such obligation in the context of civil proceedings, but also found that EU law did not preclude member states from imposing such an obligation. Under Spanish law [PDF text, in Spanish], the obligatory disclosure of such personal information sought by the nonprofit group is permitted only in a criminal investigation, or if necessary for national security.

Last July, European Court of Justice Advocate General Juliane Kokott [official profile] told the European Court of Justice in an advisory opinion [text, in Spanish; JURIST report] that EU governments should resist disclosing Internet user information sought by copyright industry groups for civil lawsuits. Promusicae had filed a lawsuit against Spanish Internet service provider Telefonica (corporate website] to obtain customer information linked to IP addresses that Promusicae suspected were involved in illegal peer-to-peer music sharing. AP has more.






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DOJ accused of impeding US Attorney firings probe: LA Times
Leslie Schulman on January 29, 2008 12:02 PM ET

[JURIST] US Office of Special Counsel (OSC) [official website] head Scott J. Bloch [official profile] has accused the Department of Justice (DOJ) of impeding an investigation into the "politicization" of the DOJ under former US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales [official profile; JURIST news archive] during the 2006 US Attorney firings [JURIST news archive], the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday. The Office of Special Counsel is the independent federal agency in charge of enforcing the Hatch Act [OSC materials], which prohibits the use of government resources for political purposes. According to Tuesday's report, Bloch wrote a letter to Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey last week asserting his department's independent authority to investigate "political intrusion into personnel decision making" at the DOJ, and accusing the DOJ of denying his request for evidence and documents relating to the dismissal of nine US Attorneys in 2006. The DOJ has said that Bloch may conduct his own investigation after the DOJ has completed its own probe, which Bloch says could take many more months.

The Los Angeles Times reported [JURIST report] last May that the DOJ Office of Professional Responsibility [official website] was expanding its internal investigation [JURIST report] into whether department aides illegally made hiring decisions based on consideration of applicants' political beliefs. In June, former DOJ aide Monica Goodling [JURIST news archive] testified [JURIST report] in front of the House Judiciary Committee, where she admitted making hiring decisions based on political party affiliation. The DOJ has also said that it found no evidence to support Goodling's claim that the practice was approved by officials in the department. The Los Angeles Times has more.






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Morocco to put alleged 2004 Madrid bomber on trial
Michael Sung on January 29, 2008 9:56 AM ET

[JURIST] Moroccan authorities have arrested Abdelilah Hriz, an alleged participant in the 2004 Madrid train bombings [JURIST news archive], a Spanish judicial source said Monday. Hriz, whose DNA and fingerprints linked him to a house where explosives were prepared and an apartment where several suspects killed themselves after being pursued by police, will be tried in Morocco. According to Reuters' source, this is the first time a Moroccan court has agreed to try a Moroccan citizen for crimes committed outside of the country.

Spain's highest court of appeal said earlier this month that 25 appeals, both from defendants and from victims, have been filed against verdicts handed down in Spain against participants in the Madrid bombings. In November 2007, victims vowed to appeal [JURIST report] after a Spanish court acquitted seven of the 28 co-defendants accused of participating in the attacks, including alleged mastermind Rabei Osman Sayed Ahmed [CBC profile]. In all, 28 co-defendants [BBC backgrounder] were charged in Spain with 192 counts of murder and upwards of 1,800 counts of attempted murder related to the March 11, 2004 bombings. Three defendants were convicted of murder [JURIST report] and 18 others were found guilty of lesser charges. The three men convicted of murder - Jamel Zougam, Otman el Ghanoui, and Emilio Trashorras - each received sentences of up to 40,000 years imprisonment, but under Spanish law can only serve a maximum of 40 years each. The defendants have all protested their innocence and condemned the attacks. Reuters has more.






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Syria arrests pro-democracy former lawmaker: rights group
Michael Sung on January 29, 2008 9:26 AM ET

[JURIST] The Syrian government has detained former parliamentarian and dissident Riyad Sayf [MEIB profile], the National Organization for Human Rights in Syria (NOHR) said Tuesday. Sayf is a prominent member of the "Damascus Declaration" group, which in 2005 issued a declaration [text] urging Syria to embark on democratic transition and improve relations with Lebanon. In December, the Syrian government arrested nine members of the group [AP report] after it held a conference of opposition groups and activists in favor of democratic reform.

The Syrian government routinely issues travel bans against dissidents and last August, the US Department of State [official website] urged the Syrian government to lift a travel ban [press release] against Sayf, who is suffering from prostate cancer, so that he could seek medical treatment. Another pro-democracy activist, Kamal Labwani, was sentenced to 12 years in prison last year for "encouraging attacks against Syria" after contacting a foreign country. Labwani met with White House officials during a visit to the US in 2005, and was arrested [JURIST reports] at the airport when he returned to Syria. AP has more.






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Myanmar charges 10 activists for 'illegal statements' in anti-government protests
Joshua Pantesco on January 29, 2008 9:24 AM ET

[JURIST] Ten activists who led anti-government protests against fuel prices [BBC Q&A; JURIST report] in Myanmar last August and September have been charged under Myanmar's Printing and Publishing Act with the crime of making illegal statements. Myanmar's ruling military junta has detained the ten activists pursuant to its emergency powers since their arrests in September. According to Amnesty International, 700 dissidents are still in custody [JURIST report] from the August protests, a claim the government denies. Three thousand protesters were initially arrested. BBC News has more. Reuters has additional coverage.

The UN General Assembly Third Committee approved [JURIST report] a resolution [press release] in November condemning the recent crackdown and calling on the junta to release all political prisoners. The US Senate passed a bill [JURIST report] in December imposing new sanctions and travel restrictions on junta leaders, but it was never signed into law. Myanmar has been governed without a constitution since the military regime took power in 1988. Talks on a new national charter [JURIST report] have been underway for 14 years. It is not yet clear who will draft the actual constitution or how that process will occur, but the Myanmar government has pledged to put the resulting document to a vote in a national referendum.






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Bali bombers' bid for high court second appeal could delay executions
Michael Sung on January 29, 2008 9:06 AM ET

[JURIST] Three Indonesian Islamic militants sentenced to death for their roles in the 2002 Bali nightclub bombings [BBC backgrounder] have filed a second appeal with the Indonesian Supreme Court, a spokesperson for the Indonesian attorney general's office said Tuesday. The three militants - Mukhlas, Amrozi, and Imam Samudra [BBC profiles] - are not entitled under Indonesian law to a second review from the Indonesian Supreme Court, but their executions could now be delayed because authorities must wait until the appeal is formally rejected. The militants' lawyers say that Indonesia's anti-terrorism laws, enacted following the 2002 Bali bombings, should not have retroactive effect.

In December, the Indonesian Supreme Court rejected the militants' appeal [JURIST report], giving the defendants one month to seek clemency from the Indonesian president. They have said they will not seek clemency. In August 2007, the Indonesian government reduced the sentences [JURIST report] of 10 other Islamic militants convicted for their roles in the 2002 and 2005 Bali bombings [BBC report]. Originally serving between eight to 18 years, six of the militants received a sentence reduction of five months, while the other four received a reduction of two months. Terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah [MIPT backgrounder; JURIST news archive] has been blamed for both Bali bombings. Reuters has more.






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Malaysia ex-chief justice says corruption video fabricated
Joshua Pantesco on January 29, 2008 8:24 AM ET

[JURIST] Former Malaysian Chief Justice Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim [Wikipedia profile] told a Royal Commission inquiry panel Monday that a December 2001 video [YouTube video] that appears to show prominent Malaysian lawyer VK Lingam brokering Halim's appointment to become chief justice is a fabrication. Former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, who released the first part of the video [JURIST report] in September, asserts that Halim is the voice on the other end of the line with Lingam in the first part of the video. On Monday, Halim denied that claim, suggesting that Lingam might have been trying to impress his friends by pretending to know the high-ranking politicians involved in the now-scandal. On the tape [PDF transcript], Lingam says he is working hard to get Halim appointed to the second highest judiciary position in Malaysia, the presidency of the court of appeal; Halim received that post soon thereafter prior to becoming the chief justice of the Malaysian Supreme Court from 2003 to 2007.

The video's release prompted 2,000 lawyers and activists to protest judicial corruption [JURIST report; press release], calling for an official investigation. The Royal Commission began its sessions last week, when Lingam told the panel that he was intoxicated [JURIST report] when the video was filmed. Lingam also told the panel that Halim was not on the other end of the line [Bernama report] in the first video. On Monday, Anwar released the third part of the video [JURIST report], which allegedly shows Lingam admitting to having bribed former Chief Justice Dzaiddin Abdullah. AFP has more.






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Bush signs executive order on earmarks
Kiely Lewandowski on January 29, 2008 6:48 AM ET

[JURIST] US President George W. Bush [JURIST news archive] signed an executive order Tuesday implementing promises on earmarks made in his final State of the Union address [text; JURIST report] delivered Monday. Executive Order 13457 [text; fact sheet] commands heads of federal agencies to take "all necessary steps" to ignore earmarks that are not explicitly written into law. The policy portion of the order reads:

To ensure the proper use of taxpayer funds that are appropriated for Government programs and purposes, it is necessary that the number and cost of earmarks be reduced, that their origin and purposes be transparent, and that they be included in the text of the bills voted upon by the Congress and presented to the President. For appropriations laws and other legislation enacted after the date of this order, executive agencies should not commit, obligate, or expend funds on the basis of earmarks included in any non-statutory source, including requests in reports of committees of the Congress or other congressional documents, or communications from or on behalf of Members of Congress, or any other non-statutory source, except when required by law or when an agency has itself determined a project, program, activity, grant, or other transaction to have merit under statutory criteria or other merit-based decisionmaking.
Bush further explained his rationale in remarks [transcript] he made when signing the order:
there's a practice here in Washington, and I'm not sure many of our citizens understand it takes place, where members just put in special spending projects into what's called report language. That means that these projects never were voted on, never really saw the light of day. And this executive order says that any such earmarks this year and into the future will be ignored by this administration and, hopefully, future administrations, unless those spending projects were voted on by the Congress.
The executive order will not have an impact until Congress advances new legislation throughout the spring and summer. Some conservatives had hoped that Bush would kill thousands of earmarks contained in last year's omnibus appropriations bill. AP has more.





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Bush assails earmarks, urges surveillance bill extension in State of the Union address
Bernard Hibbitts on January 28, 2008 10:47 PM ET

[JURIST] US President George W. Bush said in Monday evening's State of Union address [text; recorded video] that he would issue an executive order Tuesday directing the federal government to ignore any future earmarks [White House fact sheet] included in legislation that are not explicitly voted on by Congress, and that if Congress does not reduce the level of earmarks by 50 percent in next year's appropriations process, he would veto any bill not meeting that goal. Bush has repeatedly pressed for earmark reductions [JURIST report], having also raised the issue in his 2007 State of the Union message [text].

The President also called on Congress to extend the Protect America Act, which allows the federal government to eavesdrop inside of the US without court approval as long as one end of a conversation is reasonably perceived to have been outside of the US:

To protect America, we need to know who the terrorists are talking to, what they are saying, and what they are planning. Last year, the Congress passed legislation to help us do that. Unfortunately, the Congress set the legislation to expire on February 1. This means that if you do not act by Friday, our ability to track terrorist threats would be weakened and our citizens will be in greater danger. The Congress must ensure the flow of vital intelligence is not disrupted. The Congress must pass liability protection for companies believed to have assisted in the efforts to defend America. We have had ample time for debate. The time to act is now.
Bush also encouraged the Senate to give up-or-down votes to stalled judicial nominees and urged action on illegal immigration [White House policy initiative statement] that "upholds both our laws and our highest ideals."





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France judges lay preliminary charges against rogue bank trader
Andrew Gilmore on January 28, 2008 7:26 PM ET

[JURIST] Alleged French "rogue trader" Jerome Kerviel [BBC profile] was released on bail Monday after French judges filed preliminary charges of "breach of trust," "falsifying and using falsified documents," and "breaching IT access codes" against him relating to $73 billion worth of unauthorized trades he made while working for French bank Societe Generale [bank website]. The judges refused a request by prosecutors to include a charge of attempted fraud in their formal investigation. Kerviel, who has since been dismissed from Societe Generale, turned himself over voluntarily [JURIST report] to French police on Saturday. On Sunday, French authorities extended his detention for an additional 24 hours [JURIST report]. In addition to holding Kerviel, authorities seized evidence including computer disks and documents from his home and the offices of Societe Generale. AP has more, as well as a timeline of the events. AFP and Reuters have additional coverage.

The bank, which lost $7 billion when it was forced to unload the fraudulent positions, has filed a criminal complaint against Kerviel, and described the methods he supposedly used to commit the fraud in an explanatory note [PDF text] released Sunday. Kerviel has maintained his innocence and says that he is being made a scapegoat [Telegraph report] by the bank, which he alleges was aware of his activities. Additionally, BusinessWeek reports [text] that the Eurex derivatives exchange [exchange website] warned Societe General in November about Kerviel's unauthorized transactions.






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ACLU asks federal court to block paper ballots in Ohio county
Andrew Gilmore on January 28, 2008 6:42 PM ET

[JURIST] The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio [advocacy website] filed a motion for a preliminary injunction [PDF text] Monday in the US District Court for the Northern District of Ohio to prevent Cuyahoga County, Ohio from conducting any election using a paper balloting system. The motion comes in a lawsuit [complaint, PDF; case materials] filed earlier this month against Secretary of State of Ohio Jennifer Brunner, the Cuyahoga Country Board of Elections, and various members of the Board of Elections and the Cuyahoga County Board of County Commissioners [official websites]. US District Judge Kathleen O'Malley will hold a hearing on February 5 to consider the motion for an injunction.

At issue is a decision by Brunner and the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections to use ballots that do not notify voters of any errors on the ballot at the time of voting. According to the ACLU's brief in support of the motion for preliminary injunction [PDF text]:

In the March 2008 primary election, Cuyahoga County voters - in contrast to those in other Ohio counties - will be denied the benefits of voting technology that provides notice of and the opportunity to correct errors. The predictable result of this step backward is that more Cuyahoga County residents will have their votes rejected in comparison with voters elsewhere in the state. This violates Plaintiffs' fundamental right to have their votes count on an equal basis with those cast by other citizens.
The case was filed by the ACLU on behalf of two Cuyahoga County registered voters, according to a plaintiff's affidavit [PDF text] filed with the motion for preliminary injunction. AP has more. The Cleveland Plain Dealer has local coverage.





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Court orders Texas property owners to open land for US-Mexico border fence
Alexis Unkovic on January 28, 2008 4:53 PM ET

[JURIST] US District Judge Andrew Hanen of the US Southern District of Texas [official website] Monday released a Friday order directing 10 property owners in Cameron County, Texas [official website] to provide the federal government access to their land for 180 days so it can begin surveying for a 670-mile fence along the US-Mexico border [JURIST news archive]. The federal government had asked Hanen to rule on the case without informing the property owners, a permissible move under eminent domain law, but the judge ordered that the owners should be alerted before the hearing held last Friday. On January 16, in contrast, US Western District of Texas [official website] Judge Alia Moses Ludlum ordered [JURIST report] the City of Eagle Pass, Texas [official website] to temporarily turn over 233 acres of its land to the federal government for the border fence project without providing the city with any notice. Earlier this month, US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) [official website] officials said DHS is preparing over 100 court cases [JURIST report] against landowners along the US-Mexico border who have refused to allow construction of the border fence on their properties. The Cameron County and Eagle Pass cases are the first DHS lawsuits to have been decided by a judge. AP has more.

US President George W. Bush signed the Secure Fence Act of 2006 [PDF text; JURIST report] in October 2006. The legislation authorizes the construction of approximately 700 miles of fencing along the 2,000-mile US-Mexican border. Critics of the fence include locals in border communities, who feel that a border fence could interfere with irrigation, harm wildlife, and disrupt Mexican consumers and investors that positively contribute to the local economy. In May 2007, the International Boundary and Water Commission [official website] said that construction of the fence could violate a boundary treaty [JURIST report] between the United States and Mexico.






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Federal appeals court rules Arizona must allow anti-abortion license plates
Alexis Unkovic on January 28, 2008 4:08 PM ET

[JURIST] A three-judge panel of the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled [opinion, PDF] Monday that Arizona residents should be able to purchase specialty license plates bearing the slogan "Choose Life." The Ninth Circuit held that the Arizona License Plate Commission violated the First Amendment free speech rights of the Arizona Life Coalition [advocacy website] when it refused an application to print the group's anti-abortion message on state-issued license plates in 2002. The Ninth Circuit overturned a lower court summary judgment in favor of the state License Plate Commission. Reuters has more. The Arizona Star Daily has local coverage.

Last week, a federal judge ruled [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] that the state of Missouri cannot deny an anti-abortion group's application for a specialty license plate with an anti-abortion message, holding that the Missouri law that allowed the denial was unconstitutionally vague. Choose Life of Missouri [advocacy website] had applied to get specialty license plates with the message "Choose Life," but its application was rejected when two senators on the license plate approval committee objected. US District Judge Scott Wright found the Missouri law unconstitutional because it did not include protections against state officials denying application based on viewpoint discrimination. The Missouri attorney general's office has not decided whether it will appeal that decision.






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US judge sentences Colombian rebel to 60 years in prison
Alexis Unkovic on January 28, 2008 3:06 PM ET

[JURIST] Judge Royce Lamberth of the US District Court for the District of Columbia sentenced [DOJ press release] Colombian rebel Ricardo Palmera [advocacy website] to 60 years in prison Monday for his role in a hostage-taking conspiracy involving three American citizens in Colombia [JURIST news archive]. Palmera, aka Simon Trinidad, is a senior member of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) [CDI backgrounder], Colombia’s largest guerrilla group which uses drug profits to finance its mission to overthrow the Colombian government. A federal jury convicted [DOJ press release] Palmera in July of conspiracy to take hostage three civilian Pentagon contractors who were captured when their counter-drug surveillance plane crashed in Colombia in 2003. They have reportedly been held by FARC forces ever since.

Palmera was originally extradited [JURIST report] to the United States in December 2004 to face drug smuggling and kidnapping charges. Colombian President Alvaro Uribe [BBC profile], a staunch supporter of the US, agreed to Palmera's release to US authorities after FARC failed to release any of the more than 60 hostages it was known to be holding. AP has more.






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UN anti-corruption conference opens in Bali
Caitlin Price on January 28, 2008 2:10 PM ET

[JURIST] UN Office on Drugs and Crime Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa [official profile] Monday opened a week-long UN anti-corruption conference in Bali with a plea [text; UN News Centre report] that nations take serious steps to enforce the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) [text]. Costa warned that efforts to recover stolen national assets are being hindered in many countries by politicians and bureaucrats who have an entrenched interest in maintaining the status quo. In addition, Costa called on private businesses to also take an active role in fighting institutionalized corruption [JURIST news archive], saying that in the past too many had encouraged or profited from government graft. Costa proposed a Corporate Integrity Charter to promote businesses' conformity to the UNCAC, as well as a body to review corporate compliance. The UNCAC was ratified by 107 nations, including the United States, and entered into force in 2005.

The conference is expected to take special interest in the case of former Indonesian President Haji Mohammed Suharto [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], who was the subject of corruption investigations before his death [JURIST report] Sunday. Suharto, who ruled Indonesia as President from 1967 to 1998, was sued by the government on charges that he embezzled $440 million from the Yayasan Supersemar [official website], a state-funded scholarship fund, between 1974 and 1998. Prosecutors began proceedings [JURIST report] in September seeking to recover $440 million in diverted states funds and $1.1 billion in damages from Suharto. On Monday, a human rights lawyer was quoted as saying that Indonesian law permits recovery from a decedent's estate of funds that were illegally converted during the person's lifetime. The government dropped criminal corruption charges against Suharto when several strokes rendered him unable to speak or write [JURIST reports]. Reuters has more.






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France anti-recidivism bill violates international law: HRW
Caitlin Price on January 28, 2008 1:22 PM ET

[JURIST] A French bill aimed at reducing violent crimes committed by repeat offenders violates international fair trial standards [press release], Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Monday. The proposed law, sponsored by the administration of French President Nicolas Sarkozy [official profile; BBC profile], would allow three judges to decide whether a convicted violent offender is still dangerous. After a multi-disciplinary panel, including a psychologist, assesses the convict's risk, the judges may grant an additional one-year sentence in a "socio-medico-legal detention center." Such sentences are renewable indefinitely and have limited appeal options. HRW said that "locking people up on speculation that they might commit some future crime undermines hundreds of years of criminal justice in France," and that the law violates the European Convention on Human Rights [text] Article 6 fair trial guarantees. The bill was approved [DPA report] earlier this month by the French National Assembly [official website, in French] and now goes to the French Senate [official website, in French] for debate Wednesday.

Sarkozy, who campaigned on a tough anti-crime platform, last year began to push draft legislation instituting minimum sentences for repeat offenders [JURIST report]. French Justice Minister Rachida Dati [official profile, in French] later appeared before the National Assembly [JURIST report] in support of the bill, which also allows minors as young as 16 to be treated as adults when charges are serious. Critics argue that the already-overcrowded French prisons, which house approximately 61,000 inmates but were designed for only 50,000, cannot withstand the additional pressure.






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Bush threatening veto of stopgap surveillance bill extension without telecoms shield
Alexis Unkovic on January 28, 2008 10:38 AM ET

[JURIST] The Bush administration warned Democratic leaders over the weekend that US President George W. Bush will veto any attempt to extend the temporary Protect America Act [S-1927 materials; JURIST report] beyond its February 1 expiration date that does not include liability protection for telecom companies, according to the Washington Post Sunday. The Protect Act, enacted as a stopgap while Congress worked on long-term legislation to "modernize" the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) [text; JURIST news archive], currently allows the US government to eavesdrop inside of the US without court approval as long as one end of a conversation is reasonably perceived to have been outside of the US. Senate Republicans defeated an attempt by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid [official website] to extend the Protect Act without the immunity provision for companies that might face lawsuits over data-sharing for an additional month on January 22. Reid then sent a letter to President Bush asking that he support an extension to the Protect Act [JURIST report] as it appeared unlikely Congress would agree to reauthorize FISA before February 1. He has since reportedly denounced Bush's expressed intent to veto such an extension.

In his weekly radio address [transcript; recorded audio] Saturday, Bush urged Congress to approve the Senate's proposed Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Bill [S 2248 materials; JURIST news archive] designed to revise and extend FISA so as to - among other things - expand the oversight of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) [official backgrounder], giving it greater powers to monitor the government's use of eavesdropping on American citizens. The US Senate voted [JURIST report] last Thursday against an amendment [Leahy press release] to the bill which would have incorporated several changes to the legislation that were previously approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Washington Post has more.

8:20 PM ET - On Monday, the US Senate voted down [roll call] an attempt by Senate Republicans to end further debate on extending the Protect Act.






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Turkish professor sentenced to 15 months for 'insulting Ataturk legacy'
Michael Sung on January 28, 2008 9:45 AM ET

[JURIST] A Turkish court on Monday sentenced political science professor Atilla Yayla Monday for "insulting the legacy" of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of modern Turkey. Yayla was charged [JURIST report] last March after suggesting in a November 2006 speech that Ataturk's regime from 1925 to 1945 was not as progressive as suggested by official Turkish literature. Yayla's lawyers say they will appeal the verdict. Yayla was charged under Law No. 5816 [HRW backgrounder], which prohibits "crimes committed against Ataturk." Individuals who publicly "insults or curses the memory" of Ataturk may be subject to a prison term of up to three years.

Many prominent Turkish journalists, authors, and academics have also been tried for insulting "Turkishness" [JURIST report] under the controversial Article 301 [Amnesty backgrounder; JURIST news archive] of Turkey's penal code [text, in Turkish]. Critics accuse Turkey of using the law to silence government critics, which has posed a major stumbling block [JURIST report] to Turkey's accession to the European Union. BBC News has more.






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France prosecutors seeking charges against rogue trader Kerviel
Joshua Pantesco on January 28, 2008 9:35 AM ET

[JURIST] French prosecutors asked a judge to file preliminary charges on Monday against alleged "rogue trader" Jerome Kerviel [BBC profile] in connection with what is being called the largest bank fraud in history. Prosecutors asked for preliminary charges of forgery, breach of trust, and fraud against Kerviel, who turned himself in [JURIST report] on Saturday and denies any wrongdoing. Societe Generale [bank website], Kerviel's former employer, says it lost $7 billion when it was forced to unload over $70 billion in fraudulent positions acquired by Kerviel. The bank explained how Kerviel hid his fraudulent activity from bank auditors in an explanatory note [PDF text] released Sunday.

If the judge approves some or all of the preliminary charges, prosecutors will have additional time to build their case against Kerviel before deciding whether to proceed to trial. Kerviel's lawyer has suggested that the bank is scapegoating Kerviel to cover up substantial losses suffered in connection with the US sub-prime mortgage crisis. Prosecutors extended Kerviel's weekend detention [JURIST report] on Sunday to continue his interrogation. AP has more.






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Son of Israel ex-PM to serve sentence after appeal rejected
Michael Sung on January 28, 2008 9:17 AM ET

[JURIST] The Israeli Supreme Court [official website, in Hebrew] on Monday rejected an appeal by Omri Sharon [JURIST news archive] to reduce his seven-month prison sentence, saying that it found no reason to lighten Sharon's sentence after a lower court reduced his sentence [JURIST report] from nine months for good behavior. Sharon, who will begin serving his sentence on February 27, was convicted in February 2006 of illegally raising money [JURIST report] for his father's re-election campaign.

Sharon, son of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, has renounced his parliamentary immunity and has given up his seat in the Knesset [official website]. Lower courts have previously delayed the start of Sharon's prison sentence so he may spend time with his comatose father [JURIST report]. Haaretz has more.






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Suharto civil corruption case may continue after death: lawyers
Joshua Pantesco on January 28, 2008 9:04 AM ET

[JURIST] Several prominent Indonesian lawyers told AFP on Monday that a civil corruption case against former Indonesian President Haji Mohammed Suharto [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] could continue after Suharto's death [JURIST report] on Sunday. Suharto, who ruled Indonesia as President from 1967 to 1998, was sued by the government on charges that he embezzled $440 million from the Yayasan Supersemar [official website], a state-funded scholarship fund, between 1974 and 1998. Prosecutors began proceedings [JURIST report] in September seeking to recover $440 million in diverted states funds and $1.1 billion in damages from Suharto. On Monday, a human rights lawyer was quoted as saying that Indonesian law permits recovery from a decedent's estate of funds that were illegally converted during the person's lifetime.

The government dropped criminal corruption charges against Suharto when several strokes rendered him unable to speak or write [JURIST reports]. AFP has more.






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France court sentences 'Darfur orphan' airlift workers
Michael Sung on January 28, 2008 8:55 AM ET

[JURIST] A French criminal court on Monday sentenced six French aid workers, convicted in Chad for attempting to kidnap [JURIST reports] 103 African children, to eight years in French prison, agreeing with French prosecutors' recommendations [JURIST report] to convert their sentences handed down by a court in Chad. The six were originally sentenced to eight years of hard labor in Chad, but were returned to France [JURIST reports] in late December 2007 after a formal request from the French Foreign Ministry under the 1976 France-Chad Agreement on Judicial Matters [PDF text]. The French criminal court did not retry the case, and lawyers representing the six have said they will appeal the sentence.

The aid workers, affiliated with Zoe's Ark [advocacy website], claimed they were attempting to airlift orphaned children [JURIST news archive] from the war-torn Sudanese region of Darfur, but investigations revealed that most of the children were not Sudanese or orphans. In January, another aid worker was charged [JURIST report] in French court with conspiring to allow illegal residents into the country in connection with the foiled airlift. AP has more.






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New Malaysia 'judicial fixing' video released by opposition leader
Joshua Pantesco on January 28, 2008 8:03 AM ET

[JURIST] A Malaysian opposition leader released the third part of a video [YouTube video; PDF transcript] Monday that allegedly shows prominent Malaysian lawyer VK Lingam admitting to having bribed former Chief Justice Dzaiddin Abdullah. Abdullah was Chief Justice from 2000 to 2003. According to a press release [text] from opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim accompanying the video, Lingam is quoted as saying, "And we have given him [Abdullah] the most expensive gift. Don't ask about it lah. I have given him and Vincent Tan has given him." Vincent Tan is another lawyer involved in the scandal.

Ibrahim, Malaysia's former Deputy Prime Minister and opposition leader, released the first part of the video [JURIST report] in September, sparking a large protest led by the Malaysia Bar Council against judicial corruption. The first video allegedly shows Lingam bragging about arranging the appointment of "friendly" judges to the bench. Earlier this month, Lingam denied the accusations and claimed to have been intoxicated [JURIST report] when the video was captured.

The videos prompted a Royal Commission investigation into broader charges of corruption in Malaysia's judiciary. In the press release accompanying the video, Ibrahim says:

while the creation of the Royal Commission gave the Malaysian public some hope that the credibility and integrity of the Judiciary might be restored, we are unimpressed with the proceedings and the procedural decisions made by the Commissioners thus far. The Royal Commission must operate with the highest level of integrity and transparency so as not to be seen as feeding the rot which has tarnished the Malaysian Courts.
AP has more.





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Iran ex-presidents plan appeal over ban on thousands of parliamentary candidates
Benjamin Klein on January 27, 2008 4:03 PM ET

[JURIST] Two former Iranian presidents and an ex-parliamentary speaker said Sunday that they plan to appeal to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei [official website] to overturn a ban prohibiting moderates and reformists in Iran [JURIST news archive] from running in the March 2008 parliamentary election. Former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami [official website, in Persian; BBC profile], a reformist, former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani [official website], a pragmatic conservative, and ex-speaker Mehdi Karroubi [Wikipedia profile] met late Saturday to discuss proposals to lift the ban. The Interior Ministry [official website, in Persian] announced last Wednesday that nearly one-third of the 7,240 candidates who applied to compete in the March 14 legislative elections would be barred from running for office. Among those banned were 190 of 200 candidates from the main reformist group in Iran, the Islamic Participation Front [Wikipedia backgrounder], 230 of approximately 300 candidates by the National Trust Party established by Karroubi, and all candidates affiliated with the Islamic Revolution Mujahedin Organization. Officials from the Interior Ministry stated that some of those disqualified were in involved in embezzlement or fraud, had sympathetic ties to terrorist organizations, or displayed a "tendency toward perverted cults."

Rejected candidates had until Sunday to file appeals with Khamenei, who has been unsympathetic to the reformists' cause and refused to reverse similar disqualifications before the 2004 parliamentary election [JURIST op-ed]. In that election, the Guardian Council, the upper parliamentary chamber composed of twelve members, banned 2,000 reformist candidates from entering the race, resulting in a landslide victory for conservatives. The 290-seat Iranian Parliament [official website, in English], known as the Majlis, has the power to propose and pass legislation and serves as a check on the office of the president. Political analysts have suggested that a reformist swell in the March election could challenge Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's socially conservative domestic program. AFP has more.






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France police extend custody of rogue bank trader suspected of massive fraud
Devin Montgomery on January 27, 2008 2:37 PM ET

[JURIST] French authorities on Sunday ordered alleged "rogue trader" Jerome Kerviel [BBC backgrounder] to be held for an additional 24 hours while police investigate the $73 billion worth of unauthorized trades Kerviel made while working for the French bank Societe Generale [bank website]. Since news of the fraud - the largest bank fraud in history - broke on Thursday, police have seized computer disks, documents, and other evidence from Kerviel's home and Societe Generale's offices. Under French law, prosecutors must either place Kerviel under formal investigation or release him from custody when the extension expires on Monday.

The bank, which lost $7 billion when it was forced to unload the fraudulent positions, has filed a criminal complaint against Kerviel, and alleged the methods he used to commit the fraud in a explanatory note [PDF text] released Sunday:

-firstly, he ensured that the characteristics of the fictitious operations limited the chances of a control: for example he chose very specific operations with no cash movements or margin call and which did not require immediate confirmation;

-he misappropriated the IT access codes belonging to operators in order to cancel certain operations;

-he falsified documents allowing him to justify the entry of fictitious operations.

-he ensured that the fictitious operations involved a different financial instrument to the one he had just cancelled, in order to increase his chances of not being controlled.
Kerviel, who turned himself in voluntarily [JURIST report] on Saturday, maintains his innocence and is reported to be cooperating with police. AFP has more. AP has additional coverage





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Former Indonesia dictator Suharto dies at age 86
Eric Firkel on January 27, 2008 10:36 AM ET

[JURIST] Former Indonesian President Haji Mohammed Suharto [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] died Sunday at age 86. Suharto, a former US Cold War ally, presided over what is considered to be one of the most brutal dictatorships of the 20th century with as many as one million political opponents killed during his time in power. Reaction across the country is split with hundreds traveled to Suharto's family home in Jakarta to mourn his death while many others criticized Suharto's corruption and brutality.

In recent years, both Suharto and his son Tommy Suharto [BBC profile] have been subject to a series of corruption charges [BBC backgrounder]. In September, Indonesian prosecutors began court proceedings [JURIST report] against the elder Suharto in a civil action alleging that he embezzled $440 million from the Yayasan Supersemar [official website], a state-funded scholarship fund, between 1974 and 1998. Earlier criminal corruption charges were dropped because Suharto was rendered unable to speak or write [JURIST reports] as a result of several strokes. AP has more.






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Russia ex-PM disqualified from presidential election after forgery claims
Eric Firkel on January 27, 2008 9:44 AM ET

[JURIST] The Russian Central Election Commission [official website] issued a unanimous decision Sunday to ban former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov [BBC profile] from running in the March presidential election. The Election Commission found that hundreds of thousands of signatures he had to submit in support of his candidacy were either forged or incorrect. Under Russian law, no more than 5 percent of signatures in support of a candidate can be disqualified if that candidate is to run in the election. In Kasyanov's case, 13.36 percent were rejected. Russian prosecutors said earlier this month that they had launched a forgery investigation [JURIST report] into Kasyanov.

Kasyanov has accused Russian President Vladmir Putin of directly refusing to register his candidacy. Dmitry Medvedev [BBC profile], chairman of Russian gas company Gazprom [corporate website], and Putin's handpicked successor is leading all major opinion polls, while Kasyanov was polling at less than 1 percent. BBC News has more.






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Ex-Guantanamo prisoners in Sudan demand compensation and apology
Steve Czajkowski on January 26, 2008 3:32 PM ET

[JURIST] A Sudanese aid worker formerly held at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] was among a group of ex-prisoners that demanded money and an apology from the US government Saturday for physical and mental torture they say they were subjected to at the prison. Adil Hassan Hamad, freed last December [JURIST report], told a conference in Khartoum that he and his colleagues would seek damages in US courts. The conference was held by local rights groups to demand the release of the seven Sudanese still imprisoned at Guantanamo.

One of the remaining seven Sudanese prisoners is Al Jazeera [media website] journalist Sami al-Haj [advocacy website], arrested [CPJ report] in Pakistan in 2001 while traveling as a cameraman for Al Jazeera. He has been detained at Guantanamo for over five years without charge. Reuters has more.






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France police hold rogue bank trader suspected of massive fraud
Steve Czajkowski on January 26, 2008 2:36 PM ET

[JURIST] Jerome Kerviel, a former trader at the French bank Societe Generale [official website], turned himself in to French police Saturday in connection with an investigation of what caused the bank to lose more than $7 billion. Kerviel has been accused of carrying out a scheme which amounted to the largest bank fraud in history. Societe Generale, where Kerviel worked since 2000, said it discovered the plan on January 18. The bank stated that Kerviel acted alone and that his strategy involved betting billions of dollars of the bank's money on European stock index futures.

French officials have pressured Societe Generale to explain how Kerviel's actions did not draw the attention of his supervisors or the bank's internal officers. The bank's chief executive, Daniel Bouton, said in an interview [Le Figaro report, in French] "...when the control systems detected an anomaly, he managed to convince control officers that it was nothing more than a minor error.” The New York Times has more. Le Figaro has additional coverage, in French.






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Afghanistan working to ensure safety of detainees: ambassador
Nick Fiske on January 26, 2008 11:38 AM ET

[JURIST] Afghan Ambassador to Canada Omar Samad [official profile] said Friday that his country still considers its agreement with Canada regarding the transfer of detainees to be in effect and is working closely with NATO forces to ensure the safety of prisoners in Afghan custody. The statement [press release] comes two days after reports surfaced that Canada had ceased turning over detainees to Afghan authorities [JURIST report; press release, PDF] in November amid concerns that prisoners were being abused in at least one Afghan detention center. Samad said that Afghanistan is currently investigating the allegations. He also said that earlier this month, Afghan President Hamid Karzai [official profile] issued a decree "reinforcing the prohibition on human rights violations" in Afghan prisons. Samad said that the Afghan government was only made aware of Canada's decision this week, and characterized it as "operational [in] nature." AP has more.

The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association [advocacy website] on Monday released internal Canadian government documents [JURIST report; full text, PDF] detailing evidence of continued mistreatment and abuse of detainees transferred by Canadian forces to Afghan authorities. The documents, originally distributed to senior officials of the Canadian government and officers of the Canadian military, detail an investigation conducted by Canadian officials last November which found circumstantial evidence that detainees were abused at a facility belonging to the Afghan National Directorate of Security in Kandahar.






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Suspected Russia racketeer wanted in US arrested in Moscow
Kiely Lewandowski on January 26, 2008 10:56 AM ET

[JURIST] Suspected Russian crime lord Semyon Y. Mogilevich has been arrested in Moscow on tax evasion charges, Russian officials said Friday. Mogilevich was arrested late Wednesday and a court approved his arrest on Thursday. Mogilevich is also wanted in the US [FBI profile] on unrelated charges for allegedly manipulating the stock of the billion dollar Pennsylvania corporation YBM Magnex International.

Mogilevich and two associates were indicted [press release, PDF] in 2003 on 45 counts of racketeering, securities fraud, wire fraud, mail fraud and money laundering charges. At the time charges were filed, US Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania Patrick Meehan said that the defendants inflated the value of YBM stock "so that they could profit at the public's expense. Books were cooked, auditors were deceived, bribes were offered to accountants. The defendants profited to the tune of more than $33 million, while the total loss to investors was more than $150 million." The US and Russia do not currently have an extradition treaty. AP has more. The New York Times has additional coverage.






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Annan condemns Kenya 'gross and systematic' rights abuses
Nick Fiske on January 26, 2008 10:29 AM ET

[JURIST] Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan [official profile] expressed concern Saturday about "gross and systematic abuses of human rights" taking place in Kenya in the wake of last month's disputed presidential election [JURIST report]. Annan is in the country to help mediate the conflict between Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki [official profile] and opposition candidate Raila Odinga [campaign profile]. Annan acknowledged that the violence in the country initially stemmed from protests concerning Kibaki's re-election, but said that it had evolved into "something else." Annan also said, "We cannot accept that periodically, every five years or so, this sort of incident takes place and no-one is held to account. Impunity cannot be allowed to stand," adding that Kenyans should "respond with sympathy and understanding, and not try to revenge."

The controversial presidential vote has sparked simmering ethnic tensions in Kenya [JURIST news archive], where Kibaki has long been accused of using his position to favor members of the Kikuyu tribe. Fueling accusations of malfeasance, Kibaki won the December 27 election despite early opinion polls that placed rival candidate Odinga in the lead. Thousands of opposition supporters took to the streets following the election which prompted the government to temporarily ban public rallies and institute a curfew in Nairobi, the capital city. In all, over 700 people have been killed since protests began and thirteen nations, including several European Union members and the United States, have threatened to cut off aid to Kenya's government until the crisis is resolved and democracy is restored. Earlier this week, Odinga's opposition party, the Orange Democratic Movement [party website] filed a formal complaint [JURIST report] with the International Criminal Court [official website], alleging that Kibaki's administration has committed crimes against humanity while using force against demonstrators. The Kenyan National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) [official site] on Saturday launched an official investigation [KNCHR brief; Standard report] into the alleged human rights violations. BBC News has more. The Standard has local coverage.






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Myanmar still arresting political dissidents: Amnesty International
Kiely Lewandowski on January 26, 2008 10:04 AM ET

[JURIST] The military government of Myanmar continues to arrest political dissidents [press release] despite assurances given by Prime Minister Thein Sein in November that the arrests had stopped and no more would take place, Amnesty International [advocacy website] reported Friday. There have been 96 arrests [Amnesty materials] since November and at least 700 of those arrested during September protests and 1,150 political prisoners held before the protests have yet to be released. In a statement [text] Catherine Baber, director of Amnesty's Asia-Pacific programme, said:

Four months on from the violent crackdown on peaceful demonstrators, rather than stop its unlawful arrests the Myanmar government has actually accelerated them. The new arrests in December and January target people who have attempted to send evidence of the crackdown to the international community, clearly showing that the government's chief priority is to silence its citizens who would hold them to account.
UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar, Paulo Pinheiro [official profile], issued a report [DOC text; JURIST report] in December that included recommendations for restoring order to Myanmar. Baber urged the international community Friday to further Pinheiro's work in the country:
In view of the accelerating rate of arrests and other human rights violations four months on, the international community should press the government of Myanmar to immediately invite Prof. Pinheiro back to the country to conduct the full-fledged fact-finding mission he has requested.
On Thursday, foreign affairs officials from the US, UK, and France promised progress towards improved human rights in Myanmar would be a "priority" at the World Economic forum. Myanmar [JURIST news archive] began a crackdown on political dissidents late last year after Myanmar security officers arrested hundreds of Buddhist monks demonstrating against rising fuel prices and human rights abuses by the military regime. At least 10 people were killed when government soldiers shot into protesting crowds [JURIST report] and the government has said that some 3,000 people were arrested for participating in the protests. BBC News has more.





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Spain seeking ban on Basque parties linked to ETA political arm
Eric Firkel on January 25, 2008 7:23 PM ET

[JURIST] A senior Spanish official said Friday that Spanish authorities have initiated legal proceedings to ban two Basque political parties for ties to ETA [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive], the armed Basque separatist movement. Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega [official website, in Spanish; backgrounder] said the government has evidence that both the Basque Nationalist Action Party (ANV) [party website] and the Communist Party of the Basque Lands (PCTV) [Wikipedia backgrounder] have close ties to Batasuna [BBC backgrounder], ETA's banned political arm. The government wants to prevent the parties from fielding candidates for a general election schedule for March.

The Supreme Court of Spain [official website, in Spanish] banned Batasuna in 2003 for its refusal to cut ties with ETA. ETA has been blamed for more than 800 deaths in bombings and attacks since the 1960s.






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Bosnian Serb army commander transferred from ICTY to serve sentence in Norway
Steve Czajkowski on January 25, 2008 3:19 PM ET

[JURIST] Vidoje Blagojevic [ICTY case backgrounder, PDF], former commander of the Bratunac Brigade of the Bosnian Serb Army, was transferred to Norway [press release] Friday to serve the remainder of his 15-year sentence for his role in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre [BBC timeline, JURIST news archive]. The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in 2005 sentenced [JURIST report] Blagojevic to 18 years in prison after convicting him of complicity in genocide, murder, and other crimes. The ICTY appeals chamber reduced Blagojevic's sentence to 15 years when it reversed [judgment summary; JURIST report] his conviction of complicity in genocide, holding that Blagojevic should have been acquitted on those charges because he was not aware that the massacre was going to take place. The court upheld his other convictions on aiding and abetting the persecutions, killings and forcible transfer of Bosnian Muslims.

The ICTY has determined that the 1995 killings of more than 7,000 Bosnian Muslims by government forces at Srebrenica constituted genocide. The two men believed to have masterminded the massacre, Ratko Mladic [ICTY case backgrounder; JURIST news archive] and former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic [ICTY case backgrounder], have yet to be captured. The UN News Service has more.






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Mukasey rejects call for special counsel in CIA interrogation videos probe
Patrick Porter on January 25, 2008 2:24 PM ET

[JURIST] US Attorney General Michael Mukasey [official profile] said Friday that he does not plan to appoint a special counsel to investigate allegations that the US Central Intelligence Agency ordered the destruction of videotapes showing the interrogation of terror suspects [JURIST news archive], despite requests by some in Congress. At a press briefing, Mukasey said the investigation was opened merely on "some indication - which is a lot less than probable cause - some indication that there was any violation of any federal statute."

Earlier this month, US House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) [official website] sent a letter [text; JURIST report] to Mukasey urging him to either appoint the outside counsel, or to explain why he refrains from doing so. The Department of Justice announced its criminal probe [JURIST report] into the destruction of the tapes earlier this month. The CIA videotaped the interrogation of two al Qaeda suspects in 2002, but said that the tapes were destroyed in 2005 amid concerns that they could be leaked to the public and compromise the identities of the interrogators. AP has more.






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EU moves closer to adopting plane passenger data-sharing system
Patrick Porter on January 25, 2008 1:36 PM ET

[JURIST] Slovenian Interior Minister Dragutin Mate said Friday that a European Union plan to archive and exchange air passenger data [JURIST report] had general support among EU ministers and could take effect as early as 2009. Interior ministers from EU member countries discussed the Passenger Name Record (PNR) plan at a Friday conference [press release] in Slovenia, the current holder of the Presidency of the EU [official website]. Privacy advocates have been critical of the plan and EU officials have expressed similar concerns. EU Commissioner for Justice, Freedom and Security Franco Frattini [official profile], meanwhile said the system was "absolutely necessary."

Frattini announced the plan last November as part of a package of counter-terrorism proposals [press release, JURIST report]. In July, the EU and US reached a new agreement on passenger data-sharing [JURIST report] under which air carriers will transmit passenger data directly to the US Department of Homeland Security within 15 minutes of a European flight's departure for the US. Reuters has more. AP has additional coverage.






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Pakistan lawyers protest continued detention of former chief justice
Patrick Porter on January 25, 2008 1:02 PM ET

[JURIST] Pakistani lawyers demonstrated in Islamabad Thursday to protest the continued detention of ousted Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry [JURIST news archive]. The government of Pakistan has kept Chaudhry and several other judges and lawyers under preventative detention since President Musharraf declared emergency rule [text; JURIST report] on November 3. According to a CBC News report, a lawyer present at the protest blamed Musharraf for many of the country's problems and said "when there is a free election, all the militancy will stop." With general elections slated for Feb. 18, opposition leaders have said that without an independent judiciary to supervise the vote, there is likely to be rigging.

Earlier this week, a report [text] by Pakistan's The News daily suggested the government may be skirting constitutional limits on detentions [JURIST report]. The Pakistani constitution requires that preventative detention be limited to 90 days unless a review board has extended the detention. Chaudhry has been under virtual house arrest [JURIST report] since at least November 5, when an Army major locked him in his residence and took the keys. The 90-day detention period expires January 31, but the government has not referred his case to a review board, instead saying that because Chaudhry and other deposed judges are not being held under court-ordered detention they therefore do not qualify for review. The Pakistan Bar Council continues to protest the removal of Chaudhry and refuses to recognize the legitimacy of replacement judges who had taken oaths of office under President Pervez Musharraf's now-abrogated Provisional Constitutional Order [text]. CBC News has more.

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Federal judge orders government response on CIA destruction of interrogation videos
Jeannie Shawl on January 25, 2008 11:19 AM ET

[JURIST] US District Judge Richard W. Roberts on Thursday ordered [PDF text] the government to submit a report to the court by February 14 detailing why the CIA destroyed videotapes showing the interrogation of terror suspects [JURIST news archive], whether other evidence connected to a Guantanamo Bay detainee's lawsuit may have been destroyed, and what steps the government has taken to preserve relevant evidence. Roberts' ruling is in response to a motion [PDF text; SCOTUSblog report] filed on behalf of Guantanamo Bay detainee Hani Abdullah asking the court to compel the government to report on its compliance with a July 2005 order [PDF text] issued by Roberts requiring the government to "preserve and maintain all evidence, documents, and information, without limitation, now or ever in respondents' possession, custody or control, regarding the individual detained petitioners" in cases brought by several detainees. Several similar motions have been brought in federal court, but Roberts' order is the first to require the government to explain its actions in destroying the tapes. Earlier this month, US District Judge Henry H. Kennedy, Jr. refused to order an inquiry into the CIA's destruction of the tapes and District Judge Alvin Hellerstein is currently considering a motion [JURIST reports] brought on behalf of detainees to hold the CIA in contempt of court for destroying the interrogation videos.

Existence of the videotapes was verified in November after the CIA admitted it had mistakenly denied [JURIST report] that it had recorded interrogations in a court declaration during the trial of 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui. CIA Director Michael Hayden acknowledged [statement text] last month that the CIA had videotaped the interrogation of two al Qaeda suspects in 2002, but said that the tapes had been destroyed in 2005 amid concerns that they could be leaked to the public and compromise the identities of the interrogators. The US Justice Department has opened a criminal probe [JURIST report] into the matter, and multiple congressional inquiries are underway. AP has more.






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Mexico human rights commission denounces military abuses
Lisl Brunner on January 25, 2008 7:54 AM ET

[JURIST] The Mexican military has committed grave human rights abuses, including the torture, rape and murder of civilians, according to a report [press release] from the Mexican National Human Rights Commission [official website] submitted to the Mexican National Congress. According to Commission President Jorge Luis Soberanes Fernandez, the military committed these offenses while trying to combat drug-related crime committed by gangs in areas near the border of the United States. He attributed the abuses to the lack of training that soldiers receive to prepare them to deal with civilian populations.

According to the Commission's Wednesday report, state agents were also responsible for abuses during the 2006 uprising in Oaxaca [BBC backgrounder; JURIST report], as well as for mistreatment of indigenous people and migrant workers. Soberanes Fernandez also denounced the state's failure to protect journalists and media workers from violence in the past year, citing 84 reports of attacks against journalists in 2007 which included four deaths and three disappearances. Reuters has more.






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Bangladesh top court rules trial of ex-PM Hasina can continue
Nick Fiske on January 24, 2008 7:06 PM ET

[JURIST] The Bangladesh Supreme Court [official website] ruled on Thursday that the extortion trial of former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina [party profile; JURIST news archive] could continue, rejecting arguments by Hasina's lawyers that she could not be tried under the current state of emergency rules because the alleged crimes occurred before the national state of emergency [JURIST report] was declared last January. Hasina was formally charged [JURIST report] in Dhaka earlier this month with two counts of extortion for taking nearly $1.16 million from two businessmen while in office between 1996 and 2001. In October, Hasina denied the accusations [JURIST report] during questioning by officials. A verdict is expected to be handed down within 60 days. If convicted, Hasina would be banned from running for office for 10 years. Reuters has more.

The current interim government in Bangladesh, led by former central bank chief Fakhruddin Ahmed [official website; TIME interview], has arrested over 170 high-profile citizens since the military-backed government declared a state of emergency due to concerns that fraud would mar scheduled national elections. Both Hasina's sister, Shaikh Rehana, and her cousin, Shaikh Selim, a former minister in her cabinet, have been charged with extortion as well. Hasina's rival, former Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia [profile], was charged with corruption [JURIST report] in September 2007.






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Netherlands lawmakers call for reform of terror legislation in wake of court ruling
Benjamin Klein on January 24, 2008 6:26 PM ET

[JURIST] Dutch parliamentarians called for changes to the country’s terrorism laws Thursday in response to a Wednesday appeals court decision overturning the convictions of seven men [JURIST report] suspected of belonging to the Dutch Muslim Hofstad Network [Wikipedia backgrounder]. The Hague Appeals Court dismissed charges that the men were part of a terrorist network that included Muslim extremist Mohammed Bouyeri [Wikipedia profile], who confessed to the 2004 murder [JURIST report] of Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh [Wikipedia profile]. Fred Teeven, a former justice ministry official and a member of the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy [party website, in Dutch] criticized current Dutch anti-terror law for restricting justice ministry officials from effectively convicting members of groups like the Hofstad Network. Haersma Buma of the Christian Democrats [party website, in Dutch] also pushed for reform, saying that he would back changes to the law if the Council of State, the highest court in the Netherlands, upholds the appeal court's decision. Dutch prosecutors at the Public Prosecution Service [official website, in English] expressed disappointment in the ruling and said it would study the verdicts carefully before deciding whether to appeal the case to the Council of State.

The Hague Appeals Court declined to classify the Hofstad Network as a terrorist organization because it had no lasting and structured cooperation and members did not share a common ideology. In response to rising terrorism activity, the Dutch parliament [official website] amended the country's terrorism laws in 2006, approving an anti-terror bill [JURIST report] that dramatically lowered the amount of evidence needed for Dutch police to arrest terror suspects and allowed officials to hold suspects for up to two weeks without charge. DutchNews has more.






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DOJ pressing for more funds to help fight violent crime
Nick Fiske on January 24, 2008 6:00 PM ET

[JURIST] US President George W. Bush will request an additional $200 million dollars in federal funding to help state and local authorities combat violent crime, US Attorney General Michael Mukasey [official profile] announced Thursday in remarks [full text] to the US Conference of Mayors in Washington, DC. The earmarked funds will be used to strengthen the Department of Justice's Violent Crime Reduction Partnership, a program that combines federal and state resources for crime-prevention and prisoner re-entry initiatives. Although the $200 million is a significant increase over the $75 million earmarked for the program in 2007 [DOJ press release], many mayors expressed concern that the money would only be enough to bolster existing programs and would likely not cover the cost of hiring any new police officers. Mukasey also warned against the potential dangers associated with implementing a December 2007 decision by the US Sentencing Commission [official website] to retroactively reduce penalties for crack cocaine offenders [JURIST report; press release] that was handed down last month. He said that as many as 1,600 inmates may be eligible for immediate release, many of whom may be violent offenders or have failed to complete community re-entry programs, although some mayors said the released prisoners would be more likely to be nonviolent offenders.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation released statistics [FBI fact sheet; JURIST report] earlier this month that showed that although violent crimes in the first half of 2007 were generally down for the first time in two years, small cities and rural areas did see a rise in violent offenses. Mayors have long requested help from Washington to battle budget cuts that have limited the size of the police forces in their cities, as well as rising gang activity. AP has more. Reuters has additional coverage.






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Turkey ends weeklong YouTube ban
Benjamin Klein on January 24, 2008 5:52 PM ET

[JURIST] Turkey Thursday lifted a nationwide ban imposed last week on the popular video-sharing website YouTube [corporate website]. Last week, a Turkish court ordered Turk Telecom [corporate website] to block access to YouTube [JURIST report] in reported response to video clips insulting the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk [Turkish News profile]. It was not immediately clear whether access to the website was resumed because the controversial clips were removed. A Turkish court issued a similar order [JURIST report] in March 2007 in response to a “virtual war” on YouTube between Turkey and Greece, in which citizens of both countries posted videos mocking each other. AP has more.

In Turkey, insulting Ataturk is an imprisonable offense. Similarly, "insulting the Turkish identity" is also a serious crime under the controversial Article 301 [Amnesty backgrounder; JURIST news archive] of Turkey's penal code [text, in Turkish]. Critics say Turkey has used Article 301 to silence government critics [OSCE review of the Draft Turkish Penal Code, PDF], which has presented a stumbling block [JURIST report] to the country’s proposed accession to the European Union.






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Senate rejects surveillance legislation amendment
Leslie Schulman on January 24, 2008 4:34 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Senate on Thursday voted 60-36 [roll call] against an amendment [Leahy press release] to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Bill [S 2248 materials; JURIST news archive] which would have incorporated several changes to the legislation that were previously approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill is designed to revise and extend the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) [text; JURIST news archive] so as to - among other things - expand the oversight of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) [official backgrounder], giving it greater powers to monitor the government's use of eavesdropping on American citizens. Currently, the temporary Protect America Act [S 1927 materials; JURIST report] expands FISA to allow the US government to eavesdrop inside of the US without court approval as long as one end of a telephone or computer conversation is reasonably perceived to have been outside of the US. That act is set to sunset on February 1 and both President George W. Bush [press release] and Vice President Dick Cheney [JURIST report] have recently called for Congressional action to do away with the need for future renewals by making FISA permanent. They have also urged Congress to amend FISA to grant immunity to telecommunications companies [JURIST report] from lawsuits related to their participation in the NSA warrantless surveillance program [JURIST news archive], saying that government agencies did not have the resources to fight terror without cooperation from private telecom providers. Bush has threatened to veto any revised surveillance bill that does not include the immunity provisions. The version of the legislation rejected by the Senate Thursday did not contain an immunity provision. AP has more.

Meanwhile, congressional leaders announced Thursday that the White House has agreed to release documents pertaining to the government's warrantless domestic surveillance program to members of the House of Representatives Judiciary and Intelligence Committees. The announcement ends months of heated discussion between Congress and the White House regarding the government's use of secret wiretapping, which culminated last fall when the White House refused to comply with subpoenas [JURIST report] demanding the release of the FISA documents. Bush had agreed in October [JURIST report] to allow Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and ranking Republican Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) to see the documents. AP has more.






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EPA defends California auto emissions waiver rejection before Senate panel
Leslie Schulman on January 24, 2008 4:08 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) [official website] will not overturn its rejection [press release; JURIST report] of California's request for a waiver that would have allowed it to impose stricter greenhouse gas emissions standards on cars and light trucks, EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson testified [recorded video] Thursday in front of the US Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works [official website]. Johnson reiterated the EPA's opinion that it is preferable to implement a single, unified national standard for greenhouse gas regulation, as opposed to a state-by-state network of regulations, and pointed to the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 [HR 6 materials; WH fact sheet], signed into law in December by President George W. Bush. The act will require automakers to reach an industry-wide average fuel efficiency for cars, SUVs and small trucks of 35 miles per gallon by 2020. Earlier this week, the EPA denied a request [JURIST report] for full explanation of the emissions waiver rejection. AP has more.

Johnson's testimony at the hearing [committee materials] was requested by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) [official profile] after her environmental committee opened an investigation into the EPA's rejection. According to excerpts of documents [text] turned over to the Senate Committee by the EPA following the waiver rejection, EPA officials had told Johnson that California had met the "compelling and extraordinary conditions" requisite to justify the federal waiver, in contrast to the EPA's December statement when it denied the waiver that California didn't have "compelling and extraordinary conditions." Boxer responded to the documents, saying:

As our investigation of the EPA record continues, it is clear that EPA's own experts told Administrator Johnson that California's case for the waiver is solid. His decision was not supported by the facts, by the law, by the science, or by precedent. [Thursday's] hearing provides an important opportunity to closely question the Administrator on this unconscionable decision. I look forward to the reversal of this decision as soon as possible.
The California standards would have required car manufacturers to cut emissions by 25 percent from cars and light trucks, and 18 percent from SUVs, starting with the 2009 model year. California's Air Resources Board [official website] adopted the greenhouse gas standards in 2004 [press release], but it could not mandate them unless the EPA granted a waiver of the lighter Federal Clean Air Act (CAA) [text] standards. California is the only state permitted to seek a waiver under the CAA, but if granted, other states have the option of choosing between the federal standards and those of California. At least 11 states had indicated that they would follow the California standard. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has said the state will appeal the decision [statement text]. AP has more.





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Turkish lawmakers agree to lift headscarf ban
Leslie Schulman on January 24, 2008 3:48 PM ET

[JURIST] Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party and the key opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) [party websites] agreed Thursday to lift a ban on women wearing headscarves [JURIST report] in universities and public offices. The agreement is in response to recent calls [JURIST report] from Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan [IHT backgrounder] for the government to lift the ban immediately and not wait for a proposed amendment to the constitution [text]. Erdogan has repeatedly called for an end to the ban, saying it effectively denies some Muslim women access to higher education [JURIST report], but Turkish secularists believe that his insistence on ending the ban is a political statement against secular principles. Opponents say the ban on headscarves is necessary to protect the separation of religion and state. The Turkish parliament must vote on lifting the ban, though a date for a vote has not yet been set.

Traditionally worn by Muslim women, headscarves and other forms of religious dress [JURIST news archive] are banned from many public places in modern Turkey, a majority Muslim country despite official secularism. In 2006, a Turkish court acquitted [JURIST report] retired archaeologist Muazzez Ilmiye Cig [personal website] of charges of insulting religion after postulating in her book that headscarves were originally worn before the founding of Islam by ancient Mesopotamian priestesses who initiated young men into sex. The case also drew criticism from the International Association for Assyriology (IAA) [group website; IAA appeal] and from the European Union, which had warned Turkey that its laws infringing freedom of expression may delay its entry into the union. Reuters has more.

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 Comment: Lifting Turkey's headscarf ban: freedom of choice, or Islamist Trojan horse?





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Japan police issue new interrogation guidelines to curb abuses
Mike Rosen-Molina on January 24, 2008 3:09 PM ET

[JURIST] The Japanese National Police Agency (NPA) [official website, in Japanese] on Thursday issued guidelines for police behavior during suspect interrogations. The Japanese police have frequently been accused of forcing confessions from suspects [BBC report] using questionable or overly aggressive tactics; in one case, police pressured an innocent man into admitting to committing a rape, a confession that ultimately earned him two years in prison until the actual perpetrator was caught. The guidelines mark the first attempt by the body to curb such abuses. The guidelines include prohibitions against touching, threatening, bribing or verbally harassing suspects. Interrogations are now also limited to only eight hours in length. Police departments will also be required to install one-way mirrors in interrogation rooms so that outside observers can monitor the process, and to establish an internal supervising board to investigate complaints.

Critics have long decried the Japanese justice system's reliance on confessions, which they say allows prosecutors to push cases forward without collecting compelling evidence. More than 99 percent of cases in Japan [JURIST news archive] that go to court end in conviction, but defendants usually receive much lighter sentences if they confess. Some lawyers said that the new guidelines do not do enough to protect suspects, insisting that defense lawyers should be allowed to be present during interrogation. AP has more.






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UN rights council criticizes Israel for Gaza violations
Brett Murphy on January 24, 2008 2:51 PM ET

[JURIST] The UN Human Rights Council [official website] Thursday adopted a resolution [draft text, PDF] criticizing Israel for recent military attacks and a week-long blockade [JURIST report] against the Palestinian-controlled Gaza Strip that the Council says amount to human rights violations. The resolution, passed by a 30-1 vote with 15 Western states abstaining, calls the military attacks on Palestinian areas "grave violations of the human and humanitarian rights of the Palestinian civilians therein" that "undermine international efforts" in the region. The resolution also:

2. Calls for urgent international action to put an immediate end to the grave violations committed by the occupying Power, Israel, in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including the series of incessant and repeated Israeli military attacks and incursions therein and the siege of the occupied Gaza Strip;

3. Demands that the occupying Power, Israel, lift immediately the siege it has imposed on the occupied Gaza Strip, restore continued supply of fuel, food and medicine and reopen the border crossings;

4. Calls for immediate protection of the Palestinian civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory in compliance with human rights law and international humanitarian law;

5. Urges all parties concerned to respect the rules of human rights law and international humanitarian law and to refrain from violence against the civilian population...
Palestinian Ambassador to the UN Mohammed Abu-Koash told Reuters that he hopes the resolution will prompt countries to pressure Israel to stop military action against the Palestinian territory. Earlier this week, Israel and the US said they would boycott [JURIST report] the Council's special session, noting that the resolution failed to mention rocket attacks Israel says justified the country's actions.

In December, Israeli human rights group Yesh Din criticized [JURIST report] the Israeli government for failing to investigate Palestinian killings allegedly committed by members of the Israel Defense Force [official website]. Israeli military officials later said that there was a 36 percent increase [JURIST report] of such investigations in 2007. In November, the Israeli Supreme Court blocked government plans to cut electricity [JURIST report] in the Gaza Strip, while allowing the continuation of fuel supply cuts. Reuters has more.





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UK government introduces bill allowing 42-day detention of uncharged terror suspects
Jeannie Shawl on January 24, 2008 1:06 PM ET

[JURIST] UK Home Secretary Jacqui Smith on Thursday unveiled the Counter-Terrorism Bill 2008 [draft text, PDF; bill materials; BBC Q&A], which among other proposals to strengthen the country's terrorism laws includes a provision increasing the number of days a terror suspect can be detained without charge to 42 days, up from the current limit of 28. The Home Office described the bill [press release] as "designed to address the constantly changing threat posed to the UK by the violent extremists." In addition to the increased pre-charge detention period [JURIST news archive], the bill also proposes:

The draft bill was immediately met with opposition from rights groups, including Liberty, which described the proposal to extend the pre-charge detention period as flawed [press release]. Several opposition parties - including the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats - have said they will oppose the bill.

Smith first proposed a 42-day detention period [JURIST report] in December. The proposal followed statements made in June 2007 by former UK Home Secretary John Reid calling for longer pre-charge time limits [JURIST report], as well as a proposal [JURIST report] floated in July that would have allowed the extension of the 28-day limit after a declared state of emergency and would have allowed judges to authorize weekly extensions for up to 56 days subject to parliamentary notification. AP has more. BBC News has additional coverage.





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US Marines intel officer to face May court-martial on Haditha charges
Jeannie Shawl on January 24, 2008 12:46 PM ET

[JURIST] US Marine 1st Lt. Andrew Grayson [defense website] will face court-martial in May on charges of making false official statements and obstruction of justice in connection to the killing of 24 Iraqi civilians at Haditha [USMC timeline; JURIST news archive] in November 2005. During Grayson's Wednesday arraignment [press release] at Camp Pendleton, a military judge set a trial date of May 28. Grayson did not enter a plea on the charges [JURIST report], which also include attempting to fraudulently separate from the Marine Corps.

A defense lawyer for Grayson, an intelligence officer accused of mishandling an investigation into the killings, said in September 2007 that Grayson rejected a plea offer [JURIST report] from military prosecutors requiring him to admit attempting to cover up the killings in exchange for prosecutors dropping all charges. He is accused of allegedly ordering a subordinate to delete photographic evidence [JURIST report] taken hours after the killings to keep it out of a report being prepared for top-ranking officers and a reporter. Eight Marines were initially charged in connection to the Haditha incident, though charges have since been dropped against four. Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich [advocacy website], leader of the squad implicated in the killings, will face court-martial in February [JURIST report]. Reuters has more.






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Boston 'Big Dig' contractor settles ceiling collapse case for $458M
Mike Rosen-Molina on January 24, 2008 12:23 PM ET

[JURIST] Lead contractor Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff [corporate website] has agreed to a $458 million settlement to end an inquiry stemming from a July 10, 2006 ceiling panel collapse in Boston's $15 billion Big Dig [official website] tunnel project that killed one person, officials said Wednesday. In July 2007, the National Transportation Safety Board [official website] concluded that the ceiling collapse was most likely caused [press release; report, PDF] by the "inappropriate use of an epoxy anchor adhesive" by construction contractors Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff and Gannett Fleming, Inc [corporate website]. A US Attorney told reporters that the settlement did not shield Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff from liability for any possible "future catastrophic events" over the next ten years that cause between $50 and $100 million in damages. Reuters has more.

In September 2007, an anchoring and fastening product manufacturer pleaded not guilty [AG press release; JURIST report] to criminal charges stemming from the collapse. Power Fasteners [corporate website] was indicted [press release; JURIST report] on one count of involuntary manslaughter based on allegations that Powers was aware that the wrong kind of its epoxy product was being used to anchor three-ton cement ceiling tiles but failed to alert project managers either through marketing materials or when specifically asked. Powers has maintained that it was unaware that its epoxy product would be used to support the ceiling of the tunnel. The charge against Power Fasteners was the first criminal action taken in connection with the collapse.






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Federal judge rules Missouri must issue license plate with anti-abortion message
Mike Rosen-Molina on January 24, 2008 10:05 AM ET

[JURIST] A federal judge ruled [opinion, PDF; ADF press release] Wednesday that the state of Missouri cannot deny an anti-abortion group's application for a specialty license plate with an anti-abortion message, holding that the Missouri law that allowed the denial was unconstitutionally vague. Choose Life of Missouri [advocacy website] had applied to get specialty license plates with the message "Choose Life," but its application was rejected when two senators on the license plate approval committee objected. In Missouri, specialty license plates must be approved by a panel consisting of seven senators, seven representatives and three non-voting state officials. US District Judge Scott Wright also found the Missouri law unconstitutional because it did not include protections against state officials denying application based on viewpoint discrimination. The Missouri attorney general's office has not decided whether it will appeal the decision. The Kansas City Star has more.

Abortion [JURIST news archive] is a hot-button issue in Missouri, where the legislature is dominated by an anti-abortion majority. In May, the Missouri Supreme Court unanimously upheld [opinion; JURIST report] a 2005 law that allows parents to sue people who help their minor daughters get an abortion without parental consent. Planned Parenthood had challenged the law on the basis that it infringed the group's First Amendment right to free speech by blocking it from disseminating information or counseling clients about abortion. In April, the US Supreme Court issued an order [PDF text; JURIST report] vacating a 2005 decision [PDF] by the US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit striking down Missouri's 1999 "partial birth" abortion ban [JURIST report]. The Supreme Court's ruling followed its earlier decision in Gonzales v. Carhart [text; JURIST report] upholding the federal Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 [PDF text].






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Bush issues executive order on increased security review of foreign investments
Jaime Jansen on January 24, 2008 9:18 AM ET

[JURIST] US President George W. Bush issued an executive order [text; press release] Wednesday "reforming how the United States reviews national security concerns that may arise from foreign investments." The executive order is designed to implement the Foreign Investment and National Security Act of 2007 [PDF text; HR 556 materials], which expands the investigative scope of the Treasury Department's Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) [official website] to include foreign investments in vital infrastructure and energy and adding an additional 45-day review of proposed acquisitions from foreign state-owned entities. Foreign investments subject to CFIUS review will require personal approval from the CFIUS chair and senior officials, while all proposed investments subjected to the 45-day review will require presidential authorization.

The law, passed by Congress [JURIST report] in July, stems from congressional criticism [JURIST report] of a proposed acquisition by United Arab Emirates-owned Dubai Ports World [corporate website] that would have allowed the company to manage six major US ports in early 2006. The deal eventually fell through [JURIST report], but prompted Congress to pass the legislation to increase the level of scrutiny of foreign investment proposals. AP has more. The Washington Times has additional coverage.






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Canada secretly halted Afghan detainee transfers over torture allegations: letter
Jaime Jansen on January 24, 2008 8:31 AM ET

[JURIST] The Canadian government ceased transferring Afghan detainees from Canadian to Afghan custody in November [press release, PDF] after Canadian monitors in Afghanistan discovered evidence of torture, according to a Canadian Justice Department letter [PDF text] sent this week to two advocacy groups suing the government to halt further transfers. In the letter, made public Wednesday, a Justice Department official wrote:

Canadian authorities were informed on November 5, 2007, by Canada's monitoring team, of a credible allegation of mistreatment pertaining to one Canadian-transferred detainee held in an Afghan detention facility. As a consequence there have been no transfers of detainees to Afghan authorities since that date. The allegation is under investigation by the Afghan authorities. Canada will resume transferring detainees when it believes it can do so in accordance with its international legal obligations.
The disclosure comes in a case where the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) and Amnesty International Canada [advocacy websites] are seeking assurances from the Canadian government that the transfers will be stopped indefinitely or that notice will be provided before they are resumed. On Monday, BCCLA released internal Canadian government documents [PDF text] detailing evidence of continued mistreatment and abuse [JURIST report] of detainees. The documents, originally distributed to senior officials of the Canadian government and officers of the Canadian military, detail an investigation conducted by Canadian officials last November which found circumstantial evidence that detainees were abused at a facility belonging to the Afghan National Directorate of Security in Kandahar.

Last November, the Federal Court of Canada ruled [JURIST report] that Amnesty International [advocacy website] and the BCCLA should be granted public interest standing to seek judicial review of actions or potential actions of Canadian military personnel deployed in Afghanistan, rejecting the Canadian government's motion to strike the groups' application on the grounds that they lacked standing and the issue was political in nature. The rights groups allege that Canadian forces deployed in Afghanistan are bound by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms [text] and that Canadian personnel transferring Afghan prisoners at risk of torture by Afghan authorities have violated the Charter's prohibition against the deprivation of life, liberty, and security. Also in November, Canadian opposition parliamentarians called for the government to stop detainee transfers [JURIST report], after documents [text] released by the Canadian government appeared to confirm allegations that transferred suspects had been subjected to abuse. Last May, Canada and Afghanistan entered into an agreement allowing for the monitoring of prisoners [JURIST report] transferred from Canadian to Afghanistan custody. The Globe & Mail has more. AP has additional coverage.





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Europe rights watchdog slams EU, UN terror watch lists
Jaime Jansen on January 24, 2008 7:51 AM ET

[JURIST] The Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) [official website] on Wednesday called the European Union and United Nations' practice of blacklisting terror suspects from interstate travel "completely arbitrary" [CoE press release] and urged member states of both organizations to amend their blacklisting practice to "preserve the credibility of the international fight against terrorism." Rapporteur Dick Marty reported [text] that the lists violate basic human rights by not informing individuals or groups when they've been added to the blacklist or giving them an opportunity to respond to the allegations, noting that 370 people world-wide have had their assets frozen by the UN list. In November, PACE made similar criticisms [JURIST report] of blacklisting procedures used by the UN Security Council and the European Union, adopting the draft version [text; press release] of Wednesday's report. EUobserver has more.

In July 2007, the European Court of First Instance overturned [judgment; JURIST report] the EU's decision [Council Decision 2006/379/EC text, PDF] to freeze the assets of Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) chairman Jose Maria Sison [MIPT profile] and the Hamas-affiliated al-Aqsa Foundation [judgment], finding that the Council did not give its reasons or provide an opportunity for the plaintiffs to challenge the legal basis or evidence to justify the seizure. In December 2006, the European Court of First Instance annulled the asset freeze [JURIST report] of Iranian opposition government People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI) [organization website, in Farsi]. The judgment prompted the Council of the European Union to revise [press release, PDF; JURIST report] the procedures used in establishing and maintaining the EU's terror lists.






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No Senegal trial of former Chad dictator Habre in 2008: EU adviser
Andrew Gilmore on January 23, 2008 7:39 PM ET

[JURIST] Former Chadian dictator Hissene Habre [HRW materials; JURIST news archive] will not go on trial this year for crimes against humanity, according to an EU official sent to Senegal to advise the court where Habre will be tried [press release]. Bruno Cathala, [official profile] Registrar of the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website], said Wednesday that the length of time necessary to complete investigations into the charges against Habre, as well as issues regarding the cost and structure of the trial, will delay it until at least 2009. Cathala's comments echoed the statement of Senegalese officials last year who said that a three-year delay was to be expected before Habre was brought to trial [JURIST report]. Reuters has more.

Last July, the government determined that Habre would stand trial in a criminal court [JURIST report] rather than in front of a special tribunal, possibly hastening the trial. Human rights groups, however, have still criticized Senegal for its lack of progress. African Union [official website] leaders decided in July 2006 that Habre would face trial in Senegal [decision, PDF; JURIST report] for committing some 40,000 alleged acts of murder and torture of political opponents during his rule from 1982 to 1990, after which he fled to Senegal. Following an initial attempt to have charges brought against Habre in Senegal failed, victims took their case to Belgium, where prosecutors indicted him on crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture charges in 2005 under Belgium's universal jurisdiction laws. Senegal has since agreed to the AU's determination that Habre should face trial in that country, with Senegalese president Abdoulaye Wade saying that his country was "best-placed" to try Habre. Rights groups have urged Senegal to build on the work of Belgian investigators to speed up the trial. AFP has more.






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UN rights chief slams Israeli blockade of Gaza
Deirdre Jurand on January 23, 2008 7:19 PM ET

[JURIST] Addressing a special session [official website] of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour [official profile] said [transcript] Wednesday that Israel's policy of collective punishment, disproportionate use of force and targeted killings, coupled with the Palestinian militant practice of indiscriminate firings of bombs and rockets, has led to the current crisis in the Gaza Strip. Israel had compounded the situation, she said, by blockading Gaza, preventing citizens from getting basic necessities such as food, gas, water, electricity and medicine. Arbour stressed that sovereign states have a primary duty to protect their citizens from war crimes and other crimes against humanity, but agreed with the Syrian and Palestinian representatives that international enforcement through processes such as independent investigation of international law violations is also necessary under the Outcome Document of the 2005 World Summit [text, PDF].

Syrian and Palestinian representatives had requested [meeting order, DOC] a council review of possible human rights violations stemming from Israel's military incursions into the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. A Syrian and Pakistani draft resolution [text, PDF] now before the body cites severe humanitarian and environmental consequences of recent Israeli military action, urges immediate international action to stop the Israeli campaign and requests that Israel itself stop committing human rights violations.

The Israeli blockade began last Friday, when Israel closed crossings into Gaza and cut off electricity, fuel and emergency aid to the area after more than 45 rockets hit Israeli towns. United Nations officials Tuesday chided Israel for its response to the rocket attacks [Zeenews report], saying it was targeting civilians in illegal collective punishment rather than punishing Hamas-led militants. On the same day, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) [official website] warned [AP report] of a pending humanitarian crisis in Gaza following Israel's action, foreshadowing the destruction of the blockade. Israel and the United States boycotted Wednesday's UNHRC session, claiming [Haaretz report] that the draft resolution presented to the council regarding the blockade failed to mention the rocket attacks as a justification.






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Federal judge rules California prison healthcare below constitutional standards
Deirdre Jurand on January 23, 2008 6:24 PM ET

[JURIST] A federal judge ruled [text, PDF] Wednesday that the healthcare provided in California prisons does not meet constitutional standards even though medical services have improved significantly since the court assumed oversight of the system in 2005. US District Judge Thelton Henderson of the Northern District of California acknowledged the progress of the current supervisory team, led by receiver Robert Sillen [official profile], including the hiring of more clinical workers and licensed nurses and increased contracting with outside medical specialists. But Henderson also said that the prison system needs new oversight to help implement planned improvements and to reintegrate prison leadership into the prison system, and he appointed law professor J. Clark Kelso [official profile] as receiver effective immediately to achieve those goals. Efforts to achieve reform bringing the state's prison system up to constitutional standards could take as long as four years, according to officials at the California Health Care Receivership [official website]. Reuters has more. The Los Angeles Times has local coverage.

Henderson appointed Sillen [order, PDF] in February 2006 after assuming oversight of the healthcare system [JURIST report] in 2005. In July 2007, the court ordered the formation of a special three-judge panel [JURIST report] to supervise and reduce California's prison population after finding that California's prison overcrowding was preventing the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) [official website] from adequately providing mental health care. The receivership was designed to oversee the development of remedies for the systematic constitutional violation and to monitor implementation of court-approved remedies. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger [official website] is now considering a mass release of nonviolent prisoners [JURIST report] to help ease the system's financial strains that contribute to the prison system's poor healthcare performance.






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UK delays implementing national ID card system
Alexis Unkovic on January 23, 2008 4:40 PM ET

[JURIST] The UK Identity and Passport Service [official website] will delay issuing ID cards [Home Office backgrounder; JURIST news archive] to British nationals until 2010, according to documents leaked from the UK Home Office [official website]. Plans are still underway for foreign nationals living in the UK to be issued biometric visas [eGov backgrounder] later this year, while people in "positions of trust," such as security guards, will be required to have IDs by 2009. The IDs are part of an effort to clamp down on illegal immigration [JURIST report] in the UK, but have met with criticism from both Conservative and Liberal Democrat politicians who fear they will waste government money and infringe on civil liberties. BBC News has more.

The UK House of Lords and House of Commons [official websites] approved [JURIST report] the controversial Identity Cards Bill [PDF text; JURIST news archive] in March 2006. The legislation had bounced back and forth between both houses of parliament for months with the Lords objecting to a Commons provision to effectively make the cards mandatory by requiring ID registration for all British citizens applying for passports. A compromise bill mitigated the provision somewhat by allowing passport applicants to opt out of taking an ID cards until January 2010 so long as they registered in a national computer database.






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Cheney presses Congress for FISA extension with immunity for telecoms
Mike Rosen-Molina on January 23, 2008 3:36 PM ET

[JURIST] US Vice President Dick Cheney Wednesday urged the US Congress to renew and expand the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) [text; JURIST news archive] when it meets for a scheduled Thursday vote. In a speech [text] to the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank, Cheney called on Congress to amend FISA to grant immunity to telecommunications companies [JURIST report] from lawsuits related to their participation in the NSA warrantless surveillance program [JURIST news archive], saying that government agencies did not have the resources to fight terror without cooperation from private telecom providers.

The temporary Protect America Act [S-1927 materials; JURIST report], enacted as a stopgap while Congress worked on long-term legislation to "modernize" FISA, is set to expire February 1. The Protect Act currently allows the US government to eavesdrop inside of the US without court approval as long as one end of a conversation is reasonably perceived to have been outside of the US. On Tuesday, Senate Republicans defeated an attempt by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid [official website] to extend the Protect Act for an additional month. On Wednesday, Reid sent a letter to US President George W. Bush asking that he support an extension to the Protect Act [The Hill report] as it is unlikely that Congress will agree to reauthorize FISA before the February 1 deadline. AP has more. The Washington Post has additional coverage.






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Dutch appeals court overturns terror convictions of 'Hofstad' members
Katerina Ossenova on January 23, 2008 2:30 PM ET

[JURIST] A Dutch appeals court Wednesday overturned the convictions of seven men [BBC report] who were charged with being in a terrorist network that included Muslim extremist Mohammed Bouyeri [Wikipedia profile]. Bouyeri confessed to the November 2004 murder [BBC report; JURIST report] of Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh [Wikipedia profile]. The seven men were suspected of belonging to the Dutch Muslim Hofstad Network [Wikipedia backgrounder] terror group and were convicted of planning attacks on Dutch politicians. The appeals court upheld a separate sentence of 15 years for Jason Walters, the son of a US citizen, for throwing a hand grenade at police during a siege of a barricaded house. The court reduced the sentence of another man, Ismael Aknikh, from 13 years to 15 months. A third man, Nouredine el Fahtni, is serving a four year sentence on a separate terrorism conviction, while the remaining four men have already been freed after serving sentences of less than two years. The Hague Appeals Court declined to classify the Hofstad network as a terrorist organization because the group had no lasting and structured cooperation and members did not share a common ideology.

Bouyeri, who was sentenced to life in prison [JURIST report], said he killed Van Gogh in response to his film, "Submission" [BBC report], which criticized the treatment of women under Islam. As a result of the rise in terrorist activity, the Dutch parliament [official website] in 2006 approved a new anti-terror bill [JURIST report] that dramatically lowered the amount of evidence needed for Dutch police to arrest terror suspects and allowed officials to hold suspects for up to two weeks without charge. AP has more.






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Netherlands to ban burqas in schools and government offices only
Katerina Ossenova on January 23, 2008 2:08 PM ET

[JURIST] The Dutch government plans to ban burqas [Wikipedia backgrounder; JURIST news archive] in schools and government offices, rejecting a proposal by Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders [official website, in Dutch] to prohibit wearing burqas in public altogether, according to Wednesday media reports. Wilders submitted a legislative proposal [JURIST report] in July 2007 which would punish those wearing burqas in public with a fine of up to €3,350 euros or 12 days in jail [press release]. Although the issue will be discussed at next week's cabinet meeting, the cabinet has decided that a general public ban on burqas would violate freedom of religion. Wilders, who has previously made controversial remarks against Islam and Muslims in the Netherlands, criticized the government's decision against a public ban. A final decision has not yet been made on the ban, which will be discussed at a cabinet meeting next Friday.

In November 2006, then-Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk [official profile] announced plans to prohibit the public wearing of face coverings [JURIST report] for "security reasons" and to promote the integration of Dutch society. The proposal was met by protests [JURIST report], and in the wake of a national election, was abandoned [JURIST report] in March 2007 by Verdonk's successor. Among the country's 1 million Muslims, the Muslim community has said that only 50 women wear the burqa. Reuters has more.






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US Senate passes bill exempting Iraq from Saddam-era lawsuits
Katerina Ossenova on January 23, 2008 1:28 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Senate Tuesday passed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 [HR 4986 materials], a military spending bill that includes a provision exemptimg Iraq from US lawsuits dating back to the regime of ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein [JURIST news archive]. Sponsored by Congressman Ike Skelton (D-MO) [official website], the bill passed the Senate 91-3 [roll call]. The House of Representatives passed an identical bill last week which also authorizes US military programs in 2008. When Congress passed a different version of the bill in late 2007 that would have allowed some lawsuits against Iraq to go ahead, the Iraqi government expressed concern that financial resources needed for the reconstruction of Iraq could be consumed by potential litigation. President Bush used a pocket veto [Senate backgrounder] and rejected the previous version [press release] of the bill, saying that the legislation would "imperil billions of dollars of Iraqi assets at a crucial juncture in that nation's reconstruction efforts and ... would undermine the foreign policy and commercial interests of the United States."

Other law-related provisions of the present bill allow private lawsuits against Libya for actions taken between 1979 and 2000 when the US designated the state as a terror sponsor. Reuters has more.






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Serbia war crimes prosecutor facing death threats
Brett Murphy on January 23, 2008 10:14 AM ET

[JURIST] The office of Serbian War Crimes Prosecutor Vladimir Vukcevic said Wednesday that Vukcevic has received death threats for his involvement in pursuing war crimes fugitives indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official websites] for their roles in the 1990 Balkan Wars. Four war crimes suspects are still at large, including former Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. A spokesman for the office said that these are not the first threats that Vukcevic has received in his role as prosecutor.

Serbia said in September it would increase efforts [JURIST report] to locate and arrest the four war crimes suspects believed to be hiding in the country in order to receive a favorable report from the ICTY chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte to the EU concerning the EU's pending pre-membership deal with Serbia. New ICTY Chief Prosecutor Serge Brammertz [JURIST report; ICC profile] has said that he will not alter his predecessor's tough stance on Serbian cooperation [JURIST report]. Reuters has more.






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Thailand ex-PM returning in May to face corruption charges
Brett Murphy on January 23, 2008 9:57 AM ET

[JURIST] Pojamarn Shinawatra, wife of former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], told the Thailand Supreme Court Tuesday that Thaksin will return to Thailand in May to battle corruption charges laid against him after he was ousted in a military coup [JURIST report] in September 2006. Pojamarn herself faces charges of conflict of interest and malfeasance for a 2003 purchase of land from the government-directed Financial Institutions Development Fund [official website] worth three times more than the $26 million she paid for it. She pleaded not guilty to the charges, and requested 90 days to prepare for the hearing.

A Thai court issued an arrest warrant for Thaksin and his wife in August and a second warrant in September [JURIST reports]. Thaksin and Pojamarn have been accused of abuse of power for personal gain [JURIST report], conflict of interest violations, and dereliction of duty for personal gain in charges stemming from the land purchase. Both have previously refused to return to Thailand to face charges, saying they did not expect to receive a fair trial [JURIST report]. AP has more.






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Israel, US boycotting UN rights council meeting on Gaza blockade
Leslie Schulman on January 23, 2008 7:45 AM ET

[JURIST] Israel and the United States plan to boycott a special session [news release] of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] in Geneva Wednesday called to discuss possible human rights violations in Gaza in the wake of a blockade imposed by Israel [BBC report] on the area last Friday. Israel closed crossings into Gaza after more than 45 rockets attacks Israeli towns and then cut off electricity, fuel, and emergency aid. United Nations officials Tuesday chided Israel for its response to the rocket attacks [Zeenews report], saying it was targeting civilians in illegal "collective punishment" and not Hamas-led militants. Israel and the US claim [Haaretz report] that the draft resolution [PDF text] presented to the UNHRC regarding the blockade fails to mention the rocket attacks as a justification. Other countries have refused to boycott the meeting, despite pressure from Israel.

On Tuesday the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) [official website] warned of a pending humanitarian crisis in Gaza following Israel's action. Tens of thousands of Palestinians streamed into Egypt [BBC report] Wednesday after militants blasted gaps in a Gaza border wall, allowing people to cross over to buy needed food and supplies. AP has more.






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Dallas suburb approves new rental ordinance targeting illegal immigrants
Leslie Schulman on January 23, 2008 7:14 AM ET

[JURIST] The City Council of Farmers Branch [official website; JURIST news archive], a Dallas, Texas suburb, on Tuesday approved a measure [Ordinance 2952 text, PDF] that would require all adults to apply for a city license before they can lease a house or apartment. The application obliges rental applicants to disclose whether they are a US citizen or a legal alien in the US, and local law enforcement would subsequently cross-check the information with a federal database. Any applicant can move into their rental immediately, but if the database fails to confirm the applicant's legal status, the applicant must prove their legal residency within 60 days or lose the city license.

Ordinance 2952 is the town's second attempt at prohibiting landlords within the city limits from renting housing to illegal immigrants [JURIST news archive], and is designed to appease opponents of an earlier ordinance [Ordinance 2903 text, DOC], which placed the burden of enforcement on landlords rather than the government. In June 2007, a US federal judge extended a temporary restraining order [JURIST report] blocking Farmers Branch from enforcing Ordinance 2903, which had been approved by voters [JURIST report]. The ordinance approved Tuesday will go into effect 15 days after a final judgment is made in the lawsuit [complaint, PDF] challenging the constitutionality of Ordinance 2903. AP has more.






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Federal appeals court backs required transport for Missouri inmate abortions
Caitlin Price on January 22, 2008 4:41 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit on Tuesday unanimously upheld [ruling, PDF] a 2006 federal court ruling [PDF text; JURIST report] that the state of Missouri must provide inmates with transportation to a medical facility for a non-therapeutic abortion. The Eighth Circuit rejected the trial court's conclusion that a non-therapeutic abortion constitutes a "serious medical need," and therefore may not be intentionally denied by the state under the Eighth Amendment. The Eighth Circuit instead affirmed the judgment under an analysis of the Fourteenth Amendment established by the US Supreme Court's 1987 case Turner v. Safley [text], which states that "prison regulations restricting constitutional guarantees are valid only if the regulations are 'reasonably related to legitimate penological interests.'" The Missouri Department of Corrections [official website] will comport with the decision as it considers an appeal.

The American Civil Liberties Union applauded the decision [press release] as "consistent with rulings from across the country that women prisoners do not lose their reproductive rights once they are incarcerated." The Kansas City Star has more.






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Afghan journalism student sentenced to death for blasphemy
Caitlin Price on January 22, 2008 4:09 PM ET

[JURIST] An Afghan journalism student charged with blasphemy was sentenced to death Tuesday, following a recommendation from the Afghan Council of Mullahs. A three-judge panel found that papers printed from the Internet by 23-year-old Sayad Parwez Kambaksh, allegedly including discussion of women's role in society, insulted Islam and invoked Article 130 of the Afghanistan Constitution [text], allowing for execution consistent with Hanafi [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] law. Kambaksh showed the papers to a university teacher and classmates, some of whom said Kambaksh wrote the document himself. It was not clear if Kambaksh had legal representation at the trial, and his trial date was not made public. He will remain in prison as the sentence is appealed.

Kambaksh has received public support [RWB report] from Reporters Without Borders [advocacy website], as well as European Parliament President Hans-Gert Pöttering [official website]. On Monday, Afghan prosecutor Hafizullah Khaliqyar said Kambaksh supporters would be imprisoned. AP has more.






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Council of Europe urges UK to take steps against voting fraud
Caitlin Price on January 22, 2008 3:08 PM ET

[JURIST] The Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) [official website] Tuesday released a report [PDF text; CoE press release] criticizing the United Kingdom's voting system for its vulnerability to fraud. A February 2007 fact-finding trip conducted by a PACE committee found that fraud risks are "mainly the result of the, rather arcane, system of voter registration without personal identifiers." UK voting registers currently list only the voters' names and addresses and do not include such "personal identifiers" as date of birth or signatures. The report said that UK elections are "conducted democratically" and, while not recommending a monitoring procedure, the report said:

The Monitoring Committee should, in its periodic reports on the honouring of commitments by member states, pay special attention to electoral issues in the United Kingdom and, if the vulnerabilities noted are found to undermine the overall democratic nature of future elections in Great Britain, apply to initiate a monitoring procedure with respect to the United Kingdom.
As a further precaution, the PACE report urged authorities to introduce registration comporting with the recommendations of the Electoral Commission and the Committee on Standards in Public Life [backgrounder], including cross-referencing local voting lists with a national database and an identification requirement at the polling place.

Voting fraud became a high-profile issue in 2005 after an electoral commissioner described evidence of fraud in a Birmingham City Council election as enough to "disgrace a banana republic." The PACE report said that the practice of postal voting, opened to the general voting public with the Representation of the People Act in 2000 [text], led to increased opportunity for fraud. According to the report, postal voting in general elections has risen from about 2 percent in 1997 to 12.1 percent in 2005. The Electoral Administration Act 2006 [PDF text] attempted to curb postal voting misuse, and made it a crime to false information on the registration form. BBC News has more.





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Sears Tower terror retrial underway
Leslie Schulman on January 22, 2008 1:08 PM ET

[JURIST] Jury selection began Tuesday in the retrial of six of the seven men charged with allegedly conspiring to bomb [DOJ press release] the FBI headquarters in Miami and the Sears Tower in Chicago. The seven men first went to trial last year, but in December one man was acquitted and a mistrial was declared [JURIST report] for the other six after the case ended in a hung jury. If convicted, each defendant faces up to 70 years in prison.

The seven were indicted [JURIST report] in 2006 on charges [indictment, PDF] of conspiring to provide material support to al Qaeda; conspiring to provide material support, training, and resources to terrorists; conspiring to maliciously damage and destroy by means of an explosive; and conspiring to levy war against the government of the United States. The indictment alleges that ringleader Narseal Batiste recruited the six other defendants to "organize and train for a mission to wage war against the United States government," and that they pledged an oath to al Qaeda in an attempt to secure financial and logistical backing. Lawyers for some of the men said that their clients were entrapped [JURIST report] by an FBI informant posing as an al Qaeda operative. AP has more.






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US Supreme Court refuses to consider class action status for Enron shareholders
Leslie Schulman on January 22, 2008 12:25 PM ET

Photo source or description
The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Tuesday denied [order list, PDF] without comment a petition for certiorari filed in University of California Regents v. Merrill Lynch (06-1341) [docket], a derivative lawsuit [class action website] filed in October 2001 by Enron shareholders against their investment banks accusing them of partnering to conceal monetary losses incurred by the company. The shareholders brought the suit as a class action, but the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit denied class action status [PDF text; JURIST report] last March, reversing a decision by US District Judge Melinda Harmon that had certified the class in June 2006. Defendants Merrill Lynch and Credit Suisse Group [corporate websites] appealed [JURIST report] to the Fifth Circuit, which held that a class action lawsuit was not the appropriate vehicle to sue the banks, thereby forcing investors to file individual lawsuits.

Denial of certiorari essentially ends the shareholder's legal recourse in the case, unless a lower federal court agrees to hear it again. The lead plaintiff in the case, the University of California Board of Regents [official website], has already negotiated settlements [JURIST report] with Lehman Brothers, Bank of America, Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase, and CIBC [press releases, PDF], for a total of over $7 billion in recovery. The lawsuit had sought over $30 billion in monetary recovery from Enron's collapse. AP has more.




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Padilla gets 17-year prison sentence on terror charges
Joshua Pantesco on January 22, 2008 12:06 PM ET

[JURIST] Jose Padilla [JURIST news archive] was sentenced to 17 years and four months in prison Tuesday in connection with his conviction [JURIST report] on terrorism-related charges. US District Judge Marcia Cooke [official profile] handed down the sentence following two weeks of sentencing hearings, during which the government sought life sentences for Padilla and his two co-defendants, Adham Amin Hassoun and Kifadh Wael Jayyousi [GlobalSecurity profiles]. The defense team raised over 90 objections to a prosecutorial report supporting the request for life sentences, arguing it misrepresented the evidence presented at trial; Padilla's lawyers argued for a 10-year sentence, while lawyers for Hassoun and Jayyousi asked for penalties of four to six years and probation, respectively. Hassoun was sentenced to 15 years and eight months while Jayyousi received a 12-year, eight-month sentence. Cooke ruled last week that she could apply enhanced federal terrorism penalties [JURIST report] in the case, which in effect permitted her to consider the death penalty.

Padilla, Hassoun and Jayyousi were convicted in August 2007 of conspiracy to commit illegal violent acts outside the US, conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists, and providing material support to terrorists. Padilla, a US citizen, was arrested in 2002 at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport and subsequently detained as an "enemy combatant" [JURIST news archive] at a Navy military brig in Charleston, South Carolina. Initially alleged to have planned the explosion of a "dirty bomb" in the United States, Padilla went from enemy combatant to criminal defendant when he was finally charged in November 2005 and transferred to civilian custody [JURIST report] in January 2006. AP has more.








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Kenya opposition brings ICC 'crimes against humanity' complaint against government
Leslie Schulman on January 22, 2008 12:02 PM ET

[JURIST] Kenya's main opposition party, the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) [party website], has filed a formal complaint at the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website], alleging that the Kenyan government has committed crimes against humanity in using force against demonstrators protesting the recent disputed re-election [JURIST report], an ODM spokesperson said Tuesday. The violence began after the re-election of Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki [official profile], who has has long been accused of using his position to favor members of the Kikuyu tribe. Over 700 people have died since protests began last month, prompting Human Rights Watch to urge the government to ban police from using excessive and lethal force against protesters [press release]. Thirteen nations, including several European Union members and the United States, have threatened to cut off aid to Kenya's government until the crisis is resolved.

The controversial presidential vote has sparked simmering ethnic tensions in Kenya [JURIST news archive]. Kibaki won the election despite early opinion polls that placed rival ODM candidate Raila Odinga in the lead. Thousands of opposition supporters have continued calls for protests against the elections [JURIST report], despite the government's temporary ban on public rallies. The ODM has also threatened to use economic boycotts and strikes [JURIST report] to continue their protests. AFP has more.






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Supreme Court rules against inmate in federal prison Koran seizure case
Jeannie Shawl on January 22, 2008 10:20 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] ruled Tuesday that a prison inmate cannot bring a lawsuit against federal prison guards over the handling of the inmate's possessions under the Federal Tort Claims Act [text]. In Ali v. Federal Bureau of Prisons [Duke Law case backgrounder; JURIST report], Abdus-Shahid Ali sued prison officials working for both the District of Columbia Department of Corrections and the US Bureau of Prisons, arguing that they illegally confiscated his religious property, including copies of the Koran and his prayer rug, and harassed him for expressing his Muslim faith while in custody. The Federal Tort Claims Act includes an exception [28 USC 2680(c)] barring claims for detained property against "law enforcement officers," but Ali argued that the exception applies to officials working in an excise or customs capacity. The Supreme Court rejected that argument and affirmed the Eleventh Circuit's opinion [PDF text] in the case, concluding "that the broad phrase 'any other law enforcement officer' covers all law enforcement officers."

Read the Court's opinion [text] from Justice Thomas, along with a dissent [text] from Justice Kennedy and a second dissent [text] from Justice Breyer. AP has more.






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Europe rights court rules against France in lesbian adoption case
Michael Sung on January 22, 2008 9:57 AM ET

[JURIST] The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] Tuesday ruled [DOC text; press release] that France violated the rights of a lesbian woman by refusing her application to adopt a child because of her sexual preference. The French officials rejected the woman's application on the grounds that she and her partner were not able to present a male "referent," even though French law permits single adults over the age of 28 to adopt children. The ECHR ruled that France violated the petitioner's rights under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights [PDF text], which guarantees respect for private and family life, and under Article 14, which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The ECHR ordered the French government to pay €24,528 in non-pecuniary damages, costs and expenses. AP has more.






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Canada documents detail continued Afghan mistreatment of transferred detainees
Michael Sung on January 22, 2008 9:23 AM ET

[JURIST] The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) [advocacy website] on Monday released internal Canadian government documents [PDF text] detailing evidence of continued mistreatment and abuse of detainees transferred by Canadian forces to Afghan authorities. The documents, originally distributed to senior officials of the Canadian government and officers of the Canadian military, detail an investigation conducted by Canadian officials last November which found circumstantial evidence that detainees were abused at a facility belonging to the Afghan National Directorate of Security in Kandahar.

Last November, the Federal Court of Canada ruled [JURIST report] that Amnesty International [advocacy website] and the BCCLA should be granted public interest standing to seek judicial review of actions or potential actions of Canadian military personnel deployed in Afghanistan, rejecting the Canadian government's motion to strike the groups' application on the grounds that they lacked standing and the issue was political in nature. The rights groups allege that Canadian forces deployed in Afghanistan are bound by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms [text] and that Canadian personnel transferring Afghan prisoners at risk of torture by Afghan authorities have violated the Charter's prohibition against the deprivation of life, liberty, and security. Also in November, Canadian opposition parliamentarians called for the government to stop detainee transfers [JURIST report], after documents [text] released by the Canadian government appeared to confirm allegations that transferred suspects had been subjected to abuse. Last May, Canada and Afghanistan entered into an agreement allowing for the monitoring of prisoners [JURIST report] transferred from Canadian to Afghanistan custody. The Globe and Mail has more.






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Zimbabwe opposition to challenge ban on march under amended public order law
Joshua Pantesco on January 22, 2008 9:17 AM ET

[JURIST] Zimbabwean police banned an opposition party political march on Tuesday, setting the stage for a legal battle involving recent amendments [JURIST report] to Zimbabwe's restrictive Public Order and Security Act [PDF text], which allows police to deny any party's application for a public gathering. Under the old version of the law, the Minister of Home Affairs, which is controlled by the ruling party, had exclusive jurisdiction over appeals of such denials, but under amendments signed by President Mugabe [JURIST report] on Sunday, political parties may appeal to a neutral magistrate and police may justify permit denials only on security grounds. The opposition is expected to appeal the denial Tuesday. The march had been scheduled for Wednesday. AP has more.

Mugabe is seeking a sixth term as president of Zimbabwe, and he is expected to prevail over splintered opposition. In the past, Zimbabwe has used the Public Order and Security Act to crack down on anti-government protests. In May, police in Harare arrested [JURIST report] members of the National Constitutional Assembly [official website] who protested against proposed amendments to the Zimbabwean Constitution [PDF text], later passed and signed into law [JURIST report], which essentially allow Mugabe to pick his successor. That same month, Zimbabwean police broke up a rally of about 50 lawyers who had gathered to protest the the arrest and imprisonment of two human rights advocates; the lawyers argued that the Public Order and Security Act exempted them from a general ban against demonstrations [JURIST reports].






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Russia prosecutors launch forgery probe targeting Putin critic running for presidency
Michael Sung on January 22, 2008 9:00 AM ET

[JURIST] The Russian Prosecutor General's office [official website, in Russian] said Tuesday it has launched a forgery investigation targeting former Russian prime minister and now opposition leader Mikhail Kasyanov [BBC profile]. According to Russian news agencies, the investigation relates to allegations that signatures were forged on petitions nominating Kasyanov for the upcoming March 2 Russian presidential elections. A spokesperson for Kasyanov's campaign immediately characterized the investigation as politically motivated.

Kasyanov and fellow opposition leader Garry Kasparov [personal website, in Russian] have been strong critics of current Russian President Vladimir Putin [official website] and his allies in the run-up to the March vote. Putin dismissed Kasyanov, a close associate of former president Boris Yeltsin, as head of government in February 2004 after a four-year tenure. Last November, Kasparov was detained for five days for organizing an unsanctioned protest [JURIST report] against Putin's policies and resisting arrest. AP has more.






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Pakistan may be skirting constitutional limits on judicial detentions: report
Joshua Pantesco on January 22, 2008 8:37 AM ET

[JURIST] The government of Pakistan, which has kept Pakistani Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry [JURIST news archive] and several other judges and lawyers under preventative detention since President Musharraf declared emergency rule [text; JURIST report] on November 3, may be attempting to avoid constitutional restraints on the duration of those detentions, according to a Tuesday report [text] by Pakistan's The News daily. According to The News, the constitution requires that in order for preventative detention to be extended beyond 90 days, a review board must hear the cases and decide whether to extend the detention. The 90-day period for Chaudhry and other detainees expires January 31. Thus far, the government has not referred the cases to the review board. Rather, the government has explained that Chaudhry and the other deposed judges are not under detention at all, as they are not being held pursuant to a court order, and thus do not qualify for review. As for the lawyers, it is the government's position that they are in the custody of provincial governments, not the federal government, and thus do not qualify for review. Clause 4 of Article 10 of the Constitution of Pakistan [text] says:

No law providing for preventive detention shall be made except to deal with persons acting in a manner prejudicial to the integrity, security or defence of Pakistan or any part thereof, or external affairs of Pakistan, or public order, or the maintenance of supplies or services, and no such law shall authorise the detention of a person for a period exceeding [three months] unless the appropriate Review Board has, after affording him an opportunity of being heard in person, reviewed his case and reported, before the expiration of the said period, that there is, in its opinion, sufficient cause for such detention, and, if the detention is continued after the said period of [three months], unless the appropriate Review Board has reviewed his case and reported, before the expiration of each period of three months, that there is, in its opinion, sufficient cause for such detention.
Chaudhry has been under virtual house arrest since at least November 5 [JURIST report], when an Army major locked him in his residence and took the keys. Last week, the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) agreed to relax [JURIST report] its ongoing boycott of the post-emergency judiciary [JURIST news archive] to Thursday of every week and one hour of every day in order to avoid hardship to litigants. The PBC continues to protest the removal of Chaudhry and refuses to recognize the legitimacy of replacement judges who had taken oaths of office under President Pervez Musharraf's now-abrogated Provisional Constitutional Order [text]. IANS has more.






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Bangladesh university professors acquitted of incitement charges
Steve Czajkowski on January 21, 2008 4:46 PM ET

[JURIST] Four professors at the University of Dhaka [university website] in Bangladesh [JURIST news archive] were acquitted Monday of inciting students during campus protests which caused the interim government to impose a curfew [JURIST report] in August 2007. Eleven students were also acquitted for their part in the protests. Four other youths were sentenced in absentia to two years imprisonment. Lack of evidence was cited as the reason for the acquittals. In a separate action, the President of Bangladesh, Iajuddin Ahmed [official profile], pardoned fourteen students from Dhaka and Rajshahi [official website] universities who were involved in the August uprisings.

The acquittals comes a month after four university professors from Rajshahi University were sentenced [JURIST report] to prison terms for their involvement in the protests. The student protests against the military-backed interim government resulted in hundreds of injuries and one death. The riots first began at Dhaka University, when students demanded that a military post be removed from the campus, and then spilled out into the Dhaka city streets. Protesters called for an end to emergency laws [JURIST report], which have been in place since January 2007. Reuters has more.

9:58 PM ET - A late report says President Ahmed has pardoned the four convicted students. From Dhaka, the Daily Star has more.






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Djibouti pressing ICJ for control over murder probe into French judge's death
Steve Czajkowski on January 21, 2008 3:17 PM ET

[JURIST] Lawyers for the east African state of Djibouti Monday asked the International Court of Justice [official website] to allow the country to take over a French murder probe into the death of French judge Bernard Borrel [advocacy website, in French] as public hearings in Djibouti v. France [ICJ case archive; JURIST report] began at The Hague. The case was brought by Djibouti in 2006 in a bid to force France to turn over investigation materials and to withdraw summonses against Djibouti government officials, including Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh [IRIN backgrounder], accused of involvement in the death by the judge's widow, Elisabeth Borrel. Djibouti maintains that France has no right to summon Djibouti officials because of diplomatic immunity.

Borrel was as an adviser to the Djibouti Justice Ministry when he was found dead near the city of Djibouti in 1995 while engaged in a money laundering probe. In a initial investigation Djibouti authorities ruled the death a suicide, but subsequent investigations by the French found that there was a possibility of murder. Borrel's widow has argued against the transfer by saying that senior government officials of Djibouti have been implicated in the murder and that the authorities are not neutral. AP has more.






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Pakistan TV network back on air after government lifts emergency ban
Steve Czajkowski on January 21, 2008 2:04 PM ET

[JURIST] The most popular independent television network in Pakistan, Geo-TV [media website], resumed on-air broadcasting Monday after the government lifted a ban imposed during the declaration of emergency rule [JURIST reports] issued by President Pervez Musharraf [JURIST news archive] in November. The network was allowed to start broadcasting again only after it signed a government code of conduct which included guidelines on media conduct. The guidelines include bans on live coverage of demonstrations and programs that "defame or ridicule" the President, and require anchors and talk show hosts not to give opinions that threaten Pakistan's sovereignty and security.

Geo-TV risked the wrath of the Musharraf regime in March 2007 when it provided extensive coverage of events surrounding the suspension and eventual reinstatement of now-ousted Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry [official profile; JURIST news archive]. AP has more.






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Iraq parliament considers detainee amnesty bill
Katerina Ossenova on January 21, 2008 10:35 AM ET

[JURIST] The Iraqi parliament [official website, in Arabic] gave first reading Monday to a draft bill forwarded by the Iraqi cabinet [JURIST report] which could allow for the pardon and release of around 5,000 detainees currently held in Iraqi prisons. The bill, approved [JURIST report] by the cabinet in December 2007, would exclude prisoners held in US custody and others who are imprisoned for a number of different crimes including terrorism, kidnapping, rape, adultery and homosexuality. The bill would also exclude senior Baath party [JURIST news archive] figures from the regime of Saddam Hussein. The bill will be put to a vote after a second reading scheduled in four days.

Currently, there are more than 26,000 detainees held in US-run Camp Cropper and Camp Bucca and some 24,000 more held in facilities run by the Iraqi defense, interior and justice ministries. Most of the detainees covered by the bill are Sunni Arabs [IHT report] who have been held for more than a year on suspicion of supporting the insurgency. Despite criticism by Sunni members of parliament who say the bill is too limited, Iraqi officials have expressed hope that mass releases will help ease tensions between Shiite and Sunni communities and boost national reconciliation. AFP has more.






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Malaysia lawyer denies accusations of judicial corruption
Katerina Ossenova on January 21, 2008 9:56 AM ET

[JURIST] The Malaysian lawyer whose 2001 video [Malaysian Bar Council report and streaming video] of a deal over a judicial appointment has sparked accusations and investigations into judicial corruption, claimed Monday he must have been intoxicated when he appeared to be arranging for the appointment of "friendly" senior judges. V.K. Lingam told an official inquiry that he "must have had one too many drinks" in the video which apparently shows him on the phone with someone who is believed to be former Malaysian Chief Justice Ahmad Fairuz Sheikh Abdul Halim [Wikipedia profile] brokering Halim's appointment to become chief justice with the help of a tycoon and a politician. At the time of the video in December 2001, Halim was Malaysia's third-ranking judge but served as chief justice from 2003 to 2007. Lingam also would not confirm or deny he was the man in the video and has rejected claims that he conspired to rig judicial appointments.

The inquiry has produced evidence of a close and sometimes dubious relationship between the Malaysian judiciary and lawyers, politicians and businessmen. In September 2007, approximately 2,000 lawyers and activists, led by the Malaysian Bar Council [profession website], held a large protest [press release; JURIST report] in Malaysia's capital, calling for an investigation into judicial corruption. In November, Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi [official profile] announced that a Royal Commission would be set up to investigate the matter. AP has more. The International Herald Tribune has additional coverage.






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Rights group slams Sudan naming of Darfur militia leader as government advisor
Katerina Ossenova on January 21, 2008 9:11 AM ET

[JURIST] Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] Sunday condemned the appointment of a suspected Janjaweed [Slate backgrounder] militia leader as an advisor to Sudan's Ministry of Federal Affairs and special advisor to President Omar El Bashir [BBC profile]. Musa Hilal is a tribal leader from northern Darfur [BBC report] and is suspected of running one of the 16 known Janjaweed bases. The Janjaweed are accused of committing atrocities and mass murders of Darfur civilians. Federal Affairs Minister Abdelbasit Sabderat told AP Monday that Hilal's appointment is already effective and that he will be handling tribal affairs throughout the Sudan [JURIST news archive]. HRW called the appointment of Hilal "a stunning affront" to victims [press release] of Janjaweed atrocities committed in Darfur [JURIST news archive].

Hilal was identified as an individual responsible for acts or abuses committed in Darfur in April 2006 when the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1672 [text; JURIST report], restricting his assets and international travel. Since fighting between the government-backed Janjaweed and ethnic African rebels began in 2003, over 200,000 people have died and 2.5 million have been forced into refugee camps. AP has more.






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Turkish court reimposes YouTube ban for offensive content
Benjamin Klein on January 20, 2008 3:01 PM ET

[JURIST] A Turkish court has reordered telecom providers in the country to block access to popular video-sharing website YouTube [corporate website]. Reports surfacing in the Turkish media on Sunday suggest that the ban, originally reimposed Thursday, was a response to video clips insulting the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk [Turkish News profile]. Users trying to access YouTube from Turkey in recent days have encountered the following notice: “Access to this web site has been suspended in accordance with decision no: 2008/55 of T.R. Ankara 12th Criminal Court of Peace.” A Turkish court issued a similar order [JURIST report] in March 2007 in response to a “virtual war” on YouTube between Turkey and Greece, in which citizens of both countries have been creating videos to mock the other. AP has more.

In Turkey, insulting Ataturk is an imprisonable offense. Similarly, "insulting the Turkish identity" is also a serious crime under the controversial Article 301 [Amnesty backgrounder; JURIST news archive] of Turkey's penal code [text, in Turkish]. Critics say Turkey has used Article 301 to silence government critics [OSCE review of the Draft Turkish Penal Code], which has presented a stumbling block [JURIST report] to the country’s proposed accession to the European Union.






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Zimbabwe president approves amended public order law
Eric Firkel on January 20, 2008 11:13 AM ET

[JURIST] Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe [BBC profile] has approved changes to the country's restrictive Public Order and Security Act [PDF text] ahead of upcoming presidential elections, Zimbabwean state media reported Saturday. The law formerly prohibited public political gatherings without prior police approval and if police turned down a party's application to hold a rally, the party could only appeal its case to the Minister of Home Affairs, a member of the ruling party. Under the new amendments, political parties can appeal to a neutral magistrate and police are required to explain their reasons for denying rally permits. Mugabe signed the amendments into law [press release, PDF] on January 11. In addition to amendments to the Public Order and Security Act, changes to the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act and the Broadcasting Services Act were also approved

Mugabe is seeking a sixth term as president of Zimbabwe, and he is expected to prevail over splintered opposition. In the past, Zimbabwe has used the Public Order and Security Act to crack down on anti-government protests. In May, police in Harare arrested [JURIST report] members of the National Constitutional Assembly [official website] who protested against proposed amendments to the Zimbabwean Constitution [PDF text], later passed and signed into law [JURIST report], which essentially allow Mugabe to pick his successor. That same month, Zimbabwean police broke up a rally of about 50 lawyers who had gathered to protest the the arrest and imprisonment of two human rights advocates; the lawyers argued that the Public Order and Security Act exempted them from a general ban against demonstrations [JURIST reports]. AP has more.






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Pakistan makes first arrests connected with Bhutto assassination
Eric Firkel on January 20, 2008 10:18 AM ET

[JURIST] Pakistani police have arrested two suspects in connection with the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto [BBC obituary; JURIST news archive], officials said on Saturday. Aitzaz Shah and Sher Zaman were detained in the town of Dera Ismail Khan on the Afghan border, and were found in possession of explosives according to local reports. Shah, a teenager, told Pakistani investigators that he had been a member of a back-up squad given the task of killing Bhutto if the December 27 attack had failed, and that he was part of a five-person team dispatched there by Baitullah Mehsud [BBC profile] to plan a suicide bombing during the Muslim festival of Ashura [BBC backgrounder]. Mehsud, a militant leader with strong ties to Al Qaeda and the Taliban, had already been named by sources inside both the CIA and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's government as being responsible for the attack, but a purported spokesman for the fugitive told reporters that he had played no part in the killing. AP has more. Dawn has local coverage.

Bhutto was assassinated [JURIST report] in a suicide attack on December 27 at a political rally in Rawalpindi. She was campaigning in the lead-up to January 8 parliamentary elections, where her party, Pakistan People's Party (PPP) [party website] was challenging Musharraf's Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) [party website]. The elections have been postponed until February 18.






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EPA denies request for full explanation of California emissions waiver rejection
Josh Camson on January 20, 2008 10:00 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) [official website] on Friday cited executive privilege in denying congressional requests for certain documents relating to the agency's decision to deny California a waiver [JURIST report] from new auto-emissions standards. The waiver would have allowed California and 16 other states following its lead to impose stricter greenhouse emissions standards on cars and light trucks than those provided for by the EPA. As previously agreed [JURIST report], the agency provided US Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) [official profile] and the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works with a number of the requested documents, but "page after page of the relevant documents are whited out, and much of the key information is missing from [the] EPA's response," Boxer said [press release] on Friday.

In a letter [PDF text] accompanying the documents, the EPA explained:

Please note that EPA has identified an important Executive Branch confidentiality interest in a number of these documents because they reflect internal deliberations and/or attorney-client communications regarding California's waiver request. We recognize the importance of the Committee's need to inform itself in order to perform its oversight functions,but we remain concerned about any further disclosure of this information for a number of reasons. First, because the documents reveal deliberative process information internal to the Agency, EPA is concerned about the chilling effect that would occur if Agency employees believed their frank and honest opinions and analysis expressed as part of assessing California's waiver request were to be disclosed in a broad setting. The Supreme Court has recognized this "chilling effect" concern in particular.... Second, further disclosure could result in needless public confusion about the Administrator's decision that EPA will be denying California's request. That is, many of the documents are pre-decisional and thus do not reflect the Agency's full and complete thinking on the matter. Indeed, final decision documents have not yet been completed and made available to the public through publication in the Federal Register, so the public, if given access to the pre-decisional documents, would effectively be denied access to the full, complete rationale by the Agency. Finally, the Agency is currently engaged in ongoing litigation regarding this matter, and future litigation is expected. The documents contain privileged and confidential attorney-client communications and attorney work product. Further disclosure of this type of confidential information could jeopardize the Agency's ability to effectively litigate claims related to California's waiver request.
California filed a lawsuit [petition, PDF; JURIST report] against the EPA earlier this month challenging the agency's denial of the waiver. California's Air Resources Board [official website] adopted greenhouse gas standards [press release] in 2004 but it could not mandate them unless the EPA granted a waiver from the less stringent federal Clean Air Act (CAA) [text] standards. This was the first time that the EPA has denied California a waiver since Congress established the state's right to seek CAA waivers in 1967. AP has more.





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Canada to remove US from list of states where prisoners risk torture
Steve Czajkowski on January 19, 2008 3:05 PM ET

[JURIST] Canadian Foreign Minster Maxime Bernier [official profile] said Saturday that the Canadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade will remove the US from an internal document that lists countries that employ interrogation methods that amount to torture [JURIST report] and where prisoners risk being tortured. The document was part of a manual given to Canadian diplomats in a training course on torture awareness. In a statement [press release], Bernier said:

I regret the embarrassment caused by the public disclosure of the manual used in the department's torture awareness training. It contains a list that wrongly includes some of our closest allies. I have directed that the manual be reviewed and rewritten. The manual is neither a policy document nor a statement of policy. As such, it does not convey the Government's views or positions.
The document was mistakenly provided to Amnesty International Canada in a court case the organization filed over Canadian treatment of Afghan detainees [JURIST report]. It specifically mentions Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] as a detention facility that employs torture methods and reports Canadian citizen Omar Khadr [JURIST news archive] as saying that he has been tortured while detained there.

Other countries on the list provided to Canadian officials attending the training course include Afghanistan, China, Iran, Israel, and Syria. Reuters has more.





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UN rights expert calls Israel Gaza attacks 'war crimes'
Howard Kline on January 19, 2008 2:17 PM ET

[JURIST] UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories John Dugard [academic profile] said Friday that Israel's recent attack on a Hamas government office in Gaza which injured around 50 civilians and the killings of some 40 Palestinians in the past week should be considered war crimes [statement], noting that the attacks violate the Fourth Geneva Convention's ban on collective punishment. Dugard also called for the prosecution of those responsible for the attacks:

The killing of some forty Palestinians in Gaza in the past week, the targeting of a Government office near a wedding party venue with what must have been foreseen loss of life and injury to many civilians, and the closure of all crossings into Gaza raise very serious questions about Israel's respect for international law and its commitment to the peace process. Recent action violates the strict prohibition on collective punishment contained in the Fourth Geneva Convention. It also violates one of the basic principles of international humanitarian law that military action must distinguish between military targets and civilian targets. Israel must have known about the wedding party in Gaza near to the interior ministry when it launched missiles at the ministry building. Those responsible for such cowardly action are guilty of serious war crimes and should be prosecuted and punished for their crimes.
Dugard urged the United States and other states participating in peace negotiations to exercise their "legal and ... moral obligation to compel Israel to cease its actions against Gaza and to restore confidence in the peace process, ensure respect for international law and protect civilian life." A spokesperson for the Israeli Defense Forces [official website] defended the military's actions, saying that the attack which led to the injuries was directed at a Hamas building and nothing else. AFP has more.

In October, Dugard said that the UN must better address human rights violations committed in the Palestinian territories [JURIST report]. He has also previously criticized Israel's continued military presence in the region [JURIST report]. Dugard was appointed in 2001 as an independent expert by the now-defunct UN Commission on Human Rights to investigate Israeli rights violations. Israel and the US have dismissed his reports as one-sided.





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Belarus newspaper editor sentenced to 3 years for reprinting Muhammad cartoons
Nick Fiske on January 19, 2008 11:11 AM ET

[JURIST] A Belarus court on Friday sentenced a former newspaper editor to three years in prison for reprinting cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad [JURIST news archive]. Alexander Sdvizhkov was the deputy editor of Zhoda, a small Belarus newspaper, when in February 2006 it republished the cartoons that had originally appeared in a Danish newspaper in 2005 and sparked protests in Muslim countries throughout the world. Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko [official website; BBC profile] ordered the paper shut down immediately following the incident, and Sdvizhkov was arrested and charged with "inciting religious hatred" in November 2007. In a statement Friday, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe [official website] criticized the court's handling of the closed door trial and demanded Sdvizhkov's release [press release]. AP has more.

Reproduction of the cartoons has resulted in a number of international lawsuits and arrests alleging defamation of character and disruption of the peace. A French court in March 2007 dismissed charges [JURIST report] against Charlie-Hebdo magazine and its director after the court found that the defendants had not purposely meant to offend Muslims. In September, Bangladeshi authorities arrested [JURIST report] cartoonist Arifur Rahman and suspended the publication of weekly satire magazine Alpin after it reprinted the cartoon.






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Khadr military trial violates international law on child soldiers: lawyers
Nick Fiske on January 19, 2008 10:24 AM ET

[JURIST] Lawyers for Guantanamo Bay detainee Omar Khadr [JURIST news archive] on Friday argued that he was a child soldier when he was captured in Afghanistan and that the US military commission responsible for trying him lacks jurisdiction over the case. In the motion, filed with US military judge Col. Peter Brownback, Khadr's lawyers asked for the case to be dismissed saying that it violates the Optional Protocol of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child [text], which gives special protection to children under 18 involved in armed conflicts. Khadr's lawyers also argued that the US Congress did not grant Guantanamo Bay military commissions the authority to hear cases involving child soldiers charged with juvenile crimes. A ruling on the motion is expected early next month. The Canadian Press has more.

Khadr, now 21, faces life imprisonment after allegedly throwing a grenade that killed one US soldier and wounded another while fighting with the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2002. He was charged [charge sheet, PDF; JURIST report] in April 2007 with murder, attempted murder, conspiracy and providing material support for terrorism, as well as spying. In November, UN Special Representative for the Children and Armed Conflict Unit Radhika Coomaraswamy [official profile] warned the US that prosecuting Khadr for alleged war crimes committed while he was a minor could set a dangerous precedent [JURIST report]. Human rights groups have also criticized the US for proceeding with the trial.






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Amnesty condemns Libya planned mass expulsion of illegal immigrants
Kiely Lewandowski on January 19, 2008 10:16 AM ET

[JURIST] Libya's plan to begin the mass expulsion of illegal foreign residents violates international human rights law [press release], Amnesty International said Friday, noting that "collective expulsions are inherently arbitrary and those seeking refuge from persecution risk being sent back to face torture and other serious human rights violations in such a sweeping measure." Earlier in the week, the government said it was taking steps to immediately deport all foreign residents who don't have a legal visa. An estimated 2 million foreigners currently live in Libya, but only some 60,000 have proper documentation.

In the Amnesty statement, Philip Luther, deputy programme director for the Middle East and North Africa said:

We call on the Libyan authorities not to implement what appears to be a rushed decision as it would violate the rights of potentially hundreds of thousands of people, including women and children.... The Libyan authorities must ensure that no deportation is carried out in an arbitrary manner and no person in need of international protection is expelled.... We urge Libya to ensure that all migrants, asylum-seekers, and refugees detained in the country are protected from torture and other ill-treatment and are treated humanely. They should be provided with adequate medical treatment and allowed to challenge the lawfulness of their detention.
Libya has rejected Amnesty's criticism [AP report], saying that the expulsions are legal under Libyan law, which requires both entry and exit visas for foreigners. In a statement to the Associated Press, government spokesperson Abdel-Moneim al-Lamoushi said that the plan was "final and not to be reconsidered." Reuters has more.





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Former Homeland Security chief calls waterboarding torture
Dennis Zawacki II on January 19, 2008 9:56 AM ET

[JURIST] Former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge [official profile] told the Associated Press Friday that he has "no doubt" that the controversial interrogation technique waterboarding [JURIST news archive] should be considered torture. Ridge noted that he didn't have specific information about interrogation techniques used by intelligence agents while he served as head of the Department of Homeland Security, but stressed that "waterboarding was, is - and will always be - torture."

Earlier this month, US Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell [official profile] stated in an article published in the New Yorker that waterboarding was torture as far as he was concerned [JURIST report]. The question of whether waterboarding is in fact illegal torture dogged now-Attorney General Michael Mukasey in his recent confirmation hearings, and he ultimately refused to take a definitive stand [JURIST report] on the matter. In December 2007, former CIA agent John Kiriakou confirmed the use of waterboarding [JURIST report] during interrogations of terror suspects. In response to the controversy over waterboarding, the US House of Representatives voted 222-199 [roll call] in December to pass an intelligence funding bill [HR 2082 materials] that would restrict CIA interrogators to using only those interrogation techniques explicitly authorized by the 2006 Army Field Manual. The bill is currently stalled in the Senate due to GOP resistance [JURIST report]. AP has more.






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China company sues Microsoft for alleged patent violation
Dennis Zawacki II on January 19, 2008 9:42 AM ET

[JURIST] Chinese company Zhongyi Electronic [corporate website] sued Microsoft [corporate website; JURIST news archive] Friday in Beijing No.1 Intermediate People's Court claiming that Microsoft has been using a technology that converts Roman characters to Chinese characters without paying Zhongyi a license fee for the program. Microsoft has denied the allegations, saying Friday that it has fully performed its obligations and complied with its license agreements with Zhongyi.

The new lawsuit against Microsoft comes just days after the European Commission announced that it was investigating two new allegations [JURIST news archive] that Microsoft abused its dominant market position regarding a range of Internet and operating system software. The European Union investigation extends principles from the EC's 2004 landmark ruling [JURIST report] requiring the software giant to share technical information with competitors. Microsoft has subsequently dropped its appeal to the 2004 ruling and plans to fully comply with the new investigation. Microsoft has also faced significant antitrust investigations in South Korea, and in October 2007, the company said it would drop its appeal [JURIST report] of penalties assessed for Microsoft's abuse of its dominant position in that market. Reuters has more.






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Canadian terror suspect gets life sentence for US embassy bomb plot
Steve Czajkowski on January 18, 2008 4:47 PM ET

[JURIST] A US federal judge on Friday sentenced Mohamed Mansour Jabarah [CBC profile] to life in prison for plotting to bomb US embassies in Singapore and the Philippines [criminal information, PDF]. Jabarah, a Canadian citizen of Iraqi descent, pleaded guilty in 2002 to five counts:

(1) conspiracy to kill United States nationals;
(2) conspiracy to kill United States officers and employees engaged in their official duties;
(3) conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction against United States nationals;
(4)conspiracy to destroy United States property by means of fire or explosives; and
(5) making false statements to FBI agents in connection with a terrorism investigation.
According to a press release [PDF text] from the US Attorney Office's for the Southern District of New York:
In February 2002, JABARAH was arrested in Oman and deported to Canada. JABARAH voluntarily came to the United States from Canada in May 2002 pursuant to an agreement between JABARAH and this Office whereby JABARAH agreed to surrender to the custody of the FBI with the goal of entering into a cooperation agreement that would require him to plead guilty to criminal charges. As part of this agreement and to effect his travel to the United States, JABARAH executed a parole agreement, which described the understandings between the parties and granted him entry into the United States for the limited purpose of his cooperation. JABARAH was held in New York by the FBI until November 8, 2002, when investigation suggested that JABARAH had secretly disavowed his commitment to cooperate and was, instead, planning to attack federal officials. At that time, JABARAH was transferred into the custody of the federal Bureau of Prisons.
Friday's court hearing was the first time Jabarah appeared in public since his 2002 arrest.

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) [official website] played a role in transporting Jabarah to the US and late last year the Security Intelligence Review Committee [official website] sent an oversight report [text] to the Canadian parliament finding that the CSIS violated Jabarah's civil rights [JURIST report]. The committee found that Jabarah was detained without access to counsel and that his confession that he belonged to al Qaeda and plotted to bomb US and Israeli embassies amounted to a violation of his right against self-incrimination under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms [text]. CBC News has more.





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Fort Dix plot suspects plead not guilty to attempted murder charges
Eric Firkel on January 18, 2008 4:33 PM ET

[JURIST] The five alleged plotters of an attack on Fort Dix [official website] pleaded not guilty Friday to new charges filed against them, including attempted murder, and received a new date for trial. Prosecutors filed the additional charges [JURIST report] earlier this week. Jury selection is scheduled for September 29, and prosecutors said the trial will probably last four to six weeks. If convicted, the suspects face life sentences.

Last May, federal agents arrested [press release, PDF; JURIST report] Mohamad Ibrahim Shnewer, Dritan Duka, Eljvir Duka, Shain Duka, Serdar Tatar, and Agron Abdullahu after 16 months of surveillance for allegedly planning an attack on Fort Dix. In October, Abdullahu pleaded guilty to lesser charges of "conspiring to provide firearms and ammunition" [press release, PDF; JURIST report] to illegal immigrants. Abdullahu, who was granted asylum in the US eight years ago after fleeing Kosovo, will likely face deportation after serving his sentence. Abdullahu's sentencing is scheduled for early February. AP has more.






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Saddam prosecutor says he was demoted for calling Iraqi tribunal corrupt
Eric Firkel on January 18, 2008 3:21 PM ET

[JURIST] Jaafar al-Moussawi, the chief prosecutor in the trial of Saddam Hussein [JURIST news archives] says he has been demoted and transferred from Baghdad to the northern city of Sulaimaniya after speaking out against the Iraqi High Tribunal [official website, JURIST news archive], according to Reuters Friday. Al-Moussawi claims he is being punished for criticizing "financial and ethical corruption" within the court, and for calling for the commutation of the death sentence of Saddam's former defense minister, Sultan Hashem Ahmed al-Jubouri al-Tai [TrialWatch profile]. Al-Moussawi said that the prosecution is independent of the tribunal and that only the presidency council has the power to transfer him. He insisted that he will not follow the transfer order.

The Iraqi High Tribunal was established in 2003 by the Iraqi Governing Council to focus on crimes committed under the Hussein regime. Al-Moussawi has been involved in the current crimes against humanity trial [JURIST report] of 15 former Iraqi officials for their roles in attacks against the Iraqi civilian population following the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Reuters has more.






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Switzerland suspends Abu Omar CIA rendition investigation
Steve Czajkowski on January 18, 2008 3:18 PM ET

[JURIST] Switzerland has suspended an investigation into US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) [official website] agents allegedly involved in the 2003 abduction and rendition of Egyptian cleric Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr [JURIST news archive], a spokesperson from the Swiss Federal Prosecutor's Office said Friday. The Swiss Federal Council authorized the criminal proceedings [JURIST report] in February 2007 based on alleged unlawful use of Swiss airspace by US agents in anti-terrorist operations. Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, says he was kidnapped by the CIA with help from Italy's Military Intelligence and Security Service (SISMI) [official website] while he was in Milan, Italy in 2003. He says he was then flown to Germany via Swiss airspace en route to Egypt, where he was tortured.

In October 2007, an Italian trial of 26 CIA agents allegedly involved in the Nasr rendition was suspended [JURIST report] pending a ruling by the Constitutional Court of Italy [official website] on a petition [JURIST report] filed by the Italian government to dismiss all charges. The government alleged that the charges should be dismissed because the prosecution improperly used state secrets and wiretapping to build its case. Italian prosecutor Armando Spataro argued that the court proceedings should continue and has denied using any state secrets. AP has more.






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US Supreme Court takes Title VII, drug labeling, "light" cigarette cases
Mike Rosen-Molina on January 18, 2008 3:17 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Friday granted certiorari in six cases [order list, PDF], including Crawford v. Nashville and Davidson Cty., TN (06-1595) [docket; cert. petition], in which the Supreme Court will consider whether Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act [text] protects a government employee against being fired for cooperating with an internal sexual harassment probe against a superior. A payroll employee in the Nashville school system was interviewed as part of an investigation into harassment claims against a high-ranking official in the system; she alleges that the official later fired her in retaliation for her statements against him. The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit dismissed the lawsuit [opinion, PDF], ruling that Title VII protections did not extend to the employee because she was not the originator of the sexual harassment claims being investigated. AP has more.

In Wyeth v. Levine (06-1249) [docket; cert. petition, PDF], the Court will consider whether Food and Drug Administration (FDA) [official website] approval of a drug's warning label protects its manufacturer from liability when a patient has a bad reaction to the drug that forces her arm to be amputated. The Vermont Supreme Court ruled [opinion] that FDA approval does not shield the maker from liability, because states can require additional warnings above and beyond those required by federal regulations. AP has more.

In Altria Group v. Good (07-562) [docket; cert. petition, PDF], the Court will consider whether the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act bars state lawsuits based on allegedly deceptive cigarette advertising. A federal judge originally dismissed a suit brought by three Maine smokers who accused Philip Morris of presenting light cigarettes as less harmful than they really are, but the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit reinstated the case [ruling]. AP has more.

In MetLife v. Glenn (06-923) [docket; cert. petition, PDF], the Court will consider whether an employee benefit plan administrator has an illegal conflict of interest under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act [text; US DOL backgrounder] if he has both the authority to pay benefits and to determine employees' eligibility for benefits. The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled [PDF text] that the administrator did have a potential conflict of interest.

In Meacham v. Knolls Atomic Power Lab. (06-1505) [docket; cert. petition, PDF], the Court will consider whether a worker or an employer has the burden of proof in an age discrimination case where a worker says he was fired for no valid reason. The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held [PDF text] that the burden of proof rests on the worker.

Finally, in Summers v. Earth Island Institute (07-463) [docket; cert. petition, PDF], the Court will consider whether a group of environmentalists can sue to have a Forest Service regulation struck down or if they are limited only to suing to end programs enacted under that regulation. The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held [PDF text] that the environmentalists could sue against the regulation itself. SCOTUSblog has more on all six cases.






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China dissident writer faces trial on subversion charges
Patrick Porter on January 18, 2008 2:26 PM ET

[JURIST] A Chinese dissident writer will face trial next week on subversion charges related to essays exposing corruption within the Communist Party of China [official backgrounder], the writer's wife told AP Friday. Lu Gengsong was arrested [JURIST report] last October on charges of "inciting subversion of power," according to advocacy group Chinese Human Rights Defenders. Lu's wife said that the indictment mentioned five essays written by Lu, but no specific passages. She has requested that the trial be held publicly, but Chinese authorities have limited attendance to immediate family members. AP has more.

Human Rights in China had protested [press release] Lu's initial detention as "the most recently reported instance of the crackdown by Chinese authorities on rights defenders in the run-up to the Beijing 2008 Olympics [official website]." In August 2007, Human Rights Watch reported that China, fearing that activists will embarrass the party by highlighting political and social problems during the games, is clamping down on human rights activists [press release; JURIST report] and other political dissidents and silencing independent media coverage. The same month, Amnesty International reported [text; press release] that China has not kept its promises to improve human rights and press freedom [JURIST report] in preparation for the Olympics since the Chinese government has recently committed an increasing number of rights abuses against political and religious opponents.






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Thailand Supreme Court dismisses election challenges
Mike Rosen-Molina on January 18, 2008 1:38 PM ET

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Thailand Friday rejected the major legal challenges brought against last month's election results. The ruling frees the People Power Party (PPP), which won 233 out of 480 parliament seats in the first election since the current interim military-backed government came to power in a September 2006 bloodless coup [JURIST report], to begin setting up a coalition government. The court dismissed claims that electoral laws had been violated, as well as accusations by a candidate from the rival Democrat Party that the PPP was an illegal front for ousted Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], who has been banned from Thai politics for five years.

The PPP is composed by members of Shinawatra's dissolved Thai Rak Thai party [JURIST report]. The government had been investigating 62 other winning candidates from the PPP, but the Election Commission of Thailand [official website, in Thai] announced after Friday's court ruling that it had certified the victories of 460 of the 480 members of parliament. AFP has more. The Bangkok Post has local coverage.






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Turkish president signs expanded anti-smoking law
Josh Camson on January 18, 2008 1:29 PM ET

[JURIST] Turkish President Abdullah Gul [official profile] Friday signed a bill banning smoking in government buildings, offices, bars and restaurants. The bill was passed [JURIST report] by the Turkish Grand National Assembly [official website] earlier this month. The ban includes penalties for anyone caught smoking in a prohibited area or any company advertising or distributing tobacco [JURIST news archive]. The ban will not take effect for another 18 months, but the government is hopeful that it will discourage smoking in the country.

Smoking is already illegal on buses and planes in Turkey, but, despite government attempts to curb the habit, the country still has Europe's highest rate of smokers. About 60 percent of Turkish men and 20 percent of Turkish women smoke. Reuters has more.






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Canada prosecutors drop charges in Red Cross tainted blood case
Patrick Porter on January 18, 2008 1:13 PM ET

[JURIST] Prosecutors dropped all criminal charges Friday against former Canadian Red Cross [group website] national medical director Dr. Roger Perrault, who had been implicated in Canada's tainted blood scandal [CBC backgrounder], finding that there was "no reasonable prospect of conviction in this case." Perrault's lawyer said that his client should never have been charged and suggested that he was merely a scapegoat. A spokesperson for the Canadian Hemophiliac Society [advocacy website] expressed disappointment at the decision.

The charges were related to use of tainted blood products by the Canadian Red Cross in Canada in the 1980s and 1990s, a public health disaster that infected more than 20,000 people with hepatitis C and more than 1,000 people with HIV. Perrault and three other defendants were acquitted [JURIST report] last October of charges associated with distributing the tainted blood, but charges were still pending against him for failure to properly screen donors. CBC News has more. The Globe and Mail has additional coverage.






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Niger judge OKs release of French journalists on bail
Josh Camson on January 18, 2008 12:59 PM ET

[JURIST] Niger authorities will release on bail two French journalists charged [JURIST report] this week with threatening state security, the journalists' lawyer said Friday. Reporter Pierre Creisson and cameraman Thomas Dandois [profiles, in French] will be released when each journalist posts bail for $22,000. Passports have already been returned to the French journalists, and once they post bail they can return to France.

The pair have been in custody since their December 17 arrest [RSF report]. The two allegedly tried to report on an ethnic Tuareg rebellion [BBC backgrounder] under the guise of traveling to southern areas of the country to report on the bird flu virus. The Niger government has banned all foreigners and reporters from entering the northern region, and has made reporting on the rebels a crime punishable by death. AP has more.






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Serbia court convicts 26 members of mob group on murder, kidnapping charges
Jaime Jansen on January 18, 2008 10:47 AM ET

[JURIST] A Serbian court convicted 26 members of Belgrade's "Zemun clan" and sentenced them collectively to 465 years in prison Friday. The Zemun clan once acted as a hit squad for former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic [JURIST news archive]. Those convicted, including former paramilitary commander Milorad Ulemek, had been charged with 18 murders, three abductions and two terrorist attacks. Eight of the convicted members of the group were tried in absentia and remain at large.

Ulemek and several of the group's members were convicted [JURIST report] separately last year for the murder of former Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic [BBC obituary; memorial website]. Ulemek was also convicted [JURIST report] in 2005 for murdering former Serbian President Ivan Stambolic [Guardian obituary]. His 40 year sentence for that conviction was upheld [JURIST report] last year. AP has more.






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North Korea still violating human rights: UN envoy
Jaime Jansen on January 18, 2008 10:08 AM ET

[JURIST] North Korea [JURIST news archive] has shown no improvement in its human rights record and still systematically tortures its citizens, a UN special rapporteur said Friday. Vitit Muntarbhorn [UN press release] and a special UN envoy visited Japan [press release] this week to assess the impact of the North Korean rights situation on that country. In remarks concluding his visit, Muntarbhorn condemned North Korea's practice of public executions, inhumane prison conditions, and oppression of dissidents. Muntarbhorn will speak with North Korean refugees living in South Korea on Saturday.

Muntarbhorn's comments follow a report in November by the South Korean aid agency Good Friends [advocacy website, in Korean] that the North Korean government has increased the use of public executions [JURIST report]. The government of North Korea has long been accused of using the death penalty against its political enemies, among other human rights violations. In September 2007, the US State Department designated North Korea as a "country of particular concern" for its systematic repression of religious freedom in its annual Report on International Religious Freedom [text; JURIST report]. North Korea has also been accused of human trafficking, press repression, and "actively committing crimes against humanity" [JURIST reports]. Reuters has more.






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Kenya opposition party turns to economic boycott over disputed election
Jaime Jansen on January 18, 2008 8:48 AM ET

[JURIST] Kenya's main opposition party, the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) [party website] said Friday that it would use economic boycotts and strikes to continue protests over the disputed re-election [JURIST report] of Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki [official profile] after ODM supporters clashed with police [JURIST report] during three days of demonstrations staged across the country this week. Opposition spokesman Salime Lone said Friday that planned protests [JURIST report], which ODM called for last week after the African Union failed to facilitate talks between Kibaki and opposition candidate Raila Odinga [campaign profile], would continue, but also announced an economic boycott to focus on companies that support Kibaki. At least 11 protesters have died since the demonstrations began Wednesday, and over 700 people have died since protests began after the election last month. Thirteen nations, including several European Union members and the United States, have threatened to cut off aid to Kenya's government until the crisis is resolved and democracy is restored. Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] has urged the government to ban police from using excessive and lethal force against protesters [press release] and called for peaceful demonstrations.

The controversial presidential vote has sparked simmering ethnic tensions in Kenya [JURIST news archive], where Kibaki has long been accused of using his position to favor members of the Kikuyu tribe. Fueling accusations of malfeasance, Kibaki won the December 27 election despite early opinion polls that placed rival candidate Odinga in the lead. Thousands of opposition supporters took to the streets following the election which prompted the government to temporarily ban public rallies. Earlier this month, Kenyan Attorney General Amos Wako [official profile] called for an independent investigation [JURIST report] into the vote, citing accusations of election fraud. More than two dozen Kenyan civil society groups on Friday collectively claimed widespread election irregularities [Deutsche Welle report] and called for a recount of votes. AP has more.






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House Oversight Committee schedules hearing on White House e-mail records
Jaime Jansen on January 18, 2008 7:53 AM ET

[JURIST] US House Government Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) [official website] has scheduled a hearing [press release] for mid-February to look into White House compliance with the Presidential Records Act and to investigate the contradiction between comments [press briefing; JURIST report] made Thursday by White House Deputy Press Secretary Fratto that that no electronic messages had been lost between 2003 and 2005 and information congressional staffers heard last September, indicating that no electronic messages had been archived on nearly 500 days in different White House offices. Waxman invited Counsel to the President Fred Fielding, Director of the Office of Administration Alan Swendiman, and Archivist Allen Weinstein [PDF letters] to testify.

Earlier this week, the White House admitted [JURIST report] that it had recycled its back-up computer tapes of e-mails prior to October 2003. In November 2007, US District Court Judge Henry Kennedy ordered [JURIST report] the White House to preserve all of its e-mail records by saving back-up disks after private advocacy group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) [advocacy website] requested a temporary restraining order [JURIST report] to stop deletion. The issue of missing e-mails has been an ongoing controversy in the Bush administration, arising first during the CIA leak investigation into the revelation of Valerie Plame's identity, and again during controversy over the firings of eight US Attorneys [JURIST news archives]. If e-mails were in fact erased, the White House may have violated the Presidential Records Act [text], which requires the preservation of documents that fall into the categories of federal or presidential records. AP has more.






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White House rejects claims that e-mails missing
Benjamin Klein on January 17, 2008 6:03 PM ET

[JURIST] White House Deputy Press Secretary Tony Fratto Thursday dismissed allegations that millions of electronic messages prior to October 2003 had been deleted, saying the White House had found no evidence that any electronic data had been lost. Fratto told [press briefing] reporters that:

We have absolutely no reason to believe that any e-mails are missing; there's no evidence of that ... from everything that we can tell, our analysis of our backup systems, we have no reason to believe that any e-mail at all are missing.
This may contradict earlier reports that indicated data had in fact been lost; in 2006, Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald [official website] said he had learned in his investigation of the CIA leak scandal [JURIST news archive] that e-mails from that time period from the Office of Vice President and the Executive Office of the President had not been saved through the standard archiving process on the White House computer system. The White House admitted [JURIST report] late Tuesday that it had recycled its back-up computer tapes of e-mails prior to October 2003.

In November 2007, US District Court Judge Henry Kennedy ordered [JURIST report] the White House to preserve all of its e-mail records by saving back-up disks after private advocacy group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) [advocacy website] requested a temporary restraining order [JURIST report] to stop deletion. The issue of missing e-mails has been an ongoing controversy in the Bush administration, arising first during the CIA leak investigation into the revelation of Valerie Plame's identity, and again during controversy over the firings of eight US Attorneys [JURIST news archives]. If e-mails were in fact erased, the White House may have violated the Presidential Records Act [text], which requires the preservation of documents that fall into the categories of federal or presidential records. AP has more.





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CIA chief never objected to destruction of interrogation videos: lawyer
Nick Fiske on January 17, 2008 5:56 PM ET

[JURIST] Former CIA Director Porter Goss [BBC profile] never objected to plans by former head of the clandestine branch of the CIA Jose Rodriguez to destroy destruction of videotapes showing CIA interrogation of terror suspects [JURIST news archive], Rodriguez's lawyer said Thursday. This contradicts reported Wednesday closed session testimony [JURIST report] before the US House Select Committee on Intelligence by Acting General Counsel for the CIA John Rizzo [official profile] that Rodriguez ordered the tapes destroyed against the direction of both Goss and himself. Goss declined to comment when asked about his role in approving the tapes' destruction by an AP reporter. Rodriguez is currently at the center of an investigation by the US House Select Committee on Intelligence and a criminal probe [JURIST reports] spearheaded by the US Department of Justice (DOJ). Rodriguez was excused from testifying before the House subcommittee earlier in the week because he said that he would refuse to answer questions unless he was granted immunity [JURIST reports] for fear that his testimony could be used against him in the DOJ criminal investigation. AP has more.

On Wednesday, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] announced that it had asked a US District Court Judge to hold the CIA in contempt of court for its destruction of the videos. The motion [PDF text; press release], filed in December, was part of a 2004 lawsuit brought by the ACLU and other human rights groups against the CIA to enforce Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) [text] requests for records detailing the treatment of terror suspects. In 2005, a US District Judge for the Southern District of New York ordered the CIA to either turn over the records pertaining to the treatment of prisoners or provide a reason why they should be kept secret. An ACLU lawyer characterized the destruction of the tapes as a "flagrant disregard" for the court's order and FOIA, and added that the group also requested sanctions. AP has more.






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Spain court facing 25 appeals in Madrid train bombings cases
Katerina Ossenova on January 17, 2008 3:44 PM ET

[JURIST] Spain's highest court of appeal said Thursday that 25 appeals have been filed against verdicts handed down against convicted participants in the 2004 Madrid train bombings [JURIST news archive], both from defendants and from victims, and that it expects to receive more appeals within the next few days. In November 2007, victims vowed to appeal [JURIST report] after a Spanish court acquitted seven of 28 co-defendants accused of participating in the attacks, including alleged mastermind Rabei Osman Sayed Ahmed [CBC profile]. Three defendants were convicted of murder [JURIST report] and 18 others were found guilty of lesser charges. The three men convicted of murder - Jamel Zougam, Otman el Ghanoui, and Emilio Trashorras - each received sentences of up to 40,000 years imprisonment but under Spanish law can only serve a maximum of 40 years each. The judge also ordered compensation [JURIST report] to be paid for the victims in amounts up to 1.5 million euro.

In all, 28 co-defendants [BBC backgrounder] were charged in Spain with 192 counts of murder and upwards of 1,800 counts of attempted murder related to the March 11, 2004 bombings, which killed 191 people and injured almost 2000 more. The defendants have all protested their innocence and condemned the attacks. AFP has more.






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Canada document includes US on list of states where prisoners risk torture
Brett Murphy on January 17, 2008 3:39 PM ET

[JURIST] An internal document circulated to diplomats in the Canadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade [official website] lists the US as a country that employs interrogation methods that amount to torture and where prisoners risk being tortured, according to media reports Thursday. The document, originally provided to Amnesty International in a court case it filed over Canadian treatment of Afghan detainees [JURIST report], specifically mentions Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] as a detention facility that employs such methods and reports Canadian citizen Omar Khadr [JURIST news archive] as saying that he has been tortured while detained there. Other countries on the list provided to Canadian officials attending a training workshop include Afghanistan, China, Iran, Israel, and Syria. Reuters Thursday quoted a Canadian government spokesman as saying that the document was not an expression of official Canadian policy, but observers say it is nonetheless suggestive of views critical of the US within the country's foreign ministry.

Much controversy has surrounded acknowledged and suspected US interrogation techniques post-9/11, including waterboarding [JURIST news archive], which human rights advocates say amount to torture. In 2006, US President George W. Bush insisted that the US does not torture prisoners [JURIST report] when asked whether he agreed with a comment by Vice President Dick Cheney that a "dunk in the water" is a "no-brainer" when it comes to interrogating terror suspects. Earlier this month, US Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell [official profile] said in an article published in the New Yorker that waterboarding was torture as far as he was concerned [JURIST report]. The question of whether waterboarding is in fact illegal torture dogged now-Attorney General Michael Mukasey in his recent confirmation hearings, and he ultimately refused to take a definitive stand [JURIST report] on the matter. In December 2007, former CIA agent John Kiriakou confirmed the use of waterboarding [JURIST report] during interrogations of terror suspects. Reuters has more. CTV has additional coverage.






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Arizona prosecutors agree to delay bringing cases under new immigration law
Katerina Ossenova on January 17, 2008 3:09 PM ET

[JURIST] Prosecutions under a new Arizona law aimed at preventing employers from knowingly hiring illegal immigrants [JURIST news archive] will not begin until after March 1, according to an agreement reached in federal court Wednesday. The delay will allow US District Court Judge Neil V. Wake time to evaluate the federal lawsuit [complaint, PDF; press release] challenging the controversial Legal Arizona Workers Act [AZHB 2779 text, PDF; Arizona Republic backgrounder]. The lawsuit was filed [JURIST report] in December 2007 by a coalition of civil rights groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) [advocacy websites]. A bipartisan group of legislators have introduced a number of bills which would amend the most controversial aspects of the law such as whether it applies to current employees or only those hired after January 1.

The Legal Arizona Workers Act, which went into effect on January 1, allows the Superior Courts of Arizona to suspend or revoke the business licenses of businesses that intentionally or knowingly employ illegal immigrants. Under the law, employers will be required to check the legal status of new hires using E-Verify [DHS backgrounder], a free online federal program that checks names and identification documents to determine employment eligibility. Wake dismissed [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] an earlier lawsuit [complaint, PDF] against the new law filed by the ACLU and other civil rights groups, holding that that suit was premature because the law had not gone into effect and no one had been harmed. When Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano signed the legislation [JURIST report] in July, she called the law "the most aggressive action in the country against employers who knowingly or intentionally hire undocumented workers." The Arizona Republic has more.






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Germany redrafts Volkswagen law after EU court ruling
Brett Murphy on January 17, 2008 2:13 PM ET

[JURIST] The German Federal Ministry of Justice [official website, in German] Wednesday circulated a new draft [press release, in German] of a law aimed at maintaining state control over auto maker Volkswagen AG [corporate website]. The European Court of Justice ruled [JURIST report] in October 2007 that a previous version of the law, which protects Volkswagen from hostile takeovers, was illegal because it limited "the free movement of capital" and discouraged foreign direct investment in Germany. The new version drops a provision that limited shareholder voting rights to 20 percent, but requires the agreement of shareholders holding more than 80 percent of all shares to approve important changes.

The European Commission (EC) [official website] initially challenged the "Volkswagen Law" in 2005. In February 2007, Advocate General Damaso Ruiz-Jarabo of the ECJ advised the court that the law should be repealed [JURIST report], saying the law restricts the free movement of capital [press release, PDF] and "strengthens the position of the Federal Government and the land, preventing any intervention in the management of the company." The EC has filed similar suits or threatened to file suit against Spain and its energy companies, Italy and highway company Autosrade SpA, and Poland for intervening in Italy's UniCredit SpA business in Poland. The New York Times has more.






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Peru brings maritime dispute with Chile before the ICJ
Lisl Brunner on January 17, 2008 10:28 AM ET

[JURIST] Peru filed an application [press release] with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) [official website] Wednesday over its ongoing maritime boundary dispute with Chile. Peru has been threatening to bring the case before the ICJ since the court resolved a similar dispute [JURIST reports] between Nicaragua and Honduras in October 2007. Chilean President Michelle Bachelet [official website] and Foreign Minister Alejandro Foxley immediately denounced the application [123 Noticias report], but it is unclear whether Chile will reject the ICJ's jurisdiction, as commentators have predicted.

The case between Chile and Peru is the latest in a series of disputes regarding the boundaries of Latin American countries brought before the ICJ pursuant to the American Treaty on Pacific Settlement [text]. After issuing a final opinion [PDF opinion; press release] on the case between Nicaragua and Honduras, the court is presently evaluating disputes between Nicaragua and Costa Rica [order, PDF] and between Nicaragua and Colombia [ruling, PDF]. AP has more. BBC News has additional coverage [in Spanish].






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Niger charges French journalists for reporting on Tuareg rebels
Jaime Jansen on January 17, 2008 9:18 AM ET

[JURIST] Niger authorities charged two French journalists [AFP report] with threatening state security Wednesday, alleging that the journalists attempted to report on rebel groups in the country's volatile north region. The West African country has been in a state of disarray since the rebirth of an ethnic Tuareg rebellion [BBC backgrounder] last year. The Niger government banned all foreigners and reporters from entering the northern region, and made reporting on the rebels a crime punishable by death. Leaders of the rebel group, the Niger Movement for Justice [group website, in French], have conducted some interviews via satellite phone and have communicated information about the rebellion on their website.

The two French journalists - reporter Pierre Creisson and cameraman Thomas Dandois - have been in custody since their December 17 arrest [RSF report]. The two allegedly tried to report on the Tuareg rebels under the guise of traveling to southern areas of the country to report on the bird flu virus. A trial date has not yet been set. Also this week, a Niamey appeals court deferred a decision [RSF report] in the case of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) [advocacy website] correspondent, Moussa Kaka, who allegedly "connived" with the rebels. AP has more.






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Turkish PM calls for end to headscarf ban in public facilities
Jaime Jansen on January 17, 2008 8:44 AM ET

[JURIST] Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan [IHT backgrounder] on Wednesday called for the government of Turkey to lift a ban on women wearing headscarves [JURIST report] in universities and public offices, urging the government not to wait for a proposed constitutional amendment to pass, according to a report [in French] from the Anadolu news agency. Wednesday's remarks followed a similar statement last September when Erdogan urged the Turkish government to remove the ban, saying that the ban effectively denies some Muslim women access to higher education [JURIST report]. Though Erdogan says lifting the headscarf ban is solely about granting individual liberty, Turkish secularists believe Erdogan's insistence on removing the ban is a political statement against secular principles. Erdogan has made the headscarf issue a top priority since his Muslim rooted AK Party won elections last year and promised a new constitution [JURIST report]. Opponents say the ban on headscarves is necessary to protect the separation of religion and state. AP has more.

Traditionally worn by Muslim women, headscarves and other forms of religious dress [JURIST news archive] are banned from many public places in modern Turkey, a majority Muslim country despite official secularism. In 2006, a Turkish court acquitted [JURIST report] retired archaeologist Muazzez Ilmiye Cig [personal website] of charges of insulting religion after postulating in her book that headscarves were originally worn before the founding of Islam by ancient Mesopotamian priestesses who initiated young men into sex. The case also drew criticism from international archaeological associations [IAA appeal] and from the European Union, which had warned Turkey that its laws infringing freedom of expression may delay its entry into the global body.






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Congress told CIA interrogation videos destroyed against instructions: Hoekstra
Jaime Jansen on January 17, 2008 7:59 AM ET

[JURIST] John Rizzo, the acting general counsel of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) [official website], said Wednesday that the former head of the clandestine branch of the CIA Jose Rodriguez ordered the destruction of videotapes showing the interrogation of terror suspects [JURIST news archive] against the direction of superiors, according to Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI). Testifying before the US House Select Committee on Intelligence in a closed hearing [press release, PDF] Wednesday, Rizzo reportedly implied that Rodriguez had specifically received orders not to destroy the tapes. Rizzo also testified that both he and former CIA Director Porter Goss advised against destroying the tapes, despite a memo written by CIA lawyers stating that destruction of the tapes would be legal. AP has more.

On Monday, a lawyer for Rodriguez said Rodriguez would not testify [JURIST report] in Wednesday's hearing indicating he had been excused because he would refuse to answer questions. The House Intelligence Committee issued a subpoena [JURIST report] for Rodriguez last month. Last week, Rodriguez's lawyer told Congress that his client would not testify without immunity [JURIST report] after the US Justice Department opened a criminal investigation [JURIST report] into the destruction of the tapes. Existence of the videotapes was verified in November after the CIA admitted it had mistakenly denied [JURIST report] that it had recorded interrogations in a court declaration during the trial of 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui. Last week, a federal judge refused to order a judicial inquiry into the videotapes [JURIST report], concluding that there was no evidence that the Bush administration violated a June 2005 order that the administration preserve all evidence relating to alleged torture at Guantanamo Bay.






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Cuba held fewer political prisoners in 2007: rights group
Andrew Gilmore on January 16, 2008 7:55 PM ET

[JURIST] The number of political prisoners in Cuba [JURIST archive] has decreased from 283 at the end of 2006 to to 234 at the end of 2007, but human rights abuses continue in the communist Caribbean state, according to the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) [El Pais backgrounder, in Spanish] Wednesday. The CCDHRN, led by Cuban human rights activist Elizardo Sanchez, is the only independent source of information regarding political arrests in Cuba. The group is considered illegal by the Cuban government, but its existence and operation is tolerated by the regime. In August 2007, the group estimated that the number of political prisoners in detention had dropped by over 20 percent, from 316 to 246, since acting President Raul Castro assumed duties from Cuban President Fidel Castro [official profile], but said the provisional government had done little to improve human rights. The Cuban government officially denies the existence of political prisoners. Reuters has more.

Sanchez reported in December that the Cuban government had increased its arrest and harassment of political activists [BBC report] in advance of International Human Rights Day on December 11. Last month, Cuba agreed to sign an international human rights pact [JURIST report] and admit UN rights observers into the country. In September 2007, the government detained at least 40 protesters [JURIST report] demanding humane treatment of political prisoners. In August 2007, Cuba released two political dissidents from detention [JURIST report].






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Former US congressman indicted in terrorism funding case
Andrew Gilmore on January 16, 2008 7:00 PM ET

[JURIST] Mark Deli Siljander [US Congress profile], a former Republican US congressman from Michigan and US representative to the United Nations, was indicted [indictment, PDF; DOJ press release] Wednesday for conspiracy to commit money laundering, money laundering, obstruction of justice, and forfeiture. The charges stem from Siljander's association with the now defunct charity Islamic American Relief Agency (IARA), which allegedly funneled funds to key Taliban and al-Qaeda ally Gulbuddin Hekmatyar [BBC profile]. IARA was the American affiliate of the Islamic African Relief Agency, an organization based in Khartoum, Sudan and designated by the US Treasury Department as a supporter of global terrorism [Treasury Department press release] on October 13, 2004.

IARA is accused of commingling charitable donations and funds obtained through cooperative agreements with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) [agency website]. IARA allegedly used the commingled funds to pay Siljander for his lobbying to get IARA removed from the US Treasury terror list, as well as pass money to Hekmatyar and terrorist organizations. Siljander allegedly received $50,000 from IARA. BBC News has more. Reuters has additional coverage.






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Spain judge shifts procedural focus of Guatemala geonocide probe
Patrick Porter on January 16, 2008 6:40 PM ET

[JURIST] Spanish National Court judge Santiago Pedraz said Wednesday he will switch the focus of his investigation into genocide, torture, and other crimes against humanity in Guatemala's 36-year civil war [GlobalSecurity backgrounder; BBC timeline] towards obtaining witness testimony in light of recent setbacks. The decision came after a Guatemalan court ruled in December that former dictator Efrain Rios Montt and other high ranking military officers could not be extradited to Spain [JURIST report]. Pedraz had previously conducted his investigation using "letters rogatory," letters of legal request used when no governing treaty exists, but received no responses; he hopes that finding witnesses or victims will allow the investigation to go forward. A court source told AFP that Pedraz is frustrated by the Guatemalan decision, and that he has asked international media to help publicize his search for more victims or witnesses.

The Spanish National Court took jurisdiction [JURIST report] of the case in 2006 after the Spanish Constitutional Court held [ruling, in Spanish; JURIST report] in 2005 that Spanish courts can exercise universal jurisdiction over war crimes committed during Guatemala's civil war. Guatemala's Prensa Libre reported [text, in Spanish] in December that 30 Guatemalan witnesses are scheduled to appear before Spain's National Court beginning in February. AFP has more. AP has additional coverage.






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New ICTY prosecutor says finding war crimes fugitives top priority
Patrick Porter on January 16, 2008 5:35 PM ET

[JURIST] New International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] Chief Prosecutor Serge Brammertz [ICC profile; JURIST report] said Wednesday that finding and prosecuting Balkan war crimes suspects will be a top priority under his leadership. Brammertz called on [statement] the states of the former Yugoslavia to cooperate in working toward the arrest of Bosnian Serb leaders Ratko Mladic [BBC profile] and Radovan Karadzic [ICTY indictment], as well as Croatian Serb war crimes suspects Goran Hadzic and Stojan Zupljanin [ICTY indictments]. UN News Centre has more. AFP has additional coverage.

Brammertz took over the court's leadership earlier this month and said that he would continue his predecessor's tough stance on Serbian cooperation [JURIST report]. Former chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte [JURIST news archive] long criticized Serbia for its seeming reluctance to cooperate with the ICTY. The EU had made Serbia's cooperation with the ICTY a key element of its membership negotiations [EU accession materials].






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France high court rejects transfer of Rwanda war crimes suspect to ICTR
Alexis Unkovic on January 16, 2008 4:48 PM ET

[JURIST] The Supreme Court of France [official website, in French] Wednesday overturned a November 2007 ruling by the Court of Appeal of Paris that approved the transfer [JURIST report] of Rwandan genocide suspect Dominique Ntawukuriryayo [ICTR case materials] to the custody of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda [official website], finding that the lower court had committed several procedural errors. The case will now be sent back to a lower court for review. Ntawukuriryayo was arrested in France [JURIST report] in October 2007 and charged [indictment, PDF] with genocide, complicity in genocide and direct and public incitement to genocide. AFP has more.

The charges against Ntawukuriryayo stem principally from his alleged involvement in the Kabuye Hill massacre that occurred over five days in late April 1994, during which as many as 25,000 Tutsi refugees were killed. Then sub-prefect for the Gisagara region, Ntawukuriryayo allegedly promised protection to Tutsis and ordered them to move to Kabuye Hill; instead they were surrounded and shot by gendarmes and communal policemen. Approximately 800,000 people died in the following three months of the Rwandan genocide [BBC backgrounder].






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Brocade ex-CEO sentenced for stock options backdating
Deirdre Jurand on January 16, 2008 4:48 PM ET

[JURIST] A federal judge in San Francisco sentenced former Brocade Communications Systems [corporate website] CEO Gregory Reyes Wednesday to 21 months in prison and imposed a $15 million fine for backdating stock options [SEC complaint, PDF]. Judge Charles Breyer stayed the sentence pending an appeal. A federal jury found Reyes guilty [JURIST report] in August 2007 of conspiracy, securities fraud, lying to accountants, and keeping false books for backdating employee stock options to increase employee profits on trades. In December 2007, lawyers for Reyes filed a motion for a new trial [PDF text] after the prosecution's key witness recanted her testimony, but Breyer rejected it on grounds that any new statements she might have made would probably not have changed the trial's outcome. Breyer's November 2007 sentencing order [PDF text] indicated the prison term would range from 15-21 months. Reuters has more. The San Jose Mercury News has local coverage.

The practice of backdating includes setting an option-holder's stock price at a day when stock prices were low instead of the price on the day the option was granted. Although the practice itself is not illegal, it can become so if proper records are not kept to account for it. Reyes' case was the first stock-options backdating case to go to trial [AP report], but the US Justice Department (DOJ) has charged at least 12 corporate officials for backdating, all stemming from a 2006 DOJ securities fraud probe. In January 2007, the US Attorney's office in San Francisco opened a separate criminal probe [JURIST report] into the option backdating practices of Apple, Inc. [corporate website]. Although charges against CEO Steve Jobs are unlikely, the Securities and Exchange Commission [official website] filed a complaint [PDF text] against former Apple General Counsel Nancy Heinin for allegedly backdating two 2001 stock option grants.






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Federal judge orders Texas city to turn over land for US-Mexico border fence
Alexis Unkovic on January 16, 2008 4:12 PM ET

[JURIST] US District Court Judge Alia Moses Ludlum of the Western District of Texas [official website] has ordered the City of Eagle Pass, Texas [official website] to temporarily turn over 233 acres of its land to the federal government so it can begin construction of a 670-mile fence on the border between the US and Mexico. Ludlum's ruling came in response to a lawsuit [AP report] filed by the US Department of Justice against the city Monday. The judge ordered the city to turn over the property by Tuesday. Last week, US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) [official website] officials said DHS is preparing over 100 court cases [JURIST report] against landowners along the US-Mexico border who have refused to allow construction of the border fence on their properties. AP has more.

US President George W. Bush signed the Secure Fence Act of 2006 [PDF text; JURIST report] in October 2006. The legislation authorizes the construction of approximately 700 miles of fencing along the 2,000-mile US-Mexican border. Critics of the fence include locals in border communities, who feel that a border fence could interfere with irrigation, harm wildlife, and disrupt Mexican consumers and investors that positively contribute to the local economy. In May 2007, the International Boundary and Water Commission [official website] said that construction of the fence could violate a boundary treaty [JURIST report] between the United States and Mexico.






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US Supreme Court hears arguments in patent infringement, tax cases
Alexis Unkovic on January 16, 2008 3:10 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] heard oral arguments [transcript, PDF] Wednesday in Quanta Computer v. LG Electronics [LII case backgrounder; merit briefs], 06-937 [docket; cert. petition, PDF], a patent infringement case on whether a patent holder's rights may be exhausted through certain license agreements. LG Electronics holds a patent on certain computer components, but had an agreement with Intel Corp. [corporate websites] that let Intel manufacture those parts. Quanta Computer [corporate website] bought the patented parts from Intel and used them to make notebook computers. LG Electronics sued Quanta, arguing that Quanta infringed its patents not by buying the parts but by using them to make computers. The Court must determine whether the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit correctly held [opinion, PDF] in July 2006 that the sales of patented devices do not exhaust LG Electronics' patent claims. Reuters has more.

The Court also heard arguments [transcript, PDF] Wednesday in MeadWestvaco Corp. v. Illinois Department of Revenue [LII case backgrounder; merit briefs], 06-1413, [docket; cert. petition, PDF], a case in which the Court is considering whether a state court's standard for determining whether it may tax the gain from the sale of a business by a non-domiciliary violates the Commerce and Due Process Clauses of the US Constitution.






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Bush grants exemption from environmental law for Navy sonar use
Katerina Ossenova on January 16, 2008 2:23 PM ET

[JURIST] US President George W. Bush on Tuesday authorized the US Navy to continue using sonar [press release] in its anti-submarine warfare training off the coast of southern California despite a November 2007 ruling [PDF text; NRDC press release] by the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit that the Navy should limit its use of high-powered sonar [JURIST report]. Bush exempted the Navy from the requirements of the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA) [text] on the basis that the use of sonar is of paramount interest to US national security. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) [advocacy website], which brought the original lawsuit to halt Navy sonar use, warned that sonar is harmful to whales and other marine mammals [press release] while NRDC President Joel Reynolds characterized the presidential waiver as "an attack on the rule of law." NRDC plans to file an appeal to Bush's exemption.

The NRDC has argued that the Navy's decision to use "medium frequency active sonar" without preparing a full environmental impact statement violates several federal laws, including the National Environmental Policy Act [EPA materials], the Endangered Species Act [PDF text], the Administrative Procedures Act [text] and the CZMA. AP has more.






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White House admits to taping over pre-October 2003 e-mail records
Katerina Ossenova on January 16, 2008 1:45 PM ET

[JURIST] The White House admitted late Tuesday that it had recycled its back-up computer tapes of e-mails prior to October 2003. US Magistrate Judge John Facciola ordered [PDF text; JURIST report] the White House earlier this month to report whether e-mails deleted from its servers in fact existed on back-up tapes. White House Office of Administration Chief Information Officer Theresa Payton admitted [sworn statement, PDF] that the White House had destroyed back-up copies of e-mails before October 2003 and only started retaining back-ups at that point. In November 2007, US District Court Judge Henry Kennedy ordered [JURIST report] the White House to preserve all of its e-mail records by saving back-up disks after private advocacy group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) [advocacy website] requested a temporary restraining order [JURIST report] to stop deletion. In response to Payton's disclosure, CREW said it is now apparent that the White House does not have an effective system [press release] for storing and preserving e-mails and that this failure has likely led to the destruction of over 10 million e-mails. If e-mails were in fact erased, the White House may have violated laws requiring the preservation of documents that fall into the categories of federal or presidential records.

Facciola's order came in advance of a ruling on motions from CREW and the National Security Archive [advocacy website] to expedite discovery to determine what relevant e-mail still exists. The US Department of Justice has been unresponsive about what back-up tapes the White House possesses, although it has said that the White House has maintained all back-up tapes since CREW filed suit. The issue of missing e-mails has been an ongoing controversy in the Bush administration, arising first during the CIA leak investigation, and again last year during controversy over the firings of eight US Attorneys [JURIST news archives]. AP has more.






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Kenya police clash with protesters over disputed election
Katerina Ossenova on January 16, 2008 1:07 PM ET

[JURIST] Supporters of Kenya's main opposition party, the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) [party website], fought with police Wednesday during demonstrations staged across the country over the disputed re-election [JURIST report] of Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki [official profile]. At least two protesters were killed and another half dozen injured as police tried to disperse the demonstrations by firing tear gas and bullets into the crowds. On Friday, the ODM called for three days of protests [JURIST report] after the African Union failed to facilitate talks between Kibaki and opposition candidate Raila Odinga [campaign profile]. Thirteen nations, including several European Union members and the United States, have threatened to cut off aid to Kenya's government until the crisis is resolved and democracy is restored. Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] has urged the government to ban police from using excessive and lethal force against protesters [press release] and called for peaceful demonstrations.

The controversial presidential vote has sparked simmering ethnic tensions in Kenya [JURIST news archive], where Kibaki has long been accused of using his position to favor members of the Kikuyu tribe. Fueling accusations of malfeasance, Kibaki won the December 27 election despite early opinion polls that placed rival candidate Odinga in the lead. Thousands of opposition supporters took to the streets following the election which prompted the government to temporarily ban public rallies. On January 3, Kenyan Attorney General Amos Wako [official profile] called for an independent investigation [JURIST report] into the vote, citing accusations of election fraud. More than 600 people have already died in violent demonstrations since Kibaki's re-election and a quarter of a million people have been displaced. Reuters has more. AP has additional coverage.






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Supreme Court rules on NY trial judge selection process, trust tax deductions
Jeannie Shawl on January 16, 2008 12:40 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] handed down decisions in two cases Wednesday, including New York Board of Elections v. Torres [Duke Law case backgrounder; JURIST report], where the Court upheld New York's procedure for selecting state trial judges. In New York, judicial candidates are selected through nominations at political conventions rather than through primaries, a process which was found unconstitutional [PDF text; JURIST report] by the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the system does not violate the First Amendment rights of prospective party candidates. Read the Court's opinion [text] per Justice Scalia, along with a concurrence [text] from Justice Stevens, and a second concurrence [text] from Justice Kennedy. AP has more.

In Knight v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue [LII case backgrounder], the Court held that investment advice fees incurred by a trust may only be deducted on the trust's federal tax return to the extent they exceed 2 percent of the trust's adjusted gross income. The Court affirmed the Second Circuit's decision [PDF text] in the case, rejecting the trust's argument that it should be allowed to fully deducted the investment advisory fees. Read the Court's unanimous opinion [text] per Chief Justice Roberts. AP has more.






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Fort Dix plot suspects charged with attempted murder
Brett Murphy on January 16, 2008 10:14 AM ET

[JURIST] Additional charges, including attempted murder, were filed Tuesday against the alleged plotters of an attack on Fort Dix [official website]. The US Attorney for New Jersey declined to say why the attempted murder charge was added, but a grand jury found that there was sufficient evidence to allow the charges. In addition, the indictment accuses the plotters of scouting out other military bases including McGuire Air Force Base and Dover Air Force Base [official websites].

Last May, federal agents arrested [DOJ press release, PDF; JURIST report] Mohamad Ibrahim Shnewer, Dritan Duka, Eljvir Duka, Shain Duka, Serdar Tatar, and Agron Abdullahu after 16 months of surveillance for allegedly planning an attack on Fort Dix. In October, Abdullahu pleaded guilty to lesser charges of "conspiring to provide firearms and ammunition" [press release, PDF; JURIST report] to illegal immigrants. Abdullahu, who was granted asylum in the US eight years ago after fleeing Kosovo, will likely face deportation after serving his sentence. Abdullahu's sentencing is scheduled for early February, while trials for the other men are scheduled to begin [order, PDF] this month. AP has more.






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Federal judge orders Libya to pay $6B to US victims of 1989 air bombing
Leslie Schulman on January 16, 2008 8:20 AM ET

[JURIST] US District Judge Henry Kennedy ruled [PDF text] Tuesday that the Libyan government and six Libyan officials should pay more than $6 billion in damages [plaintiff press release] to families of seven Americans who died in the 1989 bombing of French passenger jet UTA Flight 772 [BBC backgrounder], which killed all 170 people on board. Kennedy ruled last year in Pugh v. Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya [complaint, PDF] that Libya was responsible for the bombing, and a trial to determine damages was held in August. Libya has until February 25 to file an appeal.

The Flight 772 bombing was an alleged retaliation against the French for favoring Chad during a border dispute with Libya. Both the Flight 772 bombing and the 1998 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 [Wikipedia backgrounder] over Lockerbie, Scotland have been linked to Libya. Last year, defense lawyers representing Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi [CNN profile], the only person convicted in the Flight 103 bombing, requested access to evidence [JURIST report] not previously provided to them that they claim could be used to clear al-Megrahi. Specifically, they sought disclosure of a "missing document," which allegedly contains information about the timer used to bomb Pan Am Flight 103. Reuters has more.






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Conyers calls for special counsel in CIA interrogation videos probe
Leslie Schulman on January 16, 2008 7:54 AM ET

[JURIST] US House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) [official website] sent a letter [text] Tuesday to Attorney General Michael Mukasey [official profile] urging him to appoint a special counsel to investigate allegations that the US Central Intelligence Agency ordered the destruction of videotapes showing the interrogation of terror suspects [JURIST news archive]. In the letter, Conyers wrote that:

Justice Department regulations require the Attorney General to appoint an outside special counsel when: 1) a "criminal investigation of a person or matter is warranted," 2) the "investigation or prosecution of that person or matter by a United States Attorney's Office or litigating Division of the Department of Justice would present a conflict of interest for the Department," and 3) "it would be in the public interest to appoint an outside Special Counsel to assume responsibility for the matter.
Conyers asserted that all three of the conditions exist, and has asked Mukasey to either appoint the outside counsel, or to explain why he refrains from doing so under each of the three criteria.

The Department of Justice announced its criminal probe [JURIST report] into the destruction of the tapes earlier this month. John Durham, the first assistant United States attorney in the United States Attorney's Office for the District of Connecticut, is heading the investigation. Existence of the videotapes was verified in November after the CIA admitted it had mistakenly denied [JURIST report] that it had recorded interrogations in a court declaration during the trial of 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui. CIA Director Michael Hayden acknowledged [statement text] last month that the CIA had videotaped the interrogation of two al Qaeda suspects in 2002, but said that the tapes had been destroyed in 2005 amid concerns that they could be leaked to the public and compromise the identities of the interrogators. In addition to the DOJ investigation, multiple congressional inquiries have been launched into the tapes' destruction. AP has more.






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DOJ facing legal hurdles in Blackwater Iraqi civilian shooting criminal case: NYT
Leslie Schulman on January 16, 2008 7:05 AM ET

[JURIST] Bringing criminal charges against Blackwater [corporate website; JURIST news archive] employees for the September 16 killings of 14 Iraqi civilians [JURIST report] in West Baghdad would require surmounting numerous legal hurdles, US Department of Justice officials told Congress during a private meeting in December, the New York Times reported Wednesday. The meeting, which was held after a US federal grand jury opened an investigation into the killings [JURIST report], noted legal issues that arose after the US State Department allegedly granted so-called "Garrity protections" [JURIST report] to Blackwater employees involved in the incident. Garrity protections prohibit statements made by public law enforcement officers from being used against them in criminal prosecutions. Given the protections, prosecutors would now have to show that any evidence used against the Blackwater guards in the future was obtained independently of their statements to the State Department. Additionally, the DOJ said it must determine whether federal law applies to Blackwater, but officials reiterated during the meeting that they are still considering filing criminal charges [JURIST report] and that the investigation continues despite the potential legal hurdles.

The Blackwater allegations have caused domestic outrage in Iraq and have prompted legal controversy in the US. In November, the New York Times and the Washington Post [texts] reported that an FBI investigation into the incident concluded that the shootings were unjustified [JURIST report]. Advocacy group Human Rights First [advocacy website] issued a report [PDF text; press release] Wednesday asserting that existing federal law is sufficient to prosecute private contractors using excessive violence in their overseas capacities, and that the US government is to blame for failing to "develop a clear policy with respect to the accountability of private contractors for crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan." The report says that the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act [S 768 information], which allows criminal prosecution of Department of Defense contractors, could be extended to State Department contractors, but that the US has failed to do so. The New York Times has more.






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Federal judge refuses to rule out life sentence for Padilla, co-conspirators
Kiely Lewandowski on January 15, 2008 6:17 PM ET

[JURIST] US District Judge Marcia Cooke [official profile] Tuesday refused to rule out the possibility of a life sentence for convicted terrorism conspirator Jose Padilla [JURIST news archive]. Cooke found that the enhanced terrorism penalties could be applied, rejecting the defense's argument that evidence linking Padilla and his co-conspirators to actual terrorist groups was insufficient for federal terrorism standards to be applied. Tuesday's ruling is part of a sentencing hearing that is set to continue through Friday; there has been no indication of when sentences will be handed down.

Padilla was convicted in August, along with Adham Amin Hassoun and Kifadh Wael Jayyousi [profiles], of conspiracy to commit illegal violent acts outside the US, conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists, and providing material support to terrorists. Padilla, a US citizen, was arrested in 2002 at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport and subsequently detained as an "enemy combatant" [JURIST news archive] at a Navy military brig in Charleston, South Carolina. Initially alleged to have planned the explosion of a "dirty bomb" in the United States, Padilla went from enemy combatant to criminal defendant when he was finally charged with other offenses in November 2005. AP has more.






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FBI spearheading drive for international biometric database on criminals, terrorists
Devin Montgomery on January 15, 2008 5:35 PM ET

[JURIST] The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) [official website] is spearheading US efforts to form an international database of biometrics data on major criminals and terrorists, the UK Guardian newspaper reported Tuesday. The program, called "Server in the Sky," would be a cooperative venture by participating countries to collect and share information such as fingerprints, iris and palm scans, facial images, and video sequences. As envisioned, the database would be three tiered -- separating "internationally recognized terrorists and felons", "major felons and suspected terrorists", and "subjects of terrorism investigations and criminals with international links." Though still in the planning stages, the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand have formed a working group to discuss the project.

Several European Union member states have already signed on to a similar plan [JURIST report] to share DNA and fingerprint information on major criminals under the 2005 Treaty of Prum [PDF text]. The Guardian has more. CBC News has additional coverage.






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Rice praises Iraq parliament passage of ex-Baathist reinstatement bill
Caitlin Price on January 15, 2008 4:39 PM ET

[JURIST] US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Tuesday praised a bill passed [JURIST report] Saturday by the Iraqi parliament [official website, in Arabic] that would allow most members of Saddam Hussein's now-defunct Baath Party [BBC backgrounder] to be reinstated to public life as "a step forward" for the stabilization of Iraq. Passage of the de-Baathification reform legislation was noted by the White House last year as one of 18 as-yet-unmet benchmarks [JURIST report] of Iraqi progress towards stability. Speaking at a Baghdad press conference [transcript] Tuesday with Iraqi foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari, Rice said the Justice and Accountability Law was a key step toward "national reconciliation."

The controversial measure distinguishes between former Baath party officials who have been charged with crimes for their role in the implementation of the party's oppressive policies and those members who joined out of necessity; the latter are now free to reapply for positions in the government and military. Under the new law, officials banned from reinstatement will collect pensions. Iraqi Shiite religious leader Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani previously called the bill "dangerous" [JURIST report] and its ratification process had stalled [JURIST report] as recently as late November. The New York Times has more. AP has additional coverage.






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Iran urged to end stoning executions
Mike Rosen-Molina on January 15, 2008 4:06 PM ET

[JURIST] Amnesty International [advocacy website] Tuesday called on Iran to abolish executions by stoning [press release], an execution method that Iran denies is still in official use. Amnesty decried stoning as a "grotesque and horrific" practice designed to inflict maximum suffering on condemned adulterers; it pointed to language in the Iranian penal code [PDF text, in English] that said stones used should be large enough to cause pain, but not large enough to quickly kill the victim. Amnesty said that two people were stoned to death in 2006, despite a moratorium on the practice imposed by the head of the Iranian judiciary in 2002. The Guardian has more.

Iran has faced increasing international criticism [JURIST report], from international rights advocates - including UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour - following the stoning execution of a man convicted of adultery in July 2007. Iran Wednesday announced an investigation into the judge [JURIST report] who ordered the execution. A judiciary spokesman suggested that the stoning sentence was upheld by higher authorities, seeking to show that Iran is unfazed by international pressure.






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UN rights chief urges Sri Lanka to protect rights as ceasefire with Tamils expires
Caitlin Price on January 15, 2008 3:56 PM ET

[JURIST] UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour [official website] Tuesday urged [OHCHR press release] the Sri Lankan government to abide by international law as a 2002 ceasefire with the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) [group website; CFR backgrounder], or "Tamil Tigers," expires Wednesday. Fighting between government forces and the Tigers escalated in 2006, and last month the government announced it was pulling out of the ceasefire [AP report]. Human rights groups have pointed to abuses by both sides in the conflict, but have lately accused the government of an increased number of violations [JURIST report]. Arbour warned both sides that when the ceasefire lapses, heightened tensions could have a "devastating effect on the human rights of many Sri Lankans from all communities." She counted extrajudicial killing, arbitrary detention, torture, disappearances, and deployment of child soldiers as international human rights violations for which supporters on each side of the conflict could face criminal charges.

After an October 2007 visit [JURIST report] to Sri Lanka, Arbour said she would support a possible UNOHCHR monitoring mission as urged by activists; the suggestion was immediately rejected by Sri Lankan Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe. Arbour emphasized the need for unbiased monitoring of possible human rights violations, including those beyond the military conflict. Reuters has more.






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Pakistan court sentences 3 for plotting Musharraf assassination
Mike Rosen-Molina on January 15, 2008 3:27 PM ET

[JURIST] Three men were sentenced to life in prison Tuesday for a 2002 attempt to assassinate Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf [official website; BBC profile]. Mohammad Imran, Mohammad Hanif and Mohammad Ashraf, all thought to belong to the Harkut ul-Mujahideen al-Almi {MIPT backgrounder] terror group, were originally sentenced to 10 years each in 2003, but appealed their convictions. The Sindh High Court [official website] ordered new trials in 2006. Three other men were acquitted of charges related to the attack. The plot failed when a bomb planted in a roadside car in Karachi failed to detonate as Musharraf's motorcade passed. BBC News has more.

In 2005, a Pakistan [JURIST news archive] military court sentenced four men to death and two others to life imprisonment [JURIST report] for their roles in another attempted assassination of Musharraf in 2003. A statement by the Pakistan Air Force said the six low-ranking military staff members had been tried over a six-month period for the Dec. 13, 2003, attempt to bomb a motorcade Musharraf was traveling with in Rawalpindi. Two other men had previously been convicted in connection with the attack, one of whom was put to death, while five others were tried and sentenced to death for a separate assassination attempt later that month.






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Pakistan court drops Bhutto corruption charges
Caitlin Price on January 15, 2008 3:00 PM ET

[JURIST] A judge on one of Pakistan's anti-corruption Accountability Courts [official backgrounder] Tuesday dismissed charges against former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto [BBC obituary; JURIST news archive] following her December 27 assassination [JURIST report]. Charges that Bhutto possessed assets beyond her known income, brought by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) [official website], were rejected in light of her death. Corruption charges against Bhutto's former Director General of the Federal Investigation Agency [official website] Rehman Malik will be revisited on January 30 as the NAB responds to a motion to close the case.

Bhutto left Pakistan in 1999 under the cloud of corruption allegations after her government collapsed; in January 2006, international arrest warrants [JURIST report] were issued for Bhutto and her husband Asif Ali Zardari [BBC profile] on unspecified corruption charges stemming from her term in office from the late 1980s to the early 1990s. In October 2007, Bhutto returned to Pakistan after nine years of self-exile when Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf signed a "reconciliation ordinance" granting amnesty to Bhutto on the corruption charges in an attempt to boost his waning popularity. That ordinance was challenged in the Pakistani Supreme Court [JURIST report], and Bhutto was expected to again face the corruption charges. PTI has more.






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US to increase deportations of illegal immigrant criminals
Leslie Schulman on January 15, 2008 1:19 PM ET

[JURIST] US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) [official website] plans to step up deportation of illegal immigrants serving time in US prisons and jails during 2008, ICE Assistant Secretary Julie L. Myers [official profile] said in an interview published Tuesday in the New York Times. Myers said ICE deported nearly 64,000 illegal immigrants who were serving time for criminal convictions in 2006; in comparison, the agency plans to deport more than 200,000 illegal immigrant criminals in 2008.

Illegal immigrants convicted for criminal offenses must finish their full sentence before facing deportation, but Myers said ICE hopes to convince states to reduce some sentences in exchange for the convicts' agreement to immediate deportation. In the last year, ICE has increasingly pushed for the deportation of illegal immigrants immediately upon their release from prison. The New York Times has more.






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Norway to extradite Vukovar war crimes suspect to Serbia
Leslie Schulman on January 15, 2008 12:42 PM ET

[JURIST] Norway has agreed to extradite an unnamed Croatian citizen wanted for his alleged involvement in the 1991 Vukovar massacre [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] to Serbia to face war crimes [JURIST news archive] charges, Norwegian officials said Tuesday. Croatia had requested the man's extradition in 2006; Norwegian justice officials concluded after an investigation that there was sufficient evidence to warrant extraditing the man for trial over the killing of approximately 200 Croatian POWs in the fall of 1991. He was previously convicted in absentia in Belgrade for murder.

In September, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] handed down judgments [JURIST report] in the cases of war crimes suspects Mile Mrksic, Miroslav Radic and Veselin Sljivancanin [BBC profiles; ICTY case backgrounder] indicted for their involvement in the Vukovar killings. The court found Mrksic guilty on three counts of war crimes and sentenced him to 20 years in prison for his part in the massacre. Sljivancanin received a five-year sentence on aiding and abetting charges. Radic was acquitted on all counts. Serbia has conducted its own prosecutions for the massacre [JURIST report], and the case has been widely seen as a test of Serbia's domestic war crimes process. Reuters has more.






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Supreme Court rules in securities fraud case
Mike Rosen-Molina on January 15, 2008 12:07 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] ruled Tuesday that fraud claims by investors are not permitted against third parties that did not directly mislead those investors. In Stoneridge Investment Partners, LLC v. Scientific-Atlanta, Inc. [Duke Law case backgrounder], the court held 5-3 [opinion, PDF] that investors in cable company Charter Communications Inc. [corporate website] did not have the right to sue over fraudulent transactions between Charter and suppliers Scientific-Atlanta Inc. and Motorola Inc. [corporate websites] that artificially inflated Charter's stock value because they did not rely on those fraudulent acts in buying or selling stocks. The court held that since investors were unaware of fraud taking place behind the scenes that they could not sue for reliance. Justice Kennedy wrote the majority opinion; Justice Stevens wrote a dissent, joined by Justices Souter and Ginsburg.

The ruling may affect a similar class-action lawsuit by former Enron [corporate website; JURIST news archive] shareholders, who are suing Wall Street banks for allegedly plotting with the company to hide its financial problems. AP has more. SCOTUSblog has additional coverage.






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Estonia trial begins for ethnic Russians accused of violence over WWII memorial
Leslie Schulman on January 15, 2008 11:59 AM ET

[JURIST] Four ethnic Russian Estonians accused of taking part in violence that occurred last year during the removal of a Red Army war memorial in Tallinn went on trial in Estonia Monday. The violence occurred last April when Estonia removed the prominent yet controversial Bronze Soldier [IHT report] from the capital city and more than 1,000 ethnic Russians protested, saying the removal denigrated World War II Soviet soldiers. The Estonian government said the statute had become a source of tension [Der Spiegel report] between nationals of the two countries. The protests resulted in the death of one Russian citizen. The four men on trial face up to five years in prison if found guilty. All have denied the charges.

Last year's violence surrounding the removal of the statute marked escalating tensions between Russia and Estonia [JURIST news archives], which gained its independence from the former Soviet Union in 1991. The monument was a reminder to many Estonians of the years of Soviet occupation. Earlier this month, Russia put public pressure on Estonia [Russia Today report] to step up the murder investigation into the Russian citizen killed during the protests. BBC News has more.






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England top judge expected to head new UK Supreme Court
Michael Sung on January 15, 2008 9:30 AM ET

[JURIST] The Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], will probably head the new UK Supreme Court when it opens in 2009, the Times reported Monday. The new top court, created by the Constitutional Reform Act of 2005 [text], will technically replace the judicial panel of the House of Lords [official website] as Britain's highest tribunal, with 12 law lords from the House of Lords as the first Supreme Court justices. Lord Phillips, who will probably replace senior law lord Baron Bingham of Cornhill [Wikipedia profile] when Bingham reaches the mandatory retirement age of 75 in July 2008, will likely head the new judicial body. Three other law lords, Baron Hoffmann, Baron Scott of Foscote, and Baron Carswell, are also slated for mandatory retirement, leaving only eight law lords from the current judicial panel. The next senior law lord will be selected through a completely new process, which may include submitting an application and doing interviews.

The UK Supreme Court is intended to be more visible and transparent than the current house of Lords. In October, Lord Chancellor and UK Secretary of State for Justice Jack Straw [official profile] recommended that certain proceedings of the court be televised, a move said to be supported by senior judges. The Times has more.






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Ex-CIA official will not testify at videotape destruction hearing
Joshua Pantesco on January 15, 2008 9:24 AM ET

[JURIST] Jose Rodriguez, the former head of the clandestine branch of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) [official website] who ordered the destruction of videotapes showing the interrogation of terror suspects [JURIST news archive], will not appear at a closed congressional hearing later this week, his lawyer said Monday, indicating he had been excused because he would refuse to answer questions. The US House Select Committee on Intelligence issued a subpoena [JURIST report] for Rodriguez last month. Last Wednesday, Rodriguez's lawyer told Congress that his client would not testify without immunity [JURIST report]. Reuters has more.

The US Justice Department (DOJ) said last week that it has opened a criminal investigation [JURIST report] into the destruction of the tapes, prompting Rodriguez's request for immunity. Existence of the videotapes was verified in November after the CIA admitted it had mistakenly denied [JURIST report] that it had recorded interrogations in a court declaration during the trial of 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui. In addition to the DOJ investigation, multiple congressional inquiries have been launched into the tapes' destruction, including the House intelligence panel's investigation. Last week, a federal judge refused to order a judicial inquiry into the videotapes [JURIST report], concluding that there was no evidence that the Bush administration violated a June 2005 order that the administration preserve all evidence relating to alleged torture at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive].






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Cambodia genocide tribunal urges former Khmer Rouge members to cooperate
Joshua Pantesco on January 15, 2008 9:06 AM ET

[JURIST] Investigating judges of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) [official website] met with former low-level Khmer Rouge members Tuesday in an effort to secure their cooperation with the court's mission. ECCC judges assured the former Khmer Rouge cadres that the court's mandate only permits prosecutions against high-level Khmer Rouge figures; many former members have withheld their cooperation and testimony for years out of fear of prosecution. The ECCC was established to prosecute former members of the late-1970s Khmer Rouge communist regime [Yale backgrounder], generally held responsible for the genocide of an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians [PPU backgrounder] between 1975 and 1979.

The ECCC was established by a 2001 Cambodian law [text as amended 2005, PDF] authorizing the investigation and trial of surviving Khmer Rouge officials. Former Khmer Rouge leaders Kaing Guek Eav, Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary, Ieng Thirith and Khieu Samphan [JURIST news archive] are now in ECCC custody, charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity, and are expected to face trial in 2008. AFP has more. AP has additional coverage.






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Pakistan lawyers relaxing courts boycott to ease burden on litigants
Michael Sung on January 15, 2008 8:56 AM ET

[JURIST] Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) [profession website] members said Monday that Pakistan's lawyers will relax their ongoing boycott of the post-emergency judiciary [JURIST news archive] to Thursday of every week and one hour of every day, because the backlog caused by their 12-week boycott was creating hardship for civil litigants and criminal defendants. The PBC said it continued to support ousted Pakistani Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry [JURIST news archive], and refused to recognize the legitimacy of replacement judges who had taken oaths of office under President Pervez Musharraf's now-abrogated Provisional Constitutional Order [text] following his November 3 declaration of emergency rule [JURIST report]. PBC leaders also criticized the continued detention of judges and top lawyers, demanding the government immediately release the detainees.

On Saturday, ousted Pakistani Supreme Court Justice Rana Bhagwandas [JURIST news archive] was placed under house arrest [JURIST report] for urging members of the Karachi Bar Association to boycott judges who had taken Musharraf's oaths of office. Reuters has more. Daily Times has local coverage.






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Supreme Court hears Fourth Amendment, arbitration cases
Joshua Pantesco on January 15, 2008 8:04 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] heard oral arguments [transcript, PDF] Monday in the case of Virginia v. Moore [LII backgrounder; merit briefs], 06-1082, where the Court is being asked to decide whether the Fourth Amendment requires the suppression of evidence obtained incident to an arrest that is based upon probable cause, even though the arrest violated state law. The case arose when David Lee Moore was arrested in 2003 for driving on a suspended license, which is not an arrestable offense under Virginia law. The Virginia Supreme Court eventually overturned [opinion text, PDF] Moore's conviction on the grounds that "the Fourth Amendment forbids expansion of the search incident to arrest doctrine to include a search incident to citation." Justice Antonin Scalia asked during oral arguments whether the police should have allowed Moore to drive away after being the traffic stop even though his license remained expired. Forty-five minutes elapsed between the traffic stop and the search, while police waited for a canine unit to arrive to control Moore's unruly dog, causing Justice John Paul Stevens to question whether an arrest can continue indefinitely. AP has more.

Also on Monday, the Court heard oral arguments [transcript, PDF] in Preston v. Ferrer [LII backgrounder; merit briefs], 06-1463, where the Court will decide if the Federal Arbitration Act [text] and prior case law preempts a state statute that requires parties bound by an arbitration agreement to exhaust administrative remedies before filing any action in court.






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France court freezes Russian bank accounts over Swiss debt claim
Andrew Gilmore on January 14, 2008 7:02 PM ET

[JURIST] A French court Monday froze bank accounts belonging to several Russian state organizations [BBC report; Kommersant report] including the Central Bank of Russia, [official website] the Russian Finance Ministry [official website], the presidential administration's foreign property arm, the Russian Energy Ministry [official website], state arms monopoly Rosoboronexport, [company website] and the government news service RIA Novosti [media website]. The accounts were held by a French division of the Russian bank VTB [official website]. The freezing follows pressure from a Swiss company, Compagnie Noga d'Imporatation et d'Exportation, SA (Noga), and stems from a food-for-oil contract between Noga and Russia in 1991-1992 just after the breakup of the Soviet Union. Russia said that it will appeal the ruling [AFP report]. Reuters has more. UPI has additional coverage.

Russia unilaterally terminated the food-for-oil contract with Noga in 1993. Noga has previously attempted to seize assets of the Russian state as payment for the debt, including attempting to seize a Russian sailing ship docked in a French port [BBC report], valuable paintings from the collection of Moscow's Pushkin Fine Arts Museum [NYT report] on loan to a Swiss gallery, and two Russian military jets participating in the Paris Air Show [CNN report].






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Supreme Court refuses experimental drugs, environmental cases
Alexis Unkovic on January 14, 2008 2:49 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Monday denied [order list, PDF] without comment a petition for certiorari filed in Abigail Alliance for Better Access to Developmental Drugs v. von Eschenbach (07-444) [docket], a case challenging the constitutionality of the government's ability to deny terminally ill patients access to medications that have yet to receive full regulatory approval. The Abigail Alliance and the Washington Legal Foundation [advocacy websites] initially filed the lawsuit [complaint, PDF] in 2003 seeking to enjoin the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) [official website] from enforcing a policy which prohibits patients with no other treatment options from purchasing experimental drugs. In August 2007, the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit ruled [opinion, PDF] that terminally ill patients have no constitutional right to access to experimental drugs. Reuters has more.

The Supreme Court also denied petitions for certiorari Monday in the consolidated cases of National Petrochemical & Refiners Association v. South Coast Air Quality Management District (07-311) and Chamber of Greater Baton Rouge v. South Coast Air Quality Management District (07-333) [dockets], two cases challenging a refusal by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) [official website] to do away with certain ozone protection requirements after more stringent standards had been implemented. AP has more.

Finally, the Supreme Court Monday dismissed the case of Huber v. Wal-Mart (07-480) [docket; cert. petition, PDF] after having granted certiorari [JURIST report] in December to consider whether a disabled employee who requires transfer to an equivalent position can be required to compete with other employees for the new position. The dismissal was made under court Rule 46.1 [Rules text, PDF] governing cases subject to settlement agreements. AP has more.






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ACLU says US pandemic flu plans may jeopardize civil liberties
Alexis Unkovic on January 14, 2008 2:37 PM ET

[JURIST] A report [PDF text; press release] issued Monday by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] criticized efforts by the Bush administration to prepare for a potential bird flu pandemic by relying on a law enforcement/national security approach rather than a public health approach. The report, authored by three professors, cautioned that the administration's current pandemic response plans could threaten civil liberties if enacted. The report recommended measures to ensure that vaccines are quickly and fairly distributed, that privacy rights are protected, and that public health officials remain subject to legal accountability. Officials with the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) [official website], which has devised its own Pandemic Influenza Plan [PDF text; fact sheet], said in response that the government's plans already incorporate a significant number of the ACLU report's recommendations. Reuters has more.

The US government has developed a website which provides avian and pandemic flu information to the public. In November 2005, US President George W. Bush asked Congress to devise a plan to provide liability protection [JURIST report] for vaccine manufacturers to prepare for a possible bird flu epidemic [White House fact sheet].






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New ICTY prosecutor toes Del Ponte line on Serb cooperation with war crimes court
Caitlin Price on January 14, 2008 2:23 PM ET

[JURIST] New International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] Chief Prosecutor Serge Brammertz [JURIST report; ICC profile] does not plan to amend his predecessor's tough stance on Serbian cooperation, Reuters reported an ICTY spokeswoman as saying Monday. Former chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte [official profile] long criticized Serbia for its seeming reluctance to cooperate with the ICTY; last October, she said that Serbia must do more to apprehend fugitive war crimes suspects [JURIST report] before she could give a positive report on the country's work with the ICTY to the European Union. In her final address to the UN Security Council [Reuters report] as chief prosecutor in December 2007, she accused Serbia of deliberately failing to arrest fugitive former Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] and former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic [ICTY case backgrounder], among others. Brammertz, who took office at the beginning of the year, has no plans to reassess the situation unless "significant developments" so require and said that Del Ponte's report will still apply.

The EU had made Serbia's cooperation with the ICTY a key element of its membership negotiations [EU accession materials], but Slovenia, the new holder of the Presidency of the EU [official website], is apparently seeking to expedite Serbia's path to membership [BBC report] regardless of the ICTY report, with a full signing of a Stabilization and Association Agreement possibly occurring this month. Reuters has more.






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France prosecutors recommend prison time for 'Darfur orphans' airlift workers
Alexis Unkovic on January 14, 2008 2:03 PM ET

[JURIST] French prosecutors Monday urged a criminal court in Creteil, a suburb of Paris, to convert the sentences of six French aid workers convicted and sentenced in Chad for their role in the attempted airlift [JURIST report] of 103 supposed Darfur [JURIST news archive] orphans to France from eight years of hard labor [JURIST report] to eight years in prison. The workers, affiliated with French charity Zoe's Ark, were sentenced in Chad [JURIST report] in December. The Chadian government returned the workers to France [JURIST report] in late December 2007 after a formal request from the French Foreign Ministry under the 1976 France-Chad Agreement on Judicial Matters [PDF text]. The court must now decide how the workers will serve their sentences since France has no hard-labor sanctions. The court said Monday it will render a decision regarding the sentencing on January 28.

The six aid workers have said that they were attempting to airlift orphaned children [JURIST news archive] from the war-torn Sudanese region of Darfur to safety in Europe, but investigations later revealed that most of the children were not actually orphans. Last week, an aid worker was charged [JURIST report] in French court with conspiring to allow illegal residents into the country in connection with the aborted airlift. AFP has more.






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German lawyer for Holocaust denier Zundel convicted of incitement, insult
Caitlin Price on January 14, 2008 2:02 PM ET

[JURIST] A former defense lawyer for German Holocaust-denier Ernst Zundel [ADL profile; JURIST news archive] was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison Monday after being convicted of incitement and insulting the court during Zundel's original trial in 2005. Throughout Zundel's trial, Sylvia Stolz [Tagespiegel profile, in German; JURIST report] repeatedly denied the Holocaust, described Jews as "enemy people," distributed a legal document that concluded with the words "Heil Hitler," and denounced the Mannheim State Court [official website] as a "tool of foreign domination." She told AP, "We are under foreign occupation, and this foreign occupation has portrayed Adolf Hitler as a devil for 60 years, but that is not true." Stolz was also disbarred for five years.

In 2005, Zundel's first trial was delayed when a judge removed Stolz from the defense team [JURIST report]. In February 2007, Zundel was convicted [JURIST report] of 14 counts of incitement, libel and disparaging the dead and sentenced to five years in prison. Holocaust denial constitutes a crime under Section 130 (3) [text] of the German Federal Criminal Code. AP has more.






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EU launches investigation into new Microsoft antitrust charges
Caitlin Price on January 14, 2008 1:09 PM ET

[JURIST] The European Commission (EC) Monday announced [press release] formal investigations into two new allegations that Microsoft [corporate website; JURIST news archive] has abused its dominant market position regarding a range of Internet and operating system software. The EC will look into charges that Microsoft violated Article 82 [text] of the Treaty Establishing the European Community, which covers market sharing and antitrust law. The first complaint [press release], brought by the European Committee for Interoperable Systems (ECIS) [trade website], alleges that Microsoft has refused to share information that would allow its software to interoperate with competitors' products. The second charge stems from a complaint [press release] filed by the Norwegian Opera [corporate website] Internet browser company, alleging that Microsoft illegally tied Internet and email programs to its Windows operating system.

The investigation extends principles from the EC's 2004 landmark ruling [JURIST report] requiring the software giant to share technical information with competitors. Microsoft dropped its appeals in that case last October, one month after the European Court of First Instance upheld the 2004 ruling [JURIST reports] that Microsoft had abused its monopoly power in the computer market by trying to force consumers into buying Microsoft software, noting that selling media software with its Windows operating system damaged European competitors. Microsoft was fined €280.5 million in July 2006 for its antitrust violations, and had reportedly agreed to take the necessary steps [JURIST report] to comply with the ruling. Microsoft said Monday that it will cooperate fully with the new investigation. The Financial Times has more. Bloomberg has additional coverage.






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Red Cross announces video teleconference system for US Afghan detainees
Joshua Pantesco on January 14, 2008 9:21 AM ET

[JURIST] The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) [organization website] and the US military have installed a video teleconferencing system at Bagram Airbase [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] in Afghanistan to allow detainees held at the base to speak with loved ones, the ICRC said [press release] Monday. The system is available to all detainees at the Bagram facility, some of whom have not seen or have had any verbal contact with family members in five or six years.

The US currently detains between 600 and 650 prisoners at Bagram. The ICRC is pushing the US to allow face-to-face visits between detainees and their family members, which are currently prohibited. In 2006, the Center for Constitutional Rights filed [JURIST report] a habeas corpus petition on behalf of 25 detainees at Bagram seeking to permit detainees to speak with legal counsel, a right not afforded to detainees under the Military Commissions Act of 2006 [PDF text]. AP has more.






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Lawyers decry lax enforcement of Asia environmental laws
Michael Sung on January 14, 2008 9:19 AM ET

[JURIST] Lawyers and activists from 38 Asian Pacific countries meeting Monday at the Asia-Pacific Regional Conference on Environmental Justice and Enforcement [press release] in Bangkok, Thailand, criticized lax enforcement of environmental laws throughout Asia, saying that governments have ignored enforcement in favor of promoting economic development. Attending environmental lawyers also blamed corruption and ignorance for hampering anti-pollution efforts, noting that many local courts are not even aware that environmental laws exist or do not understand the importance of enforcing them. AP has more.

Pollution is a growing concern in Asia, where many countries are beginning to see the environmental effects of unrestricted industrial growth. In 2006, the first Asia-Pacific Development and Climate Partnership Ministerial Meeting [backgrounder; JURIST report] convened in Sydney, Australia, bringing representatives from the US, Australia, Japan, China, South Korea and India together to set up projects to create emissions reduction technology and promote the transfer of that technology between the nations. The US and Australian governments said at the time that this partnership between the six nations would be better and more effective in reducing global air pollution than the Kyoto Protocol [text], which the US and Australia had not ratified and which does not obligate China or India to reduce emissions. In 2007, Asian and European countries agreed to set new international emissions standards [JURIST report] by 2009 after a two-day conference in Hamburg, Germany that included representatives from over 40 nations.






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British Council office reopenings prompt Russian legal threats
Michael Sung on January 14, 2008 8:58 AM ET

[JURIST] Two Russian offices of the British Council [official website] in St. Petersburg and Yekaterinburg resumed operations Monday, defying a shutdown order [JURIST report] from the Russian government. Russian authorities say that the Council has violated Russian tax laws; the Council, a non-departmental public body that promotes UK culture abroad, has insisted that it is an arm of the British Embassy and is entitled to immunity from taxation. The Russian Foreign Ministry summoned British ambassador Sir Tony Brenton regarding the reopenings, calling them an "intentional provocation". In a statement [text, in Russian], it said that it would be "forced to take a series of measures for administrative and legal pressure", including no longer issuing new visas to UK employees at the two offices.

Russia has clamped down on foreign associations operating within its territory since a controversial law imposing restrictions on nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) took effect [JURIST report] in April 2006. The law imposes strict financial oversight on NGOs and provides for dissolution if an organization's activities is deemed to "threaten Russia's independence or sovereignty" or if an organization participates in activities deemed to deviate from its mission statement. Russian President Vladimir Putin has defended the measure as being necessary to protect against "puppeteers abroad" [JURIST report]. AP has more. BBC News has additional coverage.






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Iraq appeals court judge assassinated in Baghdad
Joshua Pantesco on January 14, 2008 8:42 AM ET

[JURIST] A judge on Iraq's federal court of appeal was assassinated by gunmen Monday morning on his way to work in the western Baghdad district of Mansour. Amir Jawdat al-Naeib was also a member of the Supreme Judicial Council, the body which administers judicial affairs in Iraq. AP has more. Voices of Iraq has local coverage.

The Judicial Council said in August that 31 Iraqi judges have been assassinated since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. The Iraqi Lawyers Association reported in April last year that at least 210 lawyers and judges have been killed [IRIN report] since the US-led invasion, with dozens more injured in attacks which have prompted hundreds to leave the country. Many key Iraqi judges and their families now live in the fortified Green Zone in Baghdad or in the so-called Rule of Law complex [NYT report], a secure compound in the northern Baghdad neighborhood of Rusafa where they are supposedly safe from outside threats.






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Top US military commander calls for closing Guantanamo
Joshua Pantesco on January 14, 2008 8:01 AM ET

[JURIST] Admiral Mike Mullen [official profile], the Chairman of the US military's Joint Chiefs of Staff [official website], said in an interview with reporters Sunday that the US facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba [JURIST news archive] should be closed. Mullen, who was confirmed by the Senate [Reuters report] as Chairman in August, said Guantanamo has damaged the international reputation of the United States, but admitted there could be legal difficulties in transferring the remaining prisoners to other facilities. AP has more.

On Friday, the commander of the Guantanamo Bay facility was reassigned [JURIST report] after only six months on the job. The total population at the prison has dropped to around 277, 100 less than this time a year ago.






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INTERPOL president resigns amid South Africa corruption charges
Devin Montgomery on January 13, 2008 3:32 PM ET

[JURIST] Chief of the South African Police Services Jackie Selebi [official profile] resigned as president of INTERPOL [official website] on Sunday, in the wake of news that the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) [official website] of South Africa would be filing charges of corruption [JURIST report] against him. In his brief letter of resignation [PDF text], Selebi wrote that he did not want the charges against him to tarnish INTERPOL's reputation, and a media release [text] from the global police group quoted INTERPOL's secretary general Robert Noble [official profile] defending Selebi and the organization:

Based on my experience of working with Mr Selebi in his capacity as Delegate, Vice President and ultimately President of the organization, he has always conducted himself and acted in a way to enhance global security and police co-operation worldwide... Corruption is one of the most serious offences that any police official can be accused of and INTERPOL has taken a number of significant steps to help law enforcement in our member countries investigate and fight this type of crime... INTERPOL believes that any such allegations should be prosecuted thoroughly, and the proper manner is for charges to be brought promptly before a court of law and not through media leaks and speculation.
Selebi is alleged to have to received $170,000 from Glenn Agliotti [Mail and Guardian report], a convicted drug smuggler suspected of involvement in the murder of South African mining head Brett Keeble. The NPA has also said that Selebi had turned a blind eye to Agliotti's drug trafficking, and that he had warned Agliotti that he was a identified in the Keeble murder investigation. Selebi has denied any wrongdoing and has unsuccessfully tried to block the charges from being filed in court. BBC News has more. AP has additional coverage.





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Croatia parliament strips lawmaker's immunity for war crimes case
Benjamin Klein on January 13, 2008 3:08 PM ET

[JURIST] Croatian lawmaker Branimir Glavas [personal website; Trial Watch profile], charged with committing war crimes against Serbs during the 1991 Serbo-Croatian war [GlobalSecurity backgrounder], was stripped of his parliamentary immunity on Saturday so that lawyers could proceed with his prosecution. Glavas, formerly a prominent member of the ruling Croatian Democratic Union [official website], was released from jail on Friday when the Zagreb District Court ruled that the formation of the new parliament – to which he was re-elected in November 2007 elections [JURIST news archive] – automatically re-conferred immunity status to the now-opposition lawmaker. Although the parliament suspended Glavas' immunity from court proceedings, it allowed him to retain his immunity from imprisonment, and he was set free on Friday on his own recognizance.

The Croatian Parliament [official website] originally stripped Glavas of his immunity for war crimes prosecution in May 2006 and he had remained in detention until Friday's decision. Glavas has maintained his innocence and even staged a 40-day hunger strike in 2006 when he was detained [JURIST report] after the criminal investigation against him initially opened. He also faces another war crimes investigation in Zagreb for the murder of two Serbs in a separate incident in Osijek. AP has more. Javno has local coverage.






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Ousted Pakistan top court judge put under house arrest again; Chaudhry resists move
Eric Firkel on January 13, 2008 11:14 AM ET

[JURIST] Ousted Pakistani Supreme Court Justice Rana Bhagwandas [JURIST news archive] was placed under house arrest Saturday for urging members of the Karachi Bar Association to boycott judges who had taken oaths of office under President Pervez Musharraf's now-abrogated Provisional Constitutional Order [text] following his November 3 declaration of emergency rule [JURIST report]. It was the second time Bhagwandas had been placed under house arrest. Last month he was released from detention to join his family in Karachi. He told reporters over the phone that he does not know how long his latest detention will last, but he expressed confidence that the superior court judges dismissed en masse by Musharraf after his emergency proclamation will be reinstated. PTI has more.

Also Saturday, ousted Pakistani Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry[JURIST news archive], also under virtual house arrest, refused another request by Pakistani officials to vacate his official residence in Islamabad. Chaudhry has resisted attempts to move him before. He pointed to a provision that gives a judge six months to vacate his official residence, but also reiterated that he is still the legitimate Chief Justice of Pakistan and is entitled to remain in his official residence until retirement. PTI has more.






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Bangladesh ex-PM Hasina formally charged with extortion
Eric Firkel on January 13, 2008 10:21 AM ET

[JURIST] Former Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina [party profile; JURIST news archive] was formally charged with extortion in Dhaka on Sunday. Hasina and co-defendant Sheikh Selim, a former Minister of Government, are accused of extorting around $1.16 million from two businessmen while in office. Reuters cited court officials as saying that her trial will begin January 17, and that a verdict should he handed down within 60 days. In October, Hasina denied the accusations [JURIST report] during questioning by officials. If convicted, she would be banned from running for office for 10 years.

The current interim government in Bangladesh, led by former central bank chief Fakhruddin Ahmed [official website; TIME interview] has arrested over 170 high-profile citizens since the military-backed government declared a state of emergency [JURIST report] last January due to concerns that fraud would mar scheduled national elections scheduled. Hasina's rival, former Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia [profile], has also been charged with corruption [JURIST report]. Hasina was prime minister between 1996 and 2001 and is the the leader of the opposition Awami League [party website]. Reuters has more.






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US intelligence chief says waterboarding would be torture 'for me'
Josh Camson on January 13, 2008 10:00 AM ET

[JURIST] US Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell [official profile] said in an article published in the New Yorker [media website] Sunday that waterboarding [JURIST news archive], the controversial interrogation technique simulating drowning allegedly used against detainees by the CIA, was torture as far as he was concerned. The question of whether waterboarding is in fact illegal torture dogged now-Attorney General Michael Mukasey in his recent confirmation hearings, and he ultimately refused to take a definitive stand [JURIST report] on the matter. "[W]hether it's torture by anybody else's definition," McConnell declared, "for me it would be torture."

This latest take on waterboarding comes in the wake of CIA's call for the Department of Justice [official websites] to conduct an investigation [JURIST report] into whether former CIA agent John Kiriakou's statements to several news organizations purporting to confirm the CIA's use of waterboarding constituted an illegal release of classified information. The CIA is also embroiled in a controversy about agency destruction of videotapes [JURIST news archive] that supposedly showed "enhanced" interrogation techniques used against two "high value" detainees believed to have been waterboarded. AP has more.






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Iraq parliament passes bill allowing reinstatement of ex-Baath party members
Nick Fiske on January 12, 2008 3:24 PM ET

[JURIST] The Iraqi parliament [official website, in Arabic] on Saturday approved a bill that will allow most members of Saddam Hussein's now-defunct Baath Party [BBC backgrounder] to be reinstated to public life. The law, known as the Justice and Accountability Law, was introduced by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani [BBC profile] and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki [BBC profile] last March and was passed unanimously by the 143 Shiite and Sunni lawmakers present during the vote. The law distinguishes between former Baath party officials who have been charged with crimes for their role in the implementation of the party's oppressive policies - still barred from reinstatement - and those members who joined out of necessity and are now free to reapply for positions in the government and military. Under the new law, officials banned from reinstatement will collect pensions.

Iraq set up a DeBaathification Commission [official website] in 2003 with the approval of the US-run Coalition Provisional Authority [official website], and its early agenda was rooting out members of Hussein's Baath party from positions of power in the Iraqi government, prompting the forced removal [JURIST report] of nearly 30,000 Baathists from public life. The Bush administration, however, has urged the Iraqi government to shift the commission from outright prohibition to "accountability and reconciliation" in the interests of countering the growing insurgency in the country. Passage of de-Baathification reform legislation was noted by the White House last year as an as-yet-unmet benchmark [JURIST report] of Iraqi progress towards stability. Iraqi Shiite religious leader Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani previously called the bill "dangerous" [JURIST report] and its ratification process had stalled [JURIST report] as recently as late November. AFP has more. Reuters has additional coverage.






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Chile court sentences Pinochet police chief to 10-year prison term
Howard Kline on January 12, 2008 3:06 PM ET

[JURIST] A Chilean appeals court in Santiago Friday sentenced General Manuel Contreras [Trial Watch profile], the secret police chief under former dictator Augusto Pinochet [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], to 10 years in prison. Contreras, the former head of Pinochet's National Intelligence Directorate [FAS backgrounder], was sentenced for the kidnapping of 7 neighborhood leaders from La Legua in December 1973. The two men who survived the kidnapping testified in the case. The court also sentenced former officers Jose Friz Esparza and Marcelo Moren Brito for their role in the kidnapping.

Pinochet died of a heart attack [JURIST report] in December 2006 without ever facing trial on multiple charges of tax evasion and human rights violations. In November 2007, Chile's Supreme Court affirmed seven convictions and overturned one [JURIST report] in cases involving murders committed by state agents during Pinochet's 1973-90 regime. The court based its decision on the Geneva Conventions [ICRC materials], finding that Chile was in a state of internal armed conflict when the murders occurred. DPA has more.






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No UN Hariri-style probe of Bhutto assassination: Musharraf
Steve Czajkowski on January 12, 2008 3:05 PM ET

[JURIST] Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf ruled out the possibility of a United Nations investigation into the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto [BBC obituary; JURIST news archive] in an interview with a French newspaper published Friday. He told Le Figaro that an investigation will be conducted internally with the help of British police from Scotland Yard [official website]. Musharraf's statement came in the face of repeated calls [JURIST report] from Bhutto's husband Asif Ali Zardari [BBC profile] and her son Bilawal Zardari [BBC profile] for the UN to conduct an inquiry similar to the ongoing investigation into the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri [JURIST news archive]. Musharraf blamed Al Qaeda for the Bhutto assassination and said a UN investigation was not necessary since there is no suggestion that a outside country has been involved.

Bhutto was assassinated [JURIST report] December 27 at a political rally in Rawalpindi. AFP has more.






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US immigration officials told to seek court orders before sedating unwilling deportees
Nick Fiske on January 12, 2008 11:24 AM ET

[JURIST] US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) [official website] has issued a memo saying that its officers are now required to obtain a judge's approval before a deportee can be sedated in order to facilitate his or her removal from the country. The memo, written by ICE Director of the Office of Detention and Removal Operations John Torres [official profile] and released Wednesday, said that in order to receive permission to sedate, officials must show a judge that a deportee has a history of physically resisting removal or that they pose a danger to themselves. ICE gave 56 deportees psychotropic drugs during a seven-month period in 2006 and 2007, 33 of whom had no prior history of mental illness.

In June the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California (ACLU/SC) [advocacy website] brought a federal class action lawsuit [JURIST report; ACLU press release] against the US government on behalf of two immigrants who said they were forcibly drugged with sedatives during deportation proceedings. Neither of the men had a history of mental illness, and the ACLU/SC alleges the druggings were merely meant to silence them. AP has more.






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Guantanamo commander reassigned after six-month tenure
Kiely Lewandowski on January 12, 2008 10:15 AM ET

[JURIST] US Navy Rear Adm. Mark H. Buzby [official profile], commander of the Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] military prison, was reassigned Friday after only six months at that position. The date of Buzby's departure for the Virginia-based US Fleet Forces Command [official website] has not been publicly released. According to a brief Pentagon statement [official text], Rear Adm. David M. Thomas [official profile] will replace Buzby at the detention center. Buzby assumed command [press release] at Guantanamo in May. Buzby's predecessor, Rear Adm. Harry B. Harris, Jr., became Director of Operations for US Southern Command in June 2007 after a 14-month tenure as Guantanamo commander. Harris' predecessor, Army Maj. Gen. Jay Hood, commanded Joint Task Force Guantanamo for two years, from March 2004 to March 2006. AP has more.

Buzby's departure comes as the number of detainees at Guantanamo continues to decline rapidly. Yemeni nationals now constitute the largest group of prisoners at the camp (almost 100 out of 275); the Yememi detainees cannot be freed due to a diplomatic stalemate between the Yemeni government and Washington. AP Friday quoted a US Defense Department official as saying that the Yemeni government must promise to do more to assure that released detainees do not attack the US or its allies. Yemeni Foreign Minister Abu Bakr al-Kerbi has said in turn that Guantanamo must be closed and that Yemen "does not accept smaller prisons elsewhere." AP has more.






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Federal appeal courts rules NASA cannot require background checks of all workers
Dennis Zawacki II on January 12, 2008 10:10 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Friday that NASA [official website] cannot compel low-risk contract employees working at its Jet Propulsion Laboratory [official website] to undergo intensive background checks. NASA has been conducting background checks of employees since it was founded in 1958, but contract employees were only included after the agency revised its Security Program Procedural Requirements [official backgrounder] in 2006. NASA argued that contract employees were added to the list of workers who had to undergo background checks in compliance with Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12 [White House press release], the Federal Information Security Management Act [text, PDF], and the Space Act [text].

In balancing the interests of NASA and the employees facing the background checks, Judge Kim Wardlaw, writing for the court, held that

The balance of hardships tips sharply toward Appellants, who face a stark choice—either violation of their constitutional rights or loss of their jobs. The district court [in this case] erroneously concluded that Appellants will not suffer any irreparable harm because they could be retroactively compensated for any temporary denial of employment.
AP has more.





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INTERPOL chief to be charged with corruption in South Africa
Steve Czajkowski on January 11, 2008 4:19 PM ET

[JURIST] The National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) [official website] of South Africa will charge Jackie Selebi [official profile], chief of the South African Police Services (SAPS) [official website] and President of INTERPOL [official website], with corruption and defeating the course of justice, a NPA spokesman said Friday. Selebi's charges relate to payments he received from a his friend Glenn Agliotti [Mail and Guardian report], a convicted drug smuggler suspected of involvement in the murder of South African mining head Brett Keeble. The NPA said that Selebi had turned a blind eye to Agliotti's drug trafficking, and that he had warned Agliotti that he was a identified in the Keeble murder investigation. Selebi denied any wrongdoing and said that the charges are politically motivated.

Selebi was in court Friday trying to block the prosecution from filing charges, but Pretoria High Court Judge Nico Coetzee denied the request saying "...if the applicant is not charged, the administration of justice will be brought into disrepute." Reuters has more. AFP has additional coverage.






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Russian prosecutors open probe into Beslan victims group accused of 'extremism'
Eric Firkel on January 11, 2008 4:09 PM ET

[JURIST] Russian prosecutors have opened a criminal investigation into a survivor organization formed after the 2004 Beslan school siege [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive], according to the organization's chairwoman, quoted by AP Friday. The Voice of Beslan [advocacy website, in Russian], is accused of extremist activity [JURIST report]. Prosecutors point to a 2005 Voice of Beslan statement criticizing Russian President Vladamir Putin [official website; BBC backgrounder] as evidence of extremism. The Voice of Beslan has denied the charges, saying it was an attempt to stifle criticism of Putin. On Wednesday, the North Ossetia Supreme Court ordered the group to disband [Moscow Times report] following a dispute over its leadership.

The Voice of Beslan is one of many victims organizations that has been critical of the government's response to the militant attack on the Beslan School, which resulted in the death of 334 people, many of them children. Attackers demanded the withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya [BBC backgrounder]. AP has more.






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Supreme Court to hear campaign finance, Sixth Amendment cases
Mike Rosen-Molina on January 11, 2008 4:05 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Friday granted certiorari in four cases [order list, PDF], including Davis v. Federal Election Commission (07-320) [docket], in which the Court will consider whether the so-called millionaire's amendment [FEC backgrounder], part of a 2002 campaign finance law that allows political candidates to accept larger contributions from supporters if an opponent is able to finance his campaign with his own money, is constitutional. The exception is intended to ensure that independently wealthy candidates do not unfairly dominate elections. New York Democrat Jack Davis [campaign website] challenged the law, arguing that it violated his First Amendment rights, but the Washington DC Circuit Court ruled [opinion, PDF] that the law had not infringed on his right to free speech. AP has more.

In Giles v. California (07-6053) [docket; cert. petition, PDF], the Court will rule on whether an accused killer can bar the the testimony of the person he allegedly killed if he did not kill her with the intent of preventing her testimony. The Supreme Court of California held [opinion, PDF] that allowing the testimony did not violate the Sixth Amendment Confrontation Clause [Cornell Law backgrounder]. AP has more.

The Supreme Court also granted cert in two other cases Friday. In Taylor v. Sturgell (07-371) [docket; cert. petition, PDF], the Court will rule on whether a litigant is barred from pursuing a claim if another litigant had previously pursued a similar claim.

In Engquist v. Oregon Dept. of Agriculture (07-474) [docket; cert. petition, PDF], the Supreme Court will rule on whether a federal employee who is not a member of a protected class can sue for discrimination that was directed solely against her. The Ninth Circuit Court held [opinion, PDF] that an Indian-born woman who alleged discrimination from her supervisor could not sue under a "class-of-one theory." SCOTUSblog has additional coverage.






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Federal jury convicts former Muslim charity leaders for hiding terror links
Eric Firkel on January 11, 2008 3:14 PM ET

[JURIST] A federal jury in the US District Court for the District of Massachusetts [official website] Friday convicted three former leaders of defunct Muslim charity Care International Inc. (not to be confused with CARE [advocacy website]) were convicted Friday of illegally obtaining tax-exempt status by hiding the group's pro-jihad activities. Care International Inc. purported to help war orphans, widows, and refugees in Islamic countries [JURIST news archive], but government prosecutors argued that the organization supported Islamic militants throughout the world while distributing a pro-jihad newsletter. The three former charity executives, Emadeddin Muntasser,Muhammed Mubayyid, and Samir Al-Monla, were charged with tax code violations, making false statements and conspiracy to defraud the United States. Al-Monia was acquitted on one count of making false statements; they were convicted on all other charges. AP has more.

The Boston case is not the first time in recent years that a Muslim charity has been prosecuted for alleged connections to terrorist activities. In October 2007, a Dallas federal judge declared a mistrial [JURIST report] in a controversial case against the Holy Land Foundation [LOC archived website; ADL backgrounder] charity and five of its leaders after three jurors insisted that the verdicts of acquittal [verdict for HLF chairman Mohammad El-Mazain, PDF] read by the court were incorrect. Once the largest Muslim charity in the United States, the Foundation was shut down in 2001 by federal prosecutors who accused it of financing international terrorism by supporting the Palestinian group Hamas [BBC backgrounder].






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Anti-Guantanamo protesters arrested at US Supreme Court
Steve Czajkowski on January 11, 2008 3:02 PM ET

[JURIST] Seventy-one people were arrested at the US Supreme Court [official website] Friday during a protest calling for the closing of the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba [JURIST news archive]. Protesters were arrested inside and outside the building and charged with violating an ordinance that bars demonstrations of any kind on court grounds. The court building had to be closed briefly because of the disturbance. The Supreme Court is currently hearing arguments on whether detainees have the right to challenge their imprisonment in US federal courts [JURIST report]. AP has more.

Friday protests in the US and around the world marked the six year anniversary of the creation of the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay. Human rights organization Amnesty International [advocacy website] mobilized demonstrations [press release] in cities across the globe, including London, Rome, Sydney, Brussels, Istanbul, and Manila. CBC News has more.






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ACLU challenges Michigan election law as unconstitutional
Josh Camson on January 11, 2008 2:18 PM ET

[JURIST] The ACLU of Michigan [advocacy website] filed a federal suit Friday challenging a Michigan election law that limits access to information on presidential primary voters to the Democratic and Republican parties. The complaint [text, PDF] alleges that Section 615c [text] of the Michigan Election Law [text] is unconstitutional because it excludes other smaller parties, as well as individuals, citizen groups and news media, from seeing lists of voter preferences and gives preference only to the two major parties in violation of the Equal Protection Clause and 14th Amendment [Cornell Law backgrounders]. The ACLU said [press release]:

Michigan law does not require voters to register by party and therefore voter party preference information is valuable to political parties, individual candidates, citizen groups supporting or opposing ballot proposals, political consultants, news media, researchers, other specialized groups and members of the public.
Under the law, anyone other than the two parties who obtains or uses the voter lists would be guilty of a misdemeanor, and could be fined $1,000 or sentenced to 93 days in jail.

The ACLU filed the suit on behalf of the Green Party, Libertarian Party and the Reform Party of Michigan [party websites], as well as Metro Times, Inc. [media website] and David Forsmark as president of the political consulting firm Winning Strategies. The suit was filed against Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land [official profile]. The Detroit Free Press has more.





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Federal appeals court dismisses torture lawsuit by ex-Guantanamo detainees
Josh Camson on January 11, 2008 1:01 PM ET

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled [PDF text] Friday that four former Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainees do not have the right to sue high-ranking government officials for alleged torture and infringement of religious practice during their captivity. UK citizens Shafiq Rasul, Asif Iqbal, Rhuhel Ahmed and Jamal Al-Harith filed the lawsuit [case backgrounder; JURIST report] in 2004 against former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Richard Meyers, and others alleging [complaint] "deliberate and foreseeable action taken ... to flout or evade the United States Constitution, federal statutory law, United States treaty obligations and long established norms of customary international law." The court affirmed the district court's ruling dismissing the plaintiff's claims under the Alien Tort Statute [text] for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The court dismissed the plaintiffs' claims under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act [text], finding that they did not have the right to sue for infringement of religious rights because they are aliens who were not in the US at the time of the alleged acts.

The plaintiffs were released from Guantanamo in March 2004. In May 2004, Rasul and Iqbal said in an open letter to US President George W. Bush that they had suffered abuse at Guantanamo [JURIST report] similar to that perpetrated at Abu Ghraib [JURIST news archive] prison in Iraq. The lawsuit was filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights, which said Friday that it would appeal the decision [press release]. Reuters has more.






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Homeland Security issues Real ID Act regulations
Jaime Jansen on January 11, 2008 11:30 AM ET

[JURIST] The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) [official website] Friday issued a final rule [text; DHS backgrounder] establishing new minimum standards [press release] for state-issued identification cards under the Real ID Act [PDF text; JURIST news archive]. DHS will phase in the heightened requirements between 2011 and 2017. Opponents of the Real ID Act have expressed privacy and civil liberties concerns, objecting to the sharing of personal data between government agencies, particularly between state and federal government agencies. Many states have also opposed the law, saying that its implementation costs will be too burdensome. Some states have signed written agreements saying they will comply with the requirements of the Real ID Act, but 17 states have passed legislation or resolutions specifically objecting to the requirements. AP has more.

Initially drafted after the Sept. 11 attacks and designed to discourage illegal immigration, the law attempts to make it more difficult to fraudulently obtain US driver's licenses and other government IDs by mandating that states require birth certificates or similar documentation and also consult national immigration databases before issuing IDs. After controversy and strenuous opposition from civil libertarians [FindLaw commentary], it finally passed in 2005 [JURIST report] as part of an emergency supplemental appropriations defense spending bill.






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Kenya opposition party calls for more protests over disputed election
Jaime Jansen on January 11, 2008 10:12 AM ET

[JURIST] Kenya's main opposition party, the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) [party website], Friday called for three days of protests over the disputed re-election [JURIST report] of Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki [official profile]. More than 500 people have already died in violent demonstrations since Kibaki's re-election at the end of December. A spokesman for ODM said that the call for rallies is a response to the failure of the African Union to facilitate talks between Kibaki and opposition candidate Raila Odinga [campaign profile]. Odinga and Kibaki blamed each other for the establish a power-sharing agreement. Last week, Kenyan Attorney General Amos Wako [official profile] called for an independent investigation [JURIST report] into the vote. Citing accusations of election fraud raised by Chairman of the Electoral Commission of Kenya [official website] Samuel Kivuitu, Wako insisted that "a proper tally of the valid certificates returned and confirmed should be undertaken immediately" by an independent and mutually agreed-upon body. AP has more.

The controversial presidential vote has sparked simmering ethnic tensions in Kenya [JURIST news archive], where Kibaki has long been accused of using his position to favor members of the Kikuyu tribe. Fueling accusations of malfeasance, Kibaki won the election despite early opinion polls that placed rival candidate Odinga in the lead. Thousands of opposition supporters took to the streets [JURIST report] following the election prompted the government to temporarily ban public rallies.






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Ex-Guantanamo detainee Hicks wants prison closed: father
Jaime Jansen on January 11, 2008 9:33 AM ET

[JURIST] Former Guantanamo Bay detainee David Hicks [JURIST news archive] wants the US to close the Cuba-based detention center, Hicks' father told a rally in Australia Friday. Hicks fears that the remaining detainees at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] will be held indefinitely without charge and without due process, according to statements made by his father at the rally marking the sixth anniversary of the opening of the Guantanamo detention facility. He considers himself lucky to have had a lawyer represent him and to have been transferred into Australian custody [JURIST report] to serve the remainder of his sentence in an Adelaide jail. Hicks was released [JURIST report] last month from the Adelaide jail, subject to an interim control order [JURIST report].

Hicks pleaded guilty to a charge of supporting terrorism [JURIST reports] before a US military commission last March after spending more than five years in US custody since being captured in Afghanistan. AAP has more.






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Japan parliament passes anti-terror bill with majority override
Jaime Jansen on January 11, 2008 8:45 AM ET

[JURIST] Japan's parliament approved new anti-terror legislation [JURIST report] Friday that will grant an extension to a Japanese refueling mission in the Indian Ocean. The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) [official website, in Japanese], led by Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda [official website], used its two-thirds majority in the parliament's lower house to override Friday's earlier rejection of the bill in the upper house, which is controlled by the Democratic Party of Japan (DJP) [official website, in Japanese]. The bill, which restricts its application to allied ships on anti-terrorism patrols, is a compromise [AFP report] between the leading LDP and the opposition DJP. The anti-terrorism bill prohibits Japanese support of US and other allied ships engaged in military, rescue, or humanitarian operations in Afghanistan. The refuelling mission has been criticized by those who say it violates the country's pacifist constitution by involving Japan in military operations in the Middle East.

The bill is a limited renewal [JURIST report] of the Anti-Terrorism Special Measures Law [text]. Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe resigned [JURIST report] last year amid controversy over renewal of a broader version of the anti-terror law. AP has more. The New York Times has additional coverage.






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Abu Ghraib officer says abuse investigation was incomplete
Jaime Jansen on January 11, 2008 8:06 AM ET

[JURIST] US Army Lt. Col. Steven L. Jordan [CBS profile; JURIST news archive], whose conviction relating to the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal [JURIST news archive] was thrown out [JURIST report] earlier this week, told AP Thursday that the investigation into the scandal did not adequately scrutinize those involved. Jordan was the only commissioned officer charged in connection with the scandal; 11 other enlisted soldiers were convicted. Jordan had been acquitted of all charges directly relating to abuse and only convicted of one charge of disobeying an order [JURIST report] not to talk about the investigation. Earlier this week, Jordan was notified that the convening authority in his case decided to disapprove the conviction, effectively throwing it out. Jordan implied that the investigation should have probed deeper to establish a connection between the abuse at Abu Ghraib and alleged abuse at military prisons in Afghanistan and at the US detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. AP has more.

Prosecutors initially charged [JURIST report] Jordan with seven violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice [text] but dropped two charges [JURIST report] after new evidence came to light that Jordan provided statements to an official investigating the Iraqi prison abuse allegations without being properly read his rights, making his statements inadmissible. In his 2004 report [PDF text; JURIST report], Maj. Gen. George R. Fay recommended that Jordan and his superior Col. Thomas Pappas be punished for their roles in the abuse scandal. Pappas was granted immunity in exchange for his testimony against Jordan. Pappas testified during Jordan's Article 32 hearing [JURIST report] that Jordan was concerned that he did not have the proper training or experience to assume his role running the Joint Interrogation and Debriefing Center [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] at Abu Ghraib.






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