Of Black Magic and Witchcraft

May 13, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, MMNS Middle East Correspondent

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The case of Lebanese citizen Ali Hussain Sibat, who has been incarcerated for the past two years in a Saudi Arabian prison on charges of being a sorcerer, has brought the dark world of ‘black magic’ and witchcraft that exists in many countries of the Middle East into the limelight. Sibat has been sentenced to death by beheading for hosting a television show called, “The Hidden” in Lebanon in which he engaged in acts of sorcery on camera. Saudi officials also claim that he confessed while in custody to selling potions to his clients that supposedly fulfill their greatest desire.

Sorcery, voodoo, soothsaying and all sorts of witchcraft are strictly forbidden in the Islamic faith and laws against the evil practices are firmly upheld by most Islamic countries. Despite the severe penalties, which are sometimes lethal, many people claiming to have special powers continue to prey on the public. And in many cases, the soothsayers are sought out by people suffering from hardships ranging from issues of the heart to more worldly issues like financial struggles. There is a tangible market in the Middle East for sorcery as there is a plethora of people seeking to get a hold of, what they perceive to be, the unattainable.

However, personal gain is not the only reason why witchcraft has found a comfortable niche in the Gulf region. Jealousy, hatred and just plain loathing are often the driving forces behind the use of witchcraft or sorcery. In a recent cover story in the newspaper Saudi Gazette, a pair of Indonesian housemaids was arrested for committing acts of sorcery against their sponsor families. Both were duped into confessing to their crimes in exchange for a large amount of money, which was bogus and meant only to extract their confessions. The housemaids admitted to placing at least 55 ‘charms’ in various parts of each of the family homes. Just prior to their confessions, family members had become suspicious after several other members of the family fell ill mysteriously. According to the article the charms, some consisting of broken glass and nails, were found and ‘undone’ by religious authorities.

The problem of sorcery has become so widespread in the Gulf that many countries are taking preemptive actions to dissuade the practice. Bahrain is just one government that is trying to root out witchcraft from within its borders. The Bahraini government is set to pass a new appendix to the law that already exists on the books which forbids anyone in the country from performing sorcery on the behalf of others or even privately in the home. However, unlike in Saudi Arabia, anyone convicted of sorcery in Bahrain does not stand to lose his or her head. The penalty for sorcery in Bahrain is a stiff fine and possibly a prison stint followed by deportation.

Human rights groups are swift to criticize Middle East governments for taking a hard line when it comes to witchcraft and sorcery. Most recently Human Rights Watch (HRW) criticized the Saudi government for turning Sibat’s case into a capital crime when in other countries it would be most likely be classified as a mere case of fraud.

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Keep Our Eyes Open for Justice

April 22, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

The case of Brother Imam Kwame Teague

By Imam Abdullah El-Amin, MMNS

Most of the time when we hear a person has been arrested we feel he must have done something or he or she wouldn’t have been arrested.  And when we hear someone has been convicted of a crime, our certainty of their guilt is strengthened.  After all there must have been overwhelming evidence that left no doubt of the guilt.  There was either a jury trial of 12 people that listened to evidence, weighed it in their minds and came to a unanimous decision; or a learned, educated judge who has sworn to uphold the law according to knowledge and investigation has rendered a decision.  Again, it must be right.

Then there is the case of a person who has been arrested, tried, convicted, and serving time in a penal institution.  Now this person HAS to be guilty.  Right?   Because appeals have been heard, and the evidence has been looked over for a second or third time, by different people, and they come to the same conclusion, the case is closed as far as we are concerned.  And we say they must be guilty.

Well, that may, or may not be the case.  With the advent of new technology, including DNA testing, we are finding there are many people who have been incarcerated for many years and we come to find out they were totally innocent.   Just think of the many people falsely accused and wrongly convicted who would still be in prison if not for the technological advances and/or persistence by legal experts, friends and family.

Of course, we also are aware that of the entire prison population, I would guess that 90% of them claim they are innocent.  And we also know that all of them that claim innocence are not innocent.  But because we have seen so many cases of wrongful imprisonment, it behooves us to take all available means to prove a person’s innocence.  This is especially true when there are major discrepancies and obvious omissions of evidence by the law enforcement and legal representatives.

One such case that may fall in a similar category is the case of Kwame Teague.    Brother Teague is a Muslim brother who has been incarcerated since February 1, 1994 in the North Carolina jail system.  His charge is Murder.  At the time of his arrest he offered an explanation of his whereabouts and gave the name of the person he was with.  This person was picked up and questioned but the statement was never allowed to be used in court.        

Other questionable  actions  was the appointment of a defense attorney who had been attorney for the opposition; not allowing testimony of people who  gave statements exonerating  Brother Kwame;  allowing the testimony of a person who was in prison, had a bad case of AIDS-related dementia, and a reason to implicate Brother Kwame, and many others.

Brother Kwame has been a model person since his incarceration.  He has served as imam at the institutions he has been imprisoned at with nothing but glowing remarks about his character Islamic spirit.  His father, Brother James C. Teague, of Newark, NJ, is a very well respected brother in the Muslim community and has done a magnificent job of instilling moral qualities and academic and professional excellence in all his children, two boys and two girls.  He says of them all he is most proud of Kwame because “he has overcome the profound barrier of incarceration to perform the same type of dedicated contributions from behind prison walls that his brother and sisters perform in free society.”

This article is by no means being written to try and establish the guilt or innocence of Brother Kwame.  It is being written to shed light on the many injustices that occur in our penal system and to encourage strong and persistent investigation of cases when proven facts may prove a person is being denied justice.  And because it LOOKS LIKE Kwame could be innocent, we owe our all.

There are many people like Kwame throughout the country and we encourage you to help in any way you can to present overlooked facts and omissions that could bring the truth to light.

We also encourage you to not automatically assume that when the authorities say someone did a crime that they must have done it.  Mistakes can and have been made.  No one is infallible except  Almighty ALLAH.

As Salaam alaikum
Al Hajj Imam Abdullah El-Amin

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New State Investigator Assigned to Luqman Case

April 15, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Imam Abdullah El-Amin, MMNS

It is very seldom that a case involving poor,  and what seems to be  unimportant people, can garner the amount of attention and interest as has the case of the murder of Imam Luqman Abdullah, the late imam of Masjid Al Haqq in Detroit, Michigan.  The chairman of the powerful Judiciary committee in the US House of Representatives, John Conyers,  the U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, the Mayor of Detroit, Dave Bing, numerous Michigan State Representatives like Bette Cook-Scott, and many civic and community groups like the NAACP and National Action Network are responding to the leadership of CAIR-MI director, Dawud Walid and Ron Scott, head of the Coalition Against Police Brutality.  As we reported earlier, this is the “murder that just won’t die”.

Now the Attorney General of Michigan, Mike Cox, who is trying to get support for a run for governor, has called for a special investigation of the case and has call in Doug Baker, a former Wayne County Prosecutor, to review whether the FBI acted appropriately in the shooting of Imam Abdullah who was shot a minimum of 21 times and then handcuffed as he lay dead on the ground.  The imam had a gunshot wound to the back also and it is speculated by many that he was shot in the back as he lay handcuffed on the ground.  That could only be the action of a demented person if it happened as speculated.  Of course the FBI will give no details.

Mr. Baker will investigate the FBI to see if any state laws were broken by Federal law officers which could potentially lead to serious charges such as murder.  Baker has often been described as a very tenacious prosecutor and has a number of high-profile cases under his belt.  He was the prosecutor who successfully tried the case of two Caucasian police officers accused of the brutal killing Malice Green in Detroit.   Community members watching the case are wondering if that same tenacity will be utilized in this case.

Other than his interest in becoming Michigan’s next governor, people are wondering why Republican Mike Cox is so interested in the case now.  It is well known that in the past he has shown his indifference to issues important to the community.  A case in point is the investigation of former Detroit mayor Kilpatrick involving an alleged party at the mayor’s residence where a stripper lady who was reported to have danced there was later found slain.

The official reason for the State of Michigan’s involvement is because the office of Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy declined to investigate the case.  On the surface that looks bad for Ms. Worthy but actually it seems the justice Department, particularly the FBI, has been as close-mouthed with the prosecutor’s office as it has been with the rest of the community.   Prosecutor Worthy has said her office could not get any documents because they were classified.  According to her it would have been irresponsible to conduct an investigation without the pertinent information.

We know that sometimes events happen that we have no explanation for.  We know that ALLAH allowed this atrocity to happen – but ultimately for a good cause.  As the case continues to unfold, we look for the good that we know will be revealed to us.  And hopefully we will benefit from it.

As Salaam alaikum
(Al Hajj) Imam Abdullah El-Amin

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Syrian Singer Abu Ratib Pleads “Not Guilty”

February 4, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Michigan Islamic Examiner/Heather Laird

Abu Ratib January 26, 2010. In a Federal court hearing in Detroit on Monday January 25, 2010, singer Abu Raitb pleaded not guilty to the charges of making false statements to the FBI, false oath in a matter relating to naturalization and attempted unlawful procurement of naturalization.

Abu Ratib also known as Mohammed Masfaka is a beloved singer of Islamic songs. He has millions of fans throughout the Arab and Muslim world, and is respected by not only the common person but by government diplomats as well. He is considered by some Michigan residents to be one of the leading Islamic singers of all times, and is believed to have written more songs than the also popular Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens) and Sami Yusuf.  He is the Chair of the International Union for Islamic Art.

After reading the nine-page indictment put forth by the FBI, one wonders what this case is really concerned with achieving. The document states questions asked and answered and some discrepancies in the answers. More specifically, the case mentions that Abu Ratib left off of his immigration papers a low-level job that he held for a short period of time. How many people in the United States everyday leave off previous employment on job applications. His other offense was not mentioning or mentioning incorrectly compensation. I am quite confident this happens everyday in the US as well. In fact, can everyone say Treasury Secretary?

All sarcasm aside, this is serious when it comes to immigration, and I would be on the first line of defense for my Country if you told me an immigrant left off their application that they were affiliated with some group that would harm United States citizens. But, this is not the case here. The government is saying that they knew he worked for an entity that was approved a 501(c)3 status – meaning an organization that already had some governmental scrutiny.  And, he did so here in the United States, so it was not covert or anything. How would or could he know that the government, because of its policies with Israel would change their opinion about their foreign policy? Holy Land Foundation was prosecuted and the first trial was declared a mistrial, the second received a conviction and now it is currently on appeal. So, we are prosecuting an individual because of guilt by association with a group that may or may not be considered affiliated with terrorism, but that the US Courts have not yet decided on, and not because we think “he” was a terrorist, but because he left off information from an application.

Why would we do this? The immigrant story is one that most of us are familiar with in folklore. People come to America to build a better life. They believe the will have certain unalienable rights that they do not have elsewhere. I am positive that the Masfaka family believed they would have in America what they could not find elsewhere. But, the reality for some immigrants is of another nature. Some immigrants are targeted as assets for the government. And because they are immigrants or of immigrant status can be intimidated or coerced into becoming informants or spies for the United States or have their citizenship revoked. They trust their new government. Aren’t we all raised to trust the authority in our midst – our police officers, our government. If you are a minority in the United States, a different reality exists. However, the majority is taught to trust government.

So, if you are an immigrant likely your first language is not English. You come to America wanting to be an American, and fill out your paperwork and then you are a citizen. The process is only not that simple. If the government at any time deems it necessary to use you, then they can very meticulously scrutinize every piece of paper and every conversation you have had to find a small detail left out here, a mistranslation there, etc., until an error is found or omission which to the government translates as a lie and you have now become a defendant.

What Masfaka seems to really be guilty of is not having legal representation with him at critical junctures in his immigration process. But, how many immigrants do not, and are not being prosecuted? We can presume many. This man was targeted, because of an Islamaphobic attitude that has been allowed to prevail in the United States. It is forbidden for Muslims to spy. For a man to take the stance of refusing to commit a sin in his faith is to stand for his freedom of religion. This is one of the positive rights that Americans are supposed to enjoy. It seems in this case, Masfaka may have taken that stand and is now being punished for it.

The result of this case has two very negative implications for the United States. First, it seems to tear at and shred our Constitution a little more. Not providing that blanket of freedoms that we promote as being unique to us. Second, this particular Defendant is Internationally known and beloved. And here we are again, post the Obama Cairo speech being seen as double-speak on the International scene. You say you want peace, but your actions appear to be targeting  and punishing people who do not fit the bill of terrorist.

Muslims will help their Country. No one wants corruption in the Muslim community. Why can’t we ask American Muslims to help in cleansing this Country of corruption instead of thinking the only way to do so is through seeming coercion and intimidation.

The Muslim community is praying for the Masfaka family that these charges are dropped. The American Muslim community prays for its Country in hopes that America can find a new approach and fight for all its citizens.

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Suit by Alleged Informant Says FBI Endangered His Life

January 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Craig Monteilh, who says he worked undercover in Orange County as part of anti-terrorism efforts, accuses the bureau of abandoning him after mishandling a case. Action also names the Irvine Police Dept.

An Irvine man who says he worked as an undercover informant for the FBI, most notably as a Muslim convert in an anti-terrorism case, filed a lawsuit Friday accusing his law enforcement handlers of violating his civil rights and endangering his life.

Craig Monteilh, 47, says he worked as an informant for the FBI from 2004 through 2008, providing information and assistance in narcotics, bank robbery and murder for hire investigations before being asked to go undercover as part of an anti-terrorist effort in Orange County, according to a complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.

Monteilh alleges that the FBI essentially cut him loose after a supervisor bungled an operation that would have led to the discovery of “bomb making materials” in a Tustin mosque. Afterward, the lawsuit alleges, his FBI handlers reneged on a promise to implement an “exit strategy” that was to include back pay and severance pay and help with beginning a life with a new identity.

Monteilh also accused the FBI of breaking a promise to clear up a grand theft conviction he says was the result of his work as an informant in a 2006 steroids distribution case. His suit also names the Irvine Police Department and the detective who investigated the case. “The government will have the opportunity to defend the lawsuit in court,” FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said in a prepared statement. “However, the accusations appear to be desperate attempts by Mr. Monteilh to personally benefit at the expense of law enforcement officers and the Muslim American community.”

Monteilh says in his lawsuit that his work for the bureau at times placed his life in jeopardy. At one point after his cover was blown, he said, Muslim extremists “ordered a `fatwa’ “ against him and the Romania Mafia, Mexican Mafia and a white supremacist group all wanted him dead.

Monteilh said he warned the FBI of the threats against him and asked to be placed in protective custody while serving a 16-month state prison sentence for the grand theft conviction, but that his request was ignored and he was left in the general population of Wasco State Prison. He said he was attacked several times while in prison, including an April 2008 incident in which he was allegedly stabbed multiple times in the legs by members of a white supremacist group called Public Enemy Number One. The assault, he said, left him with permanent scars and reduced mobility.

Monteilh said the FBI recruited him to infiltrate drug trafficking groups shortly after his 2004 release from prison, where he was serving a sentence for forgery. That led to stints with the bank robbery and murder for hire squads, according to his lawsuit. His most sensitive assignment began in 2006, when he said he was approached to work under a program called “Operation Flex,” in which he assumed the identify of a Muslim convert and went undercover to identify extremists and gather intelligence.

Under the direction of his FBI handlers, Monteilh assumed the identify of Farouk Al-Aziz and claimed to be a new Muslim convert of French and Syrian descent, his suit alleges. Monteilh said he was given the code name “Oracle” and instructed to spy on the Islamic community.

To support his cover, Monteilh said he learned to read, write and speak Arabic, became well versed in the pillars of the Islamic faith and began dating Muslim women. After his successful immersion in the Muslim community, particularly at the Islamic Center of Irvine, Monteilh said he was approached by extremists who attempted to “radicalize” him. He says the information he provided led to the indictment of Ahmadullah Sais Niazi last February. According to an FBI agent who testified at Niazi’s bail hearing last year, Niazi was secretly recorded by an informant while initiating jihadist rhetoric and threatening to blow up abandoned buildings. Monteilh says he was the informant who made the recording — a claim the FBI will neither confirm nor deny.

Niazi, who was born in Afghanistan, has not been charged with terrorism. Rather, he was charged with lying on his citizenship and passport applications for failing to disclose that his brother-in-law is a close associate of Osama bin Laden. He pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial.

Monteilh first went public with his charges in February, upsetting members of the Muslim community and some civil libertarians who were critical of the practice of informants being placed undercover in mosques. Those concerns were inflamed in April when Monteilh told The Times that he also lured Muslim men to Orange County gyms, where agents allegedly seized video of them coming and going as part of their probe.

Monteilh’s claims of working for the bureau in some capacity were confirmed in December when he persuaded a judge in West Covina to unseal court records showing that his probation in a theft case was terminated early at the behest of the FBI in 2007.

A transcript of a hearing in the case revealed that a prosecutor told the judge that Monteilh had provided “very, very valuable information” that had proven “essential” to a federal prosecution.

scott.glover@latimes.com

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Gold in the Limelight

November 25, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

www.adenforecast.com

Gold is soaring, hitting new record highs almost daily. This C rise is going strong. Our initial $1200 target level for this year’s rise has nearly been reached, but gold could go higher.

This is good news for all of us who have been invested in gold for the past eight years. But even for those of you who invested in more recent times, gold has been a good and profitable investment.

We feel strongly that this will continue in the months and years ahead. And there are many valid reasons why.

Most important, the unprecedented monetary policy currently in force is inflationary. The same is true of the weak U.S. dollar, negative interest rates, rising oil and commodities. Gold buying by central banks is also boosting the gold price higher.

Even though gold is still relatively unknown in mainstream investment circles, it’s starting to attract some attention. As this interest grows, momentum buying will pick up and the exchange traded funds are another big positive, simply because they make it easy to buy gold. The improving economy is another positive factor.

Yes, there are problems…. serious problems.  But that doesn’t mean the world is going to fall apart next month or next year.

Pessimists are always going to paint the worst case scenario. Optimists will forever present the best case scenario. The reality is usually somewhere in between. But the markets and the facts always tell the story and that’s what we try to focus on. So what are they currently telling us?

First, despite all that’s happening, it’s important to put things into perspective… and looking back, the overall situation was a lot worse last year compared to how it is now.

Remember, the entire financial world was on the verge of collapse last year as one huge company after another failed, or came close to it. Economies worldwide were dropping and so were all of the global stock markets. Fear and panic were rampant, and with reason. The crisis wiped out a greater chunk of household wealth than during the Great Depression. No one knew what to do…

Now fast forward to today…

For starters, nearly every economy in the world is growing, some obviously more than others. But the point is, they’re all up. Stocks around the globe have also been rising this year and confidence is returning.

In the U.S., for instance, the economy grew 3½% in the third quarter. The leading economic indicator has been up for seven consecutive months and stocks, which lead the economy, have been rising for eight months. Manufacturing is on the mend, along with other important economic signs, all showing that the recession ended in June and the economy is now on its way up, albeit slowly.

In other countries, growth has been far more robust. In China, for example, the economy is growing at a 9% rate. So Korea is growing at the fastest pace in seven years. India is going strong, the same is true in most of Asia, Brazil, and to a lesser extent, Europe is improving too.

2009: Great gains

So far, based on 18 of the world’s major stock markets, the gains this year have ranged between 11% and 92%. The average has been 31%. So even though the Dow Industrials is only up about 14%, the global stock markets are all telling us that ongoing growth lies ahead.

Since the markets look to the future, if that were not the case, these markets would be falling, not rising.

Okay, but what about commodities? The CRB commodity index has gained 24% this year. More impressive, copper has soared 101% and it’s known as the global economic market barometer.

Oil has also surged. It’s gained 75%. Very simply, if these two key commodities were not in big demand due to improving world economies, they wouldn’t be rising the way they are. Instead, they too would be falling.

The main point is… these are not signs of recession and they’re certainly not signaling a depression. In fact, they’re telling us that deflation is not currently a concern.

On the contrary, these rising prices are more indicative of inflation downstream. That’s especially true considering the weak dollar.

Again and very simply, in a healthy economy annual deficits shouldn’t be more than 3% of GDP. Once this percentage exceeds 5-6%, the currency of the country involved historically falls sharply.

Currently, this percentage has soared to about 10% in the U.S. and unfortunately, that pretty much puts the nails in the dollar’s coffin. This alone will propel gold much higher.

These are the key reasons why we continue to recommend buying and holding gold. Whatever the ultimate, longer-term outcome, it’s pretty clear that the situation is going to intensify and as it does, gold is going to be the main beneficiary and its bull market will endure well into the years ahead. That’s been the case for thousands of years during times of economic uncertainty and gross imbalances, and it’s now happening again.

Note that gold rose 56% and 58%, respectively, in the last two C rises (see Chart).  So far, gold has risen 32% in the current C rise.  Plus, its leading indicator still has room to rise further before it reaches the temporarily “too high” area.  Since this rise is powerful, the gains this time around could be similar to those in 2006 and 2008.  And if they are, gold could continue up to near the $1350 level before this C rise is over.

We’ll be watching closely but for now, hold on to all of your metals related investments.  Silver and gold shares are also surging, and so are most of the other metals.  Silver is at a new 16 month high and it too is approaching our first target area.  Gold and silver will both remain super strong above $1070 and $17.20. 

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Community News (V11-I47)

November 12, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Islamic Ctr of Long Island expansion

LONG ISLAND,NY–This is one case of continuing expansion. The Islamic Center of Long Island was formed in 1982. Ever since then it has evolved from a small brick home to its current  home of 10, 000 square foot of facilities including a mosque, library, classroom, and administrative office. Last month it announced that it is again expanding to meet the needs of its growing congregants.

According to West Bury Times the ICLI is seeking to build a a three story, 19,000 square addition to the existing structure. It has purchases four adjoining homes and construct a parking area. It will add 87 parking spots as compared with the current 35. But it is still short of 221 spots as required by the by-laws. Therefore the center has filed an application with the zoning board to receive a parking variance.

A hearing on the application is expected to be held on Nov.16.

Investigation into imam’s death ends

YERMO,CA– The San Bernardino County Sherriff’s Department has stated that its investigation into the mysterious death of a local Muslim in a house fire hasn’t produced any results and that the case is being now shelved. They have been unable to find any clues or suspects.

Ali Mohammed died on June 27 while visiting a property that his family had moved out of when suddenly the building was enveloped in flames.

Investigators had earlier claimed that the fire was human-caused and not a result of faulty equipment.

The same property was repeatedly the target of vandalism and hate attacks. 

Police investigate break-in at mosque

DURHAM, NC–Durham police are investigating a break-in at the Masjid Ibad Ar-Rahman mosque, 3034 Fayetteville St.

Mosque leaders found windows and doors broken early on the morning of Nov. 2. They said two flat-screen monitors, a printer and a computer were stolen.
Anyone with information about the case is asked to call Durham police Investigator K. D. Emanuel at 919-560-4415, ext. 29306, or Crime Stoppers at 919-683-1200.

Lackawanna halal facility opposed

LACKAWANNA, NEW YORK–Angry protestors vent their voices at the Lackawanna City Council last Tuesday night to protest a plan for a halal slaughterhouse in the area. The protestors and those in the council supporting them appeared to be ill informed on the halal method.

“I did research the Halal method and I’m not happy with what I read,” said First Ward Councilmember Andrea Haxton, according to WNED.

It was not readily apparent what kind of research she did.

City Council members told the citizens they had nothing to do with approval of the meat facility and can’t stop it even if they are opposed.

“It has not and will not come in front of city council because we have, unfortunately, no role in this,” said Councilmember Geoffrey Szymanski.

The slaughterhouse is expected to open within a few months.

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Contrast: Fate of Malegaon Accused & Batla House “Encounter”

August 13, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS India Correspondent

NEW DELHI/MUMBAI: Indian secularism is once again facing the test of whether there prevails a tainted approach in holding Muslims as “suspect” terrorists and sparing the majority from facing stringent anti-terrorist laws the former are subject to. Within less than a year of 11 being accused under the Maharashtra Control of Organized Act (MCOCA) for the 2008 Malegaon bomb case, a special court in Mumbai has decided to drop the stringent law against them. The accused include Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and Lt. Col. Prasad Purohit. The court decided to drop provisions of MCOCA as there did not prevail substantial evidence against them (August 7).

Claiming that the state government would not remain quiet over the special court’s decision and would challenge it in the Supreme Court, Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan said: “We would initiate MCOCA against those involved in terrorist activities irrespective of caste and religion of the accused.” Irrespective of whether MCOCA is slapped again against the 11 accused, what stands out is that law is being allowed to take its own course. The burning question is, whether the law is being followed because the accused belong to the majority community. Why isn’t the same approach displayed in lifting stringent laws against Muslims still languishing behind bars, quite a few of whom have not even been given adequate chance to prove their innocence?

One may refer to last year’s Batla House (fake) encounter, in which two Muslims – Atif Amin and Mohd. Sajid were killed (September 19) as “suspect terrorists.” Mohd. Saif and Zeeshan were arrested as “suspect terrorists.” Till date, details have not been made public as to what was the “substantial evidence” that led to the killing of two and arrest of other two. What is more stunning that the two killed were not even given a chance to prove their innocence. It would have been a different case altogether had they been arrested and/or killed while they were in the process of triggering of some militant activity. They were killed and arrested from the place where they were residing at in Batla House. If the law can be allowed to take its own course, as indicated by action initiated against those accused of Malegaon blasts, why has not same approach been displayed towards the ones targeted in Batla House “encounter?” Is it because the Malegaon-accused belong to the majority community and in the Batla House case to the minority?

The ironical difference in the two cases stands reflected markedly in the approach of the near and dear ones of the ones accused in the Malegaon-case and the Batla House encounter. It was party time for members of Sadhvi’s family who distributed sweets after MCOCA was dropped against her. Her father, C.P. Thakur said: “I was confident that my daughter is innocent and had faith in judiciary. It was an attempt by the police to frame her and this is just the beginning. She will come out clean in the end.” With MCOCA dropped, it will be easier for Sadhvi and other 10 to secure bail.

Welcoming the court’s decision, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy said: “We welcome dropping of charges under MCOCA against Malegaon blast accused by Mumbai special court. With this the diversionary and fictional myth about Hindu terror has been smashed. It has been proven false.”

Rudy has a point. So do those who are of the opinion that Muslims arrested and/or killed as “suspect terrorists” are innocent and have been deliberately framed without being given opportunity to argue their case legally. Sajid’s father, Ansarul Hasan has not given up option of approaching the courts for justice. The process will not bring back his son, killed last year in Batla House “encounter” to life but at least it will enlighten others on whether to trust the Indian legal process when Muslims are shot dead only because they are “suspected” to be terrorists.

In a letter addressed to Chief Justice, Hassan pleaded that his son Sajid was innocent and an FIR be filed against the police personnel responsible for killing him. Hassan sought the court’s intervention as the police refused to register a case against its personnel involved in the encounter. Hassan also claimed that even the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) had refused to entertain his plea. Hassan’s letter came a few days after NHRC gave a clean chit to role of Delhi police in Batla House encounter. The report, released last month, claims that there was “no human rights violation by police in Batla House encounter.” The NHRC report has, however, been strongly criticized by social activists, civil rights groups and Muslim leaders, according to whom, it is based only on the police version of the “encounter.”

Against these odds, it is commendable that at least the Delhi High Court has not ignored Hassan’s letter. The matter has been posted for August 18, when the court would hear a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking independent inquiry in the Batla House case. One is nevertheless compelled to deliberate on the difference in legal trial having becoming easier for Malegaon-accused, while it remains arduous for relatives and supporters of those killed and arrested in Batla House “encounter.” Should the difference in the legal course of both cases be linked with religious identities of the accused? The answer, yet to be decided by higher courts, would certainly be a litmus test for whether a biased approach prevails in deciding judicial judgment for suspect terrorists, Hindus as well as Muslims!

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Padilla vs. Yoo: An Update

July 23, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

By Jacob G. Hornberger

Editor’s note:  John Yoo is the Bush administration attorney who provided the fundamental intellectual basis for the torture programs of the Bush administration.  Because of his memos the Geneva Conventions, to which the United States is a signatory, were not applied to prisoners captured after 9/11.  Because of Yoo’s work, nor were those prisoners able to avail themselves of the benefits of American law.  Because of the Orwellian legal procedures the Yoo doctrine attempted to justify, Guantanamo legal proceedings became absolute disgraces to the American system of law–in fact, even communist courts would have been disgraced by the nonsense that passed for legal proceedings under Bush, Cheney, and Yoo–defendants were prevented from hearing the very grounds for their own imprisonment, because such grounds were “classified.” 

Because of Yoo’s memos, those prisoners were subjected deliberately to whatever cruel and unusual punishments Mr. Yoo and his cohorts were able to conjure up–Mr. Yoo argued that all of this was acceptable. 

The continued prominence of Mr. Yoo is convincing evidence that in fact there is no rule of law in the United States, that the constitution is now trampled upon, controlled by the highest bidders and the cheapest arguments of dictators and totalitarian scum, it was the unwilling witness of the heroically despotic abuses committed underneath it by Yoo and his ilk.  We hope that it faces a more dignified future under the watchful eyes of people who are more than mere parrots to repeat the protections it offers while simultaneously eviscerating its meaning, unconscious of the blood on their hands and the screams of those they oppress while mouthing the multisyllabic shibboleths of Constitutional freedoms.

There are two interesting developments in Jose Padilla’s lawsuit against former Justice Department lawyer John Yoo, who was one of the authors of the infamous torture memos.

First, the Justice Department is no longer defending Yoo in the case. He will now be represented by a private attorney, paid for by the Justice Department.

Second, Yoo is appealing the ruling of the federal district court denying his motion to dismiss Padilla’s case.
A motion to dismiss requests the court to summarily dismiss the plaintiff’s case without hearing any evidence. The motion essentially says: “Even if you accept as true everything the plaintiff is saying in his petition, he is not entitled to win as a matter of law.”
Generally, courts are loath to summarily dismiss cases brought by litigants. The general rule is that everyone is entitled to the opportunity to prove his case.
Thus, in ruling on a motion to dismiss, the court will accept as true everything that is stated in the plaintiff’s petition. If such facts, if later proved, can support a legal case against the defendant, the court will deny the motion to dismiss.
Can a defendant appeal a motion to dismiss? The general rule is no because the courts frown on interlocutory appeals, that is, appeals that are taken before a case has been finally resolved. Since a denial of a motion to dismiss is not a final resolution of the case (because the case is allowed to continue forward), the general rule is that an appeal cannot be taken from it.
So, why would Yoo be taking an appeal at this stage? My hunch is that he, along with a lot of other people in the Bush administration, are panicked over the judge’s ruling and are now looking for every way possible to delay the continuation of the suit.
Why? Because Padilla’s lawsuit provides the means by which Yoo and other Bush administration people can be forced to testify under oath in a federal court proceeding as to exactly what went on in the so-called war on terror.
Except for Padilla’s case, giving sworn testimony is something the Bush people could easily succeed in avoiding, given congressional apathy toward an official investigation and executive branch opposition to criminal prosecutions.
Why is Padilla’s lawsuit important? Because the ultimate ruling in the case will apply not just to him but also to all Americans. The suit alleges that the U.S. government took Padilla into custody and held him for several years without charge, until finally indicting him and convicting him in federal district court of the federal crime of terrorism. For years prior to the indictment, Padilla was held in the custody of the U.S. military, where he was denied right to counsel, the right to due process of law, the right to bail, the right to a speedy trial, the right to a jury trial, and other procedural protections guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. He was also subjected to torture, sensory deprivation, isolation, sleep deprivation, and many other cruel and unusual pre-trial measures.
The government takes the position that it had the legitimate authority to do these things to Padilla and that it, in fact, has the legitimate authority to do them to every other American, as part of its “war on terrorism.” Yoo is saying that as a government lawyer who was just delivering legal opinions, he is immune from Padilla’s suit.
The district judge disagreed. He held that the U.S. government lacks constitutional authority to subject the American people to such treatment and that any lawyer who knowingly participates in a scheme to subject Americans to such mistreatment is not immune from suit.
Given the predilection of the courts against interlocutory appeals, in my opinion the Court of Appeals will quickly rule against Yoo’s appeal, enabling Padilla to continue with his case and begin taking sworn depositions. That will be when things start to get interesting.

Modern DC Corruption … from “the select few”

July 16, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Bill Moyers and Michael Winship, Truthout

greedy

If you want to know what really matters in Washington, don’t go to Capitol Hill for one of those hearings, or pay attention to those staged White House “town meetings.” They’re just for show. What really happens – the serious business of Washington – happens in the shadows, out of sight, off the record. Only occasionally – and usually only because someone high up stumbles – do we get a glimpse of just how pervasive the corruption has become.

Case in point: Katharine Weymouth, the publisher of The Washington Post – one of the most powerful people in DC – invited top officials from the White House, the Cabinet and Congress to her home for an intimate, off-the-record dinner to discuss health care reform with some of her reporters and editors covering the story.

But CEOs and lobbyists from the health care industry were invited, too, provided they forked over $25,000 a head – or up to a quarter of a million if they want to sponsor a whole series of these cozy get-togethers. And what is the inducement offered? Nothing less, the invitation read, than “an exclusive opportunity to participate in the health-care reform debate among the select few who will get it done.”

The invitation reminds the CEO’s and lobbyists that they will be buying access to “those powerful few in business and policy making who are forwarding, legislating and reporting on the issues …

“Spirited? Yes. Confrontational? No.” The invitation promises this private, intimate and off-the-record dinner is an extension “of The Washington Post brand of journalistic inquiry into the issues, a unique opportunity for stakeholders to hear and be heard.”

Let that sink in. In this case, the “stakeholders” in health care reform do not include the rabble – the folks across the country who actually need quality health care but can’t afford it. If any of them showed up at the kitchen door on the night of this little soiree, the bouncer would drop kick them beyond the Beltway.

No, before you can cross the threshold to reach “the select few who will actually get it done,” you must first cross the palm of some outstretched hand. The Washington Post dinner was canceled after a copy of the invite was leaked to the web site Politico.com, by a health care lobbyist, of all people. The paper said it was a misunderstanding – the document was a draft that had been mailed out prematurely by its marketing department. There’s noblesse oblige for you – blame it on the hired help.

In any case, it was enough to give us a glimpse into how things really work in Washington – a clear insight into why there is such a great disconnect between democracy and government today, between Washington and the rest of the country.

According to one poll after another, a majority of Americans not only want a public option in health care, they also think that growing inequality is bad for the country, that corporations have too much power over policy, that money in politics is the root of all evil, that working families and poor communities need and deserve public support if the market system fails to generate shared prosperity.

But, when the insiders in Washington have finished tearing worthy intentions apart and devouring flesh from bone, none of these reforms happen. “Oh,” they say, “it’s all about compromise. All in the nature of the give-and-take-negotiating of a representative democracy.”

That, people, is bull – the basic nutrient of Washington’s high and mighty.

It’s not about compromise. It’s not about what the public wants. It’s about money – the golden ticket to “the select few who actually get it done.”

When Congress passed the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act, “the select few” made sure it no longer contained the cramdown provision that would have allowed judges to readjust mortgages. The one provision that would have helped homeowners the most was removed in favor of an industry that pours hundreds of millions into political campaigns.

So, too, with a bill designed to protect us from terrorist attacks on chemical plants. With “the select few” dictating marching orders, hundreds of factories are being exempted from measures that would make them spend money to prevent the release of toxic clouds that could kill hundreds of thousands.

Everyone knows the credit ratings agencies were co-conspirators with Wall Street in the shameful wilding that brought on the financial meltdown. But when the Obama administration came up with new reforms to prevent another crisis, the credit ratings agencies were given a pass. They’d been excused by “the select few who actually get it done.”

And by the time an energy bill emerged from the House of Representatives the other day, “the select few who actually get it done” had given aw ay billions of dollars worth of emission permits and offsets. As The New York Times reported, while the legislation worked its way to the House floor, “It grew fat with compromises, carve-outs, concessions and out-and-out gifts,” expanding from 648 pages to 1,400 as it spread its largesse among big oil and gas, utility companies and agribusiness.

This week, the public interest groups Common Cause and the Center for Responsive Politics reported that, “According to lobby disclosure reports, 34 energy companies registered in the first quarter of 2009 to lobby Congress around the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009. This group of companies spent a total of $23.7 million – or $260,000 a day – lobbying members of Congress in January, February and March.

“Many of these same companies also made large contributions to the members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which has jurisdiction over the legislation and held a hearing this week on the proposed ‘cap and trade’ system energy companies are fighting. Data shows oil and gas companies, mining companies and electric utilities combined have given more than $2 million just to the 19 members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee since 2007, the start of the last full election cycle.”

It’s happening to health care as well. Even the pro-business magazine The Economist says America has the worst system in the developed world, controlled by exe cutives who are not held to account and investors whose primary goal is raising share price and increasing profit – while wasting $450 billion dollars in redundant administrative costs and leaving nearly 50 million uninsured.

Enter “the select few who actually get it done.” Three out of four of the big health care firms lobbying on Capitol Hill have former members of Congress or government staff members on the payroll – more than 350 of them – and they’re all fighting hard to prevent a public option, at a rate in excess of $1.4 million a day.

Health care policy has become insider heaven. Even Nancy-Ann DeParle, the White House health reform director, served on the boards of several major health care corporations.

President Obama has pushed hard for a public option but many fear he’s wavering, and just this week his chief of staff Rahm Emanuel – the insider di tutti insiders – indicated that a public plan just might be negotiable, ready for reengineering, no doubt, by “the select few who actually get it done.”

That’s how it works. And it works that way because we let it. The game goes on and the insiders keep dealing themselves winning hands. Nothing will change – nothing – until the moneylenders are tossed out of the temple, the ATM’s are wrested from the marble halls, and we tear down the sign they’ve placed on government – the one that reads, “For Sale.”

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Roxana Saberi’s Release Bodes Well for U.S.-Iran Relations

May 14, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By William O. Beeman, New America Media

2009-05-12T113428Z_01_TEH102_RTRMDNP_3_IRAN-USA-JOURNALIST Roxana Saberi, the 32-year-old Iranian-American journalist convicted of espionage in Iran has been released to her family, and will soon return to the United States.

While her international community of family, colleagues and friends can rejoice in her release, it was predictable from the moment of her arrest, based on the history of such events in Iran in the past.

Although no one will know for sure exactly how events proceeded against her, it is possible to speculate how Saberi’s arraignment and trial developed.

The espionage charges against Saberi were utterly unfounded. They were likely the result of an escalation within the Iranian judicial system as official after official tried to cover their tracks for a series of abortive attempts to charge her with a crime.

She was first detained for the relatively minor offense of having purchased a bottle of wine. Since religious minorities in Iran are allowed to manufacture, sell and consume alcohol, the country is awash in liquor. It is easily obtainable by everyone—even government officials. Most likely the arresting official did not know that Saberi was an American passport holder born in the United States, and was probably chagrined to discover that this case was likely to create international brouhaha.

A more serious charge was then sought to justify the first arrest. The discovery that her press credentials had expired some months earlier provided that opportunity. Saberi had continued to file stories for a number of American news outlets, reportedly because officials assured her that the expiration of her press pass was inconsequential. Since she could demonstrate that Iranian officials had allowed her to continue writing, this charge would also not hold water.

Finally, the serious charge of espionage was lodged. As foolish and unsubstantiated as this charge was, it was plausible in Iran. Rumors that American CIA operatives were active in Iran were widely promulgated in Iran. These suspicions were reinforced through extensive documentation found in New York Times reporter James Risen’s 2006 book “State of War.” Additionally, on April 4, the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz confirmed an earlier rumor that an Iranian nuclear scientist had been assassinated by the Israeli intelligence agency, Mossad, inside Iran.

Iran experienced one horrendous situation involving a foreigner arrested for spying in Iran in 2003. Canadian-Iranian Zahra Kazemi was raped, beaten and tortured to death (although Iranian authorities claimed she died of a stroke) for allegedly having photographed prohibited parts of Evin Prison, where she was later incarcerated. Her death caused an international uproar. The Iranian government, clearly badly burned by the Kazemi case has since been careful to make sure that her situation is not repeated.

Foreigners — dual nationals — accused of espionage have been held for a time, usually in conspicuously humane circumstances, while the government wrings as much publicity out of the event as possible for a domestic and regional audience. The accused prisoners are then released in a show of clemency.

This was the case with Haleh Esfandiari, director of the Middle East program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. Ms. Efandiari was visiting her 90-year-old mother in 2006 when she was arrested. It is likely that her connection to Lee Hamilton, director of the Wilson Center, made her an object of suspicion. Hamilton had long connections to the CIA and to groups promoting democratic revolutions in places like Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan.

Kian Tajbakhsh was arrested at about the same time on the same charges. Tajbakhsh worked for George Soros’ Open Society Institute. Soros had also been active in the same “revolutions” in the region.

Both Esfandiari and Tajbakhsh were held under relatively humane circumstances and released some months later.

The Iranian presidential election next month was also a likely reason for a quick dispensation of Saberi’s case. Iran would like the world to focus on the election, and not on an ongoing saga of an international journalist in their prison system.

In the Saberi case, Iran actually did itself some good. It showed that it had a functioning judicial system—however imperfect—with an appeals process that eventually yielded the correct result.

The Obama administration, by engaging in diplomacy and sober statements of concern regarding Saberi, not only aided the process of her release, but likely set the stage for further improved relations between the United States and Iran. We now have a situation where Iran undertook an action of which the United States disapproved. The United States expressed itself in a non-hostile manner, and the Iranian government responded with a positive redress of that action. This bodes well for future U.S.-Iranian relations. It is only regrettable that this had to come at the price of Saberi’s unjust incarceration.

William O. Beeman is professor and chair of the department of anthropology at the University of Minnesota. He is past president of the Middle East section of the American Anthropological Association. He has lived and worked in Iran for more than 30 years. His most recent book is The “’Great Satan’ vs. the ‘Mad Mullahs’: How the United States and Iran Demonize Each Other” (University of Chicago Press, 2008).

India Tones Down Aggressive Stance on Mumbai

January 15, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS India Correspondent

2009-01-09T133757Z_01_ISL08_RTRMDNP_3_PAKISTAN-INDIA

NEW DELHI: Though India retains its stand on involvement of Pakistan-based elements in Mumbai-terror strikes, of late there has been slight change in the diplomatically aggressive stance adopted by it earlier against Pakistan. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh strongly criticized Pakistan while addressing a daylong conference of Chief Ministers on Internal Security (January 6). During his inaugural address, Singh referred to Pakistan at least nine times. “A holistic approach to our security concerns is definitely called for,” Singh emphasized. “Our problems are compounded by the fact that we have a highly unpredictable and uncertain security environment in our immediate neighborhood,” he said. Referring to Mumbai terror case, he described Pakistan’s “responses” to “various demarches” from India as suggestive of it acting in an “irresponsible fashion.” Describing terrorism as the most “serious threat” faced by India, Singh divided it into three categories: “terrorism, left-wing terrorism and insurgency in the northeast.” “Left wing extremism is primarily indigenous and home-grown,” Singh said. He blamed neighboring countries, “mainly Pakistan” for terrorism and insurgency in northeast.

“The terrorist attack in Mumbai in November last year was clearly carried out by a Pakistan-based outfit, the Lashkar-e-Taiba” with “support of some official agencies in Pakistan,” Singh said. He also blamed Pakistan for “whipping up war hysteria.” Giving stress to implementing the policy of “Zero tolerance of terrorism with total commitment,” Singh said: “We must convince the world community that States that use terrorism as an instrument of foreign policy, must be isolated and compelled to abandon such tactics.”

India apparently was (and perhaps still is) counting on securing influence of United States and other friendly countries to pressurize Pakistan in taking action on the dossier of evidence Delhi has given to Islamabad regarding the Mumbai-case. Indian Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon handed over evidence to Pakistani envoy Shahid Malik (January 5). The Indian envoy simultaneously handed over the evidence to Pakistan Foreign Office in Islamabad. “We have handed over to Pakistan evidence of the links with elements in Pakistan of the terrorists who attacked Mumbai on 26th November, 2008,” India External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said in a statement. Describing the Mumbai-case as “an unpardonable crime,” Mukherjee stated that India is briefing all its “friendly countries” on it. “I have written to my counterparts around the world giving them details of the events in Mumbai and describing in some detail the progress that we have made in our investigations and the evidence that we have collected,” he stated.

Indian Home Minister P. Chidambaram was subsequently scheduled to leave for US in a few days time to convince Washington about Pakistan’s role in Mumbai-strikes. The change in India’s approach in building up pressure against Pakistan at the diplomatic level is suggested by postponement of Chidambaram’s visit. “Balancing everything, it was decided three days ago that I stay back,” Chidambaram said (January 9). The decision to cancel Chidambaram may have been partly shaped by India facing internal problem over strike in petroleum sector, by the truckers and also the Satyam-fraud case. Besides, with the White House heading for a major change, criticism was voiced in various circles on what did Chidambaram expect to gain from his Washington-trip.

The decision on Chidambaram not heading for US over Mumbai case cannot be de-linked from the subtle but definite shift in aggressive posture adopted earlier by the government. India has come out more assertively than before (since the Mumbai case) in ruling out any military strike against Pakistan over Mumbai case. Rejecting option of India taking any “Israel-type” action against Pakistan over Mumbai terror strikes, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said: “I do not agree to that. Because this is totally wrong. The situation is not at all comparable.” “I have not gone and occupied any (of) Pakistan’s land which Israel has done (in Palestine). So, how can the situation be comparable,” he said during a television interview (January 10).

Suggesting that India is keen on exercising its diplomatic options rather than reach the war-stage, Mukherjee said: “We have not reached the end of the road.” “When I say all options are open, all options are open. There is no need of picking up option a, option b, option c, option d. No need of that. I am not responding to that. What I am responding to is options are open.” The options being considered by India at present are a response from Pakistan on “evidence” given by India regarding Mumbai-case. “We have given them (Pakistan). We expect them to act on it. If they do not act on it, then what follow up steps we will take and in what space of time it will take place, future course will decide,” Mukherjee said.

Amid the backdrop of criticism voiced against too many verbal missiles being fired in the subcontinent over the Mumbai-issue, the change in Indian government’s approach isn’t surprising. The government has no option but to tone down its aggressive posture. Besides, United States seems to believe that New Delhi should give some time to Islamabad to act on the evidence given to it. This is suggested by comments made by US envoy to India David C. Mulford over the past week. Regarding Pakistan’s approach towards “evidence” presented by India, he said: “You have, after all, a situation where there is a civilian government, a very strong military, a very strong intelligence agency and a media and other players. And I think you have to take a view that it is going to take little time to percolate to see what really is the outcome.” On how long should India should wait for Pakistan to respond, he replied: “It is not a question of time, although time is important, because to get into a situation where so much time passes, it makes them look uncooperative.” Describing it as a difficult task for Pakistan, he said: “So, frankly I think it is going to take time, it is not going to be easy, and it is not only going to take time and patience but some considerable restraint on the one hand and a continuing willingness to try to cooperate on the other.”

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