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Arizona gunman in court as Obama leads mourning

In Uncategorized on January 12, 2011 at 7:10 am

The man accused of trying to assassinate a congresswoman in an Arizona shooting spree that left six dead appeared in court but said nothing to shed light on his motive.

President Barack Obama led the American nation in a somber minute of silence to honor the 20 people gunned down in Tucson — where he will attend a memorial service on Wednesday, the White House announced.

Flags were at half-staff at the Capitol in Washington, where hundreds of aides and lawmakers crammed the storied steps of Congress to pay silent tribute to the victims, including one of their own.

Democratic lawmaker Gabrielle Giffords, 40, was shot through the head at point-blank range before the gunman sprayed a crowd of constituents with bullets, a nine-year-old girl and a federal judge among six who died.

Jared Loughner, who faces the death penalty for the murder of the judge, appeared, his head shaven, amid tight security around the federal court in Arizona state capital Phoenix.

Dressed in a brown prison jumpsuit for the less than 15 minute hearing, 22-year-old Loughner appeared to follow proceedings closely, but said little beyond answering “Yes” to basic questions from Judge Michael Anderson.

The judge agreed to his request to have Judy Clarke, who represented the Unabomber — an anarchist serving life without parole for a 20-year mail bombing spree — and 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui, as his attorney.

No plea of guilty or not guilty was entered during the hearing and a preliminary court appearance was scheduled for January 24. A mug shot released by police showed the gunman with a haunting smile.

In an update on Giffords’ condition Monday, doctors said she was still responding to basic commands such as squeezing medics’ fingers, fueling growing hope for her recovery, though she remains in a critical condition.

People wait in line to sign condolence books for the victims of Saturday’s mass shooting in Arizona in the Cannon House Office Building on Capitol Hill

Authorities said Loughner, a troubled young man booted out of a community college last year, fired a full clip of 31 shots.

He was reloading another clip into his 9mm Glock semi-automatic pistol when bystanders, including a 74-year-old retired colonel whose head had just been grazed by a bullet, brought him to the ground.

Obama praised the “extraordinary courage” of those who tackled the gunman, including a young Giffords aide and a woman who helped disarm him.

At the Capitol, Democratic representative Emanuel Cleaver recited a prayer: “We ask blessings on the spirit of this nation… help us move from this dark place to a place of sunshine… we ask that you help keep our hearts pure.”

Outside the Tucson hospital where Giffords clung to life with part of her skull removed, tearful well-wishers gathered, praying and hoping.

A search of Loughner’s home on Saturday unearthed a trove of evidence in a safe, according to the criminal complaint.

A letter from Giffords thanked Loughner for attending one of her earlier public meetings, in August 2007.

Also in the safe they found an envelope with the hand-written notes, “I planned ahead,” “My assassination” and “Giffords,” the affidavit said.

Officials declined to assess Loughner’s motives or mental state. He wrote a stream of barely coherent postings on the Internet that showed an interest in developing a new currency and criticism of “illiterate” fellow residents.

A US senator meanwhile said he plans to present legislation to ban high-capacity ammunition clips of the type used by the Tucson gunman.

“The only reason to have 33 bullets loaded in a handgun is to kill a lot of people very quickly. These high-capacity clips simply should not be on the market,” said Democratic Senator Frank Lautenberg.

Giffords, who narrowly won re-election last year over a favorite of the conservative Tea Party movement, is a centrist Democrat who supports increased border security and, incidentally, loose restrictions on gun ownership.

Lawmakers of the rival Republican Party, which made huge gains in November midterm elections, denounced the attack and suspended proceedings of the House of Representatives whose new leadership had taken over just three days earlier.

Source: SGGP

Assange due in UK court over Swedish extradition

In Uncategorized on January 12, 2011 at 7:08 am

WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange is due to appear in a London court on Tuesday as lawyers draw the battle lines in his fight to avoid extradition to Sweden for questioning about alleged sex crimes.

The mainly procedural hearing at the top security Belmarsh Magistrates’ Court, due to start at 1000 GMT (3 p.m. EST), is likely to confirm the date for a full extradition hearing which is expected in early February.

The 39-year-old Australian computer expert, who has infuriated Washington by releasing details of secret U.S. diplomatic cables on his website, has protested his innocence over claims of sexual misconduct against two women.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange attends a seminar at the Swedish Trade Union Confederation headquarters in Stockholm August 14,

“The hearing on Tuesday is to ensure that the real issues in the case are identified and that preparation of the case is progressing in a timely fashion,” said a spokesman for Britain’s courts service.

It will also decide elements of the legal process, such as which documents the prosecutors and defense lawyers should provide and whether any witnesses should be called up.

British police arrested Assange last month on a European warrant issued by Sweden following allegations made by two WikiLeaks’ volunteers.

After spending nine days in jail, he was released on bail on December 16 after his supporters raised a surety of 200,000 pounds ($312,000).

As part of his bail conditions, Assange must stay at a mansion in eastern England, abide by a curfew, report to police daily and wear an electronic tag. Assange has described the curbs on him as “hi-tech house arrest.”

Source: SGGP

Anti-Imperialist Court seeks justice for dioxin victims

In Uncategorized on December 21, 2010 at 9:25 am

Anti-Imperialist Court seeks justice for dioxin victims

QĐND – Monday, December 20, 2010, 21:48 (GMT+7)

Thousands of delegates in the 17th World Festival of Youth and Students attended the ‘Anti-Imperialist Court’ held on December 19 as an important part of the event.

Participants presented evidence of the crimes against humanity committed by imperialism. The Vietnamese delegation took part in a hearing that condemned the US using Agent Orange/dioxin in the Vietnam War, which caused severe lasting consequences in Vietnam. The delegation also called for international friends’ support in the lawsuit for justice for Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange poisoning.

The speech by the Vietnamese delegation articulated that from 1961-1971, the US launched about 20,000 sorties to spray about 80 million litres of the poisonous chemicals onto 25,000 hamlets and villages in Vietnam, destroying more than 3 million hectares of natural forest, and leaving about 4.8 million local people infected with dioxin.

Representatives said it was one the most dastardly crimes in human history, with severe and long-term impact on Vietnam.

On January 30, 2004, the Vietnam Association of Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin began legal action against 37 US chemical companies. However, the Supreme Court of the US rejected the trial of this lawsuit in 2009.

Despite this, Vietnam has persevered in pursuing this lawsuit and seeking support from the international community. This effort directly involved the human kind’s joint struggle against war and the use of weapons of mass destruction.

A Vietnamese delegate, who is also a second-generation AO victim, spoke about the aftermath of the dioxin poisoning.

Tran Thi Hoan, 24, made the hall silent as she walked with difficulty to the rostrum. She had handicapped legs, which remained from her knees upward. Her left arm was contracted and handless.

In fluent English, Ms Hoan told the audience about the obstacles and unhappiness of Vietnamese victims of AO, including herself, in daily life. Her story received empathy from many international friends.

Canadian delegate Drew Bowering said everyone in the court learned about the consequences caused by the US chemical agent and in his opinion all people needed to take responsibility in assisting dioxin victims. He stressed that he completely supported the struggle for justice for Vietnam’s dioxin victims in the lawsuit against American chemical companies.

Source: VOV

Source: QDND

British court to decide whether to bail Assange

In Uncategorized on December 16, 2010 at 9:42 am

LONDON, Dec 16, 2010 (AFP) – WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange finds out Thursday if a British court will grant him bail, as he fights attempts to extradite him to Sweden over allegations of sex crimes.

A hearing at the High Court in London will determine if Assange will be allowed to leave Wandsworth prison after lawyers acting for Sweden challenged a British judge’s order that he be freed under stringent conditions.

Sweden wants Britain to hand over Assange for questioning over claims he sexually assaulted two women in Stockholm in August, but the 39-year-old Australian’s supporters insist the process is politically motivated.

If released on bail, Assange will have to reside at the country estate of Vaughan Smith, a former British army officer who founded the Frontline Club, a media club where WikiLeaks has based part of its operations.

Despite Assange’s arrest on December 7, his whistle-blowing website has continued to release US diplomatic cables that it has been leaked. Washington has been infuriated by the leaks, which have caused it great embarrassment.

The latest batch Thursday showed that a BP oil platform in Azerbaijan suffered a well blowout and a huge gas leak around a year and a half before the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

In a highly charged court hearing on Tuesday, Assange was granted bail on condition he pays a security of 200,000 pounds (315,000 dollars, 235,000 euros) with an additional 40,000 pounds guaranteed in sureties.

Celebrity supporters including maverick US film director Michael Moore, British director Ken Loach, campaigning socialite Bianca Jagger and journalist John Pilger have helped put up the money.

Assange’s lawyer, Mark Stephens, meanwhile accused the authorities Wednesday of making it difficult for the website founder’s legal team to meet him and prepare his case.

“I can’t get access to him,” he said. “I will not be able to take instructions from him.”

Source: SGGP

Swedish court orders arrest of WikiLeaks founder for rape

In Uncategorized on November 19, 2010 at 5:57 am

Iraq court sentences Tareq Aziz to death

In Uncategorized on October 27, 2010 at 5:35 am

AFP file – Tareq Aziz

BAGHDAD (AFP) – Iraq’s supreme criminal court found Iraq’s former deputy premier Tareq Aziz guilty of “deliberate murder and crimes against humanity” on Tuesday, sentencing to death the long-time international face of the Saddam Hussein regime.

A stone-faced and haggard-looking Aziz listened as Judge Mahmoud Saleh al-Hasan read the verdict.

“After sufficient evidence against Tareq Aziz that he committed and participated in deliberate murder and crimes against humanity the court decided to issue the death sentence,” Hasan said.

The verdict evoked quick reaction from the European Union and rights group Amnesty International, while the Vatican urged clemency for Aziz.

“Our position on the death penalty is well known, so I have nothing to add,” Maja Kocijancic, spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, said when asked about the sentence.

Ashton will remind Iraqi authorities of the EU position on the death penalty, said a diplomat who requested anonymity.

Amnesty’s Malcolm Smart said “Saddam Hussein’s rule was synonymous with executions, torture and other gross human rights violations, and it is right that those who committed crimes are brought to justice.

“However, it is vital that the death penalty, which is the ultimate denial of human rights, should never be used, whatever the gravity of the crime,” he added in a statement.

“It is also high time the Iraqi government turned the page on this grim cycle and one step towards this would be to end all executions and commute the sentences of all those on death row, believed to number several hundred.”

Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said in a statement that “the Catholic Church position on the death penalty is known. We really want the sentence against Tareq Aziz not to be carried out.”

Aziz’s life should be spared because this would “foster reconciliation and the reconstruction of peace and justice in Iraq after great suffering.”

Aziz turned himself in to US forces in April 2003, days after the fall of Baghdad.

In 2009, Aziz was jailed for 15 years for the 1992 execution of 42 Baghdad wholesalers and given a seven-year term for his role in expelling Kurds from Iraq’s north.

The court also sentenced Aziz to 15 years on Tuesday for “committing torture” and 10 years for “participating in torture,” and ordered that all of his known assets be confiscated.

“The verdict was for the crackdown on religious parties which took place in the 1980s,” court spokesman Abdul Saheb told AFP.

Among the charges was the April 1980 killing of Mohammed Baqr al-Sadr, founder of the Dawa party of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, Saheb said.

Saddam reportedly ordered Sadr killed after the cleric and Dawa voiced support in 1979 for Iran’s Islamic revolution, sparking demonstrations across Iraq.

Saddam went on to wipe out a large number of Shiite leaders during the 1980-88 war with Iran.

Sheikh Ali Basheer al-Najafi, a Shiite cleric in the holy city of Najaf, said the verdict was the least expected.

“The sentence against those killers is less than what could be expected for the violations they committed against important religious figures” said Najafi, whose father is among the four most important Shiite authorities in Iraq.

Two other men also received the death sentences — former interior minister Saadoun Shaker and Abid Hmoud, an aide to the executed dictator.

All three were sentenced for their role in the crackdown on Shiites.

The death sentences can be appealed and must be confirmed by the presidential council before being carried out.

Giovanni Di Stefano, one of Aziz’s lawyers, said the trial had been “a farce.”

It was “frankly nothing short of malicious, capricious and non-existent,” he said in a statement in Rome.

Before reading the sentence, the judge ordered Aziz to wear a hearing aid so he would understand the verdict. He then waved him away.

Aziz, sitting with his hand on a wooden rail in front, looked tired and ill.

His mouth was slightly crooked, as if an after-effect from a stroke. His family has said he has suffered two strokes while in prison.

Aziz’s son Ziad, who has lived in Jordan since 2003, told AFP “the decision was an act of revenge against anybody and anything related to the past.”

Of the three people sentenced to death on Tuesday, the urbane and Christian Aziz was by far the most prominent figure.

Named foreign minister in 1983 and then deputy prime minister in 1991, Aziz exploited his mastery of English to put a gloss on Saddam’s murderous regime for two decades.

Source: SGGP

Iraqi court orders parliament back to work

In Uncategorized on October 25, 2010 at 9:34 am

Iraq’s highest court on Sunday ordered parliament back to work after a virtual seven-month recess, intensifying pressure to break the political stalemate that has held up formation of a new government.

The 325 lawmakers met only once since they were elected on March 7 for a session that lasted 20 minutes and consisted of a reading from Islam’s holy book, the Quran, the playing of the national anthem and swearing in new members.

Under the constitution, parliament was required to meet within 15 days of final court approval of election results, which came on June 1. Lawmakers met on June 14 and should have chosen a parliament speaker during their first session and then the president within 30 days. But these appointments had to be put off because they are part of the negotiations between major political blocs over the rest of the new leadership — including a prime minister and top Cabinet officials.

Iraq’s new parliament convenes Monday June 14 2010 but postponed a decision on a new president as the country remained in political limbo three months after inconclusive national elections.

After the June meeting, lawmakers agreed to leave the parliament session open but unattended — a technicality to allow more time to choose a new leadership and to put off choosing a new speaker or president.

But the Supreme Court deemed that decision “illegal” in its ruling on Sunday.

“The federal Supreme Court decided to cancel this decision, binding the parliament speaker to call on lawmakers to convene parliament and resume work,” the ruling said. The delay “violated the constitution,” it added.

Parliament’s absence has meant inaction on business-friendly reforms, such as streamlining bureaucracy and clarifying rules for foreign investment, among other major decisions.

The absent parliamentarians are earning $22,500 a month in salary and housing allowance — far more than the average $800 monthly salary of an Iraqi professional. And that doesn’t include a $90,000 stipend they were given after they were sworn in to cover expenses for the next four years.

The court’s ruling effectively turns up the pressure to break the 7-month-old impasse on forming a government.

“This decision will put pressure on political blocs to speed up their negotiations, and to nominate a prime minister candidate,” said Kurdish lawmaker Alaa Talabani, a relative of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.

Sunday’s court order settles a lawsuit brought by independent watchdog groups against parliament’s acting speaker, Fouad Massoum. In a brief interview Sunday, Massoum said he has not yet seen the order but has no choice but to abide by the court’s demands.

He told The Associated Press he expects to set a date for a meeting by the end of the week, though it was not clear when the meeting would take place. Lawmakers, however, said they would not be able to accomplish much if they reconvened before political parties agree on a ruling coalition and choose a prime minister.

Under pressure from foreign allies and mounting exasperation from the Iraqi public, leaders since have twice tried — and failed — to bring parliament back.

The March elections failed to give any party a ruling majority. Since then, dueling political leaders have resisted returning as they try to corral alliances that will allow them to choose a prime minister and form a coalition government.

Sunni lawmaker Osama Nujaifi predicted parliament would ignore the order and resist convening for at least a week if “the political blocs haven’t agreed yet” on a new government.

Kurdish lawmaker Azad Chalak said that convening before deals are made on leadership posts “probably would lead to parliament dismantling” without having anybody in charge. He predicted that could, in turn, trigger courts to order a new election.

With 51 seats, the Kurdish bloc is considered a kingmaker whose support is critical to forming any ruling coalition.

Iraq is still struggling with its political identity after its majority Shiite population was ruled for decades by Saddam Hussein’s Sunni-led regime. Since Saddam’s fall, Iraq has been governed mostly by Shiites and Kurds, raising fears that Sunnis who feel they have been sidelined will re-ignite sectarian strife across the country.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is battling to keep his job after the Sunni-backed Iraqiya list led by former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi narrowly won the most seats in the March vote.

The impasse could drag on for months more.

Source: SGGP

Australia police serve court order via Facebook

In Uncategorized on October 20, 2010 at 7:04 am

SYDNEY (AFP) – Australian police served a court order on an alleged cyber bully using the social networking site Facebook, officials said Wednesday, describing it as a national first.

Victoria police got court approval to use the site after attempts to serve the order in person, over the telephone or via the post failed.

The “prolific” Facebook user was accused of, among other things, using the site to harrass, bully and threaten another person, and police said they transcribed all the court documents and sent them to his Facebook inbox.

A video was also made of the order being read “as if the Respondent was being directly spoken to” and sent electronically to him.

“He stated that he understood the seriousness of the orders, having read … documents served via the social media website and agreed to comply, stating that he would delete his Facebook profile,” a police statement said.

“In this instance we were able to deliver justice through the same medium as the crime committed,” said leading senior constable Stuart Walton, the officer in charge of the investigation.

“Police will always pursue traditional means to enforce the law and to protect the community, but we won’t shy away from innovative methods to achieve positive outcomes either.”

In 2008 an Australian lawyer won the right to serve legal documents via Facebook, the same year a Sydney court allowed lawyers to serve rugby player Sonny Bill Williams with a subpoena via SMS text message.

Australia, with a population of 22.5 million, has almost nine million Facebook users.

Source: SGGP

Thai PM in court as party faces ban threat

In Uncategorized on October 18, 2010 at 6:24 am

BANGKOK, Oct 18, 2010 (AFP) – Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva arrived at court amid tight security Monday as his ruling party fights to avoid a political ban that could bring fresh upheaval to the deeply divided kingdom.

Abhisit will be a witness for the defence at the Constitutional Court in what could be the final hearing in the case, which centres on accusations of misuse of a 29-million-baht (900,000 dollar) state grant in 2005.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva (C) arrives at the Constitutional Court in Bangkok on October 18, 2010. AFP

The Democrat Party — Thailand’s oldest party — could be dissolved if found guilty, while the premier, who was its deputy leader at the time, could be handed a five-year ban from politics, alongside other executives.

Abhisit looked relaxed as he arrived but made no comment to the throngs of reporters gathered outside the court, where there was a heavy police presence.

Thailand’s Election Commission (EC) in April called for the ruling party to be abolished over the accusations, as well as a separate case alleging an undeclared political donation.

The call coincided with the country’s worst political violence in decades, which ultimately left 91 people dead and almost 1,900 wounded in a series of street clashes between opposition protesters and armed troops.

The Democrats are accused of paying 23 million baht to advertising firms, despite only having permission to spend 19 million on billboard marketing.

Abhisit has rejected accusations that a member of his party had attempted to influence the judiciary over the case.

The opposition’s allegations that a Democrat lawmaker met an aide of a Constitutional Court judge ahead of the hearing — and was captured on video — were splashed on the front pages of local media Monday.

Judicial rulings have played a pivotal role in shaping Thailand’s political landscape in the past.

The Democrats came to power two years ago after court decisions ousted allies of fugitive ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who was himself unseated in a 2006 military coup.

Two premiers were forced from office by the judiciary in 2008 — one of whom, Samak Sundaravej, was removed for taking payments for hosting TV cooking shows.

Uncertainty over the government comes at a difficult stage for the country, which remains bitterly torn in the wake of deadly opposition protests by the opposition “Red Shirt” movement.

The Reds accuse Abhisit’s government of being undemocratic because it came to power with army backing in a parliamentary vote after the controversial court rulings, and their protests have called for immediate elections.

Some observers questioned whether Abhisit’s backers in the military and Bangkok-based elite would allow the Democrats to be toppled.

Former Thai diplomat Pavin Chachavalpongpun, an author and fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, said he did not believe the party would be disbanded.

However, he said one potential motive for dissolution would be as a gesture to the Reds to rebuff allegations of double standards in the legal system.

Pavin said “even then, they will have a plan B”, with rumours that a new party would swiftly rise from the ashes of the old.

Source: SGGP

Alleged Qaeda bomber innocent dupe: US court hears

In Uncategorized on October 13, 2010 at 8:10 am

 US prosecutors painted a man accused in the bombings of two US embassies in Africa as an Al-Qaeda killer, but defense lawyers called him an innocent man, wrongly swept into the war on terror.

The opening statements in a New York federal court finally kicked off the politically charged trial of Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, the first former inmate of the US prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to be brought before a civilian judge.

Ghailani faces a staggering 286 criminal counts including murder and conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction during the 1998 attacks against the embassies in Tanzania and Kenya that killed 224 people.

Prosecutor Nicholas Lewin said Ghailani was an integral part of Osama bin Laden’s world of America-hating militants and that he helped supervise the construction of the massive truck bomb that rammed into the US embassy in Tanzania’s capital Dar-es-Salaam.

VIDEO: First civilian trial of Guantanamo prisoner opens

“He and his accomplices were committed to Al-Qaeda’s overriding goal to kill Americans,” Lewin said.

“We will prove both of these massacres in East Africa were the work of a single Al-Qaeda cell. And this man, Ahmed Ghailani, was a vital part of that cell,” Lewin said, pointing dramatically at the defendant, who sat impassively, wearing a gray v-neck sweater.

The prosecution’s first witness was John Lange, the Dar-es-Salaam embassy’s acting ambassador in 1988, who described escaping the wrecked building and encountering a burned man lying on the ground “in the last gasps of life.”

Other government witnesses will include a convicted former al-Qaeda militant who has agreed to testify against Ghailani in hopes of being given a lighter sentence, Lewin said.

Speaking softly, defense lawyer Steve Zissou attempted to sow doubt in the jurors’ minds as they embarked on a trial being watched closely in Washington for evidence of whether civilian courts can handle defendants transferred from the legal murk of Guantanamo.

Zissou portrayed Ghailani, a small, youthful-looking Tanzanian in his mid-30s, as an unwitting accessory in the deadly, double-bomb plot concocted by radical, older friends.

Ghailani was a “dupe” who “tagged along” and when he helped buy the truck used in the Dar-es-Salaam blast, he had no idea what the purpose was, Zissou said.

“All of errands that he did were all part of totally normal business arrangements.”

“The case is going to come down to one simple question: did he know?

“At the end of this case you are going to conclude that the answer to that question is no,” Zissou said.

President Barack Obama believes that some terror suspects should be brought before ordinary criminal courts.

He has also pledged to close the controversial prison facility at Guantanamo, where Ghailani arrived after being held by the CIA in secret prisons and subjected to so-called “enhanced interrogation” or what his lawyers call torture.

Ghailani is now being tried in an ordinary courthouse, an impressive federal complex that daily delivers justice to a huge assortment of alleged fraudsters, murderers, and lesser defendants.

Yet the trial is anything but ordinary.

Opening statements were delayed for a week after Judge Lewis Kaplan excluded a witness who prosecutors say admits to selling explosives to Ghailani before the bombings.

Kaplan said the witness could not be allowed because his identity was discovered as a result of Ghailani being subjected to CIA interrogations.

Reflecting security concerns around the case, the identities of the 12 jurors and six reserves will be kept secret.

Although they have not been sequestered, jurors’ trips to and from the court in the morning and evening will be made with court officers using confidential, pre-arranged pick-up points.

Kaplan also told the jury to isolate themselves from what promises to be heavy media coverage of the case.

“You are not to send or receive any e-mails, tweets or other form of communication that touch on this case,” he instructed them. “Stay away from the Internet, away from the library.”

Perhaps the most unusual aspect of the trial is that there appears to be little chance of Ghailani ever walking free, regardless of what the jury decides.

Kaplan has ruled that even if acquitted in court Ghailani could be detained for life as an “enemy combatant”.

Source: SGGP