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August 25, 2015

UK judge witholds report from Thai death penalty defendents

UK judge witholds report from Thai death penalty defendents

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

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In a judgement released today Mr Justice Green, sitting in the High Court in London, spoke of his “very considerable unease” as he rejected an application by two defendants in a Thai death penalty case. The pair sought a Metropolitan Police report they hoped could assist their defence.

The murders occurred on the picturesque resort island of Koh Tao, pictured here from file.
Image: Wikivoyage.

The court has expedited the case. Burmese nationals Zaw Lin and Wai Phyo, both 22, are currently on trial accused of murdering David Miller, 24, from Jersey, and Hannah Witheridge, 23, from England. With the defence case due to begin shortly and continue until mid- or late September the court has issued its judgement today following a hearing on Friday.

The case dates to September last year when the victims were found murdered on a Koh Tao beach. Witheridge had been raped. The case attracted worldwide attention with Lin and Phyo confessing, before re-enacting the killing in front of the press.

The accused claim the confessions were tortured out of them and the ongoing trial is unfair. UK Prime Minister David Cameron intervened, speaking to Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. Cameron and Chan-o-cha arranged for an observer team from the Metropolitan Police to conduct an inspection of the Thai probe, based on powers in the Police Act 1996.

A team was duly dispatched and prepared a report with the intent to use it for assisting the victims’ families. UK police were expressly forbidden, at a ministerial level, to provide any assistance to Thai authorities as the case involves the death penalty. Due to established UK policy on foreign death penalty cases, the report was also not shared with Thailand. It is this report that Lin and Phyo were seeking.

The Royal Courts of Justice complex in London, where the case was heard.
Image: sjiong via Flickr.

Using the Data Protection Act 1998 the defendants asked police for this report to assist their defence, and were denied. That decision was the one challenged unsuccessfully in the High Court. The case pits the two accused trying to defend a death penalty case against the possibility of jeopardising international relations; Thai police co-operated, but only in light of an agreement the report would be confidential.

Legal charity Reprieve, who assisted the two men, said in a statement “Concerns about the conduct of the Thai investigation and the safety of any convictions resulting have been raised from the very beginning[…] only the defence lawyers in Thailand are in a position to judge whether the information could be of assistance.” Mr Justice Green’s judgement acknowledges he did not know “how the accused might structure their defences” or details about what evidence had been or would be involved.

Thai Prime Minister Chan-o-cha, pictured here in December, was directly involved in negotiations that led to the report being produced.
Image: D. Myles Cullen/U.S. Military.

Both men say they were starved, suffocated, stripped naked, exposed to cold temperatures, beaten, threatened, and denied legal representation. The Royal Thai Police deny any misconduct. Mr Justice Green read the report himself and decided not to release it as it was of no assistance to the pair.

The report is known to contain some material disputed by Lin and Phyo. It says they repeated their confessions at various times, including in court with legal representation, before retracting them. It also says they have not backed up their torture claims with evidence, medical or otherwise.

Cquote1.svg This is not a Report which contains, for instance, state secrets Cquote2.svg

—Mr Justice Green

Mr Justice Green said the report described “in many respects […] no more than the routine conduct of a serious crime investigation. This is not a Report which contains, for instance, state secrets.” He also spoke of his distance from the ongoing trial, prompting him to remark of his “very considerable unease” and having to do “the best I could” — not “a comfortable process”.

Noting “the issues of both law and fact are complex, novel and difficult” Mr Justice Green’s judgement notes that, before even hearing the case he promised permission to appeal would be granted, if requested, whatever the outcome. He also promised a swift Court of Appeal hearing to comply with Thai trial time constraints. “The stakes are very high for both sides”, he added.

“In my judgment the common law,” the judgement reads, “and in particular the principles of natural justice and fairness, would in a case such as this which involves the right to life, and the right to a fair trial, as well as powerful countervailing issues of public interest, compel the court to apply the most intense level of anxious scrutiny to the facts to ensure that the accused were not prejudiced.”

Mr Justice Green also ruled the pair, in principal, “have a perfectly proper right to seek access to the personal data for the purpose of using it subsequently in their defence in criminal proceedings”, calling the case one about “fundamental rights”.

Rosa Curling, who represented both men in the London court, has said they would not appeal. She said Lin and Phyo are “disappointed” but “are reassured that at least a British judge has now looked at the information held by the Metropolitan Police, applying anxious scrutiny, and determined that it would not assist them in their ongoing proceedings in Thailand.”

Wikinews has contacted the Metropolitan Police, usually responsible for policing London, for a statement and is awaiting a response.



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April 7, 2013

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: close Guantanamo Bay

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: close Guantanamo Bay

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Navi Pillay in 2009
Image: Antônio Cruz (Agência Brasil).

Navi Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, told the United States Friday to close its prison camp at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. She argued the continuing indefinite detention without trial violates international law.

“We must be clear about this: the United States is in clear breach not just of its own commitments but also of international laws and standards that it is obliged to uphold”, Pillay stated.

Pillay said those held in Guantanamo Bay should face a civilian trial rather than a military tribunal, as the latter “do not meet international fair trial standards”. The US has only criminally charged or convicted nine current detainees.

Detainees arriving at Camp X-Ray, the forerunner to the current detainment regime, in January 2002.
Image: Shane T. McCoy, U.S. Navy.

The Guantanamo Bay camp was opened in January 2002 by former US President George W. Bush and currently holds 166 detainees. As of last month, 31 of the detainees were on hunger strike and eleven were being force fed, according to a US Department of Defense (DoD) spokesperson. Of the hunger strikers, Pillay said: “given the uncertainty and anxieties surrounding their prolonged and apparently indefinite detention in Guantanamo, it is scarcely surprising that people’s frustrations boil over and they resort to such desperate measures”.

President Barack Obama pledged to close Guantanamo Bay but has thus far failed to do so. The US has cleared transfer of around half of the remaining Guantanamo Bay detainees to their home country or to a third country. Pillay urged those transfers to be acted on: “As a first step, those who have been cleared for release must be released.”

Responding to the statement by Pillay, Lieutenant Colonel Todd Breasseale, a DoD spokesman, defended the camp in a statement to Reuters: “We continue to hold detainees under the internationally recognized Law of War and in keeping with the best of our core values, safeguarding and humanely treating all who are in our care and custody, there. Assertions that present some alternate narrative simply do not withstand intellectual rigor”.



Related news

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January 25, 2012

One year on: Egyptians mark anniversary of protests that toppled Mubarak

One year on: Egyptians mark anniversary of protests that toppled Mubarak

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

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Across Egypt hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets for the day, marking exactly one year since the outbreak of protests leading to 83-year-old longstanding ruler Hosni Mubarak’s downfall. The country’s decades-long emergency rule was partially lifted this week; meanwhile, a possible economic meltdown looms and a newly-elected parliament held their first meeting on Monday.

Protestors in Tahrir Square during the revolution.
Image: Jonathan Rashad.

Protestors in Tahrir Square today.
Image: Gigi Ibrahim.

Despite the new parliament, military rule introduced following Mubarak’s fall last spring remains. Echoing the demands from a year ago, some protesters are demanding the military relinquish power; there are doubts an elected civilian leader will be permitted to replace the army.

The brief unity against Mubarak has since fragmented, with Secularists and Islamists marking the revolution’s anniversary splitting to opposing sides of Cairo’s famed Tahrir Square and chanting at each other. Initial demonstrations last year were mainly from young secularists; now, Islamic parties hold most of the new parliament’s seats — the country’s first democratic one in six decades.

Salafis hold 25% of the seats and 47% are held by the Muslim Brotherhood, which brought supporters to Cairo for the anniversary. Tahrir Square alone contained tens of thousands of people, some witnesses putting the crowd at 150,000 strong. It’s the largest number on the streets since the revolution.

Military rulers planned celebrations including pyrotechnics, commemorative coins, and air displays. The Supreme Council of Armed Forces took power after last year’s February 11 resignation of Mubarak.

Alaa al-Aswani, a pro-democracy activist writing in al-Masry al-Youm, said: “We must take to the streets on Wednesday, not to celebrate a revolution which has not achieved its goals, but to demonstrate peacefully our determination to achieve the objectives of the revolution,” — to “live in dignity, bring about justice, try the killers of the martyrs and achieve a minimum social justice”

Alexandria in the north and the eastern port city of Suez also saw large gatherings. It was bitter fighting in Suez led to the first of the revolution’s 850 casualties in ousting Mubarak. “We didn’t come out to celebrate. We came out to protest against the military council and to tell it to leave power immediately and hand over power to civilians,” said protestor Mohamed Ismail.

“Martyrs, sleep and rest. We will complete the struggle,” chanted crowds in Alexandria, a reference to the 850 ‘martyrs of the revolution’. No convictions are in yet although Mubarak is on trial. Photos of the dead were displayed in Tahrir Square. Young Tahrir chanters went with “Down with military rule” and “Revolution until victory, revolution in all of Egypt’s streets”.

If the protestors demanding the military leave power get their way, the Islamists celebrating election victory face a variety of challenges. For now, Field Marshall Mohamed Hussein Tantawi — whose career featured twenty years as defence minister under Mubarak — rules the nation and promises to cede power following presidential elections this year.

Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, pictured whilst he was still Mubarak’s defence minister, is now ruling the country.
Image: Helene C. Stikke, US DoD.

The economy is troubled and unemployment is up since Mubarak left. With tourism and foreign investment greatly lower than usual, budget and payment deficits are up — with the Central Bank eating into its reserves in a bid to keep the Egyptian pound from losing too much value.

Last week the nation sought US$3.2 billion from the International Monetary Fund. The IMF insists upon funding also being secured from other donors, and strong support from Egypt’s leaders. IMF estimates say the money could be handed over in a few months — whereas Egypt wanted it in a matter of weeks.

The country has managed to bolster trade with the United States and Jordan. Amr Abul Ata, Egyptian ambassador to the fellow Middle-East state, told The Jordan Times in an interview for the anniversary that trade between the nations increased in 2011, and he expects another increase this year. This despite insurgent attacks reducing Egyptian gas production — alongside electricity the main export to Jordan. Jordan exports foodstuffs to Egypt and has just signed a deal increasing the prices it pays for gas. 2011 trade between the countries was worth US$1 billion.

The anniversary also saw a new trade deal with the US, signed by foreign trade and industry minister Mahmoud Eisa and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk. President Barack Obama promises work to improve U.S. investment in, and trade with, nations changing political systems after the Arab Spring. Details remain to be agreed, but various proposals include US assistance for Egyptian small and medium enterprises. Both nations intend subjecting plans to ministerial scrutiny.

The U.S. hailed “several historic milestones in its transition to democracy” within a matter of days of Egypt’s revolution. This despite U.S.-Egypt ties being close during Mubarak’s rule.

US$1 billion in grants has been received already from Qatar and Saudi Arabia but army rulers refused to take loans from Gulf nations despite offers-in-principle coming from nations including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates. Foreign aid has trickled in; no money at all has been sent from G8 nations, despite the G8 Deauville Partnership earmarking US$20 billion for Arab Spring nations.

A total of US$7 billion was promised from the Gulf. The United Kingdom pledged to split £110 million between Egypt and Arab Spring initiator Tunisia. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development says G8 money should start arriving in June, when the presidential election is scheduled.

The African Development Bank approved US$1.5 billion in loans whilst Mubarak still held power but, despite discussions since last March, no further funding has been agreed. The IMF offered a cheap loan six months ago, but was turned away. Foreign investment last year fell from US$6 billion to $375 million.

Rights, justice and public order remain contentious issues. Tantawi lifted the state of emergency on Tuesday, a day before the revolution’s anniversary, but left it in place to deal with the exception of ‘thuggery’. “This is not a real cancellation of the state of emergency,” said Islamist Wasat Party MP Essam Sultan. “The proper law designates the ending of the state of emergency completely or enforcing it completely, nothing in between.”

One year after the protests that led to his loss of power, Hosni Mubarak faces death if convicted of killing those protesting against him.
Image: 2008 World Economic Forum.

The same day, Amnesty International released a report on its efforts to establish basic human rights and end the death penalty in the country. Despite sending a ten-point manifesto to all 54 political parties, only the Egyptian Social Democratic Party (of the Egyptian Bloc liberals) and the left-wing Popular Socialist Alliance Party signed up. Measures included religious freedom, help to the impoverished, and rights for women. Elections did see a handful of women win seats in the new parliament.

The largest parliamentary group is the Freedom and Justice Party of the Muslim Brotherhood, who Amnesty say did not respond. Oral assurances on all but female rights and abolition of the death penalty were given by Al-Nour, the Salafist runners-up in the elections, but no written declaration or signature.

“We challenge the new parliament to use the opportunity of drafting the new constitution to guarantee all of these rights for all people in Egypt. The cornerstone must be non-discrimination and gender equality,” said Amnesty, noting that the first seven points were less contentious amongst the twelve responding parties. There was general agreement for free speech, free assembly, fair trials, investigating Mubarak’s 30-year rule for atrocities, and lifting the state of emergency. A more mixed response was given to ensuring no discrimination against LGBT individuals, whilst two parties claimed reports of Coptic Christian persecution are exaggerated.

Mubarak himself is a prominent contender for the death penalty, currently on trial for the killings of protesters. The five-man prosecution team are also seeking death for six senior police officers and the chief of security in the same case. Corruption offences are also being tried, with Gamal Mubarak and Alaa Mubarak accused alongside their father Hosni.

The prosecution case has been hampered by changes in witness testimony and there are complaints of Interior Ministry obstruction in producing evidence. Tantawi has testified in a closed hearing that Mubarak never ordered protesters shot.

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Hisham Talaat Moustafa, an ex-MP and real estate billionaire, is another death penalty candidate. He, alongside Ahmed Sukkari, was initially sentenced to death for the murder of his ex-girlfriend, Lebanese pop star Suzanne Tamim. A new trial was granted on procedural grounds and he is now serving a fifteen-year term for paying Sukkari US$2 million to slit 30-year-old’s Tamim’s throat in Dubai. Her assassin was caught when police followed him back to his hotel and found a shirt stained with her blood; he was in custody within two hours of the murder.

The court of appeals is now set to hear another trial for both men after the convictions were once more ruled unsound.

A military crackdown took place last November, the morning after a major protest, and sparking off days of violence. Egypt was wary of a repeat this week, with police and military massed near Tahrir Square whilst volunteers manned checkpoints into the square itself.

The military has pardoned and released at least 2,000 prisoners jailed following military trials, prominently including a blogger imprisoned for defaming the army and deemed troublesome for supporting Israel. 26-year-old Maikel Nabil was given a three year sentence in April. He has been on hunger strike alleging abuse at the hands of his captors. He wants normalised relations with Israel. Thousands have now left Tora prison in Cairo.

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March 6, 2011

UK\’s most-read papers found to be in contempt of court

UK’s most-read papers found to be in contempt of court

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Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Royal Courts of Justice, where the High Court sits in London and heard the case against the tabloids

The Sun and The Daily Mailtabloid newspapers that are the most-read papers in the UK — have been found to be in contempt of court by the High Court in London. The case is thought to be a landmark decision regarding Internet publishing.

The case dates back to November 2009, when Ryan Ward was on trial before Sheffield Crown Court, accused of murdering Craig Wass. The prosecution case was that Ward hit Wass with a brick, and no firearms allegation was made against Ward at trial, but both titles placed a photograph on their websites of Ward with a gun.

Cquote1.svg We conclude that the nature of the photograph created a substantial risk of prejudicing any juror who saw that photograph against the defendant Ward Cquote2.svg

—High Court

The papers took the image off their sites within hours, after being ordered to do so. The trial judge, His Honour Judge Michael Murphy QC, who had previously ordered the jury not to consult the Internet, did not halt the prosecution as he felt “satisfied” the jury hadn’t seen the picture. Ward was convicted.

Lawyers for Associated Newspapers and News Group Newspapers — respective owners of The Daily Mail and the The Sun — had argued in their defence that using the photo posed an “insubstantial” risk of prejudice, denying contempt although accepting they made “a mistake”.

Attorney General Dominic Grieve had described “seriously impeded or prejudiced” proceedings had jurors accessed the photos. Angus McCullough QC represented Grieve, telling the court the “strict liability” provisions of the Contempt of Court Act 1981 had been breached.

Attorney General Dominic Grieve brought the action against the papers

High Court judges Lord Justice Moses and Mr Justice Owen Thursday sided with Grieve and McCullough: “We conclude that the nature of the photograph created a substantial risk of prejudicing any juror who saw that photograph against the defendant Ward.”

Cquote1.svg [A] freelance journalist, then working for the website, added the photograph without taking any legal advice Cquote2.svg

The Daily Mail

Lord Justice Moses’ judgment mentioned the significance of the case in regards to online publications: “The criminal courts have been troubled by the dangers to the integrity and fairness of a criminal trial, where juries can obtain such easy access to the internet and to other forms of instant communication. Once information is published on the Internet, it is difficult if not impossible completely to remove it… This case demonstrates the need to recognise that instant news requires instant and effective protection for the integrity of a criminal trial.”

The Daily Mail’s website covered the ruling in an article in which they also offered an explanation for how they published the photograph. “[A] journalist had submitted an article about the prosecution along with the photograph by e-mail, including a warning stating the handgun should not be included in any copy of the photograph as it would prejudice the trial,” it reads. “But when the story was put up online a freelance journalist, then working for the website, added the photograph without taking any legal advice.”

The penalties for Associated Newspapers and News Group Newspapers will be considered by the judges later.



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February 24, 2011

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange to be extradited to Sweden

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange to be extradited to Sweden

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Correction — March 3, 2011
 
This article mentions that Mr Julian Assange was to be extradited on charges of Sexual Assault. This is incorrect. The offences specified in the Arrest Warrant were of “Sexual Molestation”, not Sexual Assault. We apologise for any offence the incorrect information may have caused.
 
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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Assange at the SKUP conference for investigative journalism, Norway, March 2010.
Image: Espen Moe.

Today, a British court ordered Julian Assange, founder of the whistle-blowing website Wikileaks, to be extradited to Sweden. Assange, a 39 year old Australian, has been accused by two Swedish women of sexual assaults against them.

Assange’s lawyers have the option of appealing against this decision, and have decided to do so. Assange has denied the claims of sexual abuse, claiming the allegations to be politically motivated because his website recently published secret US diplomatic cables. Earlier, during the hearing, Assange claimed that rape cases in Sweden were “tried in secret behind closed doors in a flagrant denial of justice”, and termed the country “the Saudi Arabia of feminism.”

Judge Howard Riddle, in his verdict, declared the allegations made by the two Swedish women a valid reason for extradition and also attested the validity of Sweden’s demand to send Assange to the country for further questioning.

Geoffrey Robertson QC, lawyer for Assange, suggested the latter could be extradited to the United States, on charges concerning the release of 250,000 US diplomatic cables by Wikileaks, where he could be sentenced to death penalty. His Swedish counterpart, Clare Montgomery QC, stated that while Assange’s trial would be held in private, the arguments raised in the trial would be released to the public. She also assured that Sweden was going to provide “protection” against the alleged risk of Assange’s extradition to the US, terming it as a “threat and violation.” The European Court of Human Rights has also agreed to intervene if Assange was subjected to an “inhuman or degrading treatment or an unfair trial” in the US, she added.

Assange had been granted bail in December, but has been electronically monitored ever since.

Assange has been accused of raping a sleeping woman, during his visit to Stockholm last year. Another woman has alleged that the Wikileaks founder sexual assaulted her thrice. If the Swedish court declares him guilty, he could be sentenced to up to four years in prison.

Paul Stephens, the Australian ambassador to Sweden, had earlier written to the country’s Justice Minister, appealing that if Assange was extradited, his hearing “would proceed in accordance with due process and the provisions prescribed under Swedish law, as well as applicable European and international laws, including relevant human rights norms.”

Assange is likely to remain in custody, since bail is not granted in Sweden before a trial or the accused being released.



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Wikileaks founder Julian Assange granted bail, set free” — Wikinews, December 17, 2010

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August 21, 2010

Australian judge delivers verdict on burqas in court

Australian judge delivers verdict on burqas in court

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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Western Australian district court judge Shauna Deane has found that a Muslim woman must remove her burqa in order to testify with regard to an Islamic school’s alleged receiving of state and federal government funding in a fraudulent manner.

The woman, identified only as ‘Tasneem’, was deemed unable to wear her traditional coverings despite feeling uncomfortable removing them in public. Judge Shauna Deane found that it would not be suitable for ‘Tasneem’ to offer evidence with her face covered, stating that the need to maintain a fair trial is consistent with allowing the jury to view and interpret cues from the face of a witness.

The judge went on to say that her findings should not set a precedent for future cases and that any future rulings regarding the facial and head coverings should be based on the independent findings of the judge hearing the case.



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  • “Western Australian court to set precedent on the burqa” — Wikinews, August 8, 2010

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July 4, 2010

Paris court jails rioters for attempted murder of police

Paris court jails rioters for attempted murder of police

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Sunday, July 4, 2010

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A court in Paris has jailed several men for attempting to murder police officers and related offences during riots in a poor suburb in 2007. The violence began after two teens died when a police car collided with their motorbike.

The United Press International states that the trial involved four defendants, but the Canadian Press names a fifth convict. Half-brothers Adma and Abderhamane Karama, both 29, and Ibrahima Sow, 26, were convicted of attempted murder. The court found that they had used hunting rifles to shoot buckshot at police in Villiers-le-Bel over two nights of violence.

The Canadian Press names Maka Kante, 24, as also convicted of attempted murder. Adama was jailed for twelve years and Abderhamane for fifteen years; the brothers were described in court as the ringleaders of the shootings in the primarily black and Arab suburb. The Canadian Press says Kante received three years for his role. Sow will spend the next nine years in prison.

Samuel Lambalamba, 24, was convicted of supplying a firearm to one of the rioters and jailed for three years. One defence lawyer, Michel Konitz, told the RTL radio station that he is uncertain whether his client will appeal “even though he is not guilty.” Another, Patrick Arapian, said “[w]ith sentences this harsh, one can feel political meddling in the justice system.” Prosecutors had sought between seven and twenty years for the accused.

According to Radio France Internationale (RFI), the prosecution had struggled to find witnesses willing to testify among the locals. Instead, RFI says the case centred largely on anonymous written statements. The trial’s last day stretched late into the night yesterday, with the verdict and sentencing following this morning. President Nicolas Sarkozy and his government are attempting to reduce violence in city suburbs.

The police union Alliance welcomed the convictions. They “will give new confidence to our colleagues,” according to spokesperson Ludovic Collignon, who called the trial “symbolic”. The riots in November 2007 left 119 police officers injured. Rioters burned shops, cars, a police station, two schools and a library to total more than seventy vehicles and buildings.

The European Court of Human Rights has previously been asked to consider cases where the right to a fair trial may have been breached by the use of anonymous witnesses. In the case of Van Mechelen and Others v. the Netherlands it stated that “it should be recalled that a conviction should not be based either solely or to a decisive extent on anonymous statements.”



Related news

  • “Youths riot in Paris suburb, attack police station” — Wikinews, November 26, 2007
  • “Second night of rioting in Paris suburb, Villiers-le-Bel” — Wikinews, November 27, 2007
  • “Third night of unrest is calmer in Paris suburbs” — Wikinews, November 28, 2007

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February 12, 2009

Canadian lawyer urges Prime Minister to repatriate Omar Khadr

Canadian lawyer urges Prime Minister to repatriate Omar Khadr

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Edney addresses the media.
Image: Joshua Sherurcij.

The Coalition to Repatriate Omar Khadr held a press conference in Toronto on Wednesday, where Khadr’s lawyer Dennis Edney unveiled his reintegration strategy for the sole Western citizen still held at Guantanamo Bay, in hopes that he can be returned to Canada.

Edney presented his “plan of reintegration” for Khadr, which constituted maintaining distance from his controversial family while undergoing physical and psychological tests and counselling while the legal system decides whether to charge him under the Criminal Code of Canada. Nate Whitling, another lawyer representing Khadr, told The Globe and Mail that his defence team had “no objection at all to fair trial”.

However, there has been no indication of acceptance of the plan from government officials, who were delivered an outline of the proposed terms of release earlier this week. Edney reiterated his plea for due process, urging the government to “accept our plan … a plan that says something about who we are as Canadians.”

Khadr, who was 15 years old and serving as a translator for Afghan insurgents when he was captured by American Special Forces in 2002, has been a controversial point in Canadian politics since his capture.

A protester stands outside the American consulate in January 2009.
Image: Joshua Sherurcij.

While the ruling Liberal party had initially made motions towards ensuring that the youth would face fair legal proceedings, they were superseded by the current Conservative premiership of Stephen Harper three years ago. Since then, the government has refused to intervene stating that the Guantanamo military tribunals constituted an “ongoing legal process” determining his fate.

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When Barack Obama announced the suspension of the tribunals and the closure of the detainment camps in January 2009, Harper maintained his position that Khadr did not constitute a child soldier and was better to be tried by the United States than his native country. Dismissing Harper’s claims on Wednesday, Edney suggested that the Prime Minister “learn some international law”.

Also on Wednesday, the leaders of the three opposition parties in Canadian parliament sent a letter to Obama urging him to repatriate Khadr as both the majority of the House of Commons and the population support his return and reintegration into society.

Last week, 185 Canadian groups and individuals accused the Prime Minister of “harbouring anti-Muslim sentiment” in his refusal to comply with international law, and public opinion, to return Khadr to face justice in Canada. A petition with more than 50,000 signatures was also delivered to Parliament Hill by representatives of Amnesty International calling for Khadr’s release.

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December 13, 2008

Former Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian released on bail

Former Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian released on bail

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Chen Shui-bian at the 2007 Taipei Int’l Flower Exhibition.
Image: Rico Chen.

Taiwan’s former President, Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), has been conditionally released on bail, some ten hours after he was indicted for corruption. Speaking to media at the Taipei District Court, he said: “I want to thank my lawyers, members of the Democratic Progressive Party and my supporters who have given me huge encouragement. I am grateful to those who cared for, supported and looked after me so I could get through the hardest and loneliest 32 days of my life in prison.” He earns the historical distinction of being the first ex-president of the Republic of China to be indicted for criminal offenses and could suffer life imprisonment if convicted.

Along with 13 other family members and close associates, including his wheelchair-bound wife, son Chen Chih-Chung, and daughter-in-law Huang Jui-ching, Chen was indicted Friday on charges of embezzling government funds and laundering money or ill-gotten bribes. The panel of three judges ruled he should appear at future court hearings and must not leave the country nor change his address.

Prosecutor Lin Che-hui accused Chen of having “embezzled 104 million New Taiwan dollars ($3.12 million) from a special presidential fund, and received bribes of $11.73 million in connection with a government land procurement deal and a separate construction project; the damning piece of evidence was the presence of NT$740 million ($22.2 million) in cash stashed in a Taipei bank safety vault held by the Chens.” Yuanta Securities director Tu Li-ping said, “she hand delivered NT$200 million ($6 million) in cash to Wu at the presidential residence in 2006 on behalf of executives of an affiliated bank; the money was an incentive for Wu not to interfere with a merger the bank was pursuing.”

Chen insists on his innocence. Contradicting the 100-page indictment, he said that “the $21 million his wife wired to their son’s Swiss bank accounts came from leftover campaign donations. Taiwanese law permits such donations to be kept by political candidates.”

In 1975, Chen married Wu Shu-chen (吳淑珍), the daughter of a physician. The couple has a daughter, Chen Hsing-yu (陳幸妤), who is a dentist; and a son, Chen Chih-Chung (陳致中), who, having received a law degree in Taiwan, studied at and graduated with a M.A. degree from the University of California in 2005.

In November 2006, Chen’s wife Wu Shu-chen and three other high ranking officials of the Presidential Office were indicted for corruption, charged with misappropriating NT$14.8 million (USD$450,000) of government funds using falsified documents. Due to the protection from the Constitution against prosecution of the sitting president, Chen could not be prosecuted until he left office, and he was not indicted, but was alleged to be an accomplice on his wife’s indictment.

Wu Shu-chen participating in the Republic of China legislative election on January 12, 2008.

Chen’s term as President of the Republic of China ended in May 2008. Immediately thereafter, prosecutors began investigating him regarding allegations that he misused his discretionary “state affairs fund”, as well as his connection to the first family’s money-laundering activities. He resigned from the Democratic Progressive Party on August 15, 2008, one day after admitting to falsifying past campaign expenses and wiring campaign contributions to overseas accounts.

In November 2008, Chen was escorted by a security staff, into the Taipei prosecutor’s office for questioning. After 6 hours, he left the Supreme Court prosecutor`s office in handcuffs, was arrested and detained. The charges each carry a minimum penalty of 5 years imprisonment. Following a 6 day hunger strike while in detention, Chen collapsed and was rushed to Taipei’s Far Eastern Memorial Hospital, where he was later transferred to Panchiao Hospital for force-feeding. Despite Chen’s lack of interest in appealing, his lawyer Cheng Wen-long completed a motion seeking his release from detention and filed a notice of appeal of the court’s decision, along with a petition for constitutional interpretation to restrain actions violative of the Constitution.

Prosecutor General, Chen Tsung-ming said that after Chen’s case had been removed to the Taipei Local Court, he would re-file a petition for Chen’s detention. Chen and the main opposition DPP have accused President Ma Ying-jeou’s administration of “using the scandals to plan a political plot against the former leader.”

Meanwhile, The Straits Times reported that “prosecutors are to investigate former President of the Republic of China and Chairman of the Kuomintang from 1988 to 2000, Lee Teng-hui on suspicion of money laundering, based on allegations made by Chen during his own questioning recently that his predecessor transferred large funds abroad through dummy accounts.” Mr. Lee angrily denied the accusations concerning “a suspected transfer of 50 million Taiwan dollars (US$2.26 million) to Mr Lee from a local stock investor via overseas dummy accounts.” Charges also included transactions made at the end of Lee’s tenure and at the beginning of Chen’s term, including “one billion Taiwan dollars that had been wired to various countries including Singapore.”

The China Post calls for calm and urges fair trial for Chen. “All the people should wait patiently for the outcome of the trial … They shouldn’t do anything to influence the judges in any way, because the rule of law in Taiwan is at stake. We should show the world that Taiwan is a democracy where anybody who commits a crime, be he a man on the street or a former president, is duly punished.” it said.



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Wikipedia Learn more about Politics of the Republic of China and Wu Shu-chen on Wikipedia.
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February 4, 2008

Tribunal considers role of Canadian minor in alleged war crimes

Tribunal considers role of Canadian minor in alleged war crimes

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Monday, February 4, 2008

Khadr, at the age of fourteen.

A military tribunal at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp is hearing arguments today over the legality of trying Canadian Omar Khadr for alleged war crimes, given his status as a minor at the time of the incident.

Khadr is charged with the murder of Sgt. Christopher Speer, in addition to attempted murder, conspiracy, providing material support for terrorism, and spying. The charges stem from a 2002 incident in which the 15-year old allegedly threw a grenade at U.S. troops after they directed an air-strike at the Afghan compound he was sharing with Mujahideen insurgents.

A number of groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have sent a letter to Secretary of Defence Robert Gates alleging that the military tribunal is “not equipped to meet juvenile justice standards” and that Khadr should either be tried before a civilian court or repatriated to Canada.

Edney (L) and Kuebler (R)
Image: Joshua Sherurcij.

Jennifer Daskal, senior counter-terrorism counsel at Human Rights Watch explained that the United States “should not make matters worse by prosecuting him before an unfair military tribunal.”

Khadr’s lawyer Dennis Edney challenged the attempts to label the 21-year old as a war criminal asking “…Why is he not being treated as a child soldier?” Lt Cdr Bill Kuebler, the American military commissions counsel in the case, agreed that the charges should be dismissed since the tribunal lacked the jurisdiction to prosecute minors.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper however, has said that his country will not intervene in the case to seek extradition of Khadr, re-affirming Canada’s status as the only Western country who has not demanded the release or extradition of their citizens held in Guantanamo.

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Claiming to have been abused, threatened with rape and forced into painful positions since his arrival in Guantanamo in 2002 , Omar Khadr has been the subject of two psychiatric assessments that claimed he suffered from mental disorder as a result of his imprisonment, and was at risk of suicide.

Khadr was previously charged by the Guantanamo military commission in November 2005, before the judicial body was ruled “unlawful” by the Supreme Court. Last June, a military judge dismissed a second series of charges against Khadr because his 2004 Combatant Status Review Tribunal had classified as an “enemy combatant” rather than an “illegal enemy combatant”, meaning that he did not qualify under the Military Commissions Act. Three months later, however, the Court of Military Commission Review ruled that the Commission would be allowed to make its own determination of the legality of a combatant.

Related news

  • “U.S. military tribunals in Guantanamo Bay lack Congressional authorization, violate US law” — Wikinews, June 29, 2006

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