A judge imposed a life sentence on Monday on a man who apparently played a minor role in the kidnapping of Margaret Hassan, a British-Iraqi aid worker whose disappearance and death showed that no one was immune from insurgent viciousness.
[. . .]
The kidnapping of Ms. Hassan, the director of CARE International in Iraq who had dedicated her life to helping the country's poor, stunned Iraqis and opened a more dangerous era for foreign nationals working here. In one enduring image from a grainy video broadcast on television, she was seen crumpled and pleading. Her body was never found.
Judge Saab Khorshid of the Central Criminal Court sentenced Mustafa Muhammad Salman al-Jibouri, a man associated with a Sunni mosque in central Baghdad, to life in prison, a British Embassy official said. The charge, according to an Iraqi lawyer who watched the trial, was aiding and abetting: Mr. Jibouri held Ms. Hassan's purse after she was abducted, though he said he did not know whose it was at first.
The spasm of violence in the capital continued Monday, with armed men dressed as police commandos seizing 24 people in Salheya, a bustling commercial district in the heart of the city that is dotted with bus companies that take travelers to Syria and Jordan. Families of those who were seized, including bus owners, riders and a kebob seller, formed an impromptu demonstration and demanded their release.
[. . .]
"The hostage-takers demanded to speak to a member of the British Embassy, but Tahseen had been told by the British that they would not speak to the kidnappers," said Ms. Hassan's siblings -- Deirdre, Geraldine, Kathryn and Michael Fitzsimmons. "We believe that the refusal by the British government to open a dialogue with the kidnappers cost our sister her life."
The above is from Sabrina Tavernise's "Minor Figure in Iraqi Kidnapping Gets a Life Sentence" in this morning's New York Times. A few notes. Some e-mails came in saying that they didn't believe in the verdict or that the full details of Hassan's kidnapping had emerged.
I don't disagree with that. We'll also note (and anyone who used the link to the Times of London's story offered yesterday -- and the Times had more than one story on this) that Tavernise gives a very abridged version of what the family said. They accuse the government of doing nothing when action could have saved their sister's life. That did not happen once, according to the story laid out in the Times (of London) but four times.
Yesterday's "case," such as it is, does little to inspire anyone since the only figure convicted was basically found guilty of "purse holding" and nothing more. There hasn't been a great deal to inspire anyone in the faith of the Iraqi courts under the occupation either.
I'm not seeing an article on the mass kidnappings (I belive the number being tossed around now is 56 people kidnapped) but Elaine just called and she's doing a morning post. She has an article (from a paper other than Times) that she's highlighting that notes the kidnapping so please check out Like Maria Said Paz. (Her post last night was lost by Blogger/Blogspot, after about four hours of work.)
Martha notes an article on the kidnappings. From Nelson Hernandez and Salih Saif Aldin's
"In Brazen Roundup, 56 Vanish From Baghdad" (Washington Post):
"Turn back," a friend told Haji Abu Shamaa as he walked Monday morning toward his money-changing shop in the Karkh neighborhood of central Baghdad, a mile north of the heavily guarded Green Zone. "The Interior Ministry police are rounding up people."
But Shamaa walked on, right into a swift, coordinated operation unfolding within sight of Iraq's Ministry of Justice. Gunmen in police uniforms and ski masks had cordoned off the street and were swiftly shoving captives, four or five at a time, into a dozen waiting pickup trucks. Fifteen minutes later, the trucks were gone, and so were 56 people.
The roundup displayed all the signs of an unrelenting kidnapping epidemic in Baghdad. Since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, more than 400 foreigners have been abducted in Iraq, but thousands more Iraqis have been snatched from the streets, often by people wearing knockoff police uniforms that are easily purchased at local markets.
Many people, like Shamaa's friend, believe the kidnappers are actually police. Usually the hostages are held for ransom. Sometimes they are killed because of their faith or ethnicity.
The fate of the 56 people was unknown Monday night. But the scale and audacity of the operation were unusual even by the capital's lawless standards.
The gunmen seized workers from several bus companies that offer transport to Syria and Jordan, witnesses and police said. Others of those taken were passengers aboard the buses: Syrian businessmen going home, a handful of Palestinians, Iraqis. Many Iraqis are leaving their own country precisely because it is the sort of place where a trip to the bus stop can end with being led away at gunpoint.
And, as promised, from yesterday's "British Antiwar Activist Salma Yaqoub on Iraq, Muslim Discrimination and Being the First Hijab-Wearing Woman Elected to City Council in Birmingham" (Democracy Now!):
AMY GOODMAN: Salma Yaqoob, you ran for the British Parliament, or what do you say, stood for it?
SALMA YAQOOB: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: You lost that?
SALMA YAQOOB: Yes, it was very close, so I lost by -- we just needed 1,600 more votes from the rival, but it was unprecedented that to run for the first time and really dent them in a very, very safe Labour constituency. And for me, it was saying, "Well, can we do this?" For me, it was more important to get out there, put forward an alternative political program. We have no real political debate or discussion left. We'd marched, we'd been ignored, and for me it showed the democratic deficit in our own house of Parliament that a majority of the MPs voted for the war when the majority of people in Britain were against it, even prior to it. It was a bit different from America. In Britain, it was very clear that the majority of people did not agree that the war should have even begun.
AMY GOODMAN: How many people came out for your protests?
SALMA YAQOOB: Two million people, and that's the largest in two thousand years of British history. It was absolutely phenomenal, and when that happened and then we had elections that same year, I remember going to the ballot booth thinking, "Who do I vote for when all of the mainstream parties have colluded with this?" You know, and I was getting fed up with having to vote for the least worst and thought, "Well, why can't we vote for a party that we actually believe in?" And so it sounded crazy, but I thought we should have a new national party built on a consensus in the antiwar movement. A whole diverse range of people had come together on a single issue, and I was wondering: can this diversity be reflected in other issues as well? And I actually found, yes, on pensions, on university fees -- we're against them -- on privatization. On all of these issues, a lot of people actually agree on a common platform, and that's where RESPECT was born.
AMY GOODMAN: George Galloway, who was Labour, thrown out, also ran on the RESPECT Party ticket and won.
SALMA YAQOOB: Yes, he won. So we have an MP. We have a Member of Parliament, and we have twenty councilors, and that's incredible given that we're only two years old. So it shows there's a real desire for change, there's a real desire for real political discussion in our country.
AMY GOODMAN: So while you lost that seat, you did win the seat for city council. What are you doing in the city council? How significant is that? Also that you are the first hijab-wearing member of the Birmingham City Council?
SALMA YAQOOB: Well, of course, there's an element of pride, just from the community point of view, but to be honest, it's almost irrelevant, as well. I’m not running as a Muslim candidate. I’m running as a RESPECT candidate, which is a platform to do with anti-privatization on the domestic front and an ethical and fair foreign policy on the international front, and I think it's important that people see somebody who represents their views in a real way, and I think that's what's been exciting about RESPECT. I was actually offered a platform with the other mainstream parties, and if I had wanted to be an MP, you know, through a mainstream party, I could have won it.
AMY GOODMAN: You mean, like through Labour.
SALMA YAQOOB: Yeah, well, or through the Liberal Democrats. And, you know, I was offered by them all, you know, to come and join them, but for me, their policies did not reflect what I believe, and I think the principle is more important. And I thought, it's a harder path, but if -- the symbolism of a hijab-wearing Muslim woman was not enough for me. It was about the policies that we are going to be standing up for, and that's why I'm proud to be a RESPECT councilor.
Which leads into today's scheduled topic for Democracy Now! (remember to listen, watch or read):
* Across the country pro-war Democratic lawmakers are facing challenges fromwithin their own party. We host a roundtable discussion with three antiwar candidates: Jonathan Tasini in New York, Marcy Winograd in California and Ned Lamont in Connecticut.
With that topic in mind, we'll again note this from CODEPINK:
Take a Stand by Signing the Voters Pledge! What if millions decided to vote their conscience and said 'No More War Candidates'? The Voters Pledge makes visible a powerful political force, the peace vote, a force that politicians cannot continue to ignore. It sends a clear message to the hawkish minority that leads both major parties to end the occupation of Iraq and to end unprovoked attacks on other nations. Sign the Voters Pledge and ask at least 10 of your friends to sign as well. You can help get 2 million signers in 2006!
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