Saturday, October 14, 2006

"Justice" (Josh White, Karla Adam and Kevin Sullivan)

A U.S. citizen who allegedly orchestrated the kidnapping of three Romanian journalists near Baghdad last year was sentenced to death in an Iraqi court Thursday, prompting his lawyers to ask a federal judge in Washington to block the U.S. military from transferring him to the Iraqi government.
Mohammad Munaf, 53, has been in U.S. custody since May 23, 2005, when he was arrested during a military raid to rescue the Romanian journalists nearly two months after they were snatched. Authorities have alleged that Munaf -- who had ushered the journalists into Iraq and was acting as their guide and translator -- posed as a kidnap victim but was actually involved in a conspiracy for ransom and led them into a trap.

The above, noted by Lloyd, is from Josh White's "U.S. Citizen Sentenced To Death In Iraq" (Washington Post). B-b-but, Iraq's a 'democracy.' B-b-but, Bully Boy says it's 'liberated.'
In Wednesday's snapshot, we noted another 'justice' story:

In Iraq, the puppet governments continue to raise eye brows. Al Jazeera reports on Ayham al-Samarraie who was arrested "on charges of finanical and managerial corruption in August" for his actions while serving as a minister in Ayham al-Samarraie's government (the first post-invasion puppet government) but he was taken from the court and is now protected by US forces. al-Samarraie's "protection" raises serious questions about whether even the appearance of independence will be allowed for the puppet government. It also raises a serious issue of what was a US citizen doing holding government office in the supposedly independent Iraq.

So what's the story? Is there any justice in the Iraqi judicial system?
A sworn statement is filed, as Josh White reports, in US courts not from the attorney objecting to the process but from someone he spoke to on the phone. "I do hearby swear that the following remarks are hearsay"? Is that how that sworn statement reads?

Here's that section of White's report:

Munaf's Iraqi attorneys reported that the Central Criminal Court judge was prepared to dismiss the charges at a hearing on Thursday but that two American officials -- including an unnamed general -- stepped into the courtroom and requested a private meeting. The judge returned 15 minutes later and sentenced Munaf and four other defendants to death without hearing additional evidence, according to a sworn statement by Sean Riordan, a legal intern at the Brennan Center who spoke with Munaf's attorney in Baghdad.

No offense to Riordan, but a sworn statement is usually about what you yourself have observed, not what second hand, relayed news. Munaf's attorneys should be able to figure out how to come up with a sworn statement and fax it to the court.

The Iraqi judicial system is a joke, Americans don't make it any less of a joke by swearing to "This was told to me by someone who observed it" statements. A sworn statement about what happened needs to be made by the person or persons who observed it. We objected, during the military inquiry into the April 21st death of Jake Kovco and the surrounding events, about people testifying to things that they didn't observe. It's the same objection here.

And, this summer, members will remember a presentation made on behalf of someone while that person remained silent. That's not how it works. That's especially not how it works in a court of law. When it happened this summer, eyebrows should have been raised (including mine) because someone speaking on behalf of another person can say anything and then, if it turns out not to be true, the silent can come forward and say "I never said that" or "___ misunderstood what I was saying."

Though sympathetic to the case, I think it's laughable that an intern not present is submitting a sworn statement about what happened. If the attorneys could speak to him over the phone, they could do their own statement. If White's reporting of it is accurate, that's a very sorry state of legal affairs in this country that the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University's law school thinks a sworn statement swearing to hearsay holds up. (I don't doubt the intern's write up is accurate in terms of what he was told. I don't even doubt that the attorneys in Iraq conveyed the events to him accurately. But they need to do a sworn statement, there's no reason to submit a statement, sworn or otherwise, based on hearsay when you should be able to provide an actual sworn statement by those who observed in the court room.)

The larger issue, in terms of Iraq, is about justice.

White's report is disturbing but it goes to the fact that there is no justice in the Iraqi justice system despite all the talk of 'liberation.' In the US, we aren't supposed to allow for secret testimony (and, despite Congressional efforts, the law of the land remains that we don't). So why did "two American officials -- including an unnamed general -- [step] into the courtroom and [request] a private meeting"? A general sure as hell took an oath to uphold the Constitution. It may be one thing for him to follow the laws of another land if he's called as a witness. That wasn't the case. He and another "American official" elected to go to the court, to meet with the judge in private and make a case in a manner that goes against all notions of American justice. Someone should be facing a hearing right now because the oath to the Constitution does not include that you follow it only on US soil.

In the US, when the government tries to sidestep the law, they can face punishment. Someone needs to be facing punishment, two "officials," for engaging in activities that violate the notion of justice. The two aren't sightseers, they're in Iraq officially representing America. They made a mockery of the Constitution, they made a mockery of the notions of legal justice and they conducted themselves in a disgraceful manner.

Presumably, they presented 'evidence' privately to the judge that resulted from torture. The Justice Department is opposing the motions of the Brennan Center. That's not out of any respect for Iraqi justice (as proven with the actions involving al-Samaraie), that's because they're covering their own butts.

If a US general is involved in the passing on of 'evidence' obtained through torture to a judge, he needs to be court-martialed because he's aware of and (in passing on) condoning the use of torture so he's not only in violation of the Constitution, he's in violation of the Military Code of Justice.

The Brennan Center made a mistake in their sworn statement of hearsay. I have no problem calling them out on that. (I think that was laughably ridiculous and that no US court should give the statement any weight.) Other than that, they appear to have a very strong case. And it goes to the issue of what is justice in Iraq today?

There is none. And that "American officials" want to meet in private with a judge and share things that can't be shared in an open court establishes that fact. They are both fully aware that wouldn't pass muster in a domestic (US) court. It's disturbing that a general feels he can dispense with the Constitution and the Military Code of Justice. The other official needs to be identified as well. And people need to start asking why, three years after 'liberation,' people representing the American government are behaving in such a manner?

It's interesting that two "American officials" want to participate/interfere in private but, in another legal matter, didn't bother to show up in any form. We're talking about Terry Lloyd's inquest. Kevin notes Karla Adam and Kevin Sullivan's "Coroner Says U.S. Forces Unlawfully Shot Reporter" (Washington Post):

A British coroner ruled Friday that U.S. troops unlawfully killed a British television journalist during the invasion of Iraq in March 2003.
Coroner Andrew Walker, after an eight-day inquest, also said he would seek prosecution of the U.S. troops responsible for the death of Terry Lloyd, a veteran reporter for British television network ITN. Walker said he would ask Britain's attorney general and director of public prosecutions "whether any steps can be taken to bring the perpetrators responsible for this to justice."

Pay attention to this section:

No U.S. military officials testified at the inquest, although several submitted written witness statements. Walker ruled those statements inadmissible because he did not have the opportunity to question the troops who wrote them.

With regards to the English judicial system (where the US traces its own roots), the military can't be bothered with appearing (are they attempting to suggest that England's not 'liberated' and practices a mockery of justice?) but in Iraq, where the US is supposedly aiding 'liberation' and 'democracy' officials of the US can present 'evidence' behind closed doors and
not allow the defendant (who is facing the death penalty) to hear it or the chance to refute it?

It's the weekend which means a Saturday and Sunday evening broadcast (on XM satellite radio, Air America radio stations and online -- live from 7:00 to 10:00 pm EST) of RadioNation with Laura Flanders:

As more signs of a failing presidency mount - North Korea acquires nukes, deaths in Iraq hit new levels - western states Democrats are poised to win big. Kari Chisholm of the blog,, on how Dems are doing it. Plus an update on ballot initiatives from Kristina Wilfore of the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center.
Finally, singer-songwriter Catie Curtis on her new CD, "Long Night Moon," and having hope in dark times.
Our media roundtable features Tom Engelhardt of The Nation Institute's TomDispatch, and Linda Feldmann, Washington, DC reporter of the Christian Science Monitor.

The following have posted since yesterday morning:

Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude;
Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man;
Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix;
Mike of Mikey Likes It!;
Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz;
Wally of The Daily Jot
and Trina of Trina's Kitchen

Ruth's latest will go up later today, and Ruth guest blogged for Kat on Wednesday, Betty did so on Monday and I filled in last night.

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