Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Accusations about the Nov. 28th bombing, Camp Ashraf and more

Al Mada notes that the Parliament discussed the 2012 federal budget yesterday, they also did a reading (the first reading) of it. The article mainly addresses MP Jaafar al-Moussawi. He is a part of the National Alliance and a member of the Sadr bloc. He is also an opponent/rival of Nouri's for many years now. He has repeatedly, over the years, called for the Constitution to be followed and castigated Nouri when Nouri refused to do so. November 28th, a bomb went off outside Parliament. Dropping back to that day's snapshot:

In the one that will probably have the most impact the Baghdad-based government, Parliament was attacked. Confusion remains as to what it was attacked with. Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) puts it this way, "Also Monday, a mortar round landed inside the heavily fortified Green Zone, killing at least two people, police said. The round landed on the outdoor car park that belongs to the Iraqi Parliament compound and hit a car. " Citing the news channel Al-Arabiya, Adnkronos Security maintains it was a rocket. KUNA states mortars and that it "hit a parking lot near the parliament" leaving at least four injured. Aswat al-Iraq notes Parliament's Mohammed al-Khalidi states it was a car and a suicide bombing, "the car exploded outside the parliament building, where the driver was trying enter, but blocked by a military hummer, which obliged him to commit suicide." AFP emphasizes the confusion over details, "The explosion in the parking lot of the Iraqi parliament was caused by a mortar round, said Baghdad security spokesman Qassem al-Moussawi and several other sources. However, at least two sources at parliament said it was a car bomb." Parliament's spokesperson Aidan Helmi declares the attack was an attempted assassination of Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi and states the car involved was similar to the cars used in Nujaifi's security detail and that when asked to display a security badge, the car slammed into anothe car, the driver got out and detonated a bomb on his person. Jack Healy, Yasir Ghazi, Andrew E. Kramer and Zaid Thaker (New York Times) observe, "An attempted bombing steps outside Parliament would represent a serious security breach inside one of the capital's most heavily guarded sectors, raising questions about the competence -- or complicity -- of security forces. Parliament sits inside the Green Zone, the locked-down expanse along the Tigris River that houses many Iraqi governmetn buildings and the American Embassy."

Immediately came the lies. In order to try to elevate Nouri to martyr status, he and his lackeys began declaring that it was an attack on him. He was no where near the Parliament nor scheduled to be. But his vanity is so great that everything must be about him.

The attacks were blamed -- by the press -- on the usual catch-all: al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia.

More recently, Nouri's asked that the Supreme Court lift Jaafar al-Moussawi's immunity and accused him of being responsible for the bombing. al-Moussawi held his press conference yesterday at the Parliament building and denied any involvement in the bombing or guilt of the charges. He decried unnamed politicians who were attempting to use the media to smear his name. He stated that a DNA test on the body of a corpse thought to be the suicide bomber demonstrates that the man, two hours prior to the bombing, killed someone working for al-Moussawi (a bodyguard). al-Moussawi states he has other information and will be sharing it. Dar Addustour has him declaring that it was not him or people supporting him that did the bombing but people wanting to harm him for Saddam Hussein's execution. Alsumaria TV reports this morning that Spain's Ambassador to Iraq, Jose Turbine, is stating that the national conference is going to resolve the al-Hashemi issue.

Since December, President Jalal Talabani and Speaker of Parliament Osama al-Nujaifi have been calling for a national conference to address the political crisis. All this time later, all that's taken place is meetings to prepare for it. Al Mada reports that al-Nujaifi attempted to meet with State of Law for a discussion but they rebuffed him. al-Nujaifi is a member of the Iraqiya political slate headed by Ayad Allawi. They came in first in the March 2010 elections. Nouri al-Maliki's State of Law slate came in second. Iraqiya's Haider Mullah is calling for the issues of Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq and Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi to be addressed prior to the national conference. Nouri is demanding that al-Mutlaq (a Sunni and member of Iraqiya) be stripped of his title (and immunity -- so Nouri can sue him for "libel" for his comparison of Nouri to Saddam Hussein) and he issued an arrest warrant for al-Hashemi (a Sunni and member of Iraqiya) on charges of 'terrorism.' This is what finally prompted press attention in the political crisis that's gone on since December 2010.

Back in early 2005, we made the decision here to stop using "detainees" when describing those imprisoned in Guantanamo by the US government. "Detainees" is a sweeter sounding term than "prisoner" and also implies it's a brief detention, like being asked to step out of line at customs when you return to the US. By the same token, we are going to continue to call the residents of Camp Ashraf the residents of Camp Ashraf. Part of the reason they are being moved (to the former Camp Liberty) is because they are known as Camp Ashraf residents. A new name, a new brand, will dilute them, it's hoped. Regardless of where they are sent within Iraq, as long as we're putting up new content here, these people will be referred to as Camp Ashraf residents. It's how the world knows them and there is a strong public record on them under "Camp Ashraf." They are approximately 3,500 Iranian dissidents who were welcomed into Iraq decades ago, following the Iranian revolution. Nouri al-Maliki does not care for the residents and has, since Barack Obama was sworn in as US President, twice ordered their assault. They are protected persons under international law and Nouri gave his word that he would ensure their protection. Nouri's word is worthless. They are being relocated to Camp Liberty. The British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom's Muriel Turner offers this in a guest column for UPI:

The 3,400 residents will be housed it what can only be described as veal crates, in an area not much more than half-a-kilometer-square. Martin Kobler, the U.N. special representative to Iraq, has admitted to Ashraf residents that they will still be denied medical facilities. There will be no way to care for the disabled and nowhere to tend to the injured.
There isn't even any drinking water!
Their instructions mandate that, residents can only take "individual belongings" with them -- basically as much as they can carry. Vehicles and other property that they have worked hard for over the 30 years in Ashraf will have to be abandoned.
The Iraqi government has designated Camp Liberty to be a "temporary transfer location." That's because it does not meet the standards required of a refugee camp.
Once inside Camp Liberty, the 13-foot-high walls will close in on them and they will no doubt be forgotten. They will have no way of contacting U.N. observers other than by telephone, which the Iraqis will disconnect as they please. They are to be fingerprinted upon arrival, as if they were prisoners of war. One report said Iraqi guards, perhaps even the same guards who killed their friends and relatives, will be based inside the camp.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's Special Envoy to Iraq is Martin Kobler. He penned a column on Camp Ashraf for the International Herald Tribune which includes:

The plan now agreed to by the Iraqi government should be given a chance to work.
As a first step, it calls for the camp residents to voluntarily relocate to a transit site at the Baghdad airport. In contrast to Camp Ashraf, this site would be monitored around the clock by observers from the United Nations. There, the residents would be interviewed by the U.N. refugee agency, the UNHCR, to determine their eligibility for refugee status, paving the way for their resettlement outside of Iraq. Most have filed refugee claims. A small number have returned to Iran in recent years, but many others will want to go elsewhere.
Under the same agreement, the government of Iraq has made two key commitments that it must uphold. First, it has accepted full responsibility for the safety and security of the residents, from the relocation process throughout their stay at the new facility. Secondly, it has promised that nobody would be forced to go to Iran or elsewhere against their wishes.
The new site is a former U.S. Marine base that can hold more than 5,000 people. It has been equipped at considerable expense to receive the residents of Camp Ashraf. It has cooking and medical facilities, space for recreational activities and provisions for women and religious observance. UNHCR has carried out a careful technical assessment and determined that the new camp meets the humanitarian standards it applies for refugee situations around the world.

Yes, the two are at odds over the conditions of Camp Liberty. The Global Initiative for Democracy e-mailed this to the public e-mail account:

A bipartisan group of former U.S. political and military leaders is calling for the U.S. State Department to remove a prominent Iranian dissident group, the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran/Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (PMOI/MeK), from its list of terrorist organizations, saying the classification is unjustified and 3,400 Iranian dissidents housed at Camp Ashraf in Iraq cannot be safely resettled until the change is made.
"What troubles me is the politicization of the national terrorist list," former Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-RI, said at a conference attended by more than 1,000 Iranian-Americans and community leaders Saturday in New York. "I call on the State Department of the United States to be honest, to be truthful, and to follow the facts."
The event, entitled, "The Iranian Revolution, Three Decades Later: Prospects for Change, the Role of the Opposition and Camp Ashraf," was organized by Global Initiative for Democracy (GID) and held at the landmark Waldorf Astoria Hotel. Former Freedom House Executive Director and the GID founder and President Bruce McColm convened the conference. Other panelists included Carl Bernstein, Gen. George W. Casey, Jr., Governor Howard Dean, Lt. Gen. David Deptula, Director Louis Freeh, Mayor Rudy Giuliani, House Speaker Dennis Hastert, Attorney General Michael Mukasey, and Gen. Hugh Shelton.
In July 2010, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that the State Department had violated the due process rights of the MEK and remanded the case to the Secretary. Nearly 19 months later, the State Department has refused to act.
"Why is the State Department waiting so long? What is it, two years now that they have been delaying in making this decision? These are terrorism experts," former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani said of his fellow panelists, who included former US Attorney General Michael Mukasey and former FBI Director Louis Freeh. "They know terrorism. These people know terrorism when they see it. This group [PMOI/MeK] is not a terrorist group. Lift the designation and let's have our country on the right side [of the law and facts]."
At issue is the fate of some 3,400 Iranian dissidents housed at Camp Ashraf in Iraq, whose protection was handed over to the Iraqi forces in early 2009. The residents of the camp, most of whom belong to the MeK, voluntarily disarmed to U.S. forces in 2003, and were recognized as "protected persons" under the Fourth Geneva Convention by the U.S. government in 2004.
Iraqi forces have twice attacked its inhabitants, resulting in 47 deaths and more than 1,000 injuries. Until the United States revisits its designation of the MeK as a terrorist group, it is unlikely that any of those living at Camp Ashraf would be allowed to emigrate to safety in the United States or any European nation.
Director Freeh said that the group would soon petition the federal appeals court for the District of Columbia to compel U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to revisit the State Department's terrorism designation for the MEK.
Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert suggested another way to prod the State Department into action.
"The dollars that drive the State Department are appropriated by the Congress," Hastert said. "And just the threat of holding up part of that appropriation will certainly get the State Department's attention. I think this is important and it can be done. "
Another speaker, famed Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein, challenged fellow reporters to cover a story he said had so far escaped the attention it deserves.
"One of the things that we do as journalists, the most important thing we do, is decide what is news. And this is news," Bernstein said. "And one of the things we do when we decide what is news is we decide what portion of the story is devoted to what we know to be fact and what portion of the story is devoted to what we know is a lie. We have a responsibility not to inflate the lie and give it equal time to what we know is the truth. What is news here is [the failure to delist] is serving the purpose of the Iranian regime. That is news."
Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean noted that even in spite of the fact the camp has twice been attacked, Camp Ashraf leaders have agreed to send 100 Camp Ashraf residents to Camp Liberty, a new facility in Baghdad which Dean described as being "essentially a prison that would be governed by Iraqi military forces, without preconditions - despite the fact that residents there would have no access to attorneys and no international monitors would be able to evaluate conditions there."
"This situation is not resolved," Dean said. "I believe that when one side offers without conditions to do something...then we have an obligation to accept that." Dean added, "It is immoral to sit and claim you are negotiating in good faith if you can't take yes for an answer. Our government has a question about whether they are a moral government." Lt. General Deptula, the former Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance at the Air Force, said "The idea to relocate residents who have already agreed to leave Iraq to Camp Liberty, before departing Iraq, is suspect at best. Does Tehran have a plan to arrest a number of the residents of the camp through its Iraqi surrogates and do they plan to use the relocation process as a means to get their opponents arrested?"

Lastly, Lynne Stewart is a political prisoner, imprisoned for being the people's attorney, not for breaking a law (there is no law passed by Congress -- the only body that can pass laws in the US -- that Lynne broke). She loves people and she loves the courtroom and she dedicated her life to being an attorney for those who wouldn't have one otherwise -- because they couldn't afford it, because people were afraid to defend them, because they were considered social pariah, any number of reasons. Lynne took the tough cases and provided a spirited defense. She's imprisoned for breaking some stupid agreement -- whose validity has never been vetted by the courts. This took place when Bill Clinton was president. He had then-Attorney General Janet Reno look into the matter and the Justice Dept wisely and rightly found that no law had been broken, there was nothing to prosecute. Then Bully Boy Bush became president and made John Ashcroft Attorney General. They were desperate to go after Lynne because of what she stands for -- a defense attorney and one who will not be cowed by the government. So, after 9-11, they charged her -- for her actions that Bill's administration had already determined were not criminal. And they staged a for-show trial where they repeatedly invoked 9-11 and held it close to Ground Zero. It's a stain on American justice. Lynne was found guilty. She would like to appeal and many believe she has strong grounds for appealing. But this breast cancer survivor and grandmother, this over 70-year-old woman, didn't just have to endure 'justice' from Bully Boy Bush, she had to endure it under Barack. She was sentenced to a little over two years. For a breast cancer survivor that's not a brief amount of time. But Barack's Justice Dept dragged her back to court. They wanted longer. And now Lynne has to appeal that sentencing increase before she can even appeal the conviction.
Here's Lynne, from her website, explaining what's taking place at the end of the month:

About the Court Argument on the 29th of February

By Lynne Stewart

After the disaster in July 2010, when Judge Koeltl, following the directives of the Second Circuit increased my sentence from 28 months to 10 years, our righteous indignation fueled this appeal. The government’s argument will center on my testimony at trial and the alleged perjury. All of those facts were before the Court at the time of the 28 month sentence and were not the basis then of a double digit sentence.

Our Brief attacks the increased sentence on two different fronts –one on a doctrine of “substantive unreasonableness” meaning it’s just too much of an increase, five fold — given the circumstances. Secondly, we argued that the only “new” information before the Judge were my statements after my first sentence in October of 2008 and remarks I made on the Courthouse steps before I surrendered to prison. We contend strongly that this is protected speech under the First Amendment of the Constitution, and cannot be used to increase or as a basis for sentencing. (even if they hate it !!!)

The same group of 3 Judges that heard and decided the original appeal will also hear the arguments on the 29th. The government is not asking for more time; they are satisfied with their pound of flesh but it is not likely that this Court will take any action that will help me. The times are askew for prisoners and their lawsuits.

The lawyers that argued in July of 2010 will be on board with the addition of Herald Price Fahringer, an eminent attorney in the First Amendment field (the win in the Larry Flynt Hustler case in the US Supreme Court was his. He was also in the line of fire (no injuries) when the shooting took place.) He will enthusiastically present our case. I will not be present –not unusual once imprisoned. But my spirit will be there to inspire !!!

Of course, my case has always been government firing warning shots to Lawyers, that a vigorous defense, of certain clients, if not conforming to government specifications, will be punished severely . This chill effect in these days that we are confronted with Grand Jury investigations and dismantling of Occupations is not something we should contemplate with anything less than alarm. I have just finished David Gilbert’s book (Love Struggle) and the intercession of lawyers when there are arrests of designated enemies of the “state” are the only meaningful protection available.

A Large Outpouring of Support in Foley Square and Tom Paine Park and in the Courtroom will signal to these arbiters of “Justice” that attention must be paid, the 99% are watching them with suspicion and tallying up the roads not taken.

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