Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The kangaaroo court convenes on Tareq al-Hashemi

tareq al-hashemi
KUNA reports, "The first session for the trial of former Vice President Tareq Al-Hashemi began here Tuesday with the charges being guiding and financing terrorist attacks."  Tareq al-Hashemi (pictured above) has been a vice president since 2006.  He is currently serving his second term.  Currently serving.  He has not been removed from office so this trial is legally not supposed to take place.  But the law's never mattered in Nouri's Iraq.  Nouri waited until the bulk of US forces had left to Iraq to suddenly declare his political rival al-Hashemi a "terrorist."  The vice president remains in Turkey.

Iraq practices forced confessions and, despite the Iraqi Constitution insisting upon innocence until proven guilty, the Baghdad court declared al-Hashemi guilty back in Februray.  Tareq al-Hashemi has repeatedly requested that the trial be moved elsewhere -- a request that should have been honored the moment the Baghdad judges declared him guilty in February at their press conference and while one judge was stating that he had been threatened by al-Hashemi! (He actually claims to have been threatened by 'supporters' of al-Hashemi -- he can't even make the claim if press for proof that it was by a bodyguard of al-Hasehmi.) Today, after being pushed back twice, the kangaroo court finally hopped into session.

Chen Zhi (Xinhua) reports that, as the trial started this morning, the court sent out spokesperson Abdul-Sattar al-Birqdar to insist, "There are many crimes that Hashimi and his bodyguards are accused of and we have confessions from them, including the assassination of six judges."  No, you don't have "confessions."  Leaving aside that Iraq forces "confessions" by torture, what you have is testimony -- and it may or may not be convincing.  Someone needs to educate the IDIOTS posing as judges in Baghdad and their little spokesperson on the law and on how the judiciary is always, ALWAYS, to come off impartial.  If a columnist, a police officer, a pundit wants to call them "confessions" that's fine and dandy.  But with a judiciary, we're always supposed to believe that they weighed the comments seriously before coming to a decision.

Chen Zhi has the best report on the day thus far.  AFP's report would be stronger if they had taken the raw information they had and done journalism with it.  AFP notes that the first witnesses were "families of three victims whose deaths Hasemi is accused of orchestrating."  In addition, there were three other witnesses.  It would be nice to know who they were.  I don't mean names, I don't expect names -- it's not like this is a truly public hearing, get real.  But I do expect to know if these people could even offer any testimony against al-Hashemi.

By that I mean, victims families can testify to losses. That's all they can do unless they're eye witnesses.  Even if they are eye witnesses, they have no testimony on al-Hashemi.  So this was to set a mood for the court and nothing more.  Those other three witnesses?  Who were they?  Are they in the position to have seen something or are we just getting accusations and hearsay presented as direct testimony?

Most importantly, this sentence from AFP doesn't cut it: "Three other witnesses gave testimony, accusing Hashemi of masterminding the assassinations, before reporters were led out of the room."  Why?  Was secret testimony being introduced?  What was going on?  If reporters are led out of the courtroom while a trial is going on, hate to break it to AFP, but that's your lede, not the fifth sentence and fifth paragraph of your report.  And that's all the more true when there were calls for international observers in advance of the trial and that call does not appear to have been heeded.

As the political crisis intensifies, Al Rafidayn reports that MP Mohammed Jawad (of Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc) is stating that, should a no-confidence vote take place, the names on the list to replace Nouri al-Maliki are Ahmed Chalabi, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, Hussein al-Shahristani and Khudayr Musa Jafar Abbas al-Khuzai.   Ahmed Chalabi -- like Nouri -- has very tight connections to Iran.  So much so that his compound was raided by the US military despite the fact that he was once one of the prized exiles (he was also Dexter Filkins' favorite Iraqi source for 'reporting').  Ibrahim al-Jaafari was previously prime minister.  (The US refused to allow him a second term in 2006 and demanded that Nouri al-Maliki be named prime minister.)  Hussain al-Shahristani is the Deputy Prime Minister for Energy. He was educated in London and Toronto.  He's a nuclear scientist who fled Saddam Hussein's Abu Ghraib prison during the first Gulf War and went through Iran onto Canada. al-Khuzai is the Shi'ite Vice President.  Alsumaria notes that MP Abdul Amir Mayahi (also of the Sadr bloc) stated that Ibrahim al-Jaafari is their ideal candidate, calling him a national figure and a moderate. (al-Jaafari was prime minister from April 2005 until May 2006.)  Meanwhile Al Mada has interesting article where State of Law and Dawa officials state that, if Nouri is replaced, the replacement must come from the National Alliance.  The argument goes that Nouri wouldn't have been prime minister without the consolidated support and backing of the National Alliance therefore they should be the pool from which a different prime minister was selected.  All the names being tossed around are from the National Alliance (a slate of various Shi'ite political groups).  What makes it interesting is that Dawa -- Nouri's own political party -- and State of Law -- Nouri's own political slate -- appear to be preparing for the possibility that Nouri might be replaced.  Prior to this, they've insisted that it wasn't happening.  Now their public presentation is: If it does, the prime minister has to come from the National Allaince.  This shift in public strategy may result from the meeting Alsumaria reports took place last night and was chaired by Ibrahim al-Jaafari.  All the political blocs of the National Alliance were present.

The following community sites -- plus Antiwar.com, Susan's On Edge, Salon,  CSPAN, Black Agenda Report and Chocolate City -- updated last night and this morning:

We'll close with this from the Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan:

Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan
May 15, 2012
LuAnne Kozma, Campaign Director, 231-944-8750 <luanne@letsbanfracking.org>
Maryann Lesert, <maryann@letsbanfracking.org>
Ellis Boal, <ellis@letsbanfracking.org>
Citizen-led Ballot Initiative To Ban Fracking in Michigan Begins
CHARLEVOIX, MICH. – A citizen-led ballot initiative to amend the Michigan
state constitution to ban horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, statewide began this
week. The Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan, a ballot question committee,
received approval of its petition from the Board of State Canvassers. The proposed
amendment would also ban the storage of wastes from horizontal hydraulic fracturing,
preventing Michigan from becoming a frack wasteland. Michigan has over 1,000
injection wells and over 12,000 conventional gas and oil wells that could be converted for
that purpose. The campaign website is: http://letsbanfracking.org.
Michigan is the only state in the nation where citizens are attempting to ban
fracking by amendment to a state constitution. Vermont’s legislature passed a ban on
fracking on May 4 and with the governor’s approval, became the first state to ban
The Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan is required to submit 322,609 valid
signatures from Michigan voters by July 9 to the Bureau of Elections, in order to place
the proposed amendment on the ballot in November.
“Michigan’s constitution invites citizens to amend it,” said Committee to Ban
Fracking in Michigan’s campaign director LuAnne Kozma, of Novi, and a co-founder of
the non-profit public interest group Ban Michigan Fracking. “We chose to form a ballot
question committee and amend the constitution because we cannot count on our current
elected officials to do the right thing. Proposed ‘frack reform’ bills in Lansing are only
attempts to regulate and tolerate fracking and put studies in the hands of State regulators.
New legislation (HB 5565) introduced last week, touted as a disclosure of frack
chemicals bill, contains language that forbids physicians treating frack victims from
disclosing the chemicals, even to patients. We knew we had to act to stop the toxic
invasion about to devastate our state. We will not recognize Michigan in a few years, if
we do not ban fracking,” said Kozma.
The citizen effort has the support of Vermont legislators Tony Klein and Peter
Peltz who sponsored the Vermont ban bill. “It was clear in Vermont the dangers of
fracking to our natural resources. In Vermont our natural resources are our number one
priority, so it was not a difficult thing to prohibit fracking forever. It passed
overwhelmingly,” said Klein. “We encourage all states, when they have the chance to do
so, to ban this dangerous technique.”
New York ban groups also praised the amendment to ban fracking in Michigan.
Maura Stephens, a cofounder of the Coalition to Protect New York and other grassroots
groups, has been working on fracking issues for five years and will soon publish a book
on the subject. "Only massive public resistance to fracking will stop the horrific
industrialization of our beautiful states," Stephens said. “This truly is a matter of life and
death for your way of life.”
Earlier this month, a Michigan House of Representatives Natural Gas
Subcommittee report recommended that the State lease all of its mineral rights, asserting
Michigan’s “natural gas renaissance is upon us.”
The State auctioned off mineral rights in 23 Michigan counties on May 8 in
Lansing, including the rights under Yankee Springs State Recreation Area (a state park)
in Barry County and highly populated areas in Oakland County. Residents attempting to
save their communities attended the auction, registered as bidders and tried, but failed, to
purchase the mineral rights to the areas around Yankee Springs.
The entire Lower Peninsula now stands to be fracked. Devon Energy is looking at
the A-1 carbonate layers in Gladwin County along with other areas in the middle of the
state. Encana is drilling the Utica-Collingwood shale in state forests, with several
operations in progress and more pending. Densely populated areas such as Ann Arbor,
Grand Rapids, and Jackson-- communities historically not affected by oil/gas drilling
within their borders--are now facing the threat.
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, which issues frack permits
and at the same time, depends on revenue from the production of gas and oil,
continues to publicly confuse the facts, claiming that hydraulic fracturing has been done
for over 60 years, while not always informing the public that horizontal hydraulic
fracturing is a new, as of 2002, experimental process, often referred to as a marriage of
technologies between hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling.
To volunteer to circulate or sign petitions, see: http://LetsBanFracking.org
The petition reads: A proposal to amend the Constitution by adding a new Section 28 to
Article I to read as follows:
“To insure the health, safety, and general welfare of the people, no person, corporation,
or other entity shall use horizontal hydraulic fracturing in the State. “Horizontal hydraulic
fracturing” is defined as the technique of expanding or creating rock fractures leading
from directional wellbores, by injecting substances including but not limited to water,
fluids, chemicals, and proppants, under pressure, into or under the rock, for purposes of
exploration, drilling, completion, or production of oil or natural gas. No person,
corporation, or other entity shall accept, dispose of, store, or process, anywhere
in the State, any flowback, residual fluids, or drill cuttings used or produced in horizontal
hydraulic fracturing.”
Committee to Ban Fracking in Michigan
Ban Michigan Fracking
Michigan House Bill 5565 (Physicians gag-order bill)
Michigan Board of State Canvassers draft minutes to April 26, 2012 meeting
Michigan House of Representatives Natural Gas Subcommittee Report, April 2012

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