Monday, July 30, 2012

Nouri's Iraq

Dar Addustour notes that the Pope has called out the attacks in Iraq last Monday which resulted in over a hundred deaths.  Independent Catholic News reports that Pope Benedict XVI issued an appeal for peace in Iraq yesterday, "The Holy Father prayed, 'That this great country find once again the path toward stability, reconciliation and peace'." Not much chance of that happening under Nouri al-Maliki. In fact, you'd have to be insane at this point to think it would. For six years, he has been prime minister of Iraq. Where is any improvement he can point to? No where to be found. Al Mada notes a new study the BBC reported on which finds that 23% of Iraqis are living below the poverty line. And that finding comes as Iraqis get some bad news. Al Mada reports the Minister of Finance Fadhil Nabi issued a statement declaring that the vast sums of money obtained through oil revenue is inadequate for distribution to the Iraqi people. Do you believe that? Moqtada al-Sadr's bloc doesn't. They've been raising serious questions about the surplus for some time.

A 70-year-old man has been sentenced to 15 years in prsion.  That's the verdict handed down by the Iraqi 'legal' system after a 'hearing' that was shorter than a US traffic court appearance to appeal a speeding ticket.  Amnesty International issues the following alert:

‘Grossly unfair’ 15-minute court hearing in Ramze Shihab Amhed case relied on ‘torture’ evidence
Amnesty International has condemned the trial in Iraq of a 70-year-old British man who has been sentenced to 15 years in prison after a hearing that lasted only 15 minutes.
Ramze Shihab Ahmed, a 70-year-old dual Iraqi-UK national who has lived in the UK since 2002, was sentenced by a court in Baghdad on 20 June after being found guilty of “funding terrorist groups”.
Amnesty has obtained and examined court documents and believes the trial proceedings were “grossly unfair”. At his trial, the ninth in a series of trials (he had been acquitted in each of the earlier ones), Mr Ahmed’s lawyer was not given the opportunity to challenge the prosecution’s case, or to cross-examine prosecution witnesses or call his own witnesses.
The court also failed to exclude from the proceedings a “confession” of Ahmed’s, despite longstanding allegations that this was extracted under torture. The court relied on information provided by a secret informant, with Ahmed’s lawyer denied an opportunity to challenge this information. In addition, statements - also allegedly extracted from an individual under torture and other ill-treatment - were considered in the trial proceedings.
Earlier this month UK Foreign Secretary William Hague raised Ahmed’s case with his counterpart, the Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, while the latter was on a trip to London. Amnesty has been running a campaign for justice for Ahmed ( and over 6,000 Amnesty supporters have already contacted Mr Hague about Ahmed’s plight.
Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:
“This is deeply disturbing news. Ramze seems to have been convicted partly on the basis of a confession that was allegedly beaten out of him.
“The sentence comes on the back of what has already been a living nightmare for Ramze - of secret detention, alleged torture and then a prolonged trial that was itself grossly unfair.
“We need to see this dubious verdict set aside and Ramze either given a proper appeal or for him to be released and allowed to return home.”
In November 2009 Ahmed had travelled from the UK to Iraq in an effort to secure the release of his detained son ‘Omar. However, he was himself arrested at a relative’s house in the northern city of Mosul on 7 December 2009. For nearly four months he was held in a secret prison near Baghdad, during which time his whereabouts were completely unknown to his family. During this period Ahmed alleges he was tortured - including with electric shocks to his genitals and suffocation by plastic bags - into making a false “confession” to terrorist offences.
Ahmed “reappeared” in late March 2010 when he was able to make a phone call to his wife Rabiha al-Qassab - a 65-year-old former teaching assistant who lives in London - imploring her to seek help from the UK authorities. However, partly on the basis of his “confession”, Ahmed was subsequently put on trial, including on various terrorism charges.

It's Nouri's Iraq but it sounds a lot like Elvis Costello's hell.

This is hell
This is hell
I am sorry to tell you
It never gets better or worse 
-- "This Is Hell," written by Elvis Costello, first appears on his Brutal Youth

Six long years and no measurable improvement.  Zeynep Kosereisoglu (Journal of Turkish Weekly) offers these five recommendations:

 So, in the midst of this chaos, what shall be done?

1. The Shiite dominated government must go out of its way to prove to the rest of the Iraqis that they aren’t being marginalized.

2. The state must form concrete laws and regulations about energy production and distribution to end the disputes in both the Kurdish region and in the oil rich south.

3. Baghdad’s position about federalism and autonomous regions must be made clear. This might be for the better or the worse, but the Iraqis must move beyond such political disputes and on to more economic concerns.

4. If deals are made with foreign companies, the priority shall be clean water and electricity provision, [11] and rather than focusing only in the capital, they should expand throughout the entire country.

5. And the government shall reserve a good portion of its expenditures to the implementation of the rule of law, whether it be ensuring the security of towns or increasing the number of regional courts and improving the efficiency of the trials. Trust in the rule of law is the foundations of a stable and democratic society.

Bonnie reminds that Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "The Dishonest Cheese Doodle" went up last night.  On this week's  Law and Disorder Radio, a weekly hour long program that airs Monday mornings at 9:00 a.m. EST on WBAI and around the country throughout the week, hosted by attorneys Heidi Boghosian, Michael S. Smith and Michael Ratner (Center for Constitutional Rights) the topics include political prisoner Lynne Stewart, dissent and protests, the National Lawyers Guild and, with guests Chris Hedges and Rick Wolff -- the Occupy Movement. We'll close with this from the Green Party of Michigan:

Green Party of Michigan

** News Release **
** ------------ **
July 27, 2012

For More Information, Contact:
John Anthony La Pietra, Elections Co-ordinator

Jennifer La Pietra, Media Co-ordinator
(508) 280-1360

Greens to Supreme Court: Let People Vote on Emergency-Manager Law

The Green Party of Michigan (GPMI) counts grassroots democracy among its core principles -- its Ten Key Values. And the party has been living that value quite a lot this year in supporting the petition drive to let the people of Michigan vote on Public Act 4 of 2011, the emergency-manager law.

It was almost five months ago that Stand Up for Democracy turned in many more valid signatures on referendum petitions than opponents could hope to challenge on the merits. And it's been three months since expert testimony and common sense joined to prove that the petition both substantially and actually complied with the requirements of Michigan's Election Code.

But anti-democratic legal maneuvers have so far blocked this exercise of the people's fundamental right to a voice in their government.

The matter reached the Michigan Supreme Court this Monday -- and now there is only one month left to put the issue on the November 6 general-election ballot. Or so says the state Bureau of Elections -- basing its timetable on a law which isn't constitutionally eligible to take effect yet.

Michigan Greens urge the Michigan Supreme Court to act quickly and decisively to end the unjust delay and confusion, and put the referendum on the ballot.

"We the people of Michigan understand what 14-point type is," commented GPMI's Elections Co-ordinator John Anthony La Pietra, an attorney with training and experience in election law and other aspects of civil rights and Constitutional law.

"And over 200,000 of us saw 14-point type when we read, understood, and signed the petition to end the emergency-manager law and revive the power of grassroots democracy -- which all Greens support.

"Michigan Greens call on the members of the Supreme Court to live up to their title, and give the people justice on this matter."

La Pietra, the Green candidate for Calhoun County Clerk and Register of Deeds, added that the Court needs to act soon -- to avoid entangling the referendum on PA 4 with another controversy, and another anti-democratic bill.

Part of Public Act 276 of 2012, signed by Governor Snyder two weeks ago, will remove a current eleven-day period for finalizing the language describing ballot questions. This will give future citizen initiatives and referendums less time to go through the legal hoops to get on the ballot.

But the new law can't apply to the emergency-manager referendum, La Pietra pointed out. "The enrolled Senate Bill 823, which became PA 276, says it is to take immediate effect -- and also says it is to take effect on August 16. But the House did not approve the bill by the 2/3 majority required in Michigan's Constitution. So PA 276 can't take effect until 90 days after this legislative session ends."

Despite this, La Pietra noted, the Bureau of Elections has declared that court action on the petition against PA 4 must be finalized by August 27 to get the referendum on the ballot. That is ten days earlier than the September 7 date (60 days before the November 6 general election) established by current sections of Michigan law which PA 276 would repeal.

"Maybe the Bureau's just playing it safe, and planning for an earlier process than is really necessary," La Pietra suggests. "That would be understandable -- but it could put liberty and justice at risk.

"Perhaps we can all agree to hope that the point becomes moot -- because the Supreme Court does the right thing, recognizes precedent and common sense, and acts promptly to put the question on the ballot for voters to decide."

For more information about the Green Party of Michigan, its values, and the candidates who will represent both on the November ballot, visit:

Also check out the Green Party/Partido Verde of Michigan group on Facebook, and the party's Twitter feed @MIGreenParty.

Stand Up for Democracy, sponsor of the referendum on PA 4

Senate Bill 823, which became Public Act 276 of 2012
shows Michigan House's 68-42 vote to approve the bill;
see also link to text of enrolled bill, which says both
that it will take effect immediately and
that it will take effect August 16

Michigan Constitution, Article IV, Section 27
shows a 2/3 majority in both houses is required for immediate effect

Michigan Supreme Court Webpage on _Stand Up for Democracy v Secretary of State_
includes a summary of the case and links to briefs filed in it

# # #

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