Monday, December 24, 2012. Chaos and violence continue, Nouri's crazy continues, protests spring up against the targeting of the Minister of Finance and against the treatment of women in Iraqi prisons, the torture legacy (from the US and England) remains in Iraq, a new potential successor to President Jalal Talabani emerges as a front runner, and more.
Tom Spender (Voice of Russia -- link is text and audio) reports England's "Ministry of Defence has paid out a total of 14 million pounds to Iraqis who say they were tortured by British troops during the UK's five-year occupation of southern Iraq. The Mod says the vast majority of British troops in Iraq behaved with integrity and professionalism." The most infamous Iraqi torture victim of British troops was Baha Mousa. From the July 13, 2009 snapshot:
Moving over to England, Matthew Weaver (Guardian) notes that Iraqi Baha Mousa's death at the age of 26 while in British custody in September 2003 is the subject of a public inquiry in England which began today and that, "A central issue of the inquiry is why five 'conditioning techniques' -- hooding prisoners, putting them in stress positions, depriving them of sleep, depriving them of food and water, and playing white noise -- were used on Iraq detainees. The techniques, inflicted on IRA suspects, were banned in 1972 by then prime minister, Edward Heath." The Telegraph of London offers that Baha "was beaten to death" while in British custody, "sustaining 93 separate injuires, including fractured ribs and a broken nose." The Telegraph also notes that the inquiry was shown video of Corporal Donald Payne yelling and screaming, "shouting and swearing at the Iraqis as they are force to main painful 'stress position'."
The inquiry, like so many others, didn't offer much. However, in June of this year, ITV reported that the doctor on dusty, the one who examined Baha, Dr. Derek Keilloh, was facing charges that he had "failed to conduct an adequate examination of Mr Mousa's body after death and failed to notify a superior office of the circumstances of his death. He faces similar claims relating to two other detainees he examiend after Mr Mousa's death." From last Monday's snapshot:
Today, Andrew Johnson (Belfast Telegraph) reports the latest, "A former British Army doctor has been found guilty of attempting to cover up the death of an Iraqi civilian who was fatally beaten by British troops in 2003, and of failing to protect other detainees." Peter Magill (Lancashire Telegraph) notes of the Baha Mousa inquiry, "Another detainee, Ahmed Al Matari, who had also been seen by Dr Keilloh at the detention centre after being kicked in the kidneys and legs, accused him of behaving like a 'criminal' during." Press TV adds, "Britain's Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service will now decide what penalty the British doctor will face." The editorial board of Scotland's Herald weighs in, "Army medics cannot afford to be squeamish but ignoring such brutality amounts to a betrayal of all the servicemen and women who behave decently and within the rules. It also acts as a recruiting sergeant for extremism and destroys at a stroke any goodwill built up with the local population. It is shameful that it has taken so long to uncover the truth. Though maltreatment of detainees may not have been routine, the fact that a number of other such inquiries are still crawling through the system suggests this was more than the work of a 'few bad apples'."
Yesterday, Ashleigh Barbour (Press and Journal) reported Dr. Derek Keilloh had been "struck off the medical register." The Yorkshire Post adds, "The Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service announced its decision to ban Dr Keilloh from working as a doctor yesterday after finding him guilty of misconduct." The Herald Scotland explained, "The MPTS recognised Dr Keilloh, now a GP at Mayford House Surgery in Northallerton, North Yorkshire, never harmed Mr Mousa and did everything possible to save his life, in a setting that was 'highly charged, chaotic, tense and stressful'. But they ruled he must have seen the injuries and, especially as a doctor, had a duty to act." Mary Gearin (Australia's ABC) quotes MPTS Chair Brian Alderman telling Keilloh, "The panel determined that erasure is the only appropriate sanction in this case. Given the gravity and nature of the extent and context of your dishonesty, it considers that your misconduct is fundamentally incompatible with continued registration."
This compensation leaves a sour taste: although it is an important measure of redress for victims, it is certainly not justice done. The full truth of what happened is yet to emerge, and those responsible have not been held to account. There is still no sign that the government is prepared to do the right thing and establish a full independent public inquiry into torture and ill-treatment by members of the British armed forces in Iraq from 2003 to 2008.
This failure is part of a clear pattern. When allegations of abuse are made they are first downplayed -- any wrongdoing, we are told, is down to a "few rotten apples" -- then, if any investigations do follow, they are carried out within existing military structures. This "trust us, we will deal with it" approach has long since lost credibility; as for rotten apples, the numbers of victims are too large and the patterns of abuse too similar to speak of exceptions.
Before we get to that second piece, Glenn Greenwald felt so 'validated' this weekend when he appeared on Chris Hayes' MSNBC program and the two of them got to bash the Bigelow. I like Chris. If Chris gives you his word, he keeps it. I have negatively criticized Chris for only one thing since Winter Soldier but it's not a minor thing.
Chris Hayes is a nice person. But maybe part of being a nice person is running interference for his wife? Maybe if his wife's department isn't doing their job -- and clearly, they are not -- it's a lot easier to glom on and attack a film. Maybe not. But if someone didn't realize that they were ethically compromised by reporting on the White House when their wife worked for it? That's not anyone I need to listen to for a film review filled with righteous indignation.
In Third's "Can't do their jobs, so they blame a film," we took on Senators Dianne Feinstein, Carl Levin and John McCain for their idiotic letter to the head of Sony trying to alter Bigelow's film. As we noted:
First, the complaints they lodge are that the film distorts things that happened.
If that's true, that's the fault of the Senators who have allowed programs to take place in secrecy. If they fear the American people do not know what happened and might be 'swayed' by a film, that goes to the secrecy level that they Congress has allowed the CIA to operate in. So in other words, Dianne, Carl and John are complaining about the fact that they didn't do their own jobs. That's on them. Second, they insist, "The use of torture should be banished from serious public discourse for these reasons alone, but more importantly, because it is a violation of the Geneva Conventions, because it is an affront to America's national honor, and because it is wrong." If, indeed, they feel that way, they need to (a) hold hearings into the torture that took place (public hearings) and (b) demand the Justice Department prosecute cases of torture carried out by people working for the US government. In other words, Dianne, Carl and John's real problems stem from the fact that they haven't done their jobs.
And let's move beyond that. Dianne was Chair in 2007 (after the 2006 mid-terms). She has an obligation and responsibility in that role: If she knows of torture or any other law breaking, she is tasked with reporting it. It appears Dianne did the exact opposite. John McCain claims that watching Kathryn's film made him sick. Good. Because he was in the Senate looking the other way while the actual torture took place. I'm glad it made him sick. And while he and Dianne may find it easier to hiss and scratch at Kathryn and her film, the fact remains that they're just trying to distract from the reality that the US government tortured people -- as they admit in their full letter -- and they did nothing to punish the law breakers. They did nothing.
And now they want to show up and hiss about some film? They need to take accountability for their own actions. What's becoming very clear about Kathryn's film is that it's a Rorschach test. And people bring to it what they've done. So if you didn't do your job as a senator, for example, the movie's going to upset you and make you issue a lot of stupid statements that people may pick up on and notice go to the fact that you didn't and haven't done your job. In England, there's a call for a public inquiry into torture. In the US, where's that call? Dianne? John? Barack?
And for those who think the US government only tortured under Bully Boy Bush or that Barack stopped extraordinary renditions, they might want to look into the story of Mahdi Hashi. Then again, life is so much easier when you can just hiss and spit at a movie and let the government and all the officials off. Peter Van Buren notes at Al Jazeera:
The president, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, has made it clear that no further investigations or inquiries will be made into America's decade of torture. His Justice Department failed to prosecute a single torturer or any of those who helped cover up evidence of the torture practices. But it did deliver a jail sentence to one ex-CIA officer who refused to be trained to torture and was among the first at the CIA to publicly admit that the torture programme was real.
At what passes for trials at our prison camp in Guantanamo, Cuba, disclosure of the details of torture is forbidden, effectively preventing anyone from learning anything about what the CIA did with its victims. We are encouraged to do what's best for America and, as Barack Obama put it, "look forward, not backward", with the same zeal as, after 9/11, we were encouraged to save America by going shopping.
In the essay, Peter does a walk through on a point that's so obvious it's easy to forget that not everyone realizes it. Torture isn't about the broken finger or bleeding cut or about gaining information. Torture is about the memory. Those who, for example, survived the concentration camps, still carried the scar of torture. John McCain was sickend by Kathryn's film because he carries what was done to him (but apparently was fine with it being done to others until forced to actually witness it in Kathryn's film). We're not using terms like 'spouse abuse' or 'domestic abuse' here or at Third. If you've missed it, we call it what it is: Torture. It's meant to scare and scar. It's not about the moment of violence, it's about what will follow. Jennifer K. Karbury wrote a very detailed examination entitled Truth, Torture and the American Way: The History and Consequences of U.S. Involvement in Torture.
In Iraq, the US government ordered torture and the reasons weren't for 'information.' What happened at Abu Ghraib wasn't for information. It was to break people, to humilitate them, to destroy them with the intent of sending them back into the community filled with shame and knowing that photos of their torture could surface at any time. It's terrorism. Terrorism was practiced in Iraqi prisons before the start of the 2003 Iraq War, but the US government ensured that their Iraqi proxies would be trained on how to use torture. It's effects are still felt (and practiced) in Iraq today. The BRussells Tribunal's Dirk Adriaensens (Global Research) reports:
Kitabat reports on 18 December. The chairman of the Iraqi List, Hamid al-Mutlaq, said in a press conference in Baghdad on 18 December: " Iraqi prosecutors have submitted today a report to the Chairman of the Iraqi judiciary Medhat al-Mahmoud that confirms the occurrence of torture and violations and rape of women detained in Iraqi prisons. The report
is based on confidential testimonies of female prisoners in Iraqi jails."
Mutlaq said that "the report confirms what has been recently stated by some parliamentary committees and human rights organizations, that there is a systematic violation, torture and rape of female prisoners in Iraqi prisons,"
The Chairperson of the Committee on Women presented a report on the situation of women prisoners. This report confirms that prisoners are routinely subjected to torture and rape. The presentation led to a heated argument between the deputies of the Iraqi List and the Coalition of State of Law, evolving into a serious affray.
Mutlaq demanded that the Iraqi government and the judiciary system would "do their legal duties by issuing a death sentence against those who commit such crimes against Iraqi women and take the necessary measures to prevent these abuses. He also asked to protect the confidential informant and to implement Article IV of the Anti-terrorism Act.
The announcement of the Public Prosecutor to the Iraqi Judicial Council coincides with the statement of the Governor of Nineveh Ethel Nujaifi, on Tuesday, about an officer in the Second Division of the Iraqi army who raped a 17 year old minor after forcing her into the Headquarter of his Regiment in the Nimrod's District.
The prison abuse is not going away. Yesterday protests took place in Falluja and Ramadi. Mohammad Sabah (Al Mada) explains that in Falluja they also demanded the release of prisoners. Kitabat goes further and reports that yesterday's Falluja protest found people protesting what's taking place in Iraqi prisons and detention centers -- the abuse of women.
Kitabat also reports that the Supreme Judicial Council has found four cases of females being raped in a Baghdad prison. The article also notes the young girl in Nineveh Province who was raped by one of Nouri's soldiers and how the Ministry of Defense (Nouri -- because he never nominated anyone to head the ministry) refuses to turn over the soldier despite the arrest warrant. As we noted Saturday, "Alsumaria reports that Nineveh Governor Atheel al-Nujaifi has closed the road linking the province to Baghdad. This is over one of Nouri's soldiers raping a young girl and the refusal of Nouri to obey a court order to turn the soldier over to Nineveh police. "
As noted, there were protests in Falluja and Ramadi yesterday. The Falluja protests noted the treatment of women in Iraqi prisons. Both protests revolved around one central issue, Nouri's targeting of the Minister of Finance. Xinhua reports: Thousands of Sunni Arabs on Sunday took to the streets and blocked the highways in Iraq's western province of Anbar to neighboring Syria and Jordan, demanding the ouster of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. The demonstrators, including local officials and Sunni clerics, mainly rallied in Anbar's capital city of Ramadi and the provincial cities of Fallujah and al-Qaim near the Syrian border. "We want the government to abandon its sectarian rhetoric when it deals with Sunni community and to free Sunni detainee," a Sunni cleric told protestors by loudspeakers in a demonstration on a highway at the edge of Fallujah, some 50 km west of the Iraqi capital city of Baghdad.
As noted in Friday's snapshot, Nouri's created a new crisis -- he sent forces into the Green Zone in Baghdad to round up 150 people working for the Minister of Finance Rafie al-Issawi and ten of them have been charged with 'terrorism' while the others are being 'questioned' (tortured). The arrests led to protests on Friday in Falluja, Tikrit, Samarra, Ramadi and just outside of Falluja. It also led to condemnation from Moqtada al-Sadr's parliamentary bloc and from Iraqiya (which came in first in the 2010 parliamentary elections). Mohammad Sabah (Al Mada) reported Saturday that the solidarity is holding and that today Iraqiya and Moqtada were joined by statements from National Alliance figures including Islamic Surpeme Council of Iraq head Ammar al-Hakim and Ahmed Chalabi. The World Tribune quotes a statement from Iraqiya declaring of the targeing of Rafie al-Issawi, "This confirms there is continued systematic symbols and leaders participating in the political process."
AP notes of Sunday's protest in Falluja, "In al-Issawi's hometown of Fallujah, some demonstrators covering their faces with red-checkered traditional tribal headdress carried pistols under their clothes. Others held flags from the era of deposed dictator Saddam Hussein and those now being raised by Syrian anti-government rebels." AP has a slide show here. On the Ramadi protest, Ammon News adds, :"Around 2,000 protestors blocked a main highway leading to Syria and Jordan in Ramadi in western Iraq on Sunday." AFP notes that Ramadi protestors were composed of many different sections, "including local officials, religious and tribal leaders." Aswat al-Iraq notes that both protests resulted in armed guards in heavy numbers being sent to 'observe' the protests. Jason Ditz covers today's protests for Antiwar.com.
The targeting of Rafie al-Issawi comes exactly a year after Nouri targeted two other high profile Sunnis who were also members of Iraqiya. Fakhri Karim (Al Mada ) notes the similiarity between targeting al-Issawi and the December 2011 targeting of Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi. He writes of how this is seen as an attempt to monopolize power and how it is contrary to the Constitution.
Right about now, usually, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani would attempt to clean up Nouri's mess. He can't do that. Iraqi President Jalal Talabani is in Germany having been medically transported there Thursday. On Monday evening, following a meeting with Nouri, Jalal was taken to Baghdad Medical Center Hospital for what the prime minister's office has said was a stroke but the president's staff has left it as an unidentified health condition. The news broke on Tuesday. Wednesday, Iraqi doctors were joined by British and German doctors. It was felt that Talabani was in stable enough condition and could be transferred to Germany. Al Mada reports he is at Berlin's Charite University Hospital which is one of Europe's largest hospitals and was established in the year 1710.
All Iraq News notes that a letter from US Vice President Joe Biden was delivered to the Talabanis Saturday wishing Jalal improved health and successful treatment in Germany. The letter praised Jalal Talabani for having long been a voice of sobriety and reason and that he is urgently needed. It cited his work in the last weeks on de-escalating tensions between Baghdad and Erbil over the military-standoff between the Tigris Operation Command forces and the Peshmerga in the disputed areas. Biden stressed that Iraq greatly needs Talabani and asks the Talabani family to call on him if there is any way he can provide assistance at this time. Alsumaria adds that the letter noted Biden's distress over hearing of Jalal's medical problems and stressed the partnership between Jalal and the US.
Last Tuesday, we noted that there was another person who could become Iraq's new president and would have a similar profile to Jalal Talabani:
Like many notable Iraqis, her family has a long history of involvement in Iraqi politics and in being persecuted. Novelist Ibrahim Ahmad was her father. He was also a judge and one of the first chairs of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (the first after it changed its name). Moving up the political chain in Iraq has always meant creating enemies. He would end up in Abu Ghraib prison for two years. He would go on to become an editor of a newspaper and, more importantly to the political situation, the voice of the KDP following it's split into two parties -- the other, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, would be headed by Mustafa Barzani. Today the PUK is headed by Massoud Barzani who is also the President of the Kurdistan Regional Government. He is the son of the late Mustafa Barzani. Mustafa's grandson is KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani.
Jalal and Hero have been married for over thirty years -- by all accounts a happy marriage -- and their own personal histories and experiences go to why Jalal has been an international presence. When Parliament votes in a new president, which may not be until 2014 when Talabani's term expires, it is very doubtful that anyone with the same national or international stature will be the president. (Although Hero Ibrahim Ahmed would obviously have a similar stature and the Talabani tribe has long supported women politicians. It was nieces of Jalal's that were most vocal in decrying Nouri's Cabinet in January 2011 for it's lack of women.) The editorial board of Lebanon's Daily Star observes, "Replacing Talabani with someone as charismatic and experienced, with the same skills of mediation, and with as few blemishes on his nationalism, will be no easy task, especially for a government's whose reputation has thus far been far from clean."
At that time she wasn't being mentioned. That has no changed. Saturday, Dar Addustour noted Jalal's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan political party met Friday to discuss potential successors to Talabani. The news outlet states it is coming down to three choices: Barham Saleh, Fuad Masum and Hero Ibrahim Ahmed. They stated Hero Ibrahim Ahmed, First Lady of Iraq (who is in Germany with her husband Jalal), is the current favorite. However, All Iraq News reported that her brother Hluwa Ibrahim Ahmed states that the news is untrue regarding the First Lady. He notes that the family is praying -- along with all of Iraq -- for President Talabani's speedy recovery. This is me, not All Iraq News, her brother also knows, as does she, that if she's called on to serve, she must. In her family, that's really not open to debate due to the historical presence in Iraq (think the Kennedys in America). Were a successor needed, she would make the best choice because of her presence in Iraq and the region, because of the accomplishments of her family, because of the accomplishments and history of her husband and concern for her husband (either due to illness or passing away) would translate into international attention for her. She would bring a whole level of attention to Iraq that the other two being mentioned cannot.
The point of the presidency for the Kurds is to have a prominent person in the post -- personal stature of the individual can combine with the duties and functions of the office to make the presidency a powerful position. Under Jalal Talabani, that has happened. Great care must be taken in selecting any replacement. They need to come with an independent base of power that will allow them to stand up to Nouri or anyone else. Hopefully, Jalal Talabani will recover quickly and be back at work. If that does not happen or is not possible, the names so many have mentioned bring little stature to the post. Only Hero Ibrahim Ahmed has stature on the international stage -- stature that she would bring with her if she became the next president. That would be the best thing for the Kurds and it would also be the best thing for Iraq. With Nouri attempting to put a non-Kurd in the post, it would probably be good for the Kurds to begin coming together on one choice right now and to name that choice publicly so that Nouri cannot pull a double cross.
Several Iraqi Kurds -- and a commenter on my AEI-Ideas post -- have put forward another name: Jalal Talabani's wife, Hero Ibrahim Ahmad, also known as Hero Khan.
Hero Khan has long been a major power within Jalal Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). Her power is based not only on her marriage, but also her pedigree and frankly her intellect and ability. Her father, Ibrahim Ahmad, was a famous Kurdish writer whose split with Masud Barzani's father ultimately led to the PUK's creation. Many Westerners are impressed with her for her obvious independence and intelligence. I first met the chain-smoking Hero more than 12 years ago, when she gave me a tour of the television studio she ran in Sulaymani. She came in wearing a t-shirt and jeans to serve me coffee as I waited, and it took me a moment to realize that she was -- at that point -- the PUK's first lady. She also has established a number of "non-governmental organizations" in Iraqi Kurdistan, most notably Kurdistan Save the Children.
I was iffy about linking to Rubin on this. Not because he's conservative and I'm left but because of his next pargraph. We're not quoting and I don't approve. When Ted Kennedy was dying, I didn't know it because I gossiped with medial personnel -- who damn well should know how to keep their mouths shut (that is what patient confidentiality means). I noted it because it was known in the Senate. (And I only noted it because a House member went on NPR to talk about how he was promised Ted would fight for his legislation in the Senate. So we noted that day in the snapshot that that was not happening because Ted was much sicker than most people knew.) I would never talk to a doctor or nurse about anyone else's health condition and I would seriously doubt the ethics of any doctor or nurse who chose to gossip with me about someone else's health.
American diplomat Peter W. Galbraith (Foreign Policy) shares some thoughts on Jalal Talabani: At this stage, the long-term prognosis for Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, who suffered an apparent stroke earlier this week, is unclear. He has been my friend for 25 years and I am hoping that his innate exuberance will carry him through this latest crisis. After all, he defied even longer odds to become the first ever democratically elected head of state in the multi-millennia history of a place that is considered the cradle of civilization. It's as yet too soon to guess at a prognosis, but he clearly will be out of action for some time -- and he will be missed.Talabani, who devoted his life to the Kurdistan national cause, has been described as a unifier -- and, indeed, he may be the only unifying figure among Iraq's top political leaders. There is a certain irony to this because Talabani remains a Kurdish nationalist. When he speaks of "his country", he means Kurdistan, not Iraq. As president, he has tirelessly advocated for Kurdistan's rights under the Iraqi constitution.But, by dint of personality, Talabani has used the largely ceremonial office of president of the republic to calm conflicts among Iraq's Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds. He is, in effect, the mediator-in-chief. Most recently, he won agreement from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the federal government to withdraw their armed forces from a disputed area around Kirkuk. In other cases, he mediated conflicts between Sunnis and Shiites, and even within the Shiite community.
Aswat al-Iraq reports, "Iraq's Parliament's Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi on Monday congratulated Christians in Iraq and all over the world on Christmas, stressing on the national unity among all Iraqi factions." December 25th is Christmas. Those of the Christian faith celebrate it as the birth of Jesus Christ. (Some people celebrate Christmas in terms of Santa Claus, the jolly man who travels the world bringing presents to children.) Nouri al-Maliki, this month, wanted to attack Europe yet again for taking in Iraqi Christians (who flee for their own safety). Yet today, one of the two biggest holidays of the Christian faith (Easter in April would be the other), Nouri can't issue a statement. That's how you know he's insincere.
On this week's Law and Disorder Radio, an 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) topics addressed include the late Robert Bork, the shooting in Newton Connecticut and political prisoner Lynne Stewart is discussed with guest Ralph Poynter (Lynne's husband). Lynne was always there for anyone who needed her. She took the clients no one wanted, the clients other attorneys were scared to take, the clients who couldn't afford an attorney. She did all of this and more earning the title The People's Lawyer. She is a credit to her profession and a role model for many. She is also, now, a political prisoner.
Heidi Boghosian: Criminal defense attorney, political prisoner and our good friend Lynne Stewart continues to inspire people around her while serving a ten year sentence in the Federal Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas. As many listeners know, Lynne was convicted on charges of materially aiding terrorism related to her representation of Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman. Her original two year sentence was later increased to ten years after the government pressured the trial judge to reconsider his sentencing decision. Michael Smith will read a few paragraphs from a recent letter that Lynne sent. Let's take a listen.
Michael Smith: Lynne Stewart wrote this letter on November 29, 2012:
Dear Friends, Supporters, Comrades, Brothers and Sisters:
I am now beginning my fourth (4th) year of imprisonment. It does not get better and I have to gut check myself regularly to be certain that I am resisting the pervasive institutionalization that takes place. A certain degree of reclusiveness with the help of good books, interesting people to correspond with, writing on topics of public interest, seems to work for me. Of course I still am working with any woman who needs help but I know that my sometimes truthtelling self is not what folks here want to hear.
Some of you have written asking where I get the strength to keep on. My simple and truthful and sincere and heartfelt answer is that I get it from the depth of love and respect from my beloved partner, Ralph, my dear children and their children, and from all the people, that stay in touch with me, yes. I receive regular and wonderful mail from all segments of the movement, from the young asking for advice "on being a lawyer like you", from octogenarians, nonagenarians and 70 + who have given their political all for their lifetimes and continue to do so, from the lawyers in the Guild, from the poets and the songwriters, the rappers and the writers whose art is not separated from our movement for change -- So Many More. So impossible to include everyone but know that even if I am slow to answer, I read every word I receive and it sustains me and strengthens me and makes it possible to face each new day. While the political landscape is gloomy at best, I always remember that in the 50′s, no-one imagined that the 60′s were right around the corner ! Onward !!
Michael Smith: That's a letter from Lynne Stewart.
Heidi Boghosian: Joining us today for a personal and legal update is Lynne's partner Ralph Poynter. Welcome, Ralph, to Law and Disorder.
Ralph Poynter: Yeah, and thank you so much for having me. When you have me, you have Lynne.
Michael Smith: I know you've been down to see her recently. Could you tell our listeners how Lynne is feeling?
Ralph Poynter: Well Lynne is Lynne -- that's the only thing I can say. She's always up. Her spirits are such -- Imdomitable. She's just constant and she amazes me -- but she's been doing that for fifty years. And it troubles me, just the whole concept, the idea of Lynne in prison is tragic -- but there she is in prison And her response every time I look down or say something that's not upbeat -- like "I'm so sorry to see you there" -- is, "Hey, don't worry about me, I have enjoyed the benefits of racist, impearlist America and so many people have struggled so hard and paid such a high price tp bring America to the level that it now is although we have a long way to go, Lynne says, "I can't complain."
Michael Smith: Well that-that leads into my next question and that's how are we going to get her out of there? What's her legal status? She lost at the trial level and the appellate level, where do you go from here?
Ralph Poynter: Well we are going, as Lynne says, to the Supremes. And she says, "I don't mean Diana Ross." And her letter about her loss at the Second Circuit was so clear and so historical and she says, "Well you don't go to the company store to get a fair deal." And the Second Circuit is a company store. And this brought in the whole history of unionism, the struggle for a fair deal in this country, all in one sentence. And this is the importance of Lynne, she can do that, she can say these things. And so now we're on our way to the Supremes and the issues -- She says to remind everybody to read the letter you wrote about why you should support Lynne Stewart defending the Bill of Rights. And that letter is so clear. You may want to remind people or read a short paragraph from that as to why we should all be supporting Lynne Stewart. But we're going to the Supremes, Michael, I'm certain, to see if they are going to look at the issues of her First Amendment rights, her ability to speak and say what she had to say. And the question of changing her sentence from 28 months to 120 months with no new facts, the same case, nothing was added, just change their view of the facts that were there. And the third issue we're looking at is the issue of supplying material support. The government claims that she supplied personnel to a terrorist organization by her press release through Reuters. And the question is, they know better than that, material support. Why should anybody go to the [. . .] -- they should just say something about al Qaeda or whomever is the government's favorite terrorist of the day and that would be supporting them. They know that you have to put personnel on the ground with guns, material, etc. But they just wrapped Lynne up in this nonsense to say, 'Well the Sheikh's words were the same as personnel." We're also looking for groups of people, lawyers particularly, to add in, to give us advice because the papers are not due until February the 21st. There was a sixty day extention -- the papers that were due to the Supreme Court December 24th. So February the 21st, we have that date. And we're looking for attorneys of good will, smart attorneys, those who believe in the Bill of Rights, those who believe that the law has meaning to give help, to add in, to speak to us about what they would do and how they would frame these particular issues that we're carrying to the Supreme Court.
Heidi Boghosian: Now, Ralph, just to briefly touch on the First Amendment claim in case our listeners aren't familiar with the case, what happened was basically after the initial sentencing, a few comments that Lynne made we believe were meant to punish her and to help justify that increasingly harsh sentence. I assume that will be the thrust of the First Amendment argument.
Ralph Poynter: Yes. And the sad thing about that issue is they misquoted her. When everybody knows if you want to find out what somebody said in front of a television camera, you send $19 or $20 to the station and you get the transcript. They mistated what Lynne had said. They left out a lot of it. Otherwise, they lied about what Lynne said -- and then said, 'Because you said that, we're going to extend your sentence.' And so many people jumped on that terrible bandwagon without listening, without going back over her statements and it hurt. But we maintain that whatever the statement Lynne made -- and as her attorney said at trial, 'Well suppose she came out and said the judge is wonderful, would they have reduced her sentence?' Which is, well, you know, well stated. No, it has nothing to do with anything.
Heidi Boghosian: Her comments after have no effect on sentencing --
Michael Smith: Well Ralph --
Heidi Boghosian: -- or shouldn't.
Michael Smith: -- thank you very much for coming on Law and Disorder. I know you're going to be going back down to Texas to see Lynne and I want you to please convey Michael and Heidi and my good wishes to her and the good wishes from our entire radio audience. A good holiday to the two of you, as best as it could be under the circumstances and thanks for being on the show.
Ralph Poynter: Well thanks for giving me a few minutes to speak on Lynne and if you were to ask your audience to look up her commissary, it would be a great help.