The family of a retired British geologist facing the death penalty in Iraq have called on the UK government to urgently intervene.
Jim Fitton, 66, was detained by authorities in the Middle Eastern country, accused of smuggling, during a geology and archaeology trip.
Fitton, who lives in Malaysia, and an unnamed German man were arrested when airport security found shards of broken pottery in their luggage as they attempted to leave the country, according to his children.
Fitton was in the news Friday morning, when I dictated that day's snapshot. I didn't miss it. I'm just not interested in the story thus far. BBC News adds:
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has said it is providing support to a British national in Iraq.
Mr Fitton's family say the statutory punishment for illegally smuggling historical items out of Iraq is execution.
What the British government does -- or does not do -- is my only interest in the story. This is not Robert Pether -- a man who checked before returning to Iraq on business (and was told all was fine) only to be arrested upon arrival. Robert appears to be someone who is punished because Iraqi officials do not like the terms Robert's company agreed to when the business dealings first started. Do I know that is what happened? No. I know it's what is reported to have happened and I'm more than fine with being among the people advocating for Iraq to release him from prison.
Before a word appeared about Robert here, I had not only read up on him, I had also made several phone calls for input. If I'm wrong to defend Robert, I'm wrong. But I'm willing to risk it. He did not receive justice in Iraq in terms of a trial, for example.
So what's the difference between Robert and Fitton?
I don't buy the story. It may be true. I don't buy it. Red flags went up when I heard of it on Friday morning and later that day I spoke with a number of friends in the UK press and government. It only confirmed my red flags.
A professional geologist damn well knows the rules and the rules are not 'someone said it was okay' for me to take historical property. I didn't defend the reporter for NYT that stole documents from Iraq, why the hell would I defend someone who was stealing artifacts?
I don't believe in the death penalty and that might be an in for later coverage of Fitton.
But at present, someone who knows the rules and knows he is in a country where artifacts have been stolen repeatedly doesn't garner a lot of sympathy from me.
In terms of the UK government, I am interested in what, if any, official moves and actions it intends to take? I am interested for two reasons. First, the Australian government has betrayed Robert Pether and are perfectly happy to allow one of their own citizens to rot in jail. Second, another rots behind bars: Julian Assange. He's an Australian citizen and his government refuses to demand his relase. And, of course, he's being held by the UK government.
So, for those reasons, I'm interested in the Fitton case.
For those e-mailing about a report or 'report' by James Risen, I'm not interested in liars. We defended James Risen when he was under attack by the government and working for THE NEW YORK TIMES. He still fancies himself a reporter but the work he's done at THE INTERCEPT is not reporting and no one who knows journalism mistakes it for that. I have a much lower opinion of him -- though I'd still defend him if the government was persecuting him again (though they wouldn't do that today, he's a tool of the government today) -- as do his former peers.
So, Friday, he tells about a kidnapping from 2014. It's news why? When Risen types these days, you have to wonder. His hands are not clean and his motives are suspect. Most of all, I don't like bad writing.
I don't mind dry writing. I don't mind meat-and-potatoes writing. Reporters who start on crime beats, for example, tend to be among the best because they nail down certain facts. They may have little creativity or artistic vision, but they can report. James struggles with basic facts in his writing.
This is very strong example of bad writing -- see if you can spot it:
Miran was certain the militia was going to kill her. Her captors forced her to wear a prison uniform, like the clothes the Islamic State group made its hostages wear just before they were executed. They had whipped her for five straight days with wire cables, trying to make her falsely confess to being a CIA spy. Her guards never showed their faces, and when she asked why, one of them said they would reveal themselves when she was about to be released. “Once I heard him say that, I knew they were going to kill me,” Miran told The Intercept. She knew they would never let her go if she could identify them.
I knew they were going to kill me . . . She knew --
No, she didn't. It's okay to quote her saying something because that's what she said. She said she knew they were going to kill her. But she's alive so what she assumed seems less firm than she believes. More to the point, when she got that wrong, Risen should not be typing in the next sentence that "She knew they would . . ." No, she didn't know.
How stupid is Risen? To be Ralph in THE SIMPSONS, "I'm embarrassed for you."
I say all the time that the media needs to be offering more Iraq coverage. However, I don't mean opinion piecs that tell us what was going on when Bully Boy Bush occupied the White House -- those pieces that pop up around the anniversary of the Iraq War. That also means a 'report' about a kidnapping that took place eight years ago and the victim escaped eight years ago. Not interested. Oh, they were leaked some documents that mentioned her? Yes, they were. Three years ago.
I'm not interested in this garbage. Iraq needs coverage about today, right now. It needs coverage about the political stalemate paralyzing the country. It needs coverage about what Turkey is doing -- acts of war. It needs coverage about the ongoing Iraq War.
And, as one of James Risen's former colleagues said, it appears the report is meant to be part of a wave that's supposed to demonize Iran -- possibly to prevent Joe Biden from pursuing any sort of treaty with the government of Iran.
Once upon a time, reporters supported James Risen. These days, his colleagues just wonder who's feeding him stories and for what purpose?
BOL NEWS reports, "Two rockets aimed at a facility in western Iraq hosting US-led coalition soldiers crashed near the complex on Saturday, causing no injuries or damage, according to security sources." RUDAW adds, "The facility, home to Iraqi army troops as well, has been subjected to at least three rocket and drone attacks since the start of the year."
James Risen's not reporting on that, is he? No. The joke's not reporting on that. And though he would have been strung out to dry if he hadn't had his peers support a few years back, he doesn't give a damn about other journalists which is why he ignores what happens to them in Iraq. MEDYA NEWS reports:
After it’s been revealed on Wednesday that two European journalists were arrested by Iraqi troops on the 20th of April, a colleague of one of the journalists said to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) that the journalist was arrested while he was covering issues affecting the Yazidis in Iraq.
Soldiers with the Iraqi 20th Infantry Division arrested Matej Kavčič, a Slovenian freelance reporter, on the 20th of April at an army checkpoint in the city of Sinjar (Shengal), the hometown of the Yazidis.
While Kavčič identified himself as a journalist, Iraqi troops brought him to a nearby military facility, where they confiscated his phone and questioned him, according to a report by CPJ.
Marlene Förster, a German national, who was traveling with Kavčič, was also detained in the process.
Iraqi authorities allege that the pair ‘pretended to work as journalists’, and accused them of collaborating with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), designated a ‘terrorist group’ in neighbouring Turkey and in the European Union.
In Iraq, it's already May. In the US, in the Pacific Time Zone, it's not there yet. But the potlicial stalemate continues in Iraq and it gets closer to seven months. Elections were held October 10th.
RUDAW has an interview with Tareq al-Hashimi, a former Iraqi vice president. We're gong to note a section of that.
Below is a translated transcript of Rudaw’s interview with the Iraqi politician Tariq al-Hashimi, who served as the vice president of Iraq from 2006 to 2012.
First of all, why did you face punishments while many other Iraqi politicians did not. Do you feel that you are oppressed by those parties that you were partners with within Iraq in the past? Did the parties or Sunni leaders show any stance when you were charged with terror and three death penalty issues against you?
I will one day explain all that in detail. For now, I will speak about it briefly. Yes, many politicians were targeted. But the way they targeted me was completely different. It was not done against me in December 2011, but at the beginning of the period when I embarked on political work in mid-2004. I was targeted from the very beginning. It bears questioning as to why three of my brothers were martyred from April to October 2006. Attempts that were politically motivated to terrorize us which other politicians did not face, were to remove us from the political arena at any cost. There was another attempt in 2009 to charge us with crimes, but late [Iraqi[ president Jalal Talabani dismissed them as being illogical and unacceptable. However, it eventually happened to target me at the end of 2011. In a very inhumane way, they targeted employees of my office, my bodyguards, and me. It was a disaster. The right time will come when I will disclose the disastrous dimensions of these attempts.
No one has been as oppressed as I have been, and it was all baseless and clueless. Why? I have no explanation for that, other than depriving a man of the homeland who truly wanted to serve his country. The second shock was that the former president of the judicial council ignored Section 6 of Article 93 of the Iraqi constitution which authorizes the federal court to look into charges made against high-ranking state employees. Article 93, section 6 stipulates: "Settling accusations directed against the president, the Prime Minister and the Ministers and this shall be regulated by law."
The opposite of that was done against me by the criminal courts, irrespective of my position. This is a constitutional violation. I fell victim to a plot that had previously been organized. Some internal and external parties had a role in it. Also, the closest official [former prime minister Nouri al-Maliki] made me feel ashamed. The current situation does not allow me to recount everything in detail. I say it frankly, had law and constitution been fully implemented concerning the court's role in restoring the rights of the accused, I would not have seen this huge damage."
Concerning the Iraqi list stance, they stood by my side. In solidarity with me, they held rounds of meetings in Erbil which led to efforts to withdraw confidence from the Nouri al-Maliki's government. It was a proud stance that they displayed. My supporters were in a state of shock, due to the huge scale of the target that they staged against me. I did not expect a revolution from them against the oppressions done against me. I just called on them to exercise restraint, in order for the dossier to proceed within the context of the law.
You were in Erbil when you heard in December 2011 that you had been charged with terror by the previous Iraqi government. The Kurdish leadership guaranteed your security. What happened next that made you leave the Kurdistan Region?
First, upon an official invitation from late president Jalal Talabani, I came to Kurdistan, from Baghdad to Sulaimani. For a number of days, he hosted me. Then, I left for Erbil following a recommendation and I was hosted by my dear brother Masoud Barzani. Thankfully, he provided me with all the life essentials to continue to carry out my work. Nevertheless, he very bravely defended me and shouldered the implications of my stay in the Kurdistan Region, and defended my dossier to proceed in a just way. It was a brave stance and I am proud of it. I express my sincere gratitude to other Kurdish brothers from across the political spectrum, organizations, and people who protected me and supported me.
On the basis of a joint invitation from Hamad Bin Khalifa of the state of Qatar and the president of the Republic of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan, I left the Kurdistan Region. I informed my dear brother Masoud Barzani and late president Jalal Talabani of my trip through official correspondence. During my stay in Istanbul, I met my dear brother Masoud Barzani who was in Turkey on a visit. I told him of my intention and that I was interested in returning in a few days. He fully supported it. But later, I realized it would be in my interest if I stayed a bit longer abroad until things became clear following mounting pressures to withdraw confidence from the government from Erbil. Erbil had at the time become a decision-making station and a place where parties that were of the idea that confidence must be withdrawn from the Maliki government, used to gather there. However, the scene became much more complicated, after the efforts failed. At this point, I realized I would embarrass my Kurdish brothers If I were to return to Erbil, despite the fact that they never said so. There were pressures on [former Kurdistan Region] president [Masoud] Barzani in order for me not to return to Erbil. Hence, I decided to stay abroad. I have said it time and again that my natural place as an Iraqi is my homeland.
That's longer than I first thought about including but the second question? For how man years was I accused of getting it wrong here -- even with links in the set piece we ran nearly daily? I said Tareq's arrest warrant came after he landed in the KRG. The western press stated he fled Baghdad after an arrest warrant was issued. No. That is not what happened. Since RUDAW is accurate and is putting it to Tareq who would correct it if it was wrong, I think we need to include that
From the January 17, 2012 snapshot, for only one example:
The following sites updated: