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Legal news from Sunday, August 28, 2005




Iraq president sticks by refusal to sign any Saddam death order
Bernard Hibbitts on August 28, 2005 2:48 PM ET

[JURIST] Iraqi President Jalal Talabani [BBC profile] has said once again that he will not sign any eventual warrant for the execution of ousted Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, and would quit instead. During an interview on al-Arabiya TV, he insisted in a clip released Sunday in advance of broadcast: "I am a man of principles. I cannot forego my principles for the sake of my post. If there is a clash between the post and the principles, I will give up the post and keep the principles." Talabani, a Sunni Kurd lawyer who has opposed the death penalty, was severely criticized in April when he first indicated that he would not authorize an execution of Hussein [JURIST report]. Earlier this month he declined to personally sign death warrants for the execution of three minor prisoners, the first individuals sentenced to death in Iraq under the new regime, but allowed his deputy to go ahead and sanction the killings [JURIST report]. AFP has more.






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Mayor orders New Orleans evacuated ahead of hurricane hit
Bernard Hibbitts on August 28, 2005 1:52 PM ET

[JURIST] Mayor Ray Nagin ordered the entire US city of New Orleans (population 484,674) evacuated Sunday in advance of the anticipated Gulf Coast landfall Monday morning of Hurricane Katrina [Wikipedia backgrounder], currently described by the National Weather Service as a "potentially catastrophic" Category-5 storm packing winds of nearly 175 miles per hour [NWS advisory; NWS Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale backgrounder]. New Orleans has long been considered vulnerable to hurricanes [Weather Channel backgrounder] and major storms because it's an average of six feet below sea level, and could be almost completely flooded by a storm surge topping the levees that protect it. The Mayor's mandatory evacuation order, issued through the Civil District Court for the Parish of Orleans, declares:

1. A mandatory evacuation order is hereby called for all of the Parish of Orleans, with only the following exceptions: essential personnel of the United States of America, State of Louisiana and City of New Orleans; essential personnel of regulated utilities and mass transportation services; essential personnel of hospitals and their patients; essential personnel of the media; essential personnel of the Orleans Parish Criminal Sheriff's Office and its inmates and essential personnel of operating hotels and their patrons. Unless covered by one of the aforementioned exceptions, every person is hereby ordered to immediately evacuate the City of New Orleans or, if no other alternative is available, to immediately move to one of the facilities within the City that will be designated as refuges of last resort.

2. In order to effectuate the mandatory evacuation, at the direction of the Mayor, the Chief Administrative Officer, the Director of Homeland Security for the City of New Orleans or any member of the New Orleans Police Department, the City may commandeer any private property, including, but not limited to, buildings that may be designated as refuges of last resort and vehicles that may be used to transport people out the area.
Read the full text of the order. The Mayor's Office has also posted a list of designated shelters, with the Louisiana Superdome [corporate website] having been designated a "shelter of last resort" for those who cannot leave. In 1998, Hurricane Georges [Wikipedia backgrounder] prompted a voluntary evacuation of an estimated 60 percent of the New Orleans population, the largest evacuation in US history to that the time according to the National Weather Service. A Category-2 storm with 110 mile-per-hour winds, Georges landed east of the city in Biloxi, Mississippi. Only three Category-5 hurricanes have ever hit the United States [NWS factsheet]: Hurricane Camille in 1969, Hurricane Andrew in 1992, and an unnamed hurricane that hit Florida in 1935. If Katrina maintains strength and pressure cited in weather reports Sunday afternoon, it could become the most powerful hurricane to hit the US in recorded history.

CBS WWLTV in New Orleans has more, and provides continuing coverage [including live video] of the latest evacuation and hurricane developments. The Louisiana Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness offers additional information on hurricane preparations. President Bush has urged residents to move to safe ground and has already declared a state of emergency for Louisiana [White House text]. AP has more.





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Israeli PM Sharon's son indicted for campaign finance corruption
Kate Heneroty on August 28, 2005 11:13 AM ET

[JURIST] Omri Sharon [official profile], a member of the Israeli Knesst and the son of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon [Wikipedia profile], was indicted Sunday on charges of forgery, perjury and violating campaign finance laws, stemming from his fund raising activities for his father's election campaigns. The Israeli Justice Ministry [official website] believes Omri Sharon created ficticious companies to conceal illegal campaign contributions from foreign and domestic groups between July 1999 and February 2000 for the Likud party[official website, in Hebrew] primaries. Prosecutors decided in February not to indict Ariel Sharon himself[JURIST report] on corruption charges, but Attorney General Meni Mazuz [official bio] said charges would be filed against Omri after attempts to reach a plea bargain failed. If convicted, Omri faces up to 5 years in jail. AP has more. The Jerusalem Post provides local coverage.






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Iranian judges to carry guns for protection following attacks
Kate Heneroty on August 28, 2005 10:52 AM ET

[JURIST] From Monday Iranian judges will be allowed to carry handguns and may shoot if they feel threatened, according to an official speaking Sunday after the fourth attack on an Iranian judge [official Iran Judiciary website] in four weeks. Tehran criminal prosecutor Fakhroldin Jaffarzadeh told the Iranian Students News Agency [official website, in Arabic] that “All judges from prosecutors’ offices will carry firearms from tomorrow and, in case they feel in danger, they are licensed to shoot.” On Sunday, Judge Mohammad Reza Aghazadeh was shot outside his home [Reuters report] in the Iranian capital. In previous weeks, one judge was stabbed to death, one shot to death, and another severely wounded when acid was thrown in his face. Officials are investigating whether the deaths are related and whether an opposition group website that claimed responsibility for one of the deaths is accurate. Reuters has more.






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Egypt releases opposition group leader after 3 month detention
Kate Heneroty on August 28, 2005 10:31 AM ET

[JURIST] Egypt Saturday released from prison Mahmoud Ezzat, secretary-general of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood [official party website in Arabic; Wikipedia backgrounder] opposition group. Ezzat was arrested in May [JURIST report] in a crackdown on political protests, days before the country's referendum on a constitutional amendment introducing multi-candidate presidential elections [JURIST report]. The Muslim Brotherhood has been outspoken in its opposition to President Hosny Mubarak [official profile] and believes the amendment actually favors Mubarak by making it difficult for candidates without ties to his party to run; the new electoral regulations specify that a presidential candidate must either be a member of an officially-authorized political party or, if independent, get a minimum of 65 recommendations from elected members of the lower house, 25 from the Shura council and 10 from local councils from at least 14 governorates. Ezzat was released on bail and could still face charges for belonging to an outlawed organization. Egyptian authorities continue to detain another leading Muslim Brother, Essam el-Erian [Al Ahram profile/interview]. Reuters has more.






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California AG seeks chemical warnings on fries, snack food
Kate Heneroty on August 28, 2005 9:56 AM ET

[JURIST] California Attorney General Bill Lockyer [official profile] is seeking a court order requiring warning labels on foods [AG's press release] that contains acrylamide [research materials], a chemical found in potato chips and french fries that the state believes may cause cancer. Lockyer filed a lawsuit [complaint text, PDF] in Los Angles Superior Court Friday against nine fast food companies and snack food makers, including Burger King, Cape Cod Potato Chips Co./Lance Inc., Frito-Lay, H.J. Heinz Co., KFC Corp., Kettle Foods, McDonalds, Procter & Gamble, and Wendy's, alleging that the companies violated Proposition 65 [legislation text, related resources], a 1986 state law requiring companies to provide notice before exposing the public to known carcinogens or reproductive toxins. In March, the FDA released a statement [FDA press release] that "acrylamide can cause cancer in laboratory animals at high doses, although it is not clear whether it causes cancer in humans at the much lower levels found in food." A spokesperson for Procter & Gamble said, "Acrylamide is available whether those foods are prepared in a restaurant, at home or by the packaged goods industry. We stand behind, and absolutely think, our products are as safe as ever." AP has more. The FDA has additional resources on acrylamide in food.






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No vote on revised Iraq constitution draft; Sunnis object, assembly adjourns
Bernard Hibbitts on August 28, 2005 8:50 AM ET

[JURIST] A revised draft of the Iraqi constitution [pre-revision draft in English; JURIST news archive] was presented and read out to Iraq's National Assembly Sunday, but continuing Sunni objections [AP report] to the charter's stance on federalism, de-Baathification and other sensitive issues precluded a vote on the document and the Assembly adjourned without formally approving it. The Assembly speaker, a Sunni, was not in the chair during the session; his Shiite deputy said he agreed with the changes but had "other appointments." The lack of Assembly approval and the disaffection of the Sunnis - the large minority group that dominated the regime of ousted Iraqi president Saddam Hussein and now drives much of the insurgency in the country - puts the proposed charter under a significant legal and political cloud. Iraqi officials insisted late last week in the midst of last-minute negotiations that Assembly ratification of the draft was not formally required [JURIST report] as long as the Assembly had received the written document under the terms of the country's Transitional Administrative Law [text], but most observers had assumed that an Assembly vote would be taken. The draft will now go before Iraqis for ratification or rejection in a national referendum to be held on or near October 15. Senior Sunnis have already vowed to campaign against approval of the US-backed instrument [Reuters report]. Shiite and Kurd members of the Iraqi constitutional drafting committee [official website, English version] gathered earlier to sign the draft constitution; top Sunni negotiators, however, refused to participate in the signing ceremony. Reuters has more on the Assembly meeting; AP reports on the adjournment. From Baghdad, the Iraq the Model weblog reports on the Assembly's constitutional proceedings Sunday as covered on Iraqi and Arab TV.

9:10 AM ET - AP is reporting that Sunni negotiators have appealed to the United Nations and the Arab League to intervene in the Iraqi constitutional process.

11:45 AM ET - Speaking on NBC's Meet the Press Sunday, US Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad said the Sunnis

...face difficult choices, a lot of pressure. But it is time for them, for the interests of their people, to join the political process. Not everyone loves every article of this document. Not everyone is totally satisfied. But there is enough in this constitution that meets the basic needs of all communities and for Iraq to move forward. But I do expect then that the terrorists and extremists will try their best to intimidate people, to prevent them-- those who support the constitution from voting and to encourage opposition to this draft.
Read the full text of the Khalilzad interview.

1:18 PM ET - President Bush, speaking to reporters Sunday at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, said that the Sunnis were within their rights to disagree with provisions of the constitution, but praised the draft document as containing "far-reaching protections for fundamental human freedoms including religion, assembly, conscience and expression." He nonetheless warned of a likely increase in violence in the countdown to the constitutional referendum: "We can expect...atrocitices to increase in the coming months because the enemy knows that its greatest defeat lies in the expression of free people in freely enacted laws and at the ballot box." Last week the Pentagon announced it would send 1500 more elite troops to Iraq [Reuters report] to help with security in advance of the October poll, and another scheduled for December to elect members of a re-constituted National Assembly. Reuters has more.

2:25 PM ET - President Bush also said in his remarks:
There have been disagreements amongst the Iraqis about this particular constitution. Of course there's disagreements. We're watching a political process unfold, a process that has encouraged debate and compromise; a constitution that was written in a -- in a society in which people recognize that -- that there had to be give and take.

I want our folks to remember our own constitution was not unanimously received. Some delegates at the Philadelphia Convention in 1787 refused to sign it, and the draft was vigorously debated in every state, and the outcome was not assured until all the votes were counted.
A full transcript is now online from the White House.





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