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Legal news from Monday, October 10, 2005




Freed Egyptian detainee says torture at Guantanamo put him in wheelchair
James M Yoch Jr on October 10, 2005 8:50 PM ET

[JURIST] Former Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] detainee Sami-al-Leithy [Amnesty International profile], an Egyptian national transferred to Egyptian custody earlier this month [JURIST report], has told Egyptian television that he was tortured by guards at the US military camp. Leithy, 49, alleged in an interview Sunday that the torture he suffered - including beating and exposure to harsh light during interrogation - has left him crippled with spinal fractures and confined to a wheelchair. He also described varying cell conditions with cooperating prisoners receiving the best treatment. Detained for four years before his release, Leithy said he was brought before a court in 2004 where he was told he “was arrested with 15 other Arabs for having considered to fight the American Army.” Leithy's appearance comes as foreign diplomats announced that five Kuwaitis and one more Egyptian are set to be released from Guantanamo [JURIST report]. The Pentagon said in early October that 247 Guantanamo detainees have been released, with 505 remaining in detention at the base. AFP has more.






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Peru constitutional court bars fugitive ex-president Fujimori from presidential run
James M Yoch Jr on October 10, 2005 8:26 PM ET

[JURIST] The Peruvian Constitutional Court [official website, in Spanish] has announced that former president Alberto Fujimori [Wikipedia profile; personal website] is barred from running in Peru's 2006 presidential election [Wikipedia backgrounder]. Court President Javier Alva Orlandini said Sunday that the Peruvian Congress banned Fujimori from seeking public office until 2010. Fujimori, who announced plans to run for president [AP report] last Thursday from his refuge in Japan, is also disqualified from seeking that particular office. Alva said Fujimori, a Japanese citizen currently avoiding extradition back to Peru [JURIST report] after fleeing the country in 2000, can return, but he must face a list of charges [JURIST report], including embezzlement of public funds and dereliction of duty. Xinhua has more.






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UPDATE ~ Iraqi groups continue last-minute talks on proposed constitution
James M Yoch Jr on October 10, 2005 6:56 PM ET

[JURIST] Following up on an report earlier today in JURIST's Paper Chase, Shiite and Kurdish officials continued last-minute talks Monday with Sunni leaders trying to agree on revised consensus language for the proposed Iraqi constitution [JURIST news archive] to be voted on in an October 15th referendum [IECI fact sheet, PDF]. Some Sunni leaders insist that they will vote no to the referendum [JURIST report] in order to quash its approval with a two-thirds voting majority in three provinces, while others are calling for a nationwide boycott in an attempt to strip the text [JURIST document] of legitimacy. Among other points, the Sunni leaders oppose regional autonomy provisions, which they fear will keep Iraq's vast wealth of oil from the minority Sunnis. The parties expect to resume all-day talks on Tuesday. Reuters has more.






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Former Iraqi defense minister charged with corruption
Alexandria Samuel on October 10, 2005 4:39 PM ET

[JURIST] A member of Iraq's De-Baathification Committee [official website in Arabic] announced Monday that arrest warrants have been issued for former Iraqi defense minister Hazem Shaalan and 13 other former defense minister officials. Shaalan was defense minister under former interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi [JURIST news archive] and has been charged with corruption in connection to the misappropriation of nearly $1 billion in defense procurement funds. Shaalan has denied all charges. Arrest warrants for two other members of the Iraqi interim government similiarly accused of corruption were issued earlier this year [JURIST report]. AP has more.






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States brief ~ OH Supreme Court ruling gives grandparents visitation rights
Rachel Felton on October 10, 2005 4:32 PM ET

[JURIST] Leading Monday's states brief, the Ohio Supreme Court unanimously ruled [PDF text] today that grandparent visitation can be awarded over the wishes of the child's parents as Ohio law requires courts to balance the best interests of the child against the parent's wishes. The decision resolved conflicting rules among the state's courts and overruled a court of appeals decision [JURIST report] in favor of the father. The court found the grandparents should be awarded visitation, "especially considering that they raised [the child] for the first 5 years of her life." AP has more.

In other state legal news ...

  • The president of the Entertainment Software Association [official website] said Monday that the association plans on challenging a new California law banning the sale of violent video games to children [JURIST report]. The Entertainment Software Association has already challenging similar laws in Illinois [JURIST report] and Michigan [ESA press release] and is "confident we will prevail" based on federal court decisions striking down similar laws in Washington state, Indianapolis and St. Louis County. The law, signed last week, bans the sale and rental of video games to minors that show things like killings and sexual assaults that are atrocious or cruel. The Herald News Daily has more.

  • The New York Court of Appeals [official website] will consider this month how distance should be measured under a state law that makes it a crime to sell illegal drugs within 1,000 feet of school property. The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court held that the distance should be measured by a straight line as "that furthers the purpose of the statute which is to provide a corridor of safety for children coming to and from school," but the defendant's attorney argues that a walking route from the school to the defendant's location is the appropriate measure of distance. In addition, the court will decide whether state authorities can charge someone located in another state with a crime when that person's only connections to the crimes occurring in New York are telephone calls. The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court [official website] upheld the conviction because an element of the crime occurred in the state. AP has more.





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Sudan allows Ugandan troops to search for rebel leaders wanted by ICC
Alexandria Samuel on October 10, 2005 4:13 PM ET

[JURIST] The Sudanese government said Monday it had decided to allow troops from neighboring Uganda to cross its borders to chase down wanted leaders of the Lord's Resistance Army [BBC backgrounder]. The announcement comes one week after the International Criminal Court [JURIST news archive] issued arrest warrants [JURIST report] for LRA leader Joseph Kony and several of his deputies on charges of killing and kidnapping thousands of civilians. Under prior agreements, Ugandan troops were allowed to pursue LRA rebels 62 miles over the border. It is hoped that greater access will allow troops to hunt down rebels hiding further north. Reuters has more.






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UN expert assails Iraq tribunal, says US, UK anti-terror laws undermine rights
Alexandria Samuel on October 10, 2005 3:32 PM ET

[JURIST] A UN human rights expert Monday said the Iraqi Special Tribunal (IST) that will soon be trying Saddam Hussein did not meet international standards and should be replaced by an independent UN body, and criticized US and UK anti-terror laws for undermining human rights. Leandro Despouy, Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on the independence of judges and lawyers, addressed a variety of international rights issues in a wide-ranging, hard-hitting report [text] to the UN General Assembly. Expressing "alarm" at the procedures of the IST, he noted that

The Tribunal’s power to impose the death penalty demonstrates the extent to which it contravenes international human rights standards... Because it was established during an occupation and was financed primarily by the United States, its legitimacy has been widely questioned, with the result that its credibility has been tarnished... The Special Rapporteur urges the Iraqi authorities to follow the example set by other countries with deficient judicial systems by asking the United Nations to set up an independent tribunal which complies with international human rights standards.
Despouy also expressed concern at American and British anti-terror initiatives, including the upcoming trial of Guantanamo detainees by US military tribunals [JURIST news archive], and proposed UK legislation to allow the detention of terror suspects for three months without formal charges [JURIST report]. He noted the Guantanamo tribunals were especially problematic "in that they do not allow appeals to be brought before a civil judge, deny the right to defence, and discriminate between nationals and non-nationals, among other problems." The UN News Center has more.





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Egyptian human rights group denounces presidential elections
Tom Henry on October 10, 2005 3:23 PM ET

[JURIST] Egypt's government-financed National Council for Human Rights [official website] on Monday criticized the recent multi-candidate presidential elections [JURIST report] for lacking real democratic competition. The government-financed council said the recently amended election law "placed very difficult restrictions on presidential hopefuls, especially independent candidates" making it very difficult for candidates to compete with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak [official profile]. The group also urged that flaws and restrictions in the election reforms be remedied to provide for more fairness in elections. UPI has more.

Previously in JURIST's Paper Chase...






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Iraqi detainees eligible to vote in Oct. 15 constitutional referendum
Alexandria Samuel on October 10, 2005 3:09 PM ET

[JURIST] The Iraqi Electoral Commission [official website] announced Monday that Iraqi prisoners will be allowed to vote in the upcoming constitutional referendum [JURIST news archive]. Officials told reporters that ballot boxes will be sent to area prisons, and all Iraqi detainees that have not been convicted of a crime will be eligible to vote; this includes ex-president Saddam Hussein [JURIST news archive]. The announcement comes on the heels of the government's efforts to encourage voter turn-out and condemn Sunni calls for a boycott [JURIST report]. Reuters has more.






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UK Home Secretary proposes ban on 15 terror groups
Tom Henry on October 10, 2005 2:55 PM ET

[JURIST] UK Home Secretary Charles Clarke [official profile] Monday proposed the banning of 15 global terror organizations, submitting a draft list to Parliament of groups to be prohibited under the Terrorism Act 2000 [text]. Clarke cited "recent events in London and elsewhere in the world" as the impetus for the proposal since "the threat posed by global terrorism has not gone away." Prominent groups subject to the ban would include the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, Groupe Islamique, Combattant Marocain, and Ansar Al-Islam [global security profile]. Under the proposed legislation, being a member of a banned group would become a criminal offense punishable by a possible 10-year jail sentence. There are currently 25 international groups banned under the Terrorism Act 2000, and 14 organizations linked to terrorism in Northern Ireland outlawed under other legislation. Clarke's proposal came as British MPs began a new session of Parlaiment [AP report] Monday, where lawmakers will consider a range of anti-terror proposals. The Financial Times has more.






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Council of Europe calls for US, Japan to abolish death penalty
Tom Henry on October 10, 2005 2:26 PM ET

[JURIST] The Council of Europe [official website], Europe's top human rights organization, Monday called [press release] for the United States and Japan to set an example for other countries by abolishing capital punishment. COE Secretary General Terry Davis [official profile] used World Day Against the Death Penalty [overview] to press the two countries and Russia [AP report] to put an end to the death penalty [JURIST news archive]. Within the 46 member states of the Council of Europe, there has not been an execution since 1997 and Davis seeks to extend this "death penalty-free" zone outside of continental Europe. The UK Press Association has more.






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Morocco deports illegal immigrants bound for Spain
Tom Henry on October 10, 2005 2:03 PM ET

[JURIST] In the latest reversal for African asylum seekers heading for Europe, the north African state of Morocco Monday began deporting potential immigrants, sending a plane carrying 140 West Africans off to Senegal. A second flight carrying another 140 Senegalese was to take off for Dakar later Monday and another 600 migrants are slated for deportation in coming days. The would-be immigrants had been picked up around Morocco or flushed out of Spanish enclaves on the northern Moroccan coast. Morocco is the conduit to Europe for many sub-Saharan Africans trying to escape poverty and has been a focal point of recent immigration-related disturbances which have already resulted in a number of deaths; at least 11 more migrants were killed Monday as they rushed border fences. Last week Spain deported 73 Africans [JURIST report] who attempted to enter along the Moroccan border. El Pais has local coverage [in Spanish]. AP has more.






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Scalia: high court confirmation process too politicized
Brandon Smith on October 10, 2005 1:39 PM ET

[JURIST] US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia [OYEZ profile] commented Monday that the Supreme Court confirmation process was too politicized and that he would not want to experience it again. Scalia, when asked during an interview [transcript, with recorded video] on NBC's "Today" program if he thought he could again be confirmed by the Senate, said "I don't know. I wouldn't want to go through it today, I'll tell you that much." Scalia spoke favorably of retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, calling her the "social glue of the court." Scalia also expressed opposition to proposals that Supreme Court proceedings be televised, saying that this could lead to people's legal problems becoming entertainment. Sen. Arlen Specter, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, introduced legislation [bill summary] last month that would permit Supreme Court sessions to be televised. AP has more.






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Khodorkovsky reportedly sent to prison to serve tax evasion, fraud sentence
Brandon Smith on October 10, 2005 12:23 PM ET

[JURIST] Former head of Russia oil giant Yukos Mikhail Khodorkovsky [defense website; JURIST news archive] was transferred Monday from the pre-trial detention facility where he was being held, reportedly to the prison where he will serve his 8-year sentence [JURIST report] for tax evasion and fraud. When members of the legal team representing Khodorkovsky's jailed colleague, Platon Lebedev, attempted to speak to their client, they were refused and notified that Khodorkovsky and Lebedev were "taken away" and that their families were notified by letter of their respective locations. According to a statement [text] from Khodorkovsky's lawyers, "The individuals may have been transferred to a labor camp to serve their sentences or possibly moved to another pre-trial detention center." AP has more. Khodorkovsky is currently appealing his conviction [JURIST report] in the Russian court system and his lawyers have also indicated that they will take his case to the European Court of Human Rights [JURIST report]. RIA Novosti has local coverage.






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Kuwaiti, Egyptian detainees set to be released from Guantanamo Bay
Kate Heneroty on October 10, 2005 10:28 AM ET

[JURIST] The Kuwaiti ambassador to Washington announced Sunday that five of the 11 Kuwaitis detained [JURIST report] at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST news archive] would "soon" be released to the government of Kuwait and tried before a court in that country. Sheikh Salem Abdullah al-Jaber al-Sabah did not provide a specific date but said the countries were in negotiations for the specifics of the hand-over process. AFP has more. Egypt's foreign minister also announced Sunday that one of the nation's four Guantanamo detainees would be freed. Earlier this month, another Egyptian detainee was released [JURIST report] after a military Combatant Status Review Tribunal [US DOD factsheet, PDF] determined he was improperly classified. The Pentagon said in early October that 247 Guantanamo detainees have been released, with 505 remaining in detention. AFP has more.






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Saddam loses bid to delay trial as possibility of early execution looms
Kate Heneroty on October 10, 2005 9:56 AM ET

[JURIST] A request [JURIST report] made by lawyers for Saddam Hussein [JURIST news archive] to delay the October 19 start [JURIST report] of his trial on charges stemming from a 1982 massacre at Dujail [NPR audio report] was rejected [AP report] Sunday by the Iraqi Special Tribunal [official website] considering his case. If convicted, Hussein faces the death penalty and statutes require that execution by hanging takes place within 30 days of final appeals being exhausted. An official close to the Tribunal said Sunday that since Hussein is expected to face up to a dozen trials for acts committed during his rule, the possibility exists that he will be executed before the court finishes trying him for all his alleged crimes. Also Sunday, officials released additional details on the operation of the Special Tribunal, explaining that the upcoming trial will take place before a 5-judge panel [JURIST report] rather than a jury, and that all defendants will be tried together, although each will have a separate lawyer and the judges will issue separate verdicts for each defendant. Hussein's trial on other charges will begin after the court has ruled on the Dujail case. Knight Ridder has more.






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Iraqi groups hold last-minute negotiations on proposed changes to draft constitution
Kate Heneroty on October 10, 2005 9:37 AM ET

[JURIST] Shiite and Kurdish officials held last-minute negotiations with Sunni Arab leaders Sunday in an attempt to win Sunni support of Iraq's proposed constitution [JURIST news archive]. The document, which will be voted on in an October 15th referendum [IECI fact sheet, PDF], has divided both sides, especially over the issue of federalism. Many influential Sunnis are calling for a "no" vote [JURIST report] and although the group is a minority, a two-thirds vote in any three of Iraq's 18 provinces will defeat the charter. Sunni leaders have proposed changes to provisions on federalism and the purging of members of Saddam Hussein's former Baath Party. Sheik Jalaleddin al-Saghir, an official in the Shiite-led United Iraqi Alliance said, "In general, there is no problem with making additions because it doesn't contradict the principles of the constitution. But the amendments the Sunnis are demanding... are basic changes in these issues that absolutely won't be accepted." AP has more.






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Miers to face questioning on abortion views, qualifications for Supreme Court
Kate Heneroty on October 10, 2005 9:08 AM ET

[JURIST] US Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers [official profile; JURIST news archive] is likely to face intense questioning from both parties on her views on privacy rights and her qualifications for the job, Sen. Arlen Specter [official profile], chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] said Sunday. Specter told ABC's "This Week" program that he expects Miers to demonstrate that she can handle complex legal issues and will not make "back room deals" with the White House. Ranking Democrat on the Committee, Patrick Leahy [official profile; statement on Miers nomination], said Miers told him she had not made any promises on how she would vote on abortion issues and said that he would reject anyone who made assurances on how they would vote in an upcoming case. Senate Democrats are also hoping the White House will release documents created during Miers' tenure as staff secretary, deputy chief of staff and White House counsel, however, Specter opposes the release of such documents saying "if somebody is going to function as White House counsel to the president of the United States, that person is going to have to be free to give advice without worrying that someday that advice is going to be scrutinized by some Senate committee." AP has more.






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