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Legal news from Sunday, December 4, 2005




Secret CIA flights landed in Germany, magazine reports
Jaime Jansen on December 4, 2005 4:04 PM ET

[JURIST] German magazine Der Spiegel has reported that the German government has a list of at least 437 flights [Der Speigel report, in German] it suspects the US CIA [official website; JURIST news archive] operated in German airspace, landing in Berlin, Frankfurt, and US Air Base at Ramstein. The list, however, does not indicate what the CIA-operated planes carried. The report bolsters allegations that the CIA used secret flights to transfer Islamist terror suspects to secret European prisons for interrogation [JURIST report]. French newspaper Le Figaro reported Friday that CIA-chartered flights stopped in France [JURIST report] in 2002 and 2005, while Britain's Guardian newspaper reported Thursday that over 300 CIA flights landed at other European airports. The American Civil Liberties Union [official website] is preparing to file a lawsuit [BBC news report] against the CIA on behalf of an of a man allegedly taken under CIA authorization to a secret prison in Afghanistan. US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice [official profile], traveling to Europe Monday, is expected to deliver a hard-line message [JURIST report] to European leaders to decrease their criticism of US treatment of terror suspects and the existence of alleged secret CIA prisons. BBC News has more.






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Lebanon asks UN to extend Hariri assassination probe
Jaime Jansen on December 4, 2005 3:47 PM ET

[JURIST] Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora [BBC backgrounder] formally asked UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan [official website; JURIST news archive] Saturday to extend the inquiry into the killing of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri [UN materials; JURIST news archive] for six more months after its December 15 deadline, and be open for further extensions. Lebanon’s government agreed Thursday [JURIST report] to ask the UN to continue the Hariri assassination probe of the February 14 truck bombing. The chief investigator, German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis, plans to leave his job immediately following his final scheduled report on the investigation on December 12, but Annan assured Siniora that he would try to persuade Mehlis to stay and complete the investigation. In an October interim report [text], Mehlis suggested the assassination was planned by top Syrian officials and their Lebanese allies. Reuters has more.






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Bangladesh police holding 180 militants for court attacks
Jaime Jansen on December 4, 2005 3:38 PM ET

[JURIST] Police in Bangladesh [JURIST news archive] said Sunday they had detained nearly 50 more suspected Islamist militants connected with several recent suicide attacks on the country’s judiciary, bringing the total of suspects rounded up in the past week at least 180. State Minister for Home Affairs Lutfuzzaman Babar reported rumors that two outlawed Islamist groups had set up a 2,000 person suicide squad to help achieve an Islamic state. Militants bombed a court complex [JURIST report] Thursday during a strike by lawyers pushing for greater security for the judiciary, wounding 25 people. In mid-November, Bangladeshi lawyers boycotted the courts [JURIST report] for two days in response to the killing of two judges in another bomb. Militants are demanding that the judiciary introduce Islamic Sharia law [CFR backgrounder]. Reuters has more.






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FBI mishandled terror investigation: DOJ report
Jaime Jansen on December 4, 2005 3:00 PM ET

[JURIST] The New York Times reported Sunday that FBI [official website; JURIST news archive] officials mishandled a 2002 Florida terror investigation, falsified documents to cover mistakes and retaliated against an agent who reported the problems. The FBI had opened a terror investigation into whether terrorist associations overseas were financed by laundered money that was possibly connected to a drug outfit in Florida. A draft report by the Justice Department’s inspector general’s office [official website] obtained by the Times indicated that correction fluid altered dates on three FBI forms to conceal an apparent violation of federal wiretap law, requiring that an informant taping a meeting must keep the recorder in his possession at all times. The FBI used the correction fluid to backdate forms that the informant signed as part of a bugging operation, indicating that he had been present for all undercover taping. The report also stated that FBI supervisors were aware of the violations and did not take any steps to correct them. Former FBI agent Mike German [Global Security profiler] backed out of the investigation because he believed the FBI so seriously mishandled it that they spoiled a prime opportunity to expose a terrorist-financing plot. German claimed his boss retaliated against him [ACLU statement] by ceasing to give him further prestigious assignments. Reuters has more.






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Egypt court allows monitoring of vote count with cameras
Holly Manges Jones on December 4, 2005 11:53 AM ET

[JURIST] An Egyptian court has ruled that closed-circuit TV cameras will be installed in polling places in order to allow independent monitors to watch ballot counting in Egypt's parliamentary elections [JURIST news archive], which will finish with the third round runoff vote this week. Election monitoring groups have accused police and the ruling National Democratic Party [party website, English version] of arresting [JURIST report] and beating supporters of the banned Muslim Brotherhood [Wikipedia profile] and blocking polls [JURIST report] throughout the election process. The Arab Center for Independence of the Judiciary and Legal Profession [advocacy website] sued for the cameras to be installed and the court agreed saying it would help ensure a "cleaner election." AP has more.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] has sent a letter [text] to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice [official biography] criticizing the US response to the Egyptian elections after US State Department [official website] spokesman Sean McCormack [official profile] said last week that the US has not been given "any indication that the Egyptian government isn't interested in having peaceful, free and fair elections." The New York-based rights group said McCormack's remarks "badly undermine the administration's credibility . . . when it speaks of its commitment to democratic freedoms in Egypt and the region." Reuters has more.






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UN elections official faces dismissal after harassment probe
Holly Manges Jones on December 4, 2005 11:24 AM ET

[JURIST] An anonymous UN official has said that UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan [official biography] Monday plans to announce the firing of Carina Perelli, chief of the UN's Electoral Assistance Division [official website] which organizes and promotes free elections in countries around the world. Perelli was formally accused [JURIST report] by UN investigators in August for harassing her staff and promoting an abusive and sexually offensive environment. She has been generally praised for her efforts in organizing elections in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Palestinian territories, but her staff claimed [JURIST report] that "sexual innuendo is part of the 'fabric'" in her office and the investigative report cites emotional suffering by staff members as a result of Perelli's behavior. Perelli said Saturday that she had not received formal notice of her dismissal. She will be able to appeal her termination first to the UN Joint Disciplinary Committee, and then to the Administrative Tribunal [UN backgrounder], which will make a final, binding decision. AP has more.






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UN concerns over Saddam trial mount as Iraqis stymie planned rocket attack on court
Holly Manges Jones on December 4, 2005 10:12 AM ET

[JURIST] A United Nations human rights official said Sunday that the trial of Saddam Hussein [JURIST news archive] will never be able to satisfy international standards, citing recent attacks on defense lawyers [JURIST report] and flaws in the Iraqi justice system. John Pace, human rights chief at the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq [official website], said there has been a "paralysis in the legitimacy of the defense" since the lawyers have not been able to work freely and effectively in order for the trial to be fair, and also questioned delays in the trial process [JURIST report] which has only included two brief hearings to date. The UN is not involved in the trial and many rights groups have called for the Saddam trial to be heard in an international war crimes court like those for Rwanda and Yugoslavia [JURIST news archives], but the US opposes such a forum. Pace also expressed serious concern over the detentions of Iraqis in both US and Iraqi prison facilities, including the discovery of a Interior Ministry bunker [JURIST report] where 173 underfed detainees showing signs of torture were found last month. Pace said that any prisoners being held in facilities not operated by the Iraqi Ministry of Justice [Global Security backgrounder] are technically being held illegally, including the detainees in Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison [JURIST news archive], because the prisoners have no "real recourse to protection." Reuters has more.

Meanwhile, Iraq's national security advisor said Sunday that Iraqi officials have intercepted a plot by the Sunni-led 1920 Revolution Brigades to launch rockets at the court building when Saddam's trial resumes on Monday [JURIST report]. AP has more.






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Michigan prohibits juror selection by race, sex, religion, national origin
Holly Manges Jones on December 4, 2005 9:55 AM ET

[JURIST] According to a new rule approved by the Michigan Supreme Court [official website], jurors cannot be selected on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, or sex. The rule, approved by a 4-3 vote and released Friday, will take effect January 1 and will be applied even in cases where the aim of selecting such jurors "would be to achieve balanced representation." The Michigan Judges Association and the Michigan Department of Civil Rights [official website] lobbied against the rule saying it was unnecessary, unclear and could spark legal challenges. But Justice Robert Young, Jr. [official profile] voted in favor of the rule saying that selected jurors based on those categories raises constitutional questions. The court's decision comes in response to efforts by the court in Wayne County to attempt to increase the low percentages of black jurors reporting for jury duty by sending more jury summons to cities with higher black populations. AP has more.






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