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Legal news from Saturday, September 2, 2006

Death penalty recommended for US soldiers accused of murdering Iraqi detainees
Joshua Pantesco on September 2, 2006 3:24 PM ET

[JURIST] A US Army investigator has recommended that four US soldiers face the death penalty if they are convicted on charges of murdering Iraqi detainees [JURIST report] according to the Associated Press, which obtained a copy of the report Saturday. Lt. Col. James P. Daniel Jr. concluded that several aggravating factors contributed to the capital punishment recommendation. During an Article 32 hearing [JAG backgrounder; UCMJ text], prosecutors alleged that in a May 9 raid near Samarra in Iraq's Salahuddin province, the four soldiers - Sergeant Raymond Girouard, Specialist William Hunsaker, Pfc. Corey Clagett and Specialist Juston Graber - released several detainees only to shoot them as they fled. Prosecutors also alleged that Girouard stabbed Hunsaker to cover up the killings. Army officials must now decide whether the soldiers will face a court-martial, and if so, whether the death penalty will be requested.

The four soldiers from the Third Brigade Combat Team of the 101st Airborne Division [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] face charges of premeditated murder [JURIST report], attempted murder, and conspiracy, and could face the death penalty if convicted of premeditation. Clagett, Girouard and Hunsaker also face obstruction of justice charges for threatening to kill another soldier, Pfc. Bradley Mason, if he told investigators of their alleged plans for murdering the detainees. The soldiers argued that they followed the rules of engagement when they acted to prevent an escape attempt, and that they were ordered by their officers to "kill all military-aged males" in the raid. They have been held in Kuwait since their May arrests, and will likely be court-martialed at Fort Campbell. AP has more.

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Spain amnesty blamed for encouraging wave of illegal immigrants from Africa
Joshua Pantesco on September 2, 2006 2:41 PM ET

[JURIST] EU Justice and Migration Commissioner Franco Frattini [official profile] has told a Spanish newspaper that Spain contributed to a recent spate of illegal immigration between Africa and Europe by a three-month amnesty program [BBC report] for illegals that it launched in February 2005. Frattini said the country's loose approach to illegal immigration has spurred a four-fold increase in the number of illegal African immigrants attempting the dangerous voyage to the Canary Islands [Peninsula report] in the past year.

Last week, Spain called on fellow EU nations to contribute money to address the problem, a call echoed by Frattini on Friday, though representatives of other EU states have expressed frustration at the lack of a unified EU policy towards immigration, as well as with Spain's failure to consult with them before launching the amnesty program. In May 2005, Spain granted 700,000 work permits to former illegal immigrants [JURIST report]. Reuters has more.

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US military returns Abu Ghraib prison to Iraqis
Joshua Pantesco on September 2, 2006 2:16 PM ET

[JURIST] The US military on Saturday formally relinquished control of the Abu Ghraib prison [JURIST news archive] to the Iraqi government, according to an Iraqi spokesperson, after it was emptied of US detainees [JURIST report] last week. The spokesperson said the government has not decided how it will use the prison in the future.

Historically, Abu Ghraib was used by former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein [JURIST news archive] as a torture facility, and the US has faced pressure to close Abu Ghraib since scandalous photos [JURIST report] of US troops abusing Iraqi prisoners there surfaced in April 2004. A Human Rights Watch report released in July claimed that US commanders authorized [JURIST report] widespread torture of Iraqi detainees during and even after the Abu Ghraib scandal. Reuters has more.

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Federal judge rejects Ohio voter registration rules
Joshua Pantesco on September 2, 2006 11:43 AM ET

[JURIST] A federal judge on Friday issued an order directing Ohio voters to ignore threats of criminal penalties on voter registration forms and instructions [PDF text], saying that new state registration rules which took effect in May after the February passage of the controversial HB 3 election reform bill [text] by the Republican-dominated Ohio Legislature may violate the First Amendment and unduly burden efforts to register voters. The rules authorize criminal penalties [Ohio Revised Code s. 3599.11 text] for "knowingly aiding or abetting any person to register in violation of the law," and other specified registration-related conduct, such as failing to submit registration forms by hand or by mail to the local board of elections. Plaintiff voting rights groups supported by Democratic Party legislators argued that the new rules unnecessarily discourage efforts to franchise new voters in violation of First Amendment free speech and association rights, while the state argued that the rules are designed only to deter voting fraud. US District Judge Kathleen O'Malley said she intends to release a full opinion supporting the order next week.

On Monday, a Florida federal judge struck down a voter registration law [JURIST report] adopted by that state's Republican-controlled legislature that imposed steeply scaled fines on organizations and volunteers who failed to submit voter applications within specified time periods. The judge in that case ruled [opinion text PDF] that the law "unconstitutionally discriminates in favor of political parties by excluding them from the definition of 'third party voter registration organization'" and that the law's stiff fines are unconstitutional because they "chill...First Amendment speech and association rights." AP has more.

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UN rights council names panel to probe Israeli war conduct
Joshua Pantesco on September 2, 2006 11:07 AM ET

[JURIST] The UN Human Rights Council (HRC) [official website] on Friday appointed three experts to investigate alleged international law violations by Israel in the ongoing Middle East conflict [JURIST news archive]. The three-person panel was mandated by a resolution [PDF text], adopted by the HRC [JURIST report] earlier in August that also rebuked Israel called for an immediate end to its offensive in southern Lebanon. The panelists will focus on targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure and Israel's apparent use of indiscriminate weaponry such as cluster bombs [FAS backgrounder].

The commission consists of Clemente Baena Soares [UN profile], former secretary-general of the Organisation of American States; Mohamed Chande Othman, a former Tanzania Supreme Court Justice and ICTY prosecutor; and Stelios Perrakis, a professor at the Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences in Athens, Greece. News.com.au has more. VOA has additional coverage.

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DOJ seeks court permission to continue NSA surveillance program
Joshua Pantesco on September 2, 2006 11:01 AM ET

[JURIST] Arguing that the NSA domestic surveillance program [JURIST news archive] is a necessary weapon in the war on terror, the US Department of Justice Friday filed a motion in federal court asking the court to delay enforcement of an order requiring the NSA to immediately cease using warrantless wiretaps to monitor domestic phone conversations. In August US District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor ruled the program unconstitutional [JURIST report; opinion, PDF text] as a violation of privacy rights, and issued a permanent injunction [PDF text] compelling the government to immediately cease using warrantless wiretaps to intercept communications of suspected terrorists where one party to the communication is inside the US. The motion also argues that the injunction is overly broad because it blocks the entire NSA wiretapping program without excepting elements of the program that may not involve surveillance of domestic callers.

The DOJ has appealed the ruling to the US Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals [court website], and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which represented the plaintiffs [ACLU case materials] in the case, has agreed to delay enforcement of the injunction until September 7, when Taylor is scheduled to hear arguments on whether the government should be granted a stay to continue the program until the appeals process is exhausted. AP has more.

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Mexico election protesters disrupt presidential address
Joshua Pantesco on September 2, 2006 10:39 AM ET

[JURIST] Incumbent Mexican president Vicente Fox [official profile] was blocked from delivering the traditional state-of the nation address (known in Spanish as "El Informe") before the Mexican Congress [official website, in Spanish] Friday evening by protesting leftist lawmakers supporting presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador [campaign website, in Spanish] and his calls for an "alternative" government to oppose Felipe Calderon [campaign website, in Spanish], whose victory in the disputed July presidential poll [JURIST news archive] seems virtually assured after Mexico's Federal Electoral Tribunal [official website, in Spanish] rejected most of Obrador's fraud challenges in a ruling [JURIST report] earlier this week. The legislators swarmed the stage, forcing Fox to adjourn Congress and deliver his speech [text, in Spanish] on television, where he spoke against attacks on the "laws and institutions" of Mexico in reference to Obrador's opposition to the election results.

The Federal Electoral Tribunal is expected to make an official ruling declaring the winner of the July 2 presidential contest early next week. AP has more.

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Pennsylvania community delays enforcement of immigration law
Joshua Pantesco on September 2, 2006 10:00 AM ET

[JURIST] The city of Hazleton, Pennsylvania [official website] on Friday agreed to delay for 20 days [judicial order, PDF] enforcement of a tough new local law against illegal immigration while it rewrites the ordinance in an effort to bolster it against legal challenges. The law was challenged [JURIST report; complaint; ACLU materials] last month by the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania (ACLU) and the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund (PRLDEF) [advocacy websites], which have argued that the federal government has exclusive power to regulate immigration [CRS study], and that the city law is discriminatory under the US Constitution. The parties agreed to the 20-day enforcement delay so that the plaintiffs have time to request a second injunction.

Hazleton's Illegal Immigration Relief Act [text, PDF; mayor's letter] punishes employers, landlords, and business merchants who employ, rent to, or sell products to illegal immigrants [JURIST news archive], and makes English the official language of Hazleton. AP has more.

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For more legal news check the Paper Chase Archive...


Unprecedented Notice of Warrantless Wiretapping in a Closed Case
Ramzi Kassem
CUNY School of Law

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible, ad-free format.


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