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Student Photographer’s Arrest: Snapshot of Systemic Police Abuse

By Linn Washington Jr. | This Can’t Be Happening | March 29, 2012

I don’t know Temple University photojournalism major Ian Van Kuyk, despite his enrollment in Temple’s Journalism Department, where I teach.

I do know that dynamics embedded in the recent arrest of Van Kuyk by Philadelphia police–an arrest now generating news coverage nationwide–provide yet another snapshot of the systemic abuses I’ve reported and researched during three decades spent documenting the lawlessness endemic among law enforcers.

Philadelphia police roughed-up and arrested Van Kuyk for his photographing a police traffic stop taking place in front of his apartment. The arrest of Van Kuyk violated Philadelphia Police Department directives permitting such photographing as well as court rulings and constitutional rights.

Police harassing citizens lawfully documenting police activities taking place in public is a “widespread and continuing” problem according to the ACLU.

“The right of citizens to record the police is a critical check and balance,” an ACLU analyst noted during a September 2011 speech where he referenced six incidents in five cities of police arresting citizen photographers during just the spring of last year.

Yes, police attacking civilians for lawfully photographing public spaces, police routinely employing unlawful excessive force and prosecutors too frequently turning a blind eye to such police misconduct are all nationwide problems.

Systemic abuses by police and the prosecutors that condone such misconduct corrode public confidence in the justice system and cost taxpayers millions of dollars spent on settling lawsuits alleging illegalities by police.

Historically, abuses by police and particularly those by prosecutors receive short-shrift from most elected officials.

Just a few days before the alleged March 14, 2012 abuse of Van Kuyk, an artist filed a federal lawsuit against a Philadelphia policeman for roughing her up when arresting her less than two miles from the Van Kuyk incident. When arrested that artist was lawfully creating an outdoor artwork.

In January 2012, the City of Philadelphia settled another lawsuit filed against the same artist-arresting policeman, with the City agreeing to pay a woman $30,000. She alleged that the officer had “violently manhandled” her – breaking her nose and spraining her wrist during a sidewalk encounter.

Abundant evidence now implicates a police-prosecutor abuse angle in the Florida fatal shooting of teen Trayvon Martin by 28-year-old George Zimmerman.

The evidence is clear that Sanford, FL police officials acted in incomprehensible variance with established procedures in their handling of that fatal incident, seemingly proceeding in ways calculated to support Zimmerman’s self-defense claim.

And evidence indicates those police officials plus prosecutors rejected a Sanford Police detective’s request to arrest Zimmerman for manslaughter – a management decision that appears to demonstrate less concern for victim Martin than for shooter Zimmerman, whom the evidence shows ignored police orders to not confront Martin, only to have him then claim he shot Martin in self-defense.

The incident producing the arrest of Van Kuyk and outrage from the general counsel of the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) about gross violations of this young photojournalist’s First Amendment rights occurred in a section of South Philadelphia.

Of course there are two sides: in this case the account advanced by arresting officers and accounts from Van Kuyk, his girlfriend (also arrested that night) and a few of their neighbors who witnessed the events.

The only points of agreement between the two versions are that police were questioning one of Van Kuyk’s neighbors outside the South Philadelphia apartment where Van Kuyk lived, and that the budding photojournalist began photographing that encounter.

Philadelphia police are now re-investigating the incident in the wake of criticism and critical news coverage.

According to Van Kuyk, Philly police, after demanding that he stop photographing them, and after their dismissing his First Amendment protests, snatched Van Kuyk up, slammed him to the ground, swept him off to a police station for a nearly 24-hour detention, and eventually slapped him with a slew of charges, including disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and obstruction of justice.

How was Van Kuyk ‘obstructing justice’ if, as an NPPA letter to Philadelphia police contends, Van Kuyk “never came closer than ten feet” to the police? That letter notes that Van Kuyk “voluntarily backed up” when ordered by police before a policeman “approached [him] in an aggressive manner demanding that he stop taking pictures.”

Police also arrested Van Kuyk’s girlfriend, detaining her for 19-hours, also slamming her with trumped-up charges. Her arrest arose from her trying to retrieve Van Kuyk’s school-issued camera.

At the core of this incident we see some Philadelphia police failing to follow clearly stated department policy. A Philadelphia Police Department directive issued in September 2011 bars officers from arresting people for “photographing, videotaping or audibly recording police personnel [conducting] official business… in any public space.”

The “Purpose” listed on that policy, Memorandum (11-01), was to “remove any confusion as to duties and responsibilities” when police find themselves subjected to recording devices.

That National Press Photographers Association letter to Philadelphia’s Police Commissioner, raising the First Amendment, stated “It is truly abhorrent that not only did your officers abrogate that right [they] chose to add insult to injury by overcharging Mr. Van Kuyk with offenses he did not commit.”

Given that red-line PPD policy directive, police supervisors and prosecutors should have immediately pulled the plug on the charges against Van Kuyk and his girlfriend, but they didn’t.

Prosecutors pressed the flawed-arrest-related charges against Van Kuyk’s girlfriend, extracting their pound of flesh by forcing her into a program requiring 12-hours of community service and paying a $200 fine in exchange for their dismissing those flawed charges.

Van Kuyk is awaiting his preliminary hearing and possible trial.

The prosecution of Van Kuyk’s girlfriend and his pending charges are a stain on both the ethical duty of prosecutors to seek justice and Professional Conduct rules for prosecutors restricting prosecutions “not supported by probable cause.”

Someone somewhere in Philly’s prosecutor’s office should have questioned the questionable if not totally bogus charges arising from arrests prompted by police violating their department policy.

Philadelphia police spokesmen proclaim that the arresting officers knew about that directive protecting First Amendment activity, but contend that “other things happened… that caused the officers to make an arrest,” according to widely reported media accounts.

The Philadelphia Police Department’s record of abusive misconduct, however, casts a dark shadow on the department’s contention that “other things happened,” as do eyewitness accounts.

This incident involving Van Kuyk is hauntingly similar to an August 1972 incident that occurred just ten blocks from Van Kuyk’s apartment. In that 1972 incident, a minister questioning police for pummeling a man outside his house triggered a home-invasion, with police ransacking the minister’s home and arresting him, his wife, his daughter and a house guest from Germany.

As with the Van Kuyk case, the assaulting police hit Rev. Joseph Kirkland, his family and house guest with a slew of charges, including disorderly conduct and interfering with a police officer.

Philly prosecutors pressed those charges, which police had concocted to cover-up their criminal assault on Kirkland’s house, but a judge quickly dismissed them.

Philly’s then top prosecutor, Arlen Specter, later a US Senator and top Senate Judicial Committee member, rejected widespread demands to prosecute those offending police officers for their criminal conduct against Rev. Kirkland and his family.

Specter recently released a book criticizing the dysfunction in contemporary partisan politics – an ironic argument coming from someone who once shirked his ethical and professional duties by ignoring outrageous misconduct and abusive behavior by police and prosecutors.

Months after that August 1972 incident, a federal judge in Philadelphia issued a ruling in a class-action police brutality lawsuit in which he criticized arrests without probable cause.

That judge noted that those most likely to be targeted for police abuse are individuals who had the audacity (but legal right) to challenge their initial police contact.

I guess certain abusive practices are just embedded in Philadelphia Police Department culture.

So are a 1972 incident and 1973 court ruling ancient history?

Well, that ’72 incident and ’73 court ruling implicated issues animating the Van Kuyk incident.

Meanwhile, a Maryland man in 2010 avoided a possible 16-year prison term for posting a video on YouTube showing a plainclothes state trooper brandishing a pistol when he stops that man for an alleged speeding violation.

A Maryland judge dismissed the criminal charges filed against that motorcyclist wearing a helmet cam in a ruling reminding police and prosecutors that public officials are “ultimately accountable to the public” and public servants should not expect their action to be “shielded from public observation.”

Philadelphia prosecutors need to drop the charges against Van Kuyk and reverse the proceeding against his girlfriend.

Further, authorities nationwide need to crack down on misconduct by police and prosecutors.

See also:

March 30, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

India: Concern expressed about extrajudicial executions

UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights | March 30, 2012

NEW DELHI –– The United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, called on the Government of India to continue to take measures to fight impunity in cases of extrajudicial executions, and communal and traditional killings.

The Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, concluded today his official visit to India, which took place from 19 to 30 March 2012.

Mr. Heyns praised the openness and willingness of the Government of India to engage, shown also by the fact that it was willing to host a mission dealing with the right to life, an area in which issues to be tackled are often complex in various countries.

“This, together with the generally high level of commitment by the Indian Government to human rights and the fact that there have recently been improvements in some respects in the loss of life, could provide a window of opportunity to take decisive steps to ensure the greater realization of the right to life,” stated Christof Heyns.

While recognizing the size, complexity, security concerns and diversity of India, the Special Rapporteur remains concerned that the challenges with respect to the protection of the right to life in this country are still considerable. “Evidence gathered confirmed the use of so-called ‘fake encounters’ in certain parts of the country. Where this happens, a scene of a shoot-out is created, in which people who have been targeted are projected as the aggressors who shot at the police and were then killed in self-defence. Moreover, in the North Eastern States, and Jammu and Kashmir the armed forces have wide powers to employ lethal force.”

The above is exacerbated by the high level of impunity that the police and armed forces enjoy, due to the requirement that any prosecutions require sanction from the central government – something that is rarely granted. “The main difficulty in my view has been these high levels of impunity”, stressed the Special Rapporteur.

Other areas of concern relate to the prevalence of communal violence, and, in some areas, the killing of so-called witches, as well as dowry and so-called “honour” killings, and the plight of dalits (‘untouchables’) and adivasis (‘tribal people’).

Christof Heyns proposed a number of provisional steps to be taken to address these concerns. In the first place, he called for the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry, consisting of respected lawyers and other community leaders, to further investigate all aspects of extrajudicial executions. This should entail a form of transitional justice.

“Institutions such as the National Human Rights Commission should establish to what extent the guidelines they provide on matters such as the use of lethal force by the police are in fact observed, as opposed to providing empty promises in practice,” underscored the Special Rapporteur, recommending the immediate repeal of the laws providing for the immunity from prosecution of the police and the armed forces, and in particular the repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act of 1958.

“India should ratify a number of international treaties, including the Convention Against Torture and the International Convention for the Protection of All persons from Enforced Disappearance,” he said. “India should also host missions by other United Nations independent experts, in particular those related to torture, enforced disappearances and counter-terrorism measures.”

The 12-day official mission by the Special Rapporteur was the first visit to India by an independent expert since that country extended an open invitation to UN Special Procedures in 2011, and the first mission to India by an expert mandated by the UN Human Rights Council to monitor and report on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.

The UN Special Rapporteur’s final conclusions and recommendations will be submitted as a comprehensive report to the Human Rights Council at a future session in 2013.

March 30, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , | Leave a comment

MK Zoabi: Struggle for democracy is a struggle against Zionism

Haneen Zoabi, an MK from the Balad party, speaks to Elsa Rassbach about Land Day and her relationship as a Palestinian to Zionism and citizenship. 

By Elsa Rassbach | +972 | March 29, 2012

Since the 1980s, Palestinians have marked every March 30 with protests to celebrate Land Day.  The day commemorates the first widespread struggle of Arab Israelis against processes of land confiscation intended to create Jewish majorities in certain communities. The marches and general strikes began in the Galilee in 1976, and resulted in the killings of six unarmed Arab citizens of Israel. Solidarity protests spread to the occupied West Bank, Gaza and the refugee camps in Lebanon. Since then, the day has marked the first common struggle for a Palestinian national cause following the founding of the State of Israel in 1948, an event Palestinians call the Nakba. This year on Land Day, worldwide Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) activities will take place against Israeli policies, as well as the Global March to Jerusalem, which will call attention to the continuing Judaization and ethnic cleansing in the city that was supposed to be the multi-ethnic, multi-religious capital of a future Palestinian state.

Haneen Zoabi, 43, became a Knesset member in 2009, as the first Palestinian woman elected on an Arab party’s list. She is a member of the Balad party, which seeks to transform Israel into a democracy for all of its citizens, irrespective of national, ethnic or religious identity. Zoabi was born in Nazareth to a Muslim family. In 2010, she participated in the Gaza flotilla on board the Mavi Marmara. I spoke with her recently by Skype.

What does Land Day mean to you?

To me, Land Day is a day of ongoing and a continuous struggle around the issue of “land property.” This is still the crucial issue between us and the state. The core of the Zionist project is a continuous stealing of land from the Palestinians and transferring it to the Israeli Jews. Renaming the places, the junctions, the villages, the streets, and giving Jewish names to the landscape is part of this “confiscation.” It’s a way to steal from us and confiscate our historical relation with our homeland. This is the meaning of Ariel Sharon’s famous statement in the Knesset in 2002 when he said that the Palestinians inside Israel, whom he called “Israeli Arabs,” in effect have only temporary “rights in the land,” the land not yet confiscated, but “all the rights over the Land of Israel are Jewish rights.”

During the 63 years since 1948, Israel has confiscated 85 percent of our land and turned it over to the exclusive use of the Jews. It has developed and built 1,000 towns, cities and villages, all of them only for the Jews. And zero for the Palestinians. We live now on 2 percent of our land. We don’t even have permission to build our own houses on our own land and thus have no rights to use our land that hasn’t been confiscated.

How does Israel’s definition of itself as a “Jewish state” affect the Palestinian citizens of Israel?

The “Jewish state” is a state that has been established by Jews and is run by the Jews for the sake of the Jews – all at the expense of the Palestinians. It’s a racist definition. The state declares me to be an outsider in this land, though I’m the opposite. I’m the indigenous people. I didn’t immigrate to Israel; it was Israel that immigrated to me.

The State of Israel claims that it can be Jewish and democratic at the same time, as if there were no contradiction between the two. Any debate within Israel regarding the inherent contradiction between being a Jewish state and being a democratic state is considered no less than a “strategic threat.” If we are not Jewish and refuse to give up our rights, then obviously we present not just an alternative view, but something that contradicts the state’s very legitimacy: Zionism. 

How you define your struggle as Palestinian citizens of Israel in relation to the struggle of the rest of the Palestinian people?  

Our struggle has two components, as citizens and also as Palestinians. And unlike the state, we don’t see why both components — our citizenship and our nationality – should clash.

On the contrary, citizenship should be inclusive. We are fighting for normal citizenship with full recognition of our national rights as indigenous people that would include our history, our identity, our culture and our nationality.

My citizenship is conditioned by the Jews’ privileges.  It’s even conditioned to my loyalty to these privileges!  Therefore, there is no way to struggle for full equality and full citizenship without challenging the concept of “Jewish state.” To struggle for democracy in Israel is to struggle against Zionism. And this is what unifies our struggle with the wider Palestinian struggle.  Racism, Oppression, Judaisation, Apartheid and Undemocracy inside Israel; Apartheid, Occupation, Oppression, and Judaisation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip; and the denial of the right of return – all of these mechanisms of control serve the same ideological project: Zionism.

Nakba Day, the first intifada, the second intifada – all of these days are days of unity.  But still our struggle is not united, because it lacks a unifying vision and a unifying framework of legitimacy. The Palestinian issue did not begin in 1967 and does not only concern the territories occupied in 1967.  It concerns the entire Palestinian people, and even the wider Arab region.

After the Oslo Accords of 1993 defined the Palestinians inside Israel as an internal Israeli matter, we reformulated our national project in a manner that secures our reintegration into the Palestinian people and guarantees our place as an integral part of the Palestinian issue, both as part of the conflict and as part of the solution.  Our demand for a “state of all its citizens” has put the Palestinians in Israel at the heart of the direct confrontation with the Zionist enterprise and has forced the “Jewish state” to admit the primacy that it grants to Jewish-Zionist values over democratic values, and to recognixe the impossibility of coexistence between the two.

This is the role we play.

Elsa Rassbach is a filmmaker and journalist from the United States, now based in Berlin. Her award-winning film, The Killing Floor,” an historical dramatic film about a union’s struggle against racism in the Chicago Stockyards, will be re-released this year.

March 30, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

French police raid ‘extremists’, arrest 19

RT | March 30, 2012

The Toulouse gunman may be dead and buried, but his dark legacy continues to stir up national passions in France. With French police arresting some 19 suspected Islamists in raids across the country, harsher anti-terror measures could be looming.

­Mohamed Merah, the gunman behind the tragic shooting which killed seven, including three school children, in one of France’s worst terror attacks was buried in Toulouse on Thursday.

The case set French security services on high alert and sparked a vigorous debate among French politicians with the presidential campaign in full swing.

“From now on, anyone who regularly consults Internet sites which promote terror or hatred or violence will be sentenced to prison. Any person going abroad for the purposes of indoctrination in terrorist ideology will be criminally punished,” declared France`s acting President Nicolas Sarkozi, who is seeking another term.

Sarkozi also advocates tightening border controls, saying there are “too many foreigners in France.” He has also promised to bar radical Muslim preachers from entering the country to participate in an Islamic conference next month.

On Friday Sarkozy announced that the domestic intelligence agency carried out a series of raids in Toulouse, Nantes, Lyon, Marseille, Paris and Nice, arresting 19 Islamist suspects. The president added that more such raids are planned.

He gave no details about the justifications for the arrests, but said the operation was conducted “in connection with a form of Islamist radicalism.”

Police say they seized some weapons, including at least one Kalashnikov rifle.

Although the raids mainly took place in Toulouse, police say they are not connected with the case of Mohamed Merah, AP reports citing an anonymous police source.

Another presidential candidate Marine Le Pen, from the far right National Front, is pushing for a more radical anti-immigration line.

“How many Mohamed Merahs are there in the boats and planes that arrive in France full of immigrants? Mohamed Merah is perhaps only the tip of the iceberg,” she said.

Le Pen has called for “war on these fundamentalist political religious groups who are killing our children,” saying that “the threat of Islamic fundamentalism has been underestimated.”

Politicians may be throwing out what they call solutions, but the question is whether these policy ideas on immigration or security are realistic means of addressing the real problem.

While some are alarmed by such harsh rhetoric, others say these proposals are solely being made to get votes, as emotions remain charged after the Toulouse tragedy.

March 30, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, False Flag Terrorism, Video | , , , , | 3 Comments

Western Psy-ops against Syria: When Mrs. Al-Assad’s ’’shopping’’ becomes a ’’crime against humanity’’

By Finian Cunningham | Global Research | March 27, 2012

Michelle Obama, the fashion style icon wife of US President Obama, is to have travel sanctions imposed on her by member countries of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, including Russia, China and SCO associate state Iran.

Mrs. Obama’s annual six-figure budget for designer clothes and accessories is seen as an affront to moral decency at a time when her husband is overseeing foreign wars of aggression, mass murder in several territories using aerial drones, and ordering the assassination of individuals such as nuclear scientists in Iran.

The equally fashionista-conscious wives of British and French premiers, David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy, are also reportedly lined up for sanctions in several Middle East and Central Asian countries owing to these leaders supporting the illegal and murderous US-led NATO bombing campaign on Libya.

By now, the reader will have spotted the above “report” to be a spoof.

However, when it comes to the real world, the European Union is applying such unprecedented measures against the wife of Syria’s President Bashar Al Assad.

“EU slaps Sanctions on al-Assad’s Wife,” read several newspaper headlines after Europe’s foreign ministers banned British born Asma al-Assad from traveling to EU states, and ordered the freezing of her personal assets.

Describing the 36-year-old Syrian First Lady as stylish and glamorous… the combined lurid portrayal was aimed at presenting Mrs. Al-Assad as an insensitive bimbo in the face of her country’s ongoing violence and misery.

The Washington Post called her Syria’s Marie Antoinette, alleging that “while bloodshed continues, she shops for crystal-encrusted shoes”.

Despite the defamatory wording in the mainstream media written as if it were factual, it turns out that the hype about Mrs. Al-Assad, is based on “a trove” of emails obtained by the British Guardian newspaper allegedly from the private correspondence of the Assad family.

Even the Guardian puts in a disclaimer about the veracity of the emails, which it says were supplied by “Syrian oppositionists”. There is more than a fair chance that the emails are bogus and forged by intelligence groups well-versed in the black arts of slander, such as MI6.

Suspicions are raised even further when such banal, personal matters such as a woman’s alleged internet shopping habits become the subject of foreign ministerial diplomacy.

British-born Mrs Assad is reputed to have splurged more than €40,000 on household and fashion items. Following the EU sanctions, which came into effect at the weekend, British foreign minister William Hague said: “It’s a sign of the determination of all the nations of the European Union and of the European Union as a whole to intensify the pressure, the diplomatic and economic stranglehold on this regime.”

Meanwhile, France’s foreign affairs minister Alain Juppé commented: “We had a certain number of indications – I am sure it has not escaped you – how the wife of President al-Assad uses her money. It is perhaps this that pushed us to toughen the sanctions.” Juppé’s concern with financial probity is particularly rich given that he was convicted in 2004 by a French court of “abusing public funds” and sentenced to an 18-month suspended jail term.

When one newspaper’s highlighting of a dodgy dossier of emails is regurgitated by all and sundry in the mainstream media, including so-called quality titles, and when that dodgy dossier forms the basis for EU ministerial sanctions, then there is the unmistakable whiff of a psy-ops job.

This is all the more so perceptible given that the Western governments and the slavish mainstream media have spent the most part of a year grossly distorting the reality of violence and conflict in Syria, with a view to destabilizing the alliance between Damascus and Tehran. President Bashar Al-Assad has been relentlessly accused of “butchering” his own people, despite growing evidence that his government’s forces are more accurately acting to protect the civilian population from terrorist groups armed and directed by the US, Britain, France,”Israel”, Turkey and the al-Qaeda-affiliated Gulf monarchies.

The Western campaign of demonizing the government of Syria has now been extended somewhat ludicrously to portraying Mrs. al-Assad as a “callous shopaholic” who must be banned from the High Streets of all decent, law-abiding civilizations.

The irony is that the derisory cynical move by the European Union should actually be applied against known war criminals. There is ample evidence to convict past and present American and European leaders of war crimes and crimes against humanity regarding military aggression in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and ongoing towards Iran.

On the basis of legal and criminal facts, sanctions against Michelle Obama, Samantha Cameron and Carla Bruni make far greater sense.

March 30, 2012 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , | Leave a comment

Israeli police water-cannon, tear-gas Palestinians on Land Day

| March 30, 2012

A Gaza youth has reportedly been killed while over 200 people have been wounded throughout the West Bank.

March 30, 2012 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Video | , , , | Leave a comment

Rallies Worldwide to Mark the 9th Anniversary of the Disappearance of Aafia Siddiqui

Please also note that events scheduled for Saturday include a rally in New York at 12 noon, and a rally in Toronto (sisters only) at 6 pm. On Friday (March 30), there is also a rally in Fort Worth, Texas at 3.30 pm.

By Andy Worthington – 29.3.12

On Saturday, outside the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square, London, I will be speaking at an event marking the ninth anniversary of the disappearance in Pakistan of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, who vanished for five years and five months, and then mysteriously reappeared in Afghanistan in August 2008, where she was arrested, and then allegedly tried to shoot at the US soldiers who were holding her.

She was subsequently flown to New York, where, in September 2010, after a trial at which she did not appear to be well, although her mental health was not considered to be an issue worthy of scrutiny, she was sentenced to 86 years in prison, which she is serving in a notorious psychiatric prison, FMC Carswell, in Texas. 

The rally outside the US Embassy, organized by the Justice for Aafia Coalition, takes place from 3 pm to 6 pm, and the speakers, and the timing of speeches, are as follows:

1500: Introduction
1510: Sultan Sabri (Croydon Muslim Association)
1520: Raza Karim
1530: Andy Worthington (journalist, author of The Guantánamo Files)
1540: Asif Hussain
1550: Raza Nadim (MPACUK – Muslim Public Affairs Committee)
1600: Sheikh Suliman Ghani (Imam, Tooting Islamic Centre)
1610: Anas Altikriti (Cordoba Foundation)
1620: Ken O’Keefe (anti-war activist)
1630: Statement of Support from the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers
1635: Joy Hurcombe (Save Shaker Aamer Campaign) reads out Statement of Support from Walter Wolfgang
1645: Omar Deghayes (former Guantánamo prisoner)
1655: Adnan Rashid (Hittin Institute)
1705: Sultana Parvin
1715: Uthman Lateef (Hittin Institute)
1725: Conclusion

I hope to see some of you down there, as the case of Aafia Siddiqui, which I have been following for many years, remains deeply troubling. My previous articles can be found here, and below is a re-cap of her story, drawn largely from an account of the website of the Justice for Aafia Coalition.

Please also note that other events scheduled for Saturday include a rally in New York at 12 noon, and a rally in Toronto (sisters only) at 6 pm. On Friday (March 30), there is also a rally in Sandton, South Africa at 2 pm, and another in Fort Worth, Texas at 3.30 pm.

The story of Aafia Siddiqui

Nine years ago, on March 30, 2003, Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani citizen, and a cognitive neuroscientist, disappeared in Karachi along with her three children, the youngest of whom, Suleman, was just a baby. For the next five years their whereabouts were unknown, and have never been publicly acknowledged by either the Pakistani or the US government, even though it seems clear that she was held in secret detention, where she was severely abused. Former Bagram prisoners have stated that a female prisoner was held in the prison, identified by the number “650,” and have said that they heard her horrific screams.

Following demands for her recovery by human rights organisations and the Pakistani public, Aafia resurfaced in Afghanistan in August 2008, framed with the attempted murder of US personnel. Transferred to the US, she was convicted in a shocking miscarriage of justice and was sentenced in September 2010 to 86 years in prison. She is currently held in isolation at FMC Carswell, Texas, a facility notoriously referred to as the “hospital of horrors.” She is denied any meaningful contact with her family and is unlikely to see her children again.

Whilst the two elder children were released in 2008 and 2010 respectively, the whereabouts of her youngest child, Suleman — only six months old at the time of the abduction — remain unknown, although it is believed that he may have been killed art the time of her initial capture. Most recently, disturbing reports have emerged that her health is deteriorating and there are serious concerns that she may have cancer.

To request Aafia Siddiqui’s repatriation to Pakistan, please contact the following officials in the US and Pakistani governments:

Eric Holder: Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice, 950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20530-0001, Tel: +1 202 353 1555, Email: AskDoJ@usdoj.gov

Hilary Clinton: Secretary of State, U.S. Department of State, 2201 C Street, N.W. Washington DC 20520, Tel: +1 202 647 4000, Fax: +1 202 261 8577, Email: questions@friendsofhillary.com

Mr. Asif Ali Zardari: President of Pakistan, President’s Secretariat, Islamabad, PAKISTAN, Tel 92 51 920 4801/921 4171, Fax 92 51 920 7458, Email: publicmail@president.gov.pk

Mr. Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani: Prime Minister of Pakistan, Prime Minister House, Islamabad, PAKISTAN, Fax: + 92 51 922 1596, Email: secretary@cabinet.gov.pk

Mr. Rehman Malik: Minister of Interior, Room No. 404, 4th Floor, R Block, Pak Secretariat, Islamabad, PAKISTAN, Tel: +92 51 921 2026, Fax: +92 51 920 2624, E-mail: minister@interior.gov.pk, ministry.interior@gmail.com, interior.complaintcell@gmail.com

Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi: Foreign Minister, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Islamabad, Pakistan, Tel: +92 51 921 0335, Fax: +92 51 920 7600, Email: smhq148@hotmail.com

You can also write to Aafia:

Aafia Siddiqui # 90279-054
FMC Carswell
Federal Medical Center
P.O. Box 27137
Fort Worth, TX 76127
U.S.A.

And to send a message of support to her family, email: support@justiceforaafia.org

March 30, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, False Flag Terrorism, Full Spectrum Dominance, Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture | , , | Leave a comment

Open Letter to Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO

By Ralph Nader | March 28, 2012

Dear Mr. Trumka,

You have come to your leadership position of our country’s labor federation of unions with 13 million members the hard way. Starting by working in the coal mines, then becoming a lawyer, heading the United Mine Workers, then becoming the Secretary-Treasurer of the AFL-CIO before assuming your present position in 2009, who can pull rank on you in the formal labor movement?

Yet, the AFL-CIO’s public leadership in three major areas has been far less effective than one would expect. I am referring to your less than assertive response to President Obama: 1) turning his back on raising the federal minimum wage; 2) failing to advance his card check promise to you in 2008; and 3) dropping the ball on backing long-overdue safety and health responsibilities of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

I say this with the awareness of your group’s public stands in favor of these three crucial matters to working families. But as you well know, there is a very marked difference between being on-the-record, as the AFL-CIO is, and being on-the-daily ramparts pushing these issues, as your organization is not.

Even just making a statement, however, took a back seat in your March 13, 2012 endorsement of Barack Obama for a second term as president. In what ways has Mr. Obama “moved aggressively,” as you declared, “to protect workers rights, pay, health and safety on the job?”

He has neither championed nor pressed Congress, when the Democrats were in control in 2009-2010, to give you card check which you have long-said was needed to reverse the serious decline and expand the ranks of organized labor by millions of workers (you told me this in 2004).

Second, Mr. Obama appointed an excellent head of OSHA and then betrayed OSHA – an agency that has estimated 58,000 workplace-related American deaths a year from disease and trauma! That is over 1000 people a week, every week, on the average.

Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor and the head of OSHA, cannot get White House approval for issuing long-overdue standards or strengthening weak and outdated standards such as the woefully inadequate silica rule, to save American lives not threatened by terrorists, but by corporate negligence or worse. Why have you not exposed this reality in public? Has Mr. Obama, whom you have socialized with at White House viewings of the Super Bowl, ever invited you to come across Lafayette Square to discuss this serious ongoing, preventable tragedy?

Had he taken worker concerns seriously, he might have asked you why the AFL-CIO for many years, has retained at its large national headquarters so few full-time advocates on occupational health and safety? And you in turn might have asked him why his politicos are blocking Dr. Michaels and why he is content in having only $550 million for OSHA’s annual budget while the U.S. spent $675 million in 2011 paying corporate contractors to guard the overbuilt U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq. Are these the Obama “values” you extolled in your endorsement statement?

More dismaying is your touting Mr. Obama for aggressively protecting workers’ pay. By pushing for more NAFTA type “pull-down” trade agreements through Congress, and not moving to revise NAFTA as he promised in his 2008 presidential campaigns, he is undermining both workers’ pay and jobs. By totally abandoning his pledge made to over 30 million workers in 2008 that he would press for a $9.50/hour federal minimum wage by 2011, he left them defenseless with more debt and fewer necessities of life.

The AFL-CIO wants at the least to catch up to 1968 with an inflation-adjusted $10/hour minimum wage law. Where is the visible muscular campaign for such legislation? Keeping up with inflation for the federal minimum wage is historically supported by 70 percent of the people. That includes many Republicans and even Rick Santorum and, until his latest flip-flop, Mitt Romney. A $10 minimum wage, after years of windfall price increases and executive compensation windfalls at labor’s expense, would annually pump tens of billions of dollars into greater consumer demand by low-income families in this recessionary economy.

What is the AFL-CIO waiting for? Hundreds of non-profit organizations will follow your lead. Talk is not enough. Resources and muscular lobbying are required along with far more relevant and tough public advertisements than your members are seeing and paying for on TV these days. Enough, already, of the general feel-good mood spots on TV.

As someone who in earlier days had been a dig-in-your-heels labor negotiator in fights with management, what did you receive for millions of American workers in your early, blanket endorsement of Mr. Obama? No wonder he can get away with giving the trade union movement and unorganized workers the back of his hand. You have unnecessarily allowed him to believe that you have nowhere to go. This is another way of saying that the Republicans, by being worse than the bad Democrats, are holding the American labor movement hostage to the corporatist Democratic Party.

The AFL-CIO is in a deep, defensive rut when in these tough times it should be in an aroused, innovative state of high alert and aggressive action. Workers in the 1930s’ Depression were in worse shape than workers today, yet organized labor was more militant.

People inside and outside the AFL-CIO know the problems. They are: complacent bureaucratic rigidity, fractious relations between member unions over how supine they need to be to Obama and the Democrats (with their costly wars), the lack of union democracy and competitive elections both within member unions and at the AFL-CIO plus, except for a few unions like the California Nurses Association, a distinct lack of sustained fervor and money for organizing drives.

You know all this only too well. Yet, as a 14th Century Chinese philosopher once said, “to know and not to do is not to know.” Unless you shake the AFL-CIO up and reorder its priorities against the corporate state, expect another four years of an Obamabush Administration.

Sincerely,
Ralph Nader

March 30, 2012 Posted by | "Hope and Change", Deception, Economics, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Scores Injured as Israeli Troops Attack West Bank land Day Protests

By George Rishmawi & Ghassan Bannoura | IMEMC | March 30, 2012

Thousands of Palestinians marked land day, on Friday, Palestinian sources said that 100 civilians were injured when Israeli troops attacked protesters in Ramallah and Bethlehem cities.

Marking the 36th anniversary of land day today Palestinians and their supporters marched for Jerusalem demanding an end to the Israeli occupation of the city. Protests were organized near the Israeli Lebanese borders as well as the borders with Jordan.

The Land day commemoration started in 1976, when Palestinian residents of the Galilee to the Negev protested Israel’s plan to expropriate thousands of dunams of land for security and settlement purposes. Israeli military and police attacked the protests leaving 6 killed, hundreds injured.

Today After the midday prayers, people marched from Ramallah city, central West Bank, towards Qalandiya checkpoint that separates Ramallah from Jerusalem.

Troops fired tear gas and sound bombs then later used rubber-coated steel bullets. 80 Palestinians were injured. Witnesses told IMEMC that among those injured were two Palestinian medics.

In Bethlehem 20 residents were injured, seven were moved to hospitals, when soldiers fired tear gas and sound bombs at land day protesters. The marchers were first stopped by the Palestinian security forces however they managed to reach the gate of the wall separating Bethlehem from Jerusalem. As protestors reach the gate, youth threw rocks and firebombs at the wall and the nearby military tower.

“We are here to tell the Israeli occupation that Jerusalem is Palestinian and will never forget it.” One of the protesters told IMEMC.

Israeli troops responded by firing tear gas and sound bombs. A source from the Palestinian Red Cresent Society told IMEMC that one resident was hit with a tear gas canister in his back causing burns and bruises.

The wounded was identified as Yousef Sharqawi from Bethlehem. Another activist from the US was hit with a tear gas canister in his head and was transferred to the hospital for medical treatment. Field medics said his wound is moderate.

Photo of Land Day Protest in Bethlehem Today –  by Ghassan Bannoura

March 30, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Palestinian lawmaker wounded in Land Day protest


Palestinian lawmaker Mustafa Barghouti
Press TV -  March 30, 2012

Palestinian lawmaker Mustafa Barghouti has been injured by Israeli forces attacking peaceful demonstrations marking international Land Day, Press TV reports.

Barghouti was wounded on Friday in the city of al-Quds (Jerusalem) where he attended a Land Day rally.

Israeli forces opened fire on peaceful pro-Palestinian rallies across the occupied Palestinian territories, with clashes underway between Israeli troops and Palestinians in the occupied West Bank city of Qalandiya.

Earlier reports said at least two protesters were injured by Israeli troops and several others were arrested.

More demonstrations were planned for after the Friday Prayers across the West Bank and Gaza Strip as well as in East al-Quds (Jerusalem) despite Tel Aviv restricting access to al-Aqsa Mosque for the weekly prayers.

Pro-Palestinian rallies have been held near border areas in Lebanon and similar demonstrations are expected in Egypt, Jordan, and Syria where activists will also march towards the Palestinian borders.

The rallies, joined by international human rights activists, are part of an international campaign named Global March on al-Quds (Jerusalem), a peaceful international movement that also condemns the Israeli occupation of the holy city.

The event marks Land Day and the Israeli military’s deadly attack on Palestinians peacefully protesting Tel Aviv’s land policies in 1967.

The demonstrations have prompted Tel Aviv to deploy thousands of police and armed forces across the occupied Palestinian territories and around border areas near Lebanon and Jordan.

March 30, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture | , , | Leave a comment

   

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