Posted on January 11, 2012 by the Electronic Intifada
This Friday 23-year-old Ziyad Yaghi and his co-defendant, Omar Aly Hassan, also 23, both convicted terrorism-related charges, will be handed down sentences for conspiring to provide material support to unspecified terrorists and, in the case of Yaghi, conspiring to harm unspecified persons abroad.
The case, which seems to be largely off the radar for major civil liberties groups and national Arab and Muslim organizations, raises questions about the use of preemptive prosecution to get convictions in the vast majority of domestic terrorism cases. The government’s case also largely focuses on speech made by the defendants, and rests on the testimony of paid undercover informants.
The US government alleges that Yaghi and Hassan conspired with alleged ringleader Daniel Patrick Boyd to provide material support to an unspecified group of terrorists in an unspecified place at an unspecified time. They were also indicted — and Yaghi convicted — for conspiracy to kidnap, kill, maim or harm an unspecified group of people in an unspecified place at an unspecified time.
The US government alleged in a 2009 indictment that Yaghi and Hassan traveled to Israel in 2007 to meet up with Boyd and one of Boyd’s sons, Zakariya, for the purpose of waging “jihad” — what that specifically entailed was not detailed in the indictment.
After the Israeli government denied entry to all four men, Yaghi and Hassan traveled to Jordan and later Egypt. The Boyds traveled to Jordan, where they were met by Daniel Boyd’s other son, Dylan, but did not meet with Yaghi and Hassan there.
Upon their return to the United States approximately one month later, Yaghi and Hassan apparently ceased contact with the Boyd family.
During the men’s trial last September, an FBI agent admitted upon cross-examination by Hassan’s attorney that the government had no evidence of contact between Hassan and Boyd after the 2007 trip.
Dylan Boyd, who testified for the prosecution as part of a plea agreement, told the FBIin an interview that he “hadn’t seen or spoken to Yaghi and Hassan since the 2007 trip.”
It was revealed during the trial that the Boyd family had been under surveillance since 2005, and Yaghi and Hassan had been monitored starting around the time of their 2007 trip.
The most serious and specific of all of the charges related to the case were dropped from the counts against alleged ringleader Daniel Patrick Boyd — conspiracy to attack a US Marines Corps base in Quantico, Virginia. Daniel Patrick Boyd and Hysen Sherifi were indicted for conspiring to murder US military personnel; the charge against Boyd was dropped as part of his plea agreement, while Sherifi was convicted of the charge.
The other co-defendants were not indicted for the alleged Quantico plot. Daniel Patrick Boyd faces 15 years in prison and a life sentence for the remaining conspiracy charges.
Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported that Boyd’s sons received lesser sentences after cooperating with the prosecution:
Zakariya Boyd, 22, was sentenced to nine years in federal prison and Dylan, 25, was sentenced to eight years. Each had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to provide support to terrorists, which carried a maximum of 15 years in prison and $250,000 fine. Both received lesser sentences after cooperating with prosecutors, including credit for the jail time already served since their arrests in July 2009.
The judge overseeing the case said she may revisit the Boyd sons’ sentences, “depending on their contributions to the prosecution” in the separate trial of a seventh defendant, Anes Subasic. Subasic is being tried separately because he is representing himself.
While the prosecution dropped the most specific of all of the conspiracy charges as part of Daniel Patrick Boyd’s plea agreement, the jury found Yaghi and Hassan guilty for conspiring to provide material support, though the government did not identify which terrorist groups they intended to support.
As the Los Angeles Times reported, “Prosecutors named no targeted victims. Nor did they specify places, times or dates of attacks,” except in the case of Daniel Patrick Boyd and Hysen Sherifi, whom were indicted for the alleged Quantico plot. “The elder Daniel Boyd had visited the base, and he and Sherifi had discussed its vulnerability to an attack on Marines and their families,” the paper added.
Amongst the evidence presented by the government to demonstrate the defendants’ criminal intent included weapons training said to have been conducted by Daniel Patrick Boyd, who upon his arrest was found to have amassed “a stockpile of nearly two dozen guns and 27,000 rounds of ammunition seized from a bunker under Daniel Boyd’s home,” the Los Angeles Times reported.
The FBI testified that Sherifi participated in weapons training with Boyd and his sons in the weeks prior to their arrests, the Capitol Broadcasting Company reported.
Yaghi and Hassan were not indicted for any weapons-related charges. As the Los Angeles Times reported, the government had gathered “750 hours of audio and video that included conversations between the defendants and three paid FBI informants; in those conversations, the defendants discussed jihad and their hatred for non-Muslims.”
However, defense lawyers argued, the audio and video evidence “did not show the defendants discussing or agreeing to any specific attack.”
The Los Angeles Times reported upon the conclusion of testimony, “Defense lawyers reminded the jury that all three Boyds testified that the defendants did not conspire to attack people or provide material support to terrorists.”
So not even the Boyds, whose cooperation with prosecution would likely be rewarded with lesser sentences, said that Sherifi, Yaghi and Hassan were involved in the conspiracies that the Boyd family members pleaded guilty to.
The Los Angeles Times added:
The FBI recruited three informants, code-named Jawbreaker, Hammerhead and Crosstown, who secretly taped conversations with the defendants.The defendants spoke in emails of wanting to kill non-Muslims; they exchanged bloody Al Qaeda videos; and they shared CDs containing diatribes by Anwar Awlaki, an Al Qaeda leader killed by a US drone strike in Yemen last month. One video showed a live beheading by terrorists.
Dan Boyce, representing Omar Aly Hassan, “said the defendants’ comments about jihad, no matter how offensive, were protected as free speech. Similarly, shooting at targets — a popular pastime in rural North Carolina — is protected by the 2nd Amendment, he said.”
The question of whether circulating “pro-jihadist” material makes someone a “terrorist” was raised during the trial of Tarek Mehanna of Massachusetts. Civil liberties organizations raised concerns that prosecuting Mehanna for providing a service to US-designated terrorist groups because he posted material on the Internet was a violation of the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment of the US Constitution.
Civil libertarians argue that no matter how offensive someone’s speech is, it shouldn’t be the basis for prosecution.
Indeed, after the North Carolina men were indicted in 2009, a federal judge expressed skepticism about the charges. CNN reported that ”Magistrate Judge William Webb said the men made a number of statements espousing holy war that could be interpreted in isolation as empty boasting.”
Webb said the government’s case depended partly on an “unnamed, unidentified and uncharacterized” witness who had interpreted what the government said was coded speech by the suspected terrorists.The government says, for example, that one defendant’s statement about “going to the beach” meant he intended to conduct violent jihad.
“You’re asking me to believe ‘beach is the functional equivalent of ‘jihad,’” Webb said.
The FBI’s use of paid informants also came under question during the trial.
The Capitol Broadcasting Company reported in September that an FBI informant, a Muslim of Moroccan descent who goes by the code name “Jawbreaker,” was paid $110,000 by the FBI since 2005. The informant had gained a residency card after overstaying a visa and remaining in the US illegally, defense attorneys noted.
Robert McAfee, Sherifi’s attorney, also blamed Jawbreaker for thrusting his client and Boyd together. The informant used FBI money to pay for Sherifi to return to the US from Kosovo, where he was living his wie and child, McAfee said.
According to the CBC, Omar Aly Hassan’s attorney, Daniel Boyce, told the jury that FBIhad tried to turn his client into an undercover informant in the case, but Hassan turned them down, “saying he didn’t know enough about Boyd and his family to help.”
Ziyad Yaghi’s mother, Laila, alleges that after her son’s arrest, the FBI questioned her and said that they had arrested Ziyad to put pressure on him to inform on Boyd. Laila Yaghi told me over the phone that she believes that her son was persecuted for not giving the FBI information on Boyd. She also said that those who testified against Ziyad were paid informants or were intimidated into cooperating with the FBI.
The Los Angeles Times finds that the North Carolina case is not exceptional when it comes to pre-emptively prosecuted “homegrown terrosim” cases:
Based on the results of a recent study of domestic Islamic terrorism cases, the three Muslims from the Raleigh, N.C., area are fairly typical of other Americans charged or convicted of jihadist terrorism in the post-Sept. 11 era.For instance, 184 of the 188 terrorism cases studied involved no actual attacks.
The study, released in March by the New American Foundation and Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Public Policy, looked at the 188 cases of American citizens or US residents charged in jihadist terrorism plots in the USsince Sept. 11. The study’s opening sentence asks: “How real is the ‘homegrown’ Islamic terrorist threat?”
Of the four cases that did progress to attacks, the worst was at Ft. Hood, Texas, where Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan is suspected of killing 13 people and wounding 32 in 2009.
(By comparison, the study points out that 73 people were killed in hate crimes in the US between 2001 and 2009 — and more than 15,000 slayings are committed in this country every year.)
A third of the 188 cases involved the use of an informant, the study found.
The conviction of Omar Aly Hassan and Ziyad Yaghi raises important questions about preemptive prosecution:
Should two young men be subjected to criminal trials and lengthy sentences for alleged conspiracy plots so nebulous that the intended victims of the plot were not yet identified?
Does preemptive prosecution protect public safety, or do convictions rely on prosecuting people (particularly Arab and Muslim people) based on First Amendment-protected speech?
Should the testimony of paid informants — who often have criminal backgrounds, whose testimony is rewarded with perks like citizenship papers and expunged criminal records — determine whether someone walks free or spends the rest of his life in prison?
Mark International Human Rights day with a discussion of the criminalization of human rights work
and other activism. The community has rallied around the AWC as our members are investigated for
charges of “material support to terrorism.” These charges are an attempt to silence voices against US
policies of war and militarism, while also making it illegal to extend the hand of friendship to people in
countries of conflict.
This same strategy is evident in the recent conviction of two Somali women, for the crime of sending
$8600 in humanitarian aid to Somalia, where they are from. We also see it in the government’s
threats to bring charges against participants in last summer’s Gaza Flotilla, which was carrying letters
- messages of solidarity and friendship – to deliver to Palestinians living in Gaza.
Our discussion will include several other legal cases attacking human rights: The death penalty – Troy
Davis, and Mumia Abu Jamal (now incarcerated for 30 years); Private Bradley Manning – imprisoned
while awaiting charges related to the WikiLeaks release of classified documents exposing war crimes
in Iraq, among others. Come hear about the important work being done to fight these legal attacks on
our rights and our movements!
Children welcome. The library has a wonderful children’s book selection. Let us know if you would like
an AWC volunteer to accompany your child there while you enjoy the program. Lunch will be provided -
featuring soups home-made by our fantastic AWC chefs! Donations requested, no one turned away.
Organized by the Anti-War Committee | www.antiwarcommittee.org | 612-379-3899
Posted on November 21, 2011 by FightBack! News
Fort Benning, GA – Over 4000 people gathered here, Nov. 19, at the School of Americas Watch protest of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC). Despite the change of name from School of the Americas (SOA) to WHINSEC, the legacy of half a century of training in counterinsurgency techniques, psychological warfare and interrogation tactics continues to this day in places like Colombia and Honduras.
‘Students’ of SOA/WHINSEC’s curriculum have been linked to death squads attributed to the rape, murder and torture of labor organizers, religious leaders, teachers and human rights activists.
Jimena Paz, a leader in the Honduran resistance movement, said, “In my country SOA graduates continue to repress social movements who stand up against a coup led by graduates of this school right here in Fort Benning.”
The Committee to Stop FBI Repression (CSFR) had organizers from across the country mobilize for the demonstration. CSFR organizers passed out flyers explaining the connections between the repression abroad and the FBI attacks on activists at home and received hundreds of petition signatures to defend Carlos Montes, a target of FBI repression. Thousands of flyers were also distributed promoting the upcoming NATO/G8 protests in Chicago and the RNC 2012 protest in Tampa Florida, with a common emphasis on defending the right to protest and speak out against injustice at these events.
The CSFR hosted a workshop on Saturday night, attended by over 100 people, to raise awareness of attacks on activists by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The FBI has been used as an apparatus to infiltrate and repress peace, solidarity and civil rights movements, past and present. These attacks are relevant to the SOA/WHINSEC protest and its attendees in many ways.
The activists who have been attacked most recently are all prominent international peace and solidarity activists, indicating that this is a movement which is currently in the cross-hairs of the FBI. The volume of resources spent to harm this movement is alarming and the activist community across the U.S. should be aware of the vast scope of the repression, as well as the unjust methods and tools, which, in flagrant abuse of privacy rights and lacking due process, are at the ready disposal of federal Investigators.
As we continue to witness inaccurate media coverage of the ongoing Occupy actions, we should note the myriad systems of repression, often violent, that have been used in attempts to suppress a movement protesting the richest 1% in society. According to the Gothamist, the New York Police Department’s raids on Zucotti Park were advised by the Department of Homeland Security, in a coordinated effort of aggression to preserve the status quo. However, the similarities in repressive methods against free speech and activist movements have been met with resistance.
“Just as people have linked arms and successfully defended Occupy encampments from police repression,” said Kosta Harlan of the CSFR, “in the same way our movements for justice, peace and equality are uniting to defend the Anti-War 24 and Carlos Montes,” targets of government raids and subpoenas to appear before federal grand juries.
CSFR activists stressed the necessity of taking up the fight against repression of activist movements, setting a precedent for resistance. Workshop facilitators encouraged attendees to write or phone President Obama, Attorney General Holder and local representatives to demand that they call off attacks on free speech in the U.S.
“We came to Fort Benning this weekend to challenge the killers of the SOA,” stated Daniel Ginsberg of Peace Action. “We’ll be heading home to our Occupations to continue defending activists from government repression.”
Monday, November 14
Rally at 5 pm
Stay after rally for Sleep-in (stay all night, or as late as you are able)
@ Occupy Minnesota, “People’s Plaza” (Hennepin County Government Center Plaza at 5th St. S. between 3rd and 4th Aves. S.)
County Commissioners and Sheriff Stanek have threatened to close down the occupation of the People’s Plaza in Minneapolis. Beginning Monday, November 14, they have declared a set of new policies for the plaza outside the Hennepin County Government Center – no more sleeping, no more porta-potties, and no more signs or other property left out. These policies are aimed at shutting down the occupation, like the violent attack on occupiers in Oakland, California, and other measures being carried out against Occupy Wall Street protests in cities across the country. We say no to these attacks and plan to stand together to defend our rights to build a movement that stands for people over profits! Occupy Together: Join OccupyMN and organizations including labor, students, anti-war, poor people, and the 99% for a giant rally at 5pm, and plan to stay the night (or as late as you can)! Wear your warmest clothes, bring your sleeping bags and help fill the People’s Plaza in a massive sleep-in as we defend our right to occupy and speak out for the 99%!
Join us for a wide-ranging and thought-provoking selection of feature-length and short films made by and about Arabs and Arab Americans.
We are currently in the middle of a 10-day IndieGoGo fundraising campaign to close our festival’s budget gap. The campaign wraps up on October 28. Read about the campaign, the opportunity to double your dollars, and the benefits at different levels of giving, like tickets to the Fête, here.
This year’s festival opens with the Egyptian film 18 Days. A group of ten directors agreed to act quickly to shoot, with no budget and on a voluntary basis, ten short films about the Egyptian Revolution and the 18 days in Tahrir Square, creating ten stories they have experienced, heard, or imagined. There will be a panel discussion prior to the screening on the theme of the Arab revolutions and uprisings.
Other film highlights in the festival line-up include:
•Hawi (The Juggler), is the third feature by Egyptian director Ibrahim El-Batout, which won the Best Arab Film at the 2010 Doha TriBeCa Film Festival. Shot in Alexandria, the film is an organic study of a city populated by disparate, often desperate characters, and a closer view of the so-called reality and lives of everyday people. El-Batout is credited with elevating independent cinema in Egypt to a new level.
•City of Life, shot in Dubai, is an urban drama that tracks the various intersections of a multi-ethnic cast, examining how random interactions and their consequences can irrevocably impact another’s life. As the name suggests, City of Life’s inordinately humane kaleidoscope of converging experiences introduces a city that is in itself a living pulsating character. Directed by Ali F. Mostafa, this is the first major narrative feature to come out of the United Arab Emirates.
•Teta, Alf Marra (Grandma, a Thousand Times) by Lebanese director Mahmoud Kabour, is a poetic documentary about the filmmaker’s feisty Beiruti grandmother. The film employs magical realism to convey the story, which won Best Film at The London International Documentary Film Festival and which was inspired by a piece by Kaabour originally published in Mizna’s literary journal, Mizna: Prose, Poetry and Art Exploring Arab America.
•Algeria, Images of a Fight by Jerome Laffont, is a French documentary that profiles René Vautier—considered an anti-colonialist filmmaker and one of the most censored directors of his time—about his coverage of the Algerian War of Independence in the 1960s.
•Stray Bullet, by Lebanese director Georges Hachem, won first prize at the Dubai International Film Festival. The film, set shortly after the start of Lebanon’s 1975–1990 civil war, tells the story of a young woman who is torn between a fiancé chosen by her family and a former lover who suddenly reappears in her life. The film stars Lebanese-Canadian Nadine Labaki, director of the highly acclaimed 2007 production, Caramel and more recently,Where Do We Go Now?, which was chosen earlier this month as Lebanon’s 2011 entry in the Best Foreign Language film category for the Academy Awards and recently won the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival.
•The Koran: Back to the Origins of the Book, by Bruno Ulmer, is an enlightening documentary about the origins of the Koran, which according to Muslim tradition, has remained static and unchanged since its revelation to the prophet Mohammed between 610 and 632 CE in Mecca and Medina. However, recent discoveries of the oldest known Koranic manuscripts, dating from around 680, indicate that the Koran may have a more complicated history.
The festival also features local entries, such as Iraqi-American Tarik Rasouli’s Iraq, Finally, a filmic diary of his first ever visit to his parents’ homeland, and Triumph67, a collaboration between a Jewish director, Dan Tanz and a Palestinian actor/producer, Mohannad Ghawanmeh. Following the sudden death of his brother, a Palestinian-American man must grapple with the past, the present, and the cost of his own secrets from a long ago summer.Triumph67 won Honorable Mention at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival.
The Twin Cities Arab Film Festival closes with the Minnesota premiere of Palestinian director Elia Suleiman’s The Time That Remains, an examination of the creation of the state of Israel from its creation in 1948 to the present day. An official selection at The Cannes Film Festival in 2010, this semi-autobiographical drama is written and directed by and stars Suleiman, known for his 2002 film, Divine Intervention, which screened at Mizna’s first Arab Film Festival in 2003.
Lana Barkawi, Mizna’s Executive and Artistic Director states
It’s wonderful to see how our festival has taken shape and grown over the years. This year’s team, Rami Azzazi, Marya Morstad and the festival committee, have put together an exciting and timely selection of films—whether romantic, political or revolutionary—always reflecting the humanity of our community.
Saturday, September 24, 2011
Today is September 24th 2011, and the one year anniversary of the FBI raids on the houses (and offices) of my friends and fellow activists of the anti-war committee. A lot has come to light about this investigation since, about the spy that walked among us for over two years, about the FBI’s covert intervention in our work and travel, and eventually the full on assault (delivered with subpoenas and battering rams) on our rights to freedom of speech and freedom of association.
No kidding. They are calling us terrorists.
Even though we are the ones fighting and organizing against terrorism in countries like Colombia where being a union organizer is a deadly undertaking, and Palestine where collective punishment is being used to oppress an entire population. Indeed, we are the ones right here at home organizing against U.S. funded terrorism in Afghanistan and Iraq. We stand with all people of the world oppressed by their government or ours, to say that peace is the answer, and justice is the method.
But, in their book, that makes us terrorists. “A domestic threat” if you will. So be it. I am not apologetic to a system that perpetuates war just to make a profit, or that would engage in KGB-style tactics to silence dissent.
So, I wrote them a letter to this affect. I shared it today at the rally on Jess’s lawn, and I thought I would share it here as well. Here is An (amended) Open Letter to the FBI
An Open Letter to the FBI
Fuck you guys.
Fuck you for Fred Hampton, I just read that they got to Hemmingway. Hell, they’ve still got Leonard Peltier. And now they’re here in the mid-west, looking for anti-war and then all the rest.
Fuck you for the 14 (wait now) 23 – no, one more 24 that you are after right now. I just wanna know how many times you have directly interfered with peace and justice in this country. I wanna know how many lives…
And I wanna talk about it. I want out stuff back- fuck- I want our spy back. She did the grunt work around here and I’ve never seen my tax dollars so well spent. I want to talk about your budget, FBI, gone unchecked since 9/11. Ten years later, and you’re tailing peace activists just to bill the time and tapping phones and raiding homes…
Looking for what? Proof that we disapprove of this government? Well, we haven’t been at all shy about that, have we? We show up. On your Capitol lawns with our signs, and our banners, and our bullhorns and we SCREAM at your buildings, from behind your police lines, I- I guess I should feel honored to have this much of your attention.
Tear gas in my eyes and all. Those plastic zip-tie handcuffs as they round us up like cattle, and now the heat is really coming down because it was never a fair battle and the Grand Jury inquisition has begun. It’s some of that good ol’fashioned McCarthyism, except now the red tag term is terrorism. Meanwhile, the real war criminals are accepting awards. Those torturers and wire tappers, patting each other’s backs at the podium.
Anyway, Fuck them.
I came here to talk to you. To ask what the hell we’re ganna do now that they’re kicking in doors in Dinkytown looking for dissenters. They’re taking down posters off the walls, calling it evidence to be used against us and you’re next if you don’t think so. Anybody left with an opinion. Anybody here consider themselves out spoken? I am talking to you.
So, here’s a quick history lesson in FBI repression.
John Lennon. They tried to deport him-did you know that?- for speaking out against the war. It was right before the Republican National Convention of 1972 and Nixon was afraid it was going to cost him re-election, so they tried to kick him out of the country for having a concert. You see? They were afraid of a concert.
Dr. Martin Luther King’s home was raided by the FBI (now we’re on to something). He received threats and harassment from them for half his Nobel Peace Prize deserving career and was in the end assassinated. I read that he was under surveillance when it happened. That under cover police watched from across the street as King was shot. But they couldn’t kill the dream he started dreaming and we are still coming, ready or not. And I do mean ready or not.
So don’t forget about the RNC of 08. You know, we’ve got a real movement in this state and in case you haven’t noticed it’s going on right now. And hold your breath for the peaceful 23 whose grand jury subpoenas are hanging over all our heads. Don’t be silent! Tell everyone you know about this! Go to stopFBI.net and get involved! Call the president. And tell him to call it off. We said end the war, AND the witch hunt, Defend the first amendment. Enough is enough. No more attacks on them and no more attacks on us.
Posted on September 16, 2011 by MinnPost
By Chuck Turchick
“Equal Justice Under Law.” Along with a seal of the United States, those four words appear on a huge marble slab covering almost the entire back wall opposite the entrance of the Federal Building/U.S. Courthouse in downtown Minneapolis – four words that say so much.
If only they were true.
The attorneys in the United States Attorney’s Office on the sixth floor must be going in the back door. The words are impossible to miss if one walks in the front door.
A group of us recently met with two assistant U.S. attorneys, one of whom is second-in-command to U.S. Attorney B. Todd Jones. Among our requests was that former President George W. Bush, who will speak at a Beth El Synagogue fundraiser in St. Louis Park on Sept. 21, be brought in for questioning while he is in Minnesota, the jurisdiction for which Jones is the chief federal law-enforcement officer.
Admits authorizing water boarding
On his book tour last fall, former President Bush repeatedly proclaimed that he had authorized water boarding. President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder have been clear that water boarding is torture. The Federal Torture Statute outlaws conspiracy to torture if the torture occurs outside the United States. President Bush’s multiple admissions fall precisely into this category. The case against George W. Bush is an easy case.
When he signed the Convention Against Torture in 1988, former President Ronald Reagan summarized the essence of its most important provisions: “Each State Party is required to prosecute torturers who are found in its territory or to extradite them to other countries for prosecution.”
Ah, but what about those legal memos? Didn’t Bush rely on the legal advice he was being given? By his own words, no, he did not. On Nov. 8, 2010, in an interview with Matt Lauer of NBC, he was asked about the water boarding that he had authorized: “You’d make the same decision again today?” He responded, “Yeah, I would.”
Legal memos withdrawn as inoperative
If Bush would make the same decision today, when he knows that the legal memos he supposedly relied on were withdrawn as faulty and inoperative legal advice — which occurred during his own administration — it’s questionable whether he was actually relying on those legal memos at the time. This is not a difficult case.
Marti heads up the Terrorism and National Security Team in the local U.S. Attorney’s Office. Nothing he or Jones could do would do more for national security than to open an investigation into Bush’s admitted crimes, bring him in for questioning, and if necessary prosecute him for violating 18 U.S.C. Secs. 2340-2340A, the Federal Torture Statute. It would weaken al-Qaida, strengthen our alliances, and enhance our human-rights standing in the world.
Unless that happens, that slab of marble is a mere decoration. If “equal justice under law” ain’t gonna happen for George W. Bush in this jurisdiction, I would again summon the words of Reagan: “Mr. Jones, tear down this wall.”
Chuck Turchick is a retired Minneapolis resident who is concerned about torture and torture accountability issues. A Candlelight Vigil Against Torture will take place on Wednesday, Sept. 21, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., outside Beth El Synagogue, 5224 26th St. W. (Hwy. 100 and 26th St.) in St. Louis Park. Coincidentally, in 1981 the United Nations declared Sept. 21 International Day of Peace, also known as World Peace Day. As President Bush is feted inside, the vigil will call for a return to the rule of law.
A coalition of organizations, including Veterans for Peace, ANSWER Coalition and many others have called for an ongoing protest in Washington, D.C. Rallies, concerts, and civil resistance actions against the war to begin on Thursday, October 6.
Posted on September 15, 2011 by The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Palestinian refugees will not become citizens of a new Palestinian state, according to Palestine’s ambassador to Lebanon.
From behind a desk topped by a miniature model of Palestine’s hoped-for blue United Nations chair, Ambassador Abdullah Abdullah spoke to The Daily Star Wednesday about Palestine’s upcoming bid for U.N. statehood.
The ambassador unequivocally says that Palestinian refugees would not become citizens of the sought for U.N.-recognized Palestinian state, an issue that has been much discussed. “They are Palestinians, that’s their identity,” he says. “But … they are not automatically citizens.”
This would not only apply to refugees in countries such as Lebanon, Egypt, Syria and Jordan or the other 132 countries where Abdullah says Palestinians reside. Abdullah said that “even Palestinian refugees who are living in [refugee camps] inside the [Palestinian] state, they are still refugees. They will not be considered citizens.”
Abdullah said that the new Palestinian state would “absolutely not” be issuing Palestinian passports to refugees.
Neither this definitional status nor U.N. statehood, Abdullah says, would affect the eventual return of refugees to Palestine. “How the issue of the right of return will be solved I don’t know, it’s too early [to say], but it is a sacred right that has to be dealt with and solved [with] the acceptance of all.” He says statehood “will never affect the right of return for Palestinian refugees.”
The right of return that Abdullah says is to be negotiated would not only apply to those Palestinians whose origins are within the 1967 borders of the state, he adds. “The state is the 1967 borders, but the refugees are not only from the 1967 borders. The refugees are from all over Palestine. When we have a state accepted as a member of the United Nations, this is not the end of the conflict. This is not a solution to the conflict. This is only a new framework that will change the rules of the game.”
The Palestinian Liberation Organization would remain responsible for refugees, and Abdullah says that UNRWA would continue its work as usual.
U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration recently pledged to veto statehood in the Security Council, which would leave the Palestinians the option of seeking a General Assembly resolution. If this happens, Abdullah says, 129 countries have committed to positive votes.
The United States has of late been taking steps to dissuade the Palestinians from taking their bid to the U.N., sending negotiators to meet with Palestinian officials. The ambassador says these talks have not been fruitful.
“They won’t offer us anything … that saves the peace process,” he says. “They would offer us nothing except to say that they will cut financial aid, and other such threats. Dignity is much more important than a loaf of bread.”
The last minute threats Abdullah refers to include a bill proposed by the chair of the U.S. House Foreign Relations Committee, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, which would cut U.S. funding to any U.N. body that recognizes the Palestinian statehood.
Abdullah says now is the time to seek statehood because the peace process has been stalled for around a year, and rattles off the dates of locations of failed meetings with the Israelis last September.
“These meetings did not bring us one iota closer to achieving the goal the negotiations were resumed to achieve.” He says that there are now new obstacles, including settlement building “with some haste” and Israel’s insistence that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state or a national home for the Jewish people.
Abdullah says the Palestinians effectively have no choice but to go to the U.N. With talks at an impasse, he says, “nothing was left for us to protect the international consensus of the two-state solution.”
A U.S. veto in the Security Council, Abdullah says, would only harm the great power. “The United States is propagating that it is the champion of freedom and democracy around the world, and if it denies the Palestinians the right to be free, to be democratic, and to live in dignity, it is not a good sign for the U.S. It leaves a dark stain … It’s not good for America,” he says. “America deserves better.”
He says the U.S. should be mindful of “signals in the region … that are ringing a bell.” He mentions the tension between Turkey and Israel and the recent eruption of protests at the Israeli embassy in Cairo.
“If wrong policies are adopted in the U.S., it will only give a freer hand to extremism. It only empowers negative forces. And this will make it more difficult and complicated for rational forces to prevail.”
Despite clear signs of opposition from the U.S., Abdullah says anything could happen next week, when the U.N.’s General Assembly session opens and the issue of Palestinian statehood will be debated.
“When we go [to the United Nations],” he says, “we [will not] bet on anything.”
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 15, 2011, on page 2.
© 2011 The Daily News