As news of the execution of Stanley Tookie Williams spread Tuesday, reaction poured in from around the world.
In Austria, birthplace of California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, opposition politicians proposed stripping Schwarzenegger of citizenship and removing his name from a sports stadium in his hometown. One group suggested it be re-named “Stanley Tookie Williams Stadium.”
In Britain, Amnesty International director Kate Allen said: “This is yet another sad milestone in the history of the US justice system. Williams’ violent past was well known but he had become a textbook version of rehabilitation and his execution was a travesty of justice.”
Williams was executed early Tuesday after California Governor Schwarzenegger denied his bid for clemency. He had spent 24 years on death row for the murder of four people in 1979 — crimes he maintained he did not commit. After the execution, Lorna Owens, the stepmother of one of the victims, said: “I believe it was a just punishment long overdue.”
Family and supporters announced they would hold a large public funeral service for Williams in Los Angeles. At his request, Williams will be cremated and his ashes will be spread in South Africa.
Barbara Becnel, a close confidante of Williams who attended his execution, vowed to clear his name. Bechnel said: “We are not going to forget… I am going to prove that Stan was innocent and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is a cold-blooded murderer.”
In Europe, an investigation into the existence of secret CIA prisons has found evidence that reportedly bolsters recent allegations U.S. operatives kidnapped and transferred detainees on European soil. In an interim report submitted Tuesday, Dick Marty, the Swiss parliamentarian heading the investigation for the Council of Europe, wrote : “the information gathered to date reinforced the credibility of the allegations concerning the transport and temporary detention of detainees — outside all judicial procedure — in European countries.” Marty also criticized Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for not giving an adequate explanation during a visit to Europe last week.
Marty said he has asked Romania and Poland for specific information concerning allegations the countries played host to the secret prisons. Both countries have denied this charge. Marty said he believes the secret prisons have been shut down and moved to North Africa.
Meanwhile, European officials are saying the row over the secret prisons and rendition threatens to harm foreign intelligence cooperation with the US. Zbigniew Siemiatkowski, Poland’s former intelligence chief, said : “It makes everybody wonder, what is going on with such an institution as the CIA that top-secret information is being leaked and whether it is worth sacrificing, literally, life for cooperation with the agency.” Rene van der Linden, president of the Council of Europe’s parliamentary assembly, said: “If these allegations remain unresolved, they risk damaging the image of the USA in Europe and thus transatlantic relations, at a time when global security requires a strong alliance amongst our countries.”
The New York Times is reporting the military has approved a new, classified set of interrogation techniques that may conflict with a proposed ban on torture pushed by Senator John McCain. Military officials told the Times the new guidelines could give the impression the Army was pushing the limits on legal interrogation. One Pentagon official said: “This is a stick in McCain’s eye. It goes right up to the edge. He’s not going to be comfortable with this.”
In Iraq, campaigning for the country’s legislative elections wrapped up Tuesday. On Thursday, Iraqis will go the polls to elect its first full-term, four-year National Assembly. Voting has already begun for Iraqi expatriates in 15 countries.
Meanwhile, Iraqi officials are denying a New York Times report that said border guards have seized a tanker filled with thousands of forged electoral ballots headed from Iran. According to the Times, the driver of the vehicle reportedly told interrogators another three trucks carrying forged ballots have already crossed into Iraq.
Elsewhere in Iraq, sectarian violence continues to flare in the run-up to Thursday’s elections. On Tuesday, Mizhar al-Dulaimi, a Sunni Arab parliamentary candidate known for his vocal opposition to the US occupation, was killed in Ramadi. Meanwhile, four U.S. soldiers were killed in Baghdad Tuesday.
In other Iraq news, a US-led search of prisons in the country has led to the initial discovery of over 120 prisoners subjected to harsh treatment. Many of the prisoners required immediate medical attention. An Iraqi official said several of the prisoners were subjected to torture that included broken bones, pulled fingernails, cigarettes stamped into skin and electric shocks. The disclosure follows last month’s discovery of over 170 detainees in a locked basement of an Iraq Interior Ministry compound. At a news conference, US ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad said over 100 of them had been abused.
In this country, USA Today is reporting the Pentagon has launched a $300 million dollar psychological warfare operation in which pro-American messages would be planted in foreign media outlets, without disclosing the U.S. government as the source. In addition to using traditional media to plant favorable reports, the operation would also produce “novelty items” such as T-shirts and bumper stickers. The contractors include the Lincoln Group, the company currently being investigated for planting pro-military stories in Iraqi newspapers.
Meanwhile, NBC News is reporting the Pentagon has been extensively monitoring the events and gatherings of peaceful anti-war groups across the country. A military database obtained by the network lists small activist meetings and events among 1,500 “suspicious incidents” over a 10-month period. The events included a gathering at a Quaker Meeting House in Lake Worth, Florida, to plan a protest of military recruiting at local high schools. In total, the database listed over four dozen anti-war meetings or protests.
In other news, the American Red Cross announced Tuesday the resignation of chief executive Marsha Evans. Evans, who oversaw the charity’s heavily-criticized response to the Katrina crisis, is the second Red Cross head to resign in the aftermath of a major national tragedy. Former CEO Bernadine Healy resigned shortly after the September 11 attacks.
Meanwhile, a group of Katrina evacuees has taken out of full-page ad to plead for Congressional help. The group, comprised of residents from the Lakeview district of New Orleans, pooled $10,000 dollars to place a full-page ad in the Capital Hill newspaper Roll Call. The ad reads in part : “In the past three months, we have become experts at waiting. Waiting for flood waters to recede. Waiting for word from family and friends. Waiting to see what our homes and our city has become. … Now we are waiting on you. It is fully within your power to spearhead the rebuilding of our flood protection and reclaim one of the nation’s most important cities from ruin… It’s truly a sad day when victims of a natural disaster have to purchase ad space to have their voices heard.”
Meanwhile, government records analyzed by the Associated Press show that African-Americans are nearly 80 percent more likely than whites to live in neighborhoods subjected to dangerous industrial pollution. Carol Browner, who headed the Environmental Protection Agency during the Clinton administration, said: “Poor communities, frequently communities of color but not exclusively, suffer disproportionately. If you look at where our industrialized facilities tend to be located, they’re not in the upper middle class neighborhoods.”
And one of the six environmental activists arrested last week in connection to a series of arsons in the Pacific Northwest has been accused of several additional crimes. Chelsea Gerlach of Portland, Oregon, awaits trial on charges she took part in the destruction of an Oregon power transmission tower in 1999. At a bail hearing Tuesday, prosecutors said Gerlach took part in half a dozen other crimes, including a firebombing at a Colorado ski resort and an arson at an Oregon meatpacking plant. Gerlach’s attorney dismissed the charges as baseless, and said the evidence against her amounts to only two statements from informants.