In Mexico City, up to a million Mexicans marched Sunday in one of the country’s largest demonstrations ever to show support for the city’s mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. The protest came days after Mexican prosecutors filed charges against Lopez Obrador in a move that could bar the populist politician from running in next year’s presidential election. Two weeks ago the Mexican Congress–with backing from President Vicente Fox’s party — impeached Lopez Obrador as mayor and revoked his political immunity in an attempt to force him out of the race at a time that he is leading in all opinion polls. Lopez Obrador has vowed to fight the charges — and for the presidency — from behind bars if necessary.
In Iraq, twin car bombings on Sunday in both Baghdad and Tikrit killed 25 and wounded at least 100 in one of the bloodiest days since the January elections. The deadliest attack occurred outside a Shiite mosque in Baghdad. There a vehicle packed with explosives drove into a crowd near the mosque. Then as police and residents rushed to help the victims — another suicide car bomber drove into the crowd. On Saturday, 16 people died including a cameraman working in Mosul for the Associated Press. U.S. officials are now saying the number of bombings and attacks by the Iraqi resistance has increased by as much as 40 percent since the end of March.
An internal investigation by the Army’s inspector general has cleared four of the Army’s top five officers in Iraq of any wrongdoing in connection to the torture of Iraqi detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison. Unless new evidence emerges, the Army has effectively ended its investigation into the abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison. Meanwhile Human Rights Watch has demanded that a special prosecutor be named to investigate Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and former CIA director George Tenet for possible war crimes related to the torture and abuse of prisoners.
Meanwhile another detainee being held at Guantanamo Bay has come forward to reveal that he has been systematically tortured while in U.S. custody. A Libyan-born, British resident named Omar Deghayes said that during his time in detention he has been sodomized by U.S. guards, given electrical shocks, was nearly drowned and was treated so brutally that he was left blind in one eye. Deghayes also accuses US and Pakistani interrogators of beating him, smearing his face with human excrement, starving him of food, and withdrawing light and clothing. On his detention in Afghanistan he said, “The camp looked like the Nazi camps that I saw in films … Lying on the floor of the compound, all night I would hear the screams of others in the rooms above us, as they were tortured and interrogated.” He went on to say, “My number would be called out, and I would have to go to the gate. They chained me, and put a bag over my head, dragging me off for my own turn. They would force me to my knees for questioning. They would threaten me with more torture.” Deghayes was seized in Pakistan in April 2002 by armed local intelligence officers but his lawyer says he was detained as a result of mistaken identity. Attorney Clive Stafford Smith said of his client, “He has been treated worse in Guantanamo than any other person I have come across.”
In Washington, Senator Christopher Dodd has called on John Bolton to withdraw his name to become ambassador to the United Nations. Dodd — a Democrat from Connecticut–said, “He would do himself, and I think the country, a favor by withdrawing.” Dodd’s comment comes as new allegations surface over Bolton’s qualifications for the post. Newsweek is reporting that in November 2003 British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw personally complained about Bolton to then-U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell. Straw accused Bolton on making it impossible to reach an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program. In addition, Newsweek reports that high-ranking British officials successfully persuaded the Bush administration to keep Bolton off the team working to negotiate with Libya.
The prison population here in the United States grew again last year at a rate of about nine hundred prisoners per week. A new government study released Sunday shows that 2.1 million people are in the nation’s prisons and jails. According to the Justice Policy Institute, the United States has the highest rate of incarceration in the world. One in every 138 U.S. residents is now in jail. African-American men make up a disproportionate number of prisoners. Nearly 13 percent of all African-Americans in their late 20s were in jail or prison last year. This compares to less than 2 percent of white men in the same age group.
In Texas today, President Bush is hosting Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah at his ranch in Crawford. Vice President Dick Cheney met with the Crown Prince last night in Dallas and is expected to attend today’s meeting as well. The summit comes as the price of gas is at a near all-time high. Bush is expected to prod the Saudi leader to expand oil production. Since the two last met three years ago the price of gas has soared fifty percent. The meeting also comes shortly after Human Rights Watch criticized the kingdom for violating basic human rights of its citizens. Last month, Saudi officials detained more than one hundred men who reportedly had gathered at a wedding for two men. Four of the men were sentenced to up to two years in prison as well as two thousand lashes. Meanwhile religious freedom is also under attack in Saudi Arabia. On Friday Saudi officials detained forty Pakistani Christians for holding prayers at a home in Riyadh.
In Israel a state funeral is being planned Tuesday for former president Ezer Weizman who died Sunday at the age of 80. In 1979, as defense minister, he helped secure a treaty with Egypt, the first between Israel and an Arab country. A decade earlier he headed the Israeli air force during the 1967 war. He served as Israel’s seventh president from 1993 to 2000.
Indigenous activist Mary Dann has also died at her home in Nevada. Along with her sister she helped represent the Western Shoshone nation in its fight to reclaim twenty four million acres of their ancestral land in Nevada, California, Idaho and Utah. The sisters accused the government of illegally seizing the land in 1863. Two decades ago the U.S. government awarded the Western Shoshones twenty six million dollars for the lost land. However the Western Shoshone nation has never agreed to whether it should accept the money–which has grown to more than one hundred forty million dollars. Mary Dann and her sister refused to accept the payment maintaining that the land still belonged to the Western Shoshone people. In 2002 the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights ruled that U.S. claims to the ancestral lands of the Western Shoshone nation was illegal under international law. According to the Indian Law Resource Center, the commission’s ruling marked the first time that the United States has been found in violation of international human rights laws in its treatment of indigenous people.
And in Lakeport California, hundreds gathered Saturday for the funeral of humanitarian aid worker and activist Marla Ruzicka. She died at the age of twenty eight last week in a bombing in Iraq. Three years ago she founded the group CIVIC–the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict — in order to tally the number of Iraqi civilian deaths in the war. She spent much of the past four years in Iraq and Afghanistan aiding civilians affected by the wars. Bobby Muller, of Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation, said “Marla demonstrated the fact that an individual can make a profound difference in this world. This woman was our inspiration.”