A confidential Army report contains graphic details of widespread abuse of detainees in Afghanistan in 2002 by U.S. soldiers. The documents–obtained by The New York Times–show that harsh treatment by some interrogators was routine and that guards could strike shackled detainees with virtual impunity. The Times reports the abuse was carried out to extract information, used as punishment or was driven by “little more than boredom or cruelty.” The report centers on the deaths of two prisoners — one a taxi driver who died at Bagram in December 2002. According to the report, he was chained by his wrists to the top of his cell for several days before he died and his legs had been pummeled by guards. The investigation recommended last year that charges be filed against 27 soldiers in the abuse. So far, only seven have been charged, including four last week. No one has been convicted in either death.
Suspected Cuban terrorist Luis Posada Carriles was charged yesterday with illegally entering the United States and faces an immigration hearing on June 13. But the US has made it clear it does not intend to extradite Posada to Venezuela where he faces prosecution on terror charges. Venezuela has officially demanded that the US hand him over in connection to the 1976 bombing of a Cubana airlines flight that killed 73 people, including the entire Cuban fencing team.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez blasted Washington for only charging him with an immigration violation, saying not extraditing him would amount to sheltering a terrorist. In a televised speech in Venezuela, Chavez said “The CIA knew those lords of death were going to put the bomb on the Cuban plane.'’ Posada holds Venezuelan citizenship and the bombing was allegedly plotted in Caracas. What Chavez was referring to was a declassified State Department intelligence brief made public on Wednesday that says that an informant claimed that Posada said weeks before the bombing. “We are going to hit a Cuban airliner.'’ Another declassified CIA document said the agency had a report from an informant in June 1976 that a group headed by Posada’s associate Orlando Bosch planned “to place a bomb on a Cubana Airline flight traveling between Panama and Havana.” Chavez also made clear that Venezuela would not hand Posada over to Cuba if the US fulfills its obligations. The US has said it will not extradite Posada to a country that “works on behalf of Cuba.”
This comes as 20 members of Congress have called on President Bush to deny Posada political asylum and to extradite him to Caracas. In the letter, the Congressmembers reference Bush’s remarks of August, 2003 when Bush said that anyone who shelters a terrorist, or supports a terrorist, or feeds a terrorist, is as guilty as the terrorist himself. The letter also raises the issue of Posada alleged involvement in the murder of former Chilean Foreign Minister Orlando Letelier and his US assistant Ronnie Moffit on September 21, 1976 in a car bombing in Washington DC. Among the Congressmembers who signed the letter were Dennis Kucinich, Jose Serrano, Maxine Waters and Barbara Lee.
The United Nations says that Uzbekistan’s President Islam Karimov has rejected requests for an international inquiry into the bloody crackdown in the town of Andijan last week. Human rights groups say as many as 1,000 people may have been killed, while the government claims just over 150 died. We’ll have more on this later in the program.
In Haiti this week, more than 5,000 supporters of ousted president Jean-Bertrand Aristide marched in Port-au-Prince to demand his return from exile in South Africa. Speeches by Aristide blared from loudspeakers and protesters carried flags plastered with stickers supporting him. They chanted “Aristide left and came back, now he’s coming back again,” referring to the military coup that ousted him in 1991 and his restoration to power in 1994.
Meanwhile, activist groups in the United States are organizing emergency vigils in an effort to save the life of the imprisoned ousted Prime Minister Yvon Neptune. He has now entered his second month of a hunger strike and is said to be in critical condition. After a series of meetings with Neptune and government officials, Democratic Congressmember Kendrick Meek of Florida proposed that Neptune appear before a judge to face charges brought against him by the US-installed government. Neptune and his supporters have demanded his immediate release. Neptune was democratically elected and was arrested after the Aristide government was overthrown.
Now to the case of imprisoned University Professor Sami al Arian. Yesterday, a jury was seated to hear his federal trial on charges of aiding Palestinian terrorists, but his attorneys say they will continue their fight for a change of venue out of Tampa. Al-Arian is a former professor at the University of South Florida. He and his three co-defendants face a 53-count indictment that includes charges of racketeering, conspiracy and providing material support to terrorists. Five other men have been indicted but are not in custody. Prosecutors allege the men used an Islamic academic think tank and a Palestinian charity founded by Al-Arian as fund-raising fronts for the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which is on a State Department list of terrorist organizations. The group is blamed for more than 100 deaths in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Meanwhile, the U.S. government is planning to fly more than 100 Israelis to Florida to testify against al Arian. Haaretz reported this week that the Israeli witnesses will include survivors of attacks, relatives of victims, police investigators, paramedics and forensic investigators. The trial is set to begin June 6 in Tampa.
A Muslim woman who ordered a Koran through Amazon.com says that when the holy book arrived it had profanity and religious slurs written on its cover. Azza Basarudin said she received the Koran by mail on May 5 after ordering it through a used books division of Amazon.com that allows customers to order directly from third-party sellers approved by the company. When she opened the Koran, she said she found profanity and the phrase “Death to all Muslims” written on the inside page in thick black marker. Basarudin is a graduate student in women’s studies at UCLA. She said she was overwhelmed by fear similar to what she felt after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks when her sister and mother were the target of anti-Muslim slurs. The store that sold the book, Bellwether Books, apologized to Basarudin by e-mail and offered to replace the book. Amazon.com also apologized, reimbursed her for the Koran’s cost and mailed her a gift certificate. A number of Muslim civil rights groups have called for an investigation.
Former Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet has been hospitalized in Chile after reportedly suffering a serious stroke. This according to Santiago Military Hospital officials. The 89 year old Pinochet stands accused of thousands of killings, disappearances and human rights abuses during his 1973-1990 military rule. Courts have cited his health in twice blocking his trial and human rights activists charge that his health is being exaggerated to prevent the trial from moving forward.
A new study released this week found that children from military families are twice as likely to die from severe abuse as other children The pediatric experts who led the study are calling on officials at the Pentagon to do more to investigate why. The study was performed by the North Carolina Child Advocacy Institute and was presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting, in Washington, D.C.
Following a number of recent scandals, the US military says it has halted active recruiting today to give additional training to recruiters. In recent months, recruiters have been exposed for asking teens to lie to their parents, guiding recruits through duping the drug-test system, lying to recruits about the risks they would face in Iraq. One Houston-area recruiter was caught on tape threatening jail time if a recruit didn’t keep his appointment. The US military is facing its greatest recruitment crisis in history.