An Italian judge has ordered the arrest of 13 CIA agents for illegally kidnapping a Muslim cleric off the streets of Milan in 2003 and then transferring him to Egypt where he was reportedly tortured. According to the Italian judge, the U.S. agents seized the man — Hassan Osama Nasr — as he walked from his home to a local mosque. He was then taken away in a white van to a joint U.S.-Italian base, then flown to a U.S. base in Germany and then onto Cairo. The cleric–who is also known as Abu Omar — was never charged with a crime and has never appeared in a court of law. Once in Egypt, the cleric said he was beaten and given electrical shocks on his genitals. The kidnapping in Milan was reportedly done without the knowledge of the Italian government which had also been tracking Abu Omar with U.S. assistance. Italian officials complained that the kidnapping damaged ongoing efforts into terrorism investigations around Europe. This marks the first time a foreign government has filed criminal charges against US agents involved in counter-terrorism work abroad. Officials in Germany and Sweeden are also investigating similar cases where U.S. agents kidnapped wanted men. The U.S. describes the practice of seizing wanted individuals and then transferring them to third countries as extraordinary rendition. Reed Brody of Human Rights Watch described the issuing of the arrest warrants as a breakthrough. He said “Finally someone, somewhere may be held accountable for this shadowy program of 'renditions.' … At long last, this warrant shows that no one is above the law, not even CIA agents.”
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has admitted it could take another decade to quell the resistance in Iraq. Rumsfeld said Sunday, ’’That insurgency could go on for any number of years. Insurgencies tend to go on five, six, eight, 10, 12 years.” Rumsfeld also confirmed a report in the Sunday Times of London that U.S. officials have been secretly meeting with leaders of the Sunni resistance in an attempt to negotiate an end to the fighting.
Meanwhile in Iraq, at least 35 people died Sunday in three suicide attacks in Mosul. Targeted were a military base, a police station and a hospital.
On Friday, six Marines — including four women — died near Fallujah after their convoy came under attack. It was the deadliest attack on American women in uniform since 1945 when six Army nurses were killed in an attack on their vessel by a Japanese pilot in the Pacific.
Earlier today a U.S. helicopter carrying two pilots crashed north of Baghdad. An Iraqi reporter told Al Jazeera that the helicopter was hit by a rocket. There were no immediate reports of casualties.
In Washington, Supreme Court session ends today. The court is expected to hand down several major rulings dealing with the public display of the Ten Commandments and Internet file sharing. The justices are also expected to announce whether they will hear appeals from two journalists who may face jail time for refusing to reveal sources in the leak of the identity of Valerie Plame, an undercover CIA officer. In addition, there is speculation that Chief Justice William Rehnquist might announce his resignation. Last year Rehnquist revealed that he had thyroid cancer and was absent from the bench for five months.
The New York Times is reporting that the Bush administration is planning to begin producing the highly radioactive plutonium 238 for the first time since the cold war. The plan calls for the production of 330 pounds of the substance at a laboratory in Idaho. The program will cost $1.5 billion and generate more than 50,000 drums of hazardous and radioactive waste. Environmentalists are warning the production poses a potential threat to nearby ecosystems, including Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Teton National Park. Plutonium 238 is hundreds of times more radioactive than the kind of plutonium used in nuclear arms. Medical experts say that inhaling even a speck poses a serious risk of lung cancer. It remains unclear what the plutonium would be used for. The Bush administration said the plutonium would be used in secret missions but refused to provide details. In the past, Plutonium 238 has been used to make nuclear batteries that has powered spacecraft such as the Cassinni probe. Experts said the plutonium could also help power spy satellites or underwater espionage devices.
In Washington, nine people were arrested outside the White House Sunday during a protest against the use of torture by the United States and other nations. The protest came on the eighth annual United Nations Day in Support of Victims of Torture. Attending the protest were victims of torture from El Salvador, the Philippines and the Congo. Meanwhile President Bush issued a statement Sunday calling for the end of torture across the globe. He said “Freedom from torture is an inalienable human right, and we are committed to building a world where human rights are respected and protected by the rule of law.” Bush’s comments came just days after human rights investigators from the United Nations announced they had received credible reports that the United States was torturing detainees at the military prison at Guantanamo Bay.
In Iran, Tehran’s conservative mayor won an upset victory in Iran’s run-off presidential election. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad garnered 62 percent of 28 million votes, beating reformist former-president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. In his first press conference as president-elect, Ahmadinejad backed up Iran’s nuclear program but said he would continue negotiations with three European nations. While Rafsanjani said in his campaign that he would work to improve relations with the United States, Ahmadinejad announced he would not seek rapprochement.
A new report by Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union has accused the Justice Department of improperly detaining at least 70 Muslim men as material witnesses following the Sept. 11 attacks and of denying the detainees’ due process rights. The groups said the Bush administration threw the men into a “Kafkaesque world of indefinite detention without charge and baseless accusations of terrorist links.” Almost half of the men detained as material witnesses were never brought before a grand jury or court to testify. The U.S. government has apologized to 13 for wrongfully detaining them. Only a handful were ever charged with crimes related to terrorism. The Justice Department has refused to reveal how many material witnesses it has detained. Human Rights Watch and the ACLU have confirmed 70 such material witnesses. Sixty-four were of Middle Eastern or South Asian descent; 17 were U.S. citizens, and all but one was Muslim. The Justice Department has defended its policies. A spokesman said Sunday “Critics of law enforcement fail to recognize that material witness statutes are designed with judicial oversight safeguards and are critical to aiding criminal investigations ranging from organized crime rackets to human trafficking.”
In Pakistan, the country’s Supreme Court has begun hearing appeals in the gang rape of Mukhtar Mai. Three years ago she was gang-raped near her home upon the orders of a tribal council as punishment for a crime allegedly committed by her 12-year-old brother. Earlier this month Pakistani officials blocked her from traveling to the United States to speak about her case. In March a Pakistani court overturned the convictions of five men involved in the gang rape. Outside the court Mai said: “I have high hopes. I hope the original verdict will be upheld and that my attackers will be punished.”
In Israel, a military tribunal has convicted a former soldier in the killing of British peace activist Tom Hurndall. The 22-year-old Hurndall was shot in 2002 as he helped Palestinians take cover. He was visiting Gaza as a member of the International Solidarity Movement. After nine months in a coma, he died last year.
This news on Haiti: U.S. State Department official Roger Noriega has accused former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide of orchestrating violence in his home country. Aristide is living in exile in South Africa. He was ousted in a U.S.-backed coup nearly 18 months ago. Noriega said “We believe that his people are receiving instructions directly from his voice and indirectly through his acolytes that communicate with him personally in South Africa.” This marks the strongest statement to date by the Bush administration against Aristide since the February 2004 coup.
The Agricultural Department announced Friday that it uncovered the country’s second case of mad cow disease. The infected cow died in November. A test done by the agency at the time indicated it had the disease but the test result was not publicly disclosed until Friday — seven months later. On Saturday Taiwan reimposed a ban on American beef. Three dozen other nations already have similar bans in place.
In South Africa on Sunday, tens of thousands marked the 50th anniversary of the signing of the South African Freedom Charter. The document became the guiding light for the anti-apartheid struggle. It proclaimed “South Africa belongs to all people who live in it, black and white” and that “every man and woman shall have the right to vote.” In his autobiography, Nelson Mandela wrote that the charter became a ” a great beacon for the liberation struggle.”