After nearly three months in captivity, kidnapped U.S. reporter Jill Carroll has been released. Carroll is a freelance reporter working for the Christian Science Monitor in Iraq. She was seized in January outside the offices of a prominent Sunni politician in Baghdad. In a brief television interview in Baghdad, Carroll said she is in good condition and had been treated well by her captors. Her captors freed her by leaving her in a street near the offices of the Iraqi Islamic Party. She walked inside, and people there called US officials. Although her captors threatened twice in videotapes to kill her, Carroll said they never hit her or threatened to do so. Carroll said she was kept in a room with a window and a shower, but she did not know where she was. She went on to say: “I”m just happy to be free. I want to be with my family.” On Wednesday, Jill Carroll’s sister, Katie Carroll, had read a statement on Arab television pleading for her sister’s safe release. There had been no word from Carroll’s captors in nearly two months. They had demanded the release of all women detainees in Iraqi prisons. Five out of an estimated nine women prisoners were released in January.
In news from Iraq, Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari has lashed out at growing US pressure to block him from serving a second term as prime minister. U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad has asked Iraqi Shiite politicians to seek the withdrawal of al-Jaafari’s nomination for a second term. In an interview with the New York Times, al-Jaafari said: “[There’s] concern among the Iraqi people that the democratic process is being threatened.”
Former Liberian leader Charles Taylor has been returned to his country to face war crimes charges. Taylor had been living in exile in Nigeria. He was caught Wednesday trying to enter into neighboring Cameroon. In Washington, President Bush praised the arrest in a joint appearance with Nigerian President Olesegun Obasanjo.
This news on Iran: After months of diplomatic negotiations, the Security Council has approved a statement calling on Iran to suspend uranium enrichment efforts. Both US and Russian officials, who have clashed over Iran’s nuclear activities, hailed the measure as a compromise.
In other news, Abdul Rahman, the Afghan citizen who faced a possible death sentence for converting to Christianity has arrived in Italy, where he’s been granted political asylum. Rahman was arrested two weeks ago. Under Afghanistan’s laws no one has the right to contravene Islam.
Here in the United States, an Arab-American man has been sentenced to 30 years in prison for joining al-Qaeda and plotting to assassinate President Bush. Ahmed Omar Abu Ali was convicted in November after spending nearly two years in a Saudi Arabian prison, where he says was tortured into making a confession. Two doctors who examined him corroborated his claim.
Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff has been sentenced to 70 months in prison on fraud charges stemming from his purchase of a Florida casino. Abramoff is still awaiting sentencing on federal charges of bribing government officials and defrauding at least four Native American tribes out of tens of millions of dollars.
On Capitol Hill, the Senate has approved a new bill to restrict government lobbying. The bill would deny senators gifts and meals from lobbyists and limit their ability to insert special-interest provisions in large spending bills. The measure was immediately criticized for containing several loopholes and not introducing any enforcement mechanisms. On Tuesday, the Senate overwhelmingly defeated a proposal to create an independent office that would investigate ethics complaints against members of Congress. Fred Wertheimer, the president watchog group Democracy 21 said: “This is nothing to write home about. The argument they seemed to make was `trust us.’”
In New Orleans, two former police officers and one current officer have been indicted for their role in the beating of an unarmed man that was caught on videotape. The incident occurred last October. Robert Davis, a 64-year old retired teacher, was walking in the city’s French Quarter when police accosted him. The officers hit Davis at least four times in the head, dragged him to the ground, and kneed him in the back. Davis was left bleeding on the ground.
In Washington, five former FISA court judges have urged Congress to reject the Bush administration’s argument it holds the inherent authority to conduct warrantless eavesdropping. Appearing before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday, the judges voiced support for a measure proposed by Repubican Senator Arlen Specter to grant the court a formal role in overseeing government surveillance.
In other news, Michael Berg, whose son Nick Berg was beheaded after he was kidnapped in Iraq, has announced a bid for Congress in Delaware. Michael Berg has repeatedly blamed the Bush administration’s invasion and occupation of Iraq for his son’s death. He said he was approached by representatives of the Democratic Party but will run with the Green Party because: “the Democrats have the money to get the message out, but they have the wrong message.”
In Detroit, a former federal prosecutor and a government official have been indicted for unlawful conduct in an attempt to convict four Muslim men arrested after 9/11. Prosecutor Richard Convertino and State Department official Harry Raymond Smith were charged with conspiracy, obstruction of justice and making false declarations in the case. In a major embarrassment to the Bush administration, two of the suspect’s convictions were overturned after it was disclosed prosecutors did not turn over key evidence. An investigation by the New York Times later revealed the Justice Department pressured prosecutors to continue with the case despite the lack of clear evidence. Tension has been growing for years between the Justice Department and Richard Convertino. Two years ago Convertino filed a lawsuit against then Attorney General John Ashcroft that accused the Justice Department of “gross mismanagement” in the war on terrorism. At the time Convertino claimed the Justice Department was retaliating against him because he has attacked Ashcroft’s efforts in the war on terrorism.
And a major figure in the Puerto Rican independence movement has been arrested in San Juan. On Tuesday, FBI agents arrested Antonio Camacho Negron for allegedly violating the terms of his parole. The arrest comes just months after independence leader Filiberto Ojeda-Rios was killed in a federal raid.