U.S. military judges have dropped all war crimes charges against the only two Guantanamo prisoners facing trial by military tribunal. The judges said they lacked jurisdiction under the strict definition of those eligible for trial under the Military Commissions Act, enacted by Congress last year. The rulings are the latest setback for the Bush administration’s efforts to put prisoners at Guantanamo through some form of judicial process. It was forced to rewrite the rules last year after the U.S. Supreme Court deemed the old tribunals illegal. Charges were dropped against Omar Khadr, a Canadian captured in Afghanistan when he was 15 years old. He was accused of killing a U.S. soldier with a grenade and wounding another. Charges were also dropped for Salim Ahmed Hamdan of Yemen, who is accused of driving and guarding Osama bin Laden.
Marine Colonel Dwight Sullivan, the chief of military defense attorneys at Guantanamo Bay: “This indicated that the commission system cannot proceed. Once again there’s a fundamental impediment to the military commission proceeding. Once again the military commission system has demonstrated that it’s a failure. Once again we see a demonstration that we can’t just set up another system of justice and call it justice.”
The American Civil Liberties Union said the decision proves the military commission proceedings are fundamentally flawed. Jameel Jaffer of the ACLU said the Bush administration should try the prisoners in ordinary courts martial or civilian courts.
Jameel Jaffer: “The judge has said that the tribunal does not have the authority to try Omar Khadr on the grounds on which the court has made that decision are far-reaching and are going to have real consequences not only for Khadr but for other prisoners who have been tried and may be tried in the future.”
Despite Monday’s rulings, both of the Guantanamo prisoners will remain in custody and in legal limbo at the detention camp.
In Iraq, the U.S. military has privately admitted the so-called surge is failing to meet its targets. The New York Times has obtained an internal assessment that shows only one-third of the neighborhoods in Baghdad are now under the control of U.S. or Iraqi forces. Meanwhile, U.S. troops are continuing to search for two missing U.S. soldiers in Iraq. On Monday, a group known as the Islamic State of Iraq claimed the soldiers had been killed. The group released a video that included images of the soldiers’ military identification tags, but no proof that the soldiers were dead.
President Bush has arrived in the Czech Republic as tensions mount between Washington and Moscow over the Bush administration’s plan to deploy a missile defense system in the Czech Republic and Poland. Russian President Vladimir Putin has threatened to target Russian missiles at Europe if Washington goes ahead with the project.
Vladimir Putin: “If a new missile defense system will be deployed in Europe, then we need to warn you today that we will come with a response. We have to ensure our security, and we are not the initiator of this process.”
Putin also accused Washington of altering the strategic balance by unilaterally pulling out of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2002. President Bush said today Russia has nothing to fear from the missile defense system.
Meanwhile, the German government is launching one of its largest security operations ever ahead of the start of the G8 meeting on Wednesday. Germany is deploying 16,000 police officers and 1,100 soldiers to the small resort town of Heiligendamm, the site of the three-day summit. Germany has also put up a seven-mile wall topped with barbed wire to surround the resort. Global warming is expected to be a key issue at the G8 summit. President Bush’s new proposal for a climate change strategy that rejects setting mandatory caps on greenhouse gas emissions has been widely criticized.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper: “We believe that we should have targets. We agree on what those long-term targets should be. I think our long-term targets are really close. And we also agree that we should be part of United Nations process. United Nations can have several different tracks, but ultimately we have to have everybody, all major emitters, committed to being included and being part of an eventual regime that has targets.”
Greenpeace has urged the G8 nations to act swiftly against climate change.
Joerg Feddern, Greenpeace: “The first thing is that the G8 countries give a worldwide sign that they said, yes, binding target 2020 is 30 percent CO2 emissions less than (compared) to 1990. This is the first thing. The second thing is that Mrs. Merkel said, here in Germany, we wanted a clear, positive sign for the whole world: 40 percent CO2 reduction until 2020. If this is the result of this G8 summit, then it is successful. If not, it will fail.”
In Washington, Democratic Congressman William Jefferson of Louisiana has been indicted on federal charges of racketeering, money laundering and soliciting more than $400,000 in bribes. The charges come nearly two years after federal investigators raided his home and found $90,000 in cash stuffed in his freezer. Federal prosecutors say most of the cash came from an FBI informant. If convicted on all counts, Jefferson faces up to 235 years in prison. Two of Jefferson’s associates have already struck plea bargains with prosecutors and have been sentenced.
In Oregon, the environmental activist Daniel McGowan has been sentenced to seven years in prison for his role in a pair of politically motivated arsons in the Pacific Northwest. McGowan is the ninth member of the Earth Liberation Front to be sentenced. The judge ruled one of the arsons was an act of terrorism. The Civil Liberties Defense Center and the National Lawyers Guild have criticized the Bush administration for treating the activists like terrorists, since their actions involved only property damage.
In Hong Kong, some 55,000 people gathered on Monday to mark the 18th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Hundreds, if not thousands, of people are believed to have been killed when Chinese troops were sent into Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989, to quash weeks of student-led democracy demonstrations.
Yeung Sum, of Hong Kong’s Democratic Party: “So I think the Chinese government has to apologize, has to set up an inquiry to look into the cause. And they also have to give compensation to all those victims concerned, and they have to let those political dissidents who fled away from China to go back to their hometown.”
In China, human rights activists say at least six dissidents were detained in recent days ahead of the anniversary. At least one member of the group Tiananmen Mothers was placed under house arrest. A former student demonstrator was detained after being interviewed on Voice of America.
Meanwhile, an imprisoned Chinese journalist has joined a lawsuit against the Internet company Yahoo. The journalist Shi Tao is serving a 10-year sentence for emailing a government document about the Tiananmen Square massacre to a pro-democracy group in the United States. He was arrested after Yahoo turned over his account information to Chinese authorities. On Monday, the World Association of Newspapers gave Shi Tao its Golden Pen of Freedom Award.
Thousands of Palestinians took to the streets across the West Bank today to mark the 40th anniversary of the 1967 Six-Day War. A siren was scheduled to sound across the occupied West Bank to mark 40 years since Israel occupied the Palestinian territories. Meanwhile in Hebron, Jewish settlers demonstrated in support of their right to live in the occupied West Bank. The Six-Day War began 40 years ago today. It resulted in a reshaping of the Middle East. Israel seized the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan, the Golan Heights from Syria, and the Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula from Egypt. To mark the 40th anniversary of the war, Amnesty International issued a major report on Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories. Amnesty accused Israel of blatantly violating international laws and imposing collective punishment on the Palestinian population. Amnesty criticized Israel for constructing a wall through the West Bank. The human rights group also called on Palestinian militants to stop targeting Israeli civilians.
In Cuba, Fidel Castro has appeared in his first television interview since becoming ill 10 months ago. On Monday, Cuban television showed a clip of Castro talking about his recent meeting with the president of the Vietnamese Communist Party, Nong Duc Manh.
Fidel Castro: “He is a very intelligent person with a lot of solid experience, with a lot of energy. He came to work, visited places of interest. It was a working visit, truly.”
Castro has not appeared in public since July 31, when he handed power to his brother, Raul Castro.
A military panel has recommended that an Iraq War veteran should lose his honorable discharge status because he wore his uniform during an antiwar protest. Marine Cpl. Adam Kokesh is a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War and had taken part in protests in Washington and New York. The military began investigating Kokesh after his photograph appeared in The Washington Post. Kokesh has received support from the nation’s largest combat veterans group, the Veterans of Foreign Wars. On Friday, the organization urged the military to “exercise a little common sense” and call off its investigation. Gary Kurpius, national commander of the VFW, said, “Trying to hush up and punish fellow Americans for exercising the same Democratic right we’re trying to instill in Iraq is not what we’re all about.” Adam Kokesh spoke last month in uniform during a Memorial Day protest in New York.
Marine Cpl. Adam Kokesh: “When we say bring our brothers and sisters still in Iraq home now, who are we talking to? The electorate said it last November, but we have yet to see any results. We are the weapons of this democracy ruled by the people, but out democracy has failed us. It is time for the people to end this war.”
And U.S. Senator Craig Thomas of Wyoming has died at the age of 74. In November, the Republican senator announced he had leukemia. He was first elected to the Senate in 1994.