President Bush has commuted the sentence of Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff Lewis “Scooter” Libby, sparing him from a two-and-a-half-year prison sentence in the CIA leak case. The move came just five hours after a federal appeals panel had made Libby’s imprisonment imminent, ruling he could not put off his sentence while appealing his conviction. Libby was convicted in March, the highest-ranking White House official ordered to prison since the Iran-Contra affair. He was found guilty of perjury, obstruction of justice and making false statements in the investigation into who blew the cover of CIA officer Valerie Plame, whose husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, had criticized the Iraq War. In a statement, President Bush said: “I respect the jury’s verdict. But I have concluded that the prison sentence given to Mr. Libby is excessive.” Libby’s prosecutor, Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald disputed Bush’s view, saying “an experienced federal judge … imposed a sentence consistent with the applicable laws.” Democrats condemned the decision. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called Libby’s conviction “the one faint glimmer of accountability for White House efforts to manipulate intelligence.” Libby won’t see a day of jail time. His felony conviction will remain, and he will have to pay a $250,000 fine and serve two years of probation.
In Iraq, at least 10 civilians have been killed in a U.S. airstrike on the city of Diwaniyah. The Pentagon says it was targeting insurgent gunfire. Iraqi police shot and killed one person while dispersing a crowd of angry residents who had taken to the streets to protest.
In other Iraq news, a Pentagon spokesperson has accused Iran of organizing and backing Hezbollah fighters to attack U.S. troops. Brigadier General Kevin Bergner said the fighters were used in a January attack that killed five U.S. soldiers. A spokesperson for Iran’s Foreign Ministry dismissed the charge as “silly, ridiculous and a sheer lie.”
Four female employees of the contractor Kellogg, Brown and Root and its former corporate parent Halliburton have filed suit alleging sexual harassment and two cases of rape while working in Iraq. In separate filings, the women say they faced repeated sexual harassment despite complaining to their supervisors. One plaintiff says she needed surgery after being drugged and raped by male co-workers in Baghdad in 2005. KBR is the largest military contractor in Iraq.
Here in the United States, three members of Iraq Veterans Against the War were arrested Saturday after they tried to meet with active-duty soldiers at the base at Ft. Benning, Georgia. According to the group, Liam Madden and Nathan Lewis were arrested after being told they could not wear political T-shirts. The two were wearing shirts reading “Iraq Veterans Against the War.” Fellow veteran Adam Kokesh was then arrested despite changing into a plain shirt. The veterans have been ordered to appear in court later this month to face trespassing charges. The arrests came just days after the three were detained in a similar incident at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.
In campaign news, Senator Barack Obama has emerged as the leading fundraiser for the second quarter of this year. Obama pulled in $32.5 million in donations, almost all for the primary race. Most of the money came from small donations averaging $200, meaning those same donors can contribute again. Senator Hillary Clinton came in second at $27 million. Former North Carolina Senator John Edwards was third at $9 million.
Meanwhile on the Republican side, Arizona Senator John McCain has let go dozens of campaign staffers after falling far short of his fundraising goals. McCain’s campaign is struggling with a budget of around $2 million.
In Israel and the Occupied Territorities, Palestinian officials in the Fatah-controlled West Bank are demanding Israel release the full amount of Palestinian tax revenue it’s frozen for more than a year. Israel promised to hand over the funds after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas dismissed the democratically elected Hamas-led government last month. But Palestinians say Israel has transferred just just one-fifth of the more than $600 million owed.
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat: “I need to remind you here that this money is Palestinian money, it’s not an Israeli money. These are Palestinian revenues. As I said, we are under occupation. We don’t have airports. We don’t have harbors. So all our imports come through Israeli ports and Israeli harbors and airports. In accordance with the past protocol, Israel collects these revenues for us, deduct a surcharge of 3 percent and then transfer the rest, which is equivalent to $55 to $60 million a month. Today I believe we have more than $600 million. Israel had transferred 20 percent of it. And we need to transfer the whole lot.”
The Israeli nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu has been sentenced to another six months in prison for speaking to the international media. Vanunu was released in 2004 after spending 18 years in jail for disclosing information that proved Israel had a stockpile of nuclear weapons. Israel barred Vanunu from speaking to the foreign press, but he defied the order — speaking to several foreign outlets including Democracy Now! Earlier this year, an Israeli court convicted him of violating the terms of his release. On Monday, Vanunu attorney Avigdor Feldman denounced the new sentence.
Avigdor Feldman: “Vanunu was convicted for violating a rule that does not exist in any other democratic world that forbids speaking to foreigners, regardless of the contents of the conversation. The court convicted him, sentenced him to six months in prison. This sentence is not acceptable and not imaginable.”
In addition to his foreign media ban, Vanunu is also barred from leaving Israel. Speaking to reporters outside the courtroom, Vanunu urged Israel to let him leave.
Mordechai Vanunu: “My target is to be free, to leave this country, I don’t want to live here. I have 18 years in prison, now another three years. I want to leave and to start my life. I have the right to be free. I am a free man. I want to be free, and I want to leave. … I am not answering any questions now. Thank you.”
At least eight people are now in custody in connection to the attempted car bombings in London and Glasgow last week. Five of the suspects are said to either work as doctors or study in medical school. One of the suspects, Jordanian neurosurgeon Mohammed Asha, was arrested along with his wife in Newscastle. On Monday, Asha’s father, Abdul Qader Asha, declared his son’s innocence and called for his release.
Abdul Qader Asha: “I am sure Mohammed does not have any links of this nature, because of his history in Jordan. And since he was born, he has not undertaken any kind of activity of this nature.”
Opposition activists in Mexico are marking the first anniversary of a controversial election that brought the country to a standstill. President Felipe Calderon defeated former Mexico City Mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador by just over half a percentage point. But Calderon’s victory was marred by accusations of corruption and fraud. On Sunday, Lopez Obrador joined with tens of thousands of supporters at a major rally in Mexico City.
Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador: “One year from the election fraud, we are able to say with pride and decision that the right and its supporters were wrong. He we are, and continue, convinced more than ever of the need of pushing for an alternative project for the nation.”
In Argentina, the wife of President Nestor Kirchner has announced she’ll run as a candidate in Argentina’s presidential election later this year. Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner will run in place of her husband, who is not seeking a second term. In an interview last week, Nestor Kirchner said he is willing to become Argentina’s “first gentleman.”
Argentine President Nestor Kirchner: “Whether someone is president or first lady — or first gentleman, as some say — what does it matter? What matters is that Argentina goes ahead in its process of change. We have the men and women to continue transforming Argentina.”
In India, hundreds of people gathered in the southern city of Chennai to protest the visit of a U.S. aircraft carrier. The nuclear-powered USS Nimitz is the first U.S. aircraft carrier to visit India’s ports.
David Pandian of the Communist Party of India: “We are totally opposed to the visit of this warship because it is a violation of our foreign policy. India has been — from the inception of its independence, has been following a neutral policy that has been aiming for world peace. But now the Manmohan Singh-led government has descended down to the low level of abdicating all that we stood for.”
Venezuela and Iran have increased ties with a series of new deals. On Monday, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced agreements on a joint petrochemical plant and other economic cooperation. Speaking in Tehran, Chavez said the two countries are forming a “brotherly” front against the Bush administration.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez: “And I finish with this. That is why in Washington they begin to worry when they see us shaking hands, with our steel fists, because they represent the steel of the moral of our peoples.”
In other news from Iran, Iran’s state broadcaster has launched its first 24-hour English news channel. Press TV Director Shahab Mossavat said he hopes to compete with the satellite networks, including Al Jazeera and the BBC.
Shahab Mossavat: “Press TV is a 24-hour English-language news network set up here in Iran. We broadcast from Tehran and around the world. Our aims are to be a news provider globally. What we do in terms of output, we have programs that are both global and cover the Middle East.”
In Turkey, 18 suspects went on trial Monday for the murder of Turkish-Armenian editor Hrant Dink. Dink was slain outside his office in January in what many believe was a political killing for his efforts to challenge Turkish denial of the Armenian genocide. More than 1,000 people demonstrated outside the courtroom Monday demanding a fair proceeding. Several Turkish newspapers have reported one of the main suspects said he murdered Dink on the orders of police officers. The lead-up to the trial has brought accusations of lackluster investigations and state interference.
Fethiye Cetin, Hrant Dink’s lawyer: “Of course our suspicions continue, because it is a general problem. What happened during the Semdinli investigation is a clear sign of it. Firstly, all control over the legal system must be removed. This is the biggest problem.”
Cetin was referring to the recent overturning of a 40-year jail term for two paramilitary officers over their role in a controversial bombing of a bookstore in the eastern town of Semdinli two years ago.