Daily Report

Uzbekistan back from the brink?

With the world still trying to get a grasp of the magnitude of the violence that has shaken Uzbekistan over the past week, the Uzbek government claims to have retaken (with no bloodshed) the small eastern border town of Korasuv, where local authorities were ousted in a popular uprising. The regime is claiming the uprising there was led by Islamic militants, and has arrested Bakhtiyor Rakhimov, said to be their leader, and several others. The government has now also officially raised its estimate of the dead in the suppression of protests in nearby Andijan to 169--still a far cry from the estimates of opposition activists, who claim between 500 and 700. The government is also claiming the dead are overwhelmingly members of the security forces killed by "terrorists"; opposition leaders say they are overwhelmingly protesters killed by security forces. It does appear that armories were raided by protesters, and that firing came from both sides. Over 2,000 prisoners were said to be freed when protesters stormed the prison. (BBC, May 19)

Conscientious objector gets hard labor—but no jail time

U.S. Navy conscientious objecotr Pablo Paredes was sentenced to three months hard labor May 13 for refusing deployment to the Persian Gulf. He was also demoted from petty officer third class to seaman recruit, the lowest rank in the Navy. His lawyers call it a victory for war resisters around the country. Prosecutors had asked the judge to sentence Paredes to nine months of confinement and a bad conduct discharge. (Democracy Now, May 13)

Kuwait grants women political rights

The New York Times reported yesterday that Kuwait, at long last, has granted full political rights to its women citizens. Better late than never, eh? An interesting irony that during Operation Desert Storm women had the vote (for what it was worth, which was admittedly very little) in Iraq but not Kuwait...

Nepal: "normalization" of royal dictatorship?

Nepal's royalist government May 18 freed nine opposition political leaders detained since King Gyanendra seized sweeping emergency powers over three months ago. Nepal's Supreme Court one day earlier ruled the politicians had been held illegally, and ordered that the detainees, including three former ministers, be freed from police detention. But the same day they were released, authorities held for questioning Kanak Mani Dixit, a leading journalist and commentator who, in a newspaper article in April, urged the king to become a ceremonial head and stay out of politics. This was the latest in a series of detainments of Nepalese journalists since the king seized emergency powers. (Reuters, May 18)

Posada Carriles arrested

Luis Posada Carriles, the Cuban exile and accused terrorist who re-entered the U.S. to file an asylum claim, has been arrested by immigration authorities and is being held at a Florida facility run by the Homeland Security Department's Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. He was arrested a private home in the Miami area hours after he held what the NY Times called a "furtive press conference" in which he denied involvement in the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner which left 73 dead. Venezuela is seeking his extradition to face charges in the 1976 case. The Times declined to attend the press conference because reporters would have to be driven to an undisclosed location by Posada's associates, and restrictions on what questions could be asked were imposed. (NYT, May 18)

Also May 17, over 1 million rallied in Havana for Posada's extradition, in what authorities billed as a "march against terrorism." Invited foreign guests also took part, including Daniel Ortega, general secretary of Nicaragua's Sandinista Liberation Front, and Giustino Di Celmo, father of Fabio Di Celmo, the Italian businessman who was murdered in 1997 when a bomb attributed to Posada's terror network exploded in a Havana hotel. (Granma, May 18)

Abu Ghraib convictions: spooks stay in the shadows

There has been a second conviction in the Abu Ghraib torture scandal--once again of a low-ranking MP, Army Spc. Sabrina Harman. The media have made much of her conviction in a court martial at Fort Hood, TX, playing up quotes expressing her contrition and even humiliation. "As a soldier I failed in my duties and in my mission," Harman said (her voice cracking, as AP added). "Not only did I let down the people in Iraq, I let down every single soldier that serves today." (AP, May 17)

Seemingly forgotten are news accounts from a year earlier, when the scandal was just breaking, implying that Harman and her fellow MPs were following the lead of higher-ups in subjecting the prisoners at Abu Ghraib to torture and ritual humiliation. "They would bring in one to several prisoners at a time already hooded and cuffed," Harman wrote in an e-mail from Baghdad that was quoted in the Washington Post of May 8, 2004. "The job of the MP was to keep them awake, make it hell so they would talk."

What happened in Uzbekistan?

The government and opposition protesters are sharply at odds in Uzbekistan days after the eastern city of Andijan exploded into violence. A May 15 AP report claimed some 500 bodies had been laid out in a school in Andijan for identification by relatives, "corroborating witness accounts of hundreds killed" when soldiers opened fire on street protests. Medical authorities also reported some 2,000 wounded in local hospitals. However, a May 18 account on Russia's MosNews.com quotes Uzbek officials denying this very death toll. “Not a single civilian was killed by government forces there," Prosecutor General Rashid Kadyrov said. According to him the overall death toll was 169 people, including 32 soldiers. Kadyrov claimed reports of 500 or even 700 dead are “deliberate attempts to deceive the international community." He assailed the protesters as "terrorists," "criminals" and "extremists."

Newsweek "retraction" on Gitmo Koran controversy: rush to judgement?

Allegations in the May 9 Newsweek that U.S. military interrogators at Guantanamo Bay had abused a Koran, and even flushed one down a toilet, led to riots that left several dead in Afghanistan May 11. By the next day, protests had spread from Jalalabad (where they began) to Kabul, where a CARE office was ransacked, and several other cities across the country. Large, angry protests were also held in Pakistan, Indonesia, Gaza, Yemen and elsewhere around the Islamic world. (Reuters, May 13)

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