After a five-week court martial, British solider Lance-Cpl. Mark Cooley, 25, was convicted of feigning punches to a bound prisoner and of tying up another man and hoisting him on a forklift. Cpl. Daniel Kenyon was convicted of aiding and abetting the abuse and failing to report it. Lance-Cpl. Darren Larkin, 30, pleaded guilty earlier to one count of battery after he was shown in a photo standing with both feet on an Iraqi who was tied up on the ground. Cooley and Kenyon face up to two years in prison and Larkin faces up to six months in jail when they are sentenced.
Ahmed Abu Ali, 23, of Virginia, held for 20 months in Saudi Arabia, was flown to the US yesterday to face charges of plotting to assassinate President Bush. At his court hearing in Alexandria he requested permission to show scars on his back as proof he was tortured by Saudi authorities. The request was blocked by federal prosecutors, who also argued that he should be denied bail and held indefinitely, charging links to al-Qaeda and saying he would pose "an exceptionally grave danger" if released. A doctor who examined him reportedly found "no evidence of physical mistreatment." A lawsuit filed by his family is seeking release of details on his detainment and treatment in Saudi Arabia, charging he was arrested and held there at US behest. A valedictorian at the Islamic Saudi Academy in Alexandria, he went to Saudi Arabia to study, and was never officially charged with any crime there. Priti Patel of the group Human Rights First warned that the torture allegations could taint the government's case: "If the information comes from mistreatment in Saudi Arabia, it would raise questions about whether there's enough evidence for the indictment to hold." (UK Guardian, Feb. 23)
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez charged Feb. 21 that President Bush is behind a plot to assassinate him—and warned that if it succeeded, Venezuela would halt oil exports to the US. "If I am assassinated, there is only one person responsible: the president of the United States," Chavez said during his weekly radio and TV show, Hello President, claiming he had received a tip from his good friend Fidel Castro. "If, by the hand of the devil, these perverse plans succeed...forget about Venezuelan oil, Mr. Bush," Chavez said. Addressing his own people, he added: "I will not hide, I will walk in the streets with all of you...but I know I am condemned to death." (UK Guardian, Feb. 22)
Three international reports have fled Zimbabwe ahead of President Robert Mugabe's 81st birthday celebrations, and a fourth is in hiding after police searches their offices and threatened to have them arrested for slandering the state. Those who fled, Angus Shaw of AP, Brian Latham of Bloomberg news and Jaan Raath of the London Times, left last week following a Zimbabwe Central Intelligence Organization statement that it had launched a manhunt for a fourth journalist, Cornelius Nduna, a freelancer for several news organizations. Nduna has yet to be found. His lawyer, Beatrice Mtetwa, said the government accused him of possessing videotapes shot at a training camp for the Green Bombers, a government-backed youth militia. (AP, Feb. 22)
Attorneys for former post-9-11 detainees at New York's federal Metropolitan Detention Center call it "Brooklyn's Abu Ghraib." The detainees—none of whom were ever charged with anything related to terrorism—say in sworn affidavits and interviews with Justice Department officials that correction officers at the facility in the Sunset Park neighborhood:
Up to 400 are reported dead in an earthquake which struck near the city of Zarand in Kerman province of southeastern Iran. (RFE/RL, Reuters, Feb. 22) A December 2003 earthquake at the city of Bam, also in Zarand, killed some 30,000 and led to some ripples in Iran's political order. See WW4 REPORT #94
Al-Jazeera has aired another propaganda video from Ayman al-Zawahiri, now said to be al-Qaeda's number two man after Osama bin Laden. "Your new crusade will end, God willing, with the same defeat as its predecessors, but only after you have suffered tens of thousands of dead and the destruction of your economy," Zawahiri said in his message to "the peoples of the West" broadcast by the Qatar-based satellite channel. (AFP, Feb. 21)
Bad news for freedom of speech on opposite sides of the planet. The presidents of both Kygyzstan and Venezuela seem to have gone litigation-happy against opposition figures.