Peaceful Freedom Activists Attacked in Cuba

August 14, 2011 by  
Filed under Featured, National News

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Human rights lobbyists say pro-Government mobs in Cuba have launched an attack on critics organising marches in Santiago, the island’s second largest city.

838cubaPresident of the Cuban Committee for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, Elizardo Sánchez Santa Cruz says the attacks, the third in as many weeks, marked a relatively rare use of physical violence against the dissidents.

He says the new wave of attacks has concerned activists and has blamed the violence on President Raul Castro.

Former political prisoner, José Daniel Ferrer Garcia said the worst violence came at the end of efforts by government opponents to stage street marches demanding the release of all political prisoners.

Mr Ferrer said about 20 members of Ladies in White, an organization of women relatives of political prisoners, were punched and kicked by a government-organized mob as they left mass at the Santiago cathedral.

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Guantánamo captive asks Obama to close war court

December 16, 2008 by  
Filed under National News, Politics

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A Saudi captive called for President-elect Barack Obama to close the prison at Guantánamo.

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVY BASE, Cuba — A Saudi captive accused of plotting an ill-fated al Qaeda terror attack waved a picture of Barack Obama at the war court Monday and urged the president-elect to make good on his promise to close the prison camps here.

Ahmad al Darbi, 33, delivered the message in a near whisper, displaying little of the showmanship of other defendants.

But the timing was significant: His was the last military commission hearing before the eve of Obama’s inauguration. The court closed for the holidays and doesn’t have a new hearing scheduled until Jan. 19.

”I hope this location will be closed as he promised,” said Darbi, waving a copy of an American Civil Liberties Union poster with a pensive Obama and his campaign’s closure pledge on it. “He will earn back the legitimacy the United States has lost as a world leader.”

Darbi, the brother-in-law of one of the Sept. 11 hijackers, is accused of plotting a never-realized attack on an unnamed ship in the Strait of Hormuz. He also allegedly met with Osama bin Laden and trained at an al Qaeda camp. Conviction as an al Qaeda conspirator could bring life imprisonment.

Defense lawyers argue the father of two, whose family is in Yemen, was tortured in U.S. military custody, and that the government case relies on up to 119 self-incriminating statements.

Lawyers and the judge at Monday’s hearings haggled over the conditions of his proposed March 30 trial — witnesses, evidence and what laws applied.

Yet, Obama has said he prefers classic criminal trials to the new, post-9/11 proceedings. The question now is if, and when, he would suspend commissions.

”This court is aware that on Jan. 20 there will be a new commander-in-chief, which may or may not impact on these proceedings,” said the judge, Army Col. James L. Pohl, warning everyone to stay focused “unless and until a competent authority tells us not to.”

The judge offered the instruction on the same day it was announced that Pohl was being assigned chief of the war court judiciary, the commissions’ most senior judge.

He also spoke while in Washington, Vice President Dick Cheney and Rush Limbaugh kicked around the idea of closure in an interview whose transcript was released by the White House.

”If you bring them here to the U.S. and put them in our local court system, then they are entitled to all kinds of rights that we extend only to American citizens,” Cheney told the radio talk-show host.

”Remember, these are unlawful combatants. These are people who don’t belong to any recognized military force. They don’t obey the rules of warfare,” the vice president added.

“I don’t know any member of Congress who’s volunteering to have al Qaeda terrorists deposited in his district. . . So Guantánamo has been very, very valuable. And I think they’ll discover that trying to close it is a very hard proposition.”

Meantime, defense lawyers and the prosecution dueled over which films might be admitted as evidence at trial.

The Pentagon wants to show The Al Qaeda Plan, an at-times grisly documentary on the inception of the terror group with archival images of smoldering victims of suicide bombings.

Defense lawyers have countered that they want to screen two other documentaries: Taxi to the Dark Side and Torturing Democracy, which describe abusive interrogation techniques by the U.S. military.

Taxi won the 2008 Best Documentary Oscar, and describes the brutal beating death of an Afghan cabbie who was strung up in a cage by his arms.