February 7, 2008

  • Mukasey Denies Request for Criminal Probe into Use of Waterboarding
  • Attorney General Michael Mukasey Testifies Against Reducing Sentences for Current Crack-Cocaine Offenders
  • Texas Landowners Counter Sue Homeland Security over Border Wall
  • Pakistani Police Arrest Two in Connection to the Assassination of Benazir Bhutto
  • Naples, Italy Struggles to Dig Itself Out of a Huge Back-up of Garbage Piling Up in its Streets

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Secret Jail Operating at Guantanamo Bay
The top official in charge of detention operations at the US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay has confirmed that the military runs a secret, maximum-security jail within the complex where it is holding 15 “high-value” detainees. The existence of Camp 7 was unknown prior to December of last year when it was mentioned by a detainee’s lawyer. The camp’s commander US Navy Rear Adm. Mark H. Buzby confirmed the information in an interview with the Associated Press yesterday. The whereabouts of Camp 7 within the base is top-secret information. The military says it has isolated the detainees in Camp 7 in order to protect other prisoners who may have given information about the 15 detainees during interrogations. The military also claims its secrecy about the camp’s location is to prevent it from becoming the target of a terrorist attack.

Former Syrian Political Prisoners Protest at UN Headquarters

Syrian human rights activists are protesting for the fifth consecutive day in front of the United Nations to request a meeting with the UN Secretary General to discuss alleged human rights violations by the Syrian government. Hiba Dawood has more.

In an attempt to send, what the protestors called a “message to the world from this international spot”, Syrian activists and former political prisoners have occupied a small area across the street from United Nations headquarters to protest human rights violations by the regime led by President Bashaar Assad. Sitting next to a banner which reads “No to Assad, no to the dictatorship that manufactures terrorism, we want to live, we want our freedom”, former Syrian member of parliament Muhamed Al Homsi says he and other protestors are calling on the United Nations to pressure the Syrian government to release the estimated 4000 prisoners of *conscience*. Al Homsi spent 5 years as a political prisoner before moving to the US. (audio) “We don’t want Assad’s dictatorship. We want the world to take a clear position in the face of those who violate International Law and the conventions signed inside this place. This place has a responsibility to take decisions to save the Syrian people, to save those in prison.” The protestors have so far received no response from UN officials and it remains unclear if they will get one before they leave the area tonight. This is Hiba Dawood for FSRN.

Romney Drops Out of Race

Republican Mitt Romney has dropped out of the presidential race. He announced his decision today at the annual American Conservative Union conference – a meeting of the country’s most active conservatives. (audio) “Now if I fight on all the way to the convention, I would forestall the launch fo a national campaign. And frankly I would be making it easier for Senator Clinton or Obama to win. Frankly in this time of war, I simply can’t let my campaign be aiding the war on terror.” That leaves just three Republican presidential contenders. Romney’s exit could give a boost to Mike Huckabee, as many in the conservative camp are unhappy with John McCain, calling him a liberal.

Tornado Death Toll Past 55

The death toll for tornadoes that ripped through the Southern US this week has risen to at least 57. Hardest hit was the state of Tennessee with 32 confirmed deaths. Federal and state emergency teams are in the affected region, as are utility crews, insurance adjusters, and reportedly even Blackwater contractors. Official estimates of the monetary extent of the damage are not yet available, but the series of tornadoes cut a wide path of destruction across 5 states.

Chadians Continue to Flee Country
Armed rebels in the Central African nation of Chad reportedly appear to be regrouping for another offensive, despite assurances from President Idriss Deby that the military has the entire country under control. Deby made an urgent request to the EU today for peacekeeping forces while he issued a dusk to dawn curfew for the capital city and 6 provinces. Fighting over the weekend between government troops and the rebels has sent a wave of refugees into Camaroon and Nigeria. Sam Olukoya reports from Lagos.

More than three thousand refugees have already crossed into Nigeria from Chad and Nigerian Immigration officials say they expect about 6,000 more in the coming days. Most of the refugees are women, children and the elderly. Looking tired and hungry, many of them said they trekked more than a hundred kilometers to escape the fighting in the Chadian capital N’djamena. The Red Cross says heavy fighting over the weekend in N’djamena killed at least 160 people and injured some 1,000 others. President Idriss Deby today requested the EU to deploy a peacekeeping force to Chad as soon as possible. France announced earlier this week that it is willing and able to intervene in the conflict in its former colony. For Free Speech Radio News, this is Sam Olukoya in Lagos.



Mukasey Denies Request for Criminal Probe into Use of Waterboarding

While human rights groups continue to call for an investigation into the Bush Administration’s use of waterboarding, Attorney General Michael Mukasey continues to deny the practice torture. The White House claimed yesterday that the interrogation method is legal and that Bush could authorize the CIA to use the technique. And today, Mukasey rejected a call for a criminal probe into the matter. FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell reports.

Attorney General Michael Mukasey Testifies Against Reducing Sentences for Current Crack-Cocaine Offenders

A new law dealing with the sentencing of Crack-Cocaine defendants goes into effect in less than a month. The question now is whether to allow those already serving time to have their sentences reduced. Today, Attorney General Michael Mukasey testified before congress on the issue. He wants to block a plan that would allow some crack cocaine offenders to be resentenced. FSRN Karen Miller has more from DC.

Texas Landowners Counter Sue Homeland Security over Border Wall

The Department of Homeland Security is suing dozens of landowners along the US-Mexico Border. DHS is in the process of erecting a wall to stem the flow of undocumented immigrants into the United States. Several property owners in Texas, California and Arizona have resisted, refusing to allow government survey crews onto their property. The lawsuits look to grant government officials temporary access to the private property in order to establish the most ideal path for the wall.

Now, indigenous people in the Rio Grande Valley are striking back. Several have counter-sued the Department of Homeland Security to stop what they call “irreparable harm to the community and the land on the Texas-Mexico border.”

Peter Schey of the Center for Human Rights.

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Dr. Eloisa Tamez and her husband own land along the border – land that has been in their family since the 18th century. The Department of Homeland Security has threatened them with confiscation if they do not allow surveyors on the property. The Tamez’s daughter, Margo Tamez, is part of the Lipan Apache Women’s Community Defense.

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Communities along the Texas-Mexico border are often closely connected. US border cities often have Mexican Sister-cities directly across the border; they share cultures, a workforce, and resources. The proposed border wall threatens these communities. US Customs and Border Protection hopes to build nearly 670 miles of wall by the end of the year. According to an agency spokes person, about 100 of the 600 total landowners contacted by the government have refused to give access to their land.

Pakistani Police Arrest Two in Connection to the Assassination of Benazir Bhutto

Tens of thousands of people across Pakistan completed 40 days of mourning for former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto yesterday. As the traditional Muslim mourning period comes to a close, the environment for opposition leaders is no less dangerous. Going into Pakistan’s scheduled February 18th elections, some politicians continue to fear for their safety.

Meanwhile, in what Pakistani officials called a “major breakthrough,” two quote – “very important alleged terrorists” – were arrested in connection with the opposition leader’s assassination. They were picked up in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, the same city where Bhutto was killed. Zack Baddorf reports from Pakistan.

Naples, Italy Struggles to Dig Itself Out of a Huge Back-up of Garbage Piling Up in its Streets

For more than a month, the city of Naples and surrounding areas have been buried under thousands of tons of garbage. The Italian government blames much of the problem on organized crime, which reportedly controls garbage collection in the city. Garbage collectors stopped picking up trash in mid-December because of lack of space in the city’s dumps. Some residents have taken matters into their own hands and have begun burning the trash – but this making the environmental situation worse.

This issue is nothing new in Southern Italy. So called “garbage emergencies” have been a chronic problem for the Campiania region for the last 14 years. Diletta Varlese reports.

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