March 25, 2008

  • Supreme Court Considers Unique Habeas Corpus Case
  • UN Human Rights Council Looks at US Immigration Policies
  • Zimbabwe Elections Preview
  • Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood Member Arrested En Masse Before Election
  • Demonstrates Call for Sarajevo’s Corrupt Leaders to Step Down

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Fierce Fighting in Basra
Heavy fighting in the southern Iraqi city of Basra has claimed the lives of at least a dozen people today. The fighting has been raging since dawn and many parts of southern Iraq were reportedly under curfew by nightfall. The government has deployed thousands of Iraqi troops to the oil-rich city and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki has flown to Basra to personally supervise the operation there. Iraq’s largest Shiite militia – the Medhi Army – is technically observing a ceasefire, although reports from Basra indicate that Mehdi militiamen are participating in combat there.

Muqtada al-Sadr Calls for Civil Disobedience
Meanwhile, Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada Al Sadr has ordered his followers to begin a campaign of civil disobedience in response to a government crackdown on the Mehdi Army and its civilian supporters. Hiba Dawood reports.

Followers of Shiite cleric Muqtada Al Sadr completely shut down entire areas of Baghdad today as part of a civil disobedience campaign aimed at pressuring the government to release members of the Mehdi Army militia that have been arrested in recent weeks. Iraqi and US forces stepped up their actions against the Shiite militia two weeks ago, with random arrests and raids targeting Al Sadr offices. Al Sadr warned the government of Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki on Sunday to cease hostilities against his supporters or face a campaign of civil disobedience. The deadline passed on Monday without response from the government. In many areas in Baghdad today, Sadrists shut down schools and government offices. Elements of the Mehdi Army have also reportedly closed the entrances and exits of many areas they control, patrolling with loud speakers, asking people not to leave their homes. Muqtada Al Sadr announced in his statement Sunday that the civil disobedience will continue unless the government stops the campaign of arrests and raids targeting his followers and releases all Sadrists in government and US custody. This is Hiba Dawood for FSRN.

Pentagon Admits to Shipping Nuclear Missile Fuses to Taiwan on Accident

The Pentagon has admitted to mistakenly shipping fuses for nuclear missiles to Taiwan. The Pentagon claims to have not realized the mistake until just last week – although the shipment occured in 2006. Taiwan has returned the fuses that arrived instead of the helicopter batteries that had been ordered. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says an investigation is underway.

Tibetans in Nepal Focus Protests on Chinese Embassy

Hundreds of Tibetan monks and refugees staged protests in front of the Chinese embassy in Kathmandu today, calling for an end to Chinese Army action in their homeland. The Tibetan government-in-exile says the Chinese Army has killed some 140 people since the start of the operations to put down pro-independence protests in Tibet. PC Dubey reports.

Tibetan protesters demonstrated in front of the Chinese embassy in Kathmandu today in opposition to China’s deadly crackdown in Tibet. The Tibetan exiles have been demonstrating in front of the United Nations office for the past week, but today marked the first time they targeted the Chinese mission in Nepal. An estimated 20,000 Tibetan refugees live in camps throughout Nepal. Nepalese police reacted to today’s protest by baton-charging the crowd and arresting over 100 protesters including some 50 monks. Nepal’s ruling alliance maintains close relations with China and has little tolerance of protests against Chinese policy. Just last week, the government announced that it will shut down all access points to Mount Everest in order to allow the Olympic Torch to pass without risk of protests. Amnesty International has condemned the action of the Nepalese police today, saying it constitutes a violation of the refugees’ right to free expression and peaceful assembly. From eastern Nepal, I am PC Dubey for FSRN.

Two Adoption Attorneys Charged with Human Trafficking in Guatemala
Two Guatemalan adoption agency attorneys have been charged with fraud and human trafficking as part of a new effort to clean up the notoriously corrupt industry. Trevor Snapp has more on the story.

The charges of fraud and human trafficking are the most serious brought against Guatemalan adoption lawyers in decades. Government prosecutors say it’s just the beginning of a longer campaign to clean up the multi-million dollar industry. The lawyers both work for Casa Quivira, one of Guatemala’s most respected adoption agencies. Investigators raided the adoption center last year and found numerous irregularities among the cases files of the 46 children in the process of being adopted by US families. The most serious involved 5 children whose birth mothers allegedly gave false identities to avoid having to obtain permission from family members and a judge to give up their babies. Prosecutors have been unable to find eighteen other birth mothers cited in the agencies case files. United Nations data shows that approximately one in every 100 babies born in Guatemala is brought up by US parents. The government has been much more aggressive in prosecuting adoption fraud since center-left President Alvaro Colom took office earlier this year. Both attorneys charged in the Casa Quivira case say they plan to appeal. For FSRN, I’m Trevor Snapp.



Supreme Court Considers Unique Habeas Corpus Case

The Supreme Court heard a case regarding US citizens, Shawqi Omar and Mohammad Munaf, who have been stripped of their right to challenge their detention because they are held in US prisons in Iraq. This is the first case of its kind, so the justices have little precedent to turn to. Washington Editor Leigh Ann Caldwell spoke with Matthew Maclean, a partner at Pillsbury, Winthrop, Shaw, Pitman law firm. He helped to author an amicus brief filed by the American Bar Association – but it should be noted he not speaking on behalf of the ABA. Maclean was present for this morning’s hearing.

UN Human Rights Council Looks at US Immigration Policies

There are an estimated 38 million non-citizens living in the United States, including about 12 million people who live in the country out of documented status. A United Nations migrants’ human rights investigator visited the US for a three-week period to assess protections for migrants. Special rapporteur Jorge Bustamante has now submitted his report to the UN Human Rights council. Babak Bazargan reports from Geneva.

Zimbabwe Elections Preview

Highly anticipated presidential elections are set to take place this Saturday in Zimbabwe – which threatens to drive Robert Mugabe from power. But controversy is already stirring as to whether the elections will be free and fair. Tiny Magija reports from Johannesburg.

Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood Member Arrested En Masse Before Election

The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood platform for the upcoming local elections in April includes lowering food prices, achieving greater social equality for all, fighting corruption and improving women’s health care. But more than 800 Muslim Brotherhood members have been arrested in the lead up to next month’s elections, including many who were planning to place themselves as opposition candidates for local municipal councils. And out of 5,000 hopeful candidates, just under 500 members affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood’s political party were able to register for the 52,000 municipal seats up for grab. In contrast, according to the state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper, 57,000 members of the ruling National Democratic Party had successfully registered. FSRN’s Aya Batrawy reports from Cairo.

Demonstrates Call for Sarajevo’s Corrupt Leaders to Step Down

A series of violent murders over the last month have prompted weekly demonstrations in Sarajevo. Frustrated by widespread corruption and ineptitude, citizens have organized public actions calling for resignations of the local and regional leaders. Amy Miller reports from Sarajevo, Bosnia.

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