Newscast for Thursday, October 20, 2011

  • New era for Libyans as Gaddafi’s death marks end to four-decade rule
  • In Libya accounts of detainee torture, mistreatment persist
  • Bangkok scrambles to secure city as record flooding nears
  • Defense bill could have long-term legacy for US detainee policy

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Thousands protest against Greek austerity vote

Widespread strikes and demonstrations brought Greece to a halt as its parliament passed a law Thursday for more austerity measures. Schools and businesses closed, garbage has been piling up in the streets for weeks, and travelers were stranded at the country’s airports as air traffic controllers joined the strike. Tens of thousands took to the streets yesterday and today, calling on the government to reject the bill, which they say is anti-worker and will only increase the country’s poverty. Greek officials say one protester was killed, and many more injured.

Having approved the law, which mandates lower wages, higher taxes and massive layoffs, Greece can receive more bailout funds from the so-called ‘troika’ of the IMF, the European Commission and the European Central Bank.

Senegalese Opposition leader sentenced to prison

In Senegal, a high profile opposition figure was sentenced this morning to two years in prison. Socialist Convergence leader Malick Noel Seck was charged with writing an alleged death threat to the Constitutional Courts. The letter criticized the judges for allowing President Abdoulaye Wade to run for a third term in 2012.

Lawyer Badara Cisse is helping to defend Seck. He told FSRN’s Alpha Jallow that the verdict sends a negative message about the state of political expression in Senegal.

“What is at stake, and this is my true belief, is really the independence of manifestation–the freedom to demonstrate and the freedom of speech, which are embodied in our Constitution.”

Cisse says he will appeal the conviction, and keep trying to get Seck released, but it’s sure to be an uphill battle.

“Anytime you challenge the power, don’t think that’s going to be easy. They don’t give you anything forgranted. You have to fight, you have to get things step by step, inch by inch. That is the way we built our country.”

FOIA documents show racial profiling in the FBI

Using post-9/11 national security loopholes, the FBI unconstitutionally investigated US citizens and groups based on race, religion and lawful political activities, according to documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union. Staff attorney Hina Shamsi:

“Our documents show that from African Americans in Georgia to Arab Americans in Michigan to Latino Americans in states around the country, the FBI has targeted communities for investigation based not on suspicious of actual wrongdoing, but on the crudest stereotypes, attributing certain types of crimes to entire racial, ethnic and religious communities.”

The ACLU is calling on the FBI to immediately implement reforms, saying discriminating against and alienating entire groups of Americans only harms national security interests.

FBI may update outdated rape definition

Advocates achieved a crucial first step this week in their campaign to change the FBI’s definition of rape, which they call narrow and outdated. The Uniform Crime Report Subcommittee voted unanimously to recommend that the FBI expand its definition. Kim Gandy is with the Feminist Majority Foundation, which has been pushing the FBI for many years to update the definition from what has been on the books since 1929.

“The only definition of rape is an extremely, extremely limited one, that really excludes a majority of what we consider today to be rape. Rape of a man isn’t included. Rape of a woman with a bottle, is not rape. Anal rape of any kind is not rape, under this definition. Oral rape is not rape. It’s about time for them to modernize it.”

Gandy says a broader definition will lead to more accurate statistics in the Annual Uniform Crime Report, which will in turn mean that more federal resources will go towards aiding the survivors of rape and prosecuting the perpetrators.

The Advisory Policy Board of Criminal Justice Information Services will take up the issue in early December. If they vote to expand the definition, it will go to FBI Director Robert Mueller for final approval.

Georgia women wrongly imprisoned for 53 days

Teresa Culpepper of Atlanta, Georgia was wrongfully imprisoned for nearly two months, simply because she had the same first name and race as a suspect. Police are now investigating if any policies or procedures were violated during her arrest and detention in the Fulton County Jail. Ashleigh Merchant is Culpepper’s lawyer, and plans to sue the city if they don’t offer a settlement.

“It’s horrible. She spent 53 days in jail for a crime that she had nothing to do with. Her birth date didn’t match, her address didn’t match, her description didn’t match. Other than the name Teresa, nothing matched!”

In late August, Culpepper called the police to report her stolen truck, but was arrested herself for an aggravated assault by another Teresa. It was only after a local television news team tracked down the woman guilty of the crime, and public defenders brought in the victim to testify that Culpepper was innocent, that she was released.

“I was real rejoiceful, and glad and happy that it came to an end, and that someone was out there trying to help me, which I thought it wasn’t.”


New era for Libyans as Gaddafi’s death marks end to four-decade rule

Libyans celebrated the death of Colonel Moammar Gaddafi today, waving the new government’s tri-color flag, flashing “V” signs and shooting firearms.

Earlier Thursday, news spread that Gaddafi was found in his hometown of Sirte, which had been under fire for weeks. Al Jazeera’s Tony Birtley said he was captured alive.

Details aren’t clear on what exactly happened following Gaddafi’s capture. Some video footage shows him alive in a loud, chaotic scene near a vehicle where a crowd pushes his body and grabs at his head. Another video appears to show his dead body being dragged on the ground. Other images show a row of killed Gaddafi loyalists, lying face down and ruling officials said Gaddafi’s son Mutassim was also killed, while another injured and detained.

As investigations into the deaths continue, many are now focusing on how the National Transitional Council will move forward and rebuild the country. NTC member Waheed Burshan told Al Jazeera that they are working on a plan for elections in the coming months to form a National Assembly. That body would develop a constitution to be put forward to the Libyan people for a vote.

In Libya accounts of detainee torture, mistreatment persist

Human rights advocates also want the NTC to address allegations of abuse by anti-Gaddafi forces. Some are questioning what kind of law and order policies are in place to ensure a transparent judicial process.

We’re joined by Fred Abrahams, researcher with Human Rights Watch. He’s been coordinating the research for Libya by the group and recently returned to New York from Libya.

Leaders across the world are responding to Gaddafi’s death. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the road ahead would be challenging and called on the country to seek reconciliation. UK Prime Minister David Cameron said he was proud of the role his country played. And US President Barack Obama called on new leaders to respect the human rights of all Libyans and tied events to other uprisings in the Arab world.

“There will be difficult days ahead, but the United States together with the international community is committed to the Libyan people. You have won your revolution. And now we will be a partner as you forge a future that provides dignity, freedom and opportunity. For the region, today’s events prove once more that the rule of an iron fist inevitably comes to an end. Across the Arab world citizens have stood up to claim their rights. Youth are delivering a powerful rebuke to dictatorship.”

The Libyan effort to oust Gaddafi was largely supported by NATO air strikes. Officials are expected to meet soon to determine what their military role will be following Gaddafi’s killing.

Bangkok scrambles to secure city as record flooding nears

Thailand is being gripped by the most severe floods in 50 years that have inundated more than 25 provinces and claimed the lives of more than 300 people.

Today, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said that at least ten percent of the city could get hit by rising waters and efforts are underway to protect the core of the city, according to the Bangkok Post.

Meanwhile, communities to the north and central plains are struggling and major relief efforts are underway to provide food to those marooned by the rising and sometimes stagnant waters. FSRN’s Ron Corben reports.

Defense bill could have long-term legacy for US detainee policy

This week Majority Leader Harry Reid announced the Senate will vote on a defense bill that includes highly controversial language on US detainee policy on American soil. The Obama Administration says the bill risks “national security setbacks” but civil rights groups have other concerns. Matt Laslo reports.

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