Saturday, 4 August 2012

Pussy Riot trial 'worse than Soviet era' Judge refuses to allow 10 defence witnesses while lawyer claims women are being tortured with lack of food and sleep Miriam Elder in Moscow, Friday 3 August 2012 19.29 BST


Pussy Riot trial 'worse than Soviet era'

Judge refuses to allow 10 defence witnesses while lawyer claims women are being tortured with lack of food and sleep

Pussy Riot members in court on hooliganism charges
Pussy Riot band members: from left, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Yekaterina Samutsevich and Maria Alyokhina in court. Photograph: Aleshkovsky Mitya/Corbis

By the end of the first week of Pussy Riot's trial, everyone in the shabby Moscow courthouse was tired. Guards, armed with submachine guns, grabbed journalists and threw them out of the room at will. The judge, perched in front of a shabby Russian flag, refused to look at the defence. And the police dog – a 100lb black Rottweiler – no longer sat in the corner she had occupied since the start of Russia's trial of the year, but barked and foamed at the mouth as if she were in search of blood.

The trial of the three band members, jailed since March after performing a "punk prayer" against Vladimir Putin in Moscow's main cathedral, has been about more than the charges brought against them – formally, hooliganism motivated by religious hatred. In five days of testimony, lawyers and witnesses have laid bare the stark divide that has emerged in Russian society: one deeply conservative and accepting of a state that uses vague laws and bureaucracy to control its citizens, the other liberal bordering on anarchist and beginning to fight against that state with any means it can.

The court is dominated by a glass cage that holds the three women – Maria Alyokhina, who has emerged as their unofficial spokeswoman; Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, whose chiselled features have made her the band's unofficial face; and Yekaterina Samutsevich, who sits in a corner of the cage looking every bit the disgruntled punk.

After five days' sitting in the cage, some days for 10 hours at a time, the women appear exhausted. Violetta Volkova, one of their lawyers, said they were being tortured – denied food and adequate sleep. After a week of being dismissed and lectured by the judge, she could no longer hide her anger. On Friday, as the judge, Marina Syrova, denied yet another defence objection, Volkova began to shout.

Syrova, her glasses forever perched perfectly in the middle of her nose, answered tartly: "You're losing the frames of dignity."

"Those frames long haven't existed here," Volkova replied, seething.

According to Pussy Riot's lawyers, Russia has revived the Soviet-era tradition of the show trial with its case against the group. "Even in Soviet times, in Stalin's times, the courts were more honest than this one," lawyer Nikolai Polozov shouted in court. Outside, during a rare break, he explained: "This is one of the most shameful trials in modern Russia. In Soviet times, at least they followed some sort of procedure."

In one week, Syrova has refused to hear nearly all the objections brought by the defence. One objection claimed that exactly the same spelling errors were found in several witness statements, implying they were falsified.

The prosecution was allowed to call all its witnesses, mainly people who were inside the church at the time of the performance or who had viewed a video of it on YouTube. They answered questions like: "What does your Orthodox faith mean to you?", "Was the women's clothing tight?" and "What offended you about their balaclavas?"

One witness said she heard music during the band's performance in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, although footage shown in court showed the women singing with no live instruments. The music was added later to their viral video clip, "Virgin Mary, Chase Putin Out!"

"What kind of music did you hear?" asked the defence. "It wasn't classical – and it wasn't Orthodox," the witness replied.

The defence, meanwhile, tried to call 13 witness, including opposition leader Alexey Navalny and celebrated novelist Lyudmila Ulitskaya. Syrova only allowed them to call three. The prosecution launched the questioning of all its witnesses with the same question: Are you an Orthodox believer? When the defence tried to ask the same question of one of its three witnesses, Syrova shouted: "Question stricken."

The defence knows they are fighting a losing battle in a judicial system that is notoriously politicised. But the media battle remains. Pyotr Verzilov, Tolokonnikova's husband, has spent the trial perched in the seat closest to his wife's cage. He tweets furiously, and constantly checks how often his message is spread.

On Friday, three men climbed on to a ledge across from the courtroom windows, wearing white, purple and green balaclavas and shouted "Freedom to Pussy Riot!". There have been reports of imitation stunts carried out in other cities in Russia.

"At first, after the [anti-Putin] protests started in December, the authorities got scared that they had lost control," Polozov said. "Now they've recovered and have started to react – and the trial against Pussy Riot is the clear first step."

Every day as the trial begins, dozens of journalists gather on the stairs outside the court, repeating a tradition launched with the second trial of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the oil tycoon and Putin foe, which was held in the same room.

Amid the crush stands Samutsevich's father and Alyokhina's mother, Natalya.

"My daughter and I had very different views about politics," Alyokhina said. "But this trial is bringing them closer."

Putin said this week that the women should not be judged "too harshly". They face up to seven years in jail if convicted but their lawyers took Putin's comments as a signal that they would not receive the full sentence. A verdict is expected next week.

Friday, 3 August 2012

New push to free convicted drug smuggler Schapelle Corby CLEMENTINE CUNEO The Daily Telegraph August 04, 201212:00AM


New push to free convicted drug smuggler Schapelle Corby


Australian drug smuggler Schapelle Corby. Picture: AFP Source:AFP

CONVICTED drug smuggler Schapelle Corby could be released on parole in just two weeks, if a letter from the federal government supporting her bid is viewed favourably in Indonesia.

Corby's family has welcomed the letter from the Australian government as "great and exciting news".

The government yesterday confirmed a letter supporting Corby's parole application was being prepared. If it is met favourably by Indonesian authorities, Corby could be eligible to apply for release in just two weeks.

The Department of Foreign Affairs refused to say whether the letter would provide a guarantee that Corby will adhere to a strict set of conditions that would likely be imposed for her parole.

"It would be premature and inappropriate to discuss the details," a DFAT spokesman said. A Corby family spokeswoman said: "This is great and exciting news which we are thankful for." It is understood Corby, 35, would live with her sister Mercedes in Bali to serve her parole time.

Corby, who was caught in 2004 attempting to import 4.1kg of marijuana into Bali in her bodyboard bag, will be eligible to apply for parole if a recommendation that another six months be shaved from her sentence is approved.

Her 20-year sentence was slashed by five years in May after she won an appeal for clemency from Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. A fresh recommendation for another six-month cut, if approved as expected, and combined with more than two years in remissions she has already received, will mean Corby would have served two-thirds of that sentence. Under Indonesian law, prisoners who have served two-thirds of their sentence are eligible to apply for parole.

Gusti Ngurah Wiratna, the governor of Bali's notorious Kerobokan jail where Corby has been imprisoned for eight years, said a guarantee would be crucial to a successful parole application.

"There are stages that must be gone through like hearing by correctional observer . . . guarantee from the family, and if she has undergone two-thirds of sentence or not, as well as a guarantee from the (Australian) embassy," Mr Wiratna said.

If she fails to win parole, the earliest Corby could walk free from Kerobokan jail is mid-2015, so long as she continues to win the maximum remissions each year.

The development comes amid resentment in some quarters in Indonesia after a clemency decision in May.

JOHNNIE LEE SAVORY Coalition Seeks DNA Testing For Man Who Insists He's Innocent of Murders That Occurred When He Was 14



Coalition Seeks DNA Testing For Man Who Insists He's Innocent of Murders That Occurred When He Was 14

Johnnie Lee SavoryJohnnie Lee Savory (Photo: Jennifer Linzer)

CHICAGO - Johnnie Lee Savory, 45, spent two-thirds of his life behind bars for a double murder that he says DNA testing can prove he did not commit.

The trouble is that, even though Illinois law guarantees the right to DNA testing when it is relevant to a claim of actual innocence, the courts have denied that right in Savory's case.

As a result, Savory is asking Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich to order the testing, which would be paid for privately, at no cost to the taxpayers.

And today Savory was joined in his quest for DNA testing by a broadly based coalition of supporters — including five former U.S. Attorneys, 30 former prisoners who were exonerated by DNA, authors John Grisham and Studs Terkel, and arrays of business, religious, and civil rights leaders, academics, defense lawyers, and past and present and public officials.

Letters signed by the supporters — 212 in all — were released today at a press conference in the offices of the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law.

Lawyers from the Center and the Chicago law firm of Jenner & Block took on the Savory case five years ago at the behest of the late U.S. District Court Judge Prentice H. Marshall, who in retirement had taken an interest in the case and had come to believe that Savory was innocent.

Although the lawyers succeeded in obtaining Savory's release on parole on December 19, 2006, on-going efforts to obtain DNA testing through the courts have not succeeded. With those remedies exhausted, Savory's only hope of proving his innocence lies with Governor Blagojevich before whom a petition for executive clemency based on innocence is pending.

It is in that context that Savory's supporters are asking the governor to order the testing. There is precedent for that — Governor James R. Thompson did it in 1988 in the case of Gary Dotson, who as a result became the first person ever to be exonerated by DNA. Since that case, DNA has exonerated 209 additional wrongfully convicted prisoners nationally, including 25 more in Illinois.

Johnnie Savory, an African-American, was twice convicted by all-white juries of the murders of teenagers James Robinson, Jr. and Connie Cooper, who were found stabbed to death in their Peoria home on January 18, 1977. The second conviction, which is the only one that matters now, rested primarily on the testimony of three informants who claimed that Savory had talked about committing the crime in their presence. Two of the informants eventually recanted, stating that the conversations in fact had not occurred.

The physical evidence in the case — a bloody pair of pants seized from Savory's home, fingernail scrapings from both victims, head hairs found in the victims' hands and bathroom sink, and a pocket knife with a blood-like stain on it that the prosecution theorized was the murder weapon.

The blood on the pants was of the ABO type shared by Johnnie, one of the victims, and, importantly, Savory's father, who testified that the pants were his. The pants were several sizes too big for Johnnie, and his father had suffered an injury at work consistent with the positioning of the blood. (Actually, the father was treated at a hospital, where there were records that would have corroborated his testimony, but that the defense did not present.)

The fingernail scrapings were said to be of no evidentiary value, and nothing regarding them was presented at the trial. Nor was anything presented regarding the hairs. The knife was entered into evidence, but the stain on it was so minute that it could not be determined whether it was blood. Most if not all of these items should be amenable to DNA testing with today's state-of-the-art technology.

Not only could the requested DNA testing exonerate Savory but it also could identify the real killer of James Robinson and Connie Cooper.

The five former U.S. Attorneys who support Johnnie's request for DNA testing are Samuel K. Skinner, Thomas P. Sullivan, Dan K. Webb, Anton Valukas, and Scott Lassar. They were represented at the press conference by Sullivan, a Jenner & Block partner and chairman of the Advisory Committee of the Center on Wrongful Convictions.

The broad range of the group is perhaps best illustrated by the names of Skinner, who was Secretary of Transportation and White House Chief of Staff under President George H.W. Bush, and Abner J. Mikva, White House Counsel under President Bill Clinton. Among other names indicative of the diversity are those of Noam Chomsky, a retired MIT professor who has characterized his personal visions as "fairly traditional anarchist ones," and Richard A. Epstein, a Distinguished Service Professor of Law at the University of Chicago known for libertarian views. Religious leaders among the signatories include Roman Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, and Greek Orthodox. Among business leaders on the list is Lester Crown, president of Henry Crown & Co.

The 30 former prisoners exonerated by DNA were represented at the press conference by Kenneth Adams, one of the defendants in the Ford Heights Four case. They languished a total of 434 years behind bars for crimes they did not commit. Four of them were on death row — Kirk Bloodsworth, in Maryland, Rolando Cruz, in Illinois, Ray Krone, in Arizona, and Curtis Edward McCarty, in Oklahoma.

The letter to which the exonerated lent their names notes that many of them would still be in prison and some of them might have been executed if they had been denied DNA testing, and ends with a simple plea to the governor on Savory's behalf — "We beseech you to do the right thing."

Chicago Sun-Times Story

Chicago Tribune Story

Chicago Daily Law Bulletin

Letter to Governor Rod Blagojevich

Letter from Exonerated to Governor Rod Blagojevich

Excerpts from Johnnie L. Savory's Clemency Petition

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Fars News Agency :: MP Calls on OIC to Break Silence over Massacre of Muslims in Myanmar

"The Organization of Islamic Cooperation and all international institutions should take a swift, serious and firm action to put an end to this genocide in Myanmar," Ruhollah Beigi said on Saturday.

He noted that meaningful silence of the UN and other international bodies toward crimes committed by the extremist Buddhists has led to widespread massacre of oppressed Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.

He underscored that all Muslim nations across the world are duty-bound to defend Muslims in Myanmar, and added, "The catastrophe in Myanmar is not only an issue for the Muslim world, but an issue for all free and justice-seeking peoples of the world."

The government of Myanmar refuses to recognize Rohingyas, who it claims are not natives and classifies as illegal migrants, although the Rohingya are said to be Muslim descendants of Persian, Turkish, Bengali, and Pathan origin, who migrated to Burma as early as the 8th century.

Even Myanmar's so-called democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi has kept quiet on the atrocities committed against the Rohingya Muslims.

Myanmar's President Thein Sein said Rohingya Muslims must be expelled from the country and sent to refugee camps run by the United Nations.

The UN says decades of discrimination have left the Rohingyas stateless, with Myanmar implementing restrictions on their movement and withholding land rights, education and public services.

Since June, hundreds of members of the nearly-one-million-strong Rohingya Muslim minority have been killed and tens of thousands of others among them have been displaced in the west of the country due to a wave of communal violence.

Over the past two years, waves of ethnic Muslims have attempted to flee by boats in the face of systematic oppression by the Myanmar government.

UN Women: Communications Procedure of the Commission on the Status of Women Any individual, non-governmental organization, group or network may submit communications (complaints/appeals/petitions) to the Commission on the Status of Women containing info


Communications Procedure of the Commission on the Status of Women

Any individual, non-governmental organization, group or network may submit communications (complaints/appeals/petitions) to the Commission on the Status of Women containing information relating to alleged violations of human rights that affect the status of women in any country in the world. The Commission on the Status of Women considers such communications as part of its annual programme of work in order to identify emerging trends and patterns of injustice and discriminatory practices against women for purposes of policy formulation and development of strategies for the promotion of gender equality.


Any person or organization with a communication should write by 1 August 2012
More info >>

The current communications procedure of the Commission on the Status of Women has its roots in Economic and Social Council resolution 76 (V) of 5 August 1947, as amended by the Council in resolution 304 I (XI) of 14 and 17 July 1950. The mandate of the Commission on the Status of Women to consider communications has been reaffirmed and the modalities of the procedure have been further modified by the Council (see Council resolutions 1983/27 of 26 May 19831992/19 of 30 July 19921993/11 of 27 July 19932009/16 of 28 July 2009and decision 2002/235 of 24 July 2002).

What types of communications are sought?
What information should be included in a communication?
The procedure
Examples of categories of communications received and trends and patterns identified in recent years
Where to submit a communication to the Commission on the Status of Women

What types of communications are sought?

Accurate and detailed information relating to the promotion of women's rights in political, economic, civil, social and educational fields in any country anywhere in the world.

What information should be included in a communication?

It is advisable that communications should:

  • Identify as far as possible the woman victim, or women victims
  • Indicate clearly where (the particular country/several countries) the alleged violation(s) or pattern of violations have occurred or are occurring
  • Provide, when available, dates and circumstances of the alleged violations
  • Explain the context by providing relevant background information
  • Provide, when available, copies of documentation

The procedure

CSW communications procedure steps 1-3CSW communications procedure steps 4-6
Examples of categories of communications received and trends and patterns identified in recent years

  • Arbitrary arrests of women
  • Deaths and torture of women in custody
  • Forced disappearances or abductions of women
  • Discriminatory application of punishments in law based on sex, including corporal and capital punishment
  • Violation of the rights of women human rights defenders to freedom of expression and assembly
  • Threats or pressure exerted on women not to complain or to withdraw complaints
  • Impunity for violations of the human rights of women
  • Stereotypical attitudes towards the role and responsibilities of women
  • Domestic violence
  • Forced marriage and marital rape
  • Virginity testing
  • Contemporary forms of slavery, including trafficking in women and girls
  • Sexual harassment of women in the workplace
  • Unfair employment practices based on sex, including unequal pay
  • Lack of due diligence by States to adequately investigate, prosecute and punish perpetrators of violence against women
  • Discrimination against women under immigration and nationality laws
  • Violations of the rights of women to own and inherit property
  • Discrimination against women in accessing international humanitarian aid
  • Forcible evictions of women in conflict situations

All claims must be submitted in writing and signed by e-mail, fax, or regular mail. However, the author's identity is not made known to the Government(s) concerned unless she/he agrees to the disclosure.

Please note that the Commission on the Status of Women does not take decisions on the merit of communications that are submitted to it and, therefore, the communications procedure does not provide an avenue for the redress of individual grievances.

Where to submit a communication to the Commission on the Status of Women

Any person or organization with a communication should write by 1 August 2012 to:

CSW Communications Procedure
Human Rights Section 
UN Women 
220 East 42nd Street, 17th floor,
New York, NY 10017

Send an e-mail message to:

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