Thirty-eight people appeared in front of a court in Antwerp for participating in driving exam fraud. Twenty-two of the suspects were accused of taking the exam for someone else. Prosecution spokesperson Dominique Reyniers said that the suspects were exclusively immigrants and of Moroccan or black-African origin. The suspects are believed to have paid upwards of 500 euro for an accomplice to take the exam, before failing the test several times.
Two Iraqi men accused of smuggling over 10,000 refugees into Britain have been arrested in northern France. It is estimated that each of the accused earned half a million pounds, in their commodiification of human trafficking. The prosecution believes that the two men, known only as Bapir and Mamesh, operated the largest smuggling operation along the French and Belgian Channel coasts. Currently being held in custody in Saint-Omer, the two will go begin their trial on December 4th.
One of the suspects in the terrorism trial currently underway in Brussels has promised to tell the court the truth about his part in fighting with Al-Qaeda terrorists in Iraq. Prosecution investigators are convinced that Youness Loukili lost is leg while fighting for leading terrorist Al Zarqawi. Loukili however, denies having ever been to Iraq. On Thursday however, Loukili’s lawyer asked for the session to be adjourned – sources suggest that he is now willing to admit all.
The Italian supreme court recently rejected an appeal by the prosecution in the case of a Moroccan girl who had been beaten by her family, her parents and her brother. The appeal was rejected on the grounds that it was for her own good and for her non-conformity with their culture, she had gone out with a friend and her life style was not accepted by her parents. This story starts in 2003 when the parents of Fatima R. (19), a Muslim girl from Bologna, were sentenced for tying Fatima up and beating her. The court of appeals reversed the decision and this past week the supreme court confirmed it. According to the Italian judges that girl had not been beaten out of anger and it was unusual for the father, who had only beat his daughter three times in his life. According to the prosecution Fatima had been tied to a chair and released only to be brutally beaten. However the supreme court ruled that Fatima had threatened suicide out of her fear and that she had been tied up in order to prevent her from doing so. Souad Sbai of the Italian Association of Moroccan Women said that this decision was worthy of an Arab country which observed sharia law. and accused the judges of applying a double standard in the name of multiculturalism. According to Sbai a Catholic father in a similar case would have been harshly punished. Sbai says that there is excessive tolerance towards certain behaviors both from the right and left wing, who prefer political correctness over applying the Italian law.
An ethnically diverse panel will hear the case against the alleged Al Qaeda operative and two co-defendants. A jury of five blacks, four whites and three Latinos with a broad array of jobs, political leanings and assumptions about terrorism will hear the government’s case against alleged Al Queda operative Jose Padilla. The panel was selected Tuesday after weeks of contentious wrangling among the 15 attorneys representing the government, Padilla and his two co-defendants, with the government and defense teams accusing each other of racial and religious profiling in picking jurors. Padilla, a 36-year-old former Chicago gang member, and two Arabs are accused of conspiring to kill foreign enemies of Islam. The 12 jurors and six alternates will begin hearing testimony Monday in a case expected to last four months and draw witnesses from the intelligence and security communities, including a covert CIA operative planning to testify in disguise. U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke excused dozens of potential jurors during the protracted search for a fair and balanced panel because of the hardships they would endure if separated from their jobs or family obligations each workday through the end of August. Anyone with a scheduled vacation, an ill relative needing attention or a child-care conflict was dismissed, although Cooke said she would not sequester the jury. By court order, the identities of the jurors cannot be made public. The seven men and five women expressed varying degrees of willingness to serve on the panel. A delivery dispatcher in her 30s said her boss was furious that she missed one day last week for the questioning. Another juror, a young insurance adjuster, told Cooke that he and his fiance were getting married next month but he had not planned a honeymoon in case he was needed on the jury. “That’s a young man who really takes his civic responsibilities seriously,” Cooke quipped after a day in which juror after juror asked to be excused for far less momentous occasions. Throughout Tuesday’s protracted use of peremptory challenges – 30 for the government and 36 for lawyers representing Padilla and co-defendants Adham Amin Hassoun and Kifah Wael Jayyousi – the attorneys repeatedly objected to each other’s dismissals. Defense attorneys noted the prosecution rejected seven black female jurors in a row, while the government team accused the defense of striking white and Latino men in what they saw as a “pattern of prejudice.” Jurors have a range of incomes, from an unemployed former busboy and a department store makeup artist to a software developer. There is religious diversity as well: Catholics, Baptists, a Seventh-day Adventist and one man who said he was intimately familiar with Jewish issues, although he did not make clear if that was his faith. The ethnicity of the panel was a topic of special contentiousness because Miami’s large Latino community includes exiles and emigres who fled repressive governments in Latin America and tend to cast an uncritical eye on the U.S. criminal justice system. But several of the jurors expressed doubts about the consistency and reliability of government and law enforcement work, disclosing run-ins with the law in individual questioning since jury selection began April 16. “There are a lot of people who are incarcerated who shouldn’t be there because they didn’t commit the crimes they are accused of,” said a young black female juror with several relatives on Miami-area police forces. A 40-ish man who is an Internet company chief financial officer told Cooke he thought the growth of Muslim clerical schools in the Middle East had contributed to a trend toward violence in Islam; but he added that “if you go back throughout history, they were one of the more temperate religions for hundreds of years.” “The war in Iraq is for profit and oil, not because of WMD,” a young Latino college student who works for a cable TV company said of the administration’s reason for invading Iraq. A black man of about 50 who manages a chain of service stations and has a nephew serving in Iraq conceded he might have an inclination to stereotype Muslims but assured Cooke he would seek to be fair. “We’re very pleased with the jury that was selected. I think it is a very diverse panel,” said Linda Moreno, a lawyer hired by Hassoun’s defense team to serve as a jury consultant. Moreno helped win a not guilty verdict from a Tampa jury two years ago in the terrorism case brought against Sami Al-Arian, a professor of computer engineering at the University of South Florida. One of the alternates on the panel was born in Egypt and understands some Arabic, but the only practicing Muslim brought before the lawyers Tuesday was dismissed by the prosecution. Assistant U.S. Atty. John C. Shipley told Cooke the government objected to her service because she had read publications from Yemen, Syria and Iran, which he called “renowned terrorist countries.”
Authorities in a number of Muslims countries have acted against newspapers for publishing the controversial Mohammed cartoons, but in Yemen a journalist may soon be fighting for his life after prosecutors demanded his execution. Yemen Observer Editor-in-Chief Muhammad al-Asadi was arrested after his English-language weekly paper published the cartoons early last month to illustrate how news reporting about their publication in European papers had sparked a global uproar. According to the paper, the cartoons were presented in “thumbnail” size, and “obscured with a thick black cross.” Nonetheless, al-Asadi was accused of violating a law prohibiting the publication of anything that harms Islam, and the government suspended the Observer’s license. Two independent Arabic-language papers are also facing legal action separately for reproducing the cartoons. Al-Asadi appeared Wednesday before a Sana’a court, where prosecutors called for the death penalty, and for the paper to be shut down completely and its assets confiscated. A report on the Yemen Observer’s website — which continues to publish although the paper edition has been frozen — said prosecution lawyers had recounted a story from the life of Mohammed in which Islam’s prophet had praised the killer of a woman who had insulted him. The lawyers argued that the same punishment should be applied in the case of those who “abuse” the prophet. “They also demanded personal financial compensation for the psychological trauma they claimed they suffered by the actions of the newspaper, which they said has impaired their ability to do their jobs and follow their normal daily lives.” The case was adjourned for two weeks. The Observer said the prosecution lawyers, of which there were more than a dozen, were being funded by Sheikh Abdel Majid Zindani, a religious leader and senior Islamist opposition party member. Zindani’s name appears on a U.S. list of suspected financiers of terrorism, and Yemeni media reported two weeks ago that Washington was urging the government to freeze his assets and prevent him from traveling abroad, in line with U.N. resolutions. A U.S. Treasury statement issued in 2004 called Zindani a loyalist of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and said the U.S. government had credible evidence that he “supports designated terrorists and terrorist organizations.” According to the State Department’s annual report on global human rights, released Wednesday, Yemen’s government does not respect freedom of the press despite a constitutional provision providing for it “within the limits of the law.” The report noted that Yemeni press laws criminalize certain criticism of the head of state, the publication of “false information” that can spread “chaos and confusion,” and “false stories intended to damage Arab and friendly countries.” “Yemen’s press freedom has been tested often lately and in the eyes of the outside world it remains a measure of the extent of democratization that Yemen would like to claim,” a contributor to another paper in the Gulf state, the Yemen Times, wrote in a column on the al-Asadi case. The media freedom lobby group Reporters Without Borders has recorded arrests of journalists in Yemen, Syria, Algeria and India for reprinting the cartoons caricaturing Mohammed, and the temporary or permanent closure of at least 14 publications in Algeria, Morocco, Jordan, Yemen, Malaysia and Indonesia for the same reason. “Whatever one thinks of the cartoons or whether they should be published, it is absolutely unjustified to jail or prosecute journalists, threaten them with death or shut down newspapers for this reason,” the group said earlier.
By MATTHEW BARAKAT, Associated Press Writer ALEXANDRIA, Va. — The government’s prosecution of a prominent Islamic scholar accused of recruiting for the Taliban in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks is an assault on religious freedom, a defense lawyer said Monday during the trial’s closing arguments. “The government wants you to think Islam is your enemy,” said Edward MacMahon, who represents Ali al-Timimi, 41, of Fairfax. “They want you to dislike him so much because of what he said that you’ll ignore the lack of evidence.” Prosecutors, on the other hand, said al-Timimi is on trial not because of unpopular political or religious views but because he specifically urged his followers to take up arms against U.S. troops just five days after the 9-11 attacks, and because several of them traveled half way around the world with just that intent. “When Tony Soprano says ‘Go whack that guy,’ it’s not protected speech,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Gordon Kromberg, drawing a comparison between al-Timimi and the fictional mob boss. Al-Timimi, a native-born U.S. citizen who has an international reputation in some Islamic circles, is facing a 10-count indictment that includes charges of soliciting others to levy war against the United States and attempting to aid the Taliban. The jury began deliberations Monday afternoon after hearing two weeks of testimony. If convicted, al-Timimi faces up to life in prison. The government contends that al-Timimi told his followers during a secret meeting on Sept. 16, 2001, that they were obliged as Muslims to defend the Taliban against a looming U.S. invasion. Just days after that meeting, four of those in attendance flew to Pakistan and joined a militant group called Lashkar-e-Taiba. Three of the four testified at al-Timimi’s trial that their goal had been to obtain military training at the Lashkar camp and then cross the border to Afghanistan and join the Taliban. It was al-Timimi who inspired them to do so, the men testified. None Of The Men Actually Made It To Afghanistan. Kromberg said at the trial’s outset that al-Timimi enjoyed “rock star” status among his followers. On Monday he said al-Timimi knew that the men at the Sept. 16 meeting–many of whom had played paintball games in 2000 and 2001 as a means to train for holy war around the globe–would do as he instructed them. “These guys couldn’t figure out how to tie their shoelaces without al-Timimi,” Kromberg said. But MacMahon said that al-Timimi merely counseled the men to leave the United States because it might be difficult to practice their religion in America in a post-Sept. 11 environment. The three men who testified against al-Timimi at trial, he said, are all lying because they struck plea bargains with the government and are hoping to get their sentences reduced in exchange for helping the government. MacMahon said it was two other men, Yong Ki Kwon and Randall Royer, who were the ones recruiting paintball members to join Lashkar-e-Taiba. Kwon, for instance, admitted that he and Royer had met a LET recruiter in the spring of 2001 on a pilgrimage to Mecca. Kwon also acknowledged that Royer had previously trained in Pakistan with Lashkar and that he had frequently encouraged others to join LET well before Sept. 11 and well before the government alleges al-Timimi’s criminal conduct. MacMahon pointed out to jurors that Kwon–one of the four who allegedly traveled to Pakistan at al-Timimi’s urging–had placed 25 phone calls to the other three in the three days before al-Timimi allegedly made his first exhortation on the Taliban’s behalf. The government’s case, MacMahon said, is built on a misperception that Islam is a sinister religion and its practitioners deserve strict scrutiny. “Are you appalled that the federal government is reading the Quran to you” at this trial? MacMahon asked the jurors. The prosecution of al-Timimi “is a fundamental assault on the liberties we all hold so dear. … If you don’t believe our freedoms are under attack by this prosecution, you haven’t been sitting here.” Kromberg disputed the notion that the government was casting aspersions on all Muslims. “Ali Timimi does not speak for all Muslims. Ali Timimi speaks for his sect of Salafi Muslims,” Kromberg said, referring to a sect of the religion often equated to Wahhabism, a puritanical form of Islam practiced by many of the leading clerics in Saudi Arabia, where al-Timimi once studied.