Feds to Drop Charges Against Muslim Man Unfairly Targeted by the FBI

On Wednesday, Assistant United States Attorney Patrick R. Fitzgerald filed a motion to dismiss the indictment against Niazi, which included five counts of making false statements, unlawful procurement of naturalization, use of a passport obtained by fraud, and perjury. Niazi was facing a maximum possible sentence of 35 years in jail.

Federal prosecutors have asked a judge to drop charges against the Afghan-born brother-in-law of Osama bin Laden’s bodyguard, saying a key overseas witness was unavailable to testify. The motion to dismiss was filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles in the case against Ahmadullah Sais Niazi, who had been accused by prosecutors of lying about his ties to terrorist groups on his citizenship application.

The Mosque and Hotel Project in the Almería harbour will be canceled

El País, August 17, 2010

The city of Almeria holds one of the harbours that witness each year the movement of migrants that cross the Mediterranean to visit their home countries during the Summer season – this is called “Operación Paso del Estrecho”. In the rehabilitation project of the harbour there was a parcel dedicated to the construction of a 5.600 square meters mosque, a hotel and improvements in the parking areas and road accesses. These were now taken out of the project. The City Mayor claims that the reality has changed and that migrants no longer stay for several days in Almeria as they may have done 10 years ago. On the other hand, the imam of Almeria claims the importance of maintaining the projected rehabilitation (that has been on hold for six years) and suggests that one of the reasons for the shortening of the stay in the city is the absence of these services.

Melilla holds activities celebrating birth of Mohammed

For the first time the autonomic city of Melilla will witness the celebration of the Mulud, the birth of the Prophet. The activities comprise the reading of the Koran, a lecture on the life of the Prophet and a concert by the Moroccan religious group “El Soufi”. The activities are sponsored by the Instituto de las Culturas (Consejería de Coordinación y Participación Social) and they are open to all the inhabitants of the city.

Dutch court rules on witnesses for Wilders’ trial

The witness list for Freedom Party (PVV) leader Geert Wilders’ upcoming trial has been released. Wilders requested that 18 witnesses, including Mohammed B., Theo van Gogh’s murderer, legal experts, Muslim “radicals”, and “ex-Muslims” be called for his trial. Of the requested list, only three Islam experts will be heard, and will testify behind closed doors. In addition, the court has denied the prosecution’s call for Wilders to be interviewed behind closed doors. Wilders has said that he wants to be questioned publicly.

The right wing politician faces five counts of religious insult and anti-Muslim incitement. ANP reports that the trial will take place sometime between June 1 and October 31, 2010.

Police informant paid millions to infiltrate Toronto terrorism group testifies

A police agent who was paid $4.1 million CAD to infiltrate an alleged terror group testified for the first time on the opening day of the trial for Shareef Abdelhaleem, a member of the so-called Toronto 18.

Abdelhaleem, 34, is alleged to have used his friend, undercover police agent Shaher Elsohemy, to set up the purchase of three tones of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, destined for truck bombs targeting sites in downtown Toronto.

This morning, Elsohemy, currently in witness protection, told a Brampton court that he had developed a “strong” friendship with Abdelhaleem and frequented an Islamic school in Mississauga run by the accused’s father. Their relationship was such that the two vacationed together, taking a trip to Morocco in 2005.

“A $4.1 million payoff is pretty steep…It’s unprecedented in Canada,” Abdelhaleem’s lawyer, William Naylor told reporters, adding that’s one of the problems with the case against his client. He went on to suggest that Elsohemy was more concerned with getting money than searching for the truth.

Update: woman lifts burka to testify in Spanish court

Fatima Hssini, who was expelled from a Spanish courtroom last month when she refused to lift her burka, has testified with her veil raised and her back to the public audience. Speaking to journalists as she arrived to give her testimony Monday morning, Hssini said the controversy which arose after the interview last week was due to ignorance. Wearing the burka is seen as much more normal, she said, in other European countries than it is in Spain.

Hssini testified as a witness at the trial in the National Court for nine people charged with recruiting and sending Mujahedeen to carry out suicide attacks in Iraq. Hssini, the sister of one of those who died, was originally in court last Wednesday but was expelled by Judge Javier Gomez Bermudez after refusing to lift her burka.

Woman wearing burka expelled from national court

A witness called before the National Court in Spain has been expelled from the court after she refused to lift or remove her burka. The woman, the sister of an Islamic radical killed in a suicide bombing in 2005, was called as a witness in a case where nine alleged Islamists were in the dock, facing allegations of sending Mujahidin to carry out suicide attacks in Iraq. She explained that her religion forbade her from appearing in public without her burka.

Judge Javier Gómez Bermúdez expelled her from the court, but the two later reached a compromise, AFP reports. She agreed to testify on Monday without the part of her burka which normally covers the face “between the chin and the eyebrows” and with her back turned to the public in the courtroom.

The judge commented that “seeing her face I can see if she is lying or not, or if any question surprises her or not”. He said that he did not want to charge her with disobedience, but underlined that religious beliefs cannot be above civil law.

First witness in burqa commission in France calls for ban

Sihem Habchi appeared as the first witness before a newly created parliamentary group studying Islamic clothing such as burqas and niqabs in the Republic, part of France’s effort to integrate its growing Muslim population while preserving its heritage and secular roots.

The panel, chaired by Communist Party lawmaker André Gédron, will hold months of hearings before issuing a report, likely by January 2010. It has no power to draft laws but could recommend legislation restricting or banning women from wearing head-to-toe Islamic robes that mask facial features in public.

The panel was announced in June 2009. Habchi heads Ni Putes, Ni Soumises — Neither Whores, Nor Submissives — an outspoken group fighting to improve the lot of Muslim women and girls in suburban areas. The group’s founder Fadela Amara, now the government’s urban affairs minister, supports a ban on full-body veils. The parliamentary panel is also to hear from supporters of the veils, though the list of witnesses has not yet been completed, the panel said.

Sharia courts in the UK

For the first time, the Islamic Sharia Council has granted access to a newspaper to observe the entire sharia legal process in Britain. Over several weeks, the author was allowed to witness the filing of complaints, individual testimony hearings and the monthly meeting of imams, or judges, where rulings are handed down.

Sharia has been operating in the UK, in parallel to the British legal system, since 1982. Work includes issuing fatwas – religious rulings on matters ranging from why Islam considers homosexuality a sin to why two women are equivalent to one male witness in an Islamic court. The Islamic Sharia Council also rules on individual cases, primarily in matters of Muslim personal or civil law: divorce, marriage, inheritance and settlement of dowry payments are the most common.

However, sharia is also being used informally within the Muslim community to tackle crime such as gang fights or stabbings, bypassing police and the British court system. A few hardline leaders would like it to be taken even further. One religious leader said that Britain should adopt sharia punishments such as stoning and the chopping off of hands to reduce violent crime.

Toronto-area Muslim women to appeal veil-in-court decision

A Toronto-area Muslim woman who alleges she was sexually assaulted by two men – and wants to give evidence in court wearing a niqab – is appealing an Ontario Superior Court ruling that initially appeared to be in her favour, but did not fully grant her the right to testify with her face covered.

The woman, who is a Canadian-born mother in her 30s, is in the centre of what has become a controversial legal question as to whether a person can cite religious devoutness as justification for testifying with her face hidden. At a preliminary inquiry for two defendants last year, Provincial Court Judge Norris Weisman decided that the woman’s veil was a reflection of “comfort” rather than belief, and ordered her to remove it.

But in late April, Mr. Justice Frank Marrocco of the Ontario Superior Court ruled otherwise. While he did not grant the woman’s request outright, Judge Marrocco ordered the preliminary inquiry to convene two hearings to determine whether the woman’s beliefs are sincere, and if they are, whether testimony from a veiled witness would be admissible as evidence. The appeal means the preliminary hearing, scheduled to resume next month, could be postponed.