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Legal news from Monday, December 18, 2006

Australia terror suspects plead not guilty to plotting 'large scale' attack
Jeannie Shawl on December 18, 2006 6:42 PM ET

[JURIST] Thirteen men arrested last year in Australia's largest counter-terrorism raid [JURIST report] pleaded not guilty to the charges against them during a pre-trial hearing Monday. Eighteen suspects were arrested in raids in Sydney and Melbourne and were charged with membership in a terrorist organization and planning a terrorist attack on Australian soil. The remaining five suspects are still awaiting trial. Among the suspects in court Monday was Abdul Nacer Benbrika, also known as Abu Bakr [BBC profile], a radical Islamic cleric from Melbourne who has praised Osama bin Laden and who is accused of being the ringleader of the group.

The arrests were made in November 2005 after a government warning of an imminent terror attack [JURIST report] prompted the Australian Parliament to pass an amendment [JURIST report] to existing anti-terrorism laws expanding state power to allow authorities to prosecute suspects without associating them with a specific terrorist act. Police said the amendment was necessary to accomplish the arrests of several of the suspects. BBC News has more. The Herald Sun has local coverage.

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Former Fannie Mae executives face civil charges over alleged accounting fraud
Jeannie Shawl on December 18, 2006 5:54 PM ET

[JURIST] The Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (OFHEO) [official website] filed a notice of charges [PDF text; press release, PDF] Monday against three former Fannie Mae [official website] executives over their role in fraudulently reporting future earnings so that top executives would receive maximum performance bonuses. The action was taken against former Chairman and CEO Franklin D. Raines, former Vice Chairman and CFO J. Timothy Howard and former Senior VP and Controller Leanne G. Spencer based on allegations the three "improperly manipulated earnings to maximize their bonuses, while knowingly neglecting accounting systems and internal controls, misapplying over twenty accounting principles and misleading the regulator and the public." The OFHEO is seeking over $100 million in fines and disgorgement of bonuses in an amount over $115 million, among other penalties. Bloomberg has more.

The US Justice Department said in August that it had discontinued its two-year investigation [JURIST report] into the government-sponsored mortgage dealer, though the department left open the possibility of prosecutions against individual employees in connection to the alleged accounting fraud. In May, the US Securities and Exchange Commission and the OFHEO announced a $400 million settlement [JURIST report] with the company over violations of the reporting and accounting provisions of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 [text] and anti-fraud provisions of the Securities Act of 1933 [text].

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Nebraska AG to appeal corporate farming ban ruling to Supreme Court
Jeannie Shawl on December 18, 2006 5:44 PM ET

[JURIST] Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning [official website] said Monday that he will appeal last week's federal appeals court ruling [PDF text; JURIST report] striking down the state's corporate farming ban [I-300 text] to the US Supreme Court. Although Bruning initially indicated [press release] he would ask the US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit to rehear the case en banc, Bruning said Monday that an appeal directly to the Supreme Court was the state's best option.

The Eighth Circuit upheld a lower court decision [PDF text; JURIST report] holding the 1982 ban on corporate farming unconstitutional because it violates the dormant commerce clause. As described by the appeals court, the ban "prohibits corporations or syndicates (non-family-owned limited partnerships) from acquiring an interest in 'real estate used for farming or ranching in [Nebraska]' or 'engag[ing] in farming or ranching,' with certain exceptions," and the appeals court found that this "discriminates against out-of-state entities both on its face and because of its discriminatory intent." In 2004, the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of a similar ruling from the Eighth Circuit declaring South Dakota's corporate farming law unconstitutional. AP has more.

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Annan urges cooperation in ending rights abuses of migrant workers
Jeannie Shawl on December 18, 2006 3:35 PM ET

[JURIST] UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has urged countries to sign and ratify the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families [text] in order "to provide all migrants with the rights and protection they need and deserve." In a message [text] marking International Migrants Day [UN materials] Monday, Annan decried the "rising numbers of migrants [who] are being exploited and abused by smugglers and traffickers" and stressed the importance of safeguards found in the Migrant Workers Convention.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour said in her own statement [text]:

The reality for many migrants is one of exploitation, exclusion, discrimination, abuse and violence amounting to widespread human rights violations. They frequently find themselves accepting dangerous or unhealthy employment with few avenues to seek redress when abuses occur.

Organized crime and smuggling networks target irregular migrants and lead them into such high-risk situations as perilous border crossings and trafficking. The news media is full of stories of migrants perishing at sea, suffocating in cargo holds or being subjected to rape and abuse while in transit.

This must change. We must spare no effort to eradicate human trafficking, protect those who may fall prey to smugglers and hold those profiting from human misery accountable for their crimes. We have to ensure that migrants enjoy the rights they are entitled to, regardless of their regular or irregular status. Migrants have the right not only to protection, but also to equal treatment and non-discrimination; to access to proper information so that migration will be the result of an informed choice; and to be integrated in receiving countries as opposed to excluded.
Saying the convention was built "to protect the human rights of migrants as a matter of duty, of justice and of dignity," Arbour called on all countries to "join our efforts to ensure that its provisions are implemented, so that each future commemoration of international migrants day will be an occasion to measure accelerating progress."Only 34 countries are currently party to the convention [OHCHR materials], which entered into force in 2003. The UN News Service has more.

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Israel high court overturns blanket Palestinian student entry ban
Jeannie Shawl on December 18, 2006 2:52 PM ET

[JURIST] The Israeli Supreme Court [official website] ordered the government Monday to establish more specific criteria to be used by military officials when deciding whether Palestinian students may enter Israel to study. The supreme court's decision came in a lawsuit brought on behalf of Sawsan Salameh [JURIST report], a Palestinian woman who was denied entry to Israel by the military after she was accepted to study chemistry and pursue a doctoral degree at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem [academic website]. The court said that the current policy of automatically denying applications from Palestinians seeking to study in Israel [JURIST news archive] was excessive and said that Salameh should be allowed to study in Israel.

The government now has 60 days to draw up a list of criteria Palestinian students must meet in order to be allowed to study in Israel. AFP has more. Haaretz has local coverage.

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States file Clean Air Act lawsuit against EPA over soot levels
Jeannie Shawl on December 18, 2006 2:25 PM ET

[JURIST] Officials from 13 states, the District of Columbia, and the South Coast Air Quality Management District filed a lawsuit [press release] Monday against the US Environmental Protection Agency [official website] "for failing to mandate lower levels of disease-causing soot in the air." The lawsuit alleges that the EPA is failing to protect the environment and the public health by ignoring "overwhelming scientific evidence and the advice of its own experts" when setting standards for particulate matter [EPA materials] and that the EPA is in violation of the Clean Air Act [EPA materials].

The states participating in the lawsuit are California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont. AP has more.

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Violent crime in US continues to rise: FBI report
Jeannie Shawl on December 18, 2006 12:51 PM ET

[JURIST] Violent crime in the US increased during the first half of 2006 when compared with the same period in 2005, according to the FBI's Preliminary Semiannual Uniform Crime Report [press release, PDF; FBI materials] released Monday. Violent crime, including murder, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault, increased 3.7 percent since 2005 but property crimes such as burglary, larceny-theft, and motor vehicle theft, decreased 2.6 percent. The number of arsons increased 6.8 percent.

If these numbers are maintained, the rate of violent crime will increase in 2006 for the second year in a row. The FBI's 2005 annual report on violent crime [text; JURIST report] showed that violent crimes increased in 2005 for the first time since 2001; the 2.3 percent increase was the largest jump since 1991. The US Justice Department has already launched an investigation [JURIST report] to examine why the violent crime rate has increased. AP has more.

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Zuma ex-associate appeals corruption conviction to South Africa high court
Jeannie Shawl on December 18, 2006 12:35 PM ET

[JURIST] Lawyers for a business associate of former South African Deputy President Jacob Zuma [party profile] filed an appeal Monday with the South African Constitutional Court [official website] asking that the corruption conviction [JURIST report] of Schabir Shaik be overturned. Shaik was convicted of paying Zuma for political favors in a case which has left Zuma's name tarnished as a potential presidential candidate. The South African Supreme Court of Appeals [official website] last month upheld the conviction [JURIST report], finding that enough evidence existed to support the case and the 15-year jail term handed down to Shaik. His lawyers missed the December 15 deadline [SABC report] to file an appeal, but a court official said that Monday's filing included an explanation for missing the deadline.

South African President Thabo Mbeki [BBC profile] fired Zuma [JURIST report] from his position last year after Shaik was initially found guilty. Zuma has indicated repeatedly that he intends to run against Mbeki in the 2009 presidential election. In June, the African National Congress [party website] reinstated Zuma to his deputy president position within the party after he was acquitted on rape charges [JURIST reports]. In September, a high court judge tossed the corruption charges brought against Zuma himself [JURIST report], saying prosecutors had failed to follow proper procedures, though the charges may be brought again in the future. Reuters has more. SABC News has local coverage.

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Iraqis probe prison break by ex-electricity minister convicted of corruption
Jeannie Shawl on December 18, 2006 11:24 AM ET

[JURIST] Iraqi authorities are investigating the escape from prison of a former head of the Iraqi Ministry of Electricity [official website]. Ayham al-Samaraie [Wikipedia profile], a member of the 2004-2005 interim Iraqi government [BBC backgrounder], was serving a two-year sentence after being convicted on corruption charges [AP report] brought by Iraq's Commission on Public Integrity [US State Dept. backgrounder; CPA press release]. He is so far the only post-war Iraqi cabinet member to have been found guilty of corruption, despite its status as a massive public policy problem widely acknowledged by top Iraqi and US [JURIST reports] officials.

An Iraqi official said Monday that Al-Samaraie, who holds dual US-Iraqi citizenship, had escaped from police custody at a prison in Baghdad. He still faces another 12 corruption charges stemming from over $2 billion in funding for Iraq's electrical infrastructure which has gone missing. The Ministry of Electricity has been a focal point of massive problems and several probes since the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. In August this year Al-Samaraie successor Muhsin Shlash, an Iraqi exile formerly living in Canada, was named [JURIST report] as one of a number of former and current department officials ordered by the Public Integrity Commission to appear before Iraqi judges for further corruption investigations. AP has more.

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Sudan to cooperate with UN rights council mission: justice minister
Jeannie Shawl on December 18, 2006 9:43 AM ET

[JURIST] Sudanese Justice Minister Mohammed Ali al-Mardhi has indicated that Sudan will cooperate with a UN Human Rights Council [official website] mission investigating human rights abuses in Darfur [JURIST news archive], according to reports Monday in local Sudanese media. The Human Rights Council approved [JURIST report] a resolution [PDF text] last week the authorizing the mission. Al-Mardhi has said that the government would "remove all obstacles" and allow the high-level UN mission to complete its work. The justice minister has also urged the experts to conduct a "balanced" investigation. AFP has more.

Meanwhile, in an interview [text] with the Sudan Tribune, Luis Moreno-Ocampo [official profile], chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court [official website], said that his office is currently interviewing senior government officials in Sudan in connection with his investigation [ICC materials] into crimes committed in Darfur. Moreno-Ocampo also said that the Sudanese government has been cooperating with his investigation. Last week, Moreno-Ocampo told the UN Security Council that he expects to present the Darfur case to ICC judges by February 2007 [JURIST report]

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Turkish MFA condemns passage of Argentina Armenian genocide bill
Jeannie Shawl on December 18, 2006 9:13 AM ET

[JURIST] The Turkish government has condemned the passage [JURIST report] of legislation in Argentina which refers to the mass killings of Armenians [BBC Q/A] in Turkey around the time of World War I as genocide and establishes a day of annual commemoration on April 24. In a statement from the Turkish Foreign Ministry, Turkey said the bill "is an example of falsification of history." The Argentinean bill must still be signed by the president and Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan [official profile; BBC profile] has already urged the president not to do so, saying the bill is in violation of international law [Turkish Daily News report; JURIST report]. PanARMENIAN.Net has more.

The Argentinean bill follows closely on the heels of controversial French legislation touching on the same issue. In October, the French National Assembly approved a bill [JURIST report] criminalizing any refusal to characterize the Armenian as genocide, but it still needs approval by the French Senate and President Jacques Chirac [official profile, in French] to become national law. Many believe that will never happen, however, as both Chirac and the European Union have separately and publicly denounced the bill, and many French observers view it as a direct violation of the nation's tradition of free speech. Chirac has already offered an apology [JURIST report] over the bill to Erdogan.

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Saddam genocide trial resumes as prosecution continues to present case
Jeannie Shawl on December 18, 2006 8:33 AM ET

[JURIST] Saddam Hussein's genocide trial [JURIST report; BBC timeline] resumed Monday at the Iraqi High Tribunal [official website] in Baghdad with the prosecution presenting documentary evidence they say links Hussein to chemical weapons used during the 1987-88 "Anfal" campaigns [HRW backgrounder] against ethnic Kurds in Northern Iraq. Prosecutors introduced a memorandum from Hussein's office ordering the Iraqi military to initiate a strike against Kurdish separatists using "special ammunition." Hussein and six co-defendants all face crimes against humanity charges for the Anfal attacks, and Hussein and co-defendant Ali Hassan al-Majid [BBC profile], known as "Chemical Ali," also face additional genocide charges [JURIST report].

Meanwhile, Hussein faces the death penalty after being convicted [judgment; JURIST report] on separate crimes against humanity charges relating to a crackdown in the Iraqi town of Dujail. That verdict is currently on appeal, and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Saturday that he hoped the appeal panel's ruling would be handed down in a few days and that Hussein would be executed next month [JURIST report]. AFP has more.

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For more legal news check the Paper Chase Archive...


Unprecedented Notice of Warrantless Wiretapping in a Closed Case
Ramzi Kassem
CUNY School of Law

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible, ad-free format.


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