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Legal news from Sunday, January 27, 2008




Iran ex-presidents plan appeal over ban on thousands of parliamentary candidates
Benjamin Klein on January 27, 2008 4:03 PM ET

[JURIST] Two former Iranian presidents and an ex-parliamentary speaker said Sunday that they plan to appeal to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei [official website] to overturn a ban prohibiting moderates and reformists in Iran [JURIST news archive] from running in the March 2008 parliamentary election. Former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami [official website, in Persian; BBC profile], a reformist, former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani [official website], a pragmatic conservative, and ex-speaker Mehdi Karroubi [Wikipedia profile] met late Saturday to discuss proposals to lift the ban. The Interior Ministry [official website, in Persian] announced last Wednesday that nearly one-third of the 7,240 candidates who applied to compete in the March 14 legislative elections would be barred from running for office. Among those banned were 190 of 200 candidates from the main reformist group in Iran, the Islamic Participation Front [Wikipedia backgrounder], 230 of approximately 300 candidates by the National Trust Party established by Karroubi, and all candidates affiliated with the Islamic Revolution Mujahedin Organization. Officials from the Interior Ministry stated that some of those disqualified were in involved in embezzlement or fraud, had sympathetic ties to terrorist organizations, or displayed a "tendency toward perverted cults."

Rejected candidates had until Sunday to file appeals with Khamenei, who has been unsympathetic to the reformists' cause and refused to reverse similar disqualifications before the 2004 parliamentary election [JURIST op-ed]. In that election, the Guardian Council, the upper parliamentary chamber composed of twelve members, banned 2,000 reformist candidates from entering the race, resulting in a landslide victory for conservatives. The 290-seat Iranian Parliament [official website, in English], known as the Majlis, has the power to propose and pass legislation and serves as a check on the office of the president. Political analysts have suggested that a reformist swell in the March election could challenge Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's socially conservative domestic program. AFP has more.






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France police extend custody of rogue bank trader suspected of massive fraud
Devin Montgomery on January 27, 2008 2:37 PM ET

[JURIST] French authorities on Sunday ordered alleged "rogue trader" Jerome Kerviel [BBC backgrounder] to be held for an additional 24 hours while police investigate the $73 billion worth of unauthorized trades Kerviel made while working for the French bank Societe Generale [bank website]. Since news of the fraud - the largest bank fraud in history - broke on Thursday, police have seized computer disks, documents, and other evidence from Kerviel's home and Societe Generale's offices. Under French law, prosecutors must either place Kerviel under formal investigation or release him from custody when the extension expires on Monday.

The bank, which lost $7 billion when it was forced to unload the fraudulent positions, has filed a criminal complaint against Kerviel, and alleged the methods he used to commit the fraud in a explanatory note [PDF text] released Sunday:

-firstly, he ensured that the characteristics of the fictitious operations limited the chances of a control: for example he chose very specific operations with no cash movements or margin call and which did not require immediate confirmation;

-he misappropriated the IT access codes belonging to operators in order to cancel certain operations;

-he falsified documents allowing him to justify the entry of fictitious operations.

-he ensured that the fictitious operations involved a different financial instrument to the one he had just cancelled, in order to increase his chances of not being controlled.
Kerviel, who turned himself in voluntarily [JURIST report] on Saturday, maintains his innocence and is reported to be cooperating with police. AFP has more. AP has additional coverage





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Former Indonesia dictator Suharto dies at age 86
Eric Firkel on January 27, 2008 10:36 AM ET

[JURIST] Former Indonesian President Haji Mohammed Suharto [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] died Sunday at age 86. Suharto, a former US Cold War ally, presided over what is considered to be one of the most brutal dictatorships of the 20th century with as many as one million political opponents killed during his time in power. Reaction across the country is split with hundreds traveled to Suharto's family home in Jakarta to mourn his death while many others criticized Suharto's corruption and brutality.

In recent years, both Suharto and his son Tommy Suharto [BBC profile] have been subject to a series of corruption charges [BBC backgrounder]. In September, Indonesian prosecutors began court proceedings [JURIST report] against the elder Suharto in a civil action alleging that he embezzled $440 million from the Yayasan Supersemar [official website], a state-funded scholarship fund, between 1974 and 1998. Earlier criminal corruption charges were dropped because Suharto was rendered unable to speak or write [JURIST reports] as a result of several strokes. AP has more.






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Russia ex-PM disqualified from presidential election after forgery claims
Eric Firkel on January 27, 2008 9:44 AM ET

[JURIST] The Russian Central Election Commission [official website] issued a unanimous decision Sunday to ban former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov [BBC profile] from running in the March presidential election. The Election Commission found that hundreds of thousands of signatures he had to submit in support of his candidacy were either forged or incorrect. Under Russian law, no more than 5 percent of signatures in support of a candidate can be disqualified if that candidate is to run in the election. In Kasyanov's case, 13.36 percent were rejected. Russian prosecutors said earlier this month that they had launched a forgery investigation [JURIST report] into Kasyanov.

Kasyanov has accused Russian President Vladmir Putin of directly refusing to register his candidacy. Dmitry Medvedev [BBC profile], chairman of Russian gas company Gazprom [corporate website], and Putin's handpicked successor is leading all major opinion polls, while Kasyanov was polling at less than 1 percent. BBC News has more.






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