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Legal news from Friday, December 30, 2011

Poland announces new amnesty policy
Jaimie Cremeans on December 30, 2011 5:26 PM ET

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[JURIST] The Poland Ministry of Interior [official website] announced Thursday a new amnesty program [Ministry of Interior information] that will allow thousands of illegal immigrants to stay and work in Poland. The new policy will give illegal immigrants who have resided in Poland since December 2007 or longer to apply for residence. Residents who have been denied legal status in the past and ordered deported will have to show they have been in the country without leaving since at least January 1, 2010. Those who are approved will be granted amnesty for two years, during which time they can enter into employment contracts and work to legitimize their stay for longer. The law was passed by the Polish Sejm in July and signed [EUBusiness report] by President Bronislaw Komorowski in August. This is the third amnesty law [DW-World report] of its kind Poland has passed, including one in 2003 and one in 2007. Officials believe this law will be more successful because there are fewer restrictions than in the previous laws.

Amnesty for illegal immigrants continues to be a controversial international issues. In August, US President Barack Obama announced major reforms [JURIST report] to the US's current immigration system, putting 300,000 illegal immigrants' cases up for review and temporarily halting their deportation. Many of the criteria allowing immigrants to stay in this country mirror portions of the US Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act [materials], which has languished in Congress for a decade, and attempts to provide amnesty for illegal immigrants who serve in the military or achieve a college education. Both France and Spain [JURIST reports] have granted amnesty at times, to varying results. Spain was criticized, as EU commissioner complained that its amnesty program contributed to an uptick in illegal immigration between Africa and Europe. The UK rejected an amnesty program [JURIST report] in 2006, and instead focused on a "fair but tough" enforcement of immigration law.

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Pakistan Supreme Court to investigate memo alleging army coup
Jaimie Cremeans on December 30, 2011 4:07 PM ET

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[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Pakistan [official website] formed a judicial committee Friday to investigate a secret memo sent from an unknown Pakistani source to US Admiral Mike Mullen in May asking for help in preventing a suspected army coup. Former Pakistan ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari [BBC profile] have been accused of writing or having knowledge of the memo, and both have denied these allegations. Haqqani's lawyer expressed disappointment [Al Jazeera video report] with the court's decision to investigate the memo, saying that if her client is found guilty by the commission, he will have nowhere to go for a fair trial, violating his due process rights. The army denies planning a coup and supports the court's involvement to sort out what happened and where the memo came from.

Since controversy arose over the killing of Osama Bin Laden [JURIST report] by US forces in Pakistan in May, Pakistan's alliance with the US has been questioned. The growing conflict between the US and Pakistan was analyzed by JURIST guest columnist Sikander Ahmed Shah [official profile] in Drone Strikes in Pakistan: Examining Consent in International Law [JURIST op-ed]. Pakistan has also faced an ongoing struggle with corruption that the courts have attempted to battle. The Pakistan Supreme Court in October issued a judgment urging political parties to stop financing criminal groups [JURIST report] responsible for increased violence in the city of Karachi. The decision stated that militant groups have gained strength because of support from local political groups and ordered the Pakistani government to help address the corruption.

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India upper parliament house fails to pass anti-corruption bill
John Paul Putney on December 30, 2011 12:52 PM ET

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[JURIST] The Indian upper house of parliament, the Rajya Sabha [official website], on Thursday failed to pass an anti-corruption bill [text, PDF] that proposed the creation of an official anti-corruption agency known as Lokpal. The upper house met in an extended session of parliament intended to allow for passage of the Lokpal bill, but adjourned at midnight after 14 hours of acrimonious debate [AFP report]. The bill was torpedoed by a ruling-coalition party member, the Trinamool Congress, in an abrupt reversal. Opposition parties have accused the government of deliberately avoiding a vote [VOA report] because it lacked the votes. The future of the bill is unsure. Parliament is scheduled to reconvene early next year [AP report], but the date is unclear. Anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare has criticized the Lokpal bill, demanding a more powerful ombudsman while the opposition demanded independent investigatory powers.

Corruption has been a major issue recently in Indian politics. Earlier this week, the Lok Sabha [official website], the Indian lower house of parliament, passed the Lokpal bill [JURIST report]. The bill was proposed in response to many corruption scandals that have occurred in India recently including a high court judge embezzling funds [JURIST report]. Also, Indian activist Anna Hazare's twelve day fast in August prompted the Indian government to address the issue of corruption. Earlier this month, the Transparency Index (TI) released its Corruptions Perceptions Index in which it named India as one of the countries whose corruption perception had deteriorated [JURIST report] since last year. In August, addressing both houses of parliament, Indian president Smt. Pratibha Devisingh Patil indicated that the Indian government would work to eradicate corruption [JURIST report] and take measures to ratify the UN Convention Against Corruption and that it will take other legislative and administrative measures necessary to improve transparency.

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Iran court sentences opposition leader to 8 years in prison
John Paul Putney on December 30, 2011 12:03 PM ET

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[JURIST] Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Court on Wednesday sentenced opposition figure and former Iranian foreign minister Ebrahim Yazdi to eight years in prison for attempting to act against national security. Yazdi was also banned from civic activities for five years [AFP report] in the closed-door trial reportedly held in early November. Yazdi, now 80 and suffering from cancer and a heart ailment, is head of the Freedom Movement of Iran [Princeton University backgrounder], which was instrumental in the 1979 Islamic revolution but was subsequently banned after it turned against clerics and advocated democratic reform [AP report]. According to his lawyer, Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, Yazdi refused to defend himself [DPA report] after questioning the legitimacy and jurisdiction of the court. Yazdi's lawyer, Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, in July was sentenced to nine years in prison and banned from working as a lawyer [JURIST report] and a teacher for ten years after being convicted of seeking to overthrow the government. Yazdi plans to appeal and hopes for an appeals court that will allow a public trial with a jury.

Yazdi is one of several opposition figures that have been detained and charged in connection with a wave of civil unrest following the disputed re-election [JURIST news archive] of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad [BBC profile, official website]. In March, Iranian opposition leaders Mir-Hossein Mousavi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] and Mehdi Karroubi [NYT profile; JURIST news archive] and their wives were arrested and jailed [JURIST report]. In February, Karroubi called for his own trial to be set up in a public court in an open letter to the head of the Supreme Judicial System of Iran [GlobaLex backgrounder], Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani [official website, in Farsi]. Also in February, Iranian lawmakers called for Karroubi and two other opposition leaders, Mir-Hossein Mousavi and former reformist president Mohammad Khatami [BBC profile] to face trial and death [JURIST report].

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