Posts Tagged ‘injustice’

Killing for God in Pakistan

December 15, 2010

Naushad Valiyani, a doctor in Pakistan, is being held on blasphemy charges. Usually these kinds of charges are used for some nonreligious reason, similar to how sex and drug charges can be used to target political dissidennts in the West, and this case is not an exception to that rule. From The Independent:

The case began when Muhammad Faizan, a pharmaceutical representative, gave Mr Valiyani his business card. When the doctor threw it away, Mr Faizan filed a complaint, noting that his name was the same as the Prophet’s.

Wow, and we thought “Big Pharma” in America was bad. At least they’re not trying to get doctors killed for ignoring their sales pitches.

According to the source of all knowledge, Pakistani law makes blasphemy a crime punishable by death and a fine. They’re probably just trying to cover the cost of the bullet.



Jeremy Marks

December 14, 2010

Jeremy Marks is a Los Angeles high school special education student who’s been caught up in the criminal justice system. Originally he was offered to plead guilty on charges which would land him 7 years in a prison, and more recently he’s been offered a plea deal which included “attempted lynching” and would cost him just under 3 years in prison. He has been in jail for the past 7 months awaiting his day in court as his family is too poor to afford the bail set.

Here’s what happened: Marks was at a bus stop outside of a McDonald’s when a school police officer confronted another student for smoking. Based on the police report, eyewitnesses reports, and sworn testimonies (outlined in an write-up in the LA Weekly, which weirdly enough seems to be the only major news organization covering this), the cop seems to have lost her shit and smashed the kid’s head into a window until it broke. The window, that is.

Here’s part of the testimony of Los Angeles Unified School District campus police officer Erin Robles:

It was getting very, very wild.

OK, hold it right there. What do you think of when you think of something “very, very wild?” I have a few ideas, but describing them would probably violate some of WordPress’ Terms of Service. Anyway, here’s what immediately follows from the above quote:

There was screaming, people were walking behind me.

Forget about the screaming for now. People were walking behind her? That’s the second thing she remembers in order to back up her claim about it being “very, very wild?” Also, I hate to be the one to break it to officer Robles, but there are people walking behind her all the time.

Next, we get to the explanation of the screaming.

There were individuals trying to reach for my O.C. spray that had fallen on the ground. I was screaming for help on my radio.

Did you catch that?

There was screaming

Really? Why was there screaming?

I was screaming

Well that explains it. That’s why you always have to watch for the use of passive tense. People usually use it when they don’t want to identify the subject of the sentence, in this case the fact that it was her screaming instead of there just being screaming by nobody in particular.

Here’s how an eyewitness described the situation to the LA Weekly:

She slammed the student into a wall, threw him on the ground, took out her pepper spray, slammed him into the bus, broke the window out of the bus with his head, sprayed him in the face and slammed him into the bus some more.

Now’s probably a good time to note that the student in question is not Jeremy Marks. Marks was in the area, and he and a few others took out their cell phones to record video of the assault. Here is one of them and here is another. Marks was essentially arrested for recording the incident and for allegedly yelling “kick her ass!” though if you read the LA Weekly article that second claim sounds pretty dubious. The lynching charge comes from an odd definition of lynching which includes means trying to “incite a riot during an attempt to free a suspect from police custody.”

Even if Marks did call for a police ass-kicking, I don’t really see how you get from that to inciting a riot. And even if we grant the LAUSD cops that much, there would already have to be an attempt to free the suspect from police custody going on in order for that to apply to this weird lynching law, and that just doesn’t seem to be the case based on the evidence. The kids watching the altercation are just laughing and talking shit. There’s no escape attempt for the “incitement to riot” to be during.

This is just a case of an overzealous police officer with a corrupt department determined to use this kid as a scapegoat. And it’s fucking his life up for no real reason at all.

UPDATE: An engineer at Google heard about this story on reddit and has paid Marks’ bail.

Mother who murdered her daughter gets 3 years probation

July 15, 2010

See this classy lady?

Well, she killed her daughter by strangling her with a scarf, was found guilty, and sentenced to only three years of probation. Just to clarify, that means that she’s not even going to prison. For murder.

I looked around for mitigating circumstances, but this is really the closest thing to that available:

Magomadova had claimed her daughter, who was a rebellious teen who had been in trouble with the law and had run away from home, attacked her while they argued over whether Aminat would make a court appearance that day.

But LoVecchio said the evidence didn’t support the accused’s contention she had to use her scarf to defend herself from a deadly attack.

So the best that made it through the Canadian legal system for the side of the defense in this case was that she was a rebellious teen who had been in trouble with the law.

There’s definitely no implications of this being religiously motivated, but it might be worth noting that this woman’s actions are pretty much in line with the Bible:

If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them:
Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place;
And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard.
And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.

So we’ve gone from killing rebellious offspring being the official punishment to it being a kind of sort of crime. I mean, I guess maybe she should get probation for killing her kid. That’s progress.

Everybody must get stoned

July 7, 2010

This is just a very depressing story and I really don’t even know how to find a joke in it. Apparently that power belongs only to Monty Python.

In Iran, they of course have capital punishment. And there are still some pretty brutal practices used, even within the context of capital punishment. Unlike in Utah, the convict doesn’t get to choose to use an older means. Even in that case, the convict chose to die by firing squad, which only goes back at most as long as we’ve had guns.

But in Iran, they occasionally use methods of capital punishment which go back literally to the Stone Age. In Islamic criminal jurisprudence, stoning or lapidation is called Rajm. Typically, the victim (when female, such as is the case here) is buried up to their chest and then people throw rocks at them until they’re dead. The rocks are supposed to be smaller than one’s fist, which reduces the chances that the victim will receive a mercifully quick fatal blow. The punishment as it’s applied for adultery is prescribed in Islam in the Hadith, Book 17, Number 4192:

[W]henever Allah’s Apostle received revelation, he felt its rigour and the complexion of his face changed. One day revelation descended upon him, he felt the same rigour. When it was over and he felt relief, he said: Take from me. Verily Allah has ordained a way for them (the women who commit fornication),: (When) a married man (commits adultery) with a married woman, and an unmarried male with an unmarried woman, then in case of married (persons) there is (a punishment) of one hundred lashes and then stoning (to death). And in case of unmarried persons, (the punishment) is one hundred lashes and exile for one year.

Now fast forward to the present day and we have the case of Sakineh Mohammadie Ashtiani, a Turkish-speaking mother of two from the northern Iranian city of Tabriz who was convicted of adultery in 2006. Human rights attorney Mohammed Mostafaei claims that Ashtiani’s confession to adultery may have been due to language barriers, since she does not speak Farsi. If that’s true, then it would echo the case of Fawza Falih, an illiterate women who was coerced to sign a confession to being guilty of “witchcraft” by the Saudi Arabian Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, a.k.a. the “religious police” – a confession which, of course, she could not even read. The religious police refused to even read the accusations to her in that case.

Amnesty International is pushing hard against this miscarriage of justice, but as far as the Iranian courts are concerned it’s a done deal. Sakineh Mohammadie Ashtiani could be stoned to death at any minute. The only thing that could prevent it is a ginormous international campaign on her behalf, which even in the case of Iran is not unprecedented. Maybe it’s not plausible to expect the Iranian government to have a deconversion experience and suddenly realize that their legal system is bullshit and based on ridiculous mythology, but at least we can maybe help out the most egregious victims one at a time.

UPDATE: Sakineh Mohammadie Ashtiani will not be stoned to death, but she still faces the death penalty for adultery.

UPDATE II: The Iranian government has banned the media from covering this case.

UPDATE III: The Guardian reports Ashtiani’s cellmate’s account of the initial verdict.

UPDATE IV: The President of Brazil has made a call to grant asylum to Ashtiani. I have not yet heard of a similar call made by our President, unfortunately.

UPDATE V: Iran’s government rejected President da Silva’s offer.

UPDATE VI: The International Committee Against Stoning is reporting that Ashtiani’s attorney was arrested in Turkey yesterday

UPDATE VII: Ashtiani is now facing 99 lashes for indecency because a newspaper published a picture of her without her headscarf.

UPDATE VIII: The secretary general of Iran’s High Council for Human Rights said that there is a “good chance” that Ashtiani will not be executed.

UPDATE IX: A German group is reporting that Ashtiani is free, but the Iranian government has not yet confirmed.

UPDATE X: The Iranian government released a video of Ashtiani confessing to her husband’s murder, which they claim is “contrary to a vast publicity campaign by Western media that confessed murderer Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani has been released.”


More collateral murder

April 6, 2010

And in similar news in the “good war,” the US military has admitted to killing three civilian women in Afghanistan after denying involvement, having claimed that they were killed by the insurgency in an “honor killing.” Two of the women were pregnant.

The initial reaction by the military was that all of the witnesses had somehow conspired to blame it all on the “innocent” members of the military. And this was accepted as the correct response even though the witnesses all seemed to be coming forth with the exact same story. If you apply Occam’s Razor, you would have to accept that they were simply telling the truth and it was the military who was lying here.

From the Times:

“And in what would be a scandalous turn to the investigation, The Times of London reported Sunday night that Afghan investigators also determined that American forces not only killed the women but had also “dug bullets out of their victims’ bodies in the bloody aftermath” and then “washed the wounds with alcohol before lying to their superiors about what happened.””

Digging bullets out of pregnant women’s bodies. Stay classy! Way to “win their hearts and minds.”

But like the earlier post, this is just another inevitable result of being in a war. And what exacerbates all this is that these wars really have no purpose behind them at all. It’s pretty much all still going on in order to perpetuate itself.

And just as a quick note here at the end, here is what might be a good reason why these senseless killings have continued for as long as they have.

Collateral murder

April 6, 2010

So there’s this wiki site called WikiLeaks. It’s a good way for people to anonymously leak documents which some people might not want you to see. A typical example would be a former Scientologist keeping some weird doctrine or incriminating document and putting it online. And like Wikipedia, it’s best not to always take everything you read there as 100% true. But it is a good starting point for people trying to find information about topics.

With Wikipedia, you’d want to find the cited source. With WikiLeaks, you’d want to see if whatever organization had their info made public has acknowledged that the document really did come from them. It’s basically a good starting point for new data to the extent that it’s peer-reviewed and fact-checked.

A couple of weeks ago, they started tweeting about being followed, intimidated, and detained by the governments of Iceland (???) and the United States. And they claimed that it was because they were scheduled to release a film on April 5.

What seemed kind of weird about this is that the whole nature of a wiki site like this where people can immediately release whatever information they happened to have obtained is to avoid this kind of intimidation when a release (like the release of this film) is pending.

If you go around telling people that you’re about to print the Pentagon Papers in the NY Times, then chances are good the Pentagon is going to try to exercise prior restraint against the Times. The WikiLeaks format of just releasing whatever and whenever is a great antidote to that problem. If you just release info in real time, the spin from corporate media necessarily has to be after the release of the information, and so the public is influenced by it in its rawest form. That”s how the truth can out. But in this case that purer method really wasn’t being used.

As it turns out, this was a case of hyping their release because they are now backing off on some of their earlier claims. And it’s difficult to be very upset about that since the video they released showed US troops killing civilians in Baghdad back in July of 2007 when they mistook a Reuters reporter’s camera for an RPG. Here is the video (people get killed and children are injured in it, so consider yourself warned).

It’s easy to be angry at the kids in this video with their weird mixture of video game playing stoner enthusiasm for shooting people from a helicopter and unnecessary military/corporatespeak. But as Glenn Greenwald pointed out, this isn’t some strange anomaly in the midst of a normally benevolent military occupation. Killings like this are the inevitable consequence of war on a day to day basis. And we’ve had 2,576 of those days since the beginning of this war. It’s really more surprising that we’re shocked by a killing like this than the fact that it happened at all.

Some more background information the killings, including interviews with the surviving widow and her two children (pictured above) were also released by WikiLeaks on their Collateral Murder website. If you didn’t watch the video, they were trying to take the wounded reporters and civilians to a hospital after they were attacked, only to be shot at themselves.

Scientology’s secret sweatshops

March 28, 2010

At first I was all like, “Yeah, I heard about that before.”

But then I was like, “Wait, no I didn’t. That just sounds exactly like something they would do and I just kind of assumed it was old news when I read it.”

More former members of the Scientology cult have been making pretty damning allegations about how the church has been treating its “workers,” and by workers I mean brainwashed slaves. The allegations include working long hours for 39 cents an hour on only a few hours sleep, separating defectors from their loyal (loyal to Scientology, that is) parents, and even a forced abortion.

But see, all this is OK because these people aren’t really workers. They are “religious devotees akin to monks,” which makes treating them like shit totally cool in the eyes of the law, for some reason.

The response from the church wasn’t the typical “NUH UH!” we normally hear from them. Well, OK, it wasn’t just that. From the Times (emphasis mine):

The church has responded to the bad publicity by denying the accusations and calling attention to a worldwide building campaign that showcases its wealth and industriousness. Last year, it built or renovated opulent Scientology churches, which it calls Ideal Orgs, in Rome; Malmo, Sweden; Dallas; Nashville; and Washington. And at its base here on the Gulf Coast of Florida, it continued buying hotels and office buildings (54 in all) and constructing a 380,000-square-foot mecca that looks like a convention center.

Can you believe that? They’re being accused of running sweatshops – sweatshops which were, as it turns out, in the business of producing the church’s highly profitable but practically useless books and DVDs – and their response to this? “Hey, how could we have done that? We just finished a building a convention center. Look, it’s all shiny!”

It’s a lot like how when Walter Sobchak tried to get Larry Sellers to crack and they all saw that Corvette out front, except in this case the car really IS Larry’s and he’s showing it off to the press.

Don’t pretend like you don’t know what I’m talking about.

Just in case you’re new to the idea of Scientology and what it’s all about and think maybe I’m unfairly assuming these allegations are true (and if this is the case you should take some time to read up on them), the AP has another report about another couple making the same allegations. It’s pretty much what you’d expect: constant surveillance, blocked escape routes, censored mail, and anyone who corroborates these things is a lying heretic who must be silenced – for interfering with the church’s freedom, you see. Their ability to project their own worst qualities onto their critics doesn’t seem to have any limit at all.


March 18, 2010

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to allow barbers to have aquariums at work.

Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to see cool fish when I get a haircut.

War on Christmas XVI, Satanic arsonists vs. Glory of Christ church

December 11, 2009

There has been a weird mixture in this series of impotent fist-shaking on the internet to actions that more closely resemble an actual war. This one is closer to the latter:

So it’s another case of one group of superstitious morons attacking another. To be fair though, it’s been a long time since this kind of thing has been routine when perpetuated by Christians.

I think the Satan character gets a really bad rap, from both Christians and the ones who supposedly support him. In the Old Testament, he’s basically an intellectual contrarian and not some foaming-at-the-mouth, illiterate and violent personification of evil and destruction. Satanists should start embracing that kind of Satan instead of the ones some Christians like to prop up as part of their persecution fantasies. Maybe that way they wouldn’t be such douchenozzles.

TV personality on death row in Saudi Arabia for “witchcraft”

November 29, 2009

So before Saudi media outlets were just complaining about witchcraft (in this post, I mentioned the Hajj “stoning the devil” ritual that usually results in collapsing structures, killing gullible pilgrims. This year, flooding killed 83. Allah didn’t stop the flooding for some reason. Just a quick update.), now they’re doing something about it. Well, the courts are anyway.

The Lebanese TV presenter Ali Sibat was on a trip to Saudi Arabia when he was arrested for “witchcraft.” This apparently involves making predictions on his show.

Here is video of his trial:

So let’s see, there’s no real evidence against him, he’s not even Saudi Arabian, and he’s being put to death for being annoying on television. Can’t Oprah go on vacation in Saudi Arabia?

UPDATE: Stay of execution!

More torture fun

November 4, 2009

You might remember the case of Maher Arar from a few years back. Arar was on his way to his home in Canada via JFK Airport. He had been on vacation. While at JFK, Arar was detained and eventually shipped to Syria in one of those “extraordinary rendition” cases. While being “interrogated” in Syria on suspicion of being a member of al Qaeda, Arar claims he was tortured – which is not too surprising considering that he was in the custody of the Syrian government. During this time it was important for Bush to be able to say, “We don’t torture” (even though we do), by blaming all the torture on governments which we know will torture suspects we send them. It’s a lot like how Christian and Buddhist theocracies would hand over suspected witches or runaway serfs to a more secular institution so as to not appear to have blood on their hands – even though of course they still do. Here is a video of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) going after then Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in early 2007 regarding Arar’s case. It’s a good moment for the old guy. He actually gets as angry as one ought to be given the circumstances. Yelling starts just after 4 minutes in:

Anywho, after a while it appeared that an error had been made in considering Arar was even a suspect in the first place. The Canadian government admitted it had named him to the American government as a person of interest in the “war on terror” and settled the case by awarding him millions of dollars for giving the US government cause to ship him off to Syria to be tortured. But just recently the opposite has happened here in the US.

So let’s say you’re this kind of laid-back guy named Joe Canada. And you’ve got this buddy named Johnny America. And Johnny’s a bit temperamental, and you know this. You’re out at a bar and you think you see the guy who threw dogshit at Johnny’s house last week. You point him out to Johnny, and he goes over and pummels the guy. Later you realize you were wrong and apologize to the guy while he’s in the hospital.

See, even though you didn’t actually touch the guy, you set in motion a chain of events where the end result would be ridiculously out of proportion. That’s what Canada did by mistakenly fingering Arar, and that’s what the US did by sending him to Syria. One of the two governments is mature enough to be able to admit that they made a mistake. One of them isn’t. Guess which is which.

If you’re interested in reading about this story from the point of view of someone who actually knows what they’re talking about, Glenn Greenwald has a blog post about this case which is worth reading, like most of what he writes. And while on the subject of torture it’s probably worth noting that a recent study shows evidence that the pain of torture can make innocent seem guilty. So it’s not just that torture makes people with political ideas and beliefs like mine queasy, it’s that this stuff just doesn’t work. At all.


CIA gets into horror movie-style torture

November 2, 2009

The hilariously misnamed Department of Justice last Friday released some spooooooky documents to celebrate Halloween. From the NY Times:

F.B.I. agents who arrived at a secret C.I.A. jail overseas in September 2002 found prisoners “manacled to the ceiling and subjected to blaring music around the clock,” and a C.I.A. official wrote a list of questions for interrogators including “How close is each technique to the ‘rack and screw,’ ” according to hundreds of pages of partly declassified documents released Friday by the Justice Department.

A CIA agent and his interrogation tools.

The documents apparently ponder whether or not to prosecute CIA employees, including one interrogator who threatened a suspect with a gun and a power drill. The FBI of all organizations, seems to be on the side of sanity, questining the CIA’s overseas interrogation program “on grounds of both legality and effectiveness.”

Police punish responsible arsonists

November 2, 2009

OK, let’s just say you’re a teenager who likes to set things on fire. Who doesn’t, really? But let’s say you like to do it a lot. But at the same time, setting stuff on fire can have consequences. So how does one separate one’s pyromania from results like property damage and a police record?

The responsible thing to do would be to become a volunteer fireman and respond to your own fires – which is what two kids from Tennessee did:

Two volunteer firefighters in southeastern Tennessee have been charged with intentionally setting a vacant house on fire and then responding to it as Mowbray Mountain Volunteer firefighters… Both men were released on $5,000 bonds.

Now this would be a different story if they were somehow making money off of this, like in that Simpsons episode where they go from accepting rewards for putting out fires to starting fires for the purposes of responding to them in order to loot the house. And still it’s not good to burn shit down. BUT if you’re going to burn down a house, this would be the best way to do it. And it’s probably the most ideal case for restorative justice. They shouldn’t have  to go to jail or pay huge fines to bureaucrats. Just make them repair the damages.

1/3 of deaths from US drone attacks in Pakistan civilians, says report

October 20, 2009

The New America Foundation has a report out which seeks to tally the number of deaths from US drone attacks within Pakistan. According to their findings, one in every three deaths of that sort, or somewhere between 250 and 320, were civilians.

The methodology of the report excludes all but the most credible of news organizations’ reports on battle deaths, so even still this estimate is probably on the conservative side. And as Spencer Ackerman at the Washington Independent points out, there is a problem with determining who exactly is a “militant” and who is not. The line between combatant and civilian is blurry in a place like Pakistan.

If you were playing a video game and for every 2 bad guys you killed, you killed one innocent, you wouldn’t get very far in the game. So I’m going to propose that we adopt some kind of video game-based rule for a war strategy’s efficacy. If you couldn’t pull it off in 1943 (the game, see below) then it definitely shouldn’t be done in real life to real people.

Holy fuck

October 4, 2009

No, I don’t mean the excellent band from Toronto. I just meant it as my reaction to this story about a pretty nauseating abuse of police power.

Just to put this into context, I just got back from seeing Michael Moore’s new movie, Capitalism: A Love Story (which I’ll probably write about later), and even after 2 hours of his admittedly cheesy emotional pandering (mixed with some good stuff, too, but again, more on that later), this still made my jaw drop.

Phoenix police responded to a call about a home invasion. They arrived at the scene and shot a man in the back. Then they shot him again.

And again.

And again. And again. And again.

It turns out, this was the homeowner and not the perp. So officer Brian Lilly (the shooter) and Sgt. Sean Coutts (the accomplice) decided to get their stories straight and cover up their own incompetence/cowboy bullshit.

How do I know this? Because the homeowner was still on the phone with 911, which was recording the call.

“That’s all right. Don’t worry about it. I got your back. … We clear?”

-Sgt Sean Coutts, Phoenix Police Department

I can understand making a mistake. I can even understand shooting the wrong person. But for fuck’s sakes, does any police officer ever need to shoot someone six times? Isn’t the fallibility of human perception part of the reason officers are expected to show restraint within reason? And aren’t police officers in a better position than most to know that perception in humans isn’t very good? Isn’t that something they need to know to, you know, do their jobs?

It actually gets worse. The police then dragged him by his leg (which had at least one bullet wound) through his house and into his backyard and left him on a patio to writhe in pain in front of his wife and children.

Classy, huh?