Friday, November 30, 2007

West Boca doctor linked to al-Qaida gets 25 years in prison

from wire reports and The Sun-Sentinel (US: Florida)

For about six months in late 2003 Dr. Rafiq Sabir worked at Glades General Hospital in Belle Glade. Federal agents had begun tracking him in late 2002, monitoring his travel to Saudi Arabia, where he was employed at a military base hospital and documenting his phone conversations about joining al-Qaida. Authorities raided his home, in a gated community west of Boca Raton, in May 2005. Sabir insisted that co-defendant Tarik Shah had duped him into taking an oath with an FBI agent who posed as an al-Qaida recruiter, never explaining that he was pledging loyalty to al-Qaida or its leader, Osama bin Laden. U.S. District Judge Loretta A. Preska concluded Sabir perjured himself when he testified during trial that he did not understand the accent of the FBI agent during the pledging ceremony and did not realize al-Qaida was said or that references to an Osama were about bin Laden. The judge also said there was "no reason to believe that this defendant has abandoned any criminal intentions."

Betrayal Revealed

by Melissa Bailey from New Haven Independent (US: Connecticut)

Recorded conversations procured through Jameel Chrisman’s undercover work are at the center of the pre-trial hearing. The purpose of this week’s hearing is for U.S. District Court Judge Mark R. Kravitz to decide whether or not to add the hours of recorded conversations as evidence in an expected trial against former U.S. Navy soldier Hassan Abu-Jihaad (a.k.a Paul R. Hall). The suspect, 31, is facing up to 25 years in prison after being indicted by a grand jury on terrorism and espionage charges. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges ... Chrisman told the court how he sent Abu-Jihaad Salafi books “to try to gain his trust.” He tried to get Abu-Jihaad to commit to buying assault rifles for an alleged plot the three had been crafting to attack a military barracks in San Diego. Abu-Jihaad agreed to commit “financial and logistical” help, but never paid the money or took the plans to actionable specificity. Abu-Jihaad has admitted to sending emails to London-based Azzam Publications, including one about the USS Cole, but his attorneys counters that “he didn’t admit he told secrets.” They pointed to places in the transcripts where Abu-Jihaad denies wrongful activity, saying “I ain’t no jihadi.”

In the name of God: the Saudi rape victim's tale

from The Belfast Telegraph (UK: Northern Ireland)

The "Qatif girl" recounted her ordeal to Human Rights Watch: "I had a relationship with someone on the phone. We were both 16. I had never seen him before. He threatened to tell my family about the relationship. Because of the threats and fear, I agreed to give him a photo of myself." A few months later, after she had been married to another man, she became concerned that the photograph might be misused and asked the boy to return it. He accepted on the condition that she would meet him and go for a drive with him. However, when they were driving towards her home a second car stopped in front of them. She and her companion were taken to a secluded spot where they were both raped, many times ... In the hours that followed her attackers told the girl they knew she was married. "The fifth one took a photo of me like this. I tried to cover my face but they didn't let me." Despite the prosecution's requests for the maximum penalty for the rapists, the Qatif court sentenced four of them to between one and five years in prison and between 80 and 1,000 lashes. They were convicted of kidnapping, apparently because prosecutors could not prove rape. The images recorded on the mobile phone were presented in court but ignored by the judges, according to her lawyer.

Violence Against Women Is Still a Problem

by Abeer Mishkhas from Arab News (Saudi Arabia)

We cannot but see the irony of the day against the backdrop of the continuing coverage of the Qatif girl and how her story has turned from a clear case of rape to a bigger and wider one that at its core includes terrible violence ... It has been interesting to follow the online comments from readers and members of the public about the case. A shift in perspective has become very clear; now there are voices asking for stoning and some are asking for death — for the girl of course. Some readers have blamed the media for defaming the girl’s reputation by asking for more information on the case; some others have accused the press of tarnishing the Kingdom’s image abroad ... It is easy to explain since the official statements made it clear that the girl was breaking a rigid social law. What gave the girl the final blow were details about her appearance and the insinuation that she was breaking a moral law. That evidently was enough to cloud the eyes of the public with prejudice and it was but a single step from there to thinking that she violated a social taboo and so she deserved what she got. And we are celebrating the International Day for Eliminating Violence Against Women. Here I drop my pen.

Two Cases Shed Light on Floggings in Muslim World

by Russell Goldman from ABC News (US: New York)

Lashing is a common penalty under Wahabi interpretations of sharia law, the Islamic religious laws that underpin the legal systems in Saudi Arabia and Sudan. For some crimes, the Koran specifies the number of lashes required. But for most crimes, the sentence is at the discretion of the judge hearing the case. Not everyone agrees that the Koran condones the flogging of women, however. "There is nothing in the Koran -- that is there is no Koranic justification -- for sentencing the Qatif woman to flogging," said Yvonne Haddad, an Islamic history professor at Georgetown University. "Flogging has not been used in all places at all times throughout the Islamic world. In the places where it continues to exist it is steeped more in local tradition than Islam. The practice varies from place to place. Pakistan has a flogging law, as does Iran. Most of the Gulf countries, especially those influenced by Wahabiism have flogging," she said.

Truth monopoly, anyone?

from The Jakarta Post (Indonesia)

In Indonesia, the claim to truth is increasingly being monopolized by a group of Islamic fundamentalists and conservatives, ironically, in collaboration with the state ... This weekend, a group of people, aided by officials, forced the closure of a Roman Catholic church in the West Jakarta district of Tambora, on the pretext that it did not have the necessary permission from the people in the neighborhood. The premise had been used as a church for the last 40 years with no problems. There have been many other attacks on churches around the country that have gone unreported. This week, the government prevented an Islamic scholar from Egypt from delivering a series of lectures and sharing his knowledge at a gathering in the East Java town of Malang, only because his understanding of the Koran was considered to be too different from that fundamentalist Muslim scholars ... If we allow this to happen without a single word of protest, we can expect more bans against lectures by Islamic scholars and more attacks on people of other faiths that do not conform to the conservatives' notion of truth. At stake is not only our freedom and the pluralistic nature of this nation, but truth itself.

We Welcome Our New Overlords From Asia

by Rob Cornelius from The State Journal (US: West Virginia)

The next few decades will be about what folks are calling resource nationalism ... the sort of issues that used to result in an occasional war. As much coal for steel as West Virginia sells to Asia, what's to keep a big foreign government from throwing down a paltry few billion dollars to snap up Consol (CNX) or the newly formed Patriot Coal (PCX). In the long term, even the most expensive to operate union mines in Appalachia will seem like a bargain to someone whose national energy need is great enough. Understand that the biggest oil and energy companies on Earth aren't really Exxon (XOM) or Marathon (MRO), but state owned and run entities like Saudi Aramco, PetroChina (PTR) and Russia's Gazprom (OGZPF). They aren't necessarily as concerned about short-term profit as long-term economic development and nation-building of their own. America is more concerned about taxing big oil, while other governments are doing their best to acquire it and subsidize the costs for their own citizens ... It's already being done in small doses. The Chinese and Saudis have bought into western Canadian energy companies like Husky and would love to lock up a long term spot in the oil sands there. It was thought last week the Chinese might make a run at Rio Tinto (RTP), one of the largest iron and aluminum producers in the world and the second biggest miner of western coal in the U.S.

Citi of Arabia

from The Wall Street Journal (US: New York)

No one should be under any illusions that Abu Dhabi's $7.5 billion investment in Citigroup is a normal commercial transaction. It comes from a sovereign wealth fund controlled by a foreign government, which has political as much as business interests; from an Arab government that has a troubling history with American banking laws; and it offers a Middle Eastern entree into the U.S. financial system that since 9/11 plays a pivotal role in the war on terror ... Everyone should also admit that this investment means that Arab interests will now have inordinate sway over America's largest bank. Abu Dhabi's 4.9% stake combined with the 3.9% stake of Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal makes them the bank's dominant shareholders, and who knows how many other smaller holdings are in Middle Eastern hands. The small Gulf states may be governed separately from Saudi Arabia, but they are closely linked by geography, family ties, and national interests. For purposes of political influence, they often behave as part of the same tribe.