Wednesday, January 21, 2015

J'Accuse: In Spanish, the Complete 289-page #Nisman Brief on the Argentina Government's Cover-Up of Iran's Role in 1994 AMIA Bombing

The complete PDF, just released by the Argentine courts after the suspicious suicide of prosecutor Alberto Nisman on Sunday, can be downloaded here.

The brief passage above accuses President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and Foreign Minister Héctor Marcos Timerman of signing a secret memorandum of understanding with the Iranian government guaranteeing the immunity from prosecution of the Iranian fugitives Nisman believed were behind the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires that cost the lives of 85 people and injured hundreds more.

The Kirchner government has dismissed the accusations as groundless and delusional, and initially sought to prove that Nisman killed himself for unknown, perhaps personal, reasons. But even members of Kirchner's party are now opening the door to the possibility he was pressured into ending his own life, and the forensic evidence has yet to establish that he pulled the trigger of gun found next to his body—an Argentine-manufactured Bersa .22 semi-automatic—which presumably was used to fire the shot into his temple that killed him. No traces of powder were found on Nisman's hand, which investigators say is conceivable given the small caliber of the weapon. The investigation goes on.

This is my write-up of the initial reports on Nisman's death, raising the question of Iranian secret service involvement:


Has Iran Resumed Global Assassinations?

Has Iran Resumed Global Assassinations?

An Argentine prosecutor died from a single gunshot wound to the head Sunday, hours before giving... MORE

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Why We Published the Charlie Hebdo Muhammad Cover

The BBC asked me why The Daily Beast published the Muhammad cover of Charlie Hebdo. In fact, Editor in Chief John Avlon explained our reasons last week. Somewhat less elegantly, I made the same points in the audio below:

From my point of view, having written about the obscurantist evil represented by the putative Islamic State, there is one Charlie Hebdo cover that stands out. It represents the Prophet as a caricature, but it does Him no injustice. Rather, it drives home the point that people murdering in his name have nothing to do with Islam. The headline: "If Muhammad Came Back ..." He's on his knees. "I'm the Prophet, you moron!" he tells the black-masked jihadi with a knife to his throat. "Shut your trap!" says the jihadi, who, of course, wants to hear nothing that interferes with his self-appointed role as God's angel of death.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

On Morning Joe: Terrorism "is not exclusive to Islam"

In the pouring rain on Thursday. The rather passionate explanation of the roots of terrorism begins about 18:00 minutes in. 

"Neutralization," or, France's version of capital punishment, with Chris Matthews #CharlieHebdo

My appearance on Chris Matthews (very late at night ...)

Al Qaeda's "non-negotiable terrorism," a war to the death. Talking with RachelMaddow #Charlie Hebdo

"It's not just terrorism, it is a war, and it's a war, basically, to the death."

My appearance (at 3:00 a.m. my time) with Rachel Maddow. Her introduction is long and informative. My remarks begin about 18 minutes into it.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

"Footloose" In Iran?

The Daily Beast picked up a terrific little story from IranWire about people going to clandestine dance lessons in Iran. And while I was editing it, I looked up the final scene of the 1984 movie "Footloose," with Kevin Bacon, about an ultra-conservative town in the USA where dancing is deemed contrary to Christian religion. I had forgotten how much fun those last few minutes of the movie really are. Perhaps our friends in Iran can take a little inspiration from them.

Amal Alamuddin? Amal Clooney? What's Important Is What She's Doing. A Follow-up on the Egypt Issue.

I was sent this by a friend at Al Jazeera America, following up on my story about the Egyptian judiciary and Amal Clooney (and, yes, if you look at the signature, that is the name she uses now, not Amal Alamuddin or Amal Alamuddin-Clooney):

Please see below letter, published today [January 4] on the Huffington Post, by lawyer Amal Clooney who is representing Al Jazeera’s Mohamed Fahmy.

For background: A Canadian-Egyptian journalist, Mohamed Fahmy is a senior producer for Al Jazeera English in Cairo. He previously worked for The New York Times, CNN, and the International Committee of the Red Cross. Fahmy was arrested in Egypt on December 29, 2013 and on June 23, 2014, he was sentenced to seven years in prison, after what many considered a sham trial which featured evidence including BBC podcasts and a song by Australian artist Goyte. A Dutch journalist Rena Netjes posted on Twitter that despite never having worked for Al Jazeera, she believed she was implicated in the case by the Egyptian authorities because she once spoke to Mohammed Fahmy in a hotel lobby.

Al Jazeera Journalist Mohamed Fahmy Should Be Released Not Retried in Egypt

Posted: 01/04/2015 7:28 pm EST Updated: 01/04/2015 10:59 pm EST

On 1 January 2015, the Egyptian Court of Cassation issued a ruling upholding the appeal filed by Mohamed Fahmy to overturn his conviction and 7-year sentence. In so doing, Egypt's highest court has recognized that there were legal errors in the original trial. But instead of releasing Fahmy, the Court ordered a retrial and declined to grant him bail. The Court's reasoning and the position of the prosecution on the re-trial are due to be published in the coming weeks.

Mr. Fahmy is a journalist who was convicted of reporting false news and supporting the Muslim Brotherhood. These allegations are not true and were not backed by any evidence at trial. Mr. Fahmy has never supported the Brotherhood. There was no evidence presented at trial that showed that he ever fabricated a report or knowingly made a false statement. He is serving a draconian sentence for simply reporting the news.

A re-trial process is lengthy and its outcome is uncertain. It is also not clear how a new process would fix any of the deficiencies in the original trial. The charges themselves are a violation of the right to free expression under Egyptian and international law. There are no guarantees that a new panel of judges would respect due process or demand cogent evidence before concluding that a crime was committed. Fahmy cannot therefore count on the retrial process to offer a just or swift solution.

As Mr. Fahmy's counsel, we are therefore pursuing discussions with the Egyptian and Canadian authorities in a spirit of cooperation in order to identify a swift and fair resolution to the case. We have submitted a written request for a pardon and for his release to the Egyptian President, Minister of Justice, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Prosecutor-General, and we await their response.

President Sisi has the power under Article 155 of the Egyptian Constitution to grant Mr. Fahmy and his journalist colleagues a pardon at any time. He has already distanced himself from the case, pointing out that the decision to arrest Mr. Fahmy was taken before he was president. He has stated that Mr. Fahmy and his journalist colleagues should not have been put on trial. He has expressed regret about the negative consequences of the case for Egypt. And he has said that he is considering granting a pardon or finding another solution to this matter. Although President Sisi has suggested that he may not grant a pardon while judicial proceedings are ongoing, now that the appeal has been determined -- and the judiciary has recognized that legal violations have occurred -- we very much hope that the president will decide to step in.

A transfer to Canada is also possible, and has received official support from the Canadian government. We have been in touch -- along with Canadian counsel Lorne Waldman -- with officials in Ottawa and we are currently actively pursuing opportunities to discuss the terms of a transfer in Mr. Fahmy's case with the Canadian Foreign Ministry. We have been informed that Foreign Minister Baird is considering our request to meet with him and we very much hope that such a meeting will be possible before the foreign minister's planned visit to Cairo in mid-January. We would also welcome an official response from the Egyptian authorities to the request for a pardon, and further engagement on the terms of a transfer.

In the meantime, to the extent that consideration of a pardon or negotiations on a transfer to Canada will lead to further delay, it is imperative that Mr. Fahmy be temporarily released on health grounds in accordance with the Egyptian Code of Criminal Procedure. A request to the Prosecutor-General for humanitarian release was made by the Egyptian Syndicate of Journalists in October and it has subsequently been supported by counsel and by Canadian consular officials. Medical reports attached to the original request confirm that Mr. Fahmy suffers from Hepatitis C as well as other health conditions that cannot be treated appropriately in detention. His detention has become a serious risk to his health and he must be released for treatment immediately while requests for his release are being processed.

Mr. Fahmy has been imprisoned for over a year in a case that shocks the conscience of many observers in Egypt and abroad. We look forward to working constructively with the Egyptian and Canadian authorities in the coming days to reach an agreement for his release as soon as possible.

Finally, there is another matter that requires comment. An article was published in the Guardian newspaper on 2 January 2015 stating that officials threatened Amal Clooney with arrest in Egypt in connection with her representation of Fahmy. The incident that was recounted in fact arose in early 2014 when the International Bar Association's Human Rights Institute (IBA) -- which was organizing the launch of a report co-authored by Mrs. Clooney -- was warned by experts in Egyptian affairs who were consulted on the launch that she and her colleague risked arrest if they launched the report in Cairo, in light of the criticisms made in the report and recent prosecutions for "crimes" like insulting the judiciary, government or military in Egypt. As a result of these warnings, the IBA decided that it was not safe to hold the launch in Cairo, and the authors were forced to hold it in London instead. This incident arose before Mrs Clooney's involvement in the Fahmy case, before the current president was in office and in a context entirely unrelated to this case. The journalist has since apologized for the misleading presentation of this matter in the article and corrections were made to the text to attempt to address this. More importantly, the focus today should not be on the risks that lawyers or journalists faced in the past. The focus should be on the risks of free speech in today's Egypt. We consider it a promising sign that President Sisi has stated that he would consider pardoning Mr. Fahmy. It would be a promising sign if the authorities agreed to transfer him to Canada. Freeing Fahmy would finally send a message that journalists in Egypt will not be imprisoned for simply doing their job, and it would honor the aspirations of those who have marched for a new and more progressive Egyptian society.

Amal Clooney
Mark Wassouf
Counsel for Mohamed Fahmy

NOTE: The Guardian got the Fahmy connection wrong, the Beast did not. For a full explanation of the International Bar Association Human Rights Institute report on the Egyptian judiciary, you can watch this 7-minute video.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Diana Conspiracies Redivivus? Please, No.

As we reported in The Daily Beast today, a new play about to open in London is dredging up all the old, and a few new, twists in the conspiracy theories about Princess Diana's death in a 1997 car crash in Paris.

I won't ask, "Who cares about Diana's death?" Obviously there are still quite a few people. But I do wonder who it is who cares.

Those who were adults on August 31, 1997, probably remember where they were when they heard that Diana died. Indeed, many probably heard that news from me, speaking on CNN live on the phone from the hospital.

It was one of those shared global moments, and, indeed, the moment was the message. People stopped to reflect and to mourn, not just for Diana, and maybe not for her at all, but for their own lost years and lost loves. But does anyone under the age of 25 today remembers that event firsthand? I think probably not. And in retrospect it seems to have been completely overblown.

Diana was not an assassinated president, she did not walk on the moon, the day she died was not a day that will live in infamy. She just made some very bad choices in men, protectors, and drivers, and when a drunken deputy security chief at Dodi's father's hotel wanted to impress his boss and the princess, he drove far too fast down a treacherous stretch of road in a car he couldn't handle and, when he was surprised to see a slow-moving vehicle right in front of him, overcompensated and hit a concrete pillar, killing himself, his boss and Diana.

Full stop.

The Latest Cantlie Video for "Islamic State" Professes Too Much

Not sure how long this video will remain live.

But it's more evidence of ISIS weakness, not strength. There have been many, many reports that life in Mosul is more or less normal if you are Sunni, if you wear niqab, and if you still have your head on your shoulders. But as The Daily Beast reported last week, the Kurdish offensive in Sinjar is changing that picture. And, oh, by the way, it has been more than two months since Cantlie "reported" that Kobani was basically under ISIS control. Still not so, as The Daily Beast reported last month and as the excellent BBC coverage "Inside Kobane" established this weekend.