Thursday, February 22, 2007

Have a Pepsi and Pass the Ammunition. Par Deux.

Blogger sentenced to 4 years in jail for insulting Islam.

An Egyptian blogger was convicted Thursday, 22 February 2007, and sentenced to four years in prison for insulting Islam, the Prophet Muhammad and Egypt's president, sending a chill through fellow Internet writers who fear a government crackdown.

Abdel Kareem Nabil, a 22-year-old former student at Egypt's Al-Azhar University, an Islamic institution, was a vocal secularist and sharp critic of conservative Muslims in his blog. He also lashed out often at Al-Azhar - the most prominent religious center in Sunni Islam - calling it "the university of terrorism" and accusing it of encouraging extremism.

His conviction brought a flood of condemnations from Amnesty International and other international and Egyptian rights group and stunned fellow bloggers.

"I am shocked," said Wael Abbas, a blogger who writes frequently about police abuses and other human rights violations in Egypt. "This is a terrible message to anyone who intends to express his opinion and to bloggers in particular."

Judge Ayman al-Akazi issued the verdict in a brief, five-minute session in a court in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria. He sentenced Nabil to three years in prison for insulting Islam and the prophet and inciting sectarian strife and another year for insulting President Hosni Mubarak.

Nabil, wearing a gray T-shirt and sitting in the defendants pen, gave no reaction and his face remained still as the verdict was read. He made no comment to reporters as he was immediate led outside to a prison truck.

Seconds after he was loaded into the truck and the door closed, an Associated Press reporter heard the sound of a slap from inside the vehicle and a shriek of pain from Nabil.

His lawyer, Ahmed Seif el-Islam, said he would appeal the verdict, saying the ruling will "terrify other bloggers and will negative impact on the freedom of expression in Egypt." Nabil had faced a possible maximum sentence of up to nine years in prison.

Egypt arrested a number of bloggers last year, most of them for connections to Egypt's pro-democracy reform movement. Nabil was arrested in November, and while other bloggers were freed, Nabil was put on trial - a sign of the sensitivity of his writings on religion.

Alaa Abdel-Fattah, a pro-reform blogger who was detained for six weeks last year, said the conviction for insulting Mubarak will "have a chilling effect on the rest of the bloggers."

"We (the Egyptian people) are enduring oppression, poverty and torture, so the least we can do is insult the president," he said.

Amnesty International, the New York-based Human Rights Watch and the France-based press rights group Reporters Without Borders - along with a string of Egyptian rights group - warned that the ruling would hurt freedom of expression in Egypt, a top U.S. ally in the Mideast. Amnesty said it considered Nabil a "prisoner of conscience."

Nabil, who used the blogger name Kareem Amer, was an unusually scathing critic of conservative Muslims - and his frequent attacks on Al-Azhar, where he was a law student, led to the university expelling him in March. Al-Azhar then pushed for prosecutors to bring him to trial. His writings also appeared on a Arabic Web magazine called "Modern Discussion."

The judge said Nabil insulted Islam's Prophet Muhammad with a piece he wrote in late 2005 after riots in which angry Muslim worshippers attacked a Coptic Christian church over a play put on by Christians deemed offensive to Islam.

"Muslims revealed their true ugly face and appeared to all the world that they are full of brutality, barbarism and inhumanity," Nabil said of the riots. He called Muhammad and his 7th century followers, the Sahaba, "spillers of blood" for their teachings on warfare - a comment cited by the judge.

In a later essay, not cited by the court, Nabil clarified his comments, saying Muhammad was "great" but that his teachings on warfare and other issues should be viewed as a product of their times.

He blasted Al-Azhar, calling it the "other face of the coin of al-Qaida" and called for the university to be dissolved or turned into a secular institution. He said it "stuffs its students' brains and turns them into human beasts ... teaching them that there is no place for differences in this life" and criticized its policy of segregating male and female students.

In other posts, Nabil criticized Mubarak, writing at the time of presidential elections in 2005, "Let's pledge allegiance to God's representative and caliph in Egypt ... the symbol of tyranny, Hosni Mubarak ... Say goodbye to democracy for me."

The Bush administration has not commented on Nabil's trial, despite its past criticism of the arrests of Egyptian rights activists.

March 27, 2007 CAIRO, Egypt — A state-appointed human rights body accused Egypt's government of fraud on 26 March, charging that public sector-workers were forced to vote in a referendum on constitutional reform.
Justice Minister Mamdouh Marei told a news conference that the 'yes' vote in Monday's referendum on 34 constitutional amendments was 76 percent. Officials said only 27 percent of the 36 million voters had bothered to cast their ballots.

Opposition groups had urged voters to boycott the referendum, arguing the amendments were a setback to democracy as they increased the president's security powers and the chances of fraud in elections — a long term problem in Egypt.

President Hosni Mubarak greeted the results announced Tuesday as a victory for the people and promised further unspecified political reform. He did not mention the low turnout.

But the National Council for Human Rights, a state-appointed body headed by former U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros Ghali, reported numerous flaws.

"Voter lists were inaccurate, some civil society monitors were prevented from observing some polling stations, local authorities in some provinces organized mass voting, and some electoral officials intervened in the voting process and sometimes filled in ballots," the council said in a statement. "Mass voting" is Egyptian parlance for busing state workers to the polling station.

"The most important and dangerous aspect of the referendum was the low turnout despite a big media campaign in the three preceding days," the council said. The official turnout was 2 percent higher than in the contested 2005 legislative elections.

"In Egypt nobody believes the official figures, only if he is insane," said Abdel-Halim Qandil.

The U.S. government expressed skepticism about the referendum, saying the vast majority of Egyptians did not choose to participate.

"Many voices in Egypt have criticized the abbreviated process, which led up to this referendum, and have criticized the amendments themselves as a missed opportunity to advance reform and a step backwards," White House deputy press secretary Dana Perino said.

She said the Bush administration will continue to raise the issue of democratic reform with senior Egyptian officials.

The referendum on the 34 amendments was held only seven days after the parliament approved them, leaving many voters uninformed. One voter, house painter Hassan Abdel Salaam, told The Associated Press on Monday: "I swear to God, I don't know what I'm voting for."
The amendments abolish emergency laws, allow election supervision by an independent commission and ban political parties based on religion. Mubarak said Sunday the changes would "give a new push to political party activity" and "stop the exploitation of religion and illegal political behavior."

But the opposition said the amendments would reduce the judicial checks on election fraud — a long time problem in Egypt — and strengthen the president's security powers at the expense of civil rights. The biggest opposition bloc, the Muslim Brotherhood, bitterly resented the ban on religion-based parties, an amendment that was clearly aimed at the group.

Justice Minister Marei said 9,701,833 people voted, or about 27 percent of the country's 35,865,660 eligible voters. The 'yes' vote was 76 percent and the 'no' vote 24 percent.

The Hisham Mubarak Law Center issued a statement saying electoral officials created "an illusionary high turnout through stuffing the ballot boxes after voting closed." The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights accused the government of "mass voting" — forcing public-sector workers to go to polling stations.



Blogger ichbinalj said...

U.S. soldier sentenced to 100 years for rape, murder.
Thu 22 Feb.
A U.S. soldier who pleaded guilty to raping and murdering a 14-year-old Iraqi girl and killing her family was sentenced to 100 years in a military prison, the U.S. Army said on Thursday.
Sgt. Paul Cortez, 24, was also given a dishonorable discharge under a plea agreement he reached with prosecutors prior to a court-martial that spanned three days, an Army spokesman said.
Cortez, of Barstow, California, was not eligible for the death penalty under his plea agreement, accepted by the court on Wednesday.
Col. Stephen R. Henley, the military judge, found Cortez guilty of conspiracy to commit rape, four counts of felony murder, rape, housebreaking and violating a general order.
Under terms of his plea agreement, Cortez agreed to testify against the three others still facing prosecution in the case.
During the court-martial, a sometimes emotional Cortez recounted how he and his companions drank whiskey, played cards and plotted to attack the family at Mahmudiya, south of Baghdad, in March 2006. The group poured kerosene on the girl's body and lit her on fire in an attempt to cover up the crime.
Cortez testified that Spc. James Barker, who also pleaded guilty in the case, and a since-discharged soldier, Pvt. Steven Green, chose the family to attack because there was only one man in the house and it was an "easy target."
Once at the house, Green, the suspected ringleader, took the girl's mother, father and little sister into a bedroom, Cortez said, while he and Barker took the teenager, Abeer Qassim al-Janabi, to the living room, where they took turns raping her.
He said Green, who has been charged as a civilian and awaits trial in a Kentucky jail, shot the girl's family in another room and then raped the teenager.
The deaths of the girl and her family outraged Iraqis and ratcheted up tension in the war zone.
Barker pleaded guilty in November and was sentenced to 90 years in a military prison. Green was discharged from the Army for a "personality disorder."
Two other soldiers are accused in the case, Pvt. Jesse Spielman and Pvt. Bryan Howard.

6:04 PM  
Blogger ichbinalj said...

Former Sailor Arrested on Terror Charge AP March 08, 2007

WASHINGTON - A former Navy Sailor was arrested Wednesday, March 7, for allegedly releasing classified information that ended up in the hands of a suspected terrorism financier.

Hassan Abujihaad, 31, of Phoenix, is accused in a case that began in Connecticut and followed a suspected terrorist network across the country and into Europe and the Middle East.

He was arrested in Phoenix on charges of supporting terrorism with an intent to kill U.S. citizens and transmitting classified information to unauthorized people.

Abujihaad, also known as Paul R. Hall, is charged in the same case as Babar Ahmad, a British computer specialist arrested in 2004 and accused of running Web sites to raise money for terrorism. Ahmad is scheduled to be extradited to the U.S. to face trial.

During a search of Ahmad's computers, investigators discovered files containing classified information about the positions of U.S. Navy ships and discussing their susceptibility to attack.

Abujihaad, a former enlisted man, exchanged e-mails with Ahmad while on active duty on the USS Benfold, a guided-missile destroyer, in 2000 and 2001. He allegedly purchased videos promoting violent jihad, or holy war.

In those e-mails, Abujihaad discussed naval military briefings and praised those who attacked the USS Cole in 2000, according to FBI Agent David Dillon.

The documents retrieved from Ahmad show drawings of Navy battle groups and discuss upcoming missions. They also say the battle group could be attacked using small weapons such as rocket-propelled grenades. The ships were never attacked.

Abujihaad had a secret security clearance that would have allowed him access to that material, according to the affidavit.

The investigation was run out of Connecticut because Ahmad allegedly used an Internet service provider there to host one of his fundraising Web sites.

Ahmad was arrested in 2004 but the case against Abujihaad apparently received a boost in December following the arrest of Derrick Shareef, 22, of Genoa, Ill., near Chicago, who was accused of planning to use hand grenades to attack holiday shoppers at a mall.

According to the affidavit, Shareef and Abujihaad lived together in 2004 when Ahmad was arrested. After reading news reports of the case, Abujihaad became upset and said, "I think this is about me," Shareef told investigators.

Authorities then taped a phone conversation between Abujihaad and an informant in which Abujihaad appeared nervous. Though Abujihaad didn't say outright that he was involved in the leak of classified information, the affidavit provided enough evidence for an arrest warrant.

Abujihaad received an honorable discharge from the Navy in 2002, according to the affidavit.

4:44 PM  
Blogger ichbinalj said...

Chris Weinkopf of the Daily News writes:
BACK during the early 1990s, when the puppet regimes of the Soviet bloc collapsed in rapid succession, there was a bewildering silence from the liberal Western punditry. The once-vitriolic critics of Ronald Reagan - who warned he would lead us into nuclear war, who said communism was here to stay and must be accommodated - refused to acknowledge their error.
Now as we approach the fourth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq - which I loudly, even obnoxiously, supported - I can sympathize with the anti-Cold Warriors' reluctance to admit being wrong about the pre-eminent issue of the day.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's resignation and the need for a "surge" to stave off total disaster.
To be sure, the world is in some important ways better off without Saddam Hussein. And I still hold hope, based on recent, midsurge reports, that the situation in Iraq may stabilize. Moreover, I fail to see how the U.S. could possibly withdraw anytime soon without handing a massive victory to our enemies or abandoning our allies to slaughter.
Yet neither the slim reed of hope that still exists in Iraq, nor our obligation to stay there for the time being, can justify the decision to invade in the first place.
It's tempting, as some erstwhile invasion backers have done, to blame my one-time support on others. For liberals, the most popular dodge is to claim that President Bush lied about Hussein's nonexistent WMD stockpile. For conservatives, the typical excuse is that, even though the war was a great idea, Bush and Co. botched its execution. Either way, fault lies entirely with the administration and not at all with those of us who cheered its policies.
I don't buy it.

6:53 PM  
Blogger ichbinalj said...

Chris Weinkopf of Daily News con't:
There's no credible evidence that Bush lied about the weapons of mass destruction. All the world's intelligence agencies and the United Nations believed Saddam still possessed more of the WMDs he had used a decade earlier. That suspicion was only bolstered by the long-standing cat-and-mouse game he played with U.N. weapons inspectors. In retrospect, that suspicion was wrong, but it was entirely reasonable, given what we knew at the time.
As for the incompetence argument, to paraphrase Rumsfeld: You go to war with the administration you have, not the administration you wish you had. Implicit in anyone's support of the war was the belief that those in charge were up to the job of executing it. If they weren't, we supporters share responsibility for a misplaced confidence.
I believe as a matter of reason and faith that the church's "just war" criteria are the best standards by which to decide if military action is morally legitimate. Those criteria are that "the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave and certain; all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective; there must be serious prospects of success; (and) the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated."

6:55 PM  
Blogger ichbinalj said...

Chris Weinkopf concludes:
The danger Saddam ostensibly posed may have been "lasting" and "grave," but it was far from "certain." Even if he did have WMDs, there was no solid reason to conclude - as I and others did - that he was likely to pass them on to terrorists. After all, in a decade he had seemingly never done so before.
And while it's fair to say that peaceful means for dealing with Hussein had proved ineffective - witness the long litany of ignored U.N. resolutions - I overestimated our "prospects of success" while underestimating the "evils and disorders" that would follow Saddam's ouster.
The seminal military event of my youth was not Vietnam, but the first Gulf War - which, coupled with the likes of Grenada, Panama and the initial, apparently easy victory in Afghanistan - led me to a foolish belief in the invincibility of American forces. I also placed far too much stock in the universal appeal of American ideals - never mind the obvious, off-putting excesses of American culture.
Some of these errors were predictable, others less so. Because of my own political prejudices, I failed to take seriously the war's critics, let alone to truly question leaders whom I perceived to be on "my side" of the ideological divide. (Little did I know these leaders would go on to embrace a horrific wink-and-nod policy on torture.)
The reason I catalog these errors now is not just because it's important to own up to one's mistakes, but also because they weren't mine alone. The invasion, lest anyone forget, had broad public support and received overwhelming bipartisan congressional approval. There's a valuable lesson to be learned here about the perils of ideology and letting passion override prudence.
But there's no joy in admitting one's intellectual mistakes or moral shortcomings. That's all the more true in the case of Iraq, where heroes and innocents have paid the price in blood for others' shamefully bad judgment, mine included.

6:57 PM  
Blogger ichbinalj said...

Boyhood Friend and Teacher Say Senator Barack Hussein Obama Was raised a Muslim. (21March 2007)
The issue of Sen. Barack Obama’s Muslim past has surfaced again as his campaign steps back from its flat denial that he ever belonged to the Islamic faith.

Earlier this year several media outlets reported that Obama had attended a radical madrasa, or Islamic school, when he lived in Indonesia. At the time, Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs declared: “To be clear, Senator Obama has never been a Muslim, was not raised a Muslim, and is a committed Christian who attends the United Church of Christ in Chicago.”

The report about the radical madrasa turned out to be false.

Now, in a statement to the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday, Gibbs amended that declaration, saying: “Obama has never been a practicing Muslim,” the key word being “practicing.”

But a boyhood friend of Obama in Indonesia, Zulfin Adi, told the Times: “His mother often went to the church, but Barry [Barack’s name at the time] was Muslim. He went to the mosque.”

The Times sent a reporter to Jakarta, capital of the Muslim nation, to delve into an issue that could have a serious impact on the Democratic presidential candidate’s White House aspiration, as voters “react to a candidate with an early exposure to Islam, a religion that remains foreign to many Americans,” the Times noted.

Obama was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, to Barack Hussein Obama Sr., a Kenyan, and Kansas-born Ann Dunham. The couple separated when Barack was 2. They later divorced, and Dunham married Lolo Soetoro, a Muslim. In 1967, the family moved to Jakarta, where Obama was known as Barry Soetoro, and he remained there from age 6 to 10.

Obama attended first grade at a Catholic elementary school near his home, St. Francis of Assisi Foundation School, which accepted students of any religion.

His first-grade teacher Israella Dharmawan told the Times: “At that time, Barry was also praying in a Catholic way, but Barry was Muslim. He was registered as a Muslim because his father was Muslim.”

In the third grade, Obama transferred to a public school, where he was also registered as a Muslim.

Muslim students at the school attended weekly religion lessons about Islam, taught by a Muslim.

In his autobiography, “Dreams From My Father,” Obama mentions studying the Quran and describes the public school as “a Muslim school.”

Boyhood friend Adi said Obama occasionally went to Friday prayers at a local mosque.

“We prayed but not really seriously, just following actions done by older people in the mosque,” he told the Times.

Sometimes, when the call to prayer sounded, Barry and Lolo would walk to the mosque together, Adi added.

Obama’s half-sister Maya Soetoro, in a statement issued Wednesday by the Obama campaign, said the family attended the mosque only for “big communal events.”

New revelations about Obama’s Muslim past could provide ammunition for his critics — and political opponents.

One such critic is Chicago-based Internet journalist and broadcaster Andy Martin, a lawyer and consumer advocate who wrote earlier about Obama’s connection to Islam.

Reacting to the claim from Obama’s sister that the family went to the mosque only for “big communal events,” Martin wrote on Thursday: “Tens of millions of ‘Christians’ flock to churches for Easter and Christmas. And they would slap you down if you told them they were not Christians merely because they only appear twice a year for ‘big communal events.’”

He also wrote: “Obama no longer denies he was a Muslim. Now he says he wasn’t a ‘practicing’ Muslim.

“People in general will accept most anything from public officials as long as they don’t lie about it.”

8:30 PM  
Blogger ichbinalj said...


Presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards were flying to a convention. Barack looked at Hillary, chuckled and said, "You know, I could throw a $1,000 bill out of the window right now and make somebody very happy."

Hillary shrugged her shoulders and replied, "I could throw ten $100 bills out of the window and make ten people very happy."

John added, "That being the case, I could throw one hundred $10 bills out of the window nd make a hundred people very happy."

Hearing their exchange, the pilot rolled his eyes and said to his co-pilot, "Such big-shots back there. I could throw all of them out of the window and make 156 million people very happy."

8:46 PM  
Blogger ichbinalj said...

Pat Tillman's Death Not Caused by Negligence. 26 Mar 2007.
SAN JOSE, Calif - Investigators probing the friendly fire death in Afghanistan of former NFL star Pat Tillman found no criminal negligence. The findings end a yearlong inquiry into the conduct of members of Tillman's platoon who opened fire on him in April 2004.

A separate investigation, looked at everything that happened after Tillman's death, including allegations of a coverup. That investigation will recommend that nine officers, including up to four generals, be held accountable for missteps in the aftermath of Tillman's April 2004 death, according to well placed senior defense officials.

6:57 PM  
Blogger ichbinalj said...

A man whose family was German aristocracy prior to World War II owned a number of large industries and estates. When asked how many German people were true Nazis, the answer he gave can guide our attitude toward fanaticism.
"Very few people were true Nazis "he said," but many enjoyed the return of German pride, and many more were too busy to care. I was one of those who just thought the Nazis were a bunch of fools. So, the majority just sat back and let it all happen. Then, before we knew it, they owned us, and we had lost control, and the end of the world had come. My family lost everything. I ended up in a concentration camp and the Allies destroyed my factories."


9:19 AM  
Blogger ichbinalj said...

We are told again and again by "experts" and "talking heads" that Islam is the religion of peace, and that the vast majority of Muslims just want to live in peace.
Although this unqualified assertion may be true, it is entirely irrelevant. It is meaningless fluff, meant to make us feel better, and meant to somehow diminish the specter of fanatics rampaging across the globe in the name of Islam. The fact is that the fanatics rule Islam at this moment in history.
It is the fanatics who march. It is the fanatics who wage any one of 50 shooting wars worldwide. It is the fanatics who systematically
slaughter Christian or tribal groups throughout Africa and are
gradually taking over the entire continent in an Islamic wave.
It is the fanatics who bomb, behead, murder, or honor kill. It is the fanatics who take over mosque after mosque. It is the fanatics who zealously spread the stoning and hanging of rape victims and homosexuals. The hard quantifiable fact is that the "peaceful majority", the "silent majority" is cowed and extraneous.

9:22 AM  
Blogger ichbinalj said...

Communist Russia comprised Russians who just wanted to live in peace, yet the Russian Communists were responsible for the murder of about 20 million people. The peaceful majority were irrelevant.
China's huge population, it was peaceful as well, but Chinese Communists managed to kill a staggering 70 million people.
The average Japanese individual prior to World War II was not a
warmongering sadist. Yet, Japan murdered and slaughtered its way
across South East Asia in an orgy of killing that included the
systematic murder of 12 million Chinese civilians; most killed by
sword, shovel and bayonet. And, who can forget Rwanda , which collapsed into butchery. Could it
not be said that the majority of Rwandans were "peace loving"?
History lessons are often incredibly simple and blunt, yet for all our powers of reason we often miss the most basic and uncomplicated of points: Peace-loving Muslims have been made irrelevant by their silence!

9:25 AM  
Blogger ichbinalj said...

Peace-loving Muslims will become our enemy if they don't speak up,
because like my friend from Germany , they will awake one day and find that the fanatics own them, and the end of their world will have begun.
Peace-loving Germans, Japanese, Chinese, Russians, Rwandans, Serbs,
Afghans, Iraqis, Palestinians, Somalis, Nigerians, Algerians, and many others have died because the peaceful majority did not speak up until it was too late.
As for us who watch it all unfold; we must pay attention to the only
group that counts; the fanatics who threaten our way of life.

9:27 AM  

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