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A US military judge has ruled the government must dismantle a monitoring system which allowed censors to suspend the broadcast of hearings for Guantanamo prisoners suspected of planning the 9/11 attacks. Army Colonel James Pohl said on 31 January it was “the last time” a third party could decide whether the hearings would be broadcast. The closed-circuit broadcast feed was stopped for a few minutes during a 28 January pre-trial hearing of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed — alleged organiser of the 9/11 attacks — and four other defendants. It revealed for the first time that an unknown external force was listening in on the trial and censoring proceedings at will. The feed was cut when Mohammed’s lawyer David Nevin requested the preserve secret CIA prisons where the defendants had been held before being taken to Guantanamo. Pohl, who was unsure why the information was censored as it was public information, said he and the court security officer were the only ones allowed to halt the broadcast.
An investigation into protests in Burma in November 2012 has discovered that police forces used white phosphorus to disperse crowds, causing demonstrators severe burns. Police involvement left more than 100 Buddhist monks and other participants badly burned, injuries authorities said were caused by tear gas and smoke grenades. An analysis in a Bangkok laboratory concluded that the canisters, which were collected by lawyers after the protests, contained traces of white phosphorus.
Protestors had staged an occupation at Letpaduang copper mine for 11 days before police broke up the crowd. The report will be sent to a government appointed panel fronted by opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi for review. White Phosphorus is typically used in war to create a smoke screen and its use against people has been disputed.
An Indian state has banned a film for 15 days following complaints that it was offensive to Muslims. Tamil Nadu state in southern India banned the action film Vishwaroopam — which was due to be released on 25 January — after concerns that protests outside cinemas could turn violent. Muslim groups said the film portrayed their faith in a negative light and were offended that the terrorist in the film was Muslim. Tamil Nadu’s Chief Minister Jayalalithaa Jayaram said the state didn’t have enough police to impose law and order outside the 500 cinemas it was set to play in. Film director and co-producer Kamal Haasan has appealed for the ban to be lifted in Tamil Nadu and is expected to hear a judgement by 6 February.
On 31 January, a 15-year-old girl in Iceland won the right to keep her birth name, despite authorities saying it wasn’t feminine enough. Reykjavik District Court allowed Blaer Bjarkardottir to hold on to her first name Blaer, meaning light breeze — a name her mother Bjork Eidsdottir gave her from birth, apparently unaware the name was on the government banned list. Icelandic authorities had originally rejected the name for being too masculine, referring to her only as “girl” in communication with officials. Iceland has official rules for what name a baby can be given. Names are supposed to fit with Icelandic grammatical rules and the alphabet. The ruling means the name can now be taken by girls across Iceland.
Naomi Campbell has accepted damages from The Daily Telegraph after she was falsely accused of organising an elephant polo match in India for her partner’s birthday. The newspaper had printed a story on 3 November 2012, alleging that Campbell arranged the tournament in Jodhpur for Vladimir Doronin’s 50th birthday celebrations. The model accepted an apology from the Telegraph, as well as “substantial” damages — although the figure has not been disclosed. Campbell’s lawyer Gideon Benaim said at London’s High Court that the “unfounded” claims had caused a “storm” of publicity in India after media outlets across the country republished the story.
Osama bin Laden’s death two weeks ago has prompted a bitter debate on US op-ed pages and cable TV shows over one of the major legacies of the Bush Administration: “enhanced interrogation techniques.” Defenders of the administration (and many of its former officials, who have rarely been heard from over the past two years) have emerged to insist bin Laden’s death vindicates the intelligence-gathering-at-all-costs strategy of the US War on Terror. (more…)
Good news from the Royal Courts of Justice, where Master of the Rolls Lord Neuberger has ruled that Britain’s security services will not be allowed to submit evidence in secret in the case of Binyam Mohamed and several other Guantanamo detainees.
Mohamed is seeking compensation for abuse and wrongful imprisonment.
Lord Neuberger, Lord Justice Maurice Kay, and Lord Justice Sullivan noted:
“In our view the principle that a litigant should be able to see and hear all the evidence which is seen and heard by a court determining his case is so fundamental, so embedded in the common law that, in the absence of parliamentary authority, no judge should override it, at any rate in relation to an ordinary civil claim …”