Begg, a British Pakistani citizen who was held at the prison at Guantanamo Bay for almost three years following his arrest in Pakistan in 2002. Though the Pentagon believed he was an enemy combatant and a member of al-Qaeda, he was eventually released by President Bush in 2005 without charge, and reached an undisclosed financial settlement with the British government in November of 2010 along with several other former British inmates. Obama’s Thursday speech included statements that the administration is prepared to push forward the transfer of cleared detainees from Guantanamo to their home countries. Though, as Begg tells RT, this latest announcement is unlikely to dissuade the ongoing hunger strikers at the prison, now comprising the majority of the inmate population. Most importantly, the announcement will seem to ring hollow considering the president’s initial campaign pledge to shut down the detention center, which continues to operate into his second term.RT: So, based on Obama’s words today, does that mean that the hunger strikers [in Guantanamo] were finally heard?Moazzam Begg: They may have been heard, but I don’t think he’s going to be doing anything anytime soon about it. What was very interesting is that the heckler, Madea Benjamin from Code Pink, I picked up some very important words that she said. The first thing that she said was in relation to Shaker Aamer, the British resident who is still being held there, she mentioned him by name. And of course he’s been cleared for release, and is still part of a hunger strike. He has British children, four of whom are here in the UK, the youngest of whom he’s never seen.The other thing that she said that was very noteworthy was she mentioned Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, he’s the son of Anwar al-Awlaki who was killed a month after in a drone strike in Yemen, and he was at the age of 16 years old. Now Obama said that these drone strikes are justified, it’s a just war, it’s legal, he said, all of these things. But he never answered, never made any mention of this 16 year-old child who was ordered killed by a US drone strike, and I don’t think he ever will. He seems to be very open to addressing very tough issues, but this is one that I know he won’t be answering any time soon.But in relation to the Guantanamo prisoners, I don’t think anybody is going to be singing the praises of Obama any time soon, because he’s already made a promise four years ago that he would close the place. One of the things the heckler, Madea Benjamin, was saying was that if they had been cleared for release then why don’t you release them now. Why not start the process that could well take a year or more.RT: But he did say he would be starting a process for closure, also he said there’s no justification for Congress to prevent us from closing a facility that should never have been opened. And that received a round of applause, surely this is something to be more positive about than you were, what, just a week ago?MB: Well, you know, in the words of Malcolm X you don’t take a knife, stick it in his back 9 inches deep, pull it back five inches and say “we’re making progress.” That’s precisely why they were applauding him for something that he should have closed a long time ago. Even Bush said that he was going to close down Guantanamo Bay, and he wanted to close it. Obama said that he would do it, and he broke that promise. At least Bush never made that promise.RT: So will the hunger strikers carry on then?MB: I’m fairly certain that they will, because they’re not just – of course they’re primarily striking for their freedom, for being held for so long without charge or trial – but they’re also striking for being given these invasive cavity searches every time their lawyer visits, and every time he leaves, for the desecration of the Koran, for the strip searches, for the food and all of these things that they’ve had to bear over the past eleven years. And until they actually get to see the plane that is going to be taking them home, and even then they’ll be skeptical, I don’t think they’ll be stopping their protest any time soon.RT: When you’re talking about the conditions and the treatment they’re receiving, Obama clearly condemned the issue of force-feeding those hunger strikers. So, do you not think that this will influence their conditions now, and they will improve?MB: I’d like to think so, but it’s as though was Obama not aware of what was taking place in the world’s most notorious prison, which he spoke about in the first two days of his presidency? Saying that he was going to close it down? I mean he knows, he’s stated very clearly that he doesn’t want America to be remembered for Guantanamo, but it will be remembered for Guantanamo, people will never forget Guantanamo the way they will never forget Vietnam or the internment of the Japanese [in World War II] or anything else in relation to this. But the hunger strikes, if he really wanted to stop them he could do so clearly, he can’t pretend that all of a sudden he just knows about it now, and now he’s going to act. It’s something that should have happened a long time ago.RT: So if the prison is closed down, and the detainees released, many are saying they’re still a threat to society. How do you view that argument?MB: Well it’s just a misnomer completely, that’s a nonstarter. There are 613 former prisoners, I am one of them, who were released. Now 613 that’s the overwhelming majority, because at the highest point there were 779 prisoners, leaving behind 166. Now, if he returns them, they will do what we did, which is try to get on with their lives that they had destroyed.RT: Just briefly then, well then why were you a prisoner? The same question from many others, surely you must have done something wrong?MB: Well, no, that’s not true, we didn’t do anything wrong and that’s now been proven true. Even the British government has made huge payouts to former Guantanamo Bay prisoners who have challenged them in court. We weren’t the criminals, they were the criminals. The criminality was done against us, torture is criminality, kidnapping is criminality, rendition is criminality. All of these things were done to us, we didn’t do it to anybody.We were interrogated by the world’s most powerful intelligence agencies, and after years of all of this they still had no charges against us, and after years of all this the prisoners, the overwhelming majority of them, have no charges against them. So it’s not even worth discussing anymore. …
Although Starks’ charges were dismissed, the 53-year-old man will never regain his lost years. In 1986, he was found guilty of assaulting and raping a 69-year-old woman from Waukegan, Ill., and sentenced to 60 years in prison.Government witnesses, two dentists and a forensic technician testified against him. The rape victim also identified him in a photo line-up, but Starks believes two police officers encouraged the woman to accuse him.Dr. Carl Hagstrom and Dr. Russell Schneider, two dentists, testified that the bite marks on the victim’s body matched the marks left by Starks’ teeth. Their methodology, however, was outdated and unreliable, according to information obtained by the Courthouse News Service.With government witnesses, forensic ‘experts’, and the victim herself alleging that Starks was the rapist, there was little he could do to keep himself out of prison. But in 2006, the Illinois Appellate Court vacated the man’s conviction and set up a retrial. DNA evidence cleared him of the 1986 rape, and Starks walked out of prison a free man.It wasn’t until January 2013 that all of his charges were dismissed and his record was clean.“I’m just overwhelmed with joy,” Starks told ABC after walking out of the courtroom with a clean slate. The man’s attorney, Jed Stone, compared the outcome to a “ray of sunlight that cracked through a cloud”. But what Starks can’t forget is the false testimony by the state’s forensic technician, Sharon Thomas-Boyd, as well as the two dentists who matched his teeth to the bite marks. Thomas-Boyd falsely claimed that Starks’ semen matched the DNA found on the victim.US District Judge Gary Feinerman supported Starks’ theory that the forensic experts engaged in a conspiracy to falsely accuse him.”The complaint amply alleges that the police defendants, the dentist defendants, and Thomas-Boyd all worked to get Starks convicted for a crime he did not commit, and it is more plausible that they each made their contributions to that effort in the context of an agreement to secure a wrongful conviction than that, by some wild coincidence, everyone who came into contact with Starks’s case independently developed a desire to see him convicted and a willingness to lie in pursuit of that goal,” the judge said, according to court documents.It is unlikely that the police officers will be penalized for lying to the jury, since they hold impunity for doing so. But it is possible that they could face charges for prompting the rape victim to falsely identify Starks as the suspect.Starks claims the conspiracy caused him emotional distress. The Innocence Project, a group that originally helped the man clear his name, told ABC that in cases where innocent men are imprisoned, misidentification is most often the cause.“Bennie’s case features a wrongful identification and also faulty forensics,” Lauren Kaeseberg of the Innocence Project said in January. “Misidentifications make up 75 percent of wrongful convictions.”In the state of Illinois, committing conspiracy or perjury under oath or affirmation is a class 3 felony, which could result in 2-5 years imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $25,000. The lawsuit accuses the forensic experts of filing false reports, giving false statements, conspiring against Starks and pursuing wrongful prosecutions.The defendants have filed a motion to dismiss the complaint, but Judge Feinerman denied all motions except the intentional infliction of emotion distress. …
Reporters Without Borders is very disturbed by attempts by Polish government ministers to intimidate the media during the past the days. The media freedom organization condemns the utterly disproportionate and exorbitant damages that transport minister Slawomir Nowak is demanding from the magazine Wprost in a libel suit over an April 2013 story about his friendship with businessmen who often win government contracts and his presence at private parties paid for by wealthy corporate (…) …
“Manufacturing is not viable for Ford in Australia for the longer term,” said Chief Executive of Ford Australia Bob Graziano. “Our locally-made products continue to be unprofitable, while our imported products continue to be profitable.” Is the dollar too strong? -The rise of the Australian dollar versus the yen has created a high exchange rate, which makes the country’s export market uncompetitive, especially in the Asia-Pacific block. -Australia’s automakers and other manufacturing exporters have struggled with their currency’s 28 percent rise against the yen in the past year. -The currency dropped as low as 96.62 US cents in the early hours of Thursday morning, its weakest level since June 2012, following weak Chinese data as well as the Ford news. Analysts estimate the company has approximately $580 million in losses in the last fiscal year, and profit fell by 72 percent. Ford’s decision in Australia follows effort to also close shop in Europe.Graziano told reporters Australian production was no longer sustainable, as it was double the costs of Europe and quadruple the costs in Asia. The average hourly manufacturing salary in Australia in 2011 was $46.29, slightly lower than in Germany but 30 percent higher than the US and Japan, and nearly 75 percent higher than Brazil, according to US Department of Labor data.This could be a warning for other foreign auto makers- Toyota and General Motors – which both currently plan to keep operations running.The Australian government already highly subsidizes the car industry through a $5.4 billion fund, $34 million of which is allocated to Ford Australia.Two plants in Melbourne and Geelong in the state of Victoria will be closed by 2016, giving workers 3 years notice, and offering a government rescue support package of $39 million.Australia’s auto industry directly employs 45,000 people across the country, and another 250,000 indirectly, according to the Federation of Automotive Products Manufacturers.Australia’s population in 2012 was 22.8 million, which is a small market to have domestic auto production.Car registrations in Australia decreased to 93,423 in April of 2013, down 1,531 from March, indicating a drop in sales.There has been speculation that the Carbon tax is a driving factor behind Ford’s decision to halt production.Victoria Premier Denis Napthine, though confident of recovery, blames the carbon tax for hiking up production and manufacturing costs. The government has proposed to ditch the tax this coming December, but will not likely alter Ford’s decision to pack up and leave for cheaper labor and more profitable production. …
The UK government has branded the brutal attack on a soldier in Woolwich, East London, as a “sickening and barbaric” act of terrorism, although the terror allegation has not been officially confirmed. In video footage of the incident, the two assailants yell “God is greatest” in Arabic as they attempt to decapitate their victim.When police arrived on the scene they reportedly opened fire and injured the two suspects, who subsequently spent the night under arrest in hospital. Speculation over the motivation behind the unprecedented attack is rife in UK media, with the press drawing parallels to a foiled 2007 plot to kidnap and decapitate a soldier in Birmingham.Citing police sources, Reuters reported on Thursday morning that officers were examining possible links to Nigeria in the attack. Nigeria was a British colony for over a century before gaining independence in 1960. The UK now has a large Nigerian immigrant population numbering 174,000, according to the Office for National Statistics.The colonial factorBrian Becker from anti-war coalition ANSWER told RT that the UK’s neo-colonial approach to the Middle East, along with its NATO and US alliance, was leading to an “escalating cycle of violence.” “The British colonial past and its current legacy of intervention and war is undoubtedly a factor,” Becker said.“The British government joined George W. Bush in the invasion of Iraq and supported the war in Afghanistan.” UK politician George Galloway also intimated that the attack could have been a consequence of British actions abroad, drawing a parallel with Syria:“This sickening atrocity in London is exactly what we are paying the same kind of people to do in Syria.” But Defense Consultant Moeen Raoof told RT that the nature of the attack was “bizarre,” and did not bear the hallmarks of Al-Qaeda.“If this were an Al-Qaeda act they would have attacked many more targets,” Raoof said, describing the attack as more “opportunistic” than premeditated. Raoof added that UK soldiers were guilty of similar “appalling acts of murder,” and are “returning to the UK without any consequences.”The UK government has stepped up security around the capital in the aftermath of the attack, and Prime Minister David Cameron has called an emergency meeting with top politicians and security officials to discuss the atrocity.Terror stereotypesIn 2008, the Guardian obtained a copy of an MI5 internal research document on terror suspects that, based on numerous studies, concluded it was difficult to identify those who might be involved in terrorism in the UK.The study’s results “challenge many of the stereotypes that are held about who becomes a terrorist and why,” the Guardian said.According to the assessment, terror suspects are “a diverse collection of individuals, fitting no single demographic profile, nor do they all follow a typical pathway to violent extremism.” These include individuals from Pakistani, Middle Eastern and Caucasian backgrounds.The research revealed that roughly half of terror suspects were born in the UK, and a majority of the other half is in the country legally. Most of those involved in terrorism were males, with the majority becoming radicalized in their early- to mid-20s. A large number of those involved in terrorism did not practice Islam on regular basis. Cases have also revealed supects being involved in drug and alcohol consumption, and soliciting prostitutes.MI5 added that there is evidence that a well-established religious identity makes individuals less inclined towards violent extremism.Hundreds of UK men continue to travel abroad to places like Syria and Somalia to join anti-government and terrorist-linked organizations. Britons are allegedly involved with the Al-Nusra Front in Syria, as well as Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Shabaab in Somalia. …
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The UK government’s emergency response committee will meet again this morning, in the wake of a machete killing in broad daylight on a London street.
Prime Minister David Cameron will chair the emergency COBRA session himself.
A 20-year-old man – unofficially described as a soldier – was hacked to death in the suburb of Woolwich, near a large military barracks and court complex.
“It was a sickening, barbaric, completely unforgivable crime. I know that Londoners have been through terrorism before and this city has a huge resilience. What we also have is the best, most professional security services and the best police in the world to protect us and they are now going to get to the bottom of exactly what’s happened.” said Boris Johnson, Mayor of London.
Speculation is rife in the media and on the streets that this is a jihadist attack. There have been sporadic clashes overnight between far-right activists and police.
“Enough’s enough. Our message is – enough’s enough. We have weak leaders, weak police. Our police, our leaders tiptoe around this issue. This issue is political Islam. It’s political Islam that’s spreading across this country.” said English Defence League spokesman Tommy Robinson.
A murder inquiry has been launched by police counter-terrorism experts. Two men have been arrested.
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