Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A Massacre in Jamaica

The New Yorker story that won the Livingston International Reporting Award 2011.

A Massacre in Jamaica

After the United States demanded the extradition of a drug lord, a bloodletting ensued.
by Mattathias Schwartz

Most cemeteries replace the illusion of life’s permanence with another illusion: the permanence of a name carved in stone. Not so May Pen Cemetery, in Kingston, Jamaica, where bodies are buried on top of bodies, weeds grow over the old markers, and time humbles even a rich man’s grave. The most forsaken burial places lie at the end of a dirt path that follows a fetid gully across two bridges and through an open meadow, far enough south to hear the white noise coming off the harbor and the highway. Fifty-two concrete posts are set into the earth in haphazard groups of two and three. Each bears a small disk of black metal and a stencilled number. The majority of these mark the unclaimed dead from the last days of May, 2010, when the police and the Army assaulted the neighborhood of Tivoli Gardens, in West Kingston. The rest mark the graves of paupers.
The trouble that led to the Tivoli Gardens deaths began in August, 2009, when the United States government requested the extradition of Christopher (Dudus) Coke. In the U.S., Coke stood charged in federal court of trafficking in narcotics and firearms; in Jamaica, he was known as the country’s most powerful “don,” a community leader who also runs a criminal enterprise. He lived in Tivoli, where everyone called him “president,” and, since 2001, Jamaican police had not been able to enter the neighborhood without his permission. Coke was so powerful that Prime Minister Bruce Golding spent months resisting the extradition order. But in early May, 2010, under heavy international political pressure, Golding authorized Coke’s arrest. In response, Coke converted Tivoli and nearby Denham Town into a personal fortress. Barricades of rubble and barbed wire sprang up across major intersections. Armed sentries took up posts around Tivoli’s perimeter. It looked as though Coke were preparing for war with the Jamaican state.

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Monday, June 4, 2012

Hosni Mubarak is in jail – but little has changed for Egypt

As long as powerful players remain in their positions the birth pangs of the revolution are set to be painful and protracted.

For the first time in Egypt's history the pharaoh is behind bars. But the joy was not unalloyed. Some of his most powerful henchmen, the backbone of his police state, were acquitted of killing the protesters and are now free. That's why Tahrir Square in Cairo and other cities have erupted in anger.

What also infuriated the public was that Mubarak was found guilty not of what he did, but rather of what he did not do. That's how seemingly preposterous (but apparently technically correct) the verdict is. The former president was proven guilty of something like "serious dereliction of duty": he failed to stop the killing of protesters.

The absence of incriminating evidence – as cited by Judge Ahmed Rifaat – was the most shockingly appalling of all facts, considering that Egyptians, in fact the whole world, saw on their television screens how the police shot and mauled the protesters last year.

The verdict should not have come as a surprise for those who followed the trial closely. The prosecutors failed to provide material proof (there was some circumstantial evidence on the type of weapons and ammunition issued to the anti-riot police) of specific orders from top police chiefs to the boots on the ground. At one point, the prosecutors publicly complained to the court that the police and intelligence services had refused to co-operate with the investigation.

The question now is why those agencies and the men who control them (all of them Mubarak-era appointees) have not been charged with "severe dereliction of duty" or, even worse, obstruction of justice. The answer is simple: they still rule Egypt.

From the day Mubarak was toppled to the start of the trial, records at the country's powerful state security investigations service (now renamed Egyptian homeland security) were destroyed; crucial videotapes from security cameras outside the Egyptian Museum at Tahrir Square were erased. Anyone charged or brought to court? No one.

The shocking acquittals of the top police chiefs have again raised the issue – with added urgency this time – of the unfinished business of the Egyptian revolution: the government and the coercive machinery of the state are still in the hands of people who – if not outright hostile – are at best not friends of the revolution. They don't actually use the word "revolution" but refer to it as al-ahdath ("the events").

Even junior police officers accused of shooting the protesters haven't even been suspended from work and their trials are constantly adjourned. The conclusion: the Mubarak regime cannot and will not try the Mubarak regime.

As long as these powerful players remain in their positions the birth pangs of the new order are set to be painful and protracted. They control state media, the police, the intelligence services and, of course, the army. Many key positions in the civilian administrations and public sector corporations are also held by former army or intelligence officers, who remain loyal to the old regime.

These are people whose mental maps belong to the past century, constantly drumming up the spectre of Israel and the west to silence efforts to open up their fiefdoms to public scrutiny. They hide behind the traditional rhetoric of national and strategic interests while in fact what they are hiding are vested interests and privilege.

Take two examples. The chief of general intelligence, Major-General Murad Muwafi, is known to believe that the "events" were a foreign conspiracy. A minister like Fayza Abul Naga – the woman behind the recent witchhunt of NGOs – has spoken of an American-Zionist conspiracy against Egypt. Ironically, for an official in charge of international co-operation, she believes the west is manipulating impressionable Egyptian youth to destroy Egypt.

One of their most effective weapons against the revolution and the west has been to crank up the xenophobia machine in state media and other rumour mills, which almost immediately translates into attacks on western journalists. A most recent example: a European press photographer was viciously attacked by a "Mubarak supporter" outside the court room after the verdict was announced on Saturday.

Now as the Muslim Brotherhood appears poised to rule the country, the same disinformation machine is portraying them as agents of foreign powers that include, bizarrely, in one swoop America, Iran, Qatar and Israel. The crassness of the allegations betrays panic, but works well where large swaths of the population are either illiterate or politically unaware.

These people have been in government for so long and appear to be psychologically incapable of conceiving of themselves shorn of power and influence. They will stop at nothing. However, sooner or later (it may be in a few months or a few years, yet the momentum for change is unstoppable) they will find themselves forced to hand over the levers of state to a new elite.

Will they do so quietly and peacefully? They will most certainly drag their feet, using existing Mubarak era laws to thwart change. One thing is sure, though: they will not go without a fight.

What many fear most is the "Gaza moment": that's when the fight over the control of the police and security forces between Fatah and Hamas, that had just won the 2006 election and was about to assume formal power, plunged Gaza into civil war in 2007. One hopes that the differences between Egypt and the Palestinian territories are big enough to make such a scenario near impossible.

the original article : guardian by Magdi Abdelhadi

Egyptian opposition groups call for mass protests over Mubarak appeal

Revolutionary forces demand mass demonstrations in Cairo as deposed president announces appeal and row grows over polls.

Egyptian opposition and revolutionary forces have called for a million-strong demonstration in Tahrir Square to denounce the verdict in the trial of the former president, Hosni Mubarak, and protest against the candidacy of his prime minister in the election run-off.

The vote will see the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, Mohamed Morsi, challenge Mubarak's ally, Ahmed Shafik, for the presidency after the first round of elections saw them come first and second.

However, the third-, fourth- and seventh-placed candidates, Hamdeen Sabahy, Abdel-Moneim Abul-Futoh and Khaled Ali, have cast doubt on the legality of the first round and issued a joint statement claiming electoral fraud in the first round. The three losing candidates met with Morsi on Monday to consider ways to proceed.

The idea of a joint presidential council has been proposed by Ali, which would ignore the elections and its results. Sabahy has filed a legal complaint in an attempt to void the results of the first round, hoping that a ruling would force the polls to be repeated.

Morsi still has a chance to win the election, however, making the Brotherhood reticent about joining forces with the other candidates and forgoing the elections. Rather, it would prefer to have the other candidates' backing for Morsy in round two.

Michael Hanna, a fellow at the Century Foundation thinktank, said: "There's obvious anger with regards to the [Mubarak] verdicts among certain sectors, but in a recurring theme, it's difficult to see how this might be translated into effective political actions."

The failure to reach a unified front is fragmenting the opposition and weakening its position.

All of the candidates agree to oppose Shafik, suggesting a victory for him would signal a return of the Mubarak regime and its oppressive security apparatus. Shafik, however, insists his policies represent a break with the past.

There is also anger at the Mubarak trial verdict, which saw the deposed leader sentenced to life in prison but spared the death penalty over the killing of protesters during the street revolt that ended his three-decade rule.

Source : Guardian

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Egypt's Mubarak sentenced to life, protests erupt

CAIRO (Reuters) - Hosni Mubarak, toppled by an uprising last year after 30 years ruling Egypt, was sentenced to life imprisonment on Saturday for his role in killing protesters after a trial that sets a precedent for holding Middle East autocrats to account.

But it was not enough for thousands of Egyptians who poured onto the streets afterwards in a nation already on edge before a deciding presidential vote in two weeks. Some wanted Mubarak executed, others feared the judge's ruling exposed weaknesses in the case that could let the ex-military strongman off on appeal.

Wearing dark glasses, the 84-year-old Mubarak was wheeled into a courtroom cage on a hospital stretcher to join co-defendants including his two sons Alaa and Gamal, former Interior Minister Habib al-Adli and six security officials.

Addressing the hushed courtroom, Judge Ahmed Refaat said: "The court has ordered a punishment for Hosni Mubarak of life in prison based on charges of participating in crimes of killing and attempted killing."

Propped up on the stretcher and stony-faced during the verdict, the only words the former air force commander uttered were to acknowledge to the judge over a microphone that he was present before the ruling was read out. Afterwards, he was whisked off by helicopter to a prison hospital.

His two sons, businessman Alaa, and Gamal, a former banker was once seen as being groomed for president before his father was toppled on February 11, 2011, had corruption charges quashed, but stay in jail over another case referred to court last week.

Refaat sentenced Adli, whose police force was hated for the brutal tactics used against the revolt, to life in prison. About 850 people were killed in the 18-day uprising against Mubarak.

But the judge acquitted the senior security officials for lack of evidence, a decision that worried lawyers for victims' families who said that could help Mubarak win any appeal.

Businessman and Mubarak ally Hussein Salem, being tried in absentia, was also acquitted of corruption charges.

It was the first time an ousted Arab leader had faced an ordinary court in person since a wave of uprisings shook the Arab world last year, sweeping away four entrenched rulers.

State television said Mubarak suffered a "health crisis" when he was flown to Cairo's Tora prison, where he was admitted to a hospital facility. Mubarak had been held at a luxurious military-run hospital during the 10-month trial.


A medical source said Mubarak argued with those around him when he landed at Tora, refusing to leave the aircraft. Mubarak always appeared in court sessions on a stretcher but his ailment has not been defined.

Long feted by Arab leaders and his U.S. and other Western allies as a lynchpin politician who offered stability in a turbulent region, Mubarak's ousting has helped redraw the Middle East's political map and let Islamists he once repressed sweep up parliamentary seats in the Arab world's most populous state.

The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's biggest Islamist group, is now fielding one of the two challengers in a fraught run-off vote for the presidency against Mubarak's last prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq, who like his former boss once led the air force.

Unlike elections in Mubarak's time, that were routinely rigged and the outcome guaranteed, no one can be sure who will emerge victor in the June 16 and 17 run-off that has polarized the nation, leaving many worrying both about Islamist rule and the alternative of handing power back to a former military man.

Refaat opened proceedings by hailing Egyptians for removing the only leader many of them had known. Mubarak came to power in 1981 after his predecessor, Anwar Sadat, was assassinated by Islamists angry at Egypt's 1979 peace deal with Israel.

"The people of Egypt woke on Tuesday, January 25, 2011, to a new dawn, hoping that they would be able to breathe fresh air ... after 30 years of deep, deep, deep darkness," he said, referring to the day the uprising erupted.

Yet many Egyptians are still waiting for the light - the chaos that erupted in court after the ruling typifying a messy political transition that has been led by the military. Generals say they will hand over power to a new president by July 1.

After a silence during sentencing, scuffles broke out inside the court between security officers and people chanting "Void, void" and "The people want the cleansing of the judiciary".

Rather than a healing experience that many Egyptians wanted, many saw the trial that acquitted top security officials as showing how much of Mubarak's old order was still in place.

Protesters gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square, focus for the uprising that drove Mubarak out. In Alexandria, demonstrators chanted: "We are done with talk, we want an execution!"

Al Jazeera reported that Mubarak would lodge an appeal. His lawyers could not be reached immediately for comment.


Yet some Egyptians said Mubarak's sentencing was enough, even if they were unhappy security officials were off the hook.

"I think the verdict on Mubarak is fair, he is over 80 years old and a life in prison verdict is a hard one, as it means he will certainly spend all his remaining years in jail," said Ahmed Raouf, 30, who works at a private Cairo computer firm.

Brotherhood presidential candidate Mohamed Mursi promised in a news conference he would deliver "retribution for the martyrs" and would dig up evidence to try those responsible for killings.

"The blood of the martyrs will keep boiling in my veins," he said, painting himself as the choice for revolutionaries and those seeking change in the presidential race.

Ahmed Shafiq, appointed premier in the last days of Mubarak's rule and who calls the ex-president a role model, said on his Facebook page the trial showed no one was above the law.

"This verdict brings Egypt back to its leading regional role as the country witnesses the first condemnation of an Arab pharaoh who ruled for 30 years," said Nabil Abdel Fattah from the Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies.

But he said the verdict would be a political football in the election. He said Mursi wanted to show he was the only one who could reform the system and Shafiq would seek to prove that this showed the judiciary could deliver a tough sentence, despite criticism of the ruling by protesters.

Lawyers acting for the families of victims said the acquittal of the six security officials showed the weakness of the prosecution case. They said the sentence was designed to appease public anger, but could be overturned at appeal.

"Regarding accusations against the police leadership, the court is of the opinion that none of the actors who committed the crimes of murder were caught during or after the events, so there is no direct evidence for the charges," the judge said.

Charges against the six included complicity in killing protesters and failing to prevent damage to public property.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said the ruling "sends a powerful message to Egypt's future leaders that they are not above the law". But it said the acquittals suggested a prosecution failure to fully investigate killings of protesters.

Few Egyptians had expected Mubarak to be put to death, although protesters have often hung his effigy from lamp posts.

Hanafi el-Sayed, whose 27-year-old son was killed early in the uprising, travelled from Alexandria for the trial.

"I want nothing less than the death penalty for Mubarak. Anything less and we will not be silent and the revolution will break out again," he said shortly before the verdict.

(Additional reporting by Yasmine, Saleh, Tom Perry, Patrick Werr and Marwa Awad; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Alistair Lyon and Ralph Gowling)

Source : Yahoo News

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