Category Archives: Justice

The Battle for Free Speech: Meghan Murphy vs. Twitter

Last week, Canadian feminist and journalist, Meghan Murphy, announced that she is suing Twitter. Having been permanently suspended from Twitter last Fall, Murphy’s lawsuit challenges Jack Dorsey’s contention made last September to the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Twitter Transparency and Accountability wherein he stated, “We don’t consider political viewpoints, perspectives, or party affiliation in any of our policies or enforcement decisions, period.” Taking aim at Twitter’s contradictory and unevenly-applied policy, Murphy’s lawsuit is legally challenging Twitter by accusing  this big tech company of censoring content made by users based on conflicting political perspectives (eg. conflicting with those of Dorsey or others at Twitter). Meghan confirms that Dorsey has acted against his own company’s mandate which was “to give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly without barriers. Our business and revenue will always follow that mission in ways that improve and do not detract from a free and global conversation.”

In a video explanation, Murphy details the reasons for her lawsuit, outlining the many contradictions within Twitter’s exercise of its policies and its censorship of its users, most notably feminists and anyone who is gender critical. Murphy’s “crime”? She tweeted this: “Men are not women” and “How are transwomen not men? What is the difference between a man and a transwoman?” Reminiscent of the tenor preceding the Scopes Monkey Trial, this lawsuit is bound to mark the stark terrain between free speech and censorship while also legally cementing the fundamental right to discuss critically the pitfalls of politically acceptable speech when multi-billion tech firms are today sponsoring the main arenas of free speech: social media.

It’s not only conservative pundits who are perplexed by this double-standard of who gets to have a Twitter account (eg. Donald Trump and Louis Farrakhan), but also centrist publications are covering this event. But why are many left-wing news sources ignoring both Murphy’s banning from Twitter in addition to the more problematic elision of women’s rights around which this issue turns? And how will such a lawsuit affect the levels of responsibility that everyone from website/domain hosting companies to social media elites must maintain in order to keep in check with national laws that protect freedom of expression?

This lawsuit is bound to be a game-changer for everyone as it will challenge many basic “givens” about social media and the power of tech giants like Twitter. Without a doubt, Facebook, Instagram and Google, among others in this field, are playing close attention to this lawsuit, since what results from this lawsuit will potentially set out case law for a good many years.

For starters, tech giants are today controlling public opinion through censorship and how they excise certain individuals from public participation on what Twitter itself admits is not a private—but a public—platform. Dorsey is on record numerous times stating just this. When interviewed by Sam Harris about Meghan Murphy two weeks ago, Dorsey is asked about why Murphy was banned when Twitter has kept accounts by numerous people and groups that have posted inflammatory content. Dorsey’s answer contradicts what he told the U.S. government last fall: “I don’t believe that we can afford to take a neutral stance any more…I don’t believe that we should optimize for impartiality.” Harris then asks Dorsey, “Why not take refuge in the First Amendment?” as a comprehensive response. Dorsey’s response: “The enforcement of [our rules] is not always apparent….If you just look at one enforcement action, we don’t suspend people purely for saying one particular thing permanently.” While Dorsey exempts violent threats from this rule, it is clear that Dorsey is playing language games in how he has shifted Twitter’s role as arbiter of free speech: “I don’t think we can be this neutral passive platform any more.”  Effectively, Dorsey is advocating for censorship. Hence, the disconnect between what he said to Senate last year and where Twitter asserts itself as a public arena for the democratic sharing of ideas and against what Dorsey calls the “shutting down” of those who “weaponise” Twitter. He goes on to claim that Twitter’s role is more about what the platform “amplifies” and and what conversations it “gives attention to”—all this to couch removal of those who produce content that Twitter does not agree with.

Harris warns the listener before the interview that Dorsey is skilled at stepping around difficult questions, but as you listen to the interaction, it is painfully clear that Dorsey promotes censorship by stating that Twitter’s focus is on promoting certain ideas, not people. Still Dorsey is cognizant that people produce ideas, not the inverse. So in this interview he is slippery, plays with terminology and essentially justifies the removal of what he deem disagreeable viewpoints through the removal of the creators of such viewpoints. Renaming censorship as focusing on “what are we amplifying”, Dorsey has come up with a slick media spin for a metaphorical “re-education camp” for banned Twitter users.

As is the case for Murphy, social media is used for building a brand and career, marketing, research and company promotion. Murphy’s suit argues that being banned from Twitter negatively impacts her work as a journalist pointing to how news publications cite Twitter from The New York Times and beyond. Additionally, where the public geographic spaces of old are being deferred to social media, this brings up new challenges for what Dorsey has repeatedly called Twitter—a “public square.” In fact, in his Senate testimony last year, Dorsey used this term five times to refer to Twitter. So one must wonder why the public square is being privately controlled, or at the very least, why private companies hosting the public forum are exempt from upholding the laws which guarantee free expression.

Like Twitter, fellow tech giants are dangerously approximating the role of censors of free speech in their respective empires which they had claimed, years earlier, to have created to expand free speech. Dorsey clearly expresses a desire for “healthy conversation” but fails to uphold the promised platform for freedom of expression one year later.

Palestinians in Israel face Uncertain Political Future Amid Joint List Split

A political coalition representing Israel’s Palestinian minority – currently the third biggest faction in the Israeli parliament, the Knesset – has been plunged into crisis by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to call for a surprise general election for April.

Long-simmering ideological and personal tensions within the Joint List, comprising Israel’s four main Palestinian parties, have erupted into a split over who should dominate the faction.

Knesset member Ahmad Tibi announced this month that he would run on a separate ticket with his small Taal party, after polls showed he was more popular than the List’s current head, Ayman Odeh.

The move is yet another blow to the coalition, which has been beset by acrimony since its establishment four years ago.

The latest divisions threaten to further alienate Palestinian voters in Israel, potentially weakening their representation in the Israeli parliament and strengthening the right-wing bloc under Netanyahu.

Falling voter turnouts

The 1.7 million Palestinian citizens of Israel are the remnants of the Palestinian population that was mostly expelled from its homeland in 1948 to create the state of Israel. Today, these Palestinians make up a fifth of the population, but face systemic discrimination.

Voter turnout among Palestinian citizens of Israel has been in steady decline for decades, reaching a low at the 2013 election, when just over half cast a ballot.

No Palestinian party has ever been invited to participate in any of the complex coalitions that are the basis of Israeli governments.

In addition, the Palestinian parties’ use of the Knesset as a platform to call for an end to the Israeli occupation and for equal rights for Palestinian citizens regularly attracts the ire of Jewish Israeli politicians.

Israeli Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan recently wrote a letter to the Knesset’s ethics committee describing Odeh, the head of the Joint List, as “a criminal and a supporter of terrorism”.

While launching his election campaign this week, former defence minister Avigdor Lieberman accused the Joint List of “treason” and called it “total lunacy” to let its representatives participate in the Knesset.

Acrimony in the Joint List

The creation of the Joint List in time for the 2015 legislative elections briefly boosted turnout, as Palestinian voters in Israel hoped it would give a stronger voice to their interests on the national stage.

The List won 13 out of the 120 seats in the Knesset, but a recent poll showed that only 44 percent of Palestinian voters thought it represented their interests, with 52 percent disagreeing.

Tibi’s departure threatens to lead to further splintering of the coalition, with the southern Islamic Movement also reportedly considering breaking away or demanding leadership of the surviving List.

Relations between the two other parties – Hadash, a block of communist and socialist groups headed by Odeh, and national-democratic party Balad – are fractious, as they compete for a similar pool of secular Palestinian voters.

Call for reform

According to Tibi, the fact that his party, Taal, only holds a single seat in the Knesset is “clearly unjust”.

“The composition of the List should be decided by the people, not decreed by the parties,” he told Middle East Eye.

According to polls, a separate Tibi ticket would be likely to receive six seats, level-pegging with the remnants of the Joint List.

He said an overhaul of the List would make it more democratic and accountable, and revive flagging support from Palestinian voters in Israel.

“The competition between two big lists will actually encourage people to come out and vote,” Tibi said. “Surveys show that we can get 12 seats when we run apart, but together we will drop to 10 or 11 seats.

“The other parties don’t want change because they are afraid of the outcome.”

Tibi said he would consider returning to the List only if it introduced more democratic procedures allotting seats to the parties on the basis of their popularity – either assessed through opinion polls or primaries.

Split could backfire

On social media, Odeh harshly criticised Tibi for the breakup, accusing him of prioritising his “personal interests”.

“Netanyahu wants to see the Joint List break up more than anyone else. The extreme right wants to divide and conquer the Arabs,” he tweeted.

According to analysts, the split could indeed backfire, fuelling disenchantment.

“Surveys show that people support the idea of the Joint List but want more, not less, unity from its parties. They want it better organised and more effective,” Asad Ghanem, a political scientist at Haifa University, told MEE.

“If that trend doesn’t continue, a significant proportion are likely to stay home – or vote for Jewish parties on the basis that at least those parties have some influence within the Israeli political system.”

‘Coming out in droves’

Ghanem also noted that Tibi, a former adviser to late Palestinian national leader Yasser Arafat, had until now been a largely one-man outfit. In the past, he has always allied with another party at election time.

“On paper, Tibi enjoys a lot of support, but that ignores the difficulty he faces widening his party’s appeal,” he said. “He needs to create a convincing list of candidates and establish a party machine capable of bringing out his voters to the polls.”

A combination of low turnout and separate parties could mean one or more fail to pass an electoral threshold, dramatically reducing Palestinian representation in the Knesset.

That would likely delight the Israeli right, including Netanyahu, who raised the electoral threshold before the 2015 vote in an undisguised bid to prevent Palestinian parties from winning seats.

When the Palestinian parties responded by forming the Joint List, Netanyahu used scaremongering on polling day to rally his supporters. He warned Jewish voters that the Palestinian minority was “coming out to vote in droves”.

Aida Touma-Suleiman, a legislator for the Hadash party, said those who preferred the Joint List to splinter were “gambling” that they would manage to pass the threshold. “That’s a very dangerous position to adopt,” she told MEE.

Need for common platform

Ghanem criticised the Joint List for failing to make an impact on the most pressing socio-economic issues faced by the Palestinian minority. Half of Palestinian families in Israel live under the poverty line, nearly four times the rate among Israeli Jews.

He also accused the List of failing to effectively counter recent legislative moves by the Netanyahu government that have targeted the rights of Israel’s Palestinian minority.

In 2016, the government passed an Expulsion Law empowering a three-quarters majority of the parliament to ban a legislator for holding unpopular political views. It was widely seen as a measure to silence Palestinian Knesset members.

And last summer, Israel voted through the Nation-State Basic Law, which explicitly gives the Jewish people alone a right to self-determination in Israel.

Ghanem said the Joint List’s failure to offer a clear position on the last law, or mobilise Palestinian opinion against it, was especially glaring.

“The problem is that the List has failed to develop a common political programme. It is not enough to have a Joint List, it must have a joint voice too.”

Touma-Suleiman, however, called much of the criticism of the Joint List unfair.

“The Nation State Law showed exactly what the Netanyahu government thinks of our rights. Anything we achieve is like pulling teeth from the lion’s mouth,” she said. “We are operating in a very hostile political environment.”

Crisis of legitimacy

Jafar Farah, the director of Mossawa, an advocacy group for Israel’s Palestinian citizens and rumoured to be a future candidate for the Hadash party, agreed with Tibi that the Joint List was suffering from a crisis of legitimacy.

“Who speaks for our community when we address the Israeli public or speak to the Palestinian Authority or attend discussions in Europe?” he told MEE. “That person needs to be able to say credibly that they represent the community.”

Farah, however, noted that the reality of Palestinians in Israel was “more complicated” than that for most other national minorities. Israeli officials have strenuously objected to any efforts by the Palestinian minority to create its own internal parliament or seek self-determination.

Nonetheless, he said, the Palestinian parties were making themselves irrelevant by focusing on a two-state solution in an era when Netanyahu and the right had imposed on the region their agenda of permanent occupation in the context of a single state.

“We can’t just accept the rules of a political game in which we operate in the margins of a Jewish democracy. It is not enough just to have a leader, we need to offer a new political vision. We have to be creative and bring a new agenda.

“The Jewish majority won’t come to our aid. We have to lead the struggle and be ready to pay the price.”

End of ideological politics

Ghanem said the Joint List’s failures, combined with the collapse of any peace-making efforts to end the occupation, had encouraged a move away from ideological politics among many Palestinian voters in Israel.

“People are instead increasingly focusing on their own personal concerns,” he said.

He pointed to recent local elections in Nazareth, the largest Palestinian-majority city in Israel, where the main political parties bowed out and left the mayoral race to two independent candidates.

The trend away from ideological politics was being reinforced, as elsewhere, by new media that offered people a wider set of perspectives.

“Generally, people feel more confused, and want clear, strong figures like a Netanyahu or a Trump,” Ghanem said. “Tibi can exploit that trend.”

Gaining more influence

Tibi said it was vital for the parties to find a way to make alliances with centre and centre-left Jewish parties in the current climate.

“It is not just about getting more Arab legislators into the Knesset,” he said. “It is about having more legislators who can have an influence, who can help shape the choice of the prime minister. That is imperative if we are going to bring down Netanyahu and the right.”

Tibi said he hoped that, by rebuilding the credibility of the Palestinian parties, they would be in a position to form a “blocking majority” in the Knesset, similar to the situation in the early 1990s.

Then, a newly elected centre-left coalition headed by Yitzhak Rabin needed the support of the Palestinian parties to push through the Oslo Accords, against fierce opposition from the right, led by Netanyahu.

Rabin did so through an arrangement with Palestinian legislators that they would back the coalition from outside the government.

“We helped Rabin achieve his goals and in return the situation of our community improved, with more rights and higher budgets,” said Tibi. “We can be in that position again but only if we can regain the confidence of our community.”

Calls for boycott

Tibi and others believe that, if the turnout among Palestinian citizens returns to the levels of the 1980s, the minority could elect several more legislators, potentially tipping the balance towards a centre-left government.

But for that to happen, the Palestinian parties will need to overturn growing apathy and frustration from their voters, warned Ghanem.

Salman Masalha, a Palestinian columnist for Haaretz newspaper, called the Palestinian members of the Knesset “a fig leaf” whose participation served only to “beautify the state to the world, making it look like a vibrant democracy”.

He argued for a boycott of the election, playing on Netanyahu’s 2015 election incitement: “Arab citizens must respond, ‘the Arabs are boycotting in droves’ the scam of Israeli democracy.”

A boycott of the national elections is the official platform of two factions: the small, staunchly secular Abnaa al-Balad (Sons of the Land) party and the popular northern wing of the Islamic Movement, under Sheikh Raed Salah, which the Netanyahu government outlawed four years ago.

Ghanem observed that Netanyahu’s fate, as he faces indictment on several corruption charges in the midst of the election campaign, could play a decisive role in the turnout of Palestinian voters.

“If Netanyahu looks vulnerable, more [Palestinian voters] will come out in the hope that their parties will be able to support the centre-left in challenging the right.

“But if he looks likely to win, as seems the case at the moment, then many will conclude that the situation is hopeless and stay home.”

• First published in Middle East Eye

Court Uses Law’s Absurdity to Allow Unfit Kavanaugh to Remain as Justice

The allegations contained in the complaints [against Judge Kavanaugh] are serious, but the Judicial Council is obligated to adhere to the Act. Lacking statutory authority to do anything more, the complaints must be dismissed because an intervening event – Justice Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court – has made the complaints no longer appropriate for consideration under the Act…. Because it lacks jurisdiction to do so, the Council makes no findings on the merits of the complaints.

— Order of the Judicial Council of the US Tenth Circuit, December 18, 2018

That is the sound that eight federal judges make when they know full well they’re doing something rotten but can’t bring themselves to defend the integrity of their own judicial system.

This order deals with complaints against federal judge Brett Kavanaugh, whose reputation for perjurious testimony is documented at least as far back as 2004. Last summer, the US Senate gave only cursory attention to whether Kavanaugh had repeatedly lied under oath on a variety of occasions, including the Senate judiciary committee hearings of 2018. Kavanaugh was a federal district judge from May 30, 2006, until October 6, 2018, when he was sworn in as a Supreme Court justice. At that time, the majority of 83 ethical conduct complaints addressing his behavior as a district judge had already been filed. In an unusual procedure, the Tenth Circuit Judicial Council has made these 83 complaints public on its website, while concealing the identities of the complainants.

The first batch of Kavanaugh complaints went to the DC Circuit, which passed them to Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who passed them on to the Tenth Circuit on October 10. At that time I wrote in Reader Supported News that the credibility of the US judicial system was the core issue in the Kavanaugh case:

The stakes are as high as they are simple: Will our court system choose to defend the position one of its own members or will it choose to defend the integrity of the US judicial system? There is no possibility it can do both with any credibility.

This is still true, as the Kavanaugh complaints appear headed back to the Chief Justice’s lap for further action, or inaction.

It took the eight judges of the Tenth Circuit Judicial Council just over two months to decide to do nothing about any of the 83 misconduct complaints against Judge Kavanaugh. Worse, the court’s order asserted in a strained legal argument that there was nothing that could be done legally about the 83 misconduct complaints against Judge Kavanaugh for one reason, and one reason only – because he had become Justice Kavanaugh. That’s the whole argument: that Kavanaugh gets to escape judicial accountability, and his getaway car is his seat on the Supreme Court. This is cultural madness and legal absurdity. What were those Tenth Circuit judges thinking?

What they actually do is create a legal fiction, starting with a false assertion in the first sentence: “Complaints of judicial misconduct have been filed against Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh….” In fact, most of the complaints were filed against Kavanaugh when he was a district judge. All the complaints cite judicial misconduct by Kavanaugh as a district judge. The false statement of reality is necessary to support the wonderland the judges need to escape dealing with what the court saw as the substance of the charges:

… that Justice [sic] Kavanaugh made false statements during his nomination proceedings to the D.C. Circuit in 2004 and 2006 and to the Supreme Court in 2018; made inappropriate partisan statements that demonstrate bias and a lack of judicial temperament; and treated members of the Senate Judiciary Committee with disrespect.

Much of this is beyond reasonable dispute. Both professional and lay witnesses abound. More than 2,400 law professors are on record opposing Kavanaugh as unfit to serve on the Supreme Court. Even Kavanaugh has acknowledged and quasi-apologized for some of the behavior in the 83 complaints. The Tenth Circuit judges acknowledge that the complaints are “serious” but then choose to make “no findings on the merits of the complaints.” How is this not deliberate judicial malpractice?

The answer to that is a legal quibble. According to the Tenth Circuit judges, the applicable statute for federal district judges is not applicable to Supreme Court justices. This is certainly true in the sense that if the complaints made against Kavanaugh referred to his behavior as a justice, the statute would not apply. The statute is the Judicial Conduct and Disability Act, 28 USC 351 et seq., which applies specifically to federal circuit judges, district judges, bankruptcy judges, and magistrate judges. It is one of the abiding scandals of American government that the Supreme Court is subject to no rules of ethics of its own and that Congress has done little to remedy the ridiculous result: that those with the most authority are held the least accountable. Or as the Tenth Circuit judges put it:

… the complaints must be dismissed because, due to his elevation to the Supreme Court, Justice Kavanaugh is no longer a judge covered by the Act. See 28 USC 352(b)(1)(A)(i). [emphasis added]

The court thereby creates a reality in which:

(1)  Over a period of 13 years as a judge, Kavanaugh committed objectionable acts;

(2)  Complaints were lawfully filed in response to his objectionable acts;

(3)  Some complaints were based on objectionable acts Kavanaugh committed before he was a circuit judge and subject to the Act, but these complaints were not dismissed;

(4)  Despite unambiguous jurisdiction at the time of the acts and unambiguous jurisdiction at the time of the filing of the complaints, the Tenth Circuit claims it’s helpless to act.

The Tenth Circuit does not explain, or even address, this absurdity. The court’s order argues that “The Act thus applies only to complaints that allege that one of those covered judges [which Kavanaugh was] ‘has engaged in conduct prejudicial to the effective and expeditious administration of the courts’ “ [which Kavanaugh patently did as a circuit judge]. The court holds that whatever Kavanaugh did as a judge that was complained about while he was still a judge can all be ignored because of an “intervening event,” such as a judge’s death. Kavanaugh did not die, although he kind of went to heaven. The court cites Rule 11(e) to justify its abdication of anything like the rule of law. Rule 11(e) in its entirety says:

Intervening Events. The chief judge may conclude the complaint proceeding in whole or in part upon determining that intervening events render some or all of the allegations moot or make remedial action impossible.

Kavanaugh’s elevation to the high court did not make any of the complaints moot. If anything, his elevation made them more pertinent than ever. Kavanaugh’s elevation to the high court hardly made remedial action impossible, although it probably makes remedial action more difficult. The court’s order cites four precedents for its action, three of which are irrelevant (involving judges who were transferredretired, or whose objectionable behavior was before becoming a judge). The one relevant citation involves several judges for whom the dismissed complaint is ruled “frivolous” as well as Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who is dismissed “for want of jurisdiction” as a sitting justice. The relevance here is about as slim as it gets, comparing one “frivolous” complaint to Justice Kavanaugh’s 83 complaints acknowledged by the court to be “serious.”

As described by the court’s order, the judicial council held no hearings, examined no evidence for its probative value, or otherwise investigated any of the 83 complaints against Kavanaugh. The court dismissed those complaints solely on the tenuous jurisdictional basis that they were out of the court’s reach. The court chose not to discuss any other possibly more judicious responses to the prickly Kavanaugh case, leaving the country still saddled with a justice palpably unfit for his office.

The court defended its conclusion by noting that Congress, in other instances, had indeed included justices under its statutes and offered as an example 28 US Code 455 – “Disqualification of justice, judge, or magistrate judge.” This statute is likely to become increasingly important as long as Kavanaugh remains on the bench, since it mandates that a justice “shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned.” Kavanaugh’s televised performance of personal bias against Democrats and his stated conspiracy beliefs should be enough to disqualify him from a wide range of political cases. With 83 serious conduct complaints to be examined, it might take less time to assess what cases there are where Kavanaugh could reasonably avoid disqualification.

Nor is the impeachment of Justice Kavanaugh off the table. That’s a distant outcome under present circumstances, but as the court’s order notes in its penultimate paragraph:

The importance of ensuring that governing bodies with clear jurisdictions are aware of the complaints should also be acknowledged. See Nat’l Comm’n on Judicial Discipline and Removal, “Report of the Nat’l Comm’n on Judicial Discipline & Removal,” 152 F.R.D. 265, 342-43 (1994). Accordingly we request that the Committee on Judicial Conduct and Disability of the Judicial Conference of the United States forward a copy of this Order to any relevant Congressional committees for their information. [emphasis added]

For now, the Republican judicial atrocity represented by Justice Kavanaugh sits undisturbed. The Tenth Circuit’s order is subject to appeal until January 29, 2019. As of January 9, a Tenth Circuit court spokesperson declined to say if any appeal had yet been filed, citing appellant confidentiality. One of the self-identified complainants, retired attorney Larry Behrendt, filed his five-page complaint October 2, concluding:

Judge Kavanaugh made repeated, inappropriate partisan statements to the Senate Judiciary Committee during his testimony on September 28, and is thus guilty of misconduct under the Act [28 USC 351ff] and the Rules. This misconduct is particularly egregious, as it took place in front of millions of people, at a time when scrutiny of the law and the judiciary is at its highest, and where Kavanaugh had a clear duty to display judicial temperament and deportment.

After the Tenth Circuit Judicial Council skirted any serious consideration of Behrendt’s complaint or the 82 others, the attorney published an op-ed explaining why he thought the court was wrong. He noted that the law is silent on how to handle a nexus of offenses under transitional circumstances like Kavanaugh’s. That hardly makes it likely that the intent of Congress was to give a lying partisan a free pass to the Supreme Court. Behrendt says he hasn’t decided whether to appeal the Tenth Circuit order. Maybe the Tenth Circuit will find some backbone. Maybe the chief justice will care more about his court’s integrity than the slippery hack who is its newest member. Until someone finds the courage to confront the truth of this legal fiasco the rest of us are stuck with a lifetime travesty of justice.

Glossip v. Gross: the Eighth Amendment and the Torture Court of the United States

On June 29, 2015 the United States Supreme Court argued in Glossip v. Gross that executions may continue with the use of lethal drug cocktails including the use of midazolam, an extremely painful drug, which in effect, burns to death the condemned by scorching internal organs. The use of midazolam, according to the Court, does not constitute “cruel and unusual punishment” under the Eighth Amendment. The Court found that condemned prisoners can only challenge their method of execution after providing a known and available alternative method.

In dissenting views justices opened the legal door for future challenges to the death penalty. In a meticulously crafted dissent Justice Stephen G. Breyer joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg initiated a timely counterargument to capital punishment. This was joined by Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor in diverging dissents of their own. The dissents were significant in that they outline the legal framework for the abolition of the death penalty based on the Eighth Amendment. Nevertheless, Sotomayor and Kagan argued in separate opinions that the use of lethal chemicals in executions was intolerably painful.

In turn this begged the question, for many, as to whether or not executions could ever be legitimized since executions must necessarily involve physical or mental pain. In all democratic societies, intentionally inflicting pain on another human being is torture.

This article addresses the Court’s concerns, expressed in Justice Samuel Alito’s majority opinion, that protests against Glossip’s anticipated execution was a “guerilla war” against the death penalty and that inflicting physical or mental pain intentionally on a human being is an acceptable component of execution and consistent with the U.S. Constitution.

*****

In Gregg v. Gerogia (1976) the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in a 7-2 decision that capital punishment did not violate the Eighth Amendment. This, in effect, reversed Furman v. Georgia (1972) which placed a moratorium on capital punishment in the United States. Robert Bork argued the case for the United States, that capital punishment and judicious use of the death penalty may be appropriate if carefully used. The Supreme Court argued that the Court was not prepared to overrule the Georgia legislature who has by law defined capital punishment an effective tool in the deterrence of future capital crimes and as an appropriate means of social retribution (retributive justice) against the most serious offenders

On April 29, 2015, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Glossip v. Gross, a case which challenged the use of the anti-anxiety drug midazolam in lethal injection executions. Petitioners argued in their brief to the Court that there is “undisputed evidence . . . that midazolam cannot reliably ensure the ‘deep, coma-like unconsciousness’ required where a State intends to cause death with painful drugs” (Brief for Petitioner at p. 29). Use of this drug to carry out executions by lethal injection does not comport with the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual suffering. In the last year alone, midazolam was used in several botched executions. Then on June 29, 2015, in a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court issued its opinion in Glossip v. Gross, ruling that the anti-anxiety medication midazolam is constitutional for use as the first drug in a three-drug lethal injection formula. The case was brought by death row prisoners in Oklahoma, who argued that the state’s use of midazolam in this manner creates an “objectively intolerable risk of harm.”

The Glossip ruling evidenced two Justices directly challenging the legal foundation of capital punishment based on the Eighth Amendment which prohibits “cruel and unusual punishment.” Indeed, states such as Nebraska have recently abolished the death penalty based on the Eighth Amendment, making it the nineteenth state to do so, and the seventh to abolish capital punishment since 2007. Nonetheless, a majority of justices on the Supreme Court at the time – John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito – still maintain the constitutionality of the death penalty, as argued in Glossip.

In Baze v. Rees (2008), the Supreme Court reviewed the three-drug protocol then used for lethal injection by at least thirty states, in which the first drug, an short-acting barbiturate, rendered the prisoner unconscious, and the second and third drugs, a paralytic and potassium chloride, paralyzed the prisoner and stopped the heart. The Court noted that the first drug, the barbiturate, causes a “deep, coma-like unconsciousness” and therefore “ensures that the prisoner does not experience any pain associated with the paralysis and cardiac arrest caused by the second and third drugs.” The Oklahoma drug protocol challenged in Glossip was also a three-drug protocol that uses a paralytic and potassium chloride as the second and third drugs, but it substitutes the benzodiazepine midazolam for the first drug, creating risk of “severe pain, needless suffering and a lingering death.”

As the Brief for Petitioner states:

In Baze, there was consensus that sodium thiopental, if properly administered, would produce deep coma-like unconsciousness. With midazolam, the opposite is true. Midazolam is not approved for use as the sole anesthetic for painful surgery. Clinical studies showed that midazolam does not reliably induce deep unconsciousness; when used in surgery, patients felt pain. The medical consensus is that midazolam cannot generate deep, coma-like unconsciousness. There is also no substantial practice among the states of using midazolam for lethal injections. Although sodium thiopental was widely used in lethal injections for years, only four states have used midazolam in an execution, and only two have tried to use it as anesthesia. On these undisputed facts, the use of midazolam to create deep coma-like unconsciousness presents an “objectively intolerable risk of harm” (Baze, 553 U.S.).

*****

Midazolam is not a barbiturate, but a benzodiazepine commonly used in pre-operative settings to alleviate anxiety. It is the shortest-acting drug in the same class of anti-anxiety drugs as Xanax, Atavan and Valium. All of the experts who testified in a three-day hearing in Oklahoma in December 2014, including the state’s expert, agree that midazolam has a ceiling effect, above which additional dosing has no additional effect, and no analgesic (pain-relieving) qualities (Joint Appendix to Brief for Petitioner, medical testimony from three-day hearing at pp. 199, 256, 274). The four states which have used midazolam in lethal injection executions are Arizona, Florida, Ohio and Oklahoma. Three executions that used midazolam triggered formal state investigations into why they did not go as planned (Brief for Petitioner at p. 31). In all of these botched executions, the prisoners initially appeared to lose consciousness, but then started moving and demonstrating signs of struggle and suffering.

Glossip v. Gross originated in federal court in Oklahoma as a response to the botched execution of Clayton Lockett on April 29, 2014. Charles Warner was originally one of the Petitioners, but the Court denied a stay of execution in his case, and he was executed using midazolam in a three-drug formula on January 15, 2015, just eight days before the Court accepted this case for review. On January 28, 2015, the Court stayed the executions of the three Petitioners, Richard Glossip, John Grant and Benjamin Cole, who are Oklahoma death row prisoners. In their Petition for Certiorari, Petitioners asked the Court to “provide urgently needed guidance” to prisoners and courts addressing new, experimental lethal injection protocols.

In her dissent from the denial of a stay for Charles Warner, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, joined by three other justices, recognized that the district court relied on a “single purported expert” who testified from suspect sources and in a manner that contradicts empirical data. Justice Sotomayor explained, “In contending that midazolam will work as the State intends, Dr. Evans cited no studies, but instead appeared to rely primarily on the Web site www.drugs.com. Here, given the evidence before the District Court, I struggle to see how its decision to credit the testimony of a single purported expert can be supported given the substantial body of conflicting empirical and anecdotal evidence.”

Justice Breyer, who has served twenty years on the Supreme Court, never argued that the death penalty was unconstitutional. What both Breyer and Ginsburg argued was that new evidence over the past two decades had convinced them that the death penalty is costly, ineffective, and unreliable, not that it was necessarily inhumane. Their argument was based on cost-effectiveness, efficiency, and the real possibility of wrongful execution. More than one hundred death row inmates had their convictions or sentences dismissed in the last decade.

Nevertheless, in the majority opinion Justice Alito countered Sotomayor and Kagen’s view arguing that pain is simply part of what constitutes an execution. He states, “Because some risk of pain is inherent in any method of execution, we have held that the Constitution does not require the avoidance of all risk of pain. After all, while most humans wish to die a painless death, many do not have that good fortune. Holding that the Eighth Amendment demands the elimination of essentially all risk of pain would effectively outlaw the death penalty altogether.”1 Breyer, nevertheless argued, that the broader issue of wrongful convictions takes greater precedence since executing innocent people can never be remediated. Moreover, Breyer and Ginsburg argued that “increasingly lengthy delays” of several decades between convictions and executions undermined the deterrence argument that executions deter crimes.2

Prior to Glossip, Justices Breyer and Ginsburg, in essence, echoed the opinion of Justice Harry Blackmun who, in 1994, argued that the death penalty in the United States was unable to be impartial toward minorities, specifically African Americans. Likewise, in 2008, Justice John Paul Stevens concluded that the death penalty was arbitrary and unreliable as a deterrent and ineffective in terms of punishment. However, in Glossip, Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagen, while not joining in Breyer and Ginsburg’s dissent, nevertheless wrote what could arguably be the strongest dissent. The two justices claimed that the majority on the court allowed a “method of execution that is intolerably painful – even to the point of being the chemical equivalent of burning alive.”

*****

Alito’s position is one in which the inflicting of pain on others, as torture, is a necessary component of execution. This is a plausible position to hold. However, in that Alito and the majority argue that torture does not contradict the U.S. Constitution and the Eighth Amendment is subject to serious question.

*****

As stated earlier, torture is the act of deliberately inflicting severe physical or psychological pain on a human being by another as a punishment or in order to fulfill some desire of the torturer or force some action from the victim. Torture, by definition, is a knowing and intentional act; deeds which unknowingly or negligently inflict suffering or pain, without a specific intent to do so, are not typically considered torture. But under U.S. law, ignorance of the law is no excuse.

Torture has been carried out or sanctioned by individuals, groups, and states throughout history from ancient times to modern day, and forms of torture can vary greatly in duration from only a few minutes to several days or longer. Reasons for torture can include punishment, revenge, political re-education, deterrence and even coercion.

Alternatively, some forms of torture are designed to inflict psychological pain or leave as little physical injury or evidence as possible while achieving the same psychological devastation. The torturer may or may not kill or injure the victim, but torture may result in a deliberate death and serves as a form of capital punishment. Depending on the aim, even a form of torture that is intentionally fatal may be prolonged to allow the victim to suffer as long as possible, such as half-hanging or even inadvertently seizing in pain from lethal injections.

In other cases, the torturer may be indifferent to the condition of the victim or simply take delight in the sadistic gratification of torture in whatever form.

This indifference best fits the Alito majority. On one hand, indifference may be its most compassionate form of torture, while on the other it very well could mean that sociopaths exist on the highest court in the land. And in Glossip the Eighth Amendment is once again desecrated and Alito’s majority decision exalts the deviant status of the Torture Court of the United States.

  1. Glossip v. Gross, June 29, 2015, No. 14-7955, SCOTUS, I, A, Majority Opinion, Justice Alito, Roberts, Thomas, Kennedy, Scalia, Oyez, ITT Chicago-Kent College of Law, Illinois Institute of Technology.
  2. Death Penalty Focus, Working for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, May 31, 2013.

The Moral Travesty of Israel Seeking Arab, Iranian Money for its Alleged Nakba

The game is afoot. Israel, believe it or not, is demanding that seven Arab countries and Iran pay $250 billion as compensation for what it claims was the forceful exodus of Jews from Arab countries during the late 1940s.

The events that Israel is citing allegedly occurred at a time when Zionist Jewish militias were actively uprooting nearly one million Palestinian Arabs and systematically destroying their homes, villages and towns throughout Palestine.

The Israeli announcement, which reportedly followed “18 months of secret research” conducted by the Israeli government’s Ministry of Social Equality, should not be filed under the ever-expanding folder of shameless Israeli misrepresentations of history.

It is part of a calculated effort by the Israeli government, and namely by Minister Gila Gamliel, to create a counter-narrative to the rightful demand for the ‘Right of Return’ for Palestinian refugees ethnically cleansed by Jewish militias between 1947-1948.

But there is a reason behind the Israeli urgency to reveal such questionable research: the relentless US-Israeli attempt in the last two years to dismiss the rights of Palestinian refugee rights, to question their numbers and to marginalize their grievances. It is all part and parcel of the ongoing plot disguised as the ‘Deal of the Century’, with the clear aim of removing from the table all major issues that are central to the Palestinian struggle for freedom.

“The time has come to correct the historic injustice of the pogroms (against Jews) in seven Arab countries and Iran, and to restore, to hundreds of thousands of Jews who lost their property, what is rightfully theirs,” said Gamliel.

The language – “.. to correct the historic injustice” – is no different from language used by Palestinians who have for 70 years and counting been demanding the restoration of their rights per United Nations Resolution 194.

The deliberate conflating between the Palestinian narrative and the Zionist narrative is aimed at creating parallels, with the hope that a future political agreement would resolve to having both grievances cancel each other out.

Contrary to what Israeli historians want us to believe, there was no mass exodus of Jews from Arab countries and Iran, but rather a massive campaign orchestrated by Zionist leaders at the time to replace the Palestine Arab population with Jewish immigrants from all over the world. The ways through which such a mission was achieved often involved violent Zionist plots – especially in Iraq.

In fact, the call on Jews to gather in Israel from all corners of the world remains the rally cry for Israeli leaders and their Christian Evangelical supporters – the former wants to ensure a Jewish majority in the state, while the latter is seeking to fulfill a biblical condition for their long-awaited Armageddon.

To hold Arabs and Iran responsible for this bizarre and irresponsible behavior is a transgression on the true history in which neither Gamliel nor her ministry are interested.

On the other hand, and unlike what Israeli military historians often claim, the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1947- 48 (and the subsequent purges of the native population that followed in 1967) was a premeditated act of ethnic cleansing and genocide. It has been part of a long-drawn and carefully calculated campaign that, from the very start, served as the main strategy at the heart of the Zionist movement’s ‘vision’ for the Palestinian people.

“We must expel the Arabs and take their place,” wrote Israel’s founder, military leader and first prime minister, David Ben Gurion in a letter to his son, Amos in October 5, 1937. That was over a decade before Plan D – which saw the destruction of the Palestinian homeland at the hands of Ben Gurion’s militias – went into effect.

Palestine “contains vast colonization potential,” he also wrote, “which the Arabs neither need nor are qualified to exploit.”

This clear declaration of a colonial project in Palestine, communicated with the same kind of unmistakable racist insinuations and language that accompanied all western colonial experiences throughout the centuries was not unique to Ben Gurion. He was merely paraphrasing what was, by then, understood to be the crux of the Zionist enterprise in Palestine at the time.

As Palestinian professor Nur Masalha concluded in his book, the ‘Expulsion of the Palestinians’, the idea of the ‘transfer’ – the Zionist term for “ethnic cleansing’ of the Palestinian people – was, and remains, fundamental in the realization of Zionist ambitions in Palestine.

Palestinian Arab “villages inside the Jewish state that resist ‘should be destroyed .. and their inhabitants expelled beyond the borders of the Jewish state,” Masalha wrote quoting the ‘History of the Haganah’ by Yehuda Slutsky. .

What this meant in practice, as delineated by Palestinian historian, Walid Khalidi was the joint targeting by various Jewish militias to systematically attack all population centers in Palestine, without exception.

“By the end of April (1948), the combined Haganah-Irgun offensive had completely encircled (the Palestinian city of) Jaffa, forcing most of the remaining civilians to flee by sea to Gaza or Egypt; many drowned in the process, ” Khalidi wrote in Before Their Diaspora.

This tragedy has eventually grown to affect all Palestinians, everywhere within the borders of their historic homeland. Tens of thousands of refugees joined up with hundreds of thousands more at various dusty trails throughout the country, growing in numbers as they walked further, to finally pitch their tents in areas that, then were meant to be ‘temporary’ refugee encampments. Alas, these became the Palestinian refugee camps of today, starting some 70 years ago.

None of this was accidental. The determination of the early Zionists to establish a ‘national home’ for Jews at the expense of the country’s Palestinian Arab nation was communicated, openly, clearly and repeatedly throughout the formation of early Zionist thoughts, and the translation of those well-articulated ideas into physical reality.

70 years have passed since the Nakba’ – the ‘Catastrophe’ of 1948 – and neither Israel took responsibility for its action, nor Palestinian refugees received any measure of justice, however small or symbolic.

For Israel to be seeking compensation from Arab countries and Iran is a moral travesty, especially as Palestinian refugees continue to languish in refugee camps across Palestine and the Middle East.

Yes, indeed “the time has come to correct the historic injustice,” not of Israel’s alleged ‘pogroms’ carried out by Arabs and Iranians, but the real and most tragic destruction of Palestine and its people.

Updating Some U.S. Political Prisoners January 2019

Writing from another country I remember the Americans I’m supposed to forget, those forced into the lives that made them prisoners or simply targets of law enforcement programs. Some are religious people, Christians and Muslims. Many were Black Panthers. Some were and are radicals. Most are Americans. All cared for their communities and people. They were condemned by society at large. Under the FBI’s COINTELPRO activists in the Sixties and Seventies political and community movements but particularly the Black Panthers were targeted and hunted and engaged in fire-fights by law enforcement. Any police casualty brought charges of murder in court. How many community leaders were convicted for killing a police person? And yet through many years have maintained their innocence despite the mechanism which increases the chance for parole if a crime is confessed and regretted. One reason I don’t forget them is because I don’t really believe they’re guilty. Here are updates for some political prisoners in the U.S.1

Among U.S. political prisoners with the roots of imprisonment in the last century, is Rap Brown (Hubert Gerold Brown), known today as Imam Jamil Al-Amin. As a young leader he was pissed, acerbic and unafraid. His late speeches are devout, eloquent, historically wise, American, concerned with the survival of his people, and religiously humble. His rhetoric frightened U.S. law enforcement since the 1960’s. Convicted of murdering a police person (a crime confessed to by someone else with accuracy, three times – then recanted), maintaining his own innocence Al-Amin was sentenced in 2002 to life imprisonment without parole. Placed in a maximum security prison and principally in solitary confinement far from friends, supporters, family for years, he was transferred to Eastern U.S. prisons for medical treatment with several medical conditions which the prison system was slow to diagnose and treat. He was found to have a rare form of blood cancer. His writings are suppressed. He’s not permitted interviews.2  With 16 years in prison, currently an appeal of his conviction slowly makes its way through appeals court. I think he’s silenced because he’s a wise man. Wasted by his country yet of deep human value he continues to frighten the establishment because he provides a bridge of peace between Islam and Christianity. “When the struggle becomes conscious then we understand that we don’t have an option. Struggle is the price you pay for your soul. We all doing life without parole.” — Imam Jamil Al-Amin

Abu Hamza al-Masri, born Mustafa Kamel Mustafa in Egypt, is a British Imam with a reputation for hating people he considers enemies of Islam. He was extradited to the U.S. to face trial in a Manhattan court not too far from the former World Trade Center(s), for alleged war related crimes in Yemen, Afghanistan and Oregon. At his trial the jury wasn’t allowed to hear substantial evidence of his work for M-15 British Intelligence. Allegations against him were not based on any violence he committed but on his alleged responsibility for crimes; most of the evidence presented was his words, sermons, statements, opinions, feelings, his freedom of expression.3  He wasn’t found guilty of hate speech but of 11 counts of terrorism, and he is serving a life-without-parole sentence in the U.S. supermax prison, ADX Florence Colorado, essentially in solitary confinement, in “a cage like cell.” Since apparently the conditions of his incarceration violate human rights law prohibitions against torture and degrading treatment,4  contravening the conditions of his extradition from Europe to the U.S., the Imam has appealed for removal to prison in Great Britain. He is blind and missing both hands which were lost in an explosion when he was younger (British media have continually referred to him as “the Hook”). With diabetes and psoriasis as well, under U.S. prison conditions at ADX Florence the stumps of his arms become continually infected.

An American, a Robert F. Wagner High School and Brooklyn College graduate who earned his M.A. in international relations in London, Fahad Hashmi, as a Muslim was targeted for association with radical friends and was extradited from England to New York, held in solitary for three years before trial, was threatened with a 70 year sentence for storing a friend’s luggage which held clothing for Al-Quaeda, and was sentenced on a plea bargain to 15 years which he is serving at ADX Florence, the supermax facility. Relying on technicalities and the prisoner’s innocence, the prosecution and imprisonment of Fahad Hashmi affirmed American law but betrayed American justice.

In 2018 Jalil Muntaqim (Anthony Bottom) was denied parole for the 9th time. According to Jericho New York he “was convicted of the 1971 murders of two New York City police officers, a crime for which he accepted responsibility and demonstrated remorse. During his 47 years in prison, Jalil earned two college degrees and served as a counselor, teacher and role model for other incarcerated people. Jalil is a rehabilitated individual who poses no risk to the community. He will be appealing this very disappointing decision.”5

Held for 22 years in solitary confinement in 2016 former Black Panther Russell “Maroon” Shoatz won through a legal action against Pennsylvania’s Department of Corrections his reprieve from continual solitary confinement, as well as $99,000; his case commenced in 1973 protested the prison’s cruel and unusual punishment. The United Nations Special rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez noted the conditions of Shoatz’s imprisonment as outside a civilized norm.

Dr. Mutulu Shakur (Jeral Wayne Williams) once of the Black Liberation Army (Black Panthers) was sentenced in 1988 to sixty years on RICO conspiracy charges and for bank robberies which involved deaths of guards and police. Led to believe he would be released Feb. 10, 2016 due to laws in force at the time, he wasn’t released and was given a parole hearing for Dec.16, 2016, his 8th. Parole was denied. The government is suspected of psychologically tormenting the well-respected Dr. Shakur so that he might confess to masterminding the 1979 prison escape of Assata Shakur. In March 2018 Mutulu Shakur filed suit against the federal government for his release alleging violation of his First Amendment Rights (principally his free speech) by the Parole Board as the reason for denying his release.6

Arrested in April 1985, according to Wikipedia Thomas William Manning is expected to complete his current prison term in 2020, at which point he is to begin his next prison term of 80 years for another set of charges including the murder of a New Jersey police officer. Manning was convicted of shooting back after the officer emptied his gun at Manning and his group of families. The inhumanity of the sentencing was always intended to render the prisoner without hope. Attempts to trash and humiliate Tom Manning, American, a Vietnam veteran, and each of the Ohio Seven (“United Freedom Front”, “Sam Melville Brigade”) suggests the bitter hostility of the system to white working class people if they assert both socialism and a brotherhood of black and white. In prison Manning has held to uncompromised anti-racist, American truths strongly, constantly, with hope, paintings and words. In 2006 a show of his artwork was canceled by a timorous University of Maine.7

Jaan Laaman, also of the “Ohio Seven” (“United Freedom Front”, “Sam Melville Brigade”), is serving a 53 year prison term, following a 45 year prison term. Both by court action and example he has become known as an advocate for rights of freedom of expression for prisoners, in 1977 winning his State Supreme Court case against the New Hampshire State Prison to receive his reading materials which is said to have opened prisoner education programs through New Hampshire. He is a founder of the website 4strugglemag.org, an outlet for prison writing. On March 21, 2017, he was placed in solitary confinement for violating communications protocols (issuing of statements which apparently the prison system did not favour). He’s also threatened with transfer to a CMU (Communications Management Unit) to completely segregate his communications from the outside world.8

The histories of John Africa’s movement and Mumia Abu-Jamal have been interwoven from the start in the tragedies which took people of faith from their lives and community, where the children of some were shot by police, where community workers and pragmatic idealists were ground up by the system’s violence. From one perspective they were falsely accused honest people, put in jail under insufferable sentences to silence them about the crimes committed against John Africa’s “family” by the Philadelphia police. The best known witness Mumia Abu-Jamal who reported on the police bombing of the MOVE residence by Philadelphia police was subsequently charged with murder of a police officer and placed on death row. The injustices of his charges and trials, and courts and judges and incarcerations and threats of death against all of them are a grocery list of white racism to keep the black community in line, and Mumia Abu-Jamal’s history is mythic in his survival over death row, beating his medical death sentence beating the silence imposed on him, to become one of the best known writers and revolutionary writers-from-prison in history. Under a ruling Dec. 28, 2018 by Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge, Leon Tucker, Mumia Abu-Jamal is finally granted an opportunity to argue for his freedom in a retrial. Judge Tucker found that the judge who presided over Abu-Jamal’s previous and thought to be final appeal should have recused himsef.9  A day later six cartons of materials thought to be related to Mumia’s case were discovered in the Philadelphia D.A.’s storage room. After assessment and if necessary these may provide Abu-Jamal’s lawyers with leverage for additional appeals.10

Mike Africa of the MOVE 9 was finally released on parole Oct. 23, 2018. One of nine MOVE members convicted to 30 years imprisonment for the killing of one police officer who died of a single bullet wound in a police storming of the MOVE home; MOVE members were generally without arms and living under a peaceful ethic and it was always possible that the police officer was killed in the storm of gunfire from his fellow officers. Historically, the severity of the sentencing seems to have been an attempt to silence witnessing of the many police crimes in the Philadelphia Police’s handling of John Africa’s community group.

Compared to others here the Kings Bay Plowshares are up against comparatively short sentences for comparatively harmless actions. The religious basis of their protest against the full power of nuclear militarized America is also problematic, in that they were arrested because they chose to confront the government, rather than through the government’s need to oppress them. For nearly half a century the Plowshares movement has broken the security of Nuclear submarines, missile silos and facilities to hammer on nuclear weapons, beating swords into plowshares. Their symbolic acts of faith are like prayer a worship of something stronger and more sacred than the weapons of mass destruction and as a group its members have, without injuring others been sent to prison for months to several years at a time. They’re a help to the anti-prison movement in that they’re innocent of crimes against other people and yet are condemned and treated as criminal. At their King’s Bay Florida action April 4, 2018 having presented their passion play for Christ carrying real hammers, real blood amid real nuclear weapons they were arrested with a sign quoting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “The ultimate logic of racism is genocide,” and began their long tedious journey through a court system challenging the faith of those in the court system. Once a decision is made concerning the “religious freedom motions” (the defendants were allowed the opportunity to present the court with the religious motivation for their actions as pleas for dismissal), the case could be dismissed or a trial date set before the end of January.11

In 2003 Dr. Rafil Dhafir was taken from his medical practice in upstate New York and sentenced to 22 years, not for any alleged violence but for sending medical supplies to the children of Iraq, victims of the U.S. and Coalition bombing campaigns. He was born in Iraq. His attempts to alleviate the suffering of the children there by supplying medicines, was in no way wrong though through misuse and misapplication of the law was made illegal. Medical supplies were wrongly embargoed. Dr. Dhafir as a Muslim, was referred to as a suspected terrorist by New York’s Governor Pataki . To avoid his appearance as a humanitarian the FBI also prosecuted him for medicare fraud and money laundering. Dr. Dhafir donated over a million dollars of his own for medical supplies to children. When a petition for Executive Clemency was prepared for him he refused to ask for mercy as a criminal because he committed no crime. Under Federal guidelines Dr. Dhafir is eligible because of his age for release since he has served at least 10 years (16 years in February) but his release requires the warden’s approval; that hasn’t happened. Katherine Hughes followed the injustices of Dr. Dhafir’s arrest, trial and conviction.12  She quotes Dennis Halliday who resigned as chief of the UN’s Humanitarian Aid program in Iraq, 1997-98, because he found the sanctions against Iraq, genocide. Of Dr. Dhafir he said, “I am stunned by the conviction of this humanitarian, especially as the US State Department breached its own sanctions to the tune of $10 billion. The policy of sanctions against Iraq undermined not only the UN’s own charter, but the Declaration of Human Rights and the Geneva Convention as well.” Dr. Dhafir was obeying humanitarian law. By denying medical supplies to a civilian population it had decimated, the U.S. was violating the Convention on Genocide. Dr. Dhafir was placed in prison because he was innocent, and because the U.S. legal system has been denying its people the use of the Nuremberg defense, the citizen’s need to counter his or her country’s acts of genocide.

Dr. Aafia Siddiqui suffered a very strange conviction by a New York City jury which found her guilty of attempting to assault and murder the U.S. military personnel who were holding her prisoner in Afghanistan. As their prisoner Ms. Siddiqui was shot by them in the stomach. Tried in New York the young mother of three was peculiarly sentenced by a New York City judge to 86 years in prison. Currently the Government of Pakistan is attempting to counter this madness by seeking her return to serve the rest of her sentence in her own country. There is evidence that she has been additionally damaged in U.S. government custody. She was able to complain of physical abuse and sexual abuse at the hands of prison officials in Texas, to Pakistan’s consul general. She accused male prison staff of urinating on things belonging to her. The gratuitous severe abuse of Ms. Siddiqui by U.S. authorities is not traditionally American and may be a psyops program to dehumanize Muslims, women or both, preparing the public for greater indecencies.

Ramiro “Ramsey” Muñiz, an Hispanic community leader who ran for Governor of Texas for the Raza Unida Party in 1972 and 1974, was multiply arrested in 1994 on what seemed to be manufactured drug charges and was sentenced to life without parole. The Raza Unida Party was hurt badly and may have been the government’s target when it incapacitated Muñiz. He and his wife have always asserted his innocence and lobbied many years for his pardon and release. Now ill, on Dec. 10, 2018 he was released from Lexington Federal Medical Center (Kentucky) “on compassionate grounds under federal supervision.”13

Juvenal Ovidio Ricardo Palmera Pineda (whose nom de guerre is Simón Trinidad) was extradited to the U.S. when captured as a rebel FARC leader in Colombia. A Colombian professor and peace strategist, accounts of U.S. government trials against him reveal juries that wouldn’t convict him, numerous mistrials and one confused conviction for holding 3 Americans hostage (in a war zone controlled by FARC forces) for which he was sentenced to sixty years. Wikipedia reports that he’s held in the ADX Florence Colorado supermax prison in solitary confinement. Colombia’s civil war is officially at peace. He’s a prisoner of war after the war is over, If released and deported he would face multiple charges under the current Colombian government.

Anayibe Rojas Valderrama of FARC with the war name,”Sonia,” was captured in Colombia in 2004, and extradited by the Americans to face drug charges. She was convicted on drug charges Feb. 20, 2007 in Washington D.C. to serve a sentence of 16 years. After serving 11 she was released on good behaviour and deported to Colombia last August where she was immediately charged with money laundering.14

On May 17, 2017, Oscar López Rivera was released from prison by President Obama. The Puerto Rican nationalist had served 55 years in U.S. prisons.

Initially eligible for parole in 1998 but denied parole ten times, Robert Seth Hayes was finally granted parole July 24, 2018, after 45 years in prison.

  1. My most recent essay updating American political prisoners appeared in 2016: “The torture of U.S. political prisoners: some updates” (2016)nightslantern.ca.
  2. “The unofficial gag order of Jamil Al-Amin (H. Rap Brown): 16 years in prison, still not allowed to speak,” Obaid H. Siddiqui, June 30, 2018, SF BayView.
  3. “Abu Hamza found guilty of 11 terrorism charges,” Karen McVeigh, May 20, 2014, The Guardian.
  4. “Hate preacher Abu Hamza: US prison is too tough,” Callum Adams, Dec. 17, 2017, Telegraph.
  5. “Jalil Muntaqim Denied Parole Once Again!” Current. jerichony.org/.
  6. “Tupac’s Father, Mutulu Shakur , files Lawsuit against the U.S. Government for Illegally Holding Him in Prison,” Sha Be Allah, March 29, 2018, thesource.com.
  7. A background note: in the 1970’s Manning and his group which included several Vietnam veterans, worked out of an alternative bookstore in Portland Maine, community organizing, caring for prisoners and their families, antiwar and anti-racist. Portland police discovered a death squad in police ranks with the intention of disappearing the group. The bookstore was broken into, an employee raped, and they were under continuing threat from the KKK.
  8. “Political prisoner Jaan Laaman is still being held in segregation,” staff, May 25, 2017, 4strugglemag.
  9. “Judge: Mumia Abu-Jamal can reargue appeal in 1981 Philly police slaying,” Bobby Allyn, Dec. 28, 2018, WhyY News.
  10. “A Potentially Tectonic Event Shakes up the Mumia Abu-Jamal Case,” Dave Lindorff, Jan. 11, 2019, Counterpunch.
  11. “Update on the Kings Bay Plowshares,” Dec 27, 2018 / “Legal Update,” Bill Quigley, Nov. 19, 2018, The Nuclear Resister.
  12. “Is this Fairness? Is this Justice? Post-9/11 Muslim Charity Prosecution,” Katherine Hughes, September 20, 2014, Truthout. Her website DhafirTrial is recommended.
  13. “Hispanic activist Ramsey Muniz free after 24 years in prison,” AP, Jan. 9, 2019, KRISTV.com.
  14. “No Peace in Colombia as ex-FARC Guerrilla Sonia Awaits Release From US Prison,” W.T. Whitney, July 30, 2018, Counterpunch; “Tras ser deportada a Colombia, alias “Sonia” será procesada por lavado de activos,” Judicial, Sept. 25, 2018, El Espectador.

Updating Some U.S. Political Prisoners January 2019

Writing from another country I remember the Americans I’m supposed to forget, those forced into the lives that made them prisoners or simply targets of law enforcement programs. Some are religious people, Christians and Muslims. Many were Black Panthers. Some were and are radicals. Most are Americans. All cared for their communities and people. They were condemned by society at large. Under the FBI’s COINTELPRO activists in the Sixties and Seventies political and community movements but particularly the Black Panthers were targeted and hunted and engaged in fire-fights by law enforcement. Any police casualty brought charges of murder in court. How many community leaders were convicted for killing a police person? And yet through many years have maintained their innocence despite the mechanism which increases the chance for parole if a crime is confessed and regretted. One reason I don’t forget them is because I don’t really believe they’re guilty. Here are updates for some political prisoners in the U.S.1

Among U.S. political prisoners with the roots of imprisonment in the last century, is Rap Brown (Hubert Gerold Brown), known today as Imam Jamil Al-Amin. As a young leader he was pissed, acerbic and unafraid. His late speeches are devout, eloquent, historically wise, American, concerned with the survival of his people, and religiously humble. His rhetoric frightened U.S. law enforcement since the 1960’s. Convicted of murdering a police person (a crime confessed to by someone else with accuracy, three times – then recanted), maintaining his own innocence Al-Amin was sentenced in 2002 to life imprisonment without parole. Placed in a maximum security prison and principally in solitary confinement far from friends, supporters, family for years, he was transferred to Eastern U.S. prisons for medical treatment with several medical conditions which the prison system was slow to diagnose and treat. He was found to have a rare form of blood cancer. His writings are suppressed. He’s not permitted interviews.2  With 16 years in prison, currently an appeal of his conviction slowly makes its way through appeals court. I think he’s silenced because he’s a wise man. Wasted by his country yet of deep human value he continues to frighten the establishment because he provides a bridge of peace between Islam and Christianity. “When the struggle becomes conscious then we understand that we don’t have an option. Struggle is the price you pay for your soul. We all doing life without parole.” — Imam Jamil Al-Amin

Abu Hamza al-Masri, born Mustafa Kamel Mustafa in Egypt, is a British Imam with a reputation for hating people he considers enemies of Islam. He was extradited to the U.S. to face trial in a Manhattan court not too far from the former World Trade Center(s), for alleged war related crimes in Yemen, Afghanistan and Oregon. At his trial the jury wasn’t allowed to hear substantial evidence of his work for M-15 British Intelligence. Allegations against him were not based on any violence he committed but on his alleged responsibility for crimes; most of the evidence presented was his words, sermons, statements, opinions, feelings, his freedom of expression.3  He wasn’t found guilty of hate speech but of 11 counts of terrorism, and he is serving a life-without-parole sentence in the U.S. supermax prison, ADX Florence Colorado, essentially in solitary confinement, in “a cage like cell.” Since apparently the conditions of his incarceration violate human rights law prohibitions against torture and degrading treatment,4  contravening the conditions of his extradition from Europe to the U.S., the Imam has appealed for removal to prison in Great Britain. He is blind and missing both hands which were lost in an explosion when he was younger (British media have continually referred to him as “the Hook”). With diabetes and psoriasis as well, under U.S. prison conditions at ADX Florence the stumps of his arms become continually infected.

An American, a Robert F. Wagner High School and Brooklyn College graduate who earned his M.A. in international relations in London, Fahad Hashmi, as a Muslim was targeted for association with radical friends and was extradited from England to New York, held in solitary for three years before trial, was threatened with a 70 year sentence for storing a friend’s luggage which held clothing for Al-Quaeda, and was sentenced on a plea bargain to 15 years which he is serving at ADX Florence, the supermax facility. Relying on technicalities and the prisoner’s innocence, the prosecution and imprisonment of Fahad Hashmi affirmed American law but betrayed American justice.

In 2018 Jalil Muntaqim (Anthony Bottom) was denied parole for the 9th time. According to Jericho New York he “was convicted of the 1971 murders of two New York City police officers, a crime for which he accepted responsibility and demonstrated remorse. During his 47 years in prison, Jalil earned two college degrees and served as a counselor, teacher and role model for other incarcerated people. Jalil is a rehabilitated individual who poses no risk to the community. He will be appealing this very disappointing decision.”5

Held for 22 years in solitary confinement in 2016 former Black Panther Russell “Maroon” Shoatz won through a legal action against Pennsylvania’s Department of Corrections his reprieve from continual solitary confinement, as well as $99,000; his case commenced in 1973 protested the prison’s cruel and unusual punishment. The United Nations Special rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez noted the conditions of Shoatz’s imprisonment as outside a civilized norm.

Dr. Mutulu Shakur (Jeral Wayne Williams) once of the Black Liberation Army (Black Panthers) was sentenced in 1988 to sixty years on RICO conspiracy charges and for bank robberies which involved deaths of guards and police. Led to believe he would be released Feb. 10, 2016 due to laws in force at the time, he wasn’t released and was given a parole hearing for Dec.16, 2016, his 8th. Parole was denied. The government is suspected of psychologically tormenting the well-respected Dr. Shakur so that he might confess to masterminding the 1979 prison escape of Assata Shakur. In March 2018 Mutulu Shakur filed suit against the federal government for his release alleging violation of his First Amendment Rights (principally his free speech) by the Parole Board as the reason for denying his release.6

Arrested in April 1985, according to Wikipedia Thomas William Manning is expected to complete his current prison term in 2020, at which point he is to begin his next prison term of 80 years for another set of charges including the murder of a New Jersey police officer. Manning was convicted of shooting back after the officer emptied his gun at Manning and his group of families. The inhumanity of the sentencing was always intended to render the prisoner without hope. Attempts to trash and humiliate Tom Manning, American, a Vietnam veteran, and each of the Ohio Seven (“United Freedom Front”, “Sam Melville Brigade”) suggests the bitter hostility of the system to white working class people if they assert both socialism and a brotherhood of black and white. In prison Manning has held to uncompromised anti-racist, American truths strongly, constantly, with hope, paintings and words. In 2006 a show of his artwork was canceled by a timorous University of Maine.7

Jaan Laaman, also of the “Ohio Seven” (“United Freedom Front”, “Sam Melville Brigade”), is serving a 53 year prison term, following a 45 year prison term. Both by court action and example he has become known as an advocate for rights of freedom of expression for prisoners, in 1977 winning his State Supreme Court case against the New Hampshire State Prison to receive his reading materials which is said to have opened prisoner education programs through New Hampshire. He is a founder of the website 4strugglemag.org, an outlet for prison writing. On March 21, 2017, he was placed in solitary confinement for violating communications protocols (issuing of statements which apparently the prison system did not favour). He’s also threatened with transfer to a CMU (Communications Management Unit) to completely segregate his communications from the outside world.8

The histories of John Africa’s movement and Mumia Abu-Jamal have been interwoven from the start in the tragedies which took people of faith from their lives and community, where the children of some were shot by police, where community workers and pragmatic idealists were ground up by the system’s violence. From one perspective they were falsely accused honest people, put in jail under insufferable sentences to silence them about the crimes committed against John Africa’s “family” by the Philadelphia police. The best known witness Mumia Abu-Jamal who reported on the police bombing of the MOVE residence by Philadelphia police was subsequently charged with murder of a police officer and placed on death row. The injustices of his charges and trials, and courts and judges and incarcerations and threats of death against all of them are a grocery list of white racism to keep the black community in line, and Mumia Abu-Jamal’s history is mythic in his survival over death row, beating his medical death sentence beating the silence imposed on him, to become one of the best known writers and revolutionary writers-from-prison in history. Under a ruling Dec. 28, 2018 by Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge, Leon Tucker, Mumia Abu-Jamal is finally granted an opportunity to argue for his freedom in a retrial. Judge Tucker found that the judge who presided over Abu-Jamal’s previous and thought to be final appeal should have recused himsef.9  A day later six cartons of materials thought to be related to Mumia’s case were discovered in the Philadelphia D.A.’s storage room. After assessment and if necessary these may provide Abu-Jamal’s lawyers with leverage for additional appeals.10

Mike Africa of the MOVE 9 was finally released on parole Oct. 23, 2018. One of nine MOVE members convicted to 30 years imprisonment for the killing of one police officer who died of a single bullet wound in a police storming of the MOVE home; MOVE members were generally without arms and living under a peaceful ethic and it was always possible that the police officer was killed in the storm of gunfire from his fellow officers. Historically, the severity of the sentencing seems to have been an attempt to silence witnessing of the many police crimes in the Philadelphia Police’s handling of John Africa’s community group.

Compared to others here the Kings Bay Plowshares are up against comparatively short sentences for comparatively harmless actions. The religious basis of their protest against the full power of nuclear militarized America is also problematic, in that they were arrested because they chose to confront the government, rather than through the government’s need to oppress them. For nearly half a century the Plowshares movement has broken the security of Nuclear submarines, missile silos and facilities to hammer on nuclear weapons, beating swords into plowshares. Their symbolic acts of faith are like prayer a worship of something stronger and more sacred than the weapons of mass destruction and as a group its members have, without injuring others been sent to prison for months to several years at a time. They’re a help to the anti-prison movement in that they’re innocent of crimes against other people and yet are condemned and treated as criminal. At their King’s Bay Florida action April 4, 2018 having presented their passion play for Christ carrying real hammers, real blood amid real nuclear weapons they were arrested with a sign quoting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “The ultimate logic of racism is genocide,” and began their long tedious journey through a court system challenging the faith of those in the court system. Once a decision is made concerning the “religious freedom motions” (the defendants were allowed the opportunity to present the court with the religious motivation for their actions as pleas for dismissal), the case could be dismissed or a trial date set before the end of January.11

In 2003 Dr. Rafil Dhafir was taken from his medical practice in upstate New York and sentenced to 22 years, not for any alleged violence but for sending medical supplies to the children of Iraq, victims of the U.S. and Coalition bombing campaigns. He was born in Iraq. His attempts to alleviate the suffering of the children there by supplying medicines, was in no way wrong though through misuse and misapplication of the law was made illegal. Medical supplies were wrongly embargoed. Dr. Dhafir as a Muslim, was referred to as a suspected terrorist by New York’s Governor Pataki . To avoid his appearance as a humanitarian the FBI also prosecuted him for medicare fraud and money laundering. Dr. Dhafir donated over a million dollars of his own for medical supplies to children. When a petition for Executive Clemency was prepared for him he refused to ask for mercy as a criminal because he committed no crime. Under Federal guidelines Dr. Dhafir is eligible because of his age for release since he has served at least 10 years (16 years in February) but his release requires the warden’s approval; that hasn’t happened. Katherine Hughes followed the injustices of Dr. Dhafir’s arrest, trial and conviction.12  She quotes Dennis Halliday who resigned as chief of the UN’s Humanitarian Aid program in Iraq, 1997-98, because he found the sanctions against Iraq, genocide. Of Dr. Dhafir he said, “I am stunned by the conviction of this humanitarian, especially as the US State Department breached its own sanctions to the tune of $10 billion. The policy of sanctions against Iraq undermined not only the UN’s own charter, but the Declaration of Human Rights and the Geneva Convention as well.” Dr. Dhafir was obeying humanitarian law. By denying medical supplies to a civilian population it had decimated, the U.S. was violating the Convention on Genocide. Dr. Dhafir was placed in prison because he was innocent, and because the U.S. legal system has been denying its people the use of the Nuremberg defense, the citizen’s need to counter his or her country’s acts of genocide.

Dr. Aafia Siddiqui suffered a very strange conviction by a New York City jury which found her guilty of attempting to assault and murder the U.S. military personnel who were holding her prisoner in Afghanistan. As their prisoner Ms. Siddiqui was shot by them in the stomach. Tried in New York the young mother of three was peculiarly sentenced by a New York City judge to 86 years in prison. Currently the Government of Pakistan is attempting to counter this madness by seeking her return to serve the rest of her sentence in her own country. There is evidence that she has been additionally damaged in U.S. government custody. She was able to complain of physical abuse and sexual abuse at the hands of prison officials in Texas, to Pakistan’s consul general. She accused male prison staff of urinating on things belonging to her. The gratuitous severe abuse of Ms. Siddiqui by U.S. authorities is not traditionally American and may be a psyops program to dehumanize Muslims, women or both, preparing the public for greater indecencies.

Ramiro “Ramsey” Muñiz, an Hispanic community leader who ran for Governor of Texas for the Raza Unida Party in 1972 and 1974, was multiply arrested in 1994 on what seemed to be manufactured drug charges and was sentenced to life without parole. The Raza Unida Party was hurt badly and may have been the government’s target when it incapacitated Muñiz. He and his wife have always asserted his innocence and lobbied many years for his pardon and release. Now ill, on Dec. 10, 2018 he was released from Lexington Federal Medical Center (Kentucky) “on compassionate grounds under federal supervision.”13

Juvenal Ovidio Ricardo Palmera Pineda (whose nom de guerre is Simón Trinidad) was extradited to the U.S. when captured as a rebel FARC leader in Colombia. A Colombian professor and peace strategist, accounts of U.S. government trials against him reveal juries that wouldn’t convict him, numerous mistrials and one confused conviction for holding 3 Americans hostage (in a war zone controlled by FARC forces) for which he was sentenced to sixty years. Wikipedia reports that he’s held in the ADX Florence Colorado supermax prison in solitary confinement. Colombia’s civil war is officially at peace. He’s a prisoner of war after the war is over, If released and deported he would face multiple charges under the current Colombian government.

Anayibe Rojas Valderrama of FARC with the war name,”Sonia,” was captured in Colombia in 2004, and extradited by the Americans to face drug charges. She was convicted on drug charges Feb. 20, 2007 in Washington D.C. to serve a sentence of 16 years. After serving 11 she was released on good behaviour and deported to Colombia last August where she was immediately charged with money laundering.14

On May 17, 2017, Oscar López Rivera was released from prison by President Obama. The Puerto Rican nationalist had served 55 years in U.S. prisons.

Initially eligible for parole in 1998 but denied parole ten times, Robert Seth Hayes was finally granted parole July 24, 2018, after 45 years in prison.

  1. My most recent essay updating American political prisoners appeared in 2016: “The torture of U.S. political prisoners: some updates” (2016)nightslantern.ca.
  2. “The unofficial gag order of Jamil Al-Amin (H. Rap Brown): 16 years in prison, still not allowed to speak,” Obaid H. Siddiqui, June 30, 2018, SF BayView.
  3. “Abu Hamza found guilty of 11 terrorism charges,” Karen McVeigh, May 20, 2014, The Guardian.
  4. “Hate preacher Abu Hamza: US prison is too tough,” Callum Adams, Dec. 17, 2017, Telegraph.
  5. “Jalil Muntaqim Denied Parole Once Again!” Current. jerichony.org/.
  6. “Tupac’s Father, Mutulu Shakur , files Lawsuit against the U.S. Government for Illegally Holding Him in Prison,” Sha Be Allah, March 29, 2018, thesource.com.
  7. A background note: in the 1970’s Manning and his group which included several Vietnam veterans, worked out of an alternative bookstore in Portland Maine, community organizing, caring for prisoners and their families, antiwar and anti-racist. Portland police discovered a death squad in police ranks with the intention of disappearing the group. The bookstore was broken into, an employee raped, and they were under continuing threat from the KKK.
  8. “Political prisoner Jaan Laaman is still being held in segregation,” staff, May 25, 2017, 4strugglemag.
  9. “Judge: Mumia Abu-Jamal can reargue appeal in 1981 Philly police slaying,” Bobby Allyn, Dec. 28, 2018, WhyY News.
  10. “A Potentially Tectonic Event Shakes up the Mumia Abu-Jamal Case,” Dave Lindorff, Jan. 11, 2019, Counterpunch.
  11. “Update on the Kings Bay Plowshares,” Dec 27, 2018 / “Legal Update,” Bill Quigley, Nov. 19, 2018, The Nuclear Resister.
  12. “Is this Fairness? Is this Justice? Post-9/11 Muslim Charity Prosecution,” Katherine Hughes, September 20, 2014, Truthout. Her website DhafirTrial is recommended.
  13. “Hispanic activist Ramsey Muniz free after 24 years in prison,” AP, Jan. 9, 2019, KRISTV.com.
  14. “No Peace in Colombia as ex-FARC Guerrilla Sonia Awaits Release From US Prison,” W.T. Whitney, July 30, 2018, Counterpunch; “Tras ser deportada a Colombia, alias “Sonia” será procesada por lavado de activos,” Judicial, Sept. 25, 2018, El Espectador.

Updating Some Canadian Political Prisoners January 2019

Disproportionate numbers of First Peoples are in Canadian prisons. Society arranges this fact to not seem that extraordinary. It could be argued that aboriginal peoples are political prisoners in North America, in or out of prison. Or that this is true for all minorities. Or that as the war on terror proceeds all Canadians may find themselves in a political prison.

Privilege and prejudice are clarified when we note that aboriginal men and women damaged in government (police) custody are not often plaintiffs in trials for damages. And properly, this account would run to several thousand pages listing the individual cases of First Peoples’ imprisonment, rising out of a society which feels compelled to treat the education of, the medical care of, the social services for, the nourishment of, the housing of, the remuneration for, First Peoples unjustly.

Unlike the U.S., Canada hasn’t used extreme long term incarceration of Indigenous leaders to discourage Indigenous movements’ protest actions. In the U.S. Leonard Peltier was sentenced to two life imprisonment terms for a crime he likely didn’t commit. Non-Indigenous U.S. leaders of the people such as the Kennedy’s, Dr. King and Malcolm X, were simply shot, and Canada’s historical icon of revolt Louis Riel was simply hanged. The many indigenous leaders in Canada maintain relatively low profiles and are more diffusely represented in these vast spaces of the land.

Currently, the only group of Canadian political prisoners which approaches the length of sentences given U.S. political prisoners is Canadians who are Muslim.1 They have been treated poorly in domestic prisons or left to the dogs in the custody of foreign agencies. In some cases Canada’s security agencies seemed to be outsourcing torture for information. Of Canadian Muslims damaged in custody, Maher Arar was awarded 11.5 million dollars in an out of court settlement concerning the Canadian government’s responsibility for his torture in Syria.

Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad El Maati and Muayyed Nureddin settled for about half of what each asked, 31.25 million apiece because of Canada’s assistance to the Syrian government in having them falsely arrested and tortured.

Omar Khadr was to receive 10.5 million for Canada’s cooperation with the U.S. on Khadr’s incarceration and torture in  Guantanamo while a minor.

One lawsuit filed by Abousfian Abdelrazik, whom the Canadian government left in the hands of Syrian torturers, was settled out of court in 2017.

In 2015 the Canadian government settled out of court a suit by Benamar Benatta whom it had turned over to the FBI as a terrorist suspect: he was imprisoned 5 years before they decided he wasn’t a terrorist.

Daniel Ameziane, who sought political asylum in Canada from Algeria, is suing Canada for 40 million dollars2, after his torture in U.S. Guantanamo which he alleges was reliant on Canadian supplied information. and yielded the Canadians in turn information obtained by his torture (Ameziane, denied asylum in Canada, was subsequently arrested in Pakistan by a bounty hunter and sent to Guantanamo). The five Muslim men detained (arrested without charge) for varying lengths of time in extreme conditions, under the mechanism of Canadian Security Certificates, were not found guilty of any crime and have not, to my knowledge, initiated suits to compensate them for their arbitrary loss of rights, their suffering and the government’s attempts to ruin their lives.

What is unusual about the Canadian persecution of Canadian Muslims is that they have some chance for redress in Canadian courts for severe violations of their human rights. Here I’ll try to update several cases Night’s Lantern has encountered in the past, and these of Muslims, targeted under the U.S./ NATO programs of the wars on terror and Muslim countries. The cases suggest a domestic application of an aggressive foreign policy which has the intention of corporate resource acquisition by force.

Entirely ignored by the media is the case of Said Namouh who was arrested in 2007 and is serving a sentence of life imprisonment with parole possible after ten years (yet facing deportation if paroled). The charges against him were for participating in terrorist activities. But he committed no crime of violence against anyone.3 There was no evidence linking him to alleged bomb-making or making real the prosecution’s suppositions of active terrorism. The star witness against him was an Israeli CEO of a U.S. defense industry intelligence provider who analyzed Namouh’s computer hard drive. Namouh’s “crimes” were primarily of internet communication, personal declarations, extremist associations, in other words – his beliefs, convictions. This case puzzles innocents because it is entirely legal to have beliefs and convictions and it is legal to share them. In 2018 Namouh was denied his first application for parole; the parole board noted his record in prison wasn’t exemplary, and it wasn’t, but he didn’t try to kill anyone and he didn’t steal anyone’s dessert. The parole board (“La Commission des libérations conditionnelles”) isn’t likely to hear his case again until 2023. Yet there is a forfeit of the prisoner’s human rights and civil rights here, not because Namouh’s beliefs are unwise, unsafe, in some instances illegal, or against Canadian security interests, but because the punishment is the same as a mass murderer’s. He was in no way proven guilty of mass murder or any act of violence. His was a propaganda trial with a propaganda punishment.

Another level of shame is reached in the more obvious injustices of Canadian Security Certificates. One recognizes Stasi or Gestapo tactics which aren’t Canadian practices, and the government has restrained itself from using the certificates since early in the new millennium. All five of the Muslim men arrested under Canadian Security Certificates back in 2000 to 2003 have been released from prison through the efforts of their lawyers in one trial after another. Despite government challenges Canada’s judicial system has safeguarded some of humanity’s progress since the dark ages. The government’s attempts to justify in court application of Canadian Security Certificates has cost Canadian taxpayers millions of dollars.

Mohamed Harkat, former Canadian Security Certificate detainee, imprisoned without a charge against him in 2002, now lives at home protected from prison by judicial decisions, with his Quebec born Canadian wife of nearly twenty years. Their lives are under threat every day with complete disruption by the government’s continuing intention to deport him to Algeria, where it’s believed he is in danger of torture or death.((“Justice for Mohamed Harkat: stop his deportation to torture.)) Aside from the label of suspected terrorist assigned him by Canada’s security agencies, any refugee returned to Algeria is known to be at risk. In June 2018 Al-Jazeera reported 13,000 migrants left by Algeria in the Sahara desert within the last 14 months, subject to forced marches without water and food.4

The ordeal of Mohamed Harkat’s arrest without charges or public evidence against him has lasted year after year, placing him in prison, in solitary, on hunger strike, in house arrest with court ordered regimens, has subjected his wife to suffering and police abuse, subjected the family to legal expenses, debts, and charity without compensation. (Summary). If one wanted to inflict the conditions of a lasting torture on a family, either to obtain information or as one more threat to encourage the Muslim community to cooperate with government policies bordering on genocide in several Muslim countries, one might imagine inflicting on them the lives of Mohamed and Sophie Harkat.

In a report to the UN Human Rights Council last Spring, Nils Melzer (the UN Special Rapporteur on torture) noted: “Whenever States failed to exercise due diligence to protect migrants, punish perpetrators or provide remedies, they risk to become complicit in torture or ill-treatment.”5

The injustices inherent in the government’s prosecution of a group branded the “Toronto 18” in 2006 by the press are less clearly defined and are difficult to explain. People are afraid to ask obvious questions about the group of minors and young men who were quite possibly guided into a horrible conspiracy by the several police agents among them to plan and organize a series of terrorist acts beyond the abilities of any in the group who weren’t police agents, to execute.

As soon as early reporting of the arrests entered court, the judge placed a gag order on reporting details of the trial or revealing the defendants’ names. Portions of the ban protecting minors seem to remain in force. The mechanism has also provided a means to keep out of public scrutiny any low-profile informants and the role they played in a “conspiracy” which some of the defendants were unwilling to recognize. The alleged crimes the “conspiracy” was charged with were horrific and frightening, particularly to a population with misgivings about U.S. and Canadian wars against Islamic countries, crimes against international law, guilt from Canada’s role in “Operation Desert Storm,” the initial US and Coalition bombing of Iraq, the destruction of Iraq’s civilian infrastructure, depriving the country’s children of a future. By the time the US and its coalition invaded Iraq in 2003 Canada refused full participation. Canada’s commitment to fighting in Afghanistan may also be considered complicity in a war of aggression and a number of the “Toronto 18” expressed anger at Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan. So the script for the “Toronto 18” was noticeably muzzy, vague except in the allegations of dastardly plots and plans, and the curiousness that young Canadian citizens who were in other respects bright students and entrepreneurs could be manipulated into over-expressing their imaginations and feelings about injustice.

In court eleven Canadian citizens accused were sentenced to prison. Charges against others were dropped or withdrawn. Of the accused, most just pleaded guilty. Four claimed their innocence but were convicted. Interestingly each case was different which one would not expect of a conspiracy. Charges relied heavily on the actions and testimony of a police informant (one is featured in official narratives) considered by some to have been a causative agent. The convicted did not have the knowledge or means to execute the terrorist actions they were found guilty of, and their actions required the professional help of the police informant(s). This troubled my own understanding of the case as it was revealed in the press, and the presence of this basic injustice may explain why post sentencing information about members of the “Toronto 18” remains scarce.

The justice of their trials in 2009-2010 may be further questioned after a recent ruling in Vancouver BC which found the RCMP basically responsible for the terrorist acts committed by John Nuttall and Amanda Korody.6 The couple were recent converts to Islam and recovering drug addicts, guided into a terrorist plot and supplied the knowledge and materials to commit terrorist crimes by RCMP undercover. A three judge appeals court affirmed the decision of the lower court that the RCMP had basically entrapped the defendants, who were then freed. The RCMP’s case was found to be “a travesty of justice.”.

To begin to gather then this disparate group of the “Toronto 18” I mention eight of the eleven who were found guilty and sentenced:

Arrested when he was 18, Saad Gaya pleaded guilty in court in 2010 and was sentenced to 12 years in prison with pre-sentencing imprisonment of 3.5 years credited double. Gaya was to serve a remaining 4.5 years but was parole eligible in 18 months. However, the Crown was able to increase his sentence to 18 years. In 2016 the National Post reported he was granted day parole to attend graduate school.7

Mohamed Dirie convicted for weapons smuggling in the “Toronto 18” plot was sentenced to seven years including pre-sentencing time served. He was released in 2011, and is reported to have died fighting for “an extremist group” in Syria, 2013.8 Unconfirmed.

Zakaria Amara9 pleaded guilty in 2009 to charges in the “camp plot” conspiracy and to charges in the “bomb plot” conspiracy. In 2010 he was sentenced to 21 months in addition to time served for the first, and for the second, life imprisonment. He was incarcerated in Quebec and eligible for parole in ten years. In 2013 the Supreme Court of Canada refused to review his sentence.

Fahim Ahmad, sentenced to 16 years with double credit for pre-sentencing time served, was previously denied parole but will have completed his sentence and should be freed in 2018, according to The Toronto Star, and released early in 2018 according to the National Post. By 2019, I’ve found no notice of his release.10

Shareef Abdelhaleem who maintained that he “had no intention of causing injury or bodily harm” and asked the judge to sentence him as the judge would a white Catholic…, was sentenced to life in prison, and with pre-sentencing time included, was parole eligible in ten years. His father was an engineer with Atomic Energy of Canada who had posted bail for Mohammad Mahjoub, the Security Certificate detainee. The father’s implication in the “conspiracy” was attempted. Of his son, the prisoner, Wikipedia quotes him: “I am the last person to be a threat…this whole thing was staged to impress the public, to give them fear.”11

Steven Vikash Chand, a former Canadian forces reservist and new convert to Islam, was found guilty of participation and advising a financial fraud to assist a terrorist group. He was sentenced to 10 years including time served, yielding a release in 2011.

Despite a recognized lack of serious involvement with the conspiracy group, Asad Ansari was sentenced in 2010 to six years five months for participating/contributing to a terrorist group, which amounted to time served. Like several others in the “Toronto 18” group, the government’s threat to withdraw his Canadian citizenship was canceled under a change in government and Royal Assent granted to Bill C-6 June 19, 2017.

Saad Khalid pled guilty in 2009 to intending to cause an explosion and was sentenced to 14 years in prison including 7 years served. He was said to be radicalized in prison and the Crown increased his sentence from 14 to 20 years.

These are long sentences in mens’ lives. This listing leaves three of the accused and found guilty prisoners uncounted, as well as the seven of those arrested and one way or another released. We can guess that most of those found guilty have by now served their time or reaching their parole date were quietly released. No one asks why children and young adults who were so normal in other respects leading the lives of innocents, imagined such horrific responses to their country’s crimes against innocent men women and children abroad.

  1. Canada and the politics of Islamophobia,” J. B. Gerald, February 5, 2017, nightslantern.ca.
  2. “Guantanamo: Ex-inmate sues Canada for alleged torture,” Jillian Kestler-D’Amours,” November 10, 2017, Al-Jazeera.
  3. “Pas de libération conditionnelle pour Saïd Namouh,” Louis Cloutier, February 7, 2018, TVA Nouvelles / MédiaQMI.
  4. “Deported by Algeria, migrants abandoned in the Sahara Desert,” Victoria Gatenby, June 25, 2018, Al-Jazeera.
  5. “Migration policies can amount to ill-treatment and torture, UN rights expert warns,” UN Human Rights Council, March 1, 2018, Reliefweb.
  6. “B.C. Court of Appeal: Couple convicted in Victoria terror case entrapped by RCMP,” Amy Smart, Canadian Press, December 19, 2018, Vancouver Sun.
  7. “Toronto 18″ convict granted day parole so he can go to graduate school,” January 1, 2016, National Post.
  8. “Man convicted as part of Toronto 18 plot reportedly killed in Syria,” The Canadian Press September 26, 2013, Macleans.
  9. “Bomb plotter sentenced to 12 years,” Michael Friscolanti, January 18, 2010, Macleans.
  10. “Toronto 18 plotter reflects on a decade in prison,” Michelle Shephard, May 29, 2016, Toronto Star.
  11. “Toronto 18″ member released on day parole in middle of 18-year sentence,” The Canadian Press, January 2, 2016, CBC.

Green Party Urges International Criminal Court To Prosecute Israel For Crimes Against Palestinians

Above: Delegation at the International Criminal Court in the Hague, Netherlands on November 19, 2018. From left to right Margaret Flowers, Green Party co-chair, member of the Green Party Peace Action Committee and Green Party of Maryland, Miko Peled, Green Party US member, Dirk Adriaensens of the BRussells Tribunal, Diane Moxley of Green Party International Committee and Green Party of New Jersey, Stephen Verchinski of the Green Party International Committee and Green Party of New Mexico, Marie Spike, of the Green Party International Committee and Green Party of Michigan and Kevin Zeese of the Green Party Peace Action Committee and Green Party of Maryland

*****

United States Green Party Representatives Deliver Call for Full Investigation of Israel’s War Crimes Against Palestinians to International Criminal Court

The Hague, The Netherlands (Monday, November 19, 2018) — Members of the Green Party United States traveled to the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Monday, November 19, 2018 to deliver a letter calling for a full investigation of Israel for war crimes it has committed against the Palestinians. [Read the text here.]

In addition to being endorsed by the Green Party U.S., the letter was signed by over 1,000 organizations, including Popular Resistance, and individuals from the United States who want prosecutors at the ICC and the world to know that there is a political party along with people in the US who support holding nations accountable to international law. The Green Party recognizes that the United States is complicit in Israel’s crimes by providing financial support, selling weapons and providing political cover to Israel.

The letter states:

For 70 years [Palestinians] have: suffered the most appalling living conditions imposed upon them by the military occupation and apartheid rule; peacefully resisted the unabated illegal settlements upon their land (at least 80% has been seized since the Nakba); withstood the blockade of Gaza and survived genocidal assaults. Since 1947 the Palestinians have steadfastly and peacefully fought for their safety, dignity, freedoms and Right of Return proclaimed by the UN General Assembly Resolution 194 passed in 1948. The Right of Return, to include damages and compensation, was deemed their inalienable right in Resolution 3236 passed in 1974. [footnotes omitted.]

Green Party co-chair, Margaret Flowers and Miko Peled, a member of the Green Party U.S., a dual Israeli and American citizen and author of The General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine and other books, met with a representative of the ICC Office of the Prosecutor to deliver a copy of the signed letter. The letter will be entered into the body of evidence being collected as part of a preliminary investigation to determine whether a full investigation will be conducted.

A delegation of Green Party U.S. members, many of whom are on the Green Party U.S. Peace Action and International Committees, made video statements outside the ICC after the letter was delivered.

The delegation included Kevin Zeese, Diane Moxley, Marie Spike, who authored the original draft of the letter, and Stephen Verchinski. The delegation was joined by Dirk Adriaensens of the BRussells Tribunal, which conducted a tribunal on Palestine.

Miko Peled stated:

It was an honor to be part of the GPUS delegation to the ICC, to add our voice to the growing demand to investigate Israel for war crimes. Only when people of the world speak up will the Israeli perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity be brought to justice.

Members of the delegation understand they have a responsibility to act and to educate others in the United States about the truth of the violent Israeli occupation of Palestine and apartheid state. It is by countering the myths put out by the media and U.S. lawmakers, due to the significant Israeli influence over them, and showing solidarity with Palestinians that the tide will shift toward justice for people living in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) and the millions of refugees who have been forced to flee.

While the Green Party worked on the issue for months, on the same day that the Green Party National Committee voted to endorse the letter, John Bolton said the United States would not cooperate with war crime investigations and called for sanctions against ICC judges if they proceed with an investigation of the United States or Israel.

Prior to visiting the ICC, members of the delegation met with Nils Mollema of Al Haq, an organization founded by Palestinian lawyers to address Israel’s occupation and apartheid. Members of the Green Party of The Netherlands (De Groenen) including Otto ter Haar as well as members of the Green Left Party (Groen Links) participated in that meeting.

Canadian Legal System’s Complicity in Genocide

[T]he US government no less than the government of Canada is required to obtain the consent of the Indian nations’ before assuming jurisdiction to invade, occupy and govern the yet unceded Indian national territories.

– Bruce Clark, Ongoing Genocide caused by Judicial Suppression of the “Existing” Aboriginal Rights (2018), p 25-26

I have only been physically inside a courtroom once, and that was to support a falsely accused colleague. It struck me that a typical western courtroom is set up not to exude justice but to intimidate, not just the accused but all people present, with the power of the State. The judge is invariably seated centrally on a dais, able to observe all that transpires below in the courtroom. When the judge enters, all present are required to stand, and none may be seated until permission is granted by his “honor.” When the proceedings are displeasing to her honor, she may strike a gavel on the dais to summon order in the courtroom.

Witness the power of the State: the power to mete out punishment for persons found guilty of something the State has determined to be illegal. It is a power that may be, and has been, wielded in what would be construed to be a thoroughly criminal manner in a moral universe. After all, gift giving and dancing were once deemed illegal by the Canadian State, and thus the tradition of First Nation Potlatches were banned until a sense of sanity and seeming propriety prevailed.

Such legal chicanery is not surprising to those who subscribe to Emery Dahlberg’s admonition that power corrupts.1 When law is unjust or when the punishment for wrongdoing is unjust, then the State has abused its power. The State’s power to prescribe justice can, moreover, be argued to represent State violence – in that the threat of punishment is used by the State to coerce behavioral compliance with the societal norms as dictated by the State.

To any informed person, Canada is undeniably a nation state erected on pre-existing nation states. The founding of Canada was unquestionably rooted in the genocide of the Original Peoples of the territory.2 Genocide is a heinous act often rooted in racism and supremacism. One group of humans considers itself privileged and accords itself rights, god-given or not, to the land and resources regardless of whichever people inhabit such territory or how long the territory has been the domain of its inhabitants.

That the law is not a moral construct is adduced by the fact that it has served as a vehicle for carrying out great crimes. The so-called New World was gifted by the Papal Bull Inter Caetera (1493) for division among the Spanish and Portuguese. Non-Christian savages had no rights according to the papacy. Albeit this was later superseded by the Papal Bull Sublimis Deus (1537). Nonetheless, the entirety of the western hemisphere remains controlled by elitist European settler-colonialists.3 Hence, Original Peoples find themselves stripped of sovereignty, ethnically cleansed from gargantuan swaths of unceded territory (reality check: who knowingly agrees to ceding a people’s territory anyway?), marginalized from decision-making regarding their lands, with many people having been forcibly assimilated into the dominating culture.

How to achieve actual justice for the dispossessed?

Bruce Clark is a man who made his living in the courtroom as a lawyer. He is an expert in law as applied to Indigenous peoples, having achieved a doctorate in comparative jurisprudence. Clark believes in the notion of applying law to achieve justice. Justice is a concept that is higher than the self, thus Clark took on the establishment to seek justice for his Indigenous clients. In the end he was punished for his zeal for justice.

I first became aware of Bruce Clark when he was providing counsel to the Sundancers at Ts’Peten (Gustafsen Lake). To protect the claimed rights of an American rancher to property on unceded Secwepemc territory, the provincial government resorted to para-military measures to evict the Sundancers; it was astoundingly reprehensible to me. Natural law was stood on its head by the provincial authorities. It is a matter that all “British Columbians” and “Canadians” should make themselves deeply informed about and act thereupon according to their consciences.

Bruce Clark is speaking and writing words extremely discomfiting to many non-Indigenous people. He is the author of Justice in Paradise and Native Liberty, Crown Sovereignty: The Existing Aboriginal Right of Self-Government in Canada. Just published is a collection of Clark’s subsequent writings, Ongoing Genocide caused by Judicial Suppression of the “Existing” Aboriginal Rights. In Ongoing Genocide Clark presents the legal case for Indigenous sovereignty such that the layperson can readily grasp the arguments.

Clark examines the constitutional law, international law, and case studies based on the law of the invaders. When interpreted without bias, the compelling arguments of Clark strongly refute any credence to the newcomers’ doctrine of discovery, especially over lands previously inhabited for millennia. That invader courts should have any authority in the territory invaded is, on its face, risible.

While constitutional and international law should be preeminent, in Canada writes Clark, “The modus operandi of the legal establishment and its collaborating Indian accomplices is the suppression of the constitutional and international law that the establishment intentionally is breaking.” (p 15)

The corruption in the system is political, economic, and legal. Clark finds that the legal profession and the judiciary are complicit in misprision of treason, fraud, and genocide. (p 31) The legal system has politicized law through artifices such as “the rule of judicial discretion” substituted for “the rule of law.” (p 40) Clark criticizes, “The lie, recently invented by the Supreme Court of Canada in willful blindness, is that the aboriginal right is no more than ‘the right to be consulted’…” (p 142)

The legal system has shielded itself from scrutiny in its complicity with crimes committed. Writes Clark,

Immunity anywhere signifies the non-existence of the rule of law everywhere. But again that will not happen, because like Canada the legal establishment of the United States practices the same willful blindness to the unconstitutional genocide at the historical heart of its legal system. (p 50)

A number of court decisions are mistakes, per incuriam, and are not a binding precedent, writes Clark.

Clark cites legal documents and precedents, in particular, the Royal Proclamation of 1763 which sets aside the Hunting Grounds to Indian nations in which the Indians are to be unmolested.

Clark has tried to challenge the constitutionality of Canada’s usurpation of Indigenous territory. A Catch 22 has been designed to block this. Clark relates how the Supreme Court demands a lower court ruling on the matter while the lower courts insist it is a Supreme Court matter. (p 127) It is clear to Clark that an independent, third party adjudication is required, this having already been established in the 1703 case of the Mohegan Indians v. Connecticut for Indian land claims throughout British North America.

Pressing to have his legal arguments heard and a decision rendered in court ultimately cost Clark his career as a lawyer. But this was not the end of Clark or the quest for justice.

Clark remains dangerous to the system that upholds the dispossession. A Vancouver Sun diatribe against Clark revealed this. Clark is described as “too radical for B.C. courtrooms, and too rambunctious for the Ontario bar,” and “a colourful but fatally misguided militant zealot.” Yet the critic acknowledges, “… Clark’s well-articulated ideas are definitely threatening to the status quo.”

Clark touches upon many topics in Ongoing Genocide among them the effects of Indian Residential Schools, the Indian Act, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (“… an expensive fraud upon the public but a cruel imposition upon the victims, who are encouraged to air their innermost suffering in the mistaken belief that it will lead to closure.” [p 20]), the so-called 60’s scoop of Indigenous children, and more.

The book concludes by pointing out an error in the Supreme Court Case Tsilhqot’in v. British Columbia, 2014 that is at odds with precedents such as the Royal Proclamation of 1763 and section 109 of the Constitution Act, 1867. In recent years the BC provincial government and federal government have apologized for the wrongful hanging of six Tsilhqot’in chiefs.4 Despite this, the BC government and Taseko Mines have continued to undermine Indigenous sovereignty, with repeated attempts to set up and operate a platinum mine in the Tsilhqot’in nation.

Ongoing Genocide caused by Judicial Suppression of the “Existing” Aboriginal Rights puts forward the case over which Canadian law courts dare not deliberate. That should not preclude people of conscience becoming informed. Is Canada a just society? Read the book and judge for yourself. Then do something about it. Humanity requires many more brave warriors like Bruce Clark.

  1. I hold that Dahlberg’s aphorism should not be considered too simplistically – that it has many layers. E,g, there is probably something already present in the nature of many humans that leads them to covet power.
  2. See Tom Swanky, The Great Darkening: The True Story of Canada’s “War” of Extermination on the Pacific plus The Tsilhqot’in and other First Nations Resistance (Burnaby, BC: Dragon Heart Enterprises, 2012). Read review.
  3. A noteworthy exception is Warisata (Bolivia) which has been governed by an Indigenous president, Evo Morales, since 2006.
  4. Emilee Gilpin, “Minister Carolyn Bennett says exoneration of Tsilhqot’in chiefs opens door to reconciliation,” National Observer, 27 March 2018; Tom Swanky, “Exoneration of the Chilcotin Chiefs,” 10 September 2015.