Three top Khmer Rouge leaders made a joint appearance before a UN-backed war crimes court today to seek release from custody as they await trial for genocide.
‘Brother Number Two’ Nuon Chea and ex-social affairs minister Ieng Thirith looked frail as they sat in the courtroom with former head of state Khieu Samphan.
There are strong concerns that not all of the defendants, who are aged between 78 and 85, will live to see a verdict.
On the stand: ‘Brother Number Two’ Nuon Chea listens in court and former head of the Khmer Rouge state Khieu Samphan has headphones on
Khmer Rouge ‘First Lady’ Ieng Thirith, a former social affairs minister, left the court hearing early
They are accused of war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and other charges under Cambodian laws in connection with the deaths of up to two million people between 1975 and 1979 as a result of starvation, overwork and execution.
Lawyers called for their ‘immediate release’, claiming their detention was illegal because they had not been brought to trial four months after their indictments were issued.
Jasper Pauw, defending, said ‘there are no conceivable reasons to keep Nuon Chea in custody’.
A pale Ieng Thirith, described as the ‘First Lady’ of the Khmer Rouge, left the courtroom as soon as proceedings began and waived her right to attend the hearing.
Nuon Chea – who wore sunglasses to protect his eyes from the light – suffered a dizzy spell and was sent to the court’s detention facility on medical advice.
Charges: Cambodian police officers guard the entrance to the court. The trial is expected to take months
Fellow accused Ieng Sary, the regime’s foreign minister, did not attend the hearing. His lawyers claim he was too ill to spend full days in court.
All four defendants have been detained since they were arrested in 2007.
Prosecutors dismissed the call for their release and said they could try to escape the country or exert pressure on witnesses if freed.
Andrew Cayley, prosecuting, said: ‘The passage of time has not diminished the impact of these crimes.’
A ruling on the request will be made in mid-February, but they are unlikely to be freed because of the uproar it would cause in Cambodia.
The Khmer Rouge regime killed two million people between 1975 and 1979 as it tried to create an agrarian utopia
Chab Chhean, 60, who lost 12 relatives under the regime, said outside court: ‘The court must not release them because they abused the people so much.’
The trial, the tribunal’s second, is due to start in the next five months and is expected to be lengthy as all four leaders dispute the charges against them.
It follows the landmark conviction in July of former Tuol Sleng prison chief Kaing Guek Eav, known as Duch, for war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in the deaths of around 15,000 men, women and children.
The court, which does not have the power to impose the death penalty, handed Duch a 30-year jail term – but he could walk free in 19 years because of time already served.
Both Duch, 68, and the prosecution have appealed against the sentence.
Led by ‘Brother Number One’ Pol Pott, who died in 1998, the Marxist Khmer Rouge regime emptied entire cities in the late 1970s in a bid to create an agrarian utopia.
The full text of the decision from Federal Judge Roger Vinson is not available yet, but according to reporters who’ve seen the decision, he’s ruled the entire Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act unconstitutional. The ruling favors of the 26 state attorney generals challenging the law. The judge ruled the individual mandate that requires all Americans to purchase health insurance invalid and, according to the decision, “because the individual mandate is unconstitutional and not severable, the entire Act must be declared void.”
(CNSNews.com) – Three additional locals of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU)–an organization whose political action committee spent $27 million in independent expenditures promoting Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign–received one-year waivers exempting them from complying with a provision in the new health care law.
That brings to six the total number of SEIU locals that have received waivers from Obamacare. Continue Reading
The simple banner is designed to honor those who served and died in the military. But a national campaign to add the red-and-white “Honor and Remember” flag to official U.S. flag displays on military holidays is creating painful divisions among veterans and the relatives of loved ones killed in action.
For lawmakers nationwide, the “Honor and Remember” debate forces an uncomfortable question: Who can say what should be done to honor people who died for the country?
The banner — a red-and-white background with a star, an eternal flame and the words “HONOR AND REMEMBER” — was conceived by a Virginia man, George Lutz, who lost his son in Iraq in 2005.
Lutz has visited all 50 states to promote its display beneath the American flag and the POW/MIA flag adopted by Congress in 1989. Delaware, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Virginia have adopted the banner, and federal legislation to do so is pending for a third consecutive year in Congress.
“It’s public recognition of the price of freedom, and I don’t think we can do that enough,” said Lutz, of Chesapeake, Va., who has gathered signatures of support from countless relatives of fallen service members and many public officials, including governors and members of Congress. Lutz says the campaign helps him mourn his son, Pfc. George Anthony “Tony” Lutz II, killed at age 25.
“It’s a great idea,” said Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., who has sponsored bills in Congress requiring the “Honor and Remember” flag to be flown under the national flag and POW/MIA flag at federal buildings on federal holidays.
“There was no flag that was separate and apart to honor those who had given their lives in the defense and honor of the country,” Forbes said.
But many oppose the new banner’s display alongside Old Glory.
In Colorado, state senators last week rejected a second attempt to have the “Honor and Remember” flag flown over the state Capitol on Memorial Day and Veterans Day. The decision literally brought tears to the eyes of some on the Senate State Veterans and Military Affairs Committee after hours of emotional testimony from veterans. Dozens in the standing-room-only crowd dabbed their eyes.
“We believe Old Glory is the only flag we want representing us,” said Marvin Meyers, former chairman of the Colorado Board of Veterans’ Affairs. “We fought for it. We’re buried under it.”
“We don’t need any other flag other than the United States flag — the flag of our country,” said Ralph Bozella, a Vietnam veteran and current chairman of the Colorado Board of Veterans’ Affairs.
“When troops fallen in battle come home, their caskets are covered in the American flag,” Bozella said. “That’s the flag we fought for, and that’s the flag we honor.”
But others argue that the American flag is too multifaceted to simply honor those killed in war. They point out that while the nation observes the POW/MIA flag, fallen veterans don’t have a flag of their own.
“I know there are some veterans that are adamantly opposed to it, and I respect that,” said Molly Morel of Martin, Tenn., whose son, Marine Capt. Brent Morel, died in Afghanistan.
Molly Morel is president of the nation’s largest organization for mothers who have lost children in battle, American Gold Star Mothers, created after World War I. She’s a passionate supporter of the “Honor and Remember” flag and has one embroidered with her son’s name.
Morel says she doesn’t understand why some veterans chafe at including the flag on official displays.
“Does America have too many reminders about the sacrifices? I don’t think so,” Morel said.
Prominent military historians are skeptical about the new banner. Andrew Wiest, a historian at the University of Southern Mississippi who specializes in the Vietnam War, says the POW/MIA flag was adopted in “a fit of national conscience and remorse” over how Vietnam veterans were treated when they returned home.
“The national flag is supposed to represent everything, the sacrifice of all veterans,” Wiest said.
The debate is giving public officials an uncomfortable choice between veterans’ groups and grieving relatives. The national American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars groups haven’t taken positions on the banner, though many state chapters oppose its inclusion.
“This is gut-wrenching,” said Colorado Sen. Rollie Heath, a Boulder Democrat who cast the deciding vote not to fly the “Honor and Remember” flag above the state Capitol in Denver.
“I happen to believe the American flag is the flag we ought to fly,” he said. “Do I feel good about it? No. This has caused a rift in the veterans’ community. And that’s something that pains all of us.”
After a Harris County jury awarded the family of a 21-year-old garbage collector more than $1.4 million in a wrongful death lawsuit, the penalized company filed an appeal based on an unusual legal argument.
Attorneys for Republic Waste Services argued that members of the jury should have heard evidence that Oscar Alfredo Gomez was an illegal immigrant from El Salvador before they calculated how much his family was due in compensation.
Specifically, the attorneys contend Gomez likely would have been deported in an Immigration and Customs Enforcement raid of the company’s Houston office two weeks after his death. Consequently, the attorneys say, the family’s compensation should be based on Gomez’s projected future wages in El Salvador — some $1,000 annually — instead of his U.S. earnings at the time of his death, which were $33,000 annually.
The First Court of Appeals in Houston disagreed with the company’s attorneys in an opinion issued Jan. 20, ruling that the trial court correctly used its discretion to exclude evidence about Gomez’s immigration status. The appeals court called the company’s argument that Gomez would have been deported in the ICE raid “speculative” and affirmed the judgment against the company.
“We believe this is a landmark decision because if undocumented workers are working and they get injured or killed, they deserve the same rights as anyone else,” said Houston attorney Benny Agosto Jr., who represented the Gomez family in the lawsuit. “The issue of immigration is a separate issue. … That’s why this case is so important.”
Laura Boston, with the Houston Interfaith Worker Justice Center, said the company’s legal argument illustrates how some employers try to exploit workers’ immigration status.
“Their argument that they should pay less because he could have been deported just shows that … companies are looking out for themselves at the end of the day,” she said.
Gomez was killed Jan. 15, 2007, when he was run over by a garbage truck driven by another Republic Waste employee. After his death, the company learned that Gomez falsified his immigration paperwork and used someone else’s Social Security number to get his job.
Gomez’s common-law wife, who lives in Houston with their daughter, and his father in El Salvador filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the truck driver and Republic Waste, alleging negligence.
Before the trial, attorneys for Gomez’s family filed a motion asserting his immigration status was irrelevant. But attorneys for the company disagreed, arguing his status as an illegal immigrant could affect his future lost income.
After the ICE raid of the company’s Houston office weeks after Gomez’s death, some 30 employees never returned to work, Republic Waste’s attorneys said. The firm argued that Gomez “certainly” would have been removed that day because he had fake employment documents, according to the opinion by the appeal’s court.
Higher appeal weighed
The trial court sided with the Gomez family’s attorneys, saying it was “gross speculation” as to whether Gomez would have been deported in the raid.
The jury found in favor of the Gomez family, awarding them more than $1.4 million, including more than $1,275,000 for loss of future wages. That judgment was affirmed by the appeals court in the Jan. 20 decision.
But attorneys for Republic Waste, which is weighing an appeal to the Texas Supreme Court, have interpreted the decision as a victory for employers sued by illegal immigrants for wrongful death or injury.
Although they lost the Gomez case, the appeals court ruled that immigration evidence can be a relevant factor in calculating the loss of future wages, which was the crux of the company’s legal argument, said Connie Pfeiffer, the company’s attorney.
Trina Realmuto, an attorney with the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyer’s Guild, said she saw little in the appeals court decision for the companies to celebrate. Any thoughtful trial court judge will see immigration evidence like that in the Gomez case was inflammatory, she said, and will rule to exclude it.
“Companies can’t kill someone and not be responsible for it,” Realmuto said. “This decision holds the company responsible for the death of Mr. Gomez. That’s the bottom line.”
TEL AVIV – Islamists, in particular the anti-Western Muslim Brotherhood, seem poised to take power throughout the Middle East as a result of riots that have already toppled one Arab regime and are threatening others, in what some are calling only the latest wave of an Islamic “tsunami” sweeping the globe.
In Egypt, members of President Hosni Mubarak’s family reportedly have fled the country as a flood of violent, fatal street protests threatens the stability of this most populous Arab nation, a longtime U.S. ally and the only Muslim nation with a long-lasting peace agreement with Israel.
The White House has been championing the protests, calling for a transition to democratic rule in Egypt, where the Muslim Brotherhood formed the main opposition to Mubarak. Continue Reading
Protesters at Rutgers University were barred from entering a campus event comparing Israeli actions to those of the Nazis, even though the event was advertised as free and open to the public. BAKA – Students United for Middle Eastern Justice, a pro-Palestinian group that claims that Israel has committed atrocities against the Palestinians, prohibited free access to a crowd of people who arrived at the New Jersey stop of the group’s Never Again for Anyone tour. A video shows the contentious exchange of angry critics trying to gain entry, and event staff clearly misrepresenting the facts.
In fact, one organizer introduced as “Sara from IJAN” (Sara Kershnar, founder of the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network) addressed the crowd, saying that an entrance fee of five dollars was required to attend, and that any claims that the advertising said otherwise were false. (The websites did, in fact, state that the event would be free and open to the public, and that there was a suggested donation.) Video below:
Even more strange was the organizers’ decision to actually segregate Jewish pro-Israel would-be attendees, according to Aaron Marcus at NewsRealBlog:
Upon circulating information pertaining to this event around the tri-state area, the Jewish community along with those who seek to preserve the righteous memory of those murdered at the hands of the Nazis sought to audit the event. BAKA – Students United for Middle Eastern Justice, the host of the event, printed on the event page on Facebook that the event was free and open to the public. In addition, the group Never Again for Anyone, which is the host of the abhorrent tour, printed on the website for the event that a suggested donation of $5-$20 would be asked for at the door. Only after 200-400 pro-Israel supporters showed up did the event–held in a state school, paid for by both tax dollars and student fees–begin to discriminate who could enter the event free-of-cost.
First, the organizers of the event asked all of those who gathered together in opposition to the event to stand in a separate line and wait for seating to take place. Meanwhile, those in anti-Israel apparel, keffiyahs and hijabs were taken aside, given green wristbands, labeled as event “staff” and given free entrance. At one point, the hosts of the event, which ranged from groups like the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network to the International Socialist Organization, tore apart a suggested donation sign leaving only the admission fee visible. The group then said students could attend free-of-charge if they became members of BAKA. However, this policy once again did not apply for the Jewish students hoping to attend. In fact, at one point, I signed my name and the woman behind the desk read it and furiously crossed out the information I had just posted.
The Examiner contacted Kershnar for comment, but still hasn’t received a reply.
The tour’s purpose is described on the website as “… to honor those who perished in the Holocaust by advocating for the human rights inherent to all people – and particularly for Palestinians living under Israel’s occupation.” Such a description suggests that a parallel exists between Nazis and Zionists, or those who believe in Israel’s right to statehood, and that Palestinian suffering is directly inflicted by Israel’s very existence.
It is not clear how Rutgers could permit a public event to selectively discriminate among its audience, and The Examiner is still awaiting comment.