Daily Archives: March 22, 2012

Police chief found with cult-like Knights Templar leaflets

AP | Mar 22, 2012

MEXICO CITY (AP) — The Mexican Army says it has detained the police chief of a town in western Mexico who had pamphlets and banners about the cult-like Knights Templar drug cartel, as well as cocaine and hand grenades in his patrol car.

The Defense Department says in a statement released Thursday that Raymundo Monroy was detained Monday in the town of Huetamo in Michoacan state, where he is police chief. Soldiers also found cocaine, two automatic rifles, and two hand grenades.

It says troops searched Monroy’s car after he began acting nervously at a military checkpoint in Huetamo.

The Knights Templar cartel appeared in 2010. It claims to protect Michoacan and defend ethical principles, but in fact engages in drug trafficking, killings and extortion.

China Justice Ministry orders lawyers to take oath of loyalty to Communist Party

Reuters | Mar 21, 2012

by Sui-Lee

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s Justice Ministry has ordered lawyers to take a loyalty oath to the Communist Party, in an unusual move that has drawn condemnation from attorneys worried about the government’s attempts to rein them in.

The ministry issued a notice on Wednesday demanding that first-time applicants and lawyers who want to renew their licenses have to take the oath.

The oath was necessary to “firmly establish among the vast circle of lawyers faith in socialism with Chinese characteristics … and effectively improve the quality of lawyers’ political ideology”, the ministry said in a statement posted on its website.

“I promise to faithfully fulfill the sacred mission of socialism with Chinese characteristics … loyalty to the motherland, its people, and uphold the leadership of the Communist Party of China,” lawyers must say under the oath.

This is the first time that lawyers have been required to pledge allegiance to the Party in an oath, Mo Shaoping, a prominent human rights lawyer, said.

The Party has always been wary of lawyers, who they suspect could challenge one-party rule through the advocacy of the rule of law.

“I think it’s inappropriate,” Mo told Reuters by telephone. “As a lawyer, you should only pay attention to the law and be faithful to your client.”

The new rule comes as Communist Party chiefs are preparing for a tricky leadership handover later this year, when the party’s long-standing focus on fending off political challenges is likely to intensify.

“If the oath says you must be faithful to the Communist Party and accept the leadership of the Party, that may exclude many other people in the legal profession who belong to other political parties or have other religious beliefs,” Mo said.

“The oath will hurt the development of the Chinese legal system.”

Over the past decade, a loose network of lawyers has sought to use litigation mixed with publicity to challenge laws and policies restricting citizens’ movements and rights to protest.

PRODUCING CONFLICT?

Pu Zhiqiang, a Beijing lawyer who has often represented people in sensitive political cases, called the oath “baffling”.

“I don’t see the legal basis for adding these procedures. On what basis is the Ministry of Justice doing this?” Pu told Reuters by telephone. “If I don’t take the oath, are you not going to give me a license?”

Pu said the oath “will produce a conflict” among lawyers who want to be independent from enforcing the will of the party.

“In my opinion, the biggest destroyer of the rule of law in China is the Communist Party,” he said.

Although the Party has always imposed tight controls on lawyers, the pressure has intensified in the past year.

In 2011, dozens of human rights lawyers were detained without charge as China cracked down on potential political challengers amid fears that the anti-authoritarian uprisings in the Arab world could inspire protests against one-party rule.

China’s best known rights lawyer, Gao Zhisheng, was sent back to jail last December, though he appeared never to have escaped secretive confinement in the first place.

Gao was sentenced to three years’ jail in 2006 for “inciting subversion of state power”, a charge often used to punish critics of one-party rule.

Massacre an act of retaliation: Afghan villagers were told “you and your children will pay”


In this Friday, March 16, 2012 photo, Ghulam Rasool, a tribal elder from Panjwai district of Kandahar province, leaves the hall after a meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, unseen, at the presidential palace in Kabul. The motive for the March 11 shooting rampage that killed 16 Afghan civilians remains unclear, but villagers from the area are convinced that the killings were an act of revenge for a roadside bomb attack on American forces in the same area a few days before. Photo: Ahmad Jamshid / AP

Associated Press | Mar 20, 2012

by DEB RIECHMANN and MIRWAIS KHAN

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — Several Afghans near the villages where an American soldier is alleged to have killed 16 civilians say U.S. troops lined them up against a wall after a roadside bombing and told them that they, and even their children, would pay a price for the attack.

Residents have given similar accounts to both The Associated Press and to Afghan government officials about an alleged bombing in the vicinity, which they said occurred March 7 or 8, and left U.S. troops injured. The residents also said they are convinced that the slayings of the 16 villagers just days later was in retaliation for that bomb.

Although the villagers’ accounts could not be independently confirmed, their claim that the shootings by a U.S. soldier may have been payback for a roadside bombing has gained wide currency in the area and has been repeated by politicians testifying about the incident to Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, 38, is suspected of leaving a U.S. base in Panjwai district, entering homes and gunning down nine children, four men and three women before dawn on March 11 in the villages of Balandi and Alkozai. Villagers said the earlier bombing occurred in Mokhoyan, a village about 500 yards (meters) east of the base.

A lawyer for Bales in the United States also suggested that Bales was motivated by a bombing in the area.

However, a spokesman for the U.S. military in Afghanistan declined to give any information on the bombing or even confirm that it occurred, citing the ongoing investigation into the shootings. He also declined to comment on the suggestions that U.S. troops had threatened villagers with retaliation.

“The shooting incident as well as any possibilities that led up to it or might be associated with it will be investigated,” Lt. Col. Jimmie Cummings, the spokesman, said Tuesday.

One Mokhoyan resident, Ahmad Shah Khan, told The Associated Press that after the bombing, U.S. soldiers and their Afghan army counterparts arrived in his village and made many of the male villagers stand against a wall.

“It looked like they were going to shoot us, and I was very afraid,” Khan said. “Then a NATO soldier said through his translator that even our children will pay for this. Now they have done it and taken their revenge.”

Neighbors of Khan gave similar accounts to the AP, and several Afghan officials, including Kandahar lawmaker Abdul Rahim Ayubi, said people in the two villages that were attacked told them the same story.

Mohammad Sarwar Usmani, one of several lawmakers who went to the area, said the Afghan National Army had confirmed to him that an explosion occurred near Mokhoyan on March 8.

On March 13, Afghan soldier Abdul Salam showed an AP reporter the site of a blast that made a large crater in the road in Panjwai district of Kandahar province, where the shootings occurred. The soldier said the explosion occurred March 8. Salam said he helped gather men in the village, and that troops spoke to them, but he was not close enough to hear what they said.

Ghulam Rasool, a tribal elder from Panjwai district of Kandahar province, where the shootings occurred, gave an account of the bombing at a March 16 meeting in Kabul with President Hamid Karzai.

“After the incident, they took the wreckage of their destroyed tank and their wounded people from the area,” Rasool said. “After that, they came back to the village nearby the explosion site.

“The soldiers called all the people to come out of their houses and from the mosque,” he said.

“The Americans told the villagers, ‘A bomb exploded on our vehicle. … We will get revenge for this incident by killing at least 20 of your people,'” Rasool said. “These are the reasons why we say they took their revenge by killing women and children in the villages.”

Bales’ lawyer, John Henry Browne, has said that his client was upset because a buddy had lost a leg in an explosion on March 9. It’s unclear if the bombing cited by Browne was the same as the one described by the villagers. After a meeting at a military prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, Browne said Bales told him a roadside bomb blew off the leg of one of his friends two days before the shootings occurred.

Karzai’s investigative team is not convinced that one soldier could have single-handedly left his base, walked to the two villages, and carried out the killings and set fire to some of the victims’ bodies. The U.S. military has said that even though its investigation is continuing, everything currently points to one shooter.

Villagers in Mokhoyan, meanwhile, are convinced that the shootings were a case of revenge.

Naek Mohammad, who lives in Mokhoyan, told the AP that he heard an explosion March 8 and went outside. As he and a neighbor talked about what happened, he said, two Afghan soldiers ordered them to join other men from the village who had been told to stand against a wall.

“One of the villagers asked what was happening,” he said. “The Afghan army soldier told him, ‘Shut up and stand there.'”

Mohammad said a U.S. soldier, speaking through a translator, then said: “I know you are all involved and you support the insurgents. So now, you will pay for it — you and your children will pay for this.'”

None of the villagers could identify the soldier who they said issued the threat.