China Sentences Uighur to Life for Reporting Riots

(AP) — A Uighur journalist who worked for an official Chinese radio service was sentenced to life imprisonment for transmitting information about the 2009 ethnic riots in western China — one of dozens jailed since the violence, an overseas Uighur advocacy group said.

Memetjan Abdulla, a 33-year-old journalist with the Uighur language service of China National Radio, was sentenced during a closed-door trial in April in Urumqui, Xinjiang’s capital, said Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the Germany-based World Uyghur Congress.Abdulla translated a call issued by the World Uyghur Congress for Uighurs in exile to protest the beating deaths in their host countries. The call had appeared on a Chinese website, and Abdulla translated it and reposted it on a Uighur-language website that he managed, according to Radio Free Asia and Raxit.

Abdulla was charged with helping incite riots in July 2009 between Han Chinese and ethnic minority Uighurs in which nearly 200 people died, according to Radio Free Asia. The riots had followed Uighur protests over the beating deaths of factory workers in another part of China.

Information about the sentencing has only recently emerged from local Uighurs, Raxit told the AP in an e-mail late Thursday. (

New calls for the increased use of drones in Pakistan, experts worry about side-effects

The United States has renewed pressure on Pakistan to expand the areas where CIA drones can operate inside the country, reflecting concern that the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan is being undermined by insurgents’ continued ability to take sanctuary across the border, U.S. and Pakistani officials said in the Washington Post.The U.S. appeal has focused on the area surrounding the Pakistani city of Quetta. Pakistan has rejected the request. Pakistani officials stressed that Quetta is a densely populated city where an errant strike is more likely to kill innocent civilians, potentially provoking a backlash.

The White House is also considering adding the CIA’s armed Predator drones to the fight against al-Qaida’s branch in Yemen. Gregory Johnsen at the Waq al-Waq blog offers the following thoughts on the possibility of using drones in Yemen:

I have sat and thought … and yet I can’t find a way that using drones in Yemen doesn’t exacerbate the problem of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. (…) The results of a year of drone strikes will be no different from a year of airstrikes: al-Qaeda will gain more recruits, grow stronger, and continue to launch increasingly sophisticated attacks at the US and Europe. The US may kill a few commanders, but those men will be replaced many times over.

Johnsen argues that comparisons with Pakistan are likely to be unhelpful and a better model for Yemen would be the campaign the
Saudis waged against al-Qaeda between 2003 and 2006:


“That campaign combined the hard fist of
military and police power with the softer approach of encouraging
qualified Islamic scholars to challenge al-Qaeda’s claim that it
represented Islam. But most importantly it used al-Qaeda’s mistakes
against itself, leading to a public backlash that left the terrorist
organisation nowhere to hide.”

Brian Whitaker comments:

Johnsen’s main point, though, is something I alluded to
yesterday: the need to change the public discourse in Yemen in order to
undermine al-Qaeda’s support. That is not going to be achieved by drone
strikes; quite the reverse. 

“Yemenis need to be convinced that AQAP
is bad for them and bad for Yemen,”
Johnsen writes.
“But at the moment al-Qaeda is the only one doing the arguing.
It puts out statement after statement that depict the group as some
sort of Islamic Robin Hood defending Yemen’s oppressed and weak people
against western military attacks. While largely unnoticed in Washington
these unchallenged and baseless claims are carrying the day in Yemen’s
hinterlands.”

Some have gone so far as to suggest we’re heading for a new drones-arms-race. The WSJ reports now that China is “ramping up production of unmanned aerial vehicles in an apparent bid to
catch up with the U.S. and Israel in developing technology that is
considered the future of military aviation.”

China’s apparent progress is likely to spur others, especially India and Japan, to accelerate their own UAV development or acquisition programs.

U.S. anxiety about China’s UAVs were highlighted in a report released Wednesday by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, which was formed by Congress in 2000 to assess the national security implications of trade and economic relations with China.

“The PLA Air Force has deployed several types of unmanned aerial vehicles for both reconnaissance and combat purposes,” the report said. “In addition, China is developing a variety of medium- and high-altitude long-endurance unmanned vehicles, which when deployed, will expand the PLA Air Force’s ‘options for long-range reconnaissance and strike,’ ” it said, citing an earlier Pentagon report.

U.S. judge rules Bank of China can be sued in terrorism case

Judge Royce Lamberth of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has allowed a lawsuit to proceed against one of China’s largest banks for allegedly helping finance the terrorist group Islamic Jihad.
 
The case was brought by the parents of Daniel Wultz, a 16-year-old from South Florida who was killed as the result of a terrorist attack while visiting Israel in 2006. Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the April 17 assault on a Tel Aviv restaurant—an attack that was financed through a Bank of China account in the United States, claim Yekutiel (Tuly) and Sheryl Wultz. David died in an Israeli hospital on May 16, 2006.

The unusual 118-page ruling came as Chief Judge Royce C. Lamberth of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia denied a request by attorneys for the state-controlled bank, one of China’s largest, to have it dropped from the case.

Victims of overseas terrorist attacks are increasingly turning to U.S. courts for restitution. Many are pursuing claims not only against shadowy groups or rogue nations but also against financial institutions with substantial economic interests to defend.

In the suit, Wultz’s parents, Yekutiel and Sheryl Wultz, are seeking $300 million in damages from Iran and Syria, as well as from the Bank of China (BOC), under legislation that allows victims to sue terrorist-sponsoring states in U.S. court.

The 2008 lawsuit alleges that officials at the Bank of China ignored warnings by senior Israeli officials that Islamic Jihad was financing deadly bombings through a Bank of China account in the United States maintained by a purported senior officer of the militant group, Said al-Shurafa.

Specifically, the lawsuit claims that in an April 2005 meeting, counterterrorism officials with Israel’s prime minister’s office demanded that China’s central bank and Ministry of Public Security stop the Bank of China from assisting Shurafa, but China “demurred.”

In weighing whether the claims against the bank can go forward, Lamberth wrote: “The Court must assume the truth of this allegation, which is plausible because it is reasonable to assume that, although BOC is not directly owned by China . . . China does exert a measure of control over the BOC through China’s central bank, the People’s Bank of China.”

Shanghai Cooperation Organisation: Summit final declaration aims at tightening counter-terrorism cooperation

On 11 June, the Member States of the Shangai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) issued a declaration following their 10th annual summit in Tashkent (Uzbekistan).

The declaration states that SCO members, namely China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, should further enhance their cooperation in fighting all forms of terrorism and strengthen dialogue between different civilizations and cultures so as to prevent the growth of terrorism and extremism. No reference to human rights was included in the final declaration.

(h/t ICJ)

China bans use of evidence obtained through torture

[JURIST] China’s Supreme People’s Court announced Sunday that evidence obtained through violence or intimidation will be barred from use in criminal trials and death penalty cases. The new regulations require prosecutors to provide the court with records from interrogations and allow defendants convicted in death penalty cases to request an inquiry into the validity of their interrogations. Evidence from unnamed sources is also barred from being used in death penalty cases.

The announcement comes weeks after Zhao Zuohai, a man convicted of murder, was released from prison following the realization that his alleged victim was still alive. Zhao stated he confessed only after being beaten by police.

Legal experts in China indicated that the new regulations mark the first time government has acknowledged that evidence obtained through coercion will be useless in court. Advocacy groups have praised the new law  but indicate it is only a small step and that larger steps need to be taken by the government in order to ensure true reform.

Cyberattack on Google hit password system

(The New York Times) Ever since Google disclosed in January that Internet intruders had stolen information from its computers, the exact nature and extent of the theft has been a closely guarded company secret. But a person with direct knowledge of the investigation now says that the losses included a password system that controls access by millions of users worldwide to almost all of the company’s Web services, including e-mail and business applications.

The program, code named Gaia for the Greek goddess of the earth, was attacked in a lightning raid taking less than two days last December, the person said. Described publicly only once at a technical conference four years ago, the software is intended to enable users and employees to sign in with their password just once to operate a range of services.

The intruders do not appear to have stolen passwords of Gmail users, and the company quickly started making significant changes to the security of its networks after the intrusions. But the theft leaves open the possibility, however faint, that the intruders may find weaknesses that Google might not even be aware of, independent computer experts said.

The new details seem likely to increase the debate about the security and privacy of vast computing systems such as Google’s that now centralize the personal information of millions of individuals and businesses. Because vast amounts of digital information are stored in a cluster of computers, popularly referred to as “cloud” computing, a single breach can lead to disastrous losses.

The details surrounding the theft of the software have been a closely guarded secret by the company. Google first publicly disclosed the theft in a Jan. 12 posting on the company’s Web site, which stated that the company was changing its policy toward China in the wake of the theft of unidentified “intellectual property” and the apparent compromise of the e-mail accounts of two human rights advocates in China.

The accusations became a significant source of tension between the United States and China, leading Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to urge China to conduct a “transparent” inquiry into the attack. In March, after difficult discussions with the Chinese government, Google said it would move its mainland Chinese-language Web site and begin rerouting search queries to its Hong Kong-based site.

Guantanamo update

Transfers

(JURIST) The US Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Tuesday 23 March that three Guantanamo Bay  detainees had been transferred to the country of Georgia. The transfer was approved by unanimous consent of the Guantanamo Review Task Force, an inter-agency group that reviewed several factors regarding the detainees, including security. The identities of the released detainees are being withheld due to security and privacy concerns. The DOJ stated that the US “is grateful to Georgia for its willingness to support US efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay facility.”

Two Uighurs held at Guantanamo Bay were transferred to Switzerland on Wednesday 24 March. Switzerland granted humanitarian type B residence permits allowing the two to live in the canton of Jura. Both have agreed to respect Swiss laws, learn the local language, and secure gainful employment. The US  DOJ reported that the detainees had been cleared for release by the interagency Guantanamo Review Task Force and were transferred pursuant to an agreement with the government of Switzerland. The Swiss Federal Council announced earlier this month that it would provide sanctuary, despite warnings from Chinese officials that doing so would jeopardize relations between the two countries.

Courts’ decisions

The above-mentioned transfers come after the US Supreme Court on Monday 22 March declined to rule in Kiyemba II, a case regarding issues surrounding the transfer of Uighur Guantanamo Bay detainees. Lawyers for four Uighurs detained at Guantanamo were appealing an April ruling by the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Columbia Circuit, which held that US courts cannot prevent the government from transferring Guantanamo detainees to foreign countries on the grounds that detainees may face prosecution or torture in the foreign country.

The Chinese government maintains that the Uighurs are members of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), a militant group that calls for separation from China and has been a US-designated terrorist group since 2002. The US has previously rejected China’s calls to repatriate the Uighurs, citing fear of torture upon their return.

This latest decision marked a significant victory for the federal government, enhancing its authority to decide when and where to send detainees that are cleared for release from confinement without interference by federal judges and without challenge by detainees’ lawyers.

The Justices, in simply refusing review, did not rule directly on the legal issue raised by four Chinese Muslim Uighurs, so there was no guarantee they agreed with the result.  But the practical effect of the denial may be about the same, with District Court judges now without power to delay any transfers to which a detainee or his lawyer objects. 

Also on Monday, a judge in the US District Court for the District of Columbia ordered the release of Mohamedou Ould Slahi, a Guantanamo detainee who had been accused of planning the 9/11 terrorist attacks.