Tag Archives: Joshua Jamison

The Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani Case

Joshua Jamison:

Iran loves to kill its own people.  The country, second only to China (population being a factor), executed 388 people last year – most were hanged.  Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, an Iranian woman convicted of adultery, has already received 99 lashes from a whip, five years in prison, and is allegedly scheduled for stoning as early as this weekend.

Ashtiani’s son has pleaded with authorities to spare his mother’s life on the grounds that there’s no evidence.  Ashtiani’s judge sited “judges knowledge” as an explanation for the sentence-a rule allowing judges to sentence without evidence.  As a last resort Ashtiani’s son reached out to the international community, in the hopes that his mother’s life will be spared.  Explain again how Sharia Law and the U.S. Constitution will coexist here in America?  Newsweek has the full story:

Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, a 43-year-old mother of two, convicted of adultery in Iran, may be stoned to death unless a last-minute campaign saves her.

Human-rights campaigners say that Ashtiani, who says she was under duress when she confessed to adultery, could be buried up to her breasts and stoned to death as soon as this weekend.

Ashtiani has been in prison since May 2006, when she was convicted of adultery and sentenced to 99 lashes. Later that year she was accused of murdering her husband. Those charges were dropped, but an inquiry into the adultery charge was reopened. She was, according to The Guardian, sentenced to death under a rule that allows judges to cite “judge’s knowledge” and convict without evidence.

Ashtiani, represented by prominent human-rights lawyer Mohammad Mostafaei, has failed in her appeals. AOL reports that a panel may convene as soon as Saturday to decide her fate. According to Amnesty International, the Iranian penal code specifies that “stones are large enough to cause pain, but not so large as to kill the victim immediately.”

God Bless this poor woman, and may her life be spared.  Sharia law is nothing more than cowardly Muslim men committing horrific crimes against women, and doing so in the name of religion, law or whatever-the United States needs to reject this pathetic ‘excuse’ for a ‘set-of-laws’ and ban it forever.

Nicki Kurokawa at The Washington Examiner:

For the past several days, CNN has been documenting the case of Sakineh Mohammadie Ashtiani in Iran, who has been condemned to death by stoning. Fortunately, her case has caught the attention of the international human rights community – offering some hope that the sentence will not be carried out (although, to be fair, with Iran having executed 126 people this year already, there’s certainly no guarantee.)

Despite condemnation from countries around the world, stoning is still extremely widespread; Women News Network recently posted on Twitter (follow them at @womenadvocates) that the practice still exists in Nigeria, India, Nepal, Iran, Sudan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the United Arab Emirates. Even the United Nations has condemned stoning – although they did recently consider Iran for a slot on their Human Rights Council, and gave them a slot on the Commission on the Status of Women – so let’s be honest, they don’t have a lot of gravitas on this issue.

However Ashtiani’s case is settled, it is important that the international community remain vigilant about both the cruel and unusual nature of the punishment and the uneven way that this “justice” is doled out.  Women in particular are singled out for this barbaric punishment – which should be of concern to feminists around the world (of all stripes). According to a (very informative) 2008 Amnesty International report:

“Women suffer a disproportionate impact of the punishment of death by stoning in Iran.

  • One reason is that they are not treated equally before the law and courts, in clear violation of international fair trial standards. …
  • Women are also particularly vulnerable to unfair trials because they are more likely than men to be illiterate and therefore more likely to sign confessions to crimes they did not commit. In addition, women from ethnic minorities are less likely to be able to speak Persian – the official language of the court – so they often do not understand what is happening to them in the legal process or even that they face death by stoning. …
  • Discrimination against women in other aspects of their lives also leaves them more susceptible to conviction for adultery. …
  • Women face strict controls on their behaviour that are imposed and policed by the state, controls that are discriminatory and restrict their right to freedom of expression and movement. …
  • Poverty, drug addiction and domestic violence also play a part in making women more vulnerable to stoning than men. …
  • Finally, the very procedure specified for carrying out executions discriminates against women. Article 102 of the Penal Code states that, during stoning, the man shall be buried in a ditch up to near his waist and the woman up to near her chest. Article 103 states that if the condemned person manages to escape from the pit, they will not be stoned again if they had been sentenced after confession, but clearly it would be harder for a woman to escape than a man, since she would have been buried more deeply.

Many of the countries that still practice stoning are eager for the prosperity (and foreign aid) that accompanies expanded relations with the world; as such, they are particularly sensitive to any international outcry that may jeopardize their standing. The Obama Administration’s efforts to reach out to the Muslim world offer an excellent opportunity for the United States to remind these nations of the priority that we as a country place on human rights – and how seriously we take violations.

Reza Aslan at Daily Beast:

News that Iran has suspended the stoning of a 43-year-old mother of two, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, for the crime of adultery certainly came as a relief. But the case has once again focused international attention on a barbaric and draconian form of punishment that, in some Muslim states, has become an effective and horrific tool of misogyny.

Stoning is a brutally precise punishment with a host of specific procedures and regulations. The convicted person is wrapped in a shroud, placed into a pit, and buried either to the waist if a man or the chest if a woman. If the adultery was proven in court by confession, the judge has the responsibility of throwing the first stone. But if the case was proven through witnesses, they start first, followed by the judge, and then by any others who are present, the number of which cannot be less than three. The stones are then hurled one by one until the accused is killed. And if the person manages to wriggle out of the pit, she or he is set free (which explains why these pits are so often little more than loosely packed holes in the ground).

The Iranian Penal Code is chillingly explicit regarding the proper stones to use. Section 119 states: “The stones for stoning to death shall not be so big that one or two of them shall kill the convict, nor shall they be so small that they may not be called ‘stones.’”

Islamic law considers adultery, or zina, to be one of six Quran-mandated offenses whose punishment is prescribed by God (the other five are false accusations of adultery, theft, robbery with violence, apostasy, and drunkenness). These are essentially a random collection of crimes whose only connection is that their punishment is mentioned somewhere in the Quran. Consequently, these “crimes” receive special treatment in Islamic law.

But the punishment for adultery in the Quran is lashes, not stoning. In fact, nowhere in the whole of the Quran is stoning prescribed for any crime—though this is a point of endless debate for legal and religious scholars.

Although zina literally means adultery, in practice it refers to any unlawful sexual act, whether adultery (illicit sex between married persons), fornication (sex between unmarried persons), sodomy, rape, or incest. However, even the simplest definition of zina can become hopelessly entangled in the complexities of Muslim sexual ethics. For instance, some legal scholars suggest that zina should not be applied in instances in which a married person is unable to enjoy his or her spouse due to legally acceptable conditions, such as prolonged travel or life imprisonment. Then there is the problematic relationship between adultery and rape in some Islamic penal codes. Rape victims can themselves be charged with adultery if they are unable to definitively prove sexual coercion. Indeed, there have been some cases in which the victims of rape, rather than the rapists, are convicted of zina and stoned to death for adultery.

John Hinderaker at Powerline:

But the worst joke of all is the United Nations. Here is a headline from April: U.N. Elects Iran to Commission on Women’s Rights.

Without fanfare, the United Nations this week elected Iran to its Commission on the Status of Women….

Just days after Iran abandoned a high-profile bid for a seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council, it began a covert campaign to claim a seat on the Commission on the Status of Women, which is “dedicated exclusively to gender equality and advancement of women,” according to its website.

Buried 2,000 words deep in a U.N. press release distributed Wednesday on the filling of “vacancies in subsidiary bodies,” was the stark announcement: Iran, along with representatives from 10 other nations, was “elected by acclamation,” meaning that no open vote was requested or required by any member states — including the United States.

Fast-forward three months, to today’s headline: Iran human rights chief defends stoning sentence.

Andy McCarthy at NRO:

I wonder if Elena Kagan knows about Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani.

Ms. Ashtiani is about to be stoned. That’s where they bury you up to your chest and hurl rocks at you until you die. The rocks can’t be too big. You see, this is real torture, religion-of-peace torture. It’s the kind that happens every day but that Democrats prefer not to talk about. With stoning (or “lapidation” as the press gently call it on those rare occasions when it is mentioned at all), the ordeal must not end too quickly. Otherwise, it might not make the right impression, as it were, on the victim — the sinner — and the community at large.

Had the solicitor general heard about Ms. Ashtiani’s plight, one imagines, she’d have told her to get herself to the nearest courthouse and seek the protection of the law. Alas, it is pursuant to the law that this barbarity will take place. The stoning of this 43-year-old mother of two has been ordered by a court in her native Iran, where the only legal code is Allah’s law, sharia. It is the Islamic sentence for adultery, the crime to which Ashtiani confessed after serial beatings by her interrogators.

During her a stint at the Clinton White House, we now know, Ms. Kagan struck the pose of a champion of women’s rights — at least if you weren’t an unborn girl. So fierce was her devotion to the cause of “reproductive freedom” that she subverted science in the service of abortion on demand — specifically, to preserve the partial-birth abortion procedure, which exceeds even stoning in its ghastliness. She then went on to Harvard Law School where, as dean, she became the champion of sharia.

Not of stoning and other grotesque penalties, of course — nothing so obviously offensive. To hear progressives tell it, we can do nice, clean, friendly sharia, just like we do nice, clean, friendly Islam. “Lapidations,” they will tell you, are no different from jihadist suicide bombings: outmoded vestiges of a long-forgotten time. Except they’re not. They are undeniably rooted inIslamic scripture, and they are happening today, with frequency, wherever sharia reigns. That is because the “moderate Islam” progressives like to banter about is a mirage in search of a cogent set of principles. There is no moderate Islam that can compete with the mainstream, sharia Islam. Thus the crimes and punishments, in all their ghoulishness, endure.

Paul Waldman at Tapped on McCarthy:

You may have heard of the heartbreaking and outrageous case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, an Iranian woman who has been convicted of adultery (which she denies) and sentenced to death by stoning. We might want to note, as we rightly condemn this kind of brutality, that the Old Testament mandates death by stoning for a large number of crimes, including worshiping other gods, not being a virgin on your wedding night (just for the ladies, of course), disobeying your parents, failing to keep the Sabbath, and — you guessed it — adultery. Just something to keep in mind next time you run into someone who says the Bible is the inerrant word of God and the foundation on which the American system was built.

But that’s not what I want to talk about. Predictably, this case has been seized on by some conservatives to argue that liberals are on the wrong side of our war on Islam. What, you didn’t know that liberals support harsh punishments for people accused of transgressing sexual norms? Then you’re just not thinking creatively enough. Take a cue from National Review‘s Andrew McCarthy, who manages (as Adam mentioned yesterday) to argue that Elena Kagan is for all intents and purposes a supporter of this kind of vicious punishment. (Follow the logic: When Kagan was at the Harvard Law School, the university — not the law school, but the university — accepted a large donation from a Saudi prince to establish an Islamic Studies center. Therefore, Kagan is OK with the imposition of Sharia law in the United States, and therefore soft on stoning, like all Democrats. Makes perfect sense, no?) But I have to highlight this passage from McCarthy’s piece:

Ms. Ashtiani is about to be stoned. That’s where they bury you up to your chest and hurl rocks at you until you die. The rocks can’t be too big. You see, this is real torture, religion-of-peace torture. It’s the kind that happens every day but that Democrats prefer not to talk about. With stoning (or “lapidation” as the press gently call it on those rare occasions when it is mentioned at all), the ordeal must not end too quickly.

That’s a very interesting claim: The liberal media, loath to say anything that might reflect poorly on fundamentalist Islam, almost never mention stoning, and when they do, call it “lapidation.” I found that rather striking, since I had never even heard the term “lapidation.” But it couldn’t be that McCarthy is just making this up, based on his general presumption that everything the media does is bad, since they’re a bunch of liberals — could it? Fortunately, this isn’t a statement of opinion but an empirical claim, and one we can test using an obscure instrument called Lexis/Nexis.

As a first try, we’ll go with the U.S. Newspapers and Wires database. And let’s use the last five years, shall we? All right: The number of mentions of the word “stoning” in the last five years in that database was 2,558. That seems like quite a few, but if McCarthy is right, there ought to be at least five or 10 times as many mentions of “lapidation,” right?

The number of mentions of “lapidation” in the last five years was … three. So for every mention of “lapidation,” there were 852 mentions of “stoning.” Incidentally, one of those “lapidations” did come in that most hated liberal media outlet, The New York Times (it was in a book review, but still). How many times in the last five years has the Times mentioned “stoning”? It came up in 120 Times articles.

But wait — maybe it’s on television where McCarthy has seen the liberal media so often refer to stoning as lapidation, in order to make it seem less barbaric. Let’s search the Transcripts database. And the the results are: “stoning,” 2043 mentions; “lapidation,” 0 mentions. Zero.

The Hollywood Gossip:

We put nothing past Lindsay Lohan. Nothing.

That said, she did not overtly compare her legal plight to that of an Iranian woman being tragically stoned in her latest Twitter rant. But you still have to wonder.

Maybe she’s just so moved by Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, who may be stoned to death for adultery, that she linked to Newsweek article to draw attention to it.

Or she’s trying to subtly draw a ridiculous parallel to herself, having been sentenced to 90 days in jail Tuesday for repeatedly, brazenly violating her probation.

Come on. Has Lindsay ever cared about anything besides herself? We’re talking about a spoiled brat who walks into court with the words “f–k u” on her nails.

Voice Of America:

A judicial official in Iran says a woman’s sentence of death by stoning is not being carried out “for the time being.”

Iran’s state-run news agency attributes the statement to the head of the Justice Department in East Azerbaijan province, Malek Azhdar Sharifi. He told the news agency that while the guilty verdict is definitive, its application has been halted by Iran’s judiciary chief due to humane considerations.

However, the provincial official said the death sentence will be carried out whenever the judiciary chief deems it expedient, regardless of what he termed Western media propaganda.

Many Western nations and human rights activists have urged Iran not to stone the woman to death.

UPDATE: BBC

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You Can’t Spell “Corruption” Without “Afghanistan”

Greg Miller and Ernesto Londoño at WaPo:

Top officials in President Hamid Karzai’s government have repeatedly derailed corruption investigations of politically connected Afghans, according to U.S. officials who have provided Afghanistan’s authorities with wiretapping technology and other assistance in efforts to crack down on endemic graft.

In recent months, the U.S. officials said, Afghan prosecutors and investigators have been ordered to cross names off case files, prevent senior officials from being placed under arrest and disregard evidence against executives of a major financial firm suspected of helping the nation’s elite move millions of dollars overseas.

As a result, U.S. advisers sent to Kabul by the Justice Department, the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration have come to see Afghanistan’s corruption problem in increasingly stark terms.

“Above a certain level, people are being very well protected,” said a senior U.S. official involved in the investigations.

Karzai spokesman Waheed Omar denied investigations had been derailed. “There is no case, no instance, in which the palace or anyone from the palace has interfered with a case,” he said.

Afghanistan is awash in international aid and regarded as one of the most corrupt countries in the world. Indeed, even as the United States and its allies pour money in, U.S. officials estimate that as much as $1 billion a year is flowing out as part of a massive cash exodus.

Joshua Jamison:

While the Afghan government, one of the most corrupt in the world, has made several attempts at reigning in the those responsible for hindering corruption cases, most have failed miserably.

Afghanistan’s attorney general, Mohammed Ishaq Aloko, was seen as a potential ally against corruption when he took the job two years ago. Some investigations have ended in convictions. But U.S. officials said that Aloko, a native of Kandahar province who studied law in Germany, has repeatedly impeded prosecutions of suspects with political ties.

Some suggest Karzai in fact, is running a game of smoke and mirrors in an effort to garner the favor or various foreign nations.

Critics say Karzai’s initiatives are meant to appease the international community. “It’s all a show,” lawmaker Sayed Rahman said, noting that no senior government official has been imprisoned on corruption charges.

Over the past year, U.S. officials said, Afghan investigators have assembled evidence against three Karzai-appointed provincial governors accused of embezzlement or bribery. All three cases have been blocked. The interference has persisted, officials said, despite Karzai’s pledge in November during his second inaugural address to make fighting corruption a focus of his new term. The extent of the interference has become evident, officials said, in large part because of improvements in Afghan authorities’ ability to pursue corruption cases.

More Londono:

Afghanistan’s attorney general on Tuesday accused the U.S. ambassador in Kabul of threatening to have him ousted if he didn’t pursue the case of a banker suspected of fraud.

Mohammed Ishaq Aloko lashed out at Karl W. Eikenberry during a news conference in the Afghan capital convened to dispute the allegation that his office’s corruption task force routinely bows to political pressure from President Hamid Karzai’s administration. The Washington Post reported Monday that U.S. officials working with the attorney general’s office are frustrated by political meddling that derails corruption probes.

Aloko described his office as “independent” and immune to political influence. He said Eikenberry recently violated “diplomatic ethics” by suggesting that Aloko could lose his job if he didn’t aggressively prosecute a banker incriminated during the prosecution of a minister who left the country after being charged with corruption.

“The ambassador’s discussions with his counterparts are private, and we’re not going to comment on them,” said U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden.

Sify:

‘The US ambassador tells me that ‘if you don’t arrest Haji Azimi, then you should resign,” Aloko told a press conference here. ‘It is against all diplomatic principles to threaten the attorney general of a country like this.’

The comments by the country’s top prosecutor, which could strain relations between Kabul and Washington, came a day after a US daily quoted unnamed US officials as saying that Aloko has repeatedly impeded the prosecution of suspects with political ties.

The Washington Post reported that among those protected was Haji Muhammad Rafi Azimi, deputy chairman of the Afghan United Bank, a private bank with its headquarters in Kabul.

Azimi was heard on a wiretap recording discussing bribes paid to Mohammad Siddiq Chakari, the former minister for religious affairs, the paper said.

Chakari, who is accused of taking bribes from companies seeking contracts to take pilgrims to the Muslim holy city of Mecca, has fled the country and currently lives in London.

Since Chakari could not be put to trial due to the lack of an extradition treaty between Afghanistan and Britain, US officials instead asked Aloko to arrest Azimi, pointing to the existence of evidence such as the wiretap recording, the paper reported.

‘I could not arrest Azimi, because we don’t have any evidence against him,’ Aloko said in Tuesday’s press conference.

Aloko said he told Eikenberry that only the country’s parliament or President Hamid Karzai had the authority to ask for his resignation, adding that after Eikenberry failed to persuade him, ‘he got upset and left my office’.

Josh Rogin at Foreign Policy:

As the debate over the road ahead in Afghanistan heats up in Congress, Democrats are using the power of the purse to seek broad changes in the administration’s policy and express their unhappiness with the Afghan government led by President Hamid Karzai.

In the latest move, a leading House appropriator promised Monday to remove all the Afghanistan foreign operations and aid money from next year’s funding unless she can be assured none of the funds are being wasted due to corruption in the Afghanistan government.

“I do not intend to appropriate one more dime for assistance to Afghanistan until I have confidence that U.S. taxpayer money is not being abused to line the pockets of corrupt Afghan government officials, drug lords, and terrorists,” foreign ops subcommittee chairwoman Nita Lowey, D-NY, said. “Furthermore, the government of Afghanistan must demonstrate that corruption is being aggressively investigated and prosecuted.”

Her subcommittee will mark up the fiscal 2011 state and foreign ops appropriations bill Wednesday. When they do, billions of dollars the president requested for all sorts of non-military work in Afghanistan will not be in the bill.

A spokesperson for Lowey said she was responding, in part, to two articles published Monday that described some of the abuses of U.S. taxpayer funds going to Afghanistan. The Wall Street Journal reported that more than $3 billion of cash has been flown out of the Kabul airport over the last three years, packed in suitcases, and a joint U.S.-Afghan investigation is underway. The Washington Post reported Monday that Karzai is protecting high-level political officials from scrutiny related to the missing funds.

Lowey’s spokesman told The Cable that the largest pots of money to be affected are about $3.3 billion in economic support funds and about $450 million requested for anti-narcotics and law enforcement aid to Afghanistan. Other accounts to be excluded include global health money, anti-terrorism funds, and military training funds for Afghanistan army officers. Humanitarian aid would not be affected.

Lowey also tied the issue to the still struggling U.S. economy, a theme that House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-MD, focused on in a separate speech today. Democrats in Congress are preparing to go home to their districts after this week for a July 4 recess that will kick off the congressional campaign season. Accordingly, they are amplifying their rhetoric about deficit spending and expressing their unhappiness with the progress of the war in Afghanistan.

“Too many Americans are suffering in this economy for us to put their hard-earned tax dollars into the hands of criminals overseas,” Lowey said.

Daphne Eviatar at Huffington Post:

Lowey’s statement is an understandable expression of frustration. But cutting off foreign aid now is absolutely the wrong approach for the United States to take in Afghanistan.

After several visits to Afghanistan in the last few years, Human Rights First issued recommendations to the Obama administration last year specifically recommending that the United States help train Afghan investigators on evidence collection and documentation and help Afghan prosecutors provide fair prosecutions. Current plans do just that, in addition to working with Afghan officials on improving their own detention facilities and their judiciary.

Lowey’s frustration is understandable, not only because of the Washington Post‘s recent news stories, but also because of this report prepared for the State Department last year that reviewed a broad range of Afghan institutions and concluded that corruption is rampant and growing. Not surprisingly, thirty years of war has undermined the development of reliable and legitimate institutions, and of a judicial system able to keep corruption in check. But to keep Afghanistan from returning to Taliban rule or simply descending into chaos, the United States has an obligation to help the Afghan government develop and enforce laws that reduce corruption and improve government transparency. Given the recent reports that Afghanistan has some $3 trillion worth of natural resources it’s eager to exploit, transparency will be critical to make sure the proceeds of those riches don’t just get shipped out of Afghanistan like the billion dollars a year flying out of there now.

Although our NATO allies should and will be helping in this effort, the necessary “nation-building” isn’t going to happen unless the United States commits to funding carefully-targeted programs designed to improve governance and reduce corruption. Continued funding can be made contingent on the acceptance and participation of Afghan leaders and institutions with this anti-corruption agenda.

Lowey is right that US aid to Afghanistan should be spent wisely, and not indirectly fund warlords to provide security or corrupt officials to spread as graft. But the State Department and the military’s Joint Task Force in charge of detention facilities in Afghanistan are just beginning their work to improve local government enough to allow the U.S. military to transition out of there. Cutting off the funding that will allow that to happen would not only undermine the development of legitimate government institutions in Afghanistan, but would make the United States’ goal of eventually leaving the country that much more elusive.

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