Australian judge tells police that Muslims still have rights
SYDNEY (AFP) - A judge told Australian intelligence and police officers on Monday that a student they pursued over terrorism charges still had rights whether he was "Muslim or not".
Prosecutors dropped the case against Izhar Ul-Haque after Judge Michael Adams ruled that police interviews with him were inadmissible due to the conduct of the officers.
Ul-Haque had been accused of receiving weapons and combat training from the Pakistan-based extremist group Lashkar-e-Toiba during a visit to Pakistan in 2003.
Adams said one Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) officer had committed "the crime of false imprisonment and kidnap at common law."
Officers were also accused of unjustified and unlawful interference with Ul-Haque's personal liberty as well as unlawful trespass at his family home.
"It was a gross interference by the agents of the state with the accused's legal rights as a citizen, rights which he still has whether he be suspected of criminal conduct or not, and whether he is Muslim or not," Adams said.
Ul-Haque's lawyer Adam Houda, speaking outside the Supreme Court of New South Wales state where the judge made his comments, condemned what he said had been a "moronic prosecution".
"From the beginning, this was no more than a show trial designed to justify the billions of dollars spent on counter-terrorism," he said.
"It has been one bungled prosecution after another."
Houda compared the case to that of Indian doctor Mohamed Haneef, who had his visa cancelled after he was linked to British car bombings earlier this year. Charges against Haneef were ultimately dropped.
Benazir Freed After Detention
ISLAMABAD, 10 November 2007 — Pakistan’s opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was freed from house arrest late yesterday hours after Washington demanded she be released. “The detention order has been withdrawn,” said Aamir Ali Ahmed, acting deputy commissioner of Islamabad.
The two-time prime minister was earlier stopped from leaving her Islamabad home to lead a rally in the nearby city of Rawalpindi against the imposition of emergency rule by President Gen. Pervez Musharraf.
Benazir twice tried to escape in her car, telling police who surrounded her villa: “Do not raise hands against women. You are Muslims. This is un-Islamic.” They responded by blocking her way with an armored vehicle. In Rawalpindi, police tear gassed hundreds of her supporters who staged protests and hurled stones. More than 100 were arrested.
The White House said it remained concerned about the continued state of emergency “and curtailment of basic freedoms” in Pakistan. “Former Prime Minister (Benazir) Bhutto and other political party members must be permitted freedom of movement and all protesters released,” said Gordon Johndroe, spokesman for the White House National Security Council.
Washington also urged Musharraf to set a date both for holding elections and resigning as army chief to show he means to return the country to constitutional rule.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters: “President Musharraf should roll back the state of emergency, schedule a fixed date for elections coming up. He committed to those elections no later than Feb. 15, he also recommitted to taking off the uniform. He should make that commitment publicly and fix a date for the Pakistani people so that they have an expectation that they are now going to return to constitutional rule and the pathway to democracy.”
Also yesterday, a suicide bomber blew himself up at the home of Minister for Political Affairs Amir Muqam in the northwestern city of Peshawar. Muqam was unhurt but four others died.
An Interior Ministry spokesman said 2,500 people had been detained since the emergency was declared, though Benazir’s Pakistan Peoples’ Party says 5,000 of their activists have been picked up in the past couple of days.
Railway Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said Benazir’s detention was meant to protect her from suicide bomb attacks, as well as stop her from going to Rawalpindi. A suicide bomb attack killed 139 people at a procession in Karachi to welcome Benazir’s return to Pakistan after eight years of self-imposed exile on Oct. 18.
Musharraf has sacked most of the country’s judges, putting senior officials under house arrest, and ordered police to round up the majority of opposition leaders.
Police yesterday sealed off a cancer hospital set up by Imran Khan as they sought to track down the cricketer-turned-politician who slipped out of his house late Saturday. An officer said that police had cordoned off the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital in Lahore “to search for Imran Khan.”
— Additional input from agencies
Denmark party targets Muslims
The Danish government's far-right ally in parliament has made immigration by Muslims its main focus in the run-up to next week's legislative elections.
In its election campaign, the Danish People's Party (DPP) accuses Muslim immigrants of not respecting Danish traditions and taking advantage of the Scandinavian country's generous welfare system.
One campaign poster shows a woman in a Muslim headscarf withdrawing money from a cash machine featuring the state welfare office logo.
The caption says: "Make demands on the foreigners. Now they must contribute!"
The posters have not provoked any backlash.
Another shows veiled women under the headline: "Follow the country's traditions and customs or leave."
Therkel Straede, a Holocaust expert at a Danish University, compared the party's tactics to those used by the Nazis during World War II.
"The DPP is not Nazi, but its ideology, with its xenophobic extreme nationalism, resembles Nazism, since it tries to stamp out a minority," he said.
After Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the prime minister, scheduled snap elections for November 13, the DPP presented a series of law proposals aimed at Muslim immigrants.
These include bans on wearing the Muslim headscarf in public places and on special worship areas for Muslims in the workplace.
Rasmussen called the elections 15 months earlier to take advantage of Denmark's flourishing economy and the creation of a new centre-right party, New Alliance, which could widen his parliamentary majority.
Peter Skaarup, the DPP’s deputy head of party, said: "There is every reason to tighten the screws, because Danish values are under pressure."
In a third poster, the party makes reference to the crisis sparked by the publication of caricatures of Prophet Muhammad in a Danish newspaper two years ago.
The row that followed led to attacks on Danish embassies, burning of the country’s flag and boycotts of its products across the Muslim world.
The poster shows a hand drawing the prophet over the words: "Freedom of expression is Danish. Censorship is not. Defend Danish values."
During February 2005 general election, the DPP won 13.3% of votes, making it the third-largest party in parliament and having a significant influence on Rasmussen's Liberal-Conservative coalition government.
King Abdullah orders expansion of Haram Mosque
Makkah – Dhul Hijjah 28, 1428/ January 06, 2008 – Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz has approved a plan for the expansion of the Haram Mosque’s northern courtyard, Prince Miteb, minister of municipal and rural affairs, announced yesterday. Prince Miteb said the project would include construction of pedestrian tunnels and a service station. The royal approval covers expropriation of real estate on the northern and northwestern sides of the mosque, covering an area of 300,000 square meters. “Special committees have begun estimating the value of real estate in the area in order to expropriate them for the purpose,” Prince Miteb told the Saudi Press Agency. “The technical team for the expansion will continue its work until the project is completed on time,” he added.
It is noteworthy that King Abdullah has approved various projects worth SR 10 billion to further expand the facilities and improve services of pilgrims at the Haram Mosque. Accordingly, the General Presidency of the Grand Mosque and Prophet’s Mosque Affairs has launched various projects with an aim to reduce crowding and improve services for pilgrims and visitors to the Haram Mosque. These projects included expanded Masaie (the track between Safa and Marwah), and a 14-meter wide, 70-meter long pedestrian bridge across the courtyard of the Grand Mosque. The first phase of Masaie expansion had been completed before the last Haj and works of the second phase are progressing well.
The minister went on to describe training of mosque imams and khateebs (Friday sermon preachers) as having “proved successful in preventing poor performance over the past three years.”
Aal Al-Sheikh said ministry handed out a two-point plan to bring poorly performing imams and khateebs up to the required standard with training for the former conducted within the ministry by scholars and preachers, and training courses for both in other specialist institutes in the Kingdom and abroad.
The ministry only employs khateebs and imams with university degrees in Shariah Law, with the exception of a very few who work in remote areas.
The minister praised imams and khateebs working within the ministry fold for their compliance with ministry rules governing their work, and said they had the freedom to tackle modern issues in their sermons but within certain limits.
“The limits do not allow any defamation of countries, people and organizations. They may touch on political issues in their sermons, but it must be in accordance with general Shariah and Islamic guidelines which in essence prevent the infliction of harm to others.
Aal Al-Sheikh further emphasized the important role of imams in correcting misconceptions and counteracting deviant thought.
“By doing so,” he said, “they advocate the true creed decreed by Almighty Allah which is a great task.”
Imams are also entrusted with leading prayers, he continued, “which is one of the greatest tasks in Islam since the Prophet (peace be upon him) himself used to perform this task.” – Okaz