Al-Azhar Students’ Union has said that there are over 150 students on hunger strike and they are subjected to severe torture, including verbal and physical abuse inside prisons. In a statement the union said that prisons’ administrations threaten the hunger strikers with burning, killing them or moving them to be with criminal detainees. The prisoners, the statement said, are banned from getting water for long periods of time. One hunger striker is the head of the Faculty of Commerce in Al-Azhar University, Usama Zaid, who is in Abu-Za’bal Prison. According to the statement the prisoners receive bad medical treatment and are even subjected to torture inside the prisons’ clinics. Hunger strikers are put in solitary confinement for long periods or put with criminal prisoners, who are encouraged to beat and kill them without being liable to judicial trials.
The release of the Bureau of Justice statistics for 2013 is perhaps the Rio moment for the movement against mass incarceration. This may be the time for the movement to seriously reflect on the limitations of cherry picking “non-violent offenders” and diverting a few people into drug courts or community service. Ending mass incarceration requires a different kind of movement, one with the active participation and leadership of millions of poor people of color. While policy reports and legislative lobbying can play an important role, as theBlockadia activists in North America are emphasizing, direct action from the critically impacted also needs to be added to the agenda. Let us hope that long before 20 years after this “Rio moment,” the movement against mass incarceration will not be lamenting the miniscule impact our actions have had on this systemic problem and still be wondering why a piecemeal, expert-driven approach has not changed the world. And let us also hope that by that time, the vagaries of climate change have not rendered our efforts too late.
A U.S. citizen imprisoned in Egypt following the overthrow of Muslim Brotherhood-backed Mohamed Morsi is near death after refusing to eat for 230 days, say human rights activists and his family, who are pleading for his immediate release. Mohamed Soltan, 26, who holds dual citizenship and graduated from The Ohio State University, was arrested in August 2013 during a crackdown against pro-Morsi supporters in Egypt’s Rabaa Al Adeweya Square. Soltan was working at the time with a media committee that was reporting violations by security forces against against pro-Morsi supporters since the former Egyptian president’s ousting, according to Amnesty International. Soltan was initially moved from prison to prison to conceal his whereabouts. He was later placed in solitary confinement and imprisoned at al-Aqrab maximum security prison as punishment for going on a hunger strike, the human rights group said.
Cairo’s misdemeanor court has sentenced 17 Al-Azhar students to four years in jail on charges of organising an illegal protest. The defendants were accused of illegally protesting and inciting violence at Al-Azhar University on 12 January of this year. Among the 17 students sentenced, five are females. The defence team plans to appeal the verdict. Meanwhile, Egypt’s prosecutor-general on Wednesday ordered the release of 116 students from different universities ahead of the start of the new academic year on 11 October. Hundreds of students were arrested during the last academic year over protests against the ouster of president Mohamed Morsi and also over the detention of their colleagues by security forces. Al-Azhar University – the oldest Islamic university in the world – saw some of the worst unrest among universities, with near daily protests often spiralling into violent confrontations with police.
The fury of Ferguson descended on the seat of St. Louis County with a vengeance Tuesday night with demonstrators unleashing a torrent of chants, invective and threats at a County Council that listened for two hours in stunned silence. Protesters demanded the arrest of Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot 18-year-old Michael Brown to death on a Ferguson street five weeks ago, the removal of County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch from the Brown case, the resignations of County Police Chief Jon Belmar and Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson and accountability from the elected county legislative arm. But the bulk of the ire was directed at Steve Stenger, the 6th District Democratic councilman facing Republican state Rep. Rick Stream in the November general election in the race for county executive. Several speakers demanded that Stenger call on his “BFF (Best Friend Forever)” St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch to resign by noon today. McCulloch was the councilman’s chief political ally in Stenger’s primary defeat of incumbent County Executive Charlie Dooley four days before Brown was shot to death.
Federal officials are planning a new for-profit family detention lockup for immigrant children and their parents in South Texas. The 2,400-bed “South Texas Family Detention Center”—as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is referring to it—is slated for a 50-acre site just outside the town of Dilley, 70 miles southwest of San Antonio. The detention center is part of the Obama administration’s response to the surge in children and families from Central America crossing the Texas-Mexico border. In a statement to the Observer, ICE spokeswoman Nina Pruneda said the facility was intended “to accommodate the influx of individuals arriving illegally on the Southwest border.” The property is part of Sendero Ranch, a “workforce housing community,” better known in the oil patch as a “man camp” for oilfield workers. Sendero Ranch is owned by Koontz McCombs, a commercial real estate firm connected to San Antonio mogul Red McCombs. Loren Gulley, vice president for Koontz McCombs, said the company is still negotiating the deal but Corrections Corporation of America—the world’s largest for-private prison company—is expected to run the detention center, and Koontz McCombs would lease the existing “man camp” to ICE. A detailed site map provided to Frio County shows a large fenced campus, including both residential housing as well as a gym, chapel and “community pavilions.” The “man camp” has enough space to temporarily house 680 detainees while new structures are being built, ICE spokesman Bryan Cox said.
In Orange County, Calif., the probation department’s “supervised electronic confinement program,” which monitors the movements of low-risk offenders, has been outsourced to a private company, Sentinel Offender Services. The company, by its own account, oversees case management, including breath alcohol and drug-testing services, “all at no cost to county taxpayers.” Sentinel makes its money by getting the offenders on probation to pay for the company’s services. Charges can range from $35 to $100 a month. The company boasts of having contracts with more than 200 government agencies, and it takes pride in the “development of offender funded programs where any of our services can be provided at no cost to the agency.” Sentinel is a part of the expanding universe of poverty capitalism. In this unique sector of the economy, costs of essential government services are shifted to the poor.
Tuesday in Dallas federal court, “hacktivist journo” Barrett Brown pled guilty to three counts stemming from his reporting on a high-profile Anonymous hack and his long-running battles with the FBI. The hearing, in effect, concluded his plea deal with the Department of Justice. Instead of facing a staggering 105 years in prison, Brown is now looking at up to eight and a half years—with a sizable chance of serving far less time. For most of the year and a half that he awaited trial, Brown was charged with threatening an FBI agent, conspiring to hide his potentially evidence-bearing laptops, and sharing a link to credit card data publicized during the hack of the private intelligence firm Stratfor. Free speech advocates, such as the Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Without Borders, called the allegations payback for his journalism. Brown’s legal troubles kicked into high gear on March 6, 2012, when FBI agent Robert Smith led a raid on his apartment and mother’s house in a hunt for the journalist’s research into contractors who spy or conduct information warfare on behalf of government and corporate clients. The agents took away his computers and other electronics.
A Palestinian woman, Rasmea Odeh, was arrested at her home this morning, Oct. 22, by agents of the Department of Homeland Security. She is charged with immigration fraud. Allegedly, in her application for citizenship, she didn’t mention that she was arrested in Palestine 45 years ago by an Israeli military court that detains Palestinians without charge – a court that has over 200 children in prison today and does not recognize the rights of Palestinians to due process. Judge Paul D. Borman removed himself from the case of Palestinian community leader Rasmea Odeh. Earlier this month, the judge stridently denied a defense motion calling on him to step down. The motion claimed that his life-long support for the state of Israel—whose arrest, torture, and conviction of Odeh for alleged Jerusalem bombings in 1969 is at issue in this case—would not allow for a fair trial. Odeh has pleaded not guilty to the charge of Unlawful Procurement of Naturalization, and vehemently refutes the Israeli convictions, which were based on a forced confession after extended periods of vicious physical and sexual torture.
It’s been nearly two weeks since a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, shot and killed an unarmed teenager, but the police department has yet to offer a full account of the hazy circumstances surrounding Michael Brown’s death. An official incident report, which the American Civil Liberties Union obtained from police and released on Friday, answers none of the pressing questions that hang over the killing. If anything, it raises new ones. The two-page document is almost entirely blank. It includes the address, time of day and a handful of other bare-bones details, but does not include a description of the scene, quotes from eyewitnesses, names of the officers involved, or any other pieces of information normally found on such documents.
Petition To Eric Holder Against Racist, Militarized Policing To Be Delivered, Sign here now. When: Wednesday, August 27th at 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM Where: In front of the Department of Justice, Constitution Ave between 9th & 10th St NW, Washington DC Washington, DC – On Wednesday, August 27 at 4pm, activists will rally outside the Justice Department to call on the Attorney General to help secure justice for Michael Brown and the people of Ferguson, Missouri, as well as an overhaul of US law enforcement tactics in order to stop police brutality and the militarization of our police forces. “Michael’s murder is symptomatic of a systemic, racist culture that condones the murder and incarceration of black boys and men at rates highly disproportionate to the general population. U.S. police or vigilantes kill a black man every 28 hours,” says Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo of No FEAR Coalition and Black Agenda Report. “We need the full support of the Attorney General’s office to make sure that Michael Brown is not simply another name added to the anonymous statistics and meaningless deaths of African-Americans at the mercy of a merciless system.”
Thousands marched in Staten Island On August 23rd. They were protesting police brutality and abuse. They were demanding justice for the victims of that abuse. Eric Garner was placed in an illegal choke hold by a NYPD office several weeks ago. His crime? Selling illegal cigarettes. Despite his protestations and his repeated plea of “I can’t breathe,” despite the fact that he was already subdued, despite the fact that he was surround by cops, the officer continued to choke Mr. Garner. The result? Eric Garner died on the sidewalk, a victim, like so many others, of out-of-control police brutality. These police crimes are then followed by a disturbing lack of transparency and a failure of the justice system to indict, try and convict. Victims are invariably people of color. The time has come for civilian control of the police forces and an end to the militarization of police departments around the country.
Michael Brown’s father, visited the street memorial people have created for his son at the site of his 18 year old son’s death. Th St. Louis Post Dispatch reports: “Michael Brown Sr. hugged well-wishers who recognized him and came to share words of encouragement or brief prayers. Anthony Shahid, an activist who was accompanying Brown Sr., said he didn’t want to speak to the media. He was exhausted, Shahid said, and just wanted to see the memorial to his son.” The visit marked Brown Sr.’s first visit to the site since a candlelight vigil not long after the shooting.
The family of Michael Brown should not rely on the grand jury system or Attorney General Holder The grand jury process in the United States is rigged for the prosecutor. There is an old saying among lawyers “A prosecutor can indict a ham sandwich.” Of course, the reverse is also true; the prosecutor can also prevent an indictment. The prosecutor controls the grand jury process which is conducted in secret without even a judge present. The prosecutor decides what witnesses to call and there is no opportunity for a defense lawyer or attorney for the family to participate. Attorney General Holder’s record on dealing with police violence against citizens is mixed. The family should not wait until the grand jury decision or rely completely on the US Department of Justice. The family of Michael Brown should take their own steps to ensure justice for their son as quickly as possible. The avenue the family can pursue is to file a civil suit in federal court. Such litigation will allow the family to seek all relevant documents, including the unreleased police report, as well as videotapes related to the killing of Michael Brown. It will also allow them to question witnesses under oath, including police officers who arrived at the scene. The court hearings in a civil suit will be public so everyone can see all the evidence.