Category Archives: Law

A Polish rebuff to American Polanski injustice

Polish prosecutors issued a remarkable and extremely accurate riposte to Los Angeles courts and the district attorney’s office that precisely parallels our own concerns from witnessing the case firsthand, concerns we raised in many previous posts.

From Mariella Rudi of Westside Today in Los Angeles:

In a statement released today, the Krakow prosecutors said Polanski would be denied rights that are guaranteed by the European Constitution.

They cited “excessive vulnerability of judges and prosecutors to criticism by the American news media” which would prevent a fair sentence from being imposed for the rape of the girl.

The prosecutors also blasted Los Angeles judges for having consulted with prosecutors without Polanski or his attorney present, a violation of European legal codes.

The prosecutors also blasted the American system of sentencing fugitive convicts in absentia.

The point is, Polanski had already served the sentence stipulated in the plea agreement, and fled only after learning that Judge Laurence J. Rittenband had breached the agreement and now sought a longer sentence.

The judge violated basic judicial standards in extensive ex parte discussions not only with members of the district attorney’s office but also with at least one journalist [esnl], assorted pals from his country club, and wives of friends, his mistresses [at age 70, he had three], and others.

In subsequent years, after Rittenband’s retirement, other judges assigned to the case had similar ex parte conversations about the case with representatives of the district attorney’s office but not Polanski’s own attorneys, again, a fundamental violation of judicial standards and Polanski’s own rights.

Most certainly Polanski committed a crime. But he has had no legal problems in the four decades since, and his victim, her family, and the DA who prosecuted the case [scrupulously, we might add] all agreed that Polanski has become the victim of an ongoing injustice.

It’s nice to see that Polish prosecutors also agree.

Roman Polanski wins another legal battle

If California Gov. Jerry Brown had a lick of common sense, he’d pardon Roman Polanski and end a wrong-headed and probably illegal campaign by the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office to drag the world famous director back to the U.S. to “serve out” a prison sentence that he had already completely 39 years ago.

Yet even the American press, which covered the case extensively at the time, fail to note that Polanski’s time at a California state prison was the sentence agreed to by all parties in the case: Polanski, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office, the young woman on whom Polanski committed statutory rape, her family, and the corrupt judge who presided over the case, Laurence J. Rittenband, whose best friend was one of the country’s most powerful gangsters.

We know about the case firsthand, covering every court session and interviewing the key legal figures in depth as a reporter for the Santa Monica Evening Outlook. And we have posted extensively about the case and the corruption at the heart of the ongoing extradition efforts.

A few years ago we even played a major role in a documentary film about the case, Roman Polanski, Wanted and Desired.

The woman at the center of the case has repeatedly called for the Los Angeles District Attorney to stop the extradition efforts and leave Polanski alone, and the deputy district attorney who prosecuted Polanski has stated for the record that the director fulfilled all the obligations imposed by the plea agreement.’

But the DA’s won’t given up, even though Rittenband demonstrably breached the canons of judicial ethics by discussing the case with reporters [us most notably, and with pals from the Hillcrest Country Club, once he began to have second thoughts after drawing criticism from the spouses of those Hillcrest pals].

We have no idea how many hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of dollars have been wasted on the DA’s office, fueled in part by frankly erroneous reports from newspaper like the Washington Post, which ought to know better.

The Swiss rejected a prolonged attempt to extradite Polanski from their country, declaring, as the Guardian reported at the time, that:

[I]ts decision to reject extradition for Polanski was based in part on US authorities’ failure to provide transcripts of secret testimony given by the attorney who originally handled the director’s case [Deputy District Attorney Roger Gunson, one of the most honorable people we have ever met — esnl]. The testimony “should prove” that Polanski actually served his sentence while undergoing a court-ordered diagnostic study after charges were filed, the Swiss justice ministry said.

“If this were the case, Roman Polanski would actually have already served his sentence and therefore both the proceedings on which the US extradition request is founded and the request itself would have no foundation,” the ministry said. They also noted that Polanski’s victim, Samantha Geimer, has repeatedly asked that the case be dropped.

But that decision came only after Polanski had been jailed, then subjected to nine months’ house arrest.

And now a second effort by the L.A. District Attorney has been conclusively overturned by yet another European government.

From Reuters:

A Polish court’s decision to deny the extradition of film-maker Roman Polanski to the United States over a 1977 child sex conviction became legally binding on Friday after an appellate prosecutor’s office said it found no justification to appeal it.

The case of the Oscar-winning director, now 82, who holds Polish and French citizenship, has been an international cause celebre nearly four decades after the crime, with some demanding harsh punishment and others urging the case be let go.

“Speaking for Polanski, I can say that we feel a great relief that this case has ended,” Jan Olszewski, one of Polanski’s lawyers said. “And this means that it will be possible for Polanski to start making a planned film in Poland.”

The appellate prosecutor’s office in the city of Krakow said in a statement on Friday that its analysis of the evidence collected in the case showed the earlier court decision on denying extradition had been correct.

So get on with it, Jerry Brown, issue a pardon and spend the state’s money on more worthy causes, like building housing for the poor.

Map of the day: The turf of the Mexican cartels

From the Drug Enforcement Administration’s 2015 National Drug Threat Assessment [PDF]:

BLOG Cartels

ISIS and the U.S., legacy of a troubled history

Until 2003 Chris Hedges held one of the most prestigious jobs in American journalism, Mideast bureau chief for the New York Times, until he was reprimanded by the paper for speaking against the American invasion of Iraq at a college commencement in Rockford, Illinois.

These days he hosts Days of Revolt, a weekly interview series for Telesur English.

Today we’re posting a two-part discussion on the rise of ISIS and the long troubled history of imperial ambitions in the Middle East with Professor Sabah Alnasseri, a native of Basra, Iraq, who teaches Middle East politics at York University in Toronto.

And with that, the first episode:

Days of Revolt – ISIS, The New Israel

From the transcript:

HEDGES: So let’s begin with ISIS, which is historically an extremely important movement within the Middle East. The 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement, which is named for the French and British diplomats that carved up the Middle East among the colonial–among the empire, essentially turning countries in the Middle East into protectorates, has only been changed twice. The first time was the Israeli independence movement, which rose up in Palestine, and now with ISIS, which controls an area roughly the size of Texas.

The mechanisms that were used to redraw the map in the Middle East are the same: the use of foreign money, the use of foreign fighters, the tactics of ethnic cleansing and terrorism, and this mythical vision, in the case of Israel, the re-creation of Judea and Samaria from the Bible, the land of Israel, and in the case of ISIS, the re-creation of the seventh century caliphate.

And these tactics have could prove quite effective. In both cases, in the case of Israel and in the case of ISIS, you could argue, especially with ISIS having roughly 20,000 foreign fighters, that these are forces that are as dependent on the areas outside the Middle East as within the Middle East. And I wondered if you could kind of address that phenomenon, this phenomenon that we are watching.

ALNASSERI: Right. Right. I mean, you are right, because ISIS has a kind of settler colonialist form the way they occupy space, cleanse the space, plunder the resources.

HEDGES: Which is what–as Israel does.

ALNASSERI: Exactly, and carve out territory for itself.

But to understand the phenomenon of ISIS, we needed to contextualize it within the setbacks and counterrevolution against the Arab revolutions, the amount of violence, of intervention, in Libya, for instance, the war in Libya, the civil war in Syria, now the war also in Yemen, and–.

HEDGES: And Egypt. We can’t forget Egypt.

ALNASSERI: Exactly. We don’t forget Egypt. And the failure of this peaceful, nonviolent revolutions, this amount of violence, of counterrevolutionary violence, created this Frankenstein, this phenomenon. So you can say ISIS is a Hegelian-Fischer synthesis of two form of violence.

Now, what is so interesting about ISIS and why it is so attractive for many young, unemployed, mostly Arab fighters–most of the fighters, by the way, they come from Libya or Tunisia and so on, less from Europe, etc. It’s mostly from the Middle East. What attracted them to ISIS is that when these peaceful revolution failed, revolutions turn into kind of jihadism, that ISIS is much more effective in its leadership, organization, logistical structure, and its geologies, than all the other peaceful, nonviolent movements, mass movements.

And the second part:

Days of Revolt – The Revolutionary Age

From the transcript:

HEDGES: So I think what we want to focus on in this segment is the dynamics of revolutionary change in an age of globalism and neoliberalism, how it will look like revolutions in the past, and how it will look like something else. And I know this is something you have examined.

ALNASSERI: Right. Right. I will start with the end of the Cold War and the breakdown of of the Soviet Union, because this world historical context is very important in understanding any kind of politics, revolutionary or otherwise.

Since the ‘90s, we observe the dominant political form [of] Europe, the United States, but also other parts of the world is populism. Before, at least until the ‘70s, political parties were organized around specific classes, articulated interests of classes, the social democracy for the working class, etc. But since the ‘90s, the dominant political form of the ruling classes is populism. And that’s not a coincidence with this neoliberal offensive, with half of the world open to be conquered by neoliberalism after the breakdown of the Soviet Union. There is a radical shift in the form of politics, articulation of interests, representation, etc. So what we see is that the majority of the population on a worldwide scale actually are excluded from the political system, are not represented. Their interests are not articulated.

So I believe that within this context–and that’s why the current revolutions are different than the historical one–that revolutions and revolt probably is the only political form available for the popular classes to introduce a radical change in the [crosstalk]

HEDGES: Well, I agree completely, and that is the thesis of my own book, Wages of Rebellion. But what about nationalism? I mean, nationalism still remains a powerful force.

ALNASSERI: Yes, yes and no, because nationalism now is embedded in an international and global context. So even nationalist movement, if they are not linked to a wider movement and solidarity and support, their prospective of success is almost zero. You can see this. Take the example of SYRIZA in Greece. SYRIZA, the first right approach was to say that you need a Europe-wide movement and solidarity in order to empower SYRIZA in Greece to deal with the European Central Bank, with the IMF, etc., and E.U. Commission, etc. So there’s a sense of embedding nationalist, or nationalist, say, movement within a wider context, a regional or international context. I think this is very important. It’s different than the old form of internationalism we knew in the 19th and 20th century, because the old form of internationalism was different in three instances. The first one, it was mostly European-centered, not international in this sense. The second point is it was mostly class-based. And third, all these revolt and revolution were organized by a political party with a strong leadership.

HEDGES: But that wasn’t true for the Communist Party. There was an internationalist element to that.

ALNASSERI: Yeah, but again, if you look at it historically, we’ll see mostly within Europe–there are some connection to other part of the world, but mostly it was within Europe, and I think that’s a big difference today. We have–you can call it the first international of the people. And it’s cross-class. It’s not nation- or nation states-centered, and it’s not articulated, organized by a specific political party.

Operation Condor is coming home to roost

Operation Condor, by Brazilian cartoonist Carlos Latuff.

Operation Condor, by Brazilian cartoonist Carlos Latuff.

Wednesday marked the 40th anniversary of the start of Operation Condor [previously], a U.S.-backed pogrom of leftist and populist leaders in Latin America, carried out with the help of then Sceretary of State Henry Kissinger and the Central Intelligence Agency.

In the ensuing purge a thousand or more political activists were tortured and murdered, and a leader figure of the Latin Left, along with a young American woman, died in a car bombing in this nation’s capital. An unknown number of dissidents were disposed of by being stripped naked as they were flown out over the South Atlantic and dropped into the ocean, the basis for the Latuff cartoon.

As for that bombing in Washington, the National Security Archive of George Washington University reported on 8 October:

The CIA concluded that there was “convincing evidence” that Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet “personally ordered his intelligence chief to carry out the murder” of exiled critic Orlando Letelier in Washington D.C., according to a SECRET memo prepared for President Ronald Reagan in 1987. “Pinochet decided to stonewall on the US investigation to hide his involvement,” the CIA review also noted, and as part of the cover-up considered “even the elimination of his former intelligence chief,” DINA director Manuel Contreras, who had overseen the assassination plot.

The CIA intelligence review remains classified. But it was quoted in a dramatic report to President Reagan, dated on October 6, 1987, from his Secretary of State, George Shultz, as part of his efforts to convince the president to cut U.S. ties to Pinochet and press for the return of democracy in Chile. “The CIA has never before drawn and presented its conclusion that such strong evidence exists of his [Pinochet’s] leadership role in this act of terrorism,” the Secretary of State informed the President.

The National Security Archive today said it would file a Freedom of Information Act petition to secure the declassification of the CIA assessment and the raw intelligence reports it was based on. “This document is clearly the holy grail of the Letelier-Moffitt case,” said Peter Kornbluh who directs the Archive’s Chile Documentation Project. Kornbluh called on the agency “to release this document to complete the Obama administration’s special declassification project on Chile.”

Letelier, a former minister in the Allende government, and his 25-year old colleague, Ronni Karpen Moffitt, were killed by a car-bomb planted by agents of the Chilean secret police on September 21, 1976, as they drove to work down Massachusetts avenue in Washington D.C. Moffitt’s husband, Michael, was the sole survivor of the bombing.

The memory of the horrors of Operation Condor remain very much alive, and a trial now underway may finally win some small measure of justice for the survivors.

From CCTV America:

Operation Condor: A dark time for Latin America

Program notes:

On November 25th, 1975 – high-ranking officials from several South American countries gathered for a meeting in Santiago with a dark agenda. It was then that Operation Condor was launched and military dictatorships were able to swap information to hunt down political opponents.

Quote of the day: A word to mainstream media

From Andrew Cohen of New York University Law School’s Brennan Center for Justice:

It is the opposite of journalism to call something “controversial” when in fact it is demonstrably false. Now more than ever, when so much fiction and hoax is passed off as truth on the campaign trail, journalists have a professional responsibility, if not a moral obligation, to set the record straight, loudly and quickly, before the myth these politicians seek to perpetuate takes public hold. There is no room today for any sort of cheesy false equivalence, for pretending that one idea or thought or theory is equal to every other.

So when Donald Trump or his online handlers re-tweeted patently false statistics about black (and white) crime rates Sunday it was incumbent upon journalists covering that campaign to do more than merely mention the contents of the incorrect Tweet and then chronicle the predictably furious response to it. Trump’s act was “controversial” only because it reveals his flawed judgment, his disregard for facts, and the increasingly ugly direction of his campaign — a series of dog whistles designed to pit citizen against citizen. If Trump today uttered the words “The sun rises in the West” it would not be enough for reporters to run through the litany of people who disagreed.

Yet another tragic American distinction

From the American Civil Liberties Union:

There’s Only One Country That Hasn’t Ratified the Convention on Children’s Rights: US

We find ourselves commemorating yet another anniversary for the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the most comprehensive human rights treaty on children’s rights and notably the most widely ratified treaty since its introduction over 25 years ago. The treaty has been ratified by every country with one notable exception — the United States, which never even sent it to the Senate for consent and approval.

Until this year, the United States was one of three countries — the other two being Somalia and South Sudan — that had failed to ratify the CRC. And while it was embarrassing enough to be in this limited company, this year, our fellow outliers ratified the convention.

So now we’re completely on our own.