Swimming against the tide

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Board will be considering yet another resolution, on Monday, castigating Iran for questions about its past, present and future nuclear programs, as the Associated Press’s veteran writer in Vienna, George Jahn, reported in a dispatch filed earlier today.

Jahn writes that the growing pressure is aimed at wresting concessions from Tehran — but that “it may be too late for that”, and that — surprise — Iran remains “defiant” and “continues to refuse to compromise on the key demand that it stop uranium enrichment”.

Jahn suggests, unfortunately, that Iran has “exploited international indecision and expanded and improved its enrichment capability”. This is like accusing a baby of being manipulative — not that I am comparing Iran to a baby. But the crying of babies is not manpulative — and Iran not been exploiting i”international indecision”. Iran is simply determined, as it has stated clearly from the beginning, to have its own indigenous uranium enrichment capacity.

Anyway, as Jahn writes: “An agency report Monday to the UN Security Council and the IAEA board suggested that Tehran was stonewalling investigators and possibly withholding information crucial to the UN nuclear monitor’s probe of allegations it did nuclear arms research. A senior UN official — who demanded anonymity because he was not authorized to comment on the report — told the AP its tone was unusually tough … Briefing board members three days after the report’s release, Olli Heinonen — the IAEA’s deputy director general in charge of the agency’s Iran file — said Iran’s possession of nuclear warhead diagrams was ‘alarming’. And diplomats at the closed meeting said Heinonen also left little doubt that in his view, much of the intelligence it had from the U.S. and other board members tended to increase concerns”.

Jahn added, “Still, Iran may have less reason now than a year ago to compromise, now that its technicians appear to have eliminated most bugs keeping them from full-scale enrichment expansion. ‘In the past, Iran has experienced significant problems’ with breakdowns and other technical mishaps keeping it from running its enriching centrifuges smoothly, said David Albright, a former IAEA nuclear inspector. But the newest IAEA findings show ‘that Iran is overcoming these problems’, he added”.

Five years ago, as Jahn reports, it was revealed that Iran “had assembled the nuts and bolts of a uranium enrichment program”. Iran did not report the program — and argued that it was not required to do so at the early stages. The revelation about the Iranian program came from the Mujahedeen e-Khalq (MEK), a deadly armed opposition group that operated from Iraq in Saddam Hussein’s later years, and that is now under U.S. military protection in Iraq.

Last year, a laptop computer surfaced that is supposed to contain evidence about Iran’s alleged intentions — denied by the Iranian leadershiop — to develop a nuclear weapons program, and this evidence is the basis of renewed concerns. The laptop may have also come from the MEK.

Jahn writes “Based on its own information and intelligence from the U.S. and other board members, [the IAEA] has asked — in vain — for substantive explanations for what seem to be draft plans to refit missiles with nuclear warheads; explosives tests that could be used for a nuclear detonation; military and civilian nuclear links and a drawing showing how to mold uranium metal into the shape of warheads”. Jahn’s AP report filed today can be read in full here .

However, the Iran Affairs blog takes issue with much of the media representation of the “unusually tough” new IAEA report, that discusses how Iran has responded to questions about the “new” evidence allegedly contained on the laptop.

On 27 May, in a posting entitled “NY Times again misrepresents IAEA report on Iran”, Cyrus Safdari (corrected) writes: “I finally got the May 2008 IAEA report on Iran [n.b. it is dated a day earlier 26 May] and just as I guessed, the media have totally mischaracterized it, as usual”…

Safdari (corrected) helpfully posts a link to the confidential report here .

Then, Safdari (corrected) gives his take on the media misrepresentation: “As usual, the New York Times is the worst. According to the Times, the IAEA has accused Iran of a ‘willful lack of cooperation’ — but the report contains no such accusation whatsoever. That’s the Times’ own editorial commentary, inserted as if it was news and falsely attributed to the IAEA. This is the second time that the NY Times has put words in the IAEA’s mouth – previously the NY TImes falsely claimed that the IAEA had determined Iran’s disclosures were ‘inadequate’ and that Iran had missed a critical deadline — neither assertion was true, as I have discussed before … For example, as evidence of what the NYTimes claims is the IAEA’s supposed ‘frustration with Iran’s lack of openess’, the article points out that IAEA has said that Iran’s installation of new centrifuges were ‘significant, and as such should have been communicated to the agency’. The NY Times implies that Iran was caught doing something secret by the IAEA. Aha, but that’s not what the IAEA report says. In paragraph 11 of the report, the IAEA states that the Iran should have informed the IAEA of the centrifuge installation IF the ‘Subsidiary Arrangements’ (which sets a 60-day notice period) was in force — and paragraph 10 specifically says that this subsidiary arrangement is not in force with respect to Iran. So, Iran did inform the IAEA of the installation of the centrifuges, but just not within the full 60-day notice period specified in the Subsidiary Arrangements. (Iran had at one time voluntarily implemented these subsidiary arrangements when it had temporarily suspended enrichment under the terms of the Paris Agreement, but stopped doing so when it quite legally restarted its enrichment program after the EU-3 tried to cheat on the Paris Agreement by demanding that Iran turn its temporary suspension of enrichment into a permanent halt.) …’ Of course, the NY Times fails to mention that according to paragraph 5 of the same IAEA report, the centrifuges are all operating under IAEA safeguards, ‘continue to be operated as declared’, and have been the subject of 14 surprise visits — and so there’s nothing particularly ‘unexpected’ about Iran’s activities, nor can the centrifuges be used to make bombs since they”re under 24-hour monitoring by the IAEA”.

In addition, Safdari (corrected) writes, “The NY Times claims that the IAEA ‘was denied access to sites where centrifuge components were being manufactured and where research of uranium enrichment was being conducted’. — totally leaving out that according to paragraph 13 the same IAEA report, these were ‘transparency measures’ which is the IAEA’s way of referring to requests for inspections over and above what Iran is obligated to provide to the IAEA. Iran had a policy of allowing such transparency measures in the past but on an ‘ad hoc’ basis, and is under no obligation to allow them at all since they exceed what the IAEA Safeguards Agreement require of Iran … According to the report, the IAEA was in several cases not able to actually provide these same ‘alleged studies’ documents to Iran, because the IAEA didn’t even have the documents itself or was not ‘permitted’ to share them with Iran. So, rather than Iran ‘failing’ to provide documentation, it was the IAEA which failed to provide documentation. Iran was nevertheless expected to disprove allegations supposedly contained in documents that the IAEA itself didn’t have or was not allowed to show to Iran. For example, in paragraph 21, the IAEA report states: ‘Although the Agency had been shown the documents that led it to these conclusions, it was not in possession of the documents and was therefore unfortunately unable to make them available to Iran’. Also, in paragraph 16, the IAEA report states: ‘The Agency received much of this information only in electronic form and was not authorised to provide copies to Iran’.”

Safdari (corrected) continues: “Other significant facts about the IAEA report that the NY Times sees fit not to print: that the IAEA doesn’t have any nuclear weapons information (paragraph 24), Iran has continued to provide access to the IAEA inspectors and allowed inspections required by its safeguards agreement, and the IAEA has still found no diversion of nuclear material for non-peaceful uses … and that all of Iran’s enrichment activities, reprocessing activities, uranium conversion and heavy water reactor construction programs continue to be operated under IAEA safeguards, exactly as they’re supposed to be conducted”. Daftari’s dissection of the NYTimes story on the latest IAEA report on Iran can be read in full here .

On 28 May, Safdari (corrected) reports in his Iran Affairs blog that “both the NY Times and the Washington Post have editorials today repeating the same lies and attacking the IAEA. They both for example claim that Iran has ‘blocked inspections’ without mentioning that according to the IAEA report itself, these were ‘transparency visits’ that Iran was not legally required to permit but Iran had otherwise allowed all the required inspections. The Washington Post claims that Iran installed centrifuges without providing the ‘required notification’ (nevermind that the notificiation was not in fact required, according to the report itself.) The NY Times tries to make a big deal out of alleged involvment of Iranian defense industry involvement (as if defense contractors such as GE or Lockheed in the US aren’t similarly involved in civilian industries too.)” This post can be read in full here .

Thoughts from a Gore Vidal interview

Here are some excerpts from an apparently rare interview with Gore Vidal in last Sunday’s (25 May) issue of The Independent. The interview was done by Robert Chalmers:

“You would consider yourself to be living under a dishonourable regime?” “Absolutely.”

“With a corrupt president?” “Yes.”

“Who cheated his way to power?” “Oh, yes.”

“Is this the most pernicious US government you have ever experienced?” “Yes. It is inconceivably bad. There is nothing that one could ever have imagined to be so bad.”

“So what hope do you have for what you’ve described as the American Empire?” “None. It’s finished.”

“How do you see it ending?” “No more money.”

He has talked many times about his readiness to proceed – serenely – through what he terms “the exit door”. “What do you expect to find on the other side?” “Nothing.” …
“But you’re convinced that, to put it crudely, when you die, that’s it.” “No,” Vidal replies. “I wouldn’t say: ‘When you die, that’s it.’ I’d say: ‘When you’re born, that’s it.'”

The full interview can be read here .

Relief aid after Myanmar cyclone tragedy

It appears that just as the revelation that Holocaust bank accounts had been retained for decades by Swiss banks without much effort to identify survivors or heirs was used to wrench modifications in the secrecy provisions that were the Swiss banking system’s greatest pride and asset, the disaster caused by the recent cyclone in Myanmar is being used to pry that secretive and closed regime open as well.

China Hand has posted, on his blog China Matters, http://chinamatters.blogspot.com/, on 20 May about his/her “unwillingness to accept at face value the assertions in the international media that the government’s response to the cyclone has been callous and criminally incompetent. Myanmar was knocked on its behind by Cyclone Nargis. Any government response will be, by some measure, inadequate. That’s why these things are called ‘disasters … What is not getting into Myanmar is foreign aid teams that the UN and the USA are insisting must be admitted in order to make independent assessments without Myanmar government input of how and where aid should be distributed. The United States attempted, unsuccessfully, to make admission of its assessment teams a precondition for supply of aid during the initial rescue stage, but quietly abandoned this unpalatable and unnecessary demand. Now that disaster relief is moving into the recovery and reconstruction stage, the US assessment team demand has reemerged as a linchpin of American strategy and a mainstay of its propaganda campaign against the Myanmar regime. Reporting this situation as ‘not letting in aid’ is, in my opinion, misleading and dishonest”.

China Hand also wrote in that post an assertion that “the United States is playing politics with aid relief in order to put pressure on the Myanmar regime”.

Today, China Hand has given an update of his/her views on what’s happening in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis:

What the Myanmar regime is doing:

Disaster relief on a brutal triage basis.

Exerting iron control over the delta to make sure it is the only viable aid conduit (it is becoming more apparent that the Myanmar military does have a significant presence in the delta and its guiding priorities are not simply disaster relief: they are control of the population and control of the aid process—objectives we find reprehensible—that are part of an integrated strategy to successfully extract aid and diplomatic engagement from other countries. In other words, a carefully conceived and executed—and apparently successful– strategy to leverage the cyclone survivors as hostages.)

Accepting civilian aid that it distributes according to its priorities and objectives.

Not accepting military aid. (Foreign military flights are probably impossible even after the junta controls the situation in the delta and allows foreign aid workers on the scene).

What it is not doing:

Not accepting aid. This canard has caused a lot of heat and confusion that has obscured the true nature of what’s happening in the delta. It’s not incompetent, malign neglect—it’s the planned and energetic imposition of regime control over the disaster scene and the aid process—and the acceptance of no-strings-attached assistance from friendly or apolitical parties and dump-and-go aid.

What the Burmese people are doing:

The bulk of disaster relief, heroically, as local communities always do, even in horrific catastrophes of this magnitude

What in-country NGOs and their largely Burmese volunteer staffs are doing:

A tremendous job

What NGOs without a local presence are doing:

Looking for an aid mechanism that will assist them in playing a meaningful but secondary role

What the United States, France, and the UK are doing:

Worrying excessively about the junta gaining an undeserved political and economic bonanza from the disaster

What they are not doing:

Effective, large-scale disaster relief

What they should not be doing:

Trying to strip control of the aid process from the junta by advancing doomed-to-fail humanitarian intervention agendas

What ASEAN and the UN are doing:

Doing the right thing and organizing apolitical relief and a mechanism that will allow foreign aid to flow—that will unfortunately benefit the junta.

What the free-Burma organizations are doing:

Seething in justifiable frustration as the junta exploits the disaster to advance its economic and political agenda

What should be done:

Engage apolitically with the junta despite its corruption and brutality to restore the physical infrastructure of the delta and get the monsoon paddy planted.

What should be done after the basic physical security and livelihood of the people in the delta has been secured:

Link reconstruction and development aid to political reforms”.

Good job, China Hand.

Read the full posts on 20 and 29 May here .

Archbishop Tutu will travel to Gaza through Egypt this week on UN Mission

The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva reported on Sunday evening that an independent High Level Fact-Finding Mission led by Archbishop Desmond Tutu (of South Africa) would be traveling to Gaza on 27 and 28 May – and entering from Egypt through the Rafah crossing.

The High Level Fact-Finding Mission to Beit Hanoun was established and authorized by the UN Human Rights Council after a Special Session in Geneva, following an IDF tank attack on two homes in the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun during an IDF operation against Palestinian militants just before dawn in November 2006 in which 19 persons were killed, including 7 children – most of them still sleeping.

After several weeks of cooling their heels in Geneva, the Mission was “postponed” in January 2007.

“There were several previous efforts to go, but they never came to fruition – they never got the necessary clearances, so the Mission was officially left in suspense”, one UN official said from Geneva.

“Israel wouldn’t give permission for the UN Mission, or Egypt either”, the UN official said. “The shift has been on the Egyptian side”.

This development comes as Egyptian-led negotiations are apparently nearing conclusion on some kind of truce between Israel and Hamas.

The Egyptian Embassy in Tel Aviv was asked for a comment, but has not yet replied.

“It was sorted out in the last couple of weeks, and everybody signed off on it over the past couple of days”, another UN official from Jerusalem told Al-Bayan on Monday.

Archbishop Tutu will be accompanied on this Mission by Professor Christine Chinkin, of the Centre for the Study of Human Rights at the London School of Economics.

A UN press release says that the Mission is “scheduled to hold a range of meetings in Gaza, including with survivors and witnesses of the attack on 8 November 2006”.

A more recent similar tragedy occurred in Beit Hanoun at the end of April this year, when a mother and her four children were killed while having breakfast. Palestinian eyewitnesses thought that these deaths had been caused by an IDF tank shell exploding beside the family home. But, an Israeli investigation asserted that in fact the Israeli Air Force had fired at a group of Palestinian militants carrying weapons, and that a secondary explosion of those weapons caused the blast that killed the young family.

Aryeh Mekel, spokesperson for the Israeli Foreign Ministry, expressed surprise to hear about the plans, and said he would check to see if anybody in the Foreign Ministry was aware of the imminent visit.

Asked about coordination, Mekel said: “We are not in Gaza … Do you think our soldiers would protect somebody in Gaza?”

Mr. Mekel later returned this reporter’s call, with this comment: “What we know is that Desmond Tutu was appointed by the Human Rights Council to investigate something that happened two years ago. Our position is that we will of course allow Desmond Tutu to enter Israel if he wants to do so — he’s a well-known personality, and he is welcome. But we will not cooperate with him if he intends to investigate this event of two years ago. The reasons is that the UN Human Rights Council has an unbalanced attitude toward Israel”.

In addition, Mr. Mekel said that “We are not aware that Desmond Tutu is in Cairo [n.b.,he may be arriving just today], and we have not heard of this thing [the Mission], apparently for a long time, the last time was about a year ago”.

Normally, however, coordination would at least assure that IDF forces who might carry out operations in Gaza during the period of the visit would be aware that a UN Mission would also be there.

Both UN officials contacted today said they were “not sure” how the coordination was being done”.

Presumably, the South African government would have made some kind of representation on behalf of Archbishop Tutu, and perhaps the British government might have done the same on behalf of Professor Chinkin.

The Fact-Finding Mission is meeting up today in Cairo, will be driving to Rafah on Tuesday, and hopes to spend Tuesday and Wednesday and early Thursday in Gaza, including a planned visit to meet survivors in Beit Hanoun. They will be leaving for Cairo on Thursday and flying out from Cairo on Friday.

Archbishop Tutu will formally report back to the Human Rights Council in Geneva during its September session. He has previously denounced, in speeches to the Human Rights Council, the foot-dragging by Israel on approval for this Mission.

However, he is also expected to give a press conference during his time in Gaza.

A great controversy arose out of remarks that Archbishop Tutu made to a conference in the United States in 2007, after which he was accused of anti-Semiitism. Following a detailed examination of a full transcript of his remarks, Jewish groups then denounced the hasty condemnation of Archbishop Tutu, and most of the effects were rescinded.

According to the transcript, what Archbishop Tutu said was: “My heart aches. I say why are our memories so short? Have our Jewish sisters and brothers forgotten the humiliation of wearing yellow arm bands with the Star of David? Have my Jewish sisters and brothers forgotten the collective punishment? The home demolitions? Have they forgotten their own history so soon? And have they turned their back on their profound noble and religious traditions? Have they forgotten that their God, our God, is a God who sides with the poor, the despised, the down trodden? That this is a moral universe? That they will never, they will never get true security and safety from the barrel of a gun? That true peace can ultimately be built only on justice and equity? We condemn the violence of suicide bombers. And if Arab children are taught to hate Jews, we condemn the corruption of young minds too. But we condemn equally unequivocally the violence of military incursions and reprisals that won’t let ambulances and medical personnel reach the injure; that wreak an unparalleled revenge, totally imbalanced, even with the Torah’s law of an eye for an eye – which was designed actually to restrict revenge to the perpetrator and perhaps those supporting him”.

NOW they notice!

Haaretz reported Friday, with some surprise, that Gaza sewage has been pumped straight into the Mediterranean since last January, when the Gaza power plant last had to shut down for lack of fuel, and it was feared that sudden electricity outages could cause catastrophic sewage flooding in Gaza that might even threaten human life (as it did just over a year ago).

Akiva Eldar reported in Haaretz that a UN report says that “Millions of liters of sewage have been released over the past three months into the Mediterranean Sea from the Gaza Strip, according to a new United Nations report. According to the report, an estimated 50-60 million liters of waste have been pumped into the sea. This was done in an effort to prevent an overflow of sewage in residential areas. Normally, the sewage is pumped to prearranged sites for treatment, but the shortage of fuel in the Gaza Strip has caused disruptions in the supply of electricity. These shortages, lack of sufficient quantities of chemicals necessary for treating sewage, and spare parts, has led the Gaza officials to pump the waste into the sea. The report prepared by Office of the Coordinator for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) raises concerns that the untreated sewage is carrying Escherichia coli (e. coli) bacteria into the sea which may affect those swimming in its waters … The authors of the report also wrote that in areas where the sewage is pumped into the sea, the color of the water is dark brown and a strong odor emanates. Fishermen in Gaza bay claim the sewage has killed much of the fish in the area … The treatment plant requires constant electrical supply, and the OCHA report calls on Israel to lift its restrictions on fuel supplies to the Gaza Strip. OCHA says that unless electricity can run continuously it is impossible to make regular use of the sanitation equipment in the Strip. The UN is also calling on Israel to allow the transfer of materials and spare parts that are necessary to upgrade the sewage system, and which would allow the construction of three modern sewage treatment stations in the Strip”. This article can be read in full in Haaretz here .

A separate report in the Jerusalem Post says that “Gaza’s water authority has dumped 60 million liters of partially treated and untreated sewage into the Mediterranean Sea since January 24, the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a report released on Wednesday. ‘The sewage discharge is contaminating Gaza seawater and posing health risks for bathers and consumers of seafood. The sewage flows northward to Israeli coasts, including near the Ashkelon desalination plant. Urgent studies are needed to examine the extent of the impact’, the report reads. The report’s authors blamed Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip for the Gazans’ inability to treat the sewage … The UN said Gaza’s water authority, the Coastal Municipalities Water Utility, required 14 days of uninterrupted electricity to treat the sewage. The utility provides more than 130 million cubic meters of water per year, according to the report, 80 percent of which ends up as sewage. Moreover, because of the restrictions on imports and exports into and out of the Strip, spare parts needed to repair the sewage treatment plants had not been allowed in”…

Then, the JPost article contains defensive and misleading information such as: “a security source familiar with the situation told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday that the vast majority of Gaza’s electrical needs were being met by Israel and Egypt. ‘Gaza is receiving 141 megawatts a day out of [its normal requirements of] 200 megawatts at this time from Israel and Egypt’, the source said”. This JPost article can be read in full here .

OK. Let’s take this apart a little bit:
(1) If Gaza is receiving 141 MW a day at this time from Israel and Egypt, that means Israel is providing 124 MW of directly supplied electricity daily from Ashdod or Ashkelon — I think Ashkelon, but both have been reported with great assurance and authority in the Israeli media. And that would mean that Israel has rescinded the electricity cuts that the Israeli military authorized to start on 7 February — and it would only have done so if it realized that any electricity cuts could cause a potentially catastrophic humanitarian crisis that the Israeli military promised it will avoid.

(2) Gaza’s requirements are more than 200 MW a day — they were 240 MW in the winter, and may be just slightly less now, but will rise again as the summer heat sets in. Gaza has been experiencing at least 20% electricity shortfalls, which cause constant brown-outs and black-outs. But, let’s just go along with what this Israeli security source says for a moment: If Gaza normally requires 200 MW per day, and Israel and Egpyt are together supplying 141 MW a day, that means that somewhere, somehow, Gaza must be generating at least 59 MW per day on its own. However, it has not been able to do so, because the Israeli military-ordered fuel cuts affecting Gaza’s only power plant, which operates on Israeli-supplied, European-financed industrial diesel fuel, have restricted production to an average of 45-50 MW per day. Lately, it has only been able to generate 40 MW per day, because fuel deliveries have been short, because the Israeli military says there have been attacks from Gaza on the fuel transfer terminal at Nahal Oz. But, as Sari Bashi, executive director of the Israeli human rights organization GISHA — who has led a fight against these fuel and electricity cuts — says, “if the military can supply some fuel, why can’t it supply enough?”

BUT, we’ve been writing about this for months …

Then, this JPost article also says that Hamas should find a solution.

And, it then goes on to argue, in a hallucinatory fantasy, that sewage has been dumped from Gaza into the sea for years, so this is nothing new, and that the Gazans (now living under tightening Israeli sanctions) should cheerfully recycle this sewage waste water for agriculture, as happy Israelis are doing.

Again, let’s take this apart:
(1) sewage flowed into the sea from Gaza for years, yes, before the Oslo Peace Process started in 1993. After that, donors paid for various sanitation installations to treat this sewage. SOme of these installations have been damaged during IDF attacks. Now, those that were in working order have now been put out of service by the Israeli military-ordered fuel cuts, and by the lack of spare parts — again, banned by the IDF under its sanctions program against Hamas in Gaza — to conduct normal mantanence operations.

The JPost article reports that the spokesman for Israel’s Water Authority, Uri Schor, told its reporter that “The State of Israel assists in various ways to the pumping and water distribution and to the continued operation of the sewage treatment plants. That assistance includes approval to transfer most of equipment the Palestinian Authority has requested – the rest is in the process of being verified – and all the diesel fuel necessary to run the plants“. The JPOst adds, faithfully, that “Schor added: ‘These plants had not been affected by any cutbacks to electricity’ [and] Schor suggested the PA follow Israel’s example and use treated sewage water for agriculture in place of potable water. ‘Right now, 70% of Israel’s sewage is treated and recycled, and the plan is to recycle all of it. In the PA, all of the agriculture uses freshwater, and using recycled sewage water would enable the Palestinians to redirect tens of millions of cubic meters of water for household use’, he said. Responsible management by the PA would add a respectable amount of expensive freshwater to their supply, he said”…

Yes, sure, but the PA includes the West Bank, which is not under these Israeli military-controlled sanctions that affect Gaza, and except that the supposed freshwater in Gaza is brackish because of seawater infusions due to overpumping of the water tables — some of the overpumping was/is being done by Israel …

"Our eyes have the right to shed tears…"

A Sudanese journalist working for Al-Jazeera Television was released from Guantanamo prison camp yesterday after six years of detention and sixteen months on a hunger strike. He was never charged with any crime.

Upon his arrival in Sudan, he was carried off the plane on a stretcher, and taken straight to the hospital.

AP quoted him as telling Al-Jazeera from his hospital bed: “Thank God … for being free again … Our eyes have the right to shed tears after we have spent all those years in prison. … But our joy is not going to be complete until our brothers in Guantanamo Bay are freed … Some of our brothers live without clothing” .

AP reported that “Al-Haj was detained in December 2001 by Pakistani authorities as he tried to enter Afghanistan to cover the U.S.-led invasion. He was turned over to the U.S. military and taken in January 2002 to Guantanamo Bay, where the United States holds some 275 men suspected of links to al-Qaida and the Taliban, most of them without charges. Reprieve, the British human rights group that represents 35 Guantanamo prisoners including al-Haj, said Pakistani forces apparently seized al-Haj at the behest of the U.S. authorities who suspected he had interviewed Osama bin Laden. But that ‘supposed intelligence’ turned out to be false, Reprieve said in a news release … Attorney Zachary Katznelson of Reprieve, who met al-Haj at Guantanamo on April 11, said … ‘Sami is a poster child for everything that is wrong about Guantanamo Bay: No charges, no trial, constantly shifting allegations, brutal treatment, no visits with family, not even a phone call home … Sami was never alleged to have hurt a soul, and was never proven to have committed any crimes. Yet, he had fewer rights than convicted mass murderers or rapists. What has happened to American justice?’ ”

The AP story added that “Al-Haj was never prosecuted at Guantanamo so the U.S did not make public its full allegations against him. But in a hearing that determined that he was an enemy combatant, U.S. officials alleged that in the 1990s, al-Haj was an executive assistant at a Qatar-based beverage company that provided support to Muslim fighters in Bosnia and Chechnya. The U.S. claimed he also traveled to Azerbaijan at least eight times to carry money on behalf of his employer to the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation, a now defunct charity that U.S. authorities say funded militant groups. The officials said during this period that he met Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, a senior lieutenant to Osama bin Laden who was arrested in Germany in 1998 and extradited to the United States. Officials did not provide details”.

AP also said that “The military alleged he was a courier for a militant Muslim organization, an allegation his lawyers denied. Al-Haj said he believed he was arrested because of U.S. hostility toward Al-Jazeera and because the media was reporting on U.S. rights violations in Afghanistan”.

The AP story can be read in full here .

IDF says it killed Reuters camaraman in Gaza without knowing he was a journalist

Haaretz is reporting that the Israeli Defense Forces is saying that its troops who killed Reuters cameraman in Gaza didn’t know they were firing at TV crew: “Israel Defense Forces troops were unable to identify Reuters News cameraman Fadel Shana as a journalist before they fired at him from a tank, the army said on Wednesday, citing the preliminary results of an investigation. Shana died while filming on a road in central Gaza on April 16. Five other Palestinians also died in the attack. Shana had been travelling in a vehicle that was marked with large press and TV stickers on the front and sides and was wearing blue body armour with ‘Press’ in large blue letters on a white fluorescent panel on the front. Responding to repeated requests for an official explanation of the incident, IDF spokeswoman Major Avital Leibovich said the army had not yet completed its investigation but would provide a full account as soon as possible. ‘The initial investigation showed they were not identified as members of the press’, she said … Reuters News editors met Leibovich and representatives of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s office on Wednesday to urge the Israeli military to share the findings of its investigation. ‘We owe it to the family of Fadel Shana and journalists working for Reuters and other media organisations to establish exactly what happened two weeks ago’, said Mark Thompson, Reuters News managing editor for Europe, Middle East and Africa”. This report is published on Haaretz here .