[JURIST] A military jury at Fort Hood, Texas, has sentenced Army Spc. Charles Graner Jr. [Wikipedia profile] to 10 years in prison for abuses [AP photos] committed at the Abu Ghraib prison [GlobalSecurity.org backgrounder] in Baghdad. Earlier Saturday Graner took the stand in the sentencing phase of his trial, giving an "unsworn statement" immune from cross-examination for some three hours, during which time he called a lot of his own actions "criminal" and blamed Army superiors for giving orders prompting the maltreatment. AP has more on Graner's testimony here.
6:15 PM ET - AP now has a full story on the sentencing here.
[JURIST] Forty-six members of the Palestinian election commission [official website] resigned en masse Saturday, claiming that they had been improperly pressured to change procedures in the midst of the January 9th presidential vote. Senior commission officials claimed that campaign and intelligence officials associated with victorious candidate Mahmoud Abbas [BBC profile], sworn in Saturday [Reuters report], were behind the move to coax the commission into extending the vote by two hours [JURIST report]. The extension was almost immediately litigated [JURIST report] by a Palestinian human rights group complaining of problematic voter identification procedures during the extension, but the Palestinian Election Appeals Court ruled against them [JURIST report]. The resignations raised questions about Abbas' overwhelming win, but the officials who resigned today said that the changes did not significantly affect the final tally. AP has more.
[JURIST] Following up on a JURIST report from Thursday, Iranian Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi [Nobel profile] said Saturday she won't respond to a court summons from an Iranian Revolutionary Court [Iranian Judiciary official website] in spite of the risk of arrest. "The manner in which the summons has been arranged is illegal. I won't go to the court," Ebadi told the Associated Press, claiming the summons did not specify a reason for her to appear. US State Department officials have stated that they are monitoring the situation for any violation of international human rights standards [2003 State Dept. human rights report on Iran]. Read the State Department press release. Iranian Revolutionary Courts have tried and convicted intellectuals in the past in connection with issues ranging from political reform and national security. AP has more.
[JURIST] Due to security concerns surrounding the upcoming January 30 elections, authorities in Iraq have agreed to let voters register and cast ballots on the same day in the troubled provinces of Anbar [Wikipedia article] and Ninawa [Wikipedia article]. The two provinces, home to the cities of Fallujah [BBC profile] and Mosul [Wikipedia article], have experienced numerous clashes between insurgents and US forces and questions have been raised as to whether voting would proceed there; earlier this week members of the local election commission in Anbar resigned en masse [JURIST report] and went into hiding. The chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq [official website], Abdul-Hussein Hendawi, said he expected a preliminary vote count late on January 30 with a final vote tally available within ten days. AP has more. BBC News offers a backgrounder on the Iraqi elections.
[JURIST] Federal Communications Commission [official website] chairman Michael Powell ordered an investigation [PDF statement] Friday into whether political commentator Armstrong Williams [media website; Wikipedia profile] improperly failed to disclose that he was paid by the Bush administration to support the president's education plan. Williams was paid $240,000 as part of a commitment the Department of Education had with public relations firm Ketchum [corporate website; Ketchum CEO Ray Kotcher offers this op-ed on the controversy] to promote their education plan. The agreement included ads with Education Secretary Rod Paige to endorse the controversial No Child Left Behind Act [Education Dept. website]. Though both Williams and Paige maintain that the agreement was legal, President Bush said in an interview published Friday that the Cabinet "needs to take a good look and make sure this kind of thing doesn't happen again." AP has more.
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