[JURIST] African leaders lifted sanctions against Togo [JURIST Country archive] Saturday following the resignation of Togolese president Faure Gnassingbe [BBC profile] late Friday evening. Gnassingbe's decision to step down came amid regional and international pressure for his resignation after he was put into power by the nation's military following the death of his father, President Gnassingbe Eyadema. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) [official website] stated that Togo "would be welcomed back into the fold' and re-instatement of the country's recently revoked African Union [official website] membership is likely to follow. Togo's Parliament has named Abass Bonfoh, a member of the ruling party, as acting president until elections in April. Togo's parliament made several amendments to the country's constitution that allowed Gnassingbe to fulfill his father's term. Reuters has more.
[JURIST] The US military has ordered the release of six more Guantanamo Bay [JURIST Hot Topic] and ordered a further 30 to remain in custody at the prison camp. The releases were ordered Friday after Combatant Status Review Tribunals [DOD press release] determined the detainees were not "enemy combatants". The Pentagon says eighteen detainees have been ordered released so far, though only one has avtually been freed. The rest remain at the US naval base pending discussions about their transfer between the State Department and their home governments. To date, the review panels have ordered 440 prisoners to remain in custody. AP has more.
[JURIST] US Army Sergeant Kevin Benderman will face a general court-martial on charges of desertion and missing movement [JURIST report] after he failed to report for his unit's deployment flight to Iraq on January 7, according to a military spokesman at Fort Stewart, Georgia. Benderman contends he became opposed to the war, and gave notice to his commanders before deployment that he planned to seek discharge as a conscientious objector [DOD directive; PDF]. Conscientious objector status allows a soldier to receive discharge if he or she has a firm objection to war in any form or the bearing of arms" because of deeply held moral, ethical, or religious beliefs." If convicted Benderman faces up to seven years in prison and dishonorable discharge. Supporters of Benderman have established a defense website. AP has more.
[JURIST] Illinois lawmakers presented legislation Friday that could end the current state moratorium on executions. House Bill 2704 [text] calls for "guilt beyond any doubt" to replace the current penalty phase standard in capital cases of "guilt beyond a reasonable doubt." Jurors would still find guilt or innocence under the reasonable doubt standard, but a death sentence could only be imposed it the jury found no doubt of guilt. The legislation is intended to stop the wrongful convictions that lead then-Governor George Ryan to halt all executions in the state in 2000. Before leaving office in 2003, Ryan commuted the death sentences of 167 inmates, and since that time the Illinois Supreme Court has been given greater power to throw out unjust verdicts. AP has more.
[JURIST] A Yemeni appeals court Saturday upheld a death sentence against Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri [Wikipedia profile], a Saudi militant suspected of being a close associate of Osama Bin Laden. Nashiri and fellow militant Jamal al-Badawi had received death penalties for their role in the 2000 attack on the USS Cole [US Navy website], but Badawi's sentence was later reduced to fifteen years in his own appeal. Nashiri, tried in absentia while being held in the US, is also thought to have directed the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya [Wikipedia entry] . Reuters has more.
[JURIST] Struggling Russian oil company Yukos [corporate website] has asked that a US court reconsider its bid for bankruptcy protection. Yukos sought a new trial late Friday after Judge Leticia Clark Thursday dismissed [JURIST report] the company's initial bid to declare bankruptcy. The retrial motion relies on a section of the bankruptcy code that is governed by a standard of what is in the best interest of the estate. Attorneys for Yukos urge that dismissal of the case is not in the best interest of the estate and asked for a stay of the dismissal "while it pursues its post-judgment remedies." Yukos provides additional materials on its bankruptcy petition on a special website. AFP has more.
[JURIST] Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon [BBC profile], widely known for his high-profile investigations of terror and human rights cases, has urged an investigation into the crimes of former Spanish dictator General Francisco Franco [Wikipedia profile]. Garzon, who has attempted to try former Chilean President Augusto Pinochet and al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, among others, has called for a "truth commission" to uncover the abuses that occured during Franco's fascist rule from the end of the country's civil war in 1939 to his death in 1975. Reuters has more.
[JURIST] In an unexpected move Saturday, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak [official profile] ordered a change in the country's election laws to allow multiple candidates to run in presidential elections. The change would allow for the first multi-candidate election in Egypt since the 1952 revolution. The announcement comes in the wake of increased demands from opposition leaders that Mubarak amend the Egyptian constitution [text] to allow for more than one candidate to compete in a presidential election. Analysts speculate that mounting criticism from Washington over the arrest and detention of opposition leader Ayman Nour [BBC report], accused of forging signatures in an effort to secure a party license, also played a role in the decision. The Egyption Organization for Human Rights [advocacy website], a group which had denounced the detention of Nour [EOHR press release] as politically motivated, praised the election announcement of as a step towards freedom and democracy. AP has more.
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