Tuesday, July 17, 2012

US double-standard justice

When Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy promised, during his Tahrir Square speech to free Sheikh Omar Abdulrahman, I knew he was heading for trouble with the mighty US.

I was right. Soon after, anger was boiling in Washington. Conservative Republican Representative, Chairman of House Committee on Homeland Security, Peter King, among others, warned against the new Islamic boss in Cairo. Reminding fellow congressmen that the Sheikh had been imprisoned since 1993 on charges of inspiring terrorism, and that he had been sentenced in a court of justice, he accused Morsy of tolerating Islamic Jihadists and interfering in US legal matters. A State Department spokesperson insisted that the US judiciary is completely independent. They all presume that the American legal system is square and fair.

But is that so? Let’s do some fact checking here. Sheikh Omar was accused of encouraging terrorism with his fiery speeches. But he has not, in fact, been part of any actual terrorist act. He did not plan, encourage, or participate in a particular crime. Other charges against him were based on his presumed “intentions” to assassinate former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, and bomb American tunnels. No evidence was presented in court and he was denied access to lawyers. Former US Attorney General, William Ramsey Clark, attested that he reviewed 20,000 pages in the US case against the Sheikh and found not one piece of evidence.

There have been similar instances with evangelistic and right-wing American politicians and preachers. Didn’t a preacher threaten to burn the Qur’an, and didn’t a politician call for a nuclear bombing of Holy Makkah? Didn’t the George W. Bush administration promote “creative destruction” as the best way to reconstruct the Middle East, starting with Iraq? If hate speech and evil intentions are criminal acts punishable by life sentences, why were these criminals not charged and punished?

Sadly, all of this is not new. After its independence, the US tolerated hate speech as the holy right of free speech guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution. Native Americans, blacks, Marxists, socialists, Jews and others had to endure and pay for the laws and actions resulting from such speeches. Today, it is the Islamists who endure the most.

If we are talking about justice here, it should start at home. Besides the hate speakers, there are the US soldiers convicted of horrendous crimes against civilians and prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan, including rape, torture and mass killing. They escape true justice with a few months or years in prison, or with slaps on their wrists. Psychologists are hired to find excuses for them, such as that they cracked under pressure - but not so for the Muslim Egyptian Sheikh.

Sheikh Abdulrahman is blind, sick, weak and old (74), yet he is held  in solitary confinement  in a maximum security cell designed for young, strong and dangerous terrorists. He has been denied access to visitors, including lawyers and members of his family.

For a system built on serving and upholding passionate humanity, it is inhuman to treat a handicapped elderly person in this way. In a religious country that has strong faith and trust in God, it is wrong to treat a man of God with such brutality and humiliation.

Then what about the claim of so-called “interference in US legal matters”? The US government is never shy about interfering in the laws of other countries to free Americans. They have done it in China, Iran, and often in Egypt. Many Egyptian-Americans and Israelis convicted of espionage, drug trafficking and corruption were freed as a result of intense US pressure, including the threat of holding up US economic assistance. In recent cases, the accused were illegally smuggled out of the country.

Israel campaigned for years to free the most dangerous spy in US history. An American Jew, Jonathan Pollard, who worked as a Navy analyst, was convicted of selling over 1,000 top secret documents to Israel. Some of these documents dealt with American intelligence missions in the Middle East, others exposed American spies around the world, including the names of over 150 US agents in the Middle East, who were eventually “turned” into agents for Israel!

Documents related to the US nuclear deterrent against the Soviet Union and US agents operating there were given to the US arch enemy in exchange for increased Jewish emigration to Israel. As a result, all the American agents operating inside the USSR were “lost”.

Yet, no American politician dares question the right of Israel to defend its spy and demand his release. Never mind that (1) he was convicted in a US court of justice; (2) he endangered (not just intended to) high national security interests, including the loss of precious American lives; and (3) he is an American citizen - not an Israeli!

Mr. Morsy has every right to ask his country’s ally to free an Egyptian prisoner on humanitarian grounds. After all, Sheikh Omar has spent a long part (18 years) of his life term in tough, inhuman conditions, and his health is deteriorating. He cannot be of any future danger to the US, and the Egyptian president can and should guarantee that.

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