Retired Chilean army colonel Pedro Espinoza and former Chilean air force intelligence agent Rafael González Berdugo have been convicted in the murder of US journalist Charles Horman and US graduate student Frank Teruggi during the days after the Sept. 11, 1973 military coup that overthrew leftist president Salvador Allende Gossens. Judge Jorge Zepeda sentenced Espinoza—formerly an officer in the now-defunct National Intelligence Directorate (DINA) who has been described as the right-hand man of DINA head Manuel Contreras—to seven years in prison for the two murders. González Berdugo was sentenced to two years of police surveillance as an accomplice in Harmon's murder. Judge Zepeda ruled in the case on Jan. 9 but the decision wasn't announced until Jan. 28. Last summer the judge officially ruled that "US military intelligence services played a fundamental role in the murders" by supplying information to the Chilean military. (El Ciudadano, Chile, Jan. 31)
Tens of thousands of Dominicans born to undocumented immigrants were set to become stateless when a deadline to regularize their status passed on Feb. 1, according to the London-based human rights organization Amnesty International (AI). "Even if these people are able to stay in the Dominican Republic after the deadline expires, their futures are woefully uncertain," AI Americas director Erika Guevara Rosas said in a statement. The people at risk are mostly Haitian descendants who were affected by Decision 168-13, a ruling by the Constitutional Tribunal (TC) in September 2013 declaring that no one born to undocumented immigrant parents since 1929 was a citizen. Their situation was supposed to be remedied by Law 169/14, which was passed in May 2014 to set up a process for people to regularize their status. AI says the law's implementation has been inadequate.
The government of Haitian president Michel Joseph Martelly presented a group of reporters with cash gifts during a reception on Dec. 23, according to an open letter published on Jan. 26 by the management of Radio Kiskeya. Reporters with press credentials for presidential functions were given "envelopes containing 50,000 gourdes [about US$1,065] and 40,000 gourdes [about US$852] respectively," the station wrote. Recipients said President Martelly had offered them what he called "a little gift whose small size they shouldn't take offense at," and then referred them to his spokesperson, Lucien Jura, and Esther Fatal, head of the Communication Office of the Presidency; the two officials gave the journalists the envelopes.
Amnesty International (AI) said Feb. 1 it has gathered evidence that the Egyptian government is covering up the deaths of more than two dozen people in protests on the anniversary of the 2011 uprising. Twenty-seven people died in protests last week, including two women, a 10-year-old child and two members of the security forces. AI found that security forces fired shotguns and tear gas against nonviolent crowds and failed to stop clashes among protesters for several hours. The rights group said its investigators have reviewed testimonies from witnesses, photographs and video footage, but the government has threatened and detained witnesses present at the demonstrations to keep them from testifying against security forces. Prosecutors are also reportedly refusing to reveal where the detained protesters are being held and have not permitted lawyers to file complaints. AI is urging that:
A photographer for the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem was injured on Feb. 1 after being hit by an Israeli settler vehicle in Hebron, the man told Ma'an News Agency. Raed Jihad Abu Rmeila, 28, told Ma'an he "suffered from bruises" after being hit by a car driven by an Israeli settler while walking to work near the Ibrahimi mosque. He was taken to Hebron governmental hospital in moderate condition. Abu Rmeila said he could not determine whether he was hit on purpose or by mistake. He said he was walking on the pedestrian side of the yellow line when he was struck.
Well, probably not, but maybe we can get some hits by throwing cold water on the inflammatory claims. Russia Today of course jumps on a report in Pakistan's Express-Tribune Jan. 28 claiming that the ISIS commander for the country confessed under interrogation that he has been receiving funds through the United States. Authorities said Yousaf al Salafi was arrested in Lahore Jan. 22—although "sources" said he was actually arrested in December and it was only disclosed on Jan. 22. An anonymous "source" also said: "During the investigations, Yousaf al-Salafi revealed that he was getting funding—routed through America—to run the organization in Pakistan and recruit young people to fight in Syria." Unnamed "sources" said al-Salafi's revelations were shared with the US Secretary of State John Kerry during his recent visit to Islamabad, and with CentCom chief Gen. Lloyd Austin during his visit earlier in January. "The US has been condemning the IS activities but unfortunately has not been able to stop funding of these organizations, which is being routed through the US," the "source" taunted. OK, could be, but we are a little tired of the current craze for anonymous and therefore unverifiable sources.
Venezuelan military authorities on Jan. 30 issued new regulations allowing soldiers to use deadly force against demonstrators if they feel that their lives are at risk. Defense Ministry chief Vladimir Padrino in announcing the new regs, known as Resolution 8610, recalled last year's unrest, which left 43 people dead, including members of the security forces. The Venezuelan ombudsman, Tarek Williams Saab of the Defensor del Pueblo, said the regulations are "clear on the progressive and differentiated use of force," and will "protect the human rights and guarantees of demonstrators." Marcela Maspero of the National Workers Union (UNETE), usually an ally of the ruling party, said the regulations pose "a direct threat to the working class," asserting: "It is the workers who have been the main participants in the social protests in the country in the last few years." (BBC News, TeleSUR, TeleSUR, Jan. 30)
The Cairo Appeals Court for Urgent Matters on Jan. 31 banned and declared the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades to be a terrorist group. Qassam Brigades is the armed branch of Hamas, which is itself an offshoot of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood. The ruling is based on allegations by Egyptian officials that Qassam Brigades played a role in the bombing attacks on the Sinai Peninsula last October, and that members have been smuggling weapons from the Gaza Strip into Egypt. Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri described the verdict as a "dangerous" promotion of Israel's occupation of Palestine.