Lawyers seek to bar statements obtained by torture
Legal Topics | 2008/04/07 16:39

Lawyers for Guantanamo Bay detainee Salim Ahmed Hamdanon Friday asked a military tribunal to bar the use of statements made by Hamdan that were allegedly obtained through the use of torture and requested that the court declare that Hamdan has been subjected to abusive interrogation techniques. Hamdan contends that he was subjected to prolonged periods of isolation and beatings at the hands of US interrogators and that any statements he has made while in custody are unreliable. The motion argues that the use of these statements would violate the US Constitution, international law and the 2006 Military Commissions Act, which allows evidence obtained through coercion to be introduced if it is reliable, but excludes the use of statements obtained through torture. A spokesman for the Pentagon denied the allegations and said that detainees are treated humanely.

Hamdan has been in US custody since 2001 when he was captured in Afghanistan and accused of working as Osama Bin Laden's driver. In 2006 he successfully challenged US President George W. Bush's military commission system when the Supreme Court ruled that the commission system as initially constituted violated US and international law. Congress subsequently passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006, but Hamdan and a number of other Guantanamo detainees ave argued that the current law still violates their rights. Last month, a military judge affirmed a prior ruling report that Hamdan's lawyers may send written questions to Khalid Sheik Mohammedand other alleged high-level al Qaeda detainees to facilitate the discovery of evidence on the issue of whether Hamdan was an al Qaeda agent who conspired in the USS Cole or Sept. 11 attacks.



Federal court decertifies status of cigarette lawsuit
Legal Topics | 2008/04/04 16:33

The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit Thursday overturned class action certification for a lawsuit brought by "light" cigarette smokers against Philip Morris USA Inc., R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and other light cigarette makers. The class action, which included anyone who has ever bought light cigarettes since they hit the market in the 1970s, had alleged that tobacco companies used deceptive advertising tactics to mislead smokers in response to growing health concerns over the risks of smoking cigarettes. Attorneys for the tobacco companies argued that determining why every light cigarette consumer bought the product would be impossible and therefore made class certification impractical.

In September 2006, Judge Jack B. Weinstein of the United States District Court in Brooklyn certified the class of 50 million plaintiffs for the class-action suit. Lawyers estimated that sales of light cigarettes brought tobacco companies between $120 billion and $200 billion in extra sales since 1971.



Federal court strikes down new patent rules
Legal Topics | 2008/04/02 16:10

The US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia on Tuesday rejected new US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) rules that would have retroactively limited the number of claims that can be included in a patent application and the number of times a continuation application can be filed for a given invention. The court ruled that the new rules were "substantive in nature" and therefore beyond the scope of the USPTO's authority to govern the submission procedure of patent application.

The lawsuit challenging the new rules was brought by pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, which has approximately 100 applications pending at the USPTO. Supporting the company was the American Intellectual Property Law Association (AIPLA), which filed an amicus curiae brief. In October, a judge enjoined the USPTO from implementing the new rules pending a ruling on their validity.



Taking A Look At Surveillance
Legal Topics | 2008/04/01 16:16

US Attorney General Michael Mukasey said Friday that he was willing to compromise with Congress on legislation amending the Foreign Intelligence Security Act but that the legislature would have to provide a "workable bill". Mukasey said that the bill passed by the US House of Representatives last week, which did not provide retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that participated in the NSA warrantless surveillance program, did not meet this threshold. Last month, the Senate passed a version of the bill that did provide retroactive immunity to the companies. Mukasey stopped short of urging the House to adopt that version of the bill, however, and instead expressed hope that a compromise could be reached between the House bill and the Bush administration, which supports the immunity provision.

Mukasey's comments come roughly a week after President Bush said again that he would veto any FISA amendment legislation that did not include the immunity provision. The House bill would defer the issue of immunity to the courts to be resolved on a case-by-case basis, but would also allow the cases to be heard in closed-door hearings. Last month, Mukasey and US Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell said that vital intelligence had been lost while telecommunications companies circumvented wiretapping orders as they waited for word on whether the immunity provision would be included in the new legislation. Mukasey said that the relationship between the private companies and the government had since been repaired and that intelligence gathering activities were now running smoothly.



Supremes weigh habeas rights of US citizens held in Iraq
Legal Topics | 2008/03/27 16:24

The US Supreme Court heard oral arguments Tuesday in the consolidated cases of Munaf v. Geren and Geren v. Omar where the Court is considering whether federal courts have jurisdiction over habeas corpus petitions filed by American citizens detained by US military personnel operating under a multinational force. The cases also present the issue of whether a federal court would have jurisdiction over a habeas petition filed by an American citizen if a foreign court convicted the citizen of a crime, but the citizen is still in the physical custody of American authorities. Mohammad Munaf was convicted and sentenced to death for the kidnapping of three Romanian journalists in Baghdad, and the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled in April 2007 that it lacked authority to interfere with the Iraqi court case. Two months earlier, however, the same court ruled that Shawqi Omar, arrested for allegedly harboring insurgents in Iraq, has a right to argue his case in US courts. The appeals court blocked Omar's transfer to Iraqi courts. Earlier this month, Munaf's conviction was overturned by an Iraqi appeals court. Lawyers for the detainees argued that because they are in US custody, they should have access to US courts, but several justices seemed to reject that argument, noting that could lead to any Multi-National Force-Iraq detainee challenging their arrest in US courts. AP has more.

The Court also heard oral arguments in United States v. Ressam, where "millennium bomber" Ahmed Ressam is challenging his conviction under 18 USC § 844(h)(2), which authorizes a mandatory minimum ten year jail term for anyone carrying explosives while committing a felony. In Ressam's case, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit dismissed the count as the underlying felony - lying on customs papers - was not related to the explosives charge. Ressam has been sentenced to 22 years in prison  for plotting to blow up Los Angeles International Airport on New Year's Eve 1999. US Attorney General Michael Mukasey argued the case on behalf of the government.



Guantanamo Claims Before EU Court of Human Rights
Legal Topics | 2008/03/26 16:33
Six Guantanamo Bay prisoners, whose case was heard by the USSupreme Court in December, filed claims in the European Court of HumanRights in Strasbourg against Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Bosnianauthorities failed for many years to take any steps to negotiate andsecure the men’s release from Guantanamo. The claims address thetorture and other inhumane and degrading treatment the men havesuffered during the six years since they were illegally delivered byBosnia to US forces and taken to Guantanamo.

Thefilings describe in chilling detail the indignities, injuries, tortureand terror inflicted by US military personnel on the six men in thecourse of their imprisonment at Guantanamo. Accompanying medicalopinions describe the resulting destruction of their physical andmental health. Beginning with a 30 hour flight on which he wasshackled, and blindfolded and through the ensuing years when he hasbeen subjected to extended periods of sleep deprivation, solitaryconfinement, assault during interrogation and threats of rape, Mr.Boumediene, like the 5 others, has suffered life shattering physicaland mental injuries.

Mr. Ait Idir, who was taken from hispregnant wife in violation of a Bosnian court order to free him,detailed multiple beatings by rogue guards, extended periods ofisolation from other prisoners and multiple occasions when he wasopenly denied needed medical treatment. In one especially gruesomeattack, Mr. Ait Idir describes how, while his hands and feet were tied,rogue guards stuffed a flowing hose into his mouth, repeatedly slammedhis head and torso into steel and concrete surfaces, lowered his faceand head into a toilet and inflicted blows of such force that his headand face were paralyzed for months.


High court rejects anti-Clinton movie case
Legal Topics | 2008/03/25 16:28

WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court has rejected aconservative group's legal fight to air commercials promoting a moviecritical of Sen. Hillary Clinton.

The Supreme Court rejected an appeal in a case involving ads for a movie critical of Sen. Hillary Clinton.

The case, rejected on jurisdictional grounds, was appealed after afederal District Court refused to issue a preliminary injunctionclearing the way for the promotions.

At issue was whetherbroadcast ads promoting the 90-minute documentary "Hillary: The Movie"are subject to strict campaign finance laws on political advocacy, orwould be considered a constitutionally protected form of commercialspeech.

Citizens United, a Washington-based advocacyorganization, had urged the justices to accept its appeal on anexpedited basis this spring, in time for the ads to have an impact onthe election season.

Clinton is in a tight race for the Democratic presidential nomination with Sen. Barack Obama.



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