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Open Letter to the President of The Arab Republic of Egypt, Dr. Mohamed Morsi Isa El-Ayyat
Johannesburg, August 27, 2012
Dear Mr. President:I write you in my capacity of The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) Acting President, to express my deep disappointment and to protest the unlawful and hostile treatment I was subjected to at Cairo’s International Airport on Sunday, August 26, 2012 by the Egyptian security forces.
I had a 7-hour layover in Cairo and was going to enter the country to see Egyptian friends before boarding my connecting flight to South Africa scheduled on the same day. I was granted an entry approval at the airport. Shortly thereafter, I was called back and asked to wait. Then, my passport and travel documents were taken by the police. I was informed afterwards that I will not be allowed into the country due to “top secret reasons.”To no avail, I repeatedly asked about what the “top secret reasons” were, and why I was not informed of their nature even though they concerned me. I was told that it was a matter of “national security and intelligence.” I was not given the information because the security officials at the airport told me “they could not provide me with the reasons as they themselves did not have access to it.” Upon the arrival of my Egyptian attorney, he insisted on finding out why I was considered a threat to the national security of Egypt, and how they could deny me entry after they had stamped my passport with approval. In response, we were told that “if I insisted on not leaving voluntarily, I would be forcibly deported to Bahrain.” To further intimidate me, I was also informed that the Bahraini government had issued an arrest warrant with my name. I am afraid that this incident is not an isolated occurrence, but one of many to date where Bahraini human rights defenders are routinely subjected by Egyptian security forces. In April 2012 I was stopped at Cairo’s airport by security officials who attempted to deny me entry into Egypt. I was ultimately allowed in after my lawyer and your wonderful countrymen– Egyptian activists intervened. During my ordeal on this time, a police officer candidly admitted to me that I was eventually allowed in because according to him, there were protests going on in Egypt – which is not the case this time around. Earlier this year, my colleague and the actual president of the Bahrain Center of Human Rights, Nabeel Rajab was denied entry and returned to Bahrain by security officials at Cairo Airport. As you may know Mr. President, Mr. Rajab is currently imprisoned in Bahrain to punish him for his role as an outspoken human rights defender. In pre-revolution Egypt, authoritarian regimes like Bahrain found a diligent ally in Egyptian intelligence as they sought hinder the movement of human rights defenders. Such regimes, and others, eagerly outsourced their harassment to former Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak. Back then, it was always a risk for Bahraini and Arab human rights activists to travel to Egypt because of the former regime’s commitment to fellow dictatorships. Not long ago Mr. President, you were personally on the receiving end of these arbitrary and unjust practices as a dissident. I respectfully ask you today sir as a fellow Arab: How can such blatant disregard for the law and basic human dignities continue under your watch? As the acting president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, I write to inform you that I am gravely concerned, as a human rights defender, by the unjust and hostile treatment I was subjected to in Cairo’s airport.
Sincerely,Maryam Abdelhadi Al-Khawaja Acting President Bahrain Centre for Human Rights
By Robert Nolin, Sun Sentinel
Pot promoter: Feds have me in their sights
4:07 a.m. EDT, August 27, 2012
From notorious smuggler to ex-con to author and lecturer, Robert Platshorn has assumed several personas over his 69 years.
But now the West Palm Beach man’s latest incarnation — pitchman for pot use by seniors — has drawn unwelcome attention from the government, which, he says, is singling him out because of his advocacy.
“They want to stop me from advocating and would like me to be poor and quiet,” the parolee said. “They want to put the Tuna back in the can.”
The U.S. Parole Commission has thrown the full weight of its power upon him, he says, demanding spot urine tests, making unannounced visits and restricting his travel — and source of income.
Federal officials are aware of Platshorn’s complaints — they’re defending against a lawsuit he filed — but decline to discuss specifics of the case.
Platshorn, a member of the Black Tuna pot smuggling operation in the 1970s, served 30 years in prison and was released on parole about three years ago. Since then he has become the Johnny Appleseed of medicinal marijuana for the silver-haired set. He has argued for the legalization of pot at community centers and synagogues, and via billboards and videos such as “Should Grandma Smoke Pot?”
He has written a book, “The Black Tuna Diaries,” and travels the country on a “Silver Tour” to speak at pro-legalization rallies and legal conferences. Though on parole after his release, Platshorn was allowed to travel on book and lecture tours.
In May 2011, Platshorn received a message from the Parole Commission. “You are hereby discharged from mandatory parole,” it stated. “By this action you are no longer under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Parole Commission. You are commended for having responded positively to supervision.”
But Platshorn’s unusual mission attracted national media attention, and he’s been featured in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and on CNN. Last spring, after Platshorn’s parole officer died, a new one, Scott Kirsche, appeared at his door, cup in hand for a urine test.
“I read about your case, I know who you are and I know you’ve been smoking pot all along,” Platshorn quoted Kirsche as saying.
Platshorn attributed the increased scrutiny to his growing notoriety. “There’s definitely a correlation,” he said. “I’ve got a national reputation.”
Kirsche informed Platshorn that while he’d been told he was off parole, he still had eight years to serve of “special parole.”
Parole officers showed up unannounced at his house. Recorded calls would give him an hour to appear at the local parole office for questioning. He was put on a demanding urinalysis schedule.
“For a month they made me come in every Friday and give them a drop,” he said. “I’m getting ping-ponged. It’s definitely vindictive.”
Platshorn failed initial drug tests because he had been treating skin cancer lesions with cannabis oil legally purchased out of state as medicinal marijuana. He has since proven clean. “I’ve been very careful not to do anything wrong,” he said.
In July, two days before he was to speak before the American Bar Association in Chicago, Kirsche called. “He said you are not permitted to travel to promote the legalization of marijuana without the express permission of the U.S. Parole Commission,” Platshorn recalled.
“They know for certain it’s my only income,” he said of the speaking engagements. “I’ve missed five events now, each one means a couple of grand to me to supplement my $690 a month in Social Security.”
Parole Commission spokeswoman Johanna Markind said she couldn’t discuss Platshorn’s case, but said that travel restrictions are standard conditions for parole. He should also have known of his special parole status, she said.
Karen Goldstein of West Park, director of the Florida chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said Platshorn is being targeted.
“They’re uncomfortable with his activism, they’re trying to silence him,” she said. “It’s like double secret probation, like in ‘Animal House.’ “
Platshorn sued the Parole Commission in federal court. His attorney, Norm Kent of Fort Lauderdale, said government lawyers admitted they mistakenly told Platshorn his parole was terminated.
Kent said by law Platshorn is still under the Parole Commission’s control, but even so, he has a constitutional right to voice an opinion. “They are violating his fundamental First Amendment rights, even as a parolee,” he said. “If there is anybody who ought to have a right to protest against unjust marijuana laws it ought to be somebody who’s served 30 years in prison for them.”
Pot advocates are rallying behind Platshorn. Last week about 100 supporters left phone messages for Parole Commissioner Isaac Fulwood pleading for his discharge from parole.
“He’s bucking the system and they don’t like it,” said Kim Russell of Orlando, chairperson of People United forMedical Marijuana, who organized the phone-in. “It’s just wasting taxpayers’ dollars.”
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Copyright © 2012, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Early this week, two U.S. House Representatives members and the Tacoma News Tribune took clear stands against protecting women from sexual assault. Representatives Todd Akin, R-Missouri, and Steve King, R-Iowa, did so by promoting the concept of “legitimate rape.” The News Tribune did so by attacking the only real hope for combating the national pandemic of violence against Native women.As originally passed by the U.S. Senate, the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization legislation would allow tribes to exercise limited criminal jurisdiction over certain non-Indians who violate Native American women on Indian reservations. Tribes would be required to provide all rights accorded to defendants in state and federal court, and federal courts would have authority to review tribal court decisions that result in incarceration. The legislation would not raise the one-year maximum sentence that tribal courts can impose. The GOP-controlled House, however, omitted the protections for Indian women in its version of the bill. Among those voting to omit the tribal protections were vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan, U.S. Senate candidate Akin, and House Republican King. In an interview originally broadcast on Sunday, Akin suggested that an abortion would be unnecessary in the instance of a “legitimate rape” because apparently only non-legitimate rape leads to pregnancy — whatever that means. Chiming in agreement, fellow House Rep. King said that he’s never heard of a girl getting pregnant from statutory rape or incest. While Akin and King quickly recanted, they cannot as simply withdraw their votes against the Senate’s proposed protections for abused Native women. Also Monday, The News Tribune (editorial, “Protect Indian women without diluting Bill of Rights”) accused tribal governments of having “an agenda of their own: They see the domestic violence issue as a way to assert and reclaim broader sovereign powers.” The editorial is wrong. Indian Country sees the the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) reauthorization as a way to protect Indian women from being violently assaulted. The paper got one thing right, however. It did describe “an intolerable gap of justice” caused by the fact that tribes cannot assert jurisdiction over non-Indian perpetrators of violence and that federal and state governments are too busy to do so. This is the result of a 1978 the U.S. Supreme Court decision — a case that arose on Washington state’s own Kitsap Peninsula — which held that that tribal governments cannot criminally prosecute non-Indians. What has since resulted from Oliphant v. Suquamish Indian Tribe is a jurisdictional gap where non-Indians can enter Indian reservations and literally get away with murder — or, more commonly, rape. Indeed, sex offenders are now using Indian reservations as safe havens to commit sex crimes against Indian women. Consider these statistics: Native women suffer violent crime at the highest rates in the country.
On many reservations, Native women are murdered at a rate more than 10 times the national average.
Violent crime rates in Indian Country are more than 2.5 times the national rate; some reservations face a rate 20 times higher. The federal government has jurisdiction to convict these offenders, but it fails to do so. On some reservations, as few as three federal officers are responsible for patrolling millions of acres of land. These officers are typically located a substantial distance from tribal communities and are generally unaware of the exigency of many of the reported incidents of domestic violence. According to a 2006 Amnesty International study, it is not uncommon for Native victims of assault to “have to wait hours or days to receive a response from police and, in many situations, [victims] receive no response at all.” In the Navajo Nation, for example, 329 rape cases were reported in 2007 — five years later, there have been only 17 arrests.
Here in Washington, an antiquated federal law has granted local police officers the power to enforce the state’s law upon non-Indians within Indian Country. But the result is the same. The surrounding and generally larger non-Indian community does not provide policing to adequate levels. For decades, despite much outrage by tribal victims of domestic violence — victims such as Tulalip Tribes Vice Chair Deborah Parker — complaints have fallen on deaf ears. The most recent study to assess the issue has concluded that state criminal jurisdiction in Indian Country has actually caused an increase in crime.Under the Senate’s VAWA reauthorization, tribes would again be able to exercise limited criminal jurisdiction vis-à-vis their own justice systems, which, according to a recent U.S. Government Accountability Office study, are “the most appropriate institutions for maintaining law and order in Indian country.” In particular, tribal police, the first responders to crimes on reservations, would finally be able to protect Native women from non-Native men. Earlier this summer, however, House Republicans removed the tribal protections, with an admonishment of the tribes for “tout[ing] unverifiable statistics about the rate of non-Indian violence against Indian women on Indian land.” Republicans attacked the Department of Justice’s estimate that 88 percent of assaults against Indian women are committed by non-Indians; and instead suggested the number was only 31 percent. In short, according to House Republicans, the incidence of violence against Native women isn’t that bad. But, who cares if it is 88 percent or 31 percent of sexual predators who are allowed to violate Native women and get away scot-free? It’s absolutely deplorable for House Republicans to take the position that rape and violence against Indian women is tolerable up to some point between the those two numbers. Were this the situation in any other part of the United States, affecting any other racial group, Congress would simply not allow such an atrocity to continue.
President Obama’s words ring true in the partisan VAWA debate: “Rape is rape. And the idea that we should be parsing and qualifying and slicing what types of rape we’re talking about doesn’t make sense.” The White House says that the president will veto any VAWA reauthorization that does not include the tribal protections. Sen. Patty Murray has also vowed to reject any proposed agreement with the House that does not include them.Meanwhile, Washington Republican gubernatorial hopeful Rob McKenna advocates for mere “tribal civil authority” over non-Indian sex offenders in Indian Country. While McKenna is at least addressing the issue with some thought, which is much more than can be said of other GOP candidates this summer, fines and civil restraining orders are not enough to combat reservation murder, rape, and domestic violence. On the other hand, as a member of Congress, his opponent Jay Inslee, introduced the Stand Against Violence and Empower Native Women Act in the House, a bill that tracks the Senate VAWA reauthorization almost word-for-word. The jurisdictional gap created by our High Court nearly 35 years ago has created an extremely dangerous environment for Native women. It is only now that a solution to the sexual assault pandemic in Indian Country has begun to emerge. But if the House Republicans’ misogyny and racism prevails, the solution will fall through the political cracks. Meanwhile, Native women remain vulnerable to violent criminals who remain above the law.