Monday, November 29, 2010

Dr. AAFIA: London Event Wednesday; Texas Incarceration; Updates and Related Items

“Aafia Siddiqui: Sentenced to Death” – Andy Worthington Attends Discussion with Moazzam Begg and Yvonne Ridley, London, December 1, 2010

On Wednesday December 1, from 6.30 to 9.30 pm, I’ll be discussing the fate of Aafia Siddiqui at the London Muslim Centre, 46-92 Whitechapel Road, London, E1 1JX, with other speakers including Moazzam Begg, former Guantánamo prisoner and the director of Cageprisoners, and the journalist Yvonne Ridley, who is a patron of Cageprisoners, and has covered Dr. Siddiqui’s case extensively over the last few years. The event, which is free and open to all, will be chaired by Asim Qureshi, the executive director of Cageprisoners.

This event is taking place to raise awareness about the case of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, the Pakistani neuroscientist who, in September, was given an 86-year sentence in a court in New York for allegedly trying — and failing — to shoot two US soldiers in Ghazni, Afghanistan in the summer of 2008, after which she was rendered to New York to be put on trial. The event’s deliberately provocative title reflects how an 86-year sentence for a disputed crime in which no one was even hurt, let alone killed, is effectively a death sentence for Dr. Siddiqui, who will die in a US prison unless pressure is maintained on the US government — and on the Pakistani government — to examine her case again or arrange for her to be transferred to Pakistani custody with the opportunity for her sentence to be reviewed.

In the last few years, I have publicized and taken part in several events focusing on Aafia Siddiqui’s case — most recently in east London (where I interviewed former Guantánamo prisoners Ruhal Ahmed and Shafiq Rasul) and outside the Pakistani embassy in London — and I never fail to mention how Dr. Siddiqui’s case is one of the most murky and troubling in the whole of the “War on Terror” initiated by the Bush administration, which led to countless horror stories, in Afghanistan, Guantánamo and Iraq, in the CIA’s network of secret prisons, and in the program of “extraordinary rendition” that involved — and still involves — prisoners being disposed of by being sent to torture prisons in third countries, or in their home countries.

In fact, Dr. Siddiqui’s case seems to be central to the darkest aspects of the Bush adminstration’s global torture program, as she was almost certainly identified as a supposed al-Qaeda operative by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, after his capture in Pakistan on March 1, 2003, and his subsequent torture — including being waterboarded 183 times — in a secret CIA prison in Poland, presumably on the basis that her second husband, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, whom she had reportedly married shortly before her capture, was KSM’s nephew. Ali was himself seized a month after her, on April 29, 2003, and also held in secret CIA prisons before his transfer to Guantánamo with 13 other men (including his uncle) in September 2006, but there is no evidence that Dr. Siddiqui had any knowledge of the 9/11 plans or of any planned attacks in the future, and it seems more likely, therefore, that she is an example of what I once referred to as the “tangled web” of those who are falsely denounced by prisoners when they are subjected to torture instead of being questioned non-coercively by skilled interrogators.

In an article following the ruling in September, entitled, “Barbaric: 86-Year Sentence for Aafia Siddiqui,” I presented the outline of Dr. Siddiqui’s story, and suggested how the sentence hinted at a cynical cover-up by the US authorities, as follows:

Such a disproportionate sentence would be barbaric, even if Aafia Siddiqui had killed the soldiers she shot at, but as she missed entirely, and was herself shot twice in the abdomen, it simply doesn’t make sense. Moreover, the sentencing overlooks claims by her lawyers that her fingerprints were not even on the gun that she allegedly fired, and, even more significantly, hints at a chilling cover-up, mentioned everywhere except at Aafia’s trial earlier this year. Seen this way, her sudden reappearance in Ghazni in July 2008, the shooting incident, the trial and the conviction were designed to hide the fact that, for five years and four months, from March 2003, when she and her three children were reportedly kidnapped in Karachi, she was held in secret US detention — possibly in the US prison in Bagram, Afghanistan — where she was subjected to horrendous abuse.

More of Aafia Siddiqui’s story can be found in my earlier articles...and on the website of the Justice for Aafia Coalition. Post-sentencing, she is now held in the Federal Medical Facility in Carswell, Texas, a notorious establishment described in an article by Yvonne Ridley for Cageprisoners as the “Hospital of horror.” Please visit this JFAC page for details about how to send letters of support, and if you’re in London, please come along to the event at the London Muslim Centre on December 1.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK)

Find his work at andyworthington dot co dot uk

By Andrew Purcell (find at Official Family Site: Free Aafia dot org)

November 20, 2010

"Our normal rules don't seem to apply to your sister"

After driving from Houston this is what the guard told Muhammad as we sat outside the Carswell prison facility in Fort Worth, Texas.
Muhammad just laughed. The guard had no idea how true his observation was.

Visiting Aafia Siddiqui has proven to be dificult. She and her brother have not been allowed a visit since May 2009 before she was sent to New York City from Fort Worth. Aafia has been repeatedly told that her brother hasn't made the arrangements to visit her. Muhammad has been told that she has to make the arrangements. This has been a continuing issue. Aafia and Muhammad are constantly being given conflicting information about the requirements for visitation rights.

Following her sentencing hearing Aafia has been returned to Carswell and Muhammad is still having trouble getting the information he needs to visit his sister. He filled out and returned all the forms needed for visitation priviliges but has not gotten any confirmation that he had been approved to visit. Phone calls to the prison administration were unreturned. Letters were unanswered.

Muhammad decided to try the direct route. Drive up to the front door and see if they will let him in. He asked me if I wanted to come along. I sat next to him for three weeks in the courtroom in New York City so a weekend in Fort Worth didn't seem to be too terrible (sorry Fort Worth, you are probably a beautiful city but all I have ever seen is the prison).

For those of you unfamiliar with the basic geography, there are nearly three hundred miles of Texas between Houston and Fort Worth. It is nearly all on modern highways, but the trip still takes about five hours.

When we got to the gate of the prison, Muhammad asked the guard to confirm the status of his visitation priviliges. The guard took his information and driver's license into his office and made a phone call.

About half an hour later he returned. I suspect he made more than one phone call, or at least spoke to more than one person, but it was obvious that he was told that all he needed to know was that this is just the way it is. While he maintained his professional politeness he was also visibly confused. Muhammad did have visitation priviliges but he would not be allowed to visit.

Since Aafia is now housed in the maximum security facility extra guards were required and had to be scheduled in advance, but the guard told us that even if the extra guards had been scheduled Muhammad would not be allowed to see Aafia. I thought for a second that he was going to tell us that Aafia would be required to pay for the overtime for these extra guards, but all he said was, "Our normal rules don't seem to apply to your sister."

He did give Muhammad a new phone number to call and a new name to ask for. This new number and new name may be helpful, but I doubt it. Their normal rules don't apply to Aafia.

After all, Aafia's first trip to Carswell was to determine whether she was competent to stand trial. It took the government a second try to get the finding it wanted.

The rules still didn't apply. This now legally competent Aafia Siddiqui immediately wanted to exercise her right to fire the lawyers representing her and replace them with lawyers of her choosing. She viewed the lawyer paid for by the United States as one more person representing the American government, and she viewed the three lawyers paid for by the government of Pakistan as agents of the Pakistani government. After the last seven years she doesn't have much trust in either institution.

All she wanted was a lawyer who was working for her. The rules say that it is her right to choose her own lawyer. The judge repeatedly denied her requests. I watched one such exchange in court when the judge told her she could fire the existing lawyers only if she could give him the names of her new lawyers. Her response, "You won't even give me a telephone book, how can I pick a new lawyer?"

Again, Muhammad, the normal rules do not seem to apply to your sister.

Aafia has been able to retain a new lawyer, a half year after her conviction. She has not been allowed any contact with this lawyer, which is interfering with her ability to file appeals in a timely fashion.

Muhammad has postponed surgery twice because he had hoped to visit Aafia. He is unable to postpone it any longer. This surgery will leave him unable to travel for a month and a half. He fully expects to get permission for a special visit the day after the operation and they will tell Aafia that he refused to see her.

This is the pattern of interference by authorities with Aafia's rights to consult her lawyer and her privileges to receive visitors. Keep her isolated, confused, uncertain, and feeling lost and abandoned. And most of all, keep her quiet.

So, no, the normal rules do not apply to her.
(END Andrew Purcell's article)

From 10 November, 2010: Kidnapping Attempt on Children of Aafia Siddiqui



November 13, 2010, New York, NY - At approximately 4:00 PM local time today, armed gunmen broke into the home of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui's family in Karachi, Pakistan.

The incident was apparently a failed attempt to kidnap Dr. Siddiqui's two minor children - both of whom are US citizens, but now reside with relatives in Pakistan. It is unknown how the gunmen gained entry to the Siddiqui famlily home - which has been under 24-hour armed guard by Pakistani police since her eldest son, Ahmed, was returned to the family and came to live with his grandmother and aunt in Karachi in August, 2008.

The two gunmen, who were hiding in the children's bedroom, were discovered by Dr. Siddiqui's mother - Ismat. Upon opening the door of the room, Mrs. Siddiqui saw the two...Continue reading at Free Aafia dot org

Find URLS to the above and related here:


Besides Aafia: Related Recent Concerns - Injustices in the "War on Terror" / New Revelations / Pros and Cons with Most Recent Wiki-Leaks

Other topics related to Rendition and Torture:

Challenge to NY Psychology Boards' Evasion of Responsibility Archive for November, 2010

Saturday, November 20, 2010

URGENT ACTION - UPDATED (20-21 Dec.) FOOD SAFETY BILL/ INTERNET "Blacklisting": Two Urgent Issues Needing Action

"Kinsman and Leaves" Photo credit goes to the nffc dot net , a US national group which explores and acts on concerns related to those in this post and update below GO here


Apologies for this extra long post but this JUST came in late Monday AFTER posting the corrected report with the recent sense of relief:

Dear Citizen for Health,

Urge your Representative NOW to oppose H.R. 2571/S. 510! NOW - ASAP

Last last night, while pretending to debate the START treaty, our allies in the U.S. Senate betrayed their strongest supporters and, after promising us never to do so, gave unanimous consent to move S. 510, the dangerous FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, to the House for lame-duck passage.

According to The Hill:

“The Senate unexpectedly approved food safety legislation by unanimous consent Sunday evening, rescuing a bill that floated in limbo for weeks because of a clerical error.”

Now Senator Tom Coburn [R-OK] has betrayed his promise to stand firm in the way of passing the bill by unanimous consent, and allowed the 11th-hour machinations that resulted in passage of S. 510 late Sunday night - with an unrecorded vote!

Next S. 510 heads to the House as part of H.R. 2751, with the unconstitutional revenue-raising clause removed. This means we have one last chance to stop efforts by big Agribusiness to control our food. The House meets TOMORROW - Tuesday, 12/21/10, to consider passage of H.R. 2571/S. 510. That leaves less than 48 hours to save food freedom!

The critical moment is now, during the last couple days before the Holiday recess. At this point both sides of the debate are certainly feeling the fatigue of the ongoing struggle, which is why it is more important than ever to stand strong. This is not a time to give up, but precisely the time where your efforts are most critical. This may be no dance contest, but the last one standing will win!

We must keep on pushing back! Please use the updated action item every day, and forward it to anyone you know who wants to keep the freedom to choose what they put into their bodies!

Send your message NOW - tell your Representative to vote "NO"!

Health freedom advocates across the country have made their voices heard loud and clear and stopped S. 510 at every turn - we must do so one last time, and ensure those who betrayed us know we will not forget when it comes time to vote.

Thank you for your perseverance,

The Citizens for Health Team

And, don’t forget to check out a powerful new resource that can support you personally as well as in your role as an advocate for our world’s health and wellness. WisdomFilms™ is a new genre in contemplative, life-enhancing media. These short, beautiful films provide unique experiences that reduce stress and are deeply inspiring. (Also see Voice for Hope.)

EARLIER RECAP (before ACTION release above) first for those new here: The food safety bill (HR 875) was first introduced in 2009 by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn) as House bill 875. Sounds good - right? Let's take another look: DeLauro’s husband, Stanley Greenburg,conducts research for Monsanto, the world’s leading producer of herbicides and genetically engineered seed.

Question is who has been and is aware of this connection? Even the UN and the CDC have appeared to be pressured unduly by those connected with Monsanto.

The bill calls for the creation of a Food Safety Administration which would allow the US government to regulate food production at all levels. (Perhaps not unlike what the US Gov has been doing in Iraq. They have allowed Monsanto to be part of confiscating Iraqi farmer's own heirloom seeds from decades of family farming and dignity. In Iraq at least this (was/is?) in exchange for the Monsanto-styled seeds and other supplies which like in the US poison both a farmer's independence yet also their families health. The current bill would be likely to follow some aspects of this kind of control here in the US.

So, this bill passed the house in 2009. Fortunately, the similar bill that passed the Senate a few weeks ago (read the item below posted for November 20th) was found to be unconstitutional (a revenue issue). The Senate bill was S 510. SO, S 510 was sent back to the House for passage Dec. 8 and the legislation inched forward as the House passed the Senate version of the bill as part of a larger resolution to fund the federal government in other areas for the next several months.

That bill passed the House, the Senate and the House again only to be sent
BACK to the Senate!

SO, there's some hope in the guise of two victories for us. First was that someone found the unconstitutional aspect of the Senate Bill and said something about it.

Second, even though it was sent back to the House and the House attempted to hide
the Food Safety Bill in a larger package laden with earmarks - it seemed destined to pass the Senate BUT it did not pass! Grace again...

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid gave up on the spending bill late Thursday night...

So we've got a little time once again...

STAY TUNED and do your own homework on your own. Do you mind putting what you find in Comments below?

Sounds like the CDC (Center for Disease Control) became part of the problem the day before the vote by coming out with fear tactics on food borne illnesses. If it sounds suspicious (like pressure from shady places?) it probably is. Unfortunately proper research and science has been missing all along in anything or anyone getting recommendations from Monsanto.

Because S 510 has been caught in so many snags, Mrs. Rosa Delauro has no really new proposal. She's simply RE-introduced legislation intended to create a SINGLE agency. This agency would claim to focus solely on overseeing the so-called "safety" of the US food supply.

Yet, in fact, the actual role the Gov would get is way too much control with methods proven dangerous. When is a name of something not a REAL name: when it deliberately seeks to confuse and mislead.

Yikes kids! (Stella, my expert friend says)

The blocking of this bill (S 510) is a small victory but there is still a lot to do.
What we need to do now it to keep an eye on any newly proposed legislation in regard to this, whether it is from Delauro or someone else and continue to fight the good fight.

This is about health freedom, the freedom to choose for yourself what foods
you put into your own body and the freedom to grow or raise those foods and/or purchase those foods.


For now at least there is no new law that gives the FDA ambiguous authority
to close farms and bust down doors...You did hear about the raid at Rawesome Foods in California right?
If not please look it up.

SEE Dec. 19th and look for "food safety bill dies."

In the article for Dec. 12th "food safety bill victim of omnibus bill, "
the last paragraph reads:

Reid pushed through a bill that blatantly violated the Constitution and wasted time that he should have spent on the budget. Had Reid pushed the omnibus first, instead of having it public long enough for people to peruse it thoroughly, he might have gotten both. Instead, Reid appears to have lost twice, although certainly he won’t give up trying until time runs out on the lame-duck session and Democratic machinations.

In reference to the statement, Had Reid pushed the omnibus first, instead of having it public long enough for people to peruse it thoroughly, he might have gotten both,
Stella points out, "Oh, so it is harder to do bad things when the public knows what is going on~ wow."

This is why I am writing this now.

SO, Plz help get out the word.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Stormy Times: Uncovering the Wealth

Eye of Storm*
Encouraged by my friend, Thinking, here at last is a fully personal post.

I had driven all one dark night clear from Western North Carolina to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to the house of a dear elder friend whom I planned to take the next day all the way to South Carolina to surprise her son in maximum security prison for Mothers' Day.

Getting to Philadelphia was a bit lonely with only the weirdest radio stations available and the skies were unusually dark. I had to make a few short stops partly to help me stay awake and good places were hard to find.

Then - on the way back south - we drove all day and then into the night through one of the worst storms I'd ever encountered with strong winds and thick ribbons of rain. Again we had to go a lonely vacated road. Then we passed a sky looking a bit like the hurricane's eye atop this post. She kept describing it to me but I refused to look at the tornado's circular eye as it bent lower and lower in the sky coming. I just kept my eyes on the road and the way ahead, looking frantically for a safe place to stop. Yet there was none.

I gripped the steering wheel for all it was worth as the ever thickening rain and wind seemed to twist my direction time and again. The twister looked like it was coming straight at us (when I finally peeked). Everything got very black and of course I could barely see. I knew we had to stop yet all I could find was a flimsy abandoned gas station where there was another car. I don't know when I was so afraid to breath that I couldn't be sure I was breathing - yet with all our choices out of our hands, watching the sky and waiting was a bit like being in an exciting movie.

Finally the tornado got very close to touching down not far away and then skirted past the area.

In such moments there's little to do but to wait out the storm. YET, during that storm we found we could stay calm and could free ourselves up to choose the next best step. Just being in that moment felt strengthening but of what? To recognize human fragility and dependence on weather and God's help - or perhaps just the capriciousness of fate? How will we ever know? Still, to look back and know for other times that we did get through that is a nice feeling. Stopping later at a nearby motel, we were told that the motel folk were listening on the radio until everything went blank and it was supposed to be a big one. They'd figured by the radio report that the the twister was going to fall right over them and were visibly greatly relieved because they said their motel wouldn't have survived. I smiled wondering why we imagined the little flimsy roof we were under would do us any good?

The rest of the trip was especially rich with my friend, Roberta, in the closeness of unusually free conversation - as we spoke of her difficult life (five children each by a different man - often abusive and forceful). We spoke of the bright points too - how she overcame many challenges and of the music that she and her son loved and shared.

Yes, we did make it to the church on time for the special service. We did surprise the prisoner son. And he never sang more beautifully with his professional and passionate voice on this special Mother's Day. There were few if any other older mothers there that day and Roberta became a celebrity as many men young and old honored her with hugs, smiles and words of respect.

All of us can look at many such stormy - even frightening - moments which are deepening of bonds between persons and of inner strength if we only take the time to recall...

Now, here it is the end of another difficult night - another kind of storm: my husband and I were waiting for our son to come home from work because we knew he had a test in a most difficult class -- he'd studied hard but wanted our help and we had both offered. Well we were up late and no son when expected.

I stayed up waiting. Finally he came back late yet I didn't know until hours later that with him he'd brought home another young man. Soon after I'd said goodnight I heard the door bang and went out to see that our son's car was again gone. He returned not much later in a panic explaining that he didn't want to awaken or upset us but as soon as he'd brought the young man home the guy had taken off. Our son was concerned he'd get hurt during the night in his condition (another stormy night).

You see, my son works with him in a new job and had seen him intoxicated at a pub where a number of guys were watching a TV football game. The pub owner had taken the friend's keys so he wouldn't be able to drive himself in that state to his apartment which was an hour away. My son felt responsible that he not get left out in the dark and had brought him home to "dry out". yet the other young man suddenly disappeared.

There is a fairly recent history of a guy down the road who'd been also very drunk and disrupting the neighborhood and when the police came he'd run out of the house across the street and accidentally landed in a brook lined with lots of jagged rocks and drowned.

I'm quite sure the thought of finding another dead body in a ditch crossed all our minds as we racked our brains and looked in every direction in ditches and woods around our place. Finally we called a few folk and at last did call the police. He was found checked in - just a few moments before our call at a motel in town. So he had wandered about for hours in his drunken state.

All of us, my dear son and another son, my husband and I, the intoxicated new friend, someone I called to get the man's parents' number and then his parents - ALL of us had all lost a good night's sleep and faced a disrupted morning.

For me, this was the very morning I'd planned and prepared for all of yesterday in a special way: I was going to finally begin in earnest to end my haphazard work on a book project and to initiate my three-hour daily writing schedule starting at 4:30 am! Of all mornings after such a night.

Now instead of working on that book, I'm spending my morning writing this...still looking for a little silver-lining...:)

Well, it WAS a relief to finally locate the missing man (who turned out to be a son of friends). What a joy that we found no one conked out in a ditch.

Many across America - and in other societies as well - live in an alcohol-soaked environment: alcohol-based drinks at almost every party and places where people watch games. Often, when people spend an evening at a pub or party or even at a restaurant alcohol use leads to trouble not only for those imbibing but for others - if not right away - at some point.

Hopefully, there's enough pain left over from last night in all of our experience to seed some little changes - I pray - yet, I pray that this happens without the paralysis of guilt and shame and without the loss of the kind of satisfaction and sacrifice that comes with being compassionate - being the "good Samaritan" at other times. (Some helpful observations just might happen naturally as our son tries to take his test in his difficult physics class after such a painful night.)

Well, here's the little meditation that just showed up before I began my rant:

Stop Throwing Away the Treasure Called "Troubling Times"

by Guy Finley

Key Lesson: If we look at (unexpected) events as something placed in our way, a troublesome time we must pile through on our way to some imagined peace to come, then we literally throw away the possibility of discovering that each moment, regardless of its appearance, is divine in nature and can serve to help us remember the same... if only we so choose.

It's well known that storm-tossed waves often expose new treasures along the shoreline; there is unexpected wealth to be collected by those who know the secret value of rough seas. And yet, even though most of us have little tolerance for anything that "rocks our boat," the truth of the matter is self-evident:

Unwanted moments introduce us to parts of ourselves that would otherwise never get healed were it not for the difficulties that first reveal them and that lead us to release their pain.


Somehow, I wonder if this little piece applies to all chaotic/stormy situations? I can imagine - no I KNOW of happenings where I can find no such application.

Yet - at least in my one little life - I figure these words of wisdom apply to almost all of my most stormy occasions.

How about you, reader, have you healed or been enriched by such a stormy time?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Aung San Suu Kyi is LISTENING to the People

Internet cache/BBC

"I want to listen to people - I really want to listen to what the people want - what the other countries want"

Looks like this is the FIRST interview - at least it's the one I just heard Sunday AM
here yet it's minus the similarly light and lovely short remarks by the Amnesty spokeswoman which should be found soon on the usual BBC World Service site.

We have dear friends from Mynmar/Burma where some years back we watched films showing Aung San Suu's courageous leadership on the ground in the midst of bitter disregard from authorities while citizens in their varied and colorful dress marched for democracy and social equality. For that and because I appreciate seeing how persons with such integrity continue to rise beyond mere survival and to seek dialogue and listening to the people. How much more inspiring on a universal level this widely-embracing approach - rather than to allow celebrity status to block current on-the-ground possibilities.

Certainly, she is a kind of Mandela leader for our time - yet uniquely herself. She is clearly THE spiritual and practical leader of her nation and at the same time inspires worldwide work toward liberty for all. So this release clearly has my attention.

I just awoke to the above short, compelling interview with both Aung San Suu Kyi and with an Amnesty commentator on the leader's release. Both women have beautiful voices which would seem to command trust and the desire to listen as long as the speaker is willing. Later I hope to add more comments and pull direct quotes from this interview. The BBC interviewer must be commended for questions which did not feel agenda-based but rather open-ended and full of respect.

Possibly the interview will also be available here long term - here Broadcast today 12:05 on BBC World Service and available soon on BBC iPlayer. Aung San Suu Kyi speaks to the BBC...

The words this rare leader chose included deep concern as to the greater plight of so many others who've been and are incarcerated in much more difficult conditions than she (in her long house arrest). Yet she also expresses almost a childlike wonder that now, as a practical person she has perhaps a new window of opportunity. She says clearly she's here now to listen to her people - TO WHAT THEY WANT and TOGETHER to accomplish further inroads. She spoke of the rule of law and that her rule has always been to seek democracy for all.

From yesterday, Saturday the 13 November, an interview of 55 minutes appears currently available at the above site described as covering the internal, regional and international implications of the release of Aung San Suu Kyi (I am not sure whether or not the shorter is from that one or no?)

A helpful and inspiring summary note:

YANGON, Myanmar – Pro-democracy hero Aung San Suu Kyi walked free Saturday after more than seven years under house arrest, welcomed by thousands of cheering supporters outside the decaying lakefront villa that has been her prison.

Her guards effectively announced the end of her detention, pulling back the barbed-wire barriers that sealed off her potholed street and suddenly allowing thousands of expectant supporters to surge toward the house. Many chanted her name as they ran. Some wept.

A few minutes later, with the soldiers and police having evaporated into the Yangon twilight, she climbed atop a stepladder behind the gate as the crowd began singing the national anthem.

"I haven't seen you for a long time," the 65-year-old Nobel Peace Prize Laureate said to laughter, smiling deeply as she held the metal spikes that top the gate. When a supporter handed up a bouquet, she pulled out a flower and wove it into her hair.

Speaking briefly in Burmese, she told the crowd, which quickly swelled to as many as 5,000 people: "If we work in unity, we will achieve our goal."

Found here from a fellow worker for the people on a listserv

Friday, November 12, 2010

Updated Story/Links: On Dr. Aafia's Behalf: Sunday Many Speakers and Supporters Gather in London

Caged blue budgies and the Aafia I know
Written by Ayesha Kazmi Friday, 29 October 2010

"While the world continues to speculate what Aafia baji has been up to in all those years that she went missing, I will continue to keep alive my memories of me and her chasing those blue budgies around in circles and laughing together. Just like those birds wanted not be caught, caged and instead, fly free, I know for sure, so too does Aafia baji."

My mother knew that I would be a barrel full of trouble when she smelled cigarette smoke on my clothes once when I was in seventh grade. From that point on, she was quite adamant to clandestinely place a Muslim “big sister” every step of the way in my life – particularly when I was a teenager.

One of the appointed big sisterly figures to me was beloved Aafia Siddiqui. Aafia baji, as I called her, entered into my life when I was fourteen. One of my very first memories of her was at a women’s get together and Aafia baji was dressed from head to toe in maroon. Her hijab meticulously matched her stockings, which meticulously matched her shoes. Her small frame and high pitched voice didn’t match her hearty presence. For a college student, she was very mature in her stature. I remember thinking to myself how adorable she is – for an auntie. Yes, when I first met Aafia baji, I assumed she was an auntie. Next to her, I did appear very much a child. She is, however, only four years older than me. When I was introduced to her – knowing myself, I most likely stuck my hand out to shake hers – she gave me a look of recognition and sincere compassion. She didn’t accept my hand. Instead, she gave me a hug. I took to her straight away.

It was shortly after meeting Aafia baji that I learned she was a local college student in my hometown of Boston, MA. The students in the area were socially organised and often hosted a range of activities, not only for themselves but, in collaboration with the local Muslim community. Over the years, and at various events and social gatherings, I got to know her well. My parents’ home was a hub for many of the local students. As a result, Aafia spent a lot of time at my parents’ home. There was a large group of us, me being the youngest. We all spent a lot of time together –like an extended family. The familiarity between us all gave way to many inside jokes, Aafia baji often being at the brunt of many. We were merciless in teasing her in our best moments. From trying to get her to chill-out in her uber serious moments to threatening to set her up with random “brothers” in the community for marriage, and to her credit, she was good natured about being teased.

I did a lot of silly things as a teenager, but Aafia baji never judged me. She always kept an open line of communication through my mother and I always saw that she had a soft spot for me. She often called my mother to ask her to bring me to her university campus where she frequently put me to work – whether it was with her extra-curricular activities or her curricular ones.

One of my favourite memories of her was when my mother dropped me off one afternoon at her university dormitory when she needed help with creating artistic poster boards for a class presentation. There were a whole load of them that she needed help designing and colouring. When I arrived, she had an entire snack ready and waiting for me: orange juice in yellow plastic cups and vanilla cream cookies. We must have sat at the table for a good hour just talking. She was good about engaging with me and talking to me at my level – always encouraging me to be truthful and honest about who I am, never deigning to talk down to me. Our big sister/little sister match was quite perfect. I too, had developed a real soft spot for her.

That week, one of Aafia baji’s fellow dormitory residents was away and had asked Aafia baji to take care of her pet budgies. There were three of them – all of them blue. After our little snack, we went into her room where the three budgies were flying around and chirping away. They were taking turns sitting on her desk, on her curtain rod, or on top of the cage. Before we got started on her project, Aafia baji was insistent that the budgies had to be put back into their proper place so as to not distract us from our work. The trouble was how to catch all three of them as quickly as possible. It ended up taking us a long time. Together, we ran around the room in circles chasing after the birds – but they weren’t having any of it. They wanted to fly around free and not be caged. After a while, we just laughed at the silliness of it all. Then Aafia baji grabbed the dupata (shoulder scarf part of South Asian women’s suits) off of her shoulders and waited for the birds to land somewhere accessible. When one did, she carefully threw her dupata on top of the bird and grabbed it. She was gentle with these animals. I know Aafia baji – she would never harm a fly.

Aafia baji stayed in Boston even after she completed her studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Eventually, she went on to complete her PhD at Brandeis and then got married. I remember her, her husband – and I even remember hearing the news about the birth of her children. By that time I was in my 20s. Though I didn’t see Aafia baji as often as I did when I was a teenager, she was still a part of my life.

In 2004 when John Ashcroft stood on national television declaring several wanted Al-Qaeda suspects at large, naming Aafia baji as one of them, my mother and I stood in front of the TV in stunned silence with our hands over our mouths. I feel compelled to say that what is being said about her is not the Aafia Siddiqui that I know and love dearly.

Over the years, I have been haunted by all of this. There have been days where I thought I would see her in random places and had to literally rub my eyes and double check. There have been nights where images of her wouldn’t leave my mind so that I could sleep. I cannot even begin to imagine what has happened to her – I cannot bring myself to even picture the image of her small frame being put through years of trauma of an unknown kind. When the first images of her came out in 2008, I couldn’t even look at them without feeling panicked and sick to my stomach. Many members of my family cried. We didn’t even recognise the photographs. She had gone from the woman I knew, a confident adorable beauty dressed from head to toe in maroon, to a woman so visibly broken.

While the world continues to speculate what Aafia baji has been up to in all those years that she went missing, I will continue to keep alive my memories of me and her chasing those blue budgies around in circles and laughing together. Just like those birds wanted not be caught, caged and instead, fly free, I know for sure, so too does Aafia baji.

Ayesha Kazmi is a researcher at Cageprisoners
Read 541 times

GO to Free Aafia dot org for more RECENT items just sent out - including notice of a recent frightening attempt at Dr. Aafia's mother's home to kidnap Aafia's children and another moving article by a friend of Aafia and her family. Also find here many archived reports such as various responses worldwide to the news of Aafia's sentencing and a summary of the case.

Also find at

* Aafia Siddiqui: Sentenced to Death
* Hospital of horror is Dr Aafia's new home
* Apathy for Babar Ahmad
* Yvonne Ridley: US Judge bans defendant from sacking her legal team - even after conviction
* Aafia Siddiqui

Go to Andy Worthington's Post here

And also go to Umah dot com/JFAC here

Be sure to go to FreeAafia,, JFAC as well as Andy Worthington's Site for reports on this rally.

Please also go to the post just below for "Dignity in Difference" and try to hear the Radio presentation on Krista Tippett's BEING dot org and go to the happy interview above.

The Dignity of Difference: Live UN Video and More

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams (right), beside Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks (center) leads a march against poverty demanding action to halve poverty worldwide by 2015 on July 24, 2008 in London, England. (photo: Cate Gillon/Getty Images)

NEXT FRIDAY: SEE/HEAR Live Video on Compasssion from the UN: Joan Brown Campbell, Matthieu Ricard, Feisal Abdul Rauf, Chade-Meng Tan, Fred Luskin, Karen Armstrong and others with Krista Tippett at the United Nations - Friday, November 18th (11am–1pm Eastern)

LOOK FOR: The Dignity of Difference - Hear this week's radio program with Krista Tippett (On Being - formerly "Speaking of Faith" Radio): A conversation with the Chief Rabbi of Great Britain, Lord Jonathan Sacks. He's one of the world's great thinkers on the promise and perils of religion. He argues eloquently that religious people best nourish pluralism when they are grounded in their own deepest truths. But this also, he insists, means looking for God in the religious "other."

Krista Tippett, host of Being - "Finding God in the Face of the Stranger", says:
I interviewed Rabbi Jonathan Sacks twice in our recent days at Emory, and these separate encounters offered an interesting glimpse of the range of this man. If you heard our show with him on stage discussing happiness with the Dalai Lama, Bishop Katharine Jefferts Shori, and Professor Seyyed Hossein Nasr, you experienced an exuberant storyteller who captivated a room of 4,000. But I first met him for a one-on-one conversation...He offered my favorite new definition of Sabbath — a time to focus on "the things that are important but not urgent."

I've been wanting to interview Jonathan Sacks for several years, intrigued by what I've read of him and, in particular, by the evocative and helpful phrase he's developed: "the dignity of difference." (a) sacred alternative and addendum to the language of "tolerance,"...Jonathan Sacks is in a unique position to ponder faithful, theological approaches to life in a multi-religious, globalized world...

...Jonathan Sacks has carved out his own kind of moral authority in the modern United Kingdom — a relatively secular culture in what remains an officially Christian state - a masterful writer.

I focused in, for this conversation, on his understanding of "difference" in Jewish and religious perspective. For what could be more urgent? ...Science itself is revealing that this kind of awareness can make a profound biological and behavioral difference — leading us towards forgiveness over revenge, peace over of the most articulate champions I've found for intentionally tapping the vast resources of wisdom (from) "the other" that his tradition has carried forward across time and through no small amount of tragedy.

Some of Jonathan Sacks' convictions might sound counter-intuitive culturally...The UNITY of GOD is itself the source of diversity, he notes, pointing from the Bible to the natural world. And moral imagination in a pluralistic world is about finding more substantive and thoughtful ways to bring the fruits of our particularities to bear. "BY BEING WHAT ONLY I CAN BE," he says, "I GIVE HUMANITY WHAT ONLY I CAN GIVE."

At the depth of our traditions, Jonathan Sacks says to the faithful, we are called to see a God who is bigger than us, who will surprise us, who will show himself in places we never expect God to be: in the face of the stranger, and in the practice of a radically different faith. Jonathan Sacks embodies the mix of humility and boldness, of a passion for both mystery and truth — something I've experienced in the wisest individuals I've interviewed across the years. Listen, or watch (!), and enjoy.

Krista recommends:
The Dignity of Difference by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks The Dignity of Difference
by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

A work of eloquence and importance.

For both programs posted above with ways to access by Radio and/or Online and to see much more - go to: or CLICK here

The Betrayal of Gaza - By Noam Chomsky

Palestinian children play near a tent in Ezbet Abed Rabbo area, that was heavily destroyed during Israel's 22-day offensive on the Gaza Strip. Photograph: Getty Images.

Originally extracted from - a Chomsky book and published in "New Statesman" (See URL here To see at least 87 Comments and/or add your own GO to Reader Supported News dot org here

Key Excerpt: The US and Israel have been acting in tandem to extend and deepen the occupation. Take the situation in Gaza. After its formal withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005, Israel never relinquished its total control over the territory, often described as "the world's largest prison".

The Article in Full:

The US is vocal about its commitment to peace in Israel and the Palestinian territories — but its actions suggest otherwise.

That the Israel-Palestine conflict grinds on without resolution might appear to be rather strange. For many of the world's conflicts, it is difficult even to conjure up a feasible settlement. In this case, not only is it possible, but there is near-universal agreement on its basic contours: a two-state settlement along the internationally recognized (before-June 1967) borders - with "minor and mutual modifications", to adopt official US terminology before Washington departed from the international community in the mid-1970s.

The basic principles have been accepted by virtually the entire world, including the Arab states (which call for the full normalization of relations), the Organization of the Islamic Conference (including Iran) and relevant non-state actors (including Hamas). A settlement along these lines was first proposed at the UN Security Council in January 1976 and backed by the major Arab states. Israel refused to attend. The United States vetoed the resolution, and did so again in 1980. The record at the General Assembly since is similar.

But there was one important and revealing break in US-Israeli rejectionism. After the failed Camp David agreements in 2000, President Clinton recognized that the terms he and Israel had proposed were unacceptable to any Palestinians. That December, he proposed his "parameters": imprecise but more forthcoming. He then stated that both sides had accepted the parameters, while expressing reservations.

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators met in Taba, Egypt, in January 2001 to resolve the differences and were making progress. At their final press conference, they reported that, with more time, they could probably have reached full agreement. Israel called off the negotiations prematurely, however, and official progress was then terminated, though informal discussions at a high level continued, leading to the Geneva Accord, rejected by Israel and ignored by the US. Much has happened since but a settlement along those lines is still not out of reach, if Washington is once again willing to accept it. Unfortunately, there is little sign of that.

The US and Israel have been acting in tandem to extend and deepen the occupation. Take the situation in Gaza. After its formal withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005, Israel never relinquished its total control over the territory, often described as "the world's largest prison".

In January 2006, Palestine had an election that was recognized as free and fair by international observers. Palestinians, however, voted "the wrong way", electing Hamas. Instantly, the US and Israel intensified their assault against Gazans as punishment for this misdeed. The facts and the reasoning were not concealed; rather, they were published alongside reverential commentary on Washington's dedication to democracy. The US-backed Israeli assault against the Gazans has only intensified since, in the form of savage violence and economic strangulation. After Israel's 2008-2009 assault, Gaza has become a virtually un-liveable place.

It cannot be stressed too often that Israel had no credible pretext for its attack on Gaza, with full US support and illegally using US weapons. Populas opinion asserts the contrary, claiming that Israel was acting in self-defense. That is utterly unsustainable, in light of Israel's flat rejection of peaceful means that were readily available, as Israel and its US partner in crime knew very well.
Truth by omission

In his Cairo address to the Muslim world on 4 June 2009, Barack Obama echoed George W Bush's "vision" of two states, without saying what he meant by the phrase "Palestinian state". His intentions were clarified not only by his crucial omissions, but also by his one explicit criticism of Israel: "The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop."

That is, Israel should live up to Phase I of the 2003 "road map", rejected by Israel with tacit US support. The operative words are "legitimacy" and "continued". By omission, Obama indicates that he accepts Bush's vision: the vast existing settlement and infrastructure projects are "legitimate". Always even-handed, Obama also had an admonition for the Arab states: they "must recognize that the Arab Peace Initiative was an important beginning but not the end of their responsibilities". Plainly, however, it cannot be a meaningful "beginning" if Obama continues to reject its core principle: the implementation of the international consensus. To do so, however, is evidently not Washington's "responsibility" in his vision.

On democracy, Obama said that "we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election" - as in January 2006, when Washington picked the outcome with a vengeance, turning at once to the severe punishment of the Palestinians because it did not like the results of a peaceful election. This happened with Obama's apparent approval, judging by his words before and actions since taking office. There should be little difficulty in understanding why those whose eyes are not closed tight shut by rigid doctrine dismiss Obama's yearning for democracy as a joke in bad taste.

Extracted from "Gaza in Crisis: Reflections on Israel's War Against the Palestinians" by Noam Chomsky and Ilan Pappé (Hamish Hamilton, £14.99.

To buy the book at a special offer price of £11.99, call 08700 707 717, quoting "NS/Gaza" and the ISBN 978-0-241-14506-7

Friday, November 5, 2010

“A Child’s Soul is Sacred”: Omar Khadr’s Touching Exchange of Letters with Canadian Professor

Because of an exchange of moving, personal letters between a UK professor and Omar Khadr, a group of SEVEN HUNDRED students gathered to actively push for fair treatment for Khadr.

There's so much in this one dear person's life that touches on all humanity might have done - might still do to encourage the lives of our youth - whatever the culture. So why are we discouraging honesty, learning the highest and best? Why are we various nations and even religions of all sorts allowing for torture, assassinations, drones, executions, stoning, injustices, poverty?

Why not use this one small exchange and the article as a mirror and window and allow light to shower truth, justice, mercy, appropriate treatment of a youth who was caught in war as a child? Why not more love instead?


...The fact that Nelson Mandela’s book left a deep impression on Khadr can be seen from his reference to Mandela in a statement he delivered to the court on Thursday, when he said, “During my time here, as Nelson Mandela says, in prison, the most thing you have is time to think about things. I’ve had a lot of time to think about things. I came to a conclusion that hate, first thing is, you’re not going to gain anything with hate. Second thing, it’s more destructive than it’s constructive. Third thing: I came to a conclusion that love and forgiveness are more constructive and will bring people together and will give them understanding and will solve a lot of problems.”

The Journal also noted that, in a letter in April this year, Khadr wrote a page on his thoughts about the book, A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier, by Ishmael Beah, which must have affected him profoundly, as Beah was forced to fight in Sierra Leone as a boy soldier at the age of 13, and, as the Journal described it, “committed terrible violence but survived and was rehabilitated.”

Without dwelling on how neither the US nor Canadian governments had fulfilled their obligation to rehabilitate him, under the terms of the UN Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, which obliges signatories to “[r]ecogniz[e] the special needs of those children who are particularly vulnerable to recruitment or use in hostilities,” and to ensure “the physical and psychosocial rehabilitation and social reintegration of children who are victims of armed conflict,” Khadr wrote:

"After I’ve finished reading A Long Way Gone, I was struck by the simplicity, truthfulness and the straight-from-the-heart fact of it. A Long Way Gone is the best example to what humans have reached from horrors they committed to the way they cured it and especially in the child field, a treatment that guaranteed success and cureness, a way that leaves no traces of the horrors that have scarred the soul."

In the most powerful passage, which ought to cause undying shame to those in the United States who have persisted with prosecution of Khadr, or, like the Canadian government, have washed their hands of him, he wrote:

"Children’s hearts are like a sponge that will absorb what is around it, like wet cement, soft until it is sculptured in a certain way. A child’s soul is a sacred dough that must be shaped in a holy way."

Describing the relationship between Khadr and Zinck, the Journal explained that Zinck “took on the role of professor, urging Khadr to do a lot of reading and writing so he can one day apply to university as a mature student. She also wrote from her faith, urging him to react to his difficult surroundings with love and strength and remember that ‘God keeps you close.’”

In a telephone interview from Guantánamo on Friday, Zinck said that she “began writing to Khadr in November 2008 because her Christian faith asks people to comfort those in need, including prisoners,” and explained that her inspiration came from the Gospel According to St. Matthew, chapter 25, verse 35, in which “Christ commands His disciples to comfort the sick, feed the hungry and thirsty and provide support for prisoners,” adding that, “Out of that grew the idea to encourage Omar to get an education.”

Describing how it became clear that Khadr is a “voracious reader,” Zinck also explained that the young man she came to know through the letters was a “polite, thoughtful, intelligent person.”

As a result of the exchange of letters, a group of students at King’s University College organized a public meeting to discuss Khadr’s case, at which 700 people turned up, who “actively pushed” for him to receive a fair trial.

Moreover, on Friday, Khadr told his sentencing hearing at Guantánamo that he would like to attend King’s University College, and Zinck told the hearing she would “write a letter of recommendation for Khadr if he applied to attend the college.”

The following are a few more excerpts from the letters between Zinck and Khadr.

October 23, 2008, Khadr to Zinck:

I got your letter and picture, was very surprised by them. So thank you very much for them, I’m in your debt and what you showed is more than I expected and that you are a true friend and as they say: The true friend is not in the time of ease but in the time of hardship.

January 22, 2009, Khadr to Zinck:

I have received your response so thank you very much … Your letters are like candles, very bright in my hardship and darkness. About myself, what can I say? We hold on to hope in our hearts and the love from others to us and that keeps us going until we reach our happiness.

May 23, 2010, Khadr to Zinck:

Thank you for your letter and thanks for the compliment, I don’t think I deserve it. Before I end, I say again your letters are one of the most important things for me down here. I treasure them and reread them, they mean a lot...


There are so many others in prison and this is a wake-up call to me to get to writing a few others who need the light and encouragement of friends and to be more kind to the many children in my neighborhood...

“A Child’s Soul is Sacred”: Omar Khadr’s Touching Exchange of Letters with Canadian Professor here

Besides following and looking up really thorough analysis at Andy Worthington's site, you may also want to peruse and

Go to nomorecrusades for related items.

And JUST In What's Wrong with Prosecuting a Child Soldier? here and Omar Khadr's Sentencing, A Stain on us All here

Monday, November 1, 2010

Ted Sorensen: Jeffrey Sach's gratitudes

The world lost one of its brightest lights today. Ted Sorensen, counselor to John F. Kennedy, has died at the age of 82. His genius as the greatest modern speechwriter is legendary. His role as a man of peace is less widely known but even greater. Together with Kennedy, Sorensen helped to save the world in the harrowing years of the Cold War, and to put into words the ideas that can preserve peace in our time and in the generations that will follow.

To know Sorensen was to be blessed with the company of a compassionate and cheerful genius. I first met Ted several years ago. His stroke a few years earlier had left him mostly blind. Yet the stroke had not in the slightest diminished Ted's clarity of mind, precision of speech, ready wit, and zest for life. In any gathering, he'd have the assembled guests roaring with laughter at his wit, and then pondering the deepest questions through his wisdom, gentle urging, and retelling of some fascinating episode of history. Until the end of his life, Ted was actively writing (including his marvelous memoirs), lecturing, and generally sharing his great wisdom and experience with each new generation of leaders and global statesmen.

Ted was our vital link to the hope, idealism, and vision of John Kennedy. With Ted's passing, we are cast adrift, and find ourselves even more dangerously at sea in a tempest of cynicism and pessimism. Sorensen stood for something else: the eternal hope for a better world, the belief that humanity, flawed and faltering, could yet find a way to survive and even to thrive. It is a spirit too often absent from our social life today. We must cling to it -- to Ted's great ideas and words -- if we are to survive.

I loved every opportunity that I had to be with Ted, including a dinner recently where he charmed a visiting high-level delegation from Bhutan, the mountain kingdom famed for its quest for happiness. The Prime Minister of Bhutan spoke movingly that evening about how Sorensen's words, in Kennedy's greatest speeches, had inspired Bhutan in its quest for democracy. The assembled dinner guests listened to a recording of Kennedy giving his wondrous speech to the Irish Parliament, recounting the great gifts of small countries to the world. Ted showed his delight, listening to some of his own words more than a half-century later. The Bhutanese were smitten with affection for Ted, as were all the guests. Ted resolved that evening to make his way to the Himalayan Kingdom during the coming year and plans were already in the works.

Sorensen's deepest belief was in the ability of humanity to solve its problems, and especially to find the way to peace. He never wavered in his faith in humanity, and that faith imbued some of the greatest phrases and actions of our age. Ted's belief in peace underpinned the wise counsel he gave during the Cuban Missile Crisis, when he expressed skepticism at the calls by the generals to bomb Cuba and risk nuclear Armageddon. We owe our very survival to the wisdom of John and Robert Kennedy, and Ted Sorensen, for their search for a peaceful resolution of the most dangerous crisis in the history of the world.

Please continue reading here and be sure to read Jeffrey Sach's Bio as well and the comments which follow this article.

I am not familiar with this author yet Professor Jeffrey Sach's other blogposts look equally quite insightful and about the active seeking of peace.

Anthony Graves: Two Decades To Forgive for Texas Death Row Inmate

Michael Paulsen Chronicle

“I’m sorry,” Roy Rueter told Anthony Graves at a news conference Thursday that marked Graves’ release after 18 years in prison for a crime he didn’t do. Rueter said prosecutors misled him, and he testified against his friend at trial.

Sun Oct 31, 2010 14:34

Barbecue, Bearhugs and No Looking Back
First full day as free man finds Graves praying it's not just a dream
Oct. 28, 2010, 11:24PM

Anthony Graves spent his first full day of freedom in almost two decades eating barbecued ribs, visiting with happy supporters who had diligently pressed his case and insisting to all who cared that he bore no malice toward those who railroaded him onto Texas' death row for a crime in which authorities now say he had no part.

Graves said he was enjoying just soaking in the free world, which he had not seen since August 1992, and praying that it was not merely a dream that would end with the sharp clank of heavy cell door or a painful twinge from a hard steel bunk.

"It's still a surreal moment for me," Graves told reporters Thursday, calmly entertaining every question with a smile. "I've tried to understand as best I could what I'm feeling, but I still haven't been able to. … I was going through my own personal hell for 18 years, then one day I walk out."

Graves, 45, was released Wednesday from Burleson County Jail, where he has been for the last four years awaiting retrial, after prosecutors filed a motion to dismiss capital murder charges arising from the brutal killing of a family, including four children, in Somerville. Those prosecutors followed the dismissal with an angry denunciation of the former district attorney, Charles Sebesta, whom they claim fabricated evidence and intimidated witnesses.

Graves, however, said he intends to stay positive, move on with his life and devote his time to helping others.

No energy for anger

He had a simple description for the 12 years he spent on death row: "Hell. Whatever your description of hell is, that's what it is. I don't even need to elaborate."

Graves said repeatedly that he was not angry at the people responsible for his conviction.

"I'm not going to give them that kind of energy," he said. "I gave them 18 years. I just have to give that to God. I'm ready to live now."

Graves said the love and support of people who came forward to help him kept him going over the years. He especially thanked St. Thomas University journalism professor Nicole Casarez and a handful of her students whose investigative work gave momentum to the effort to get his conviction overturned.

"I never lost hope, because once you lose hope, you're a dead man walking," Graves said. "I wasn't just going to lay down and die. I knew that one day it would come to this — I just didn't know what day."

Graves said that immediately after his release he rode a "roller coaster of emotions" and cried "because of the wrong that had been done to me." But he said he had no real animosity toward Robert Carter, the actual killer who had named him as an accomplice and testified against him at trial before recanting prior to his execution in 2000.

"I never really knew him," he said of Carter. "I don't have any feelings toward him today because I think that for the most part they manipulated him, too, so I can't even speak to that."

Others rail at injustice

If Graves seemed indifferent toward those who sent him to prison, attorney Katherine Scardino expressed the same outrage voiced by Bill Parham, the current district attorney for Washington and Burleson counties, and Kelly Siegler, a onetime assistant DA in Harris County. Scardino, like Siegler, had been brought in for Graves' scheduled retrial in 2011 after a federal appeals court overturned his conviction.

"I have never seen such blatant injustice to another human being as what was done to Anthony Graves in this case," said Scardino.

She also was indignant that a different set of prosecutors had offered Graves a life sentence a year ago in lieu of another trial. She said no one seemed interested in looking afresh at the evidence - or lack of it - and that if they had, Graves might have been freed long ago. Scardino relayed the offer to her client, confident that he would reject it and pleased when he did.

"How am I going to do a life sentence knowing that I'm innocent?" Graves said. "I always told my attorneys that I didn't want no plea bargain. They were either going to free me or kill me. I couldn't betray my family and stand in front of judge and plead guilty to something I didn't do. You have to stand for something in this world."

Graves arrived at the mid-afternoon news conference at Scardino's office fresh from a barbecue restaurant.

Slowly he worked his way into the conference room, one hug at a time. There were family members he hadn't seen in the 22 hours since he walked out of jail, as well as lawyers and students who had worked for his release.

He stopped as he came across 36-year-old Michael Rueter, who was a teenager when they last met.

"Oh, you grew up on me," Graves told the tearful Rueter.

And then came Rueter's father, who'd been a friend before testifying against Graves at his 1994 trial after first putting up money for his defense.

"I'm sorry," Roy Rueter said.

"It was not your fault," Graves assured him, opening his arms for another hug. "You were manipulated. It happens to the best of us."

Faces from his past

Graves had been employed at Rueter's family business in Brenham at the time of his arrest. The men played softball together, and Graves served communion at Roy Rueter's wedding. Rueter said he had come to the office just for the chance to see his friend walk free.

He had been persuaded to testify against Graves, believing prosecutors when they said a cheap knife Rueter had given Graves was a match for the wounds on one of the slain children.

He said he realized he had been misled in 1996 after being contacted by an investigator working for Graves' first appellate lawyer.

"It made me physically ill," Rueter said. "No excuse for betraying a friend."

After the news conference, Graves said Texas' criminal justice system makes convictions and death sentences too easy to obtain. He said the public should demand more accountability from prosecutors and greater scrutiny of evidence.

"People don't realize it can happen to them, but we are all vulnerable," he said. "I never thought about the death penalty for two seconds. I didn't live that kind of life."

Graves said he wanted to work on behalf of those who have been wrongfully convicted, though as yet he has no specific plans. He said the state's "flawed system" leaves him with no doubt that there are others on death row not guilty of the crimes that sent them there.

Jeannie Kever contributed to this report.



Anthony Graves story - in significant ways and attitudes of forgiveness - remind me of Ed Chapman's story...North Carolina, similarly, has lots of problems with labs...

See the Journey of Hope posts here here

WATCH for more on the Texas Journey of Hope - 2010 which just soon we should be receiving some photos and articles to post. Gilles had to suddenly return home unexpectedly. What amazing timing JOURNEY was there with our own Journey Family of Exonerated just as Anthony Graves was freed.