Tuesday, August 03, 2010
Four men were convicted today of murdering an innocent couple by firebombing the wrong house in a botched 'honour' killing.
Abdullah Mohamed, 41, and his wife Ayesha, 39, were at home in bed when petrol was poured through the letterbox of their home in Blackburn, Lancashire, and set on fire. But the gang recruited to carry out the attack were supposed to target the house of a man 20 doors away who was having a secret affair with another man's married sister.
Mr Mohammed was killed in the blaze in October last year and his wife died a week later from her injuries. Two of their three children, a girl aged 14 and a boy aged nine, were also trapped in the house but survived.
The arson attack had been arranged by London Underground systems operator Hisamuddin Ibrahim, 21, after he discovered his married sister was having an affair. Ibrahim had asked his best friend Habib Iqbal and two other men, Mohammed Miah and Sadek Miah (no relation), to drive up from London overnight to carry out the attack on the home of her lover.
Ibrahim, 21, of Shelley Avenue, London, Habid Iqbal, 25, of Strone Road, London, and Mohammed Miah, 19, of Pelley Road, London, and Sadek Miah, 23, of Byng Street, Isle of Dogs, London, all denied murder, but Sadek Miah pleaded guilty to manslaughter. It took a jury just 90 minutes today to convict all four defendants of murder following a six-week trial at Preston Crown Court. They are due to be sentenced tomorrow.
The court had heard that Hisamuddin Ibrahim had arranged the attack after discovering that his sister Hafija Gorji was having an affair with Mohammad 'Mo' Ibrahim who is no relation. She was married to a cousin from India, while her sister was married to her husband's brother.
The lovers met in April 2009 and when rumours circulated about the affair, Ibrahim was summoned to a meeting and forced to 'swear on the Koran' he had not been having an affair with Hafija. But she told police that her husband had found out about the affair a month before the fire and had assaulted her. Hafija reported the assault to police and said she was fearful for Mo's safety.
Mr Brian Cummings QC, prosecuting, said during the trial: 'Hisamuddin Ibrahim,on behalf of his family, wanted to kill Mohammed or Mo Ibrahim, to punish him for damaging the family's honour for having an affair with his married sister Hafija Gorji.'
During the trial the jury were shown grainy CCTV images of a VW golf near to the home just prior to the fire being started and going round the block three times before parking up.
The three killers were then seen walking in the direction of the Abdullah home, and then running back to the car before fleeing the scene with the lights off. Inquiries revealed the vehicle was registered to the mother of one of the arsonists in London and had been driven up to Blackburn the previous evening.
Following the killings, Lancashire Constabulary launched one of the biggest murder inquiries ever undertaken by the force, which saw 590 statements taken, 1,486 lines of enquiry followed and seized 1,684 exhibits and had over 100 police officers and staff working on the case.
Joanne Cunliffe, Crown Advocate from Lancashire CPS, said after the trial: 'The deaths of Mr and Mrs Mohammed have had a devastating impact not only on their family, but also on the community where they lived. Mr and Mrs Mohammed were complete strangers to the men who have today been convicted of their murder and their three children have been orphaned in a terrible case of mistaken identity. 'All four of these defendants bear equal guilt for the murders. It was a planned and callous attack.'
Speaking after the case, Ashraf Mohammed, the 19-year-old son of Abdullah and Ayesha Mohammed, paid tribute to his parents. 'No words can truly do justice to how amazing my parents were. They were really the most loving, kind and selfless people you could ever meet.
'My father touched the hearts of many around the world. He was an inspiration to everyone around him and an invaluable asset to the community. He was very passionate about charity and devoted his life to helping the unfortunate and disadvantaged.
'My mother was also a very friendly and caring lady who had a heart of gold. She was extremely kind and gentle and was always seen with a smile on her face. 'There isn't a day that goes by in which our family does not remember my parents and their loss has left an empty place in our hearts that can never be filled.'
Betraying American ideals without even knowing it
There’s a country that earlier generations might not recognize in which the national government’s criminal investigative agency can execute its own warrants without court approval; present them to private companies and demand information about people who are not necessarily suspected of criminal wrongdoing; and — if that were not enough — forbid those companies from telling anyone — not even the target of the investigation.
The country I have in mind is not a Latin American banana republic or a Middle Eastern dictatorship. It’s the United States of America.
The warrant-like orders requiring no judge’s signature are called national security letters. In the last nine years the FBI, Defense Department, and CIA have issued well over a hundred thousand national security letters. The FBI has exceeded even the broad powers granted by Congress, and that overreach continued for years after it came to the attention of bureau lawyers. Earlier this year the inspector general of the Justice Department documented the FBI’s frequent violations of the law. (See it here in pdf form.) If the government is now operating within the law, that is no reason for complacency: The law itself is an abuse.
Not Far Enough
Nevertheless, it doesn’t go far enough for President Obama, who campaigned against Bush administration civil-liberties violations like warrantless wiretapping. Obama wants Congress to expand the scope of national security letters even more. It’s another case of a Progressive political figure one-upping the conservatives at “national security” measures once he gets his hands on power.
Unfortunately, these things get little public attention — do most people even know that national security letters exist? I can’t help asking: Shouldn’t we be concerned about this? I’d have expected people who claim to revere the Constitution to be rather upset by a law that authorizes federal intelligence and investigative agencies, on their own initiative, to demand private records without a court-issued warrant and in the absence of specific criminal activity — while keeping the target in the dark so he can’t challenge the demand before a judge.
What happened to the separation of powers and the First and Fourth Amendments? We’re talking about some venerable and hard-won protections in Anglo-American law, protections that have now been blithely nullified. (Watch for the September issue of The Freeman, with Joseph Stromberg’s examination of the history and present condition of the Fourth Amendment.)
According to the Washington Post, the Obama administration says it wants to clarify existing law so that national security letters can unambiguously include among the information demanded: “the addresses to which an Internet user sends e-mail, the times and dates e-mail was sent and received, and possibly a user’s browser history.”
Browser history? Could a browser history be used to build a criminal case against someone? “Electronic communication transactional records,” the undefined phrase that Obama wants added to the law, would not include the content of communications – or so say administration lawyers. After all that’s been going on of late, why should anyone believe that?
The legal clarification is said to be necessary because some Internet service providers refuse to turn over such information on grounds that doing so would violate the law, although most reportedly do.
Why not just get a warrant? A national security letter, an administration official said, “allows us to intercede in plots earlier than we would if our hands were tied and we were unable to get this data in a way that was quick and efficient.”
This is a boilerplate rationalization – complete with the tied-hands trope — for unchecked executive power. It was the same excuse used to justify warrantless eavesdropping even though the FISA court expedites the obtaining of warrants. (This is not to say the FISA court is an adequate safeguard of civil liberties. It has functioned more like a rubberstamp than a real independent court.) If the powers that be had liberty among their priorities, they’d find a way to have a real court issue warrants quickly.
National security letters did not begin with the 9/11 attacks and the Patriot Act. They originated in 1978 but were used infrequently and were limited to suspected foreign agents directly under investigation. Institutions served with a letter could not be forced to comply.
In the 1980s and ’90s the power was broadened: Targets no longer had to be foreign agents under investigation; the information sought merely had to be declared “relevant” to a terrorist investigation or intelligence operation. No “probable cause” is necessary. Compliance became compulsory.
The 2001 Patriot Act expanded the power even more. (Some of the issues, such as the gag order, are being litigated thanks to the ACLU. Apparently there has been no final resolution.) As noted, that virtual blank check wasn’t enough for the FBI. For example, it often sought information unrelated to any existing investigation, and informal “sneak peaks” and “exigent letters” were used to get around the loose law when the FBI found it inconvenient.
Isn’t this the sort of thing that sparked that revolt against the British Empire?
One has to be concerned with how much the American people are willing to put up with nowadays. National security letters are not the only problem. Congress passed, a president signed, and the Supreme Court upheld a law forbidding Americans to give vaguely defined “material support” to government-designated foreign terrorist organizations, even if that support is nothing more than conducting a seminar on nonviolent conflict resolution for a group that directs none of its activities at Americans. (Ominously, Solicitor General and soon-to-be Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan argued the case for the Obama administration. Chief Justice John Roberts chided her for refusing to acknowledge that the law infringes freedom of speech, which was otherwise okay with him.)
Moreover, last week the Washington Post documented the rise of “Top Secret America,” or what I’ve dubbed the “obscene feeding frenzy at the public trough” — namely the unbelievable expansion of the government’s costly and hopelessly complicated global surveillance apparatus. It may not make us safer — in fact it may be reading our emails — but it’s making a lot of people and contractors richer.
Are we so afraid that we are eager to trash irreversibly what’s left of our civil liberties? Is that what we have reduced ourselves to? Have we no sense of the ideals we have betrayed?
Free police to do their job, says British chief
Police forces will accept cuts in numbers if front-line officers are freed from bureaucracy to “get on with the job”, a senior officer said yesterday. Sir Hugh Orde, the president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, admitted that police had been burdened by years of centrally imposed policies. He welcomed indications from Theresa May, the Home Secretary, that she was ready to reverse Labour innovations such as anti-social behaviour orders and 24-hour drinking.
“Over the years, we have constrained policing and put so much policy into place,” he said. “We need to free up that system and let the officer just get on with the job.”
Sir Hugh, who has previously warned that current police numbers were “unsustainable” given economic constraints, also warned against assuming all officers should be on the beat at all times.
Officers classed as working at their desks included murder squads and units tackling terrorism and organised crime. “We have to recognise that some officers may have to go,” Sir Hugh added, “but people in offices solve very dangerous and serious crime and bring very dangerous people to justice.”
Sir Hugh also so said that the extension of Sarah’s law across the country offers “real hope” of keeping children safer.
The scheme, introduced in response to the abduction and murder of eight-year-old Sarah Payne by a convicted sex offender 10 years ago, allows parents to check if someone with regular unsupervised access to their children has a criminal record for abuse. Sir Hugh said it would be “a welcome part of the armoury” used by police to protect children.
Let juries hear ALL the evidence? Preposterous!
At least in one Australian State the absurd British legal tradition of hiding background information from juries is being questioned
JURIES would be allowed to hear the past convictions of some accused criminals under a groundbreaking [South Australian] State Government proposal. Attorney-General John Rau will today begin seeking the opinions of the judiciary and the criminal legal profession over an election promise to amend the 1921 Evidence Act.
He said the draft Bill would allow juries to hear similar fact evidence, propensity evidence and evidence of uncharged acts "in appropriate cases".
But members of the legal profession have questioned the need for change. Critics say the proposal could undermine the basis of the legal system - the presumption of innocence at trial - and unfairly influence a jury. Mr Rau said the existing Evidence Law was confusing.
He said the Government's proposed changes would better guide judges on when it would be appropriate for a jury to hear about an accused person's criminal past. "Serious criminals, particularly those who have a history of violence, or are child-sex offenders or internet predators, should have to account to a court for their past actions and behaviour, particularly when there is a clear pattern of offending relevant to that case," Mr Rau said.
Currently, juries only hear evidence of prior similar offences when a judge rules its value significantly outweighs the risk of any prejudice to the accused.
Mr Rau said the change would provide clarity about when that information should be put before the court. "It is clear that there are some limited occasions when I believe it is right that past offending and behaviour of a defendant should be heard by a jury, because that behaviour is so clearly relevant to the case which is being tried," Mr Rau said. He said the change could lead to more guilty pleas and help reduce the backlog of cases piling up before the District Court.
Former Director of Public Prosecutions Paul Rofe said that, in his experience, existing evidence laws were adequate. "With competent judges and counsel the law works," Mr Rofe said. Allowing juries to hear evidence of earlier crimes would "skew the whole process", he said. "You should be able to get a conviction based on the evidence of the alleged incident and why the person was charged in the first place without resorting to past history."
Civil libertarian George Mancini questioned the need for any amendment to the Act. "It may not reflect any great need or community concern or demand for change," Mr Mancini said. "The Government has to be seen to be doing something."
He said SA's laws were in line with the rest of the nation and it was only in "extremely rare" circumstances that an accused person's criminal past was put before a jury.
Law Society president Richard Mellows said he would be apprehensive about changes which would remove an accused person's presumption of innocence at trial. "We want everyone who has committed a crime to be brought to justice, but we want to make sure everyone gets a fair trial," he said. "It's important a case is decided not on someone's record, but on the evidence in relation to the alleged crime before the court."
Criminal defence lawyer Craig Caldicott said the proposed changes were "fraught with danger". "Even with the best will in the world, jurors might have undue regard for a prior conviction and decide a person's guilt or innocence on something that might have happened in the past," Mr Caldicott said. "It could lead to wrongful convictions." [No problem that the present system leads to wrongful exonerations?]
A spokeswoman for Opposition Leader Isobel Redmond said the Liberal Party would support a proposal clarifying the laws, if properly examined. "There needs to be close examination of how that would be done and of the nature and crimes it would apply to," she said.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.