Why prosecutors dropped charges against the man accused of killing Washington intern Chandra Levy

Babs Proller met the man when she was living in a Maryland hotel. He had helped the local actress carry her dog, Buddy, to her fourth-floor room, and over the course of several days in early July, the two neighbors became friendly.

She soon learned that her new acquaintance, Armando Morales, was a convicted felon and former gang member, recently released after decades in prison. He was also the star witness in one of the Washington area’s most sensational murder trials.

Proller eventually became suspicious of Morales and began recording hours of their conversations. Eventually, she contends, Morales revealed a secret that she caught on tape, telling her that he had lied when he testified in 2010 that a onetime cellmate had confessed to killing Chandra Levy.

Those clandestine recordings led to a stunning announcement by District prosecutors on Thursday that they would drop all charges against Ingmar Guandique, who was facing a retrial in the 2001 slaying of the federal intern, according to Proller and individuals familiar with the investigation.

The Washington Post could not independently verify the content of the recordings or the accuracy of Proller’s description. The U.S. attorney’s office would not comment on Proller’s account and said only that “new information” uncovered this week had led prosecutors to conclude that they could not prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Two officials with knowledge of the investigation declined to discuss details of the recordings but said that the audio led prosecutors to question Morales’s credibility.

The dropped charges — coming just three months before the retrial was set to begin in the 15-year-old case — bolsters arguments made by Guandique and his attorneys, who have steadfastly said he was being wrongly held. They had insisted that Morales was making up his account to gain favor with authorities. It also leaves one of the nation’s most infamous murder mysteries unresolved.

In a statement, the D.C. Public Defender Service noted that Guandique “has maintained since the beginning, when he passed an FBI administered lie detector test, that he did not kill Ms. Levy.”

“It is now clear that the jailhouse informant, who was central to the government’s case, was a perjurer who too easily manipulated the prosecutors,” the attorneys said in the statement.

Levy was a 24-year-old intern with the Federal Bureau of Prisons when she disappeared on May 1, 2001. Her remains were found in 2002 in Rock Creek Park.

The intern’s disappearance and killing captured national attention when it was revealed that she had an affair with then-Rep. Gary A. Condit (D-Calif.), who was married and 30 years her senior. Police initially focused on Condit as a suspect but later cleared him.

Years later, authorities charged Guandique in the case, alleging that he had killed Levy while she was jogging in Rock Creek Park. He had pleaded guilty to attacking two other women in the park about the same time Levy was killed, and prosecutors argued that he was a predator who also attacked Levy.

Proving their theory was difficult from the start. There was no forensic evidence and no eyewitness. The heart of the prosecution’s case rested with Morales, who said he shared a cell at a Kentucky prison with Guandique in 2006.

Morales, a five-time convicted felon, captivated D.C. Superior Court with his testimony. He took the stand on the eighth day of the 2010 trial and was the first to directly link Guandique to Levy’s death.

According to Morales, Guandique had said: “You don’t understand. . . . Homeboy, I killed the [expletive], but I didn’t rape her.”

Morales told the jury that Guandique had said he saw Levy carrying a waist pouch and thought there would be cash inside. He recounted how he grabbed her from behind, Morales said, and dragged her off the trail.

She tried to fight, according to Morales’s account of his cellmate’s purported confession, but by the time Guandique got her into the bushes, she had stopped struggling. Morales testified that Guandique told him that he thought Levy was unconscious, not dead.

Guandique claimed that he took Levy’s pouch and fled, Morales said.

“He said he never meant to kill her,” Morales testified.

Morales said in court that Guandique confided in him because he feared he was about to be transferred to a new prison where inmates might view him as a rapist for the attacks on the two other women and target him in a way that they wouldn’t target a killer.

Morales spoke slowly about the man he called “Chucky,” a reference to the murderous doll in the 1988 horror movie “Child’s Play.” He pointed to Guandique in the courtroom and said Guandique had the nickname tattooed across his back. A photo of the tattoo was shown to the jury of 12 women and four men. Morales said he remembered the tattoo in part because “Chucky” was misspelled: C-h-a-c-k-y.

The men bonded over their gang affiliations. Morales, who pleaded guilty in 1997 to dealing cocaine and methamphetamine while armed, was serving a 21-year sentence. He was a founding member of the Fresno Bulldogs

, a gang based in California and aligned with Guandique’s gang, Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, prosecutors said at the time of trial.

At the close of the trial, Guandique was convicted and sentenced to 60 years in prison.

Over the following years, Guandique’s attorneys challenged the conviction. They argued that it “was based on a lie” spun by Morales and said the government had failed to reveal that their witness had previously cooperated with law enforcement as a prison informant.

Last year, the conviction was overturned after prosecutors dropped their opposition to defense requests to have a new jury hear the case. The trial was set to begin in the fall.

In documents filed with the court, Guandique’s defense attorneys said they were considering a strategy for trial in which they would argue that Condit or someone else had a motive to kill Levy.

In a statement released Thursday, Condit’s attorney said the former congressman was “extremely disappointed” that the case had been dropped.

“The failure of authorities to bring formal closure to this tragedy after 15 years is very disappointing but in no way alters the fact that Mr. Condit was long ago completely exonerated by authorities in connection with Ms. Levy’s death,” the statement read.

Guandique, an illegal immigrant from El Salvador, has been jailed awaiting retrial. After his release, he will be placed in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, where he faces removal proceedings, officials said.

Proller said that she and Morales met July 6.

During their conversations, Proller said, Morales had threatened to hurt her ex-husband, which prompted her to begin recording their discussions. Proller said she thought the recordings could protect her and she didn’t want to be implicated in any crimes against her ex-husband.

Proller sent The Post cellphone images of Morales’s prison identification and photos of Morales.

Over the course of three days, “he told me his life story,” Proller said. “He said he is a key witness in a major murder case.”

According to Proller, he lied about Guandique’s confession to improve his prison conditions and eventually struck a deal with prosecutors in exchange for his testimony.

Proller said she told Levy’s mother, Susan Levy, about the recorded conversations with Morales. Susan Levy then contacted the authorities, Proller said. Proller said she turned over the recordings to prosecutors, with whom she has been in contact since Friday.

Calls to Susan Levy were not immediately returned.

Although recording another person without their consent is illegal in Maryland, Proller said prosecutors told her that they were not going to pursue charges against her.

Proller, who according to an IMDB page has appeared on the Netflix TV series “House of Cards,” said some of the

details of her involvement in the Levy case sound like an episode of the show.

But she said she wanted to come forward to help Susan Levy, a grieving mother.

“I want the true person who did this to be found,” Proller said. “The system failed and took attention away from somebody who really did it. It’s a never-ending nightmare for this poor family, and they need closure.”

Source : Washinton Post

FOCUS ON SHAFAUDEEN IN ISLAM 1

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Shafaudeen Islam Fidunya Waliakhirat is an international spiritual Islamice orgainzation that spreads across Nigeria and abroad, with headquarters, situated at Mafikuyomi square, Wakajaye, Iwo road, Ibadan, Nigeria. The organization originated from Oja’ Ba, Ibadan on January, 23 , 1983.

The organization lives by examples, pace-set ideals and stands to break new grounds in Islamic Evangelism to promote untiy nad prevent crisis of opinons. We believe religious rhetoric is no more relevant except at the application level to promote moral, national cohesion, global peace, through admonition principles of tolerance, religious cooperation and free spiritual healing and for the promotion of socio-economic upliftment through good governance.

OUR VISION

To enhance socio-economic and political activities in an environment of justice and equity, fair play and good governance through scritpture complaint religious system for ensured politcal stability and socio-spiritual security of mankind.

OUR MISSION

  • Institutionalizing research concept to facilitate religious understanding and practice
  • Employing peace-move empowerment and teaching method initiative to operationalize the scriptures based on strategic principles.
  • To effect on the global best practices  in home affairs, productivity, business, education, management, human relations and good governance.
  • To promote a well ordered society using media advantage out reach

OUR OBJECTIVES

Shafaudeen In Islam stands for the followingcardinal programmes :

*Promotion of social justice, love and fair play through Islamic practice to enhance :

Spiritual awareness for integrated social reform and nationa rebirth.

Free spiritual healing and true faith Islamic envangelism

Religious  harmony, national cohesion and fostering of global peace.

*Living by examples and pace-setting ideals

*Breaking grounds in Islamic evangelism to promote unity, and prevent crisis of opinions.

BRANCH NETWORK

The organization grows in strength form Ibadna(the international headquarters)to Ogun state(Ilaro, Abeokuta, Owde, Ado-Odo, Igbogila)Oyo town, Lagos state(Ijanikin, Okokomaiko, Race-Course, Ajah, Aba Oru, Adeleye)Osun state(Oshogbo, Ejigbo, Iwo)Kwara state(Ilorin)Niger state(Katcha, Minna) Kaduna state, Abuja,(the FCT), Sokoto, and Borno state(Maiduguri)It further spreads to  overseas countries like: USA Great Britain,(London), Soutth Africa, Cotwe D’Ivoire, Republic of Benin(Seme, Cotonou), Cameroun.

As part of the organization’s philosophy, arsing from the founding visio, it is mandatory for all  the organizattion’s branches to embark on project of Mosque and Morkaz to enhance workshop and knowledge continuity. The organization operates with the use of the Holy Books-qoran and Bible, Hadiths, the Shafaudeed constitution by which we registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission(CAC) in 1992, and, sets of Byelaws to regulate our routine activities.

The organization dedicated its ultra modern multi million Naira Mosque to the glory of Almighty Allah in 2003, commissioned by the Chief Imam of Ibadanland, Sheik (Alhaji)Busari Haroon, and the Emirof Ilorin, Alhaji Ibrahim Zuluqarnnnnnnnaen Gambari

Branch Administration

Branches are administered by members with prerequisite qualification of Terkiyas and Terbiyas. Neighbourhood Da’awah is carried out by branches in their mosque within the neighbourhood

Machete Carrying Youths Attack and Rob Journalist In Olorunsogo, Molete, Ibadan, Nigeria

 

First Published May 25, 2016

Solomon Adewunmi, Editor-In-Chief of online news portal, Federationews2day was on Monday  night attacked, injured and dispossessed of his personal belongings by identified machete carrying youths at the Olorunsogo community in the Molete area of Ibadan, Nigeria.

The youths numbering about 12 attacked the journalist at about 7.45pm in the evening when he was about entering 3, Kehinde Aderibigbe street,  dealth him machete cuts on his head and thereafter dispossessed him of his handbag, containing N30,000 two GSM handsets and some vital documents.

The youths, led by one Samson, a student of Ibadan Grammar School, who are between 14 and 18 years old, thereafter took refuge inside a storey building, 5 Kehinde Aderibigbe street, owned by Mrs. Ajayi, Mother of Tobi of Community  Grammar School, Eyinni and a member of the gang. This was after they  had boasted in Yoruba language that ”report to the police, the police will not listen to you”. Indeed, this has been the response of the police in so many criminal  cases.

The same gang, also comprising of one Samuel of Community Grammar School, Eyinni, Samuel,  and one Godspower Ethumetse St. Lukes Grammar school, Kudeti, Mathew and Ayo Adesanya of Anglican Grammar School, Eyin Grammar, had in March, 2016, burgled a flat  at 3, Kehinde Aderibigbe street.

Sadly, officers and men of the Felele Police Division, which oversees, the community where the robbery incident occurred have for long exhibited attitude that has continuously raised suspicions by members of the public over their compromising roles in criminal activities within the community.

Olorunsogo is home to individuals with suspicious and questionable character, including petty traders, who own shops, which  the youths use as launching pads for attacks on innocent residents. The Landlords and Tenants Association in the community have for long aided and abetted the activities of the youths.

Before this time, the youths, who are residents, of 5 and 6 Kehinde Aderibigbe street, had scaled the fence of house no. 3, broke into a flat and stole building materials worth several thousands of Naira.

With these development, coupled with the fact that Teachers of these schools, live on the same street with the criminals, the insinuation is that the schools are now breeding grounds for criminals.

The Rule of Law Has Been Bastardized By Lawless Nigerians By Eze Dr. Alex Anozie, Eze Ndigbo of Ibadan and Oyo state

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It is better we do anything that will help make us remain a united country, than to insist on the  ”status quo be maintained” and the country breaks up, I think I prefer our going the way of restructuring.

Federation

There is nothing on this planet Earth that is not negotiable except maybe death. So I think the Nigerian federation is negotiable, if negotiating Nigeria, sitting down together to talk and agree on how we can forge ahead , can make us to continue to remain a united country, than refuse to sit down and negotiate, and the country breaks up entirely.

Federal Quota System

Quota system was introduced to carry all segments of the country along and to make every segment of the society to have a sense of belonging, that was why the quota system  came up in the first instance. It came up, when it was discovered that some parts of the country complained of marginalization, which brought about mistrust and suspicion. More so, when the country is made up of so many ethnic and religious groups, so you can now see that there is no way  that it can be avoided. There are also good and capable hands from all parts of the country, who can serve and deliver, if they sincerely want to serve with the fear of God. But it is most unfortunate that since our independence, we have refused to trust  each other, because of corruption that has eaten deep into the fabrics and life of the country, and that has forced us to begin to think of our different ethnic inclinations, since we have lost that trust, which could have allowed the best hands to be picked from any part of the country and he or she serves selflessly and ensures positive results for the country.  The federal quota system is not being operated now.

The System of Government that is right for Nigeria

Well, if not for the confusion and that lack of trust which has enveloped the country, one would have preferred our continuing with the Presidential system, that is our maintaining the staus quo. But with the mindset of Nigerians now, I think to save the country from deterioration, we should restructure the  country and still remain one Nigeria. Let the six Geo-Political arrangement apply, and the zones should work hard and live within their available resources, but should remit 30% of it to the centre.

The Rule of Law

Let me say here, that it is very clear that we are beginning to see the rule of law being bastardized by lawless Nigerians, who believe that only wealth determines who or which is right or wrong. Court judgments are not obeyed as it should be anymore and this is very dangerous as it might  force people to resort to violence to settle scores. Everybody should obey the law, no matter who is involved, including government at the Federal and state levels.

The Distribution of social amenities

I think the idea of restructuring will take care of this aspect. But if you are talking about  how the 30 % of resources from the six Geo-Political zones to be sent to the Federal  centre should be shared, I would suggest that the centre should use it judiciously in making sure that all Federal concerns in every part of the country be adequately taken care of. We should not also forget that it is that 30% that will get to the centre from the zones, that the Armed Forces, Immigration services, Customs and others will be maintained.

To be very clear on the restructuring issue, my opinion or view is that if restructuring will help to see our beloved country, Nigeria remain united, then let it be.

It is better we do anything that will help make us remain a united country, than to insist on the  ”status quo be maintained” and the country breaks up, I think I prefer our going the way of restructuring.

Defeating ISIS Through Civil Resistance?

Striking Nonviolently at Sources of Power Could Support Effective Solutions

By:
Maria J. Stephan

The extremist group ISIS exhibits attributes of both an insurgency and a totalitarian regime. Even top U.S. generals acknowledge that military force alone is insufficient to degrade, much less defeat an organization that rules an area larger than the United Kingdom. ISIS will only be weakened through a multifaceted strategy combining diplomatic, economic, political and other means. Organized civilian action that aims to disrupt and deny the group’s key sources of power could be a critical part of that strategy.

Photo Courtesy of Flickr/Montecruz Foto

Civil resistance can be defined as a strategy of political struggle involving individuals and groups that organize themselves and use techniques such as refusing to cooperate with those in control. That might entail non-cooperation with certain rules or practices or a tenacious collective rejection of the entire system of control. Although the forms and targets of non-cooperation in the case of ISIS will undoubtedly vary by locality, collective disobedience could contribute to an aggressive containment of ISIS and help dissolve its roots by weakening its legitimacy and support base.

“While it is unlikely that core members of ISIS’s punishment brigades will succumb to civic pressure, it is not unthinkable for lower-ranking foot soldiers to begin to question orders.”

Before considering the role of civil resistance, one should assess the motivations and capabilities of this group, also known as ISIL, the Arabic acronym Daesh or the group’s self-conferred moniker “Islamic State.” ISIS’s central political goal is to re-establish an Islamic caliphate, which has not been seen since the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire. Its strategy to achieve this political vision is, first, military conquest to claim control over territory, starting with Iraq and Syria; and second, to establish functional governance in that territory as a means to legitimize its religious authority.

The theoretical and practical challenge for civil resistance scholars is how collective nonviolent action, both within and outside ISIS territory, can be used to disrupt the patterns of cooperation and obedience on which ISIS depends and deny it the human and material resources it needs to wield control. How can sporadic, localized nonviolent action in ISIS-controlled parts of Syria and Iraq be supported and expanded to a significant scale? One approach would be to apply the six sources of power defined by scholar Gene Sharp, the founder of the Albert Einstein Institution, to ISIS and suggest ways they could be severed through civil resistance.

Authority, or perceived legitimacy, is the quality that leads people to voluntarily obey commands, accept decisions, accede to requests or follow suggestions. It is the perceived right to command or direct the actions of others. ISIS’s ideology is coherent and its vision of an alternative religious-political reality is compelling to many Arabs and Muslims disillusioned with the status quo.

Simply declaring ISIS “un-Islamic” is unlikely to make much headway. Instead Islamic scholars, both Sunni and Shia, who are well-versed in Koranic text could offer pointed renunciations of ISIS’s religious interpretations. In addition, the increasing number of recruits and their families, who have grown disillusioned living under ISIS’s rule, could act as powerful counter-voices to the righteous narrative put forward by ISIS.

Social Media and Satire

“In both the short and long terms, the role of organized civilians in challenging extremist, totalitarian ideology and subverting its power is neither negligible nor insignificant.”

Amplifying these voices and their stories—by supporting and coordinating a united social media campaign, for example—could prove a more fruitful course of action for Western governments that have attempted to create and propagate their own counter-narratives. Digital resistance that enables and empowers credible Arab and Muslim voices should be part of any counter-ISIS strategy.

Humor and satire, which have served an important role in Arab culture going all the way back to its ancient poetry, are among the most powerful ways to undermine ISIS’s legitimacy. Humor, according to scholar Majken Jul Sørensen’s research, allows resisters to undermine an oppressor in a manner that is less confrontational than other tactics like protests or street demonstrations and can also help build movement solidarity.

In Raqqa, Syria, ISIS’s de facto capital, humor has become a staple of anti-ISIS resistance. In response to ISIS’s campaign of terror, television networks and social media throughout the Middle East have used comedy to ridicule the group’s radical views. Given that expressions of art and culture are banned in ISIS-controlled areas, which additionally suffer from power cuts and unreliable internet access, the use of humor to strengthen the resistance will likely be most effective in areas outside of ISIS control.

A second source of power for such rulers are the people who obey, cooperate with or give assistance to the powerholders. ISIS didn’t take over large swaths of Iraq and Syria without the active and passive support of many people. ISIS relies on the skills and resources of imams, engineers, tax collectors and a wide array of others in a society to exert control and influence.

But members of these groups are not equally loyal to ISIS, and there have been several documented cases of popular challenges to ISIS policies and practices. One of ISIS’s greatest vulnerabilities is its inability to provide reliable, good-enough governance to those under its control for an extended period of time. Disruptions in service delivery, joblessness and inflation are as problematic for ISIS as they are for official government leaders.

While mass protests are highly risky under ISIS, there are other tactics that could slow or thwart the smooth functioning of its operations: deliberate underperformance in ISIS administration, sharing of important documents and information with activists and outside supporters and nonviolent sabotage of oil production facilities and other infrastructure, for example.

In instances where sources of power range beyond the immediate domestic context, scholars have found that effective civil resistance requires extending the nonviolent battlefield. One example is disrupting the relationship between ISIS recruiters and potential recruits. Hacktivists from groups like Anonymous are already subverting ISIS’s social media communications.

Cross-Section of Support to ISIS

Besides the trigger-pullers and trained jihadis, ISIS also relies on a cross-section of support from municipal governments, banks, information technology firms and others. ISIS will only be able to create and sustain a functioning state if these groups provide the knowledge and know-how required to do their job.

Each of these groups present vulnerabilities for ISIS’s administrative and governance functions if some of their members either fail to perform as they are expected to, or else begin to disobey actively (though likely quietly). Non-cooperation by the business community also could be potentially consequential, though difficult to organize.

A fourth source of power identified by Sharp is the control of natural and other resources, such as money, land, computers, communications and transportation. ISIS commands a sizeable amount of territory and is organized as a highly efficient company, whose operations are fueled through a self-financing business worth an estimated $2 billion. According to a Rand Corporation report cited by the New York Times, ISIS relies on extortion and taxation, taking in more than $1 million per day, to fund its activities.

Preventative action targeting communities in territories abutting or close to ISIS-controlled parts of Iraq and Syria is another way to both deter ISIS activities and deny the organization a steady supply of material resources. Studies reveal that organizations pursuing nonviolent action who were most self-motivated were also the most capable of “nudging” non-state armed groups while remaining resilient to violence. Civilian deaths were lower in places that had high concentrations of autonomous organizations.

This finding suggests that supporting whatever indigenous ability exists for local communities to organize across sectarian divisions would challenge a key facet of ISIS strategy and help strengthen them in the event of a future ISIS attack. For example, in Iraq, active shuttle diplomacy by a group of mediators from the Network of Iraqi Facilitators helped prevent a sectarian-based spiral of revenge violence following the massacre, by ISIS, of 1,700 Shia cadets at Camp Speicher near the city of Tikrit in July 2014.

Sharp also cites intangible sources of power, such as psychological, cultural and ideological factors that promote obedience to and cooperation with those in power. This may include habits, traditions, religious beliefs, language conventions, a sense of belonging or the presence or absence of a common faith, ideology, or sense of mission.

ISIS is tapping into a number of intangibles—notably a desire for identity, belonging and participation in a meaningful enterprise—to attract adherents and fighters. For alienated Muslim youth in particular, the prospect of joining a seemingly powerful, mission-focused organization holds great appeal. Even some Muslim women, facing family and societal pressures and increasingly enabled by social media, are responding to ISIS’s call for participation in the larger-than-life struggle of reconstructing a caliphate.

Honorable, Dignified Lifestyle

Using poignant testimonials by defectors to undermine ISIS’s claim to be providing an honorable, dignified lifestyle to devout Muslims is only part of the solution. Dissolving the roots of ISIS terrorism requires empowering people with the tools and narratives to challenge the injustices that give rise to violent extremism.

Disempowered youth need to be shown alternative means to achieve social justice and political inclusion. Using the rich history of Muslim and Arab-led nonviolent struggles as a cultural reference, and dramatizing these struggles and their leaders using popular media and educational tools, needs to be part of a longer-term solution to extremism.

The final source of power in Sharp’s list of six is punishment of those who disobey, typically by seizure of assets, imprisonment or execution. ISIS is infamous for its use of penalties, often brutal, to terrorize the populations under their control and to deter dissent.

Making ISIS’s use of corporal punishment backfire politically would be the goal of any potential nonviolent action. According to Brian Martin, there are two conditions for “backfire.” First, an action is perceived as unjust, unfair, excessive or disproportional. Second, information about the action is communicated to relevant audiences.

Certain ISIS actions have provoked counter-mobilization and resistance by those living under the group’s control. There have been isolated instances of ISIS releasing political prisoners in response to organized protests by women and others. While it is unlikely that core members of ISIS’s punishment brigades will succumb to civic pressure, it is not unthinkable for lower-ranking foot soldiers to begin to question orders. The more organized and unified the community is, the greater the chance that such questioning, and potentially changed behavior, would occur.

ISIS keeps its grip on power by inserting itself in all aspects of societal life and by destroying any sort of autonomous political action. In this way, ISIS exhibits features of both a totalitarian regime and a socio-religious movement.

‘Greatest Threat to Totalitarian Rule’

German philosopher Hannah Arendt’s ruminations about totalitarianism and its vulnerabilities are instructive in terms of possible civil resistance responses to ISIS: “The greatest threat to totalitarian rule, and the main target of total terror, is human spontaneity or ‘man’s power to begin something new out of his own resources, something that cannot be explained on the basis of reactions to environment and events.’

Arendt recognized that human agency and eruptions of spontaneous political action are threatening to totalitarian regimes. This type of political action is extremely difficult in full-blown totalitarian dictatorships. However, it is not unimaginable. We have seen spontaneous outbursts of protest activity lead to small victories in ISIS-controlled parts of Iraq and Syria. These incidents should be further studied for what allowed the local communities to exert leverage over ISIS, so that models could be developed for support to such actions.

If ISIS perpetuates its totalitarian-esque control by blocking any sort of autonomous collective action, then the civil resistance antidote is to support self-organization in various forms. An organized population that demonstrates the ability and inclination to act independently of ISIS is a threat to the group.. Local organization can take different forms, especially since protests and direct confrontations may be inappropriate in many cases.

Outsiders—governments and international non-governmental organizations—can support community resilience and subtle forms of non-cooperation with ISIS by helping Syrians and Iraqis create parallel structures and institutions. Practically, this entails providing educational materials and medical supplies to Iraqi and Syrian men and women who may be leading underground schools and medical clinics. It means offering trauma support to those who have been victimized by ISIS and are struggling to re-enter normal life. It requires supporting alternative media and communication channels and getting non-ISIS news and information into the territories it controls and into adjacent areas. This also involves supporting authentic local and regional voices with the cultural heft and legitimacy to challenge the absurdity of ISIS tyranny.

Furthermore, attempting to dismantle ISIS without addressing the severe governance failures and venal corruption that fueled its rise is futile. The civil war in Syria is the greatest humanitarian catastrophe of our time. The displacement, destruction and despair resulting from the war, spurred on by dictatorial criminality and regional proxy conflicts, gave rise to ISIS in Syria and are sustaining its presence there.

A political solution to the Syrian civil war that includes a regional accord involving Iran and Saudi Arabia, and a greater investment in those Syrian individuals and organizations that are capable of mediating across conflict lines, may be the only way to eliminate ISIS in the long term. In addition, strengthening inclusive, representative governance in Iraq, Libya, Tunisia and other countries that have spawned ISIS recruits will help dry up the roots of violent extremism.

In both the short and long terms, the role of organized civilians in challenging extremist, totalitarian ideology and subverting its power is neither negligible nor insignificant. Countering extremist narratives by amplifying local and regional voices capable of making a compelling religious, social and cultural case against ISIS is an essential role for those outside seeking a resolution of this devastating conflict. Counter-narratives, in turn, should be backed by organized collective action and support for autonomous political, economic and social activities. Investing in the strengthening of this type of people power is relevant not only for the fight against ISIS, but for the injustices and governance failures that catapulted its rapid spread.

Maria J. Stephan is a senior policy fellow at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. A more extensive version of this article was first published in the Journal of Resistance Studies Volume 1, Number 2 – 2015 and is available free of charge through that site’s shopping cart feature. The author would like to thank Chelsea Dreher, Danny Hajjar and Siree Aller for their research assistance.

Source :USIP

Before Modern Nigeria 3

  Obas( Kings) of Lagos 2

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When Esilogun joined his ancestors in 1829, his first son, Idewu, became King, even though the people of Lagos were opposed to  his choice.

The people however clamored for the return of Adele. He return to the throne as King Adele 1 and passed on year later. Adele’s son, Oluwole ,succeeded his father, but died in an explosion in 1841.

Akitoye, Adele’s junior brother and Kosoko, Esilogun’ second son were both interested in succeeding Oluwole after his death, but at the long run Akitoye ascended the throne.

On becoming King, Akitoye made peace with his enemies and granted amnesty to all the Chiefs, including his rival and nephew, Kosoko, who were initially driven out of Lagos. This action by Akitoye led to his ouster.

Now back in Lagos, Kosoko began perfecting plans to dethrone Akitoye. Eventually, the plan sailed through and Akitoye had to go on exile, in the first instance, to Abeokuta and later Badagry.

While at the Badagry, he sought the assistance of the British missionaries to regain his throne.  The missionaries saw this as an opportunity to displace the Portuguese and Brazilians in Lagos in all economic activities and also propagate Christianity in Yorubaland.

Towards achieving this, the missionaries told the British Government that Kosoko was a bad leader, who allowed slave trade to flourish, while impressing it on the government that Akitoye was against slave trade and ready to propagate Christianity.

Samuel Ajayi Crowther, was in London on behalf of the missionaries to seek for assistance in restoring Akitoye to the throne.

During this period, John Beecroft, the British Consul, based on the Island of  Fernando Po, approached Kosoko and requested him to sign a treaty with the British. He refused. Beecroft now resorted to  the use of force, but met a stiff resistance from Kosoko and his soldiers. The British retreated and returned with a stronger reinforcement, this led to the ouster of Kosoko.

In 1851, after Akitoye had signed a treaty with the British, he was restored to the throne.

 

The Con Man Who Hoodwinked Hitler

The consummate con artist, Freeman Bernstein worked a scam on everyone from Mae West to the Fuhrer. When they weren’t throwing him in jail, people loved him.

On the afternoon of the New Hampshire primary, in a motel just outside of Manchester, I wrote the final paragraph of my book, Hustling Hitler: The Jewish Vaudevillian Who Fooled the Fuhrer. Until then, Goffstown, New Hampshire had not been renowned as a literary inspiration, but the Courtyard Marriott was all the muse I needed.

For the prior four years, I had been a time-traveling double agent shuttling between the heyday of vaudeville in the early 20th century and the knock-about spectacle known as the 2016 campaign.

Political journalists, of course, routinely write works of popular history. But my compatriots favor serious excavations like doorstop biographies of Millard Fillmore and re-examinations of the tariff issue in the 1892 presidential campaign. In contrast, I wrote Hustling Hitler, the story of my con-man great-uncle Freeman Bernstein, dreaming of Zero Mostel of the movie version of The Producers playing the title role.

Born in 1873 in Troy, New York, the son of an immigrant peddler, Freeman Bernstein was famous as a leather-lunged vaudeville agent, an ill-fated silent-movie producer, an inept horserace fixer, skilled card-sharp, artful jewel smuggler and, ultimately, the man who nicked the Nazis in a 1936 nickel deal. Variety lovingly chronicled the exploits of this Broadway character (who pre-dated Damon Runyon) calling him “The Pet of Times Square.”

My attraction to Freeman Bernstein had little to do with family genealogy, a topic that normally interests me as much as Gregorian chants. But ever since I came upon my first news clip about my great-uncle (a 1937 Los Angeles Times story headlined, “Metals Broker Denies Bilking Hitler”), I was hooked. Especially since the Los Angeles Times article mentioned that Freeman Bernstein was arrested in Hollywood on a fugitive warrant from New York after he left Mae West’s apartment at midnight.

Life lesson: If you can mention Adolf Hitler and Mae West in the first paragraph of a book proposal, you’re probably in good shape.

I have covered the last ten presidential campaigns, following White House dreamers across the country. I even wrote a book, One-Car Caravan, about the early skirmishing for the 2004 Democratic nomination. But in reconstructing the life of Freeman Bernstein, I had no one to interview, since he died (broke, of course) in 1942.

Today’s digitized newspaper archives allow a researcher to find specific names in publications that were never indexed. As a result, I unearthed about 2,500 clips on Freeman Bernstein and his vaudeville star wife, May Ward. Reading bygone newspapers like the New York World, the New York Sun and the Morning Telegraph, I realized that—despite segregation and economic injustice—the first three decades of the 20th century were for many a glorious time in America.

Show business sparked from vaudeville (my great-uncle booked fledgling performers like Al Jolson and George Burns) to Broadway (George M. Cohan, Eddie Foy, and the Barrymores were all on stage in a typical week in 1912). Competitive newspapers trafficked in exposés, gossip, humor, and great writing. America radiated a sense of hopefulness, a collective belief that progress was on the march, which lasted until the 1929 stock market crash.

In short, I’m ready to go back, if I can take antibiotics with me.

How My Uncle Hoodwinked Hitler

Amazon

Publishing a biography of a colorful grifter while covering the 2016 campaign has prompted many people to ask, “Was your great-uncle Freeman similar in nature to Donald Trump?”

Admittedly, Freeman did jail time while he was successfully fighting extradition from California over the Hitler hustle. It is true that he was banned from racetracks in three countries—and you had to work hard to be judged too unethical for Tijuana. Honesty also compels me to mention that Freeman Bernstein ran a very successful Irish Festival in Boston in 1929 under the unlikely name of Roger O’Ryan. Alas, my great-uncle (soon called “O’Ryanstein” in the Boston papers) was indicted for grand larceny after his Irish alter ego unaccountably disappeared with the gate receipts.

Despite this checkered legal and financial record (including two bankruptcies), Freeman possessed a big-hearted generosity of spirit lacking in a certain bilious billionaire.

After a rare big payday, my great-uncle flashed a $100 bill to pay for a $2 breakfast at a Times Square hotel. The moment the waiter handed my great-uncle $98 in change, a down-on-his-luck acquaintance asked to borrow $75. Without hesitating, Freeman gave him most of most of his current net worth. As Variety declared in its obit, “Bernstein had the native ability to borrow cash and his credit was considerable because when he was again in the chips he paid off.”

Freeman embraced foreigners—and, unlike Trump, not just rich ones or international beauty-contest winners. Whenever my great-uncle traveled (and he was politely escorted out of many countries), he relished the chance to try out his cons on new unsuspecting audiences.

But Freeman also could be fearless—trying to get an actor out of Russia in the midst of Lenin’s early purges and visiting Nazi Germany as an American Jew in late 1935. He even ran a circus tour in Outer Mongolia, accepting furs as the admission fee.

For the most part, my great-uncle steered clear of partisan politics. Sure, he tried to sell the 1916 Woodrow Wilson campaign on commissioning him to produce a full-length movie called Prosperity. And he arranged for the distribution of millions of copies of a Yiddish pamphlet boosting Herbert Hoover as a “Modern Moses” in 1928. But these were business propositions—not Trumpian bids for power.

Freeman carried out his hustles with a smile on his face and the hope that his marks would come back for more. After he abandoned a vaudeville troupe in the Dominican Republic, the American vice counsel in Santo Domingo wired the FBI to arrest Bernstein when his ship docked in New York. The diplomat pegged Freeman perfectly as he warned the government agents not to believe “any suave story he may tell” because he “has a gift for making black look white.”

Freeman Bernstein may have been a jail-bird, a bankrupt, and a con man. But he also had a code of honor, a beguiling honesty about himself and an appreciation of the foibles of his fellow man. He was willing to let the cards fall where they may, though he would have preferred to cut the deck. In short, I am proud to say that my grifter great-uncle, the Pet of Times Square, was nothing like Donald Trump.

Roll Call columnist Walter Shapiro is covering his tenth presidential campaign. He is also a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU and a lecturer in political science at Yale. His new book, Hustling Hitler: The Jewish Vaudevillian Who Fooled the Fuhrer, is published by Blue Rider Press.

Source : Daily Beast

Twelve Tribes: The Church Preached Child Abuse & Slavery

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According to ex-members of Twelve Tribes who spoke to The Daily Beast, children are regularly beaten and leaders preached “slavery is necessary.” Now, an escapee has taken over the Facebook page of the Plymouth bakery run by the commune so he can broadcast its ills.

Growing up, Kayam Mathias said he was beaten 20 to 30 times a day.

“I grew to be numb to it, to quell the rage within and just not feel anything.”

That didn’t bother him so much, he said. He could take it.

“What I cared about was when my infant sister was beaten and there was nothing I could do about it. To hear her screams and be powerless … and that even if you tried to stop you couldn’t, is a crushing thing to go through. It broke my spirit, man. I still remember her screams to this day.”

It’s been almost eight years since Mathias, now 22, left the Twelve Tribes, the controversial commune and religious sect he was born into, but the memories, and the anger at the way he and his family were allegedly treated is still fresh. He says he—and other members of the sect—were regularly beaten by adults in the commune as a form of discipline.

“The first time I used an ATM or a vending machine was when I left,” Mathias said. “I knew nothing about the world. It was all so strange and new and was like being born suddenly with an adult body, feeling like a child or an alien, but needing to act like an adult to survive.”

This year, he finally decided to say something about it. In June posts began showing up on the Facebook page of the Blue Blinds Bakery, a quaint and well-reviewed business located in Plymouth, Massachusetts, for the first time since 2012. “[W]e have decided to use our Facebook page as an active evangelism tool,” someone wrote on Thursday of last week. What followed was a couple of outrageously offensive screeds, including one that began, “As promised, let’s talk about the blacks!”

“One of the most frequent questions we get is, ‘Are you racist?’ The answer is no,” the author wrote. “But we do believe that slavery is necessary. There’s a difference.”

It was speculated that the post, which picked up steam this week among the Boston food community and has since been shared over 300 times, was the work of a hacker. It was actually Mathias. He’d set up the Facebook page years ago, he claimed, and still had access to it. The Daily Beast reached out to Mathias through the Blue Blinds Bakery Facebook page, and he was able to confirm his identity by forwarding us a photocopy of his passport. A member of Twelve Tribes confirmed that Mathias is an ex-member, who had access to the Facebook account.

Blue Blinds Bakery

“It’s time this ends,” Mathias said, referring to the church’s alleged secrecy.

“We completely disavow all the stuff on that Facebook page 100 percent, without any exception,” said a man, who identified himself as Zahar, who would not give his last name, when I called the bakery to ask if they indeed advocated for slavery. (Only  Twelve Tribes members work at the bakery.) “If you want to know what we believe, we actually have a website.”

Based on their website, prior reporting, and firsthand accounts, it appears that what they do actually believe isn’t too far off.

The website Zahar referenced is TwelveTribes.com, the home of a group founded in 1972 by a man named Elbert “Gene” Spriggs in Chattanooga, Tennessee, that promotes a sort of hybrid of Christian fundamentalism, Hebrew Roots, and Messianic Judaism. The group has some 3,000 to 4,000 members in isolated, self-sustaining communes around the world that operate businesses like Blue Blinds, a chain of restaurants called The Yellow Deli, and a large construction business. It has dodged accusations of cult-like behavior ever since its inception.

“The group went from being this hippie thing that was kind of cool to turning into this cultist, religious, fucked-up kind of thing,” a second former member told me. “It’s like the frog-stew analogy. You throw a frog in cold water, and he doesn’t realize he’s getting hot until he’s boiled to death.”

According to former members of the Twelve Tribes, Spriggs, the group’s leader, has allegedly preached that black people are destined for slavery and that homosexuals should be put to death—as transcripts of his past sermons appear to show. The half-dozen former members who spoke to The Daily Beast also allege a culture of systematic child abuse, subjugation of women, and psychological torment.

A couple of years ago, a German documentary uncovered video of children in a local branch being beaten so terribly that the government led a raid and took the children away. In the video, Wolfram Kuhnigk, an RTL journalist, filmed 50 instances of beatings on camera, as the Independent reported. One former member who appears in the film recounts being regularly beaten for such trivial offenses as pretending to be an airplane. According to the group’s teachings, children are not permitted to engage in any type of playing or fantasy.

It’s a pattern of controversial behavior that has persisted in stories about the group for decades. “There are so many teachings that keep you from being who you are. They keep you from being human,” a former member named Joellen Griffin told the Boston Herald in 2001. “You get so absorbed in the teachings that you lose your emotions and your ability to respond to situations. They seem like a tight-knit family, but you just don’t know all the misery behind those eyeballs.”

In 1984, authorities in Vermont undertook a similar raid, liberating over 100 children from a Twelve Tribes compound, according to The New York Times. A judge determined that the raid was unconstitutional and the children were returned. Interestingly, as the San Diego Reader reported, the public defender at the time, Jean Swantko, joined the group soon after.

An investigation by the Sydney Morning Herald in 2013 told similar stories of members who had escaped the group, as did an investigation last year by Pacific Standard, which reported that children were allegedly beaten multiple times per day. In 2001 the New York Post launched an investigation that resulted in some of the group’s New York businesses being cited for violating child labor laws.

***

Despite in-depth investigations into several locations by newspapers and magazines, both current and some former Twelve Tribes members have repeatedly insisted in the press that they do not “abuse” their children.

“Most are gross exaggerations of scandalous, isolated activity throwing all members of Twelve Tribes under the bus,” the third ex-member, who also asked not to use his name because he had family still in the group told me. “The fact is there have been untold scandals within the Twelve Tribes communities, but the actions or misdeeds of a few can by no means accurately or rationally surmise the beliefs, practices, or daily lives of the many individuals that make up the whole.”

“Every person has their story,” he went on. “Every family has their secrets, their dirty laundry, their bad habits or poor decisions. Everyone must find their way in this world and we don’t do it perfectly all the time. We learn from mistakes, things are most often not as they first seem to be.”

That’s no doubt the case when it comes to the Twelve Tribes, but according to many who’ve made their way out of the group, those mistakes have been adding up for a long time.

A man who answered the phone number listed on Twelve Tribes’ site refused to give his name and would not answer any questions. He directed me to the Blue Blinds Bakery for any questions about their Facebook page.

“We believe in corporal punishment, and we stand by that, but we do not believe in child abuse by any means,” Zahar, the bakery employee, told me. “And we believe that a lot of the problems that you see in the world today probably could have been avoided if children understood cause and effect and understood consequences.”

Internal documents from the group reviewed by The Daily Beast lay out the justifications for their treatment of children, including the use of wooden reeds for punishment and training.

“The rod must be used to correct wrong thoughts, wrong words, and wrong deeds; thoughts are powerful—there is no sin without thinking about it,” Our Child Training Manual explains. Materials on the group’s website lay out similar practices.

“Train your child to submit willingly to his discipline; make sure he bends over submissively; guilt will not be removed unless he submits willingly.

“Discipline is vital. If you don’t discipline your child according to the Scriptures, you are not going to enter the Kingdom of Heaven,” it continues. “When we see a child receive what we consider mistreatment from such parents, we must remember that God is in control and has chosen to place the soul life of that child under those parents, specifically.”

The documents compare provisions against corporal punishment to the laws of totalitarian states, and deny the right of the government to intervene: “The governments of such nations as Sparta, Hitler’s Germany, and communist Russia have usurped the parents’ role, but today parental authority is being undermined in the USA through compulsory public education, child advocacy agencies, and child-abuse laws. Parents must not allow government to usurp their authority in those areas in which God holds the parents alone accountable.”

Corporal punishment is rooted in the Twelve Tribes’ literal reading of the Acts of the Apostles, according to Zahar. “We’re fundamental Christians and we take the Bible literally,” he told me. “We follow the pattern of the early church, early Christians, and they shared everything in common. We believe that Christianity kind of went off that pattern of living together and sharing everything and actually taking care of each other. That’s what we’re trying to get back to, to the pattern in Acts II.”

While he said they do not condone homosexuality, they also allege they do not believe in violence and would welcome an LGBT person into their home. As for the slavery question, he countered that the group has black members. In fact, he said one was working with him at the bakery as we spoke.

***

The second former member who spoke to The Daily Beast (and also asked to not use his name because of concerns about his family) said that corporal punishment is rampant. He told me he was hit 30 to 40 times a day growing up in the church.

“I remember getting whipped so hard I didn’t know if I was going to survive. I couldn’t breath, I was gasping for air.

“They used to teach that anyone in the group could spank any children, so some random, creepy motherfucker could grab you and beat your ass.”

The former member, a construction worker who was born into the group, laughed when I asked him if the Facebook posts were consistent with the group’s beliefs.

“That’s pretty much spot on. Basically, if you want to show the world what they believe, get your hands on their teachings about black people, Jews, children, women—there’s about 50,000 of these ‘teachings,'” he said.

“Multiculturalism increases murder, crime, and prejudice,” reads one such teaching on the group’s website. “It goes against the way man is. It places impossible demands on people to love others who are culturally and racially different. This is unnatural it forces people to go against their instinctive knowledge, like trying to love sodomites. They are told, ‘You can’t discriminate.’ Although discrimination is viewed as an evil sin, it is still within a person’s prerogative (right) to segregate himself.”

“Their teachings on black people are that they’re supposed to be slaves, about how God cursed black people back in the day,” said the same former member. “It’s crazy. Unless a black person is in the community, they need to serve white people. It’s so racist it will blow your mind.”

Copies of sermons given by Spriggs in 1998 and 1991, and reviewed by The Daily Beast, lay out the group’s attitude on race. “Martin Luther King and others have been inspired by the evil one to have forced equality,” states one titled “Châm and the Civil Rights Movement Unraveling the Races of Man.” “Slavery is the only way for some people to be useful in society. They wouldn’t do anything productive without being forced to. They would be worthless fellows.” (Châm is a reference to Ham, the son of Noah whom Biblical tradition credits with populating Africa.)

It goes downhill from there.

“What a marvelous opportunity that blacks could be brought over here to be slaves so that they could be found worthy of the nations,” read a second sermon. “A good master would work by the sweat of his brow. If his slaves were lazy and disrespectful, he would beat them, which is what he was supposed to do.”

It should be noted that the group does have black members, although they were not able to be reached by press time. When The Daily Beast reached out to the Twelve Tribes about the contents of the sermons, a spokesperson declined comment. The ex-members I spoke with explained this contradiction by noting that minorities who give themselves over to the Twelve Tribes are viewed differently than those who do not.

***

Women are meant to subjugate themselves to men, are allegedly required to wear head coverings that “serve as an outward symbol of her subservience to her man,” and are infrequently allowed to talk, claimed one former female member I spoke with, who asked not to use her real name for fear of retaliation, and provided photos of herself today and during her time in the group. She said that when she was 14 years old, a boy her age kissed her innocently. From that point forth, they were separated on opposite sides of the country and not permitted to communicate, but nevertheless were sentenced to be married when they turned 18.

She told me that she first tried to escape when they were married. She was gone for three months, but she claims the group guilted her into coming back, saying her husband would burn in hell for eternity if she didn’t. The pair was relocated to Florida, where family members outside of the group who’d taken her in couldn’t find her. Three months into their marriage, they were reprimanded for not yet having any children, she said. Previous reports on the group outline persistent pressure for young women to give birth to many children.

“There are a lot of good people there, but they don’t understand, they’re so brainwashed,” the male former member told me. “They find themselves defending stuff that doesn’t make sense.”

One way for the group to ensure total loyalty, he said, is by divesting members of any ties to their former lives, requiring them to donate all of their possessions and money to the church. “My ex-girlfriend’s dad died of cancer after he left the group. They realized he’d had it for 14 years. If they’d caught it any time before that he might’ve lived, but they neglected his health for so long. They do not go to the doctor ever, unless there’s some sort of catastrophic injury.”

The Boston Herald story cited numerous instances of stillbirth, with women allegedly being refused medical treatment during labor. “In fact, stillbirths are so common that the cult’s private burial ground in Island Pond, Vermont, includes several unmarked graves of dead children,” the story reads.

Mathias said he took over the bakery’s Facebook page in part to expose Twelve Tribes, but also as a means of explaining what his bizarre life inside the group was like.

For those who leave the Twelve Tribes, the assimilation process isn’t just difficult practically speaking. As Mathias said, it comes with a lot of psychological stress.

“Having talked to people who have left, it’s a five-year cycle of depression, self-loathing, doubt, hopelessness, and then finally acceptance and recovery. In my weird way, this is the acceptance stage,” he said. “I’m putting everything that happened out there in the hopes that people will realize what’s going on, but also as a way just to talk about it. Think about trying to have this conversation with a friend: ‘Hey, so I was in a religious cult that abused me. I just left a few years ago.’ It puts people off.”

Attempts by The Daily Beast to reach Mathias’ family for comment were unsuccessful.

Chris Pike is another former Twelve Tribes member—he belonged to the group for 14 years. He came to the community, like many others, through the Grateful Dead scene, and after a period of bereavement and loss in his life. While Twelve Tribes recruiters do prey on people in his position, he said, he was clear that it was his choice to join.

“It doesn’t need to be sensationalized. It’s just screwed all on its own. But I also want a clearer picture portrayed of the community,” he said.

“It’s not all demonized. There’s some of the nicest salt of the earth people there, and it’s not all creepy. That’s the delicate thing people don’t realize. Why do people join in the first place? What do you think I was attracted to, beating children? Are you kidding me?”

While the teachings instruct parents to “encourage their children seven times before disciplining them,” that’s not always how it works, said Pike, who was a teacher himself for a time.

“I can tell you everyone you come across that’s a former member will tell you that just doesn’t happen, it’s actually the opposite,” said Pike. “They spank seven times more than they encourage. Some parents are very good and do try, and then there’s the ones that are not. It’s all on an individual basis.

“It has the potential to be that wonderful, but also has the potential to be that horrible. And it does.”

Chris said he’s exasperated by the coverage of the Tribes over the years, as it never leads to any real help. What he wants to see is someone step up and show a real path forward for ex-members. He particularly wants help for the children, he said, who are often lost, entering a world they don’t know, with nothing to their names.

“I’m so tired of watching the media selling papers off the Twelve Tribes and they’re not helping. I hope somebody extends a helping hand and says, ‘Hey, any philanthropic people out there want to help these people, because they need some help. They need some help,’” said Pike.

“There’s got to be a landing strip. There’s got to be a cushion—and there’s not for these kids. We don’t need Bible reeducation, we need a helping hand out of the mess so that we can build a solid support system to help the children and ex-members.”

***

The former female member I spoke with, said one of her first memories was of being beaten so badly with a 2×4 that she went home black and blue from her neck to her kneecaps. She was four years old.

“I couldn’t get myself to raise my kids the way they wanted me to. That’s why I left, because of them. The way they brainwash you and stuff—I probably would still be there if I didn’t have children,” she said.

Still, says the ex-member who is skeptical of media reports about the group, the despicable actions of a few do not fully represent the group as a whole. All six of the ex-members I spoke to, in fact, said there are many decent people involved.

“Is the Twelve Tribes a religious sect full of manipulation, nepotism, elitism, haves and have nots in spite of their ideals of equality for all? Yes!” he said. “Does the Twelve Tribes have a leadership system full of egomaniacal religious fundamentalists? Yes! Have there been cases of child abuse within families of the Twelve Tribes? Yes…Does the Twelve Tribes have a system of belief regarding race that is misleading? Yes! Does it promote or practice hate against different races of the earth within or without? No! Do the teachings of the Twelve Tribes come from one man? Yes! Do all members of the Twelve Tribes adhere to said teachings? No!”

Many of the members, he and others explained, want to live simple lives in the hopes of pleasing God in the way they’ve been taught. But, he added, that gets complicated when they’re not encouraged to think on their own, or draw their own conclusions about life outside of the group.

“Do members work without pay? Yes, it’s a commune with a common pot. Everyone that moves in knows that. There’s no secret there. Children born and raised know that it’s just life. Food, clothing and shelter are provided for. Some Twelve Tribes communities are rich while others are very poor. Some members have access to computers, the Internet, social media, news etc while others don’t.

“Does the Twelve Tribes believe they are the harbinger of the return of Jesus? Yes! Are there current members of the Twelve Tribes that live in turmoil every day doubting, struggling against believing that what they’re doing is right? Yes. Are there current members that wish they could leave but don’t know how? Yes! Should Twelve Tribes be exposed for what it really is? Yes!”

Kenya: Rights Group Says Security Agencies Enforced At Least 34 Disappearances

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A human rights group has accused Kenyan security forces of abducting and killing men in northeast Kenya who they suspect of having links to Islamist extremists. All the reported victims are of ethnic Somali origin.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) says that security forces in Kenya are responsible for at least 34 “enforced disappearances” and 11 suspected “extrajudicial killings” in the past two years.

An HRW report detailed stories of people taken from their homes by masked, armed men who did not identify themselves, or beaten in the streets, before being driven away in government vehicles. Some of the disappeared were reportedly last seen in police or military custody.

The events were reported to have taken place in Garissa, Mandera and Wajir counties as well as the capital, Nairobi, as part of extensive counter terrorism operations in Kenya’s predominately ethnic Somali northeast.

HRW urged Kenyan authorities to investigate the disappearances and the deaths of detainees in the northeast, citing cases where suspects arrested over alleged ties with the Somalia-based Islamic extremist group al-Shabab had disappeared.

Ken Roth, HRW’s executive director, said that the documented cases were “just the tip of the iceberg.”

“People in northeastern Kenya deserve protection from al-Shabab attacks, not further abuse from the authorities,” he said, adding that “rounding people up and refusing to disclose their whereabouts is a serious crime and only compounds fears and mistrust in the security forces.”

Kenyan police spokesman Charles Owino said a police oversight committee would carry out an independent investigation. Kenyan police have come under fire recently over the killings of a lawyer and two others whose bodies were found dumped in a river in June.

Kenya’s Anti-Terrorism Police Unit (ATPU) has regularly been accused of intimidating or killing suspects, with both human rights and academic researchers repeatedly warning that this helps drive radicalization.

Kenya has suffered numerous terrorist attacks by al-Shabab, including an assault on Nairobi’s Westgate shopping mall in 2013 and a massacre of students at a university in Garissa in 2015.

Source : DW

Kickbacks and Killings: A Brazilian Cop Tells His Story

Amy Braunschweiger

Senior Web Communications Manager

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Cesar Muñoz and João sat down in the living room to talk. Cesar knew a little about João – he worked as a military police officer in Rio de Janeiro, the type of police who regularly storm into the city’s 1,000 or so favelas, or slums, with assault rifles and armored vehicles.

Cesar, the Human Rights Watch Brazil senior researcher, didn’t know that what was to come was one of the most shocking interviews of his life.

In the beginning João talked about relatively minor misconduct (by Rio de Janeiro standards), like keeping  guns confiscated from suspects that should have been handed over as evidence, but it didn’t take long before he told of torture and murder

When he committed these crimes, João was a member of a tactical unit within a battalion—a Tactical Action Group (GAT, Grupamento de Ações Táticas). “To remain a member, you have to kill and confiscate weapons,” he said.

Cesar took notes, hiding how unnerved he was at the  casual way João talked about his past. João was handsome, his hair cut short like a cop, and spoke intelligently and reasonably. He did not seem like a killer.

“I didn’t feel he was someone who would pull a gun and kill me on the spot, although he could,” Cesar said.

They talked for two hours.

A new Human Rights Watch report, Good Cops Are Afraid, details how police like João in the state of Rio de Janeiro have killed more than 8,000 people in the past decade. Police were responsible for one in five homicides in the city of Rio last year; and three quarters of those killed by police were black men. As police often face violence from heavily armed gangs, many killings are self-defense, but many others are extrajudicial executions. These killings turn communities against the police, making the job of policing Rio more difficult and dangerous.

Rio de Janeiro promised that security would be an important legacy of the upcoming Summer Olympic Games it’s hosting in August. But it has not done enough to address extrajudicial executions by police, a central obstacle to more effective law enforcement.

The video is available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gGiurjOuGTs&feature=youtu.be (accessed June 22, 2016).

Rio authorities have recently taken several steps to improve how those cases are handled, including  creating a special prosecutorial unit focusing on police abuse. However, additional steps are needed to strengthen the new unit and ensure  proper investigations and prosecutions of these cases.

João´s story shows how impunity perpetuates police abuses.

At first João described his “small” crimes, like confiscating guns from suspects, then either keeping them or reselling them – sometimes to known drug lords.

João talked as if he were a soldier in a war, and the members of drug gangs were his enemy. “He became more animated when he was talking about combat,” Cesar said.

João mentioned in passing that he’d tortured people, apparently without giving it much thought, as if it was part of his job description, Cesar said.

Adriana Pérez da Silva shows a picture of her son, Carlos Eduardo da Silva Souza, 16. Police officers fired and killed him and four other friends who were in the same car, on their way to have a snack together on November 28, 2015.

Jorge Augusto Vieira cries when he looks at a t-shirt with the pictures of five friends killed by police on November 28, 2015. One of them was his stepson Cleiton Corrêa de Souza, 18.

But torture was important to what Cesar was trying to find out, so he pressed for details. João relayed the facts. He and other officers had chased a few teenagers – they looked to be around 18 – into a house, where they found two guns. “They were very young,” João said.

Suspecting there were more guns, they tortured the teenagers. First, João said, they put  plastic  bags used to package ice over the youths’ heads to suffocate them. When Cesar asked why an ice bag, João replied, “Because ice bags are stronger, and people can tear regular bags with their teeth.”

Two residents of theComplexo do Alemão favela walk on November 26, 2015 by graffiti that asks: “Where is Amarildo?” Amarildo de Souza, a 47-year-old construction laborer disappeared after police took him to the Pacifying Police Unit (UPP) at Rocinha favela in July 2013. In February 2016, 12 police officers, including the UPP commander, were convicted of torturing Amarildo to death. His disappearance became a watershed moment for the deterioration of many communities’ confidence in UPPs.

Then they beat the youths  about the face, kicked them in the ribs, and pepper-sprayed them. When João said they didn’t use electric shock, Cesar asked why. João answered, “We didn’t have a machine available.” The youths were tortured for 20 or 30 minutes, but didn’t reveal the locations of more guns.

“The police have a method” in using torture,  Cesar said. “They knew how to do it, had done it before. It was pretty shocking. [João] told the details so matter-of-factly. Like it wasn’t extraordinary.”

As João described the killings, Cesar thought of the families of people killed by police. He couldn’t erase their pain and stories from his mind as he listened to João.

João described an operation in which the objective wasn’t to detain suspects but to kill them. Some officers entered a favela from one side while João and some officers hid in the foliage near a possible escape route. As the suspected drug traffickers ran past, João and his colleagues shot them. They killed one, and another was badly injured  but he didn’t instantly die. One of the police officers went to look for guns to plant on the guys. The rest of the officers hung about while the man was dying. “We wanted him to die there,” João admitted.

Mônica Aparecida Corrêa shows the certificate of enlistment into the Navy of her son, Cleiton Corrêa de Souza, 18. He was about to start training when police officers killed him and four other friends on November 28, 2015. The police officers said they responded to fire from inside the car where the five young men where traveling. However, witnesses said to civil police investigators that they saw one of the officers place a gun in the hand of one of the bodies and forensic experts concluded none of the five men killed had fired a gun.

Once they had the new guns, they fired some shots with them and placed them in the hands of the suspects. After a while, local residents started congregating, and the police decided to leave. They threw the injured man into the back of the car and the dead man on top of him. They  took the victims to a hospital, where the second man died.

“It’s a lack of respect for human life that’s just astounding,” Cesar said. “It’s difficult to process, really.”

The approximately eight police officers who participated in that operation went to the civil police station afterward, but only two gave statements. That was their standard procedure after unlawful killings: only two of the officers would report participating in a shootout. They would alternate which two so that none would accumulate a larger record of kills that might appear suspicious.

“The civil police do not ask every person who shoots a weapon to give a statement,” João said. The two police officers told the civil police that they were attacked when they entered the favela and shot back in self-defense, the same narrative they used for all killings, João explained.

Brazil’s favelas are dangerous, and oftentimes ruled by drug lords. Did João see himself as taking down bad guys to end crime?

Not at all, Cesar believes. João and many of his fellow officers took kickbacks from drug traffickers in exchange for not raiding the favelas. When one drug trafficker asked João to kidnap his drug boss so he could climb the crime ladder, João and the other officers complied – and divided the ransom money.

Military police Major Roberto Valente, commander of the Pacifying Police Unit (UPP) at the Morro da Providência favela, holds a meeting with the local community on December 15, 2015 to inform residents of the activities of the police in 2015 and hear their comments and complaints. Major Valente says armed confrontation is not an effective strategy to fight crime and highlights the importance of crime prevention, which he says is his main focus at the UPP he commands.

João  didn’t join the police force  to make money on corruption – rather, he joined for the good career and good benefits, he said. But when he saw the guy next to him doing the same job but making much more money from kickbacks, he decided to join in.

“I see this as very dangerous,” Cesar said. “It really shows that if the military police don’t address the criminal behavior that is prevalent in some battalions, this could happen to anybody. Anyone could become like this.”

João was also under no illusions that people, even other police, were safer because of his actions. If he killed 10 suspected members of gangs, he said, 10 more would replace them. “It’s like trying to dry ice,” João said, using a Brazilian expression.

Today João is a member of a different military police battalion. He told Cesar he would not tell on his former fellow officers. “They would not think even a millisecond before killing me or my family,” he said.

After the interview, João drove Cesar back to his hotel. They talked about nothing in particular. Once again, it was all disturbingly normal.

Source : Human Rights Watch