Tuesday, February 3, 2009

New Yorker jailed for rebroadcasting Al-Manar TV

The Jerusalem Post reports: The Pakistan-born owner of a satellite TV company has pleaded guilty to providing material aid to a terrorist organization by letting customers receive broadcasts from Hizbullah's television station.

Javed Iqbal entered the plea in federal court in Manhattan on Tuesday. He declined comment afterward. As part of the plea, Iqbal agreed to serve a prison term of up to six and a half years. Sentencing was set for March 24.

Prosecutors said Iqbal used satellite dishes on his Staten Island home to distribute broadcasts of Al Manar, the television station of the Lebanon-based organization that has been fighting Israel since the early 1980s.

Israel and the US consider Hizbullah a terrorist organization and accuse it of being behind deadly attacks in Lebanon and abroad.

Iqbal, 45, was born in Pakistan but has lived in the United States for more than 20 years. He is a permanent resident with five children. A former New York Police Department officer was among those who signed his $250,000 bail package.

Although Americans are granted freedom of speech under the First Amendment to the Constitution, the government contended in this case that Iqbal was not entitled to arrange the satellite broadcast of an organization designated as a terrorist group, regardless of the message.

Lebanon's information minister, Ghazi Aridi, had criticized Iqbal's arrest, calling it an "attack against freedoms (that) robs a large section of people from watching a specific channel."
Commentary: needless to say, the Justice Department under President Obama could drop the charges, but the sad, and frightening, reality is that it will not. So much for Obama's "yes we can" and promises of change crap. Equally frightening is the silence surrounding this case. With the possible exception of people with severe brain damage, it is plainly clear to anyone that the US list of "terrorist organizations" is purely a political tool to brand some groups and not others, depending on their stance towards the USA and Israel. This is how the Albanian KLA has turned into a liberation army, while Ronald Reagan's Afghan "freedom fighters" were turned into terrorists (presumably, they were not terrorists during the Soviet occupation). This is also how Hezbollah is considered as "terrorist". Bottom line?

Phase one: any organization worldwide the US government does not like, it can brand as "terrorist". Phase two: spreading any information about this organization becomes a federal crime. Phase three: Anyone challenging this risks being jailed.

Is this really the freedoms the Founding Fathers of the United States envisioned for the American people? Is this really the kind of society the Obama administration wants to foster?

Where is Amnesty International? Where is Human Rights Watch? Where are all the "doubleplusgoodthinking" human rights activists?

As Saint Gregory the Theologian once wrote: By Silence is God Betrayed