Good News and Bad
by Stephen Lendman
A personal note: As a writer and radio host, I'm often asked why I don't discuss good news. My answer is when I find some I will. Today I did, and here it is.
Two previous articles discussed suppressing free expression in Greece. Targeting dissent and media freedom continues.
Journalists revealing information government authorities want suppressed are suspended, fired, and/or arrested and prosecuted.
Costas Vaxevanis and Spiros Karatzaferis were targeted. Karatzaferis remains in custody on libel charges. He claimed to have information on how Greece manipulated its deficit to seek bailout help at the expense of ordinary people.
He said he'd present it on air October 31. He was arrested to prevent him from doing it. He added that he wasn't apprehended for having the information. Authorities used an old warrant against him.
It related to accusations he made against judges. He accused them of trying to form a para-state outside government. "I am being condemned for libel," he said. He added that he'll go to jail before paying a fine if assessed one. He may end up there.
Vaxevanis was arrested for publishing the "Lagarde List." It contained names of 2,059 wealthy Greeks with secret HSBC Swiss accounts.
Secreting wealth offshore in tax havens makes them suspect. Vaxevanis and former Greek finance minister George Papaconstantinou wanted them investigated for possible criminality.
Current Greek finance minister Evangelos Venizelos did nothing. Papaconstantinou said authorities didn't act because they're covering for elite tax cheats. Greece is notorious for high-level ones. Its longstanding system is "broken and corrupt," he added.
Vaxevanis was arrested, brought to Athens magistrate court for a hearing, released pending trial, then rushed through one on November 1.
Initially it was scheduled for later. Perhaps a national uproar got it moved up to dispense with it quickly. A packed court watched it.
All's far from well in Greece, but ended that way for Vaxevanis. Lawyers representing him convinced judges that accusations against him were politically motivated.
On November 1, the London Guardian
headlined "Greek editor Kostas Vaxevanis acquitted over Swiss bank list."
Before testifying in his own defense, he said:
"My job is simply to tell the news and tell it straight. My job is to tell the truth." In Athens magistrate court, proceedings took 12 hours. A "three-member panel of judges (presided) stony-faced throughout" them.
Prosecutor Iraklis Pasalidis called no witnesses. Symbolically it confirmed baseless state accusations. Nonetheless, he argued that Vaxevanis should be convicted of violating state privacy laws and defamation without proof of guilt. Judges didn't buy it.
Vaxevanis was vindicated. He was acquitted and freed. Relieved, he said:
"Journalism for far too long has been a hostage to political forces that don’t allow it to work. This decision sets a precedent that allows my colleagues to do their jobs without political handcuffs."
"Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed. Everything else is public relations. As such it was my duty to reveal this list."
"The political system has been hiding the truth for so long."
"It is quite clear the political system did everything not to publish this list. If you look at the names, or the offshore companies linked to certain individuals, you see that these are all friends of those in power. Phony lists had also begun to circulate. It was time for the truth."
"We live in a country where, on the one hand, tax evasion is rampant and, on the other, people are eating out of rubbish trucks because of salary cuts, because they can't make ends meet."
Attorney Nikos Kostantopouloulos represented Vaxevanis. "We have a schizophrenic situation," he said, "where, on the one hand, a journalist is being penalized for revealing a document in the interests of informing public opinion and, on the other, the parliament itself is now saying the handling of the list should be investigated."
"Right down to the way the prosecutor so hastily issued the charge sheet without even bothering to stamp it, it has been handled very badly. Furthermore, none of those on the list have even filed a complaint about privacy violation."
International Federation of Journalists president Jim Boumela flew from London to testify for Vaxevanis. He's a national hero. Exonerated, he's free. If convicted and imprisoned, he'd have risen to martyr status.
Transparency International co-founder, Frank Vogl, said Greece's government is tarnished.
"Internationally, the case will serve as a blunt reminder to Greece’s international official creditors that it is hopeless to accept the pledges of the Greek authorities that they will sharply curb their budget deficit so long as they fail to act meaningfully against corruption and tax evasion."
Now the bad news.
America's Justice Department bagged another innocent victim. It specializes in creating terror plots, not busting them. At issue is lawless FBI entrapment. It's happened so many times before. US prisons are filled with men and women who should be free.
Confining them to gulag incarceration constitutes police state injustice. Tyrannical regimes prioritize it. They never say they're sorry. They're too preoccupied bagging others on the false pretext of fighting terrorism.
America is the world's leading terror state. No one's safe anywhere domestically or abroad. Guilt by accusation is policy. Innocence is no defense. That's how police states operate.
In September 2011, Rezwan Ferdaus was indicted on six counts. They included alleged plans to attack the Pentagon and Capitol Hill, as well as provide aid to a foreign terrorist organization.
At the time, National Lawyers Guild president Heidi Boghosian said, "It deeply concerns us. It is another in a pattern of high-profile cases. Would this person have conceived or executed" anything without FBI involvement?
Council on American-Islamic Relations' Ibrahim Hooper said, "There is a big, big difference between a plot initiated by the FBI and a plot initiated by a suspect, and it seems this (likely was) initiated by the FBI."
On November 1, the FBI's Boston Division
headlined "Man Sentenced in Boston for Plotting Attack on Pentagon and US Capitol and Attempting to Provide Detonation Devices to Terrorists," saying:
Rezwan Ferdaus was sentenced to "17 years in prison, to be followed by 10 years of supervised release."
On July 20, 2012, he was pressured to accept a plea bargain guilty plea despite having committed no crime or planning one. In return, four charges were dropped. None should have been made in the first place.
Prosecutorial pressure is unprincipled. Ferdaus perhaps was told either take 17 years or face life in prison without parole or perhaps the death penalty. Terrified victims, often poorly represented, choose the lesser of two bad options.
Ferdaus is 27 years old. If he survives, he'll be middle-aged when released. Hampered by a criminal record, his future prospects will be grim.
Charges against him are absurd. He was convicted of plotting to blow up the Pentagon "by means of an improvised explosive device (IED) using mobile phones."
The alleged plot sounded more like a bad film script. No self-respecting producer would touch it. Ferdaus will spend some of his best years in gulag confinement.
At issue is lawless entrapment. Paid informants are used. Witnesses are paid to lie. Secret evidence unavailable to defense attorneys is used. Muslims are America's target of choice.
Praying to the wrong God is hazardous. War on terror targeting snares unsuspecting victims. Media scoundrels convict them in the court of public opinion. Justice is denied every time.
On November 2, Reuters
headlined "Massachusetts man sentenced to 17 years after FBI terrorism sting," saying:
Ferdaus was convicted for planning to use "remote-control(led) model airplanes" to blow up the Pentagon. Reading from a two-page statement, he said:
"I, the other, the uniquely dressed, the lone man in these hours, I speak of humanity. No dehumanization can serve as justification for inhumanity in other places."
He left unexplained what he meant. Judge Richard Stearns said, "Your statement convinced me that you have the character and capacity to search your own soul."
"FREE REZWAN FERDAUS. Day 400 of Solitary Confinement. Arrested on September 28, 2011, and Accused of a Terror Plot 'Orchestrated and Facilitated by the Government."
His mother, Ana Maria Ferdaus, told reporters, "My son is innocent. We are the best family that America will ever have….Investigate your government."
Public defender Miriam Conrad said Ferdaus had no interest in terrorism. FBI operatives manipulated him.
"There was no evidence ever produced that (he) sought out contact with any outside groups before the government became involved or even after the government became involved," she said.
She added that prior to his arrest, he got psychiatric help for depression and anxiety. His parents said he became depressed during his senior college year. In 2009, they thought he was mentally ill.
They urged him to seek professional help. At first he refused. They added, "We took a very cautious approach. After all, he was over 18 and we could not force him to see a doctor….We felt helpless."
Ferdaus was a 2008 Northeastern University physics graduate. On November 1, NU's The Huntington News
discussed him perfunctorily.
Instead of explaining FBI entrapment, it regurgitated prosecutorial charges and 17 year prison sentence. What should have been explained was omitted.
There was no plot, crime or intention to commit one. Ferdaus was entrapped, manipulated, and pressured to accept a plea bargain guilty plea.
Another innocent victim of America's war on terror will spend some of his best years in prison. Given his depressed state, he may not survive it emotionally.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book is titled "How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War"
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.