Day: February 28, 2019

Border Patrol Museum reopens after protest hits exhibits

EL PASO, Texas — A museum dedicated to the history of the U.S. Border Patrol has reopened after officials say protesters vandalized exhibits.

The U.S. Border Patrol Museum in El Paso announced on its Facebook page Wednesday the museum is welcoming visitors following a protest by immigrant advocates earlier this month.

Museum officials say protesters posted stickers with images of the migrant children who have died recently in Border Patrol custody throughout the museum.

The demonstrators, who called themselves Tornillo: The Occupation, denied in an email statement that the protest left behind any permanent damage.

The privately funded museum — near one of the busiest U.S. ports of entry — seeks to tell the history of the Border Patrol as the nation’s views on immigration, travel and border security have changed.

The Associated Press

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source https://toronto.citynews.ca/2019/02/28/border-patrol-museum-reopens-after-protest-hits-exhibits/

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‘Liar, Pants on Fire’: GOP keeps focus on Cohen, not Trump

WASHINGTON — A poster propped behind Republicans grilling Michael Cohen set out their strategy in five words: “Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire!”

They sounded angry, whipped off their glasses and threw paper down on their desks as they questioned President Donald Trump’s former “fixer” about his misdeeds — all while conspicuously avoiding Cohen’s contention that he did Trump’s bidding, possibly in violation of the law, for decades.

Rather than rush to the president’s defence on his payments to a porn star or what Cohen described as pressure to violate the law, Republicans hammered on Cohen for being a convicted liar, suggesting he’s especially lying now about Trump. The president piped up from Vietnam during the hearing with a similar approach.

“He is lying in order to reduce his prison time,” Trump tweeted.

But by then, Republicans were well into their effort to discredit the man Trump has called a “rat.”

“You’ve claimed that you’ve lied but you’re not a liar,” said Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga. “Just to set the record straight, if you lied, you are a liar by definition.”

While Republicans focused on lies, Democrats talked about truth — about Trump, about the payments, about the inner workings and finances of the Trump Organization. They took pains to condemn Cohen for his false statement to Congress, acknowledging the considerable baggage he brought as a witness. Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md., opened the hearing with a no-nonsense lecture to Cohen and later said he would “nail him to the cross” for lying to the committee.

But Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., suggested truthfulness wasn’t the issue.

“I don’t think colleagues on the other side of the aisle are afraid that you’re going to lie,” Lynch told Cohen. “I think they’re afraid you’re going to tell the truth.”

The true-or-false gamesmanship pointed to a more consequential political struggle, one that is just now getting under way. Democrats wanted to convince the public that Cohen’s testimony was a legitimate and necessary use of their new oversight power, with more to come. Repeatedly, they used their questioning of Cohen to set up new lines of inquiry, asking him for the names of other people in Trump’s orbit that they should interview.

All the while, Republicans portrayed the hearing as a sham, motivated by animus against the president, with Cohen’s mere presence in the hearing room serving as proof.

Cohen was already heading to prison next month after pleading guilty to violating campaign finance laws and yes, lying to Congress. In his opening statement, Cohen again admitted having lied to protect Trump and himself.

Calling Cohen a liar over and over during Wednesday’s proceedings didn’t stand up to the documentation he brought with him — including what he said was a copy of a $35,000 check signed by Trump, then president. Cohen said it was one of 11 checks Trump wrote to repay Cohen for the cash paid to porn actress Stormy Daniels to keep her quiet about an alleged affair. He told the panel that Trump pressured him to lie to first lady Melania Trump about the matter. Cohen said Trump pressured him to suppress the truth about his college grades and the real reason he did not serve in Vietnam — a deferment later attributed to bone spurs.

Cohen also suggested there could be more revelations to come. He suggested prosecutors in New York are investigating conversations that Trump or his advisers had with Cohen after Cohen’s hotel-room office was raided by the FBI.

He said Trump did not ask him directly to lie to Congress, specifying that’s not the president’s style. But he said there was pressure to lie in the form of suggestive words from Trump, including in one instance, in the Oval Office.

At one point, he said he appreciates that Republicans are attacking “me every single time about taxes, (saying) I have no credibility.”

“It’s for exactly that reason that I spent the last week searching boxes in order to find the information that I did so that you don’t have to take my word for it. I don’t want you to,” he said. “I want you to look at the documents.”

Republicans held firm to their goal of showing Cohen can’t be trusted.

“Where are those boxes? Are they in your garage or…?” asked Rep. Clay Higgins, R-La., who asked for more detail on whether they should have been turned over to law enforcement.

They were confiscated by the FBI, and then returned, Cohen said.

Other Republicans went off on Cohen, including Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., a top Trump ally who pointed his glasses at Cohen and at times shouted. He took aim at Cohen’s testimony that Trump was a racist who said black people would not vote for him because they’re “too stupid.”

About 90 minutes into the hearing, a woman named Lynne Patton, a longtime Trump family aide who works at the Department of Housing and Urban Development stood behind Meadows.

Meadows said Patton, who is African American, would not work for someone who is racist.

“Neither should I as the son of a Holocaust survivor,” Cohen replied.

Later, freshman Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan said that using Patton as a “prop” was racist. Meadows objected. Tlaib said she “was not referring to you at all as a racist” and apologized “if that’s what it sounded like.”

Some Republicans got to the point.

“You’re either incompetent or you are a liar,” said Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio.

Added Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz.: “You are a pathological liar. You don’t note truth from falsehood.”

“I’m sorry,” said Cohen. “Are you referring to me or the president?”

Cohen grew visibly emotional at the end of the hearing as Cummings thanked him for coming. Face reddening, Cohen appeared to be holding back tears and took a sip of water as he composed himself. It was one of several moments during the hearing where Cohen’s old bravado as Trump’s fixer was seemingly gone.

“Good luck on your road to redemption,” said Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Calif., at one point.

“Thank you,” Cohen replied. “It’s going to be a long way.”

___

Associated Press Writer Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report.

___

Follow Kellman on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/APLaurieKellman

Laurie Kellman, The Associated Press

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source https://toronto.citynews.ca/2019/02/27/liar-pants-on-fire-gop-keeps-focus-on-cohen-not-trump/

By The Wall of Law February 28, 2019 Off

Federal Government Must Escalate Case Of Yasser Ahmed Albaz, Canadian Held In Notorious Tora Prison: Ex-Prisoner

Amal Ahmed Albaz says she has not heard from her father ever since he was detained in Egypt on Feb. 18.

Yasser Ahmed Albaz’s last message to his family was, under any other circumstance, nothing to cause alarm.

It was February 18. Family Day. He was at the airport in Cairo waiting for a flight home after almost two months away for work.

After checking in his luggage, Yasser told his family he was “put on the side” by airport staff and was still waiting for his passport. He later let them know he was going to miss his flight. Then he told them he loved them.

Yasser Ahmed Albaz is pictured with his family

“That was the last direct communication we had with him,” his daughter Amal Albaz told HuffPost Canada.

Yasser sent one more message to a friend, explaining that he was being taken away by state security.

Albaz said she immediately reported the case to Canada’s emergency consular services line. She later learned her father was being subjected to “general questioning” but was allowed to have a lawyer present.

“The lawyer himself is very shocked,” she said. “He said this makes absolutely no sense. He has no idea why this is happening as well.”

For almost one week, the family had no idea where Yasser was. Then the nightmare began.

It feels like a nightmare that we’re not waking up from.Amal Ahmed Albaz on her father’s detention in Egypt

The lawyer told them Yasser has not been charged with anything but that he was being detained and taken to Egypt’s Tora prison complex, a notorious facility often used to detain political prisoners. It’s the same place where Muslim Brotherhood supporters were held after the Egyptian military overthrew Mohamed Morsi — a senior figure in the organization and the country’s first elected president — back in 2013. Many who are suspected of or charged with terrorism are also held there.

“It all feels so very surreal, but at the same time it feels like a nightmare that we’re not waking up from,” Albaz said.

Tora prison has been criticized by human rights advocates for its treatment of prisoners. Its reputation has become so grim that its maximum security wing has been nicknamed the “scorpion.”

According to a 2016 report from Human Rights Watch, inmates in that part of the complex aren’t given any beds or mattresses, sleeping on “concrete platforms” instead. They don’t receive any hygienic items and are often denied medical care and visits by family members, friends and lawyers.

On Wednesday, Albaz said in a statement that Canadian officials have located her father, who is in a “state of shock.”

“He has been sick for several days and the embassy has provided him with medication. He is forced to sleep on the concrete floor during Egypt’s winter, without a blanket or even a pillow. When family members tried providing these basic necessities to the prison, they were denied,” she wrote.

Oakville, Ont.-based engineer Yasser Ahmed Albaz, pictured with his daughter Maryam, has not been able to contact his family since February 18.

Albaz said her father, an Oakville, Ont.-based engineer who regularly travels for work, regularly enters and leaves Egypt with no hassle. The family was there last summer for her sister’s engagement party.

“It’s still very unclear why they’re holding him,” Albaz said. “The only thing we can think of is this is a huge mistake. There’s definitely a huge misunderstanding. My father is not politically active, he has no political affiliations. Anything that could be kind of a trigger simply isn’t there.”

While Albaz and her family have no idea what kind of conditions their father is being held in, Tarek Loubani says he can “virtually guarantee” what the experience looks like.

Watch: Tarek Loubani and John Greyson detail their torture at Tora prison:

The emergency physician at the London Health Sciences Centre knows first-hand of the horrific conditions at Tora prison. He was detained there for almost seven weeks along with fellow Canadian, filmmaker John Greyson in 2013.

Loubani and Greyson were in Cairo on their way to Gaza to produce a film. But while they were in the Egyptian capital, the deadly Rab’a protests broke out. Hundreds were killed in a brutal crackdown on demonstrators.

Loubani said he tried to tend to some of the wounded while Greyson filmed what was happening, but the two were later accused of killing a police officer, assisting the Muslim Brotherhood, carrying explosives and even simultaneously being informants for Hamas, the CIA and the Mossad.

“When I hear that nobody’s been allowed to see Yasser for a week, I can virtually guarantee you I know exactly what happened there, because that’s what happened with us, that’s what happened before us, that’s what happened after us,” he told HuffPost.

They wanted us there, boiling alive.

Loubani said on the first day of his detention he and other inmates were made to wait in a van in the scorching mid-August heat.

“They wanted us there, boiling alive.”

He said when the van’s doors opened, two teams of police officers holding clubs were outside.

Loubani said everyone got hit.

Those who could run away fastest got hit less. Anyone who fell while fleeing got hit the most.

Before entering the prison, Loubani said they were all made to wait in a room. The guards asked for the “Canadian” — Greyson.

Loubani said his colleague tried to say he is Canadian, hoping it would protect him somehow. It didn’t. The two were severely beaten, Loubani said.

“There was snot coming out of my nose, there was blood coming down. I was sweating. I was yelling. It was a terrible experience.”

Friends, family and colleagues of Tarek Loubani gather at a rally in Victoria Park in London, Ont. on Sept. 24, 2013, calling on the former Conservative government to become more involved in negotiating the release of Loubani and John Greyson.

There have also been reports of inmates at Tora being denied medical care. Khaled Al-Qazzaz, a Canadian resident who served as an adviser to Morsi, was placed in the prison for almost two years. He suffered spinal injuries while there and was only allowed access to a hospital after a year, according to the Toronto Star.

“The sanitary conditions were terrible and I had skin and stomach problems. My health was deteriorating,” Al-Qazzaz told paper in 2016.

A ‘Kafkaesque, brutal system’

Loubani said he and Greyson were allowed to be examined by a doctor after almost a week in Tora only because they were Canadian citizens.

“Nobody else got that. Nobody was allowed out of the cell for two weeks.”

The doctor documented that Loubani had broken ribs and noted he was concussed, that he was “pissing blood.” Greyson, Loubani said, was beaten so badly that he could almost make out a number “6” on his back from one of the guard’s boots.

“When we left, we left 50 days in, nobody had yet been charged,” Loubani said, adding that the time they spent in Tora was an “investigation period,” which is how authorities justified not laying any charges.

He said this was a pivotal time for Canadian authorities to intervene and secure their release.

“That’s why it was so key for us to get out before we were charged, because if we were charged then you’re part of this kind of Kafkaesque, brutal system. There’s not much that you can really do to interrupt it.”

Mahmoud Loubani (left) beams after his son Tarek Loubani (centre) and John Greyson returned to Canada after being imprisoned in Egypt for over a month.

Albaz echoed that concern. She said although Canadian authorities in Egypt are working to track down and visit her father, she wants more from the federal government at home.

Asked if Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland or Prime Minister Justin Trudeau were intervening in the case, a spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada only told HuffPost the government is aware of a Canadian detained in Egypt and noted that it was providing consular services.

“I’m not hearing any signals of urgency or escalations to the minister or higher, which is something that we need urgently,” Albaz said.

“I need my father out of prison and on a plane back home. Only [Freeland] can do that.”

Loubani said the federal government needs to apply political pressure and make it clear that there will be “consequences” if Yasser is not given his basic human rights. He said the former Conservative government took this type of approach when he was detained.

Canadian engineer Yasser Ahmed Albaz, right, is pictured with his daughters Maryam Ahmed (left) and Amal Ahmed.

He said he understands how much Albaz’s family is suffering, and he can certainly understand what her father could be going through. But most of all, he hurts knowing that Yasser’s case is not unique.

“You know what the worst thing about it is? This is happening to thousands of Egyptians,” he said.

“And I know that we can’t change that or stop that, but we can in this one case, and we have to in this one case.”

Albaz said more than 3,000 emails have been sent to Freeland and other MPs urging the government to escalate its response and secure Yasser’s release. Loubani said that type of collective pressure on the government is crucial.

“We got out of because of the work of thousands of Canadians who made phone calls, who wrote letters and who signed petitions,” Loubani said.

“Sometimes it feels as though those efforts are in vain, but I’m free. And [Greyson] is free. And that would have never happened without every single person who signed, who called, who fought, who asked, who demanded. Not only is it a way, it’s probably the only way that this man comes home safely to his family.”

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source https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2019/02/26/yasser-ahmed-albaz-tarek-loubani_a_23677580/

By The Wall of Law February 28, 2019 Off