Saturday, February 11, 2006

A glimpse into the Sumate trial

Originally published here by Miguel Octavio

(Condensed from ZETA 2/10/2006, trial session on 2/07/2006)

-Judge hears the name of defense lawyer of Luis Palacios and orders him to leave the room (Lawyer had recused him)
-Judge opens session and says the trial is beginning, says nothing about three recusations against him.
-Defense lawyer asks to speak and insists, judge also has him removed from room.
-Accused are left without defense lawyers at this stage, obviously illegal.
-Alejandro Plaz' father, a former Justice of the Supreme Court, gets up says this is a nazi trial, he is also kicked out.
-Juan Martin Echevarria Sr., father of one of the defense lawyers kicked out, addresses the prosecutor, arguing the trial can't start under this conditions.
-Judge ignores argumens, refuses to consider recusations, trial begins.
-Prosecutor asks that the accused be tried in prison.
-Judge goes to the bathroom upon his return (who did he go and consult?) says that trial will resume next Tuesday.
-One of the international observers said as he was going out: "If someone told me this happened, I would not believe it"

Friday, February 10, 2006

The beat goes on for revolutionary Justice in both the Sumate and Tal Cual cases

Originally published here by Miguel Octavio

So, after six failed appeals, the Sixth Appeals Court voids all of the decisions in the case where Sumate is being accused of conspiracy. The reason? That the judge was not using a jury in the case, a decision he made himself in violation of the law. The law says in a case like this the judge has to use at least two jurors and only with the authorization of a higher Court can the trial proceed without jurors. The other six Courts knew the law was being violated but did nothing, for some reason this one did. Now, before you get excited about it, all this really means is that the whole thing is reset and the trial starts again as if the two previous procedures had never taken place..

Then, a couple of hours later the Prosecutor calls the Sumate Board on a new case against them, in which they will also be charged as they are being called to testify as an accused party.. What is it this time around? They are being accused of electoral crimes for abrogating on themslves the representation of the people when they collected the petition in 2003 before there were regulations. Thus, they are basically being investigated because they supposedly had no right to gather or submit signatures requesting a recall referendum. It will be interesting, if I recall correctly, the Supreme Court bypassed the Electoral Hall of that Court on a case related to the referendum once arguing that a referendum was not an "electoral" process. I guess gathering the signatures is even more remote than that, but they simply don't care. The Court can reverse itslef if it suits them.

But the beats go on in the Venezuelan Justice system, as Tal Cual reports that the case files against that newspaper, in which the paper is being prosecuted twice for the same crime, have not been made available to the lawyers of the paper in violation of the law. What else is new?

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Sumate under fire Editorial in El Nacional

Translation published here by Miguel Octavio.

Sumate under fire. El Nacional.

The official persecution of the directors of the civil ONG Sumate is reaching its end.

They are accused of conspiring "to alter the Republican order", as if they had tried to implant a monarchy in Venezuela, no more, no less. As if armed with machine guns, rockets, tanks and bombers, they had placed in danger the soundness and continuity of the supposed Bolivarian revolution.

The Government demonstrates with this that is it is not prepared to accept the smallest discrepancies, not the least dissidence, or the most discreet request that the 2006 elections be presided by a National Electoral Council (CNE) that can be trusted. That is what Sumate always asked for, interpreting the large majority of Venezuelans, nothing different, even, to what has been requested by international organizations such as the OAS. Nothing different from the observations made by the hemispheric organization in its report about the elections of December 4th.

There are a few ways to read the trial against Sumate. One of them is the intransigence and the intolerance of the regime. Another one, the wish of taking advantage of the punishment against the directors so that everybody learns the lesson and the requests for more transparent and fair conditions for all citizens cease.

That people shut up out of fear.

The Electoral year projects itself as a year of persecutions and threats, while the officialist train moves at high speed towards December 3d. As dangerous conspirators, the Prosecutor asked the 7th. Court that Maria Corina Machado and Alejandro Plaz be tried separately, since others accused, Luis Enrique Palacios and Ricardo Esteves, are being accused of "complicity". But, on top of that, as conspirators of great danger, they should be tried behind bars. No wonder the defense lawyers warn that at the next hearing both Machado as well as Plaz could be jailed.

The defense has denounced a number of irregularities along the process. The accused were not allowed to speak.

The representative from the Prosecutor's office reiterated the request that they be tried in prison, despite the decision by the Supreme Court that forbids it. Thus, not even these formalitities are taken into consideration.

When lawyer Juan Martin Echeverria jr. insisted on speaking, the judge ordered the constables to remove him from the room. If one wants to have an idea how the trial is being carried out, this detail is sufficient. You can guess what the outcome will be.

As stated above, Machado and Plaz are being accused of the crime of conspiracy to "destroy the form of republican politics that the nation has been given" Among the crimes they have been charged with is receiving money from the organization National Endowment for Democracy of the United States. Palacios and Estevez face the same process for the same crime, but as accomplices.

The Prosecutor Ortega Diaz requested the maximum penalty for the crime of conspiracy, 16 years.

This rigor has no precedent in a country where military conspirators (like our President) were judged only by military judges, never suffered sentences of that magnitude and always ended being benefited from measures of pardon. Even in bloody occasions (like February 4th. 1992) in which the uprisings left hundreds of dead. Now that the coup plotters from the Saman de Guere are in power, they see with horror the specter of subversion. They see conspirators even in organizations like Sumate. But the civilians never threatened anyone.

Sumate has acted openly, has accounted for its income and expenses. To say that the meetings of Sumate did not have as their objective electoral training of the citizens but a subversive end, that of overthrowing the Bolivarian regime, is a valid argument only for idiots. One would have to give the Sumate Board an award for those "conspirators" that respect the law: they would be an exception in the history of Venezuela.

And it is this almighty regime, where the military predominates, the most armed, the one that has had the largest resources, the one that feels threatened. It is like one of those tales of Antonio Arraiz where tio Conejo (Uncle Rabbit) makes tio Tigre (Uncle Tiger) run. Unfortunately the question can not be one for being festive, because what is in danger is the freedom of some citizens worthy of esteem that have believed in the perfectibility of our institutions and have advocated for that. You can not condemn them with coarse lies.

Let's defend now justice and let us all reject this absurd trial.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

More (In) Justice from the Revolution

Originally published here by Miguel Octavio

So, on the same day that Teodoro Petkoff received a second notification of a process being opened against him and his newspaper (same case, two processes!), the Prosecutor General asked for up to 16 years of jail for the leaders of Sumate Maria Corina Machado and Alejandro Plaz, for the crime of receiving $30,000 for electoral education from a foreign source, in this case the bipartisan US Foundation, the National Endowment for Democracy.

Curiously, Chavez and his cronies were found innocent of violating any laws in the case of the proven donation of US$ 1.5 million by Spanish bank BBVA to Chavez’ Presidential campaign. And in another case of Bolivarian justice, the Government plans to build a monument to honor the infamous shooters of Puente El LLaguno, who, of course, were declared innocent.

I guess these judges when they drink in private sing in harmony with the President of the Supreme Court “Uh Ah Chavez no se va”. Some (In)Justice!