Experts Debate Nigerian Election Fairness

By Andrew Kreig / Project Director

A high-level panel of Nigerian experts on April 19 agreed – with one exception – that the presidential election in Africa’s most populous nation achieved largely credible results despite protest riots now occurring because of fraud allegations.

At a unique forum in Washington, DC of global importance, all but one of the assembled government and private experts praised as credible the ballot-counting that gives incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan a 2-1 victory over Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, a former chief of state who emerged as the chief opposition candidate.

That confidence in the election results is despite fatal riots erupting in Buhari’s Muslim home region as his supporters protest what they regard as rigged results.

“The election was free, fair and credible,” Build Up Nigeria Project Founder Reno Omokri, right, told a packed conference audience of Nigerian and United States opinion leaders at the forum, “not because of the government but because of the youth.” 

Omokri, who agreed to be a guest on my radio show "Washington Update" Thursday, ascribed Jonathan’s valid re-election to young people using social media and other high-tech to achieve fair results. Omokri's differed sharply from that of his “mentor” sitting next to him, Nasir El-Rufai, former minister of the Federal Capital Territory surrounding the nation’s capital of Abuja.

El-Rufai travelled from Nigeria to present a paper arguing to the standing room-only audience that authorities cheated in their vote counts to ensure Jonathan’s victory. “In Rivers State,” he said in citing reports, “the Governor Rotimi Amaechi complained of low voter turnout, yet the final results showed 76% turnout, out of which 99% voted for the ruling party!” El-Rufai, 51, portrayed at right below, is a Muslim from the north who is a longtime member of the governing People's Democratic Party (PDP) who says he has been seeking recently to foster a strong challenge to PDP to improve the country's governance and elections.

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Critic Slams Swedish Media for WikiLeaks Bias

By Andrew Kreig / Project Director

A distinguished European human rights advocate is relentlessly exposing abuses by mainstream Swedish news organizations covering the prosecution of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Dr. Marcello Ferrada de Noli is a medical school professor who splits his time between Sweden and Italy after surviving politically motivated torture decades ago in his native Chile. His recent columns show how Sweden’s major broadcasters and newspapers support their government’s campaign against Assange, most recently by a state-owned television documentary that blames the defendant, in effect, for shaming the nation’s legal system.

Ferrada-Noli, right, argues that massive irregularities by Swedish authorities and structural flaws within the nation’s legal system are the true cause of the global scrutiny of Sweden for due process violations in the heavy-handed Swedish investigation of Assange for potential rape charges under an expansive legal definition. Several of Ferrada-Noli’s latest columns examine the motives and sensationalistic tactics of state-owned Swedish National Television in its recent documentary. Similarly, he published April 18 a column concluding that a "scoop" last month by the country's right-wing tabloid Expessen was to obscure the close working relationship between it and authorities prosecuting Assange. Overall, the professor characterizes the news coverage as anti-Assange and pro-prosecution despite the broadcasters’ ostensible professional neutrality. Meanwhile, cables released by the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks are creating worldwide headlines as the week begins. The cables show that the United States has been secretly funding anti-government efforts in Syria for years, helping threaten the current government.

Our Justice Integrity Project has cooperated with the professor's efforts by sharing our columns, and he cites our work at the top of his April 18 column. Like others, however, our Project focuses upon the due process and other such fairness considerations in the Assange case, and not on the largely extra-legal considerations as his general character and work. For these reasons, we report today on the new book Inside WikiLeaks by Assange’s former close advisor Daniel Domschelt-Berg, which alleges a number of serious flaws by Assange that led to their break.

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Historians Clash on Redford's 'Conspirator' Mystery

By Andrew Kreig / Project Director

The Conspirator, which opened April 15, is Robert Redford’s compelling Civil War-era drama about Mary Surratt, the first woman federally executed in the United States. The film raises sharp questions over the defendant's guilt in President Lincoln's assassination -- and, by implication, our own era's legal procedures for suspected terrorists.

Unraveling the real story about the movie and the trial led me to exclusive interviews with historian Kate Clifford Larson, Ph.D., and longtime Washington public affairs commentator John Edward Hurley. The two experts differ sharply on Surratt's guilt, leading to further intriguing questions about legal procedures, politics and news coverage today.

Redford directed the movie, which portrays high-level federal authorities railroading Washington resident Mary Surratt to the scaffold on dubious charges of conspiracy. Assassin John Wilkes Booth, her son and other Confederate sympathizers had used her boarding house and nearby locales to plot the death of Lincoln, the vice president and secretary of state. "I am a Southerner and a devoted mother," she says in the film, "but no assassin."  Her defense attorney, who had been a Union war-hero, gave up the practice of law in disgust after her death, and became the Washington Post's first city editor.

The movie’s historical accuracy is creating a dispute far broader than Surratt’s fate. The film suggests that authorities suppressed evidence for fear that a long proceeding might encourage rebels. That kind of result-oriented justice system is a rebuke to authorities and civil rights watchdog institutions of any era, including our own.

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'Morning Miracle' Author Describes Threats To Papers

By Andrew Kreig / Project Director

Author Dave Kindred drew on his stellar career as a Washington Post reporter today to describe on my DC Update radio show his book Morning Miracle: A Great Newspaper Fights for Its Life. Drawing on 45 years of reporting, Kindred obtained unprecedented access to the Post newsroom and all its top executives.

His study provides what he and his publisher, Doubleday, call “an up-close-and-personal study of the ambition, enthusiasm and commitment to excellence that is at the heart of world-class daily journalism.” But he describes also “the cold truth that the industry’s glory days are over.” Listen to today’s show with my cohost Scott Draughon by clicking here. The show is heard live nationwide, and also by archive on the My Technology Lawyer radio network.

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Part IV: What To Do About Obama's Alabama Snafu?

The first three parts of this series outlined why President Obama failed the public by nominating Alabama attorney George L. Beck as U.S. attorney for the state’s middle district even though the nominee has establishment support.

By Andrew Kreig / Project Director's Blog

The Justice Integrity Project today calls for the Senate Judiciary Committee to invite independent witnesses to testify at the confirmation hearing for George L. Beck, President Obama's nominee to become U.S. attorney for the middle district of Alabama. Only a full review of the conflicts surrounding this nationally important nomination can restore public trust.

Let's look at the background: Most Alabama Democratic leaders are now so thoroughly intimidated by the Republican ascendancy that they dare not oppose GOP demands with any vigor for fear of being squeezed out of all decision-making and related benefits. As for national-level Democrats? Their track record is abject deferral to Republican Senators Dick Shelby and Jeff Sessions, Last fall, the Democratic National Committee reputedly contributed nothing to Bill Barnes, the Democratic primary winner competiting against Shelby. Senator Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont portrayed at right, is the committee chairman. He has the power to make these hearings meaningful if he wants to do so. Let's encourage him to do that. Below is additional background about why leaders from should cooperate for this unique opportunity to enlighten the public about one of the nation's most dramatic and important nominations.

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Part III: Beck’s DOJ Backers Make Their Case

Parts I and II of this opinion series outlined why President Obama made a mistake in nominating prominent Alabama attorney George L. Beck as U.S. attorney for the state’s middle district. Part III below showcases the case for confirmation by Beck’s backers. Coming this afternoon in Part IV: Next steps for those not convinced that this nomination is in the public interest.

By Andrew Kreig / Project Director’s Blog

“For his diligence and relentless pursuit of justice, I have named George L. Beck to serve as a U.S. Attorney,” announced President Obama on March 31. “I am confident he will serve the people of Alabama with distinction.” The White House noted that Beck has been a shareholder of Capell & Howard, P.C. since 2004, and began his career as an associate in 1966, when he enlisted in the Alabama Army National Guard on his way to retiring as a colonel in 2001.

The nomination followed a recommendation by the federal nominating committee of the Alabama Democratic Party, and more than two years of ineffectual state and national efforts by Democrats to find a consensus, centrist candidate who could satisfy varied Democratic interests without incurring fatal opposition from Alabama’s Republican U.S. Senators, Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions.

Under Mark Kennedy, left, a new state party chairman installed after the party’s rout in November’s elections, Democrats ultimately picked what their leaders regarded as a safe pick for the powerful regional post running federal criminal and civil litigation from the Justice Department office based in the state capital of Montgomery. 

An appointment would finally ease out from office the incumbent Republican U.S. attorney, Leura Canary, who was nominated  by President Bush a decade ago after mariage to one of Karl Rove's best friends. She remains in power despite a track record arguably making her the most notorious federal prosecutor in the nation, albeit one ostensibly well-regarded by top Justice Department colleagues.

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