Pakistan removes judge who accused spy agency of trying to rig general election

Shaukat Aziz SiddiquiThe government of Pakistan has dismissed a High Court judge who accused the country’s powerful intelligence agency of interfering with the judicial process in order to rig the outcome of last July’s general election. On July 25, the governing center-right Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) was unseated by the conservative-centrist Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, headed by former cricket star Imran Khan. The elections took place amidst a corruption scandal that saw Nawaz Sharif, former prime minister of Pakistan and leading member of PML-N, arrested on charges of fraud. Sharif was charged following the release of the so-called Panama papers, the massive data leak of documents belonging to Panamanian offshore firm Mossack Fonseca. The leak disclosed that Sharif and his family were owners of a large number of high-end properties in the United Kingdom and elsewhere around the world.

Shortly after the revelations, Sharif moved to Britain, where he and his children cared for his ailing wife. During his absence, he was sentenced in absentia to ten years in prison. Sharif chose to return to Pakistan on July 13, less than two weeks prior to the general election, and was arrested upon arriving in Islamabad. His supporters claim that the media spectacle surrounding his imprisonment severely hurt PML-N’s electoral performance. Last month, the High Court in Islamabad suspended Sharif’s prison sentence and ordered his release on bail, saying that the prosecution had failed to prove conclusively that the high-end properties in the UK belonged to him. Sharif’s release prompted renewed accusations of electoral rigging by PML-N supporters, who claim that Sharif could have been released from prison before the elections, and that the High Court deliberately withheld its decision until this month in order to hurt PML-N.

In July, Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui, a High Court judge, publicly added his voice to those claiming that Sharif’s arrest had been politically motivated. In a speech given before the Rawalpindi Bar Association, the High Court judge accused Pakistan’s powerful Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) of exercising pressure on High Court judges in order to delay the decision to release Sharif on bail until after the general election. Justice Siddiqui’s charges made national headlines and prompted strong denials from the Pakistani military, which governs the ISI, and the Pakistan High Court. The latter launched an investigation of Justice Siddiqui, following a complaint issued by the country’s military leadership.

On Friday, the panel of judges that carried out the investigation on Justice Siddiqui, accused him of “conduct unbecoming of a judge of a high court” and recommended his removal from the High Court. On the same day, the Ministry of Justice of Pakistan announced that the country’s President, Arif Alvi, was “pleased to remove Mr. Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui […] from his office with immediate effect”. The announcement did not elaborate on the precise reasons that led to Justice Siddiqui’s removal from the country’s High Court. Siddiqui’s firing marks the first time that a judge has been dismissed under an elected government in Pakistan. In the past, such incidents have occurred only under military dictatorships, which have ruled Pakistan for prolonged periods since the country’s independence in 1947.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 15 October 2018 | Permalink

News you may have missed #711 (ex-spy edition)

Glenn L. CarleBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Egypt ex-spy chief to run for President. Omar Suleiman, 74, announced his candidacy on Friday and collected around 72,000 signatures of eligible voters in one day, more than twice the 30,000 required. Hosni Mubarak’s former intelligence chief insisted that his bid for the presidency does not have the support of Egypt’s military rulers and accused Islamists of sending him death threats. Mr Suleiman, made vice-president by Mubarak in the last days of his three-decade rule, symbolizes that era’s tough security regime and poses a threat to Islamists, who were routinely harassed and arrested during Mubarak’s era, and to liberals, who spearheaded Mubarak’s ouster. But his candidacy might appeal to some Egyptians hoping for an end to political instability.
►►Ex-CIA officer says evidence in alleged case was flawed. Information from the US Central Intelligence Agency used by Canada to link accused Ottawa terrorist Mohamed Harkat to al-Qaeda was untrue, according to Glenn Carle, a retired CIA case officer who interrogated Harkat at secret CIA black site prisons in 2002. Speaking to promote his blistering memoir about the case, The Interrogator: An Education, Carle said that Harkat, who was thought to be Osama bin Laden’s main financial administrator, “wasn’t the senior member of al-Qaeda that we had assessed. He wasn’t even a member of al-Qaeda”. Yet as recently as 2010, Canadian Security Intelligence Service evidence and testimony before the Federal Court of Canada continued to point to Harkat’s relationship with Haji Pacha Wazir as evidence of Harkat’s ties to the bin Laden terror network.
►►Ex-KGB agent wins South Ossetia vote. Former senior KGB agent Leonid Tibilov has won a tense run-off to lead Georgia’s rebel pro-Russian region of South Ossetia, after two earlier polls ended in turmoil. Tibilov won 54.12 percent of the vote with all ballots counted against human rights commissioner David Sanakoyev’s 42.65 percent. The peaceful end to the election contrasts sharply with the angry protests that followed a November 27 ballot in which Alla Dzhioyeva, a female candidate who opposed the local administration was disqualified after coming out ahead in the poll. Dzhioyeva was then hospitalized in February after being interrogated and allegedly beaten by police following allegations that she planned to seize power.

Russian spy agencies accused of hacking election monitor sites

FSB officer

FSB officer

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Election monitors have accused Russia’s domestic intelligence service of launching a series of coordinated hacking attacks on opposition websites, timed to coincide with last Sunday’s elections. On that day, Russians voted —as they have done every five years since 1991— to determine the composition of the Duma, the country’s lower house. Election results show an unprecedented 14 percent drop for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party, coupled with an equally sharp rise in the Communist Party share of the votes, which doubled to about 20 percent. But the election drew strong condemnations from international election monitors, including the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which said that the campaign was “slanted in favor of the ruling party”. Now Russian opposition organizations are accusing the government of launching a series of “massive” distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks against their websites on the night of the elections. Websites affected include the prominent opposition magazine The New Times, the Ekho Moskvy radio station, the Russian arm of the Livejournal blogging website, business daily Kommersant, popular online news portal Slon.ru, as well as the Western-financed political watchdog group Golos. All of these outlets were simultaneously attacked on Sunday evening; their servers were bombarded with data that overwhelmed their computer systems and eventually knocked them offline. Liliya Shibanova, who directs Golos, told a news conference in Moscow late on Sunday night that the organization’s Internet and telephone systems, including an election violation hotline, had been blocked. She claimed that only Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), successor to the domestic intelligence wing of the Soviet-era KGB, had the resources required to launch such a massive attack. Read more of this post