Testifying before the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee in July 2003 about the rebuilding of Iraq, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told the story of Jumana Michael Hanna, an Iraqi woman who had recently come to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad with a tale of her horrific torture at the hands of Saddam Hussein's regime. \nHanna's tale -- more than two years of imprisonment that included being subjected to electric shocks, repeatedly raped and sexually assaulted -- was unusual in that she was willing to name the Iraqi police officials who participated in her torture, "information that is helping us to root out Baathist policemen who routinely tortured and killed prisoners," Wolfowitz said. \nBut Hanna's story, which 10 days before Wolfowitz's testimony had been the subject of a front-page article in the Washington Post, appears to have unraveled. Esquire magazine, in this month's issue, published a lengthy article, by a writer who was hired to help Hanna produce a memoir, saying that her account had all but fallen apart. \nAnd on Thursday, the Post itself published a follow-up article saying that Hanna, who was granted refugee status by US officials on the basis of her claims of imprisonment, torture and sexual abuse, "appears to have made false claims about her past, according to a fresh examination of her statements." \nThe articles in Esquire and the Post concluded that none of Hanna's allegations about torture could be verified. Sara Solovitch, the author of the Esquire article, wrote that the law under which Hanna was supposedly imprisoned in Iraq never existed. \nAnd the Post article, by Peter Finn, the correspondent who wrote the original article in 2003, quoted several of Hanna's in-laws as saying that Hanna's husband, who she previously said had been executed in the same prison where she was tortured, was still alive. \nDavid Hoffman, the foreign editor of the Post, said in an interview on Thursday that the newspaper would likely continue its reporting on the story, including trying to determine how Hanna got refugee status and gained entry into the US. \n"Clearly this is not the bottom of it," Hoffman said. "We did feel that it was time to publish what we found." \nThe apparent debunking of Hanna's story raises questions about her embrace by officials from the Coalition Provisional Authority, who in the summer of 2003 were eager to find Iraqis who would testify to some of the atrocities that the US had used as a reason to attack Iraq. People involved in the investigation of her story for the authority told Solovitch that the case was given high priority by top US officials. \nCalls to Hanna on Thursday were not returned. She is currently living in Chicago, where she moved this month from Northern California. It was there that she spent several weeks talking to Solovitch, who had been recruited by a literary agent to help Hanna put together a book proposal about her life. \nBeginning in August of last year, as Solovitch began to try to verify details about Hanna's experiences, inconsistencies began to appear. An Iraqi doctor who examined her at the request of US authorities discounted her story of rape and abuse, Solovitch reported. A National Guardsman who was assigned to investigate Hanna's claims of a mass grave in the yard of the police academy in Baghdad turned up some cow bones but nothing else. All nine of the men who had been arrested on Hanna's word had been released for lack of evidence, the Esquire article reported, with some of them being compensated for wrongful imprisonment. \nOfficials at the state department, the successor agency to the Coalition Authority in Baghdad, and the defense department did not return phone calls seeking comment on Thursday, which was Inauguration Day in Washington. \nThe Post article on Thursday said that Finn met Hannah in July 2003 at the Human Rights Society of Iraq in Baghdad and later accompanied her on a tour of the police academy that had served as a prison under Saddam. He interviewed her three times before the publication of the initial article, "in the company of an Iraqi interpreter and a Post correspondent who spoke fluent Arabic," the Post said. \nWhile Hanna was apparently imprisoned for some period, the charge is unclear. The Post quoted a cousin of Hanna's husband as saying "he believed she was jailed for cheating people out of money on the promise of getting them visas." \nThe Esquire article quoted Hanna as saying that her mother had arranged her arrest -- in order to try to put a stop to a marriage that the mother opposed -- on charges of prostitution, theft, spying and plotting to overthrow the government. \nHoffman, the Post editor, said that the newspaper was not aware of the potential problems in her story until the Esquire article appeared, but that the newspaper's original interviews "were quite extensive, and we did do some due diligence with her family." \nIn retrospect, he said, it was an error not to include a disclaimer in the original story noting that the Post was unable to independently verify her allegations of abuse. \n"I would point out that she said one set of things to us and then she said another set of things to the author" of the Esquire article, Hoffman said. "If you look at those two sets of things, they didn't overlap much."
Reporters Without Borders has accused the Algerian government of taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to “settle scores” with independent journalists, including those covering long-running anti-government protests. In a statement signed with Algerian non-governmental organizations, the watchdog on Thursday called for the immediate release of its correspondent, Khaled Drareni, who has been in pretrial detention since Sunday after being charged with inciting an unarmed gathering and endangering national unity. Drareni has been arrested several times for covering the “Hirak” anti-government protests held in the capital, Algiers, every Friday since February last year. Imprisoning people during a pandemic is “an act of physical endangerment,”
Vietnam has lodged an official protest with China following the sinking of a Vietnamese fishing boat that it said had been rammed by a Chinese maritime surveillance vessel near islands in the South China Sea. The Vietnamese fishing vessel, with eight fishermen onboard, was fishing near the Paracel Islands (Xisha Islands, 西沙群島) on Thursday when it was rammed and sunk by the Chinese vessel, the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement posted on a government Web site yesterday. All of the fishermen were picked up by the Chinese vessel alive and were transferred to two other Vietnamese fishing vessels
DIVIDED YOUTH: There is a belief that overseas students see themselves as superior, which is compounded by perceptions of their extreme wealth and multiple nationalities Chinese students flying home from overseas to escape the COVID-19 pandemic face a frosty reception from sections of the public who view them as wealthy, spoiled — and potentially contaminated. The number of officially reported cases in China has dwindled dramatically over the last month, but the country is now taking drastic steps to try and stem a second wave of infections brought in from abroad. With most international flights canceled and nearly all foreigners barred from entering the country, the vast majority of returnees are Chinese nationals, including many students. The situation has exposed animosities over class and privilege in Chinese society,
An Australian graduate student arrested for spying and expelled from North Korea last year said that he was threatened with a firing-squad execution and told not even US President Donald Trump could save his “sorry arse.” Among the crimes Alek Sigley was accused of committing was posting a picture of a toy tank on Instagram, which his interrogators told him was military espionage. Sigley, 30, was studying for a master’s degree in Korean literature at Kim Il Sung University in Pyongyang when he went missing in June last year, sparking alarm. A fluent speaker of Korean, he had written articles for several publications