Expedite Nobel Peace Prize to Save a Judge's Life

The Nobel Peace Prize for 2010 should be shared by an Iranian doctor and a Venezuelan judge. The doctor has already been murdered. The judge's life is in danger. Expediting the awards might save her life.

On December 10, Venezuelan Judge Maria Lourdes Afiuni ordered release on parole of Banker Eligio Cedeno, who had been held in jail for three years by the Chavez regime on currency charges without completion of his trial. Judge Afiuni, 46 years old with eight years' service on the bench, based her decision on explicit provisions of Venezuelan law, as well as a finding by the U.N. Human Rights Council that Cedeno's rights had been violated. The judge was immediately arrested by intelligence police by order of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. She is interned in a prison whose inmates include prisoners she herself sentenced. Chávez called her a "bandit" on national television and said she should be jailed for thirty years, adding that in the "Bolivarian" 19th century, Afiuni would have been executed by firing squad.

The Caracás Bar Association said it supports the order to free Cedeno and condemned jailing of the judge. A panel of three human rights experts from developing countries appointed by the United Nations said in Geneva: "Reprisals for exercising constitutionally guaranteed functions and creating a climate of fear among the judiciary and lawyers undermine the rule of law and obstruct justice." The thuggish Chávez, beset by eight bank closings with arrests for embezzlement of bankers allied to him, needs to scapegoat independent bankers like Cedeno. Oil-rich Venezuela is in economic chaos, with disruptions of electricity and government seizures of media as well as threatened expropriations of foreign auto manufacturers.

Cedeno had the good sense to flee to an undisclosed location in the United States. Chavez's blustering demands for his return to Caracás are likely to be frustrated. Fears for the safety of Judge Afiuni are well-grounded. Last year in Venezuela, 422 prisoners were murdered out of a prison population of 23,000 inmates, according to the NGO Venezuelan Prison Observatory. Judge Afiuni's lawyer, recounting  lawlessness in Venezuela's prison system,  pointed out that the guards are aware of Chávez's denunciations of the Judge.

It is too late for the Nobel Committee to save the life of  Dr. Ramin Pourandarjani. He was a 26-year-old Iranian doctor serving his military duty as a physician at the notorious Kahrizak prison near Tehran. Hundreds of demonstrators who had protested Iran's rigged June election were locked up and tortured there.

Pourandarjani was ordered to sign fraudulent death certificates to cover up the murders of prisoners. Prison officials informed him that if he told the truth about the wounds of the prisoners, he "would not be able to live." Opposition websites claim that Pourandarjani was ordered to certify falsely that Mohsen Ruholamini, son of a prominent conservative leader, died of meningitis. Pourandarjani not only refused to keep quiet, but he testified before a parliamentary committee that Ruholamini had died from "multiple blows to the head" and that he had witnessed tortures and rapes in Kahrizak.

The doctor was arrested and threatened with loss of his medical  license. Pourandarjani told his family that he was receiving death threats and began looking into the possibility of leaving Iran. The story unfolded like a theater tragedy, but this is real life in Iran. By November 10, this healthy young man was dead. The Iranian government betrayed its complicity by announcing at least four different causes of death. First, it was announced that Pourandarjani had died in a car accident; next it was said he committed suicide; then it was claimed he had a heart attack. Finally, it was stated that he had eaten a salad laced with propranolol, a drug used to control blood pressure. Pourandarjani's mother, a teacher, said, "I sent off my young, healthy, and beautiful son to military service. And I got his dead body back."

Prompt award of  Nobels to these two victims would link the tarnished Peace Prize to two of the most noble causes of our time: the struggle of Iranians to be free and the struggle to defend the rule of law against dictators in Latin America and elsewhere. Conferring the award might curb the powers of Presidents Chávez and Ahmadinejad to further degrade U.N. meetings with attacks on truth and democracy. Protests in Iran are gaining momentum, notwithstanding initial efforts by President Obama to distance himself from the protesters and the foolish pretense that "engagement" will produce any results with a regime that murders its own peacefully protesting citizens. What better way could there be to honor Dr. Pourandarjani's memory and protect Judge Afiuni than to confer these awards promptly -- before both are posthumous? The urgency for quick action is manifest. As I researched these two cases, I noticed that after initial flurries, updates are not appearing on the web -- a sure sign of lessening attention.

Cervantes warned five centuries ago that one should never seek the first prize because it goes by favoritism, while the second prize goes by merit. Reality tells us that the leftist Norwegian politicians who award the Peace Prize (the scientific prizes, selected by the Swedish Academy, are not tainted) favor the likes of Yasser Arafat, Jimmy Carter, and Barack Obama. But Cervantes also gave us Don Quixote, whose theme song (at least on Broadway) is "The Impossible Dream." Is it an impossible dream to suggest that the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize be awarded to the courageous Venezuelan judge and the martyred Iranian doctor?
The Nobel Peace Prize for 2010 should be shared by an Iranian doctor and a Venezuelan judge. The doctor has already been murdered. The judge's life is in danger. Expediting the awards might save her life.

On December 10, Venezuelan Judge Maria Lourdes Afiuni ordered release on parole of Banker Eligio Cedeno, who had been held in jail for three years by the Chavez regime on currency charges without completion of his trial. Judge Afiuni, 46 years old with eight years' service on the bench, based her decision on explicit provisions of Venezuelan law, as well as a finding by the U.N. Human Rights Council that Cedeno's rights had been violated. The judge was immediately arrested by intelligence police by order of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. She is interned in a prison whose inmates include prisoners she herself sentenced. Chávez called her a "bandit" on national television and said she should be jailed for thirty years, adding that in the "Bolivarian" 19th century, Afiuni would have been executed by firing squad.

The Caracás Bar Association said it supports the order to free Cedeno and condemned jailing of the judge. A panel of three human rights experts from developing countries appointed by the United Nations said in Geneva: "Reprisals for exercising constitutionally guaranteed functions and creating a climate of fear among the judiciary and lawyers undermine the rule of law and obstruct justice." The thuggish Chávez, beset by eight bank closings with arrests for embezzlement of bankers allied to him, needs to scapegoat independent bankers like Cedeno. Oil-rich Venezuela is in economic chaos, with disruptions of electricity and government seizures of media as well as threatened expropriations of foreign auto manufacturers.

Cedeno had the good sense to flee to an undisclosed location in the United States. Chavez's blustering demands for his return to Caracás are likely to be frustrated. Fears for the safety of Judge Afiuni are well-grounded. Last year in Venezuela, 422 prisoners were murdered out of a prison population of 23,000 inmates, according to the NGO Venezuelan Prison Observatory. Judge Afiuni's lawyer, recounting  lawlessness in Venezuela's prison system,  pointed out that the guards are aware of Chávez's denunciations of the Judge.

It is too late for the Nobel Committee to save the life of  Dr. Ramin Pourandarjani. He was a 26-year-old Iranian doctor serving his military duty as a physician at the notorious Kahrizak prison near Tehran. Hundreds of demonstrators who had protested Iran's rigged June election were locked up and tortured there.

Pourandarjani was ordered to sign fraudulent death certificates to cover up the murders of prisoners. Prison officials informed him that if he told the truth about the wounds of the prisoners, he "would not be able to live." Opposition websites claim that Pourandarjani was ordered to certify falsely that Mohsen Ruholamini, son of a prominent conservative leader, died of meningitis. Pourandarjani not only refused to keep quiet, but he testified before a parliamentary committee that Ruholamini had died from "multiple blows to the head" and that he had witnessed tortures and rapes in Kahrizak.

The doctor was arrested and threatened with loss of his medical  license. Pourandarjani told his family that he was receiving death threats and began looking into the possibility of leaving Iran. The story unfolded like a theater tragedy, but this is real life in Iran. By November 10, this healthy young man was dead. The Iranian government betrayed its complicity by announcing at least four different causes of death. First, it was announced that Pourandarjani had died in a car accident; next it was said he committed suicide; then it was claimed he had a heart attack. Finally, it was stated that he had eaten a salad laced with propranolol, a drug used to control blood pressure. Pourandarjani's mother, a teacher, said, "I sent off my young, healthy, and beautiful son to military service. And I got his dead body back."

Prompt award of  Nobels to these two victims would link the tarnished Peace Prize to two of the most noble causes of our time: the struggle of Iranians to be free and the struggle to defend the rule of law against dictators in Latin America and elsewhere. Conferring the award might curb the powers of Presidents Chávez and Ahmadinejad to further degrade U.N. meetings with attacks on truth and democracy. Protests in Iran are gaining momentum, notwithstanding initial efforts by President Obama to distance himself from the protesters and the foolish pretense that "engagement" will produce any results with a regime that murders its own peacefully protesting citizens. What better way could there be to honor Dr. Pourandarjani's memory and protect Judge Afiuni than to confer these awards promptly -- before both are posthumous? The urgency for quick action is manifest. As I researched these two cases, I noticed that after initial flurries, updates are not appearing on the web -- a sure sign of lessening attention.

Cervantes warned five centuries ago that one should never seek the first prize because it goes by favoritism, while the second prize goes by merit. Reality tells us that the leftist Norwegian politicians who award the Peace Prize (the scientific prizes, selected by the Swedish Academy, are not tainted) favor the likes of Yasser Arafat, Jimmy Carter, and Barack Obama. But Cervantes also gave us Don Quixote, whose theme song (at least on Broadway) is "The Impossible Dream." Is it an impossible dream to suggest that the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize be awarded to the courageous Venezuelan judge and the martyred Iranian doctor?

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