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Roxana Saberi And Vikram Buddhi –
Compel A Comparison

By Dr. Buddhi Kotasubbarao

21 April, 2009

Among the ways to measure the greatness of a country, the administration of justice ranks the highest and the military might the least.

A comparison of the case of 31 year old Iranian-American journalist Ms. Roxana Saberi sentenced by Iranian Court and the case of 37 year old Indian Graduate Student of Purdue University Mr. Vikram Buddhi awaiting sentencing after a helpless jury found him guilty in US District Court, has much to show the entrenched preferences of the United States of America.

With all the proclaimed adherence to the rule of law, the administration of justice in the United States fails as badly as in any other country of the world and sometimes even more badly. Neither the powerful and pervasive American media nor the recent popularity of President Barack Obama can hide this fact. Of course, like in any other country, there are people in the United States who are justice minded and rational but their role to set right the things is limited.

Saberi is charged in April 2009 of spying for the United States, convicted and sentenced to eight years imprisonment. Buddhi was charged in April 2006 of threatening to kill President Bush and others. The jury, which was deliberately kept ignorant of the law governing the case, found Buddhi guilty in June 2007 and his sentencing is yet to take place. But he has been kept in prison in Chicago, consequent to the jury verdict, awaiting sentence.

According to the media reports, Saberi was at first taken in custody in January 2009 for allegedly buying a bottle of wine, and subjecting her to other charges afterwards. Vikram Buddhi was at first interrogated in January 2006 by US Secret Service for allegedly posting messages on Internet Yahoo space which had called upon the people of Iraq to retaliate the perceived unjust Iraq war and to kill President G W Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and others. After thorough interrogation, the US Secret Service set Buddhi completely free in mid-January 2006 and in February 2006 the Secret Service even made a formal report that Buddhi is not a threat to US President or any other person. But for some mysterious reason, the US Secret Service arrested Vikram Buddhi on April 14, 2006 and launched federal prosecution charging that he threatened to kill US President and others.

Saberi’s charge of spying for the United States is criticized because the evidence is not disclosed and the trial is held in secret. Buddhi’s charge of threatening to kill President Bush and others has no evidence at all. If the Internet Messages on Yahoo space were to be treated as the basis for the charge against Buddhi then it is necessary to mention in the charge, the essential fact of Internet Messages and the call given to the people of Iraq through those Messages. But in none of the eleven counts of charge there is even a whisper about the Internet Messages on Yahoo space and the call given to the people of Iraq. Thus the entire charge against Vikram Buddhi is fundamentally flawed. It is not in conformity with the revered Constitution of the United States and the Statutory Law of the United States and the Rules made there under. Moreover, during the jury trial, the Prosecution failed to establish beyond reasonable doubt that those Internet Messages were really posted from Buddhi’s computer.

Saberi’s trial details are still to be known. Whereas Buddhi’s jury trial Transcripts clearly show that the US District Judge James T. Moody discriminated against Buddhi. To assess whether there is ‘true threat’ it was necessary to instruct the jury on the commands of the First Amendment to US Constitution which affords protection when speech is made criminal. By established law Internet Messages are treated as speech. But Judge Moody openly declared his firm resolve to banish First Amendment from the case. Judge Moody boldly threatened the Defense Attorney John E Martin that the Defense Attorney would be embarrassed if he tried to explain to the jury linking the First Amendment and the evidence on record. While struggling to understand the case, the jury noticed a contradiction in a crucial Judge’s Instruction to the jury and sent a written note to the Judge, seeking clarification. Judge Moody sent a prompt written reply to the jury asserting that there is no contradiction in any of his instructions to the jury and therefore the members of the jury should continue their deliberations. In twenty minutes thereafter, the helpless jury delivered guilty verdict.

Saberi’s father was not allowed to witness his daughter’s trial. However, there is no discrimination against Saberi’s father as no public was allowed to witness the trial. Whereas in Vikram Buddhi’s case, the father, Kotasubbarao Buddhi, was deliberately denied opportunity to witness his son’s trial. Fraud was committed on the Court to keep Buddhi’s father away from the trial. The prosecutor Philip C. Benson named Buddhi’s father as a Government witness. There was no summons to give evidence as Government witness. Judge James T. Moody refused to hear the objection of Buddhi’s father who was waiting for one year in the United States to witness his son’s trial. The fraud got confirmed when Buddhi’s father was not called to the Court as a Government witness. Naming him as a Government witness was only a ploy to keep the father away from the Court during the jury trial. Prosecutor Benson knew that Buddhi’s father is an attorney of Supreme Court of India and also a knowledgeable person in computer networks with his Ph.D in technology from Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, India. US Prosecutor Benson fraudulently planned and succeeded in denying Vikram Buddhi the benefit of his father’s experience and expertise. There is no known such unfair practice and professional misconduct of Prosecutors in Saberi’s case in Iran.

Saberi’s father and mother arrived in Iran to help in their daughter’s case. There is no attempt from Iranian Government to remove Saberi’s father or mother from Iran. Whereas in Buddhi’s case, after the jury’s guilty verdict on June 28, 2007, the Government of the United States has embarked on a meditated plan to remove Vikram Buddhi’s father from the United States, though the father entered the United States on June 7, 2006 with an Emergency Visa issued by the American Consulate, Mumbai, to help in his son’s federal prosecution in the United States.

On July 30, 2007, the US Authorities declined to extend the stay of Buddhi’s father in the United States. On August 21, 2007, the US Authorities forcibly stopped Buddhi’s father on a public road while he was on his way to file timely petition before appropriate forum for review of the decision declining extension of stay. Thus Buddhi’s father, Kotasubbarao Buddhi, was denied his legal right to seek review from appropriate forum. There is no such arbitrary treatment from Iranian Government to Saberi’s father.

After accosting Buddhi’s father on a public road in West Lafayette of Indiana State, the US Authorities illegally took away from him his Indian Passport on August 21, 2007, handcuffed him, chained him and arrested him without a warrant. Thereafter US Authorities granted $1500 bond. But when a friend of Buddhi’s father came forward to pay the bond amount and requested the release of Buddhi’s father, the US Authorities refused to accept the payment. Only after subjecting Buddhi’s father to inhuman treatment and humiliation for a week in three different jails at long distances apart- Mariano County jail (Indianapolis), Grayson County Detention Center (Kentucky) and McHenry County jail (Chicago), Buddhi’s father was released on bond. But his Indian passport has not been returned to him so far. There is no such known arbitrary and inhuman treatment meted out by the Iranian Government to Saberi’s father.

Buddhi’s father being unable to have a just and fair decision from the Departments of US Government allowing a reasonable opportunity to help in his son’s federal prosecution had to approach US Appeals Court, Seventh Circuit, Chicago. Buddhi’s mother is in India alone remaining in anxiety over her son getting justice in US Courts. Iranian Government has not mounted any such ordeal on Saberi’s father or mother. Instead, the Iranian President Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad has urged the Iranian judiciary to allow American-journalist Roxana Saberi a full and fair defense during the appeal process.

Buddhi’s father sent a detailed letter dated October 21, 2008 to the then US Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey explaining the false and frivolous charge against Vikram Buddhi and the unfair trial and the discrimination. There was no response from Mukasey.

After President Barack Obama assumed office, Buddhi’s father sent a concise letter dated February 9, 2009 to President Obama explaining the miscarriage of justice in Vikram Buddhi’s case. The letter also explained that the case of Vikram Buddhi is not an isolated case and there is monumental failure of justice in the United States because of which the population-wise percentage of people in the US jails is the highest compared to any other country in the world. There is no response so far from President Obama. Similar communications have been sent to US Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and he has not responded so far.

On March 27, 2009 Vikram Buddhi’s father sent letters to US Attorney General Eric H. Holder and to Inspector General, Civil Rights & Civil Liberties Complaints Office of the Inspector General, U.S. Department of Justice, explaining the prosecutorial misconduct in Vikram Buddhi’s case. But there is no response so far from either of them.

However, surprisingly, about a week after posting the letters dated March 27, 2009 pointing out the professional misconduct of Philip C. Benson, US Assistant Attorney in Vikram Buddhi’s case, reports appeared informing that US Department of Justice took action to vacate the conviction of former Alaskan Senator Ted Stevens, on the basis of “prosecutorial misconduct.” and in the “interest of justice.”. But so far no action is taken by US Department of justice on prosecutorial misconduct in Vikram Buddhi’s case.

Never the less, notwithstanding US Government’s complete silence over Vikram Buddhi’s case, President Barack Obama promptly said he is “deeply disturbed and his thoughts and prayers are with the family” of Roxana Saberi. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has promptly expressed her “deep disappointment” over Roxana Saberi’s case. “We will continue to vigorously raise our concerns to the Iranian government,” Mrs. Clinton said in a statement released on Saturday April 17, 2009. According to National Public Radio of the United States, on Monday April 20, 2009, Mrs. Clinton in a stepped up call sought immediate release of Roxana Saberi, saying the charges against Saberi are baseless. There is no hesitation to find fault with Iranian Court verdict. What about the false and baseless charges against Vikram Buddhi in US District Court?

President Obama who studied and taught law is surely aware that the loss from erosion of justice cannot be compensated from the sway of eloquence and charm. It is unfortunate President Obama has no hesitation to disagree with a Court verdict in Iran and to express concern for Roxana Saberi, while remaining silent on the grave miscarriage of justice mounted on Vikram Buddhi in US District Court.

Who is there in the United States Government to express any concern over the blatant miscarriage of justice in the United States in Vikram Buddhi’s case?

Justice is universal, not Iranian or American.

The above views are only for comparison of justice administration and not for extrapolation to draw inferences in any other sphere.

Dr. Buddhi Kotasubbarao is former Indian Navy Captain with Ph.D from Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay in nuclear technology. After 24 years of active naval service, took voluntary retirement in the rank of confirmed Captain and thereafter became an advocate of Bombay High Court and Supreme Court of India. In a number of Public Interest Petitions represented the social organisation 'Citizens For A Just Society' founded by Dr.Usha Mehta, noted Gandhian, freedom fighter and Padma Vibhushan.
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