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Despite Sweden dropping the case Assange’s treatment remains an outrage

Despite dropping the case Sweden refuses to clear Assange of the rape allegations, purporting to blame him instead for the failure of the case, whilst Britain is still violating his human rights as a refugee by preventing him from travelling to Ecuador.

Alexander Mercouris

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Three weeks ago I wrote an article for The Duran in which I pointed out (1) that Julian Assange has never been charged in Sweden with rape (2) that the extradition proceedings Sweden brought against him in Britain were supposedly brought in order to compel him to come to Sweden to be questioned about the allegations of rape made against him there (3) that this purpose was fulfilled in November 2016 when Assange was questioned by the Swedish prosecutor about the rape allegations in the Ecuadorian embassy in Britain and (4) that the continued failure of the Swedish authorities in light of this either to bring charges against Assange or to drop the case against him – leaving him trapped in legal limbo – was an outrage, all the more so since the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention of the UN Human Rights Council had already said that his treatment violated his human rights.

It is now the last day in April, five months since Assange was questioned about the rape allegations in Britain.  However there is no word from Sweden either of the case against him being dropped or of the rape charges against him being pressed.

Meanwhile the European arrest warrant been not been cancelled, and the extradition request to Britain has not been dropped, even though their purported purpose – to have Assange questioned about the rape allegations – has been fulfilled in Britain.

Meanwhile the British authorities have taken no steps to review their grant of the Swedish extradition request notwithstanding that the purported purpose of that request – to return Assange to Sweden so that he could be questioned about the rape allegations there – has been fulfilled in Britain.

This is despite the fact that the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention of the UN Human Rights Council has said that the treatment of Julian Assange by the British and Swedish authorities already  violates his human rights.

The result is that Assange remains trapped in limbo in the Ecuadorian embassy despite the fact that there are no charges against him, despite his having complied with the Swedish request that he be questioned about the rape allegations, and despite the fact that the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention of the UN Human Rights Council says his human rights are being violated.

It should be said clearly that this is completely unacceptable and wrong, and further violates Assange’s human rights, which have already been violated, but does so to an even greater degree.

I also said what the Swedish and British authorities should do, and without further delay

What is now important is that this disastrous episode should be brought to an end.

If the Swedes have grounds to bring charges against Assange, then they should do so, and do so without further delay.  If they do not intend to press charges against Assange, then they should say so publicly and without further delay, clearing him of the false allegations which have been made against him, and which have done so much damage to his reputation.  Basic principles of human conscience and of justice, and fundamental principles of law and due process, demand no less.

The Swedes and the British should in the latter case also provide clear explanations for their actions, explaining why Assange was subjected to legal proceedings when it was possible to question him in Britain, and why they delayed so long in dropping the case against him after it became clear following his questioning that there was actually no case against him when there was already in existence a legal ruling which said that his human rights were being violated.

Three weeks after these words were written the Swedish authorities have announced that the case against Assange has been dropped.  However in every other respect they and the British authorities have failed to the things I said they should do and their statements today compound the violations of Assange’s human rights.

Firstly, the Swedish authorities whilst dropping the case against Assange, are refusing to admit his innocence.  Instead the Swedish prosecutor has said in public comments that she is not pronouncing on his “guilt (!) or not”, whilst her formal statement announcing the dropping of the case says the following

The motive is that there is no reason to believe that the decision to surrender him to Sweden can be executed in the foreseeable future.

Almost 5 years ago Julian Assange was permitted refuge at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he has resided ever since. In doing so, he has escaped all attempts by the Swedish and British authorities to execute the decision to surrender him to Sweden in accordance with the EU rules concerning the European Arrest Warrant. My assessment is that the surrender cannot be executed in the foreseeable future, says Marianne Ny.

According to Swedish legislation, a criminal investigation is to be conducted as quickly as possible. At the point when a prosecutor has exhausted the possibilities to continue the investigation, the prosecutor is obliged to discontinue the investigation.

– At this point, all possibilities to conduct the investigation are exhausted. In order to proceed with the case, Julian Assange would have to be formally notified of the criminal suspicions against him. We cannot expect to receive assistance from Ecuador regarding this. Therefore the investigation is discontinued.

The statement goes on to say that if Assange were to return to Sweden at any time before 2020 – when the Statute of Limitations in respect of the offence he is alleged to have committed expires – then the case against him may be revived.

This statement misrepresents the facts.

The European Arrest Warrant was not issued in order to bring Assange to Sweden to face rape charges.  It was issued in order to bring Assange to Sweden so that he could be questioned there about the rape allegations which have been made against him.  The Swedish prosecutor was then to decide following his answers whether she had grounds to bring charges against him or not.

Far from Assange “escaping all attempts by the Swedish authorities to execute the decision to surrender him to Sweden ….(so that) the surrender cannot be executed in the foreseeable future….”, following Assange questioning by the Swedish prosecutor in the Ecuadorian embassy in Britain in November, the purported purpose of the European Arrest Warrant has been fulfilled.

The Swedish prosecutor’s statement nowhere refers to this fact, and is written as if the questioning of Assange in the British embassy in November never took place.

Rather than admit that the purpose of the European Arrest Warrant has been fulfilled, and say whether in light of Assange’s answers there are grounds to bring a case against him or not, the Swedish prosecutor is saying she has dropped the case because “there is no reason to believe that the decision to surrender him to Sweden can be executed”.

This is mendacious and unworthy of a prosecutor.  It misrepresents the purpose of the European Arrest Warrant, and instead of resolving the question in the light of Assange’s answers of whether there is a case against him or not, it tries to blame Assange for the failure of the case.

As for the prosecutor’s reported comment that she is not pronouncing on the question of Assange’s “guilt or not”, in the absence of charges against him he is entitled to the presumption of innocence, and this comment straightforwardly violates it.

As for the British authorities, despite the ending of the Swedish case against him, they continue to say that if Assange leaves the embassy they will arrest him on the minor charge of refusing to surrender to the court on the basis of an arrest warrant issued by Westminster Magistrates’ Court on 29th June 2012.  This despite the fact that the extradition proceedings in which that warrant was issued have now closed.

This is a totally unsatisfactory state of affairs.  It means that though no charges have been brought against Assange, and though he has complied with the Swedish prosecutor’s demand that he answer her questions, his name has not been cleared, and the authorities in Sweden continue to insinuate his guilt.

Meanwhile he remains trapped in the Ecuadorian embassy with a British arrest warrant still hanging over him, with the certain prospect that the moment he leaves the embassy he will be the subject of an extradition request from the US.

I suspect that the reason the Swedish prosecutor decided to drop the case is because her failure to bring charges so many months after Assange was questioned had exposed her to a legal challenge.

It was after all only because of a court order that she agreed to question Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy in London in the first place.  Had she continued to prevaricate  for much longer a further order from the court obliging her to make a decision would have been a certainty.

That it was fear of a legal challenge that was her real motive is all but admitted by these words in her statement

According to Swedish legislation, a criminal investigation is to be conducted as quickly as possible. At the point when a prosecutor has exhausted the possibilities to continue the investigation, the prosecutor is obliged to discontinue the investigation.

Professor Mads Andenas who chaired the UN working group which found that the treatment of Assange violated his human rights says the same thing

The Swedish supreme court laid down strict requirements and warned the prosecutors to speed up or drop the case. The UN working group on arbitrary detention found (4-1) violations of international law.

As does the head of the Swedish Bar Association, Bengt Ivarsson, who has told Svenska Dagbladet

A government official has a responsibility to push an investigation forward. It has not happened in this case. Quite early on it was clear that Assange was not going to allow himself to be questioned in Sweden…

The investigation has had a major impact internationally. And how this has been handled is not an advantage for the Swedish legal system. It has created a negative image of the prosecution service.

Terrible though the handling of this case has been, and deeply unsatisfactory as is the announcement today in almost every respect, something might at least be saved if the British authorities now at last accede to Ecuador’s demand that Assange be allowed to go to Ecuador unhindered.

That is no more than his right as a refugee who has been granted asylum, a fact which the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention of the UN Human Rights Council has been at pains to point out.

Britain’s previous failure to do this was a gross violation of Assange’s rights as a refugee.  Britain’s continued failure to do so now after the Swedish case against Assange has been dropped would compound it.

Unfortunately the handling of Assange’s case to date, and the statements of the Swedish and British authorities today, give little cause for hope that even this proper and necessary thing will now be done.

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Macron cuts ski holiday short, vowing crack down on Yellow Vests (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 109.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the 18th consecutive week of Yellow Vests protests in Paris. Following last weeks lower participation, Saturday’s Yellow Vests in Paris gathered larger crowds, with various outbreaks of violence and rioting that has been blamed on extreme elements, who French authorities claim have infiltrated the movement.

“Act XVIII” of the protests has shown that the Yellow Vests have not given up. France’s Champs-Élysées boulevard was where most of the violence occurred, with the street being left in a pile of broken glass and flames.

One day after Paris was set ablaze, French President Emmanuel Macron cut his ski holiday short, returning to Paris and vowing to take “strong decisions” to prevent more violence.

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Via Zerohedge


Paris awoke on Sunday to smouldering fires, broken windows and looted stores following the 18th consecutive Saturday of Yellow Vest protests.

Around 200 people were arrested according to BFM TV, while about 80 shops near the iconic Champs Elysees had been damaged and/or looted according to AFP, citing Champs Elysees committee president Jean-Noel Reinhardt.

The 373-year-old Saint Sulpice Roman Catholic church was set on fire while people were inside, however nobody was injured. The cause of the fire remains unknown.

The riots were so severe that French President Emmanuel Macron cut short a vacation at the La Mongie ski resort in the Hautes-Pyrénées following a three-day tour of East Africa which took him to Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya.

Macron skied on Friday, telling La Depeche du Midi “I’m going to spend two-three days here to relax, to find landscapes and friendly faces,” adding “I’m happy to see the Pyrenees like that, radiant, although I know it was more difficult at Christmas” referring to the lack of snow in December.

In response to Saturday’s violence, Macron said over Twitter that “strong decisions” were coming to prevent more violence.

Macron said some individuals — dubbed “black blocs” by French police forces — were taking advantage of the protests by the Yellow Vest grassroots movement to “damage the Republic, to break, to destroy.” Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said on Twitter that those who excused or encouraged such violence were complicit in it. –Bloomberg

The French President has family ties in the Hautes-Pyrénées, including Bagnères de Bigorre where his grandmother lived. He is a regular visitor to the region.

Emmanuel Macron (2ndL), head of the political movement In Marche! (Onwards!) And candidate for the 2017 presidential election, and his wife Brigitte Trogneux (L) have lunch April 12, 2017 (Reuters)

 

 

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Vesti calls out Pompeo on lying about Russia invading Ukraine [Video]

Secretary Pompeo displayed either stunning ignorance or a mass-attack of propaganda about what must be the most invisible war in history.

Seraphim Hanisch

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After the 2014 Maidan revolution and the subsequent secessions of Lugansk and Donetsk in Ukraine, and after the rejoining of Crimea with its original nation of Russia, the Western media went on a campaign to prove the Russia is (/ was / was about to / had already / might / was thinking about / was planning to … etc.) invade Ukraine. For the next year or so, about every two weeks, internet news sources like Yahoo! News showed viewers pictures of tanks, box trucks and convoys to “prove” that the invasion was underway (or any of the other statuses confirming the possibilities above stated.) This information was doubtless provided to US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo.

Apparently, Secretary Pompeo believed this ruse, or is being paid to believe this ruse because in a speech recently, he talked about it as fact:

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called Russia’s annexation of Crimea and aggression in eastern Ukraine an attempt to gain access to Ukraine’s oil and gas reserves.

He stated this at IHS Markit’s CERAWeek conference in Houston, the USA, Reuters reports.

Pompeo urged the oil industry to work with the Trump administration to promote U.S. foreign policy interests, especially in Asia and in Europe, and to punish what he called “bad actors” on the world stage.

The United States has imposed harsh sanctions in the past several months on two major world oil producers, Venezuela and Iran.

Pompeo said the U.S. oil-and-gas export boom had given the United States the ability to meet energy demand once satisfied by its geopolitical rivals.

“We don’t want our European allies hooked on Russian gas through the Nord Stream 2 project, any more than we ourselves want to be dependent on Venezuelan oil supplies,” Pompeo said, referring to a natural gas pipeline expansion from Russia to Central Europe.

Pompeo called Russia’s invasion of Ukraine an attempt to gain access to the country’s oil and gas reserves.

Although the state-run news agency Vesti News often comes under criticism for rather reckless, or at least, extremely sarcastic propaganda at times, here they rightly nailed Mr. Pompeo’s lies to the wall and billboarded it on their program:

The news anchors even made a wisecrack about one of the political figures, Konstantin Zatulin saying as a joke that Russia plans to invade the United States to get its oil. They further noted that Secretary Pompeo is uneducated about the region and situation, but they offered him the chance to come to Russia and learn the correct information about what is going on.

To wit, Russia has not invaded Ukraine at all. There is no evidence to support such a claim, while there IS evidence to show that the West is actively interfering with Russia through the use of Ukraine as a proxyWhile this runs counter to the American narrative, it is simply the truth. Ukraine appears to be the victim of its own ambitions at this point, for while the US tantalizes the leadership of the country and even interferes with the Orthodox Church in the region, the country lurches towards a presidential election with three very poor candidates, most notably the one who is president there now, Petro Poroshenko.

However, the oil and gas side of the anti-Russian propaganda operation by the US is significant. The US wishes for Europe to buy gas from American suppliers, even though this is woefully inconvenient and expensive when Russia is literally at Europe’s doorstep with easy supplies. However, the Cold War Party in the United States, which still has a significant hold on US policy making categorizes the sale of Russia gas to powers like NATO ally Germany as a “threat” to European security.

It is interesting that Angela Merkel herself does not hold this line of thinking. It is also interesting and worthy of note, that this is not the only NATO member that is dealing more and more with Russia in terms of business. It underscores the loss of purpose that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization suffers now since there is no Soviet Union to fight.

However, the US remains undaunted. If there is no enemy to fight, the Americans feel that they must create one, and Russia has been the main scapegoat for American power ambitions. More than ever now, this tactic appears to be the one in use for determining the US stance towards other powers in the world.

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Ariel Cohen explains Washington’s latest foreign policy strategy [Video]

Excellent interview Ariel Cohen and Vladimir Solovyov reveals the forces at work in and behind American foreign policy.

Seraphim Hanisch

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While the American people and press are pretty much complicit in reassuring the masses that America is the only “right” superpower on earth, and that Russia and China represent “enemy threats” for doing nothing more than existing and being successfully competitive in world markets, Russia Channel One got a stunner of a video interview with Ariel Cohen.

Who is Ariel Cohen? Wikipedia offers this information about him:

Ariel Cohen (born April 3, 1959 in Crimea in YaltaUSSR) is a political scientist focusing on political risk, international security and energy policy, and the rule of law.[1] Cohen currently serves as the Director of The Center for Energy, Natural Resources and Geopolitics (CENRG) at the Institute for Analysis of Global Security (IAGS). CENRG focuses on the nexus between energy, geopolitics and security, and natural resources and growth. He is also a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, within the Global Energy Center and the Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center.[2] Until July 2014, Dr. Cohen was a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. He specializes in Russia/Eurasia, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East.

Cohen has testified before committees of the U.S. Congress, including the Senate and House Foreign Relations Committees, the House Armed Services Committee, the House Judiciary Committee and the Helsinki Commission.[4] He also served as a Policy Adviser with the National Institute for Public Policy’s Center for Deterrence Analysis.[5] In addition, Cohen has consulted for USAID, the World Bank and the Pentagon.[6][7]

Cohen is a frequent writer and commentator in the American and international media. He has appeared on CNN, NBC, CBS, FOX, C-SPAN, BBC-TV and Al Jazeera English, as well as Russian and Ukrainian national TV networks. He was a commentator on a Voice of America weekly radio and TV show for eight years. Currently, he is a Contributing Editor to the National Interest and a blogger for Voice of America. He has written guest columns for the New York TimesInternational Herald TribuneChristian Science Monitor, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Times, EurasiaNet, Valdai Discussion Club,[8] and National Review Online. In Europe, Cohen’s analyses have appeared in Kommersant, Izvestiya, Hurriyet, the popular Russian website Ezhenedelny Zhurnal, and many others.[9][10]

Mr. Cohen came on Russian TV for a lengthy interview running about 17 minutes. This interview, shown in full below, is extremely instructive in illustrating the nature of the American foreign policy directives such as they are at this time.

We have seen evidence of this in recent statements by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo regarding Russia’s “invasion” of Ukraine, and an honestly unabashed bit of fear mongering about China’s company Huawei and its forthcoming 5G networks, which we will investigate in more detail in another piece. Both bits of rhetoric reflect a re-polished narrative that, paraphrased, says to the other world powers,

Either you do as we tell you, or you are our enemy. You are not even permitted to out-compete with us in business, let alone foreign relations. The world is ours and if you try to step out of place, you will be dealt with as an enemy power.

This is probably justified paranoia, because it is losing its place. Where the United Stated used to stand for opposition against tyranny in the world, it now acts as the tyrant, and even as a bully. Russia and China’s reaction might be seen as ignoring the bully and his bluster and just going about doing their own thing. It isn’t a fight, but it is treating the bully with contempt, as bullies indeed deserve.

Ariel Cohen rightly points out that there is a great deal of political inertia in the matter of allowing Russia and China to just do their own thing. The US appears to be acting paranoid about losing its place. His explanations appear very sound and very reasonable and factual. Far from some of the snark Vesti is often infamous for, this interview is so clear it is tragic that most Americans will never see it.

The tragedy for the US leadership that buys this strategy is that they appear to be blinded so much by their own passion that they cannot break free of it to save themselves.

This is not the first time that such events have happened to an empire. It happened in Rome; it happened for England; and it happened for the shorter-lived empires of Nazi Germany and ISIS. It happens every time that someone in power becomes afraid to lose it, and when the forces that propelled that rise to power no longer are present. The US is a superpower without a reason to be a superpower.

That can be very dangerous.

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