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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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Foreign Banks Are Embracing Russia’s Alternative To SWIFT, Moscow Says

Given its status as a major energy exporter, Russia has leverage that could help attract partners to its new SWIFT alternative.

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Via Zerohedge


On Friday, one day after Russia and China pledged to reduce their reliance on the dollar by increasing the amount of bilateral trade conducted in rubles and yuan (a goal toward which much progress has already been made over the past three years), Russia’s Central Bank provided the latest update on Moscow’s alternative to US-dominated international payments network SWIFT.

Moscow started working on the project back in 2014, when international sanctions over Russia’s annexation of Crimea inspired fears that the country’s largest banks would soon be cut off from SWIFT which, though it’s based in Belgium and claims to be politically neutral, is effectively controlled by the US Treasury.

Today, the Russian alternative, known as the System for Transfer of Financial Messages, has attracted a modest amount of support within the Russian business community, with 416 Russian companies having joined as of September, including the Russian Federal Treasury and large state corporations likeGazprom Neft and Rosneft.

And now, eight months after a senior Russian official advised that “our banks are ready to turn off SWIFT,” it appears the system has reached another milestone in its development: It’s ready to take on international partners in the quest to de-dollarize and end the US’s leverage over the international financial system. A Russian official advised that non-residents will begin joining the system “this year,” according to RT.

“Non-residents will start connecting to us this year. People are already turning to us,”said First Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Russia Olga Skorobogatova. Earlier, the official said that by using the alternative payment system foreign firms would be able to do business with sanctioned Russian companies.

Turkey, China, India and others are among the countries that might be interested in a SWIFT alternative, as Russian President Vladimir Putin pointed out in a speech earlier this month, the US’s willingness to blithely sanction countries from Iran to Venezuela and beyond will eventually rebound on the US economy by undermining the dollar’s status as the world’s reserve currency.

To be sure, the Russians aren’t the only ones building a SWIFT alternative to help avoid US sanctions. Russia and China, along with the European Union are launching an interbank payments network known as the Special Purpose Vehicle to help companies pursue “legitimate business with Iran” in defiance of US sanctions.

Given its status as a major energy exporter, Russia has leverage that could help attract partners to its new SWIFT alternative. For one, much of Europe is dependent on Russian natural gas and oil.

And as Russian trade with other US rivals increases, Moscow’s payments network will look increasingly attractive,particularly if buyers of Russian crude have no other alternatives to pay for their goods.

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US leaving INF will put nuclear non-proliferation at risk & may lead to ‘complete chaos’

The US is pulling out of a nuclear missile pact with Russia. The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty requires both countries to eliminate their short and medium-range atomic missiles.

The Duran

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Via RT


If the US ditches the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), it could collapse the entire nuclear non-proliferation system, and bring nuclear war even closer, Russian officials warn.

By ending the INF, Washington risks creating a domino effect which could endanger other landmark deals like the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) and collapse the existing non-proliferation mechanism as we know it, senior lawmaker Konstantin Kosachev said on Sunday.

The current iteration of the START treaty, which limits the deployment of all types of nuclear weapons, is due to expire in 2021. Kosachev, who chairs the Parliament’s Upper House Foreign Affairs Committee, warned that such an outcome pits mankind against “complete chaos in terms of nuclear weapons.”

“Now the US Western allies face a choice: either embarking on the same path, possibly leading to new war, or siding with common sense, at least for the sake of their self-preservation instinct.”

His remarks came after US President Donald Trump announced his intentions to “terminate” the INF, citing alleged violations of the deal by Russia.

Moscow has repeatedly denied undermining the treaty, pointing out that Trump has failed to produce any evidence of violations. Moreover, Russian officials insist that the deployment of US-made Mk 41 ground-based universal launching systems in Europe actually violates the agreement since the launchers are capable of firing mid-range cruise missiles.

Leonid Slutsky, who leads the Foreign Affairs Committee in parliament’s lower chamber, argued that Trump’s words are akin to placing “a huge mine under the whole disarmament process on the planet.”

The INF Treaty was signed in 1987 by then-President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. The deal effectively bans the parties from having and developing short- and mid-range missiles of all types. According to the provisions, the US was obliged to destroy Pershing I and II launcher systems and BGM-109G Gryphon ground-launched cruise missiles. Moscow, meanwhile, pledged to remove the SS-20 and several other types of missiles from its nuclear arsenal.

Pershing missiles stationed in the US Army arsenal. © Hulton Archive / Getty Images ©

By scrapping the historic accord, Washington is trying to fulfill its “dream of a unipolar world,” a source within the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

“This decision fits into the US policy of ditching the international agreements which impose equal obligations on it and its partners, and render the ‘exceptionalism’ concept vulnerable.”

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov denounced Trump’s threats as “blackmail” and said that Washington wants to dismantle the INF because it views the deal as a “problem” on its course for “total domination” in the military sphere.

The issue of nuclear arms treaties is too vital for national and global security to rush into hastily-made “emotional” decisions, the official explained. Russia is expecting to hear more on the US’ plans from Trump’s top security adviser, John Bolton, who is set to hold talks in Moscow tomorrow.

President Trump has been open about unilaterally pulling the US out of various international agreements if he deems them to be damaging to national interests. Earlier this year, Washington withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on the Iranian nuclear program. All other signatories to the landmark agreement, including Russia, China, and the EU, decided to stick to the deal, while blasting Trump for leaving.

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Converting Khashoggi into Cash

After two weeks of denying any connection to Khashoggi’s disappearance, Riyadh has admitted that he was killed by Saudi operatives but it wasn’t really on purpose.

Jim Jatras

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Authored by James George Jatras via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


The hazard of writing about the Saudis’ absurd gyrations as they seek to avoid blame for the murder of the late, not notably great journalist and Muslim Brotherhood activist Jamal Khashoggi is that by the time a sentence is finished, the landscape may have changed again.

As though right on cue, the narrative has just taken another sharp turn.

After two weeks of denying any connection to Khashoggi’s disappearance, Riyadh has ‘fessed up (sorta) and admitted that he was killed by Saudi operatives but it wasn’t really on purpose:

Y’see, it was kinda’f an ‘accident.’

Oops…

Y’see the guys were arguing, and … uh … a fistfight broke out.

Yeah, that’s it … a ‘fistfight.’

And before you know it poor Jamal had gone all to pieces.

Y’see?

Must’ve been a helluva fistfight.

The figurative digital ink wasn’t even dry on that whopper before American politicos in both parties were calling it out:

  • “To say that I am skeptical of the new Saudi narrative about Mr. Khashoggi is an understatement,” tweeted Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. “First we were told Mr. Khashoggi supposedly left the consulate and there was blanket denial of any Saudi involvement. Now, a fight breaks out and he’s killed in the consulate, all without knowledge of Crown Prince. It’s hard to find this latest ‘explanation‘ as credible.”
  • California Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement that the new Saudi explanation is “not credible.” “If Khashoggi was fighting inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, he was fighting for his life with people sent to capture or kill him,” Schiff said. “The kingdom and all involved in this brutal murder must be held accountable, and if the Trump administration will not take the lead, Congress must.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan must think he’s already died and gone to his eternal recreation in the amorous embraces of the dark-eyed houris. The acid test for the viability of Riyadh’s newest transparent lie is whether the Turks actually have, as they claim, live recordings of Khashoggi’s interrogation, torture, murder, and dismemberment (not necessarily in that order) – and if they do, when Erdogan decides it’s the right time to release them.

Erdogan has got the Saudis over a barrel and he’ll squeeze everything he can out of them.

From the beginning, the Khashoggi story wasn’t really about the fate of one man. The Saudis have been getting away with bloody murder, literally, for years. They’re daily slaughtering the civilian population of Yemen with American and British help, with barely a ho-hum from the sensitive consciences always ready to invoke the so-called “responsibility to protect” Muslims in Bosnia, Kosovo, Libya, Syria, Xinjiang, Rakhine, and so forth.

Where’s the responsibility not to help a crazed bunch of Wahhabist head-choppers kill people?

But now, just one guy meets a grisly end and suddenly it’s the most important homicide since the Lindbergh baby.

What gives?

Is it because Khashoggi was part of the MSM aristocracy, on account of his relationship with the Washington Post?

Was it because of his other, darker, connections? As related by Moon of Alabama: “Khashoggi was a rather shady guy. A ‘journalist’ who was also an operator for Saudi and U.S. intelligence services. He was an early recruit of the Muslim Brotherhood.” This relationship, writes MoA, touches on the interests of pretty much everyone in the region:

“The Ottoman empire ruled over much of the Arab world. The neo-Ottoman wannabe-Sultan Recep Tayyip Erdogan would like to regain that historic position for Turkey. His main competition in this are the al-Sauds. They have much more money and are strategically aligned with Israel and the United States, while Turkey under Erdogan is more or less isolated. The religious-political element of the competition is represented on one side by the Muslim Brotherhood, ‘democratic’ Islamists to which Erdogan belongs, and the Wahhabi absolutists on the other side.”

With the noose tightening around Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MbS), the risible fistfight cock-and-bull story is likely to be the best they can come up with. US President Donald Trump’s having offered his “rogue killers” opening suggests he’s willing to play along. Nobody will really be fooled, but MbS will hope he can persuade important people to pretend they are fooled.

That will mean spreading around a lot of cash. The new alchemy of converting Khashoggi dead into financial gain for the living is just one part of an obvious scheme to pull off what Libya’s Muammar Kaddafi managed after the 1988 Lockerbie bombing: offer up some underlings as the fall guys and let the top man evade responsibility. (KARMA ALERT: That didn’t do Kaddafi any good in the long run.)

In the Saudi case the Lockerbie dodge will be harder, as there are already pictures of men at the Istanbul Consulate General identified as close associates of MbS. But they’ll give it the old madrasa try anyway since it’s all they’ve got.Firings and arrests have started and one suspect has already died in a suspicious automobile “accident.” Heads will roll!

Saving MbS’s skin and his succession to the throne of his doddering father may depend on how many of the usual recipients of Saudi – let’s be honest – bribery and influence peddling will find sufficient pecuniary reason to go along. Saudi Arabia’s unofficial motto with respect to the US establishment might as well be: “The green poultice heals all wounds.”

Anyway, that’s been their experience up to now, but it also in part reflects the same arrogance that made MbS think he could continue to get away with anything. (It’s not shooting someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue, but it’s close.) Whether spreading cash around will continue to have the same salubrious effect it always has had in the past remains to be seen.

To be sure, Trump may succeed in shaking the Saudi date palm for additional billions for arms sales. That won’t necessarily turn around an image problem that may not have a remedy. But still, count on more cash going to high-price lobbying and image-control shops eager to make obscene money working for their obscene client. Some big American names are dropping are dropping Riyadh in a sudden fit of fastidiousness, but you can bet others will be eager to step into their Guccis, both in the US and in the United Kingdom. (It should never be forgotten how closely linked the US and UK establishments are in the Middle East, and to the Saudis in particular.)

It still might not work though. No matter how much expensive PR lipstick the spinmeisters put on this pig, that won’t make it kissable. It’s still a pig.

Others benefitting from hanging Khashoggi’s death around MbS’s neck are:

  • Qatar (after last year’s invasion scare, there’s no doubt a bit of Schadenfreude and (figurative) champagne corks popping in Doha over MbS’s discomfiture. As one source close to the ruling al-Thani family relates, “The Qataris are stunned speechless at Saudi incompetence!” You just can’t get good help these days).

Among the losers one must count Israel and especially Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu. MbS, with his contrived image as the reformer, was the Sunni “beard” he needed to get the US to assemble an “Arab NATO” (as though one NATO weren’t bad enough!) and eliminate Iran for him. It remains to be seen how far that agenda has been set back.

Whether or not MbS survives or is removed – perhaps with extreme prejudice – there’s no doubt Saudi Arabia is the big loser. Question are being asked that should have been asked years ago. As Srdja Trifkovic comments in Chronicles magazine:

“The crown prince’s recklessness in ordering the murder of Khashoggi has demonstrated that he is just a standard despot, a Mafia don with oil presiding over an extended cleptocracy of inbred parasites. The KSA will not be reformed because it is structurally not capable of reform. The regime in Riyadh which stops being a playground of great wealth, protected by a large investment in theocratic excess, would not be ‘Saudi’ any longer. Saudia delenda est.”

The first Saudi state, the Emirate of Diriyah, went belly up in 1818, with the death of head of the house of al-Saud, Abdullah bin Saud – actually, literally with his head hung on a gate in Constantinople by Erdogan’s Ottoman predecessor, Sultan Mahmud II.

The second Saudi state, Emirate of Nejd, likewise folded in 1891.

It’s long past time this third and current abomination joined its antecedents on the ash heap of history.

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