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Now British media admits it in Skripal case: due process ‘does not apply’ to Russia

Commentaries in Guardian and Financial Times say that Russia can be declared guilty without being given chance to defend itself

Alexander Mercouris

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It is becoming increasingly difficult for the British authorities and for the British media to deny that ‘due process‘ – ie. the well-established system of rules for conducting fair and impartial trials and investigations in order to determine questions of guilt or innocence – are not being followed by the British authorities in the Skripal case.

Here are some of the violations of due process the British authorities which in my opinion the British authorities are committing:

(1) The British government is interfering in the conduct of a criminal investigation, with Prime Minister Theresa May and especially Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson pointing fingers at who they say is guilty (Russia) whilst the criminal investigation is still underway;

(2) The British government has said that unless Russia proves itself innocent within a specific time the British government will conclude that it is guilty.  As I have explained previously this reverses the burden of proof: in a criminal case it is the prosecution which is supposed to prove the defendant’s guilt, not the defendant who must prove his innocence;

(3) The British government refuses to share with Russia – the party it says is guilty – the ‘evidence’ upon which it says it has concluded that Russia is guilty, the evidence in this case being a sample of the chemical with which it says Sergey and Yulia Skripal was poisoned.

This violates the fundamental principle that the defendant must be provided with all the evidence against him so that he can properly prepare his defence;

(4) The British government is not following the procedure set out in Article IX (2) of the Chemical Weapons Convention to which both Britain and Russia are parties.  This reads as follows

States Parties should, whenever possible, first make every effort to clarify and resolve, through exchange of information and consultations among themselves, any matter which may cause doubt about compliance with this Convention, or which gives rise to concerns about a related matter which may be considered ambiguous. A State Party which receives a request from another State Party for clarification of any matter which the requesting State Party believes causes such a doubt or concern shall provide the requesting State Party as soon as possible, but in any case not later than ten days after the request, with information sufficient to answer the doubt or concern raised along with an explanation of how the information provided resolves the matter.

This says clearly that in a case like the Skripal case the British authorities should have sent a request for information to the Russian authorities, who would then have had up to ten days in which to respond.

Instead the British demanded a Russian reply within 36 hours, and said they would assume Russian guilt unless a response was provided which satisfied them, even though the Chemical Weapons Convention does not give the British government the right in a case like Skripal to say based on such a reply that the Russians are guilty or not.

There has been an attempt to argue that the British disregard of the procedure set out in Article IX (2) does not breach the Chemical Weapons Convention.

I will set it out the British position as it appears in an article in The Conversation

The process set out in Article IX(2) cannot be the exclusive remedy in all cases where doubts arise surrounding compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention. For example, it would be absurd to suggest that a state which has suffered an armed attack involving chemical weapons may not defend itself against that attack, but instead must issue a request for information to the attacking state and then patiently await its response within ten days.

In fact, on a closer reading, it’s clear that the obligation set out in Article IX(2) is not of an absolute character. It requires state parties to “make every effort” to clarify and resolve doubts. This duty is framed in the language of “should”, rather than “shall”, and is engaged only “whenever possible”. The terms of the clause therefore enable a state to adopt alternative measures should the circumstances so warrant.

After the Salisbury incident, one of the UK’s responses was to call a meeting of the UN Security Council. While Russia vehemently opposed this move as being contrary to the Chemical Weapons Convention, none of the other members of the Security Council, all of which are also signatories of that treaty, shared this view.

It is also important to be clear about the scope of Article IX(2). The provision deals with the clarification of doubts surrounding compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention. However, the British government had already concluded that it was highly likely that Russia was responsible for the incident. Based on the identification of the nerve agent involved, named as Novichok, the fact that Russia has produced the agent in the past and in the light of Russia’s past conduct and current intent, it was not unreasonable for the UK government to come to this conclusion, in line with the standards of proof applicable in international law in similar circumstances.

I find this wholly unconvincing and I am sure the vast majority of international lawyers would do so also.

What this argument essentially says is that the British are entitled to disregard the procedure set out in Article IX (2) because they have already concluded in advance of their enquiry to the Russians on the basis of evidence which they are not prepared to share with the Russians that Russia is ‘highly likely’ to have been guilty of carrying out the attack on Skripal.

That effectively admits that the ‘request for information’ – ie. Theresa May’s ultimatum to Russia – was not made in good faith and was not really a genuine ‘request for information’ at all, but was rather a rhetorical device intended to make it easier for the British government to pronounce Russia guilty without providing further proof.

Far from providing a justification for ignoring the procedure set out in Article IX (2), that looks to me more like an admission that the British have not been acting in good faith, which of course is not merely a violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention but of due process.

(5) The British authorities are denying the Russians consular access to Yulia Skripal, though she is a Russian citizen who the British authorities say was subjected to a criminal assault on their territory.

This is a potentially serious matter since by preventing consular access to Yulia Skripal the British authorities are not only violating the interstate consular arrangements which exist between Britain and Russia, but they are preventing the Russian authorities from learning more about the condition of one of their citizens who has been hospitalised following a violent criminal assault, and are preventing the Russian authorities from carrying out their own investigation into the assault on one of their citizens which the British authorities say has taken place.

I would add that this obstruction of Russian consular access to Yulia Skripal has gone almost entirely unreported in the British and Western media.

Needless to say, if the situation were reversed and it was the Russian authorities who were denying the British consular access to a British citizen who had been hospitalised following a criminal assault in Russia, I have no doubt that the British and Western media would be far less reticent about it.

In truth the violations of due process are so egregious that sections of the British media have been in effect forced to admit that they are happening, and are now trying to justify them.

Here for example is what Jonathan Freedland in the Guardian has said

On the face of it, Jeremy Corbyn’s position, as set out in the Guardian yesterday, seems eminently reasonable. Anxious to learn the lessons of the Iraq catastrophe of 2003, he suggested we exercise patience: let’s wait and see where the investigation leads, let’s not “rush way ahead of the evidence”. After all, said his spokesman, the intelligence agencies had been wrong before……

But those pleas to delay judgment point to a wider error: a misreading of the nature of the contemporary Russian state…..

The error here is to assume that Moscow’s attitude to evidence and due process is the same as that of nations still governed by the rule of law. But in Putin’s Russia, lying has long been a routine and integral part of statecraft. No matter how copious the evidence, Putin will think nothing of denying it….

What meaning does “due process” have when dealing with such a regime? Moscow would not cooperate in good faith with an investigation by the international chemical weapons watchdog, offering up evidence that might be incriminating. They would see such an inquiry instead as a useful delaying tactic, one that would allow them to issue yet more denials, wild counter-accusations (“Salisbury was an MI5 plot to distract from Brexit”) and obfuscation – disseminated either through their RT propaganda TV station or by their army of bots and online enablers. That way they could generate yet more of the fog of doubt and confusion that they believe undermines the west’s confidence and strengthens them. This is the Putin modus operandi: spread doubt until the public grows exhausted and concludes that the truth is unknowable.

(bold italics added)

More pithily an editorial the Financial Times says the same thing

President Vladimir Putin’s government uses a well-worn playbook after it commits an international outrage. The first Russian response is denial mixed with the propagation of a variety of implausible alternative explanations….

The Kremlin then tries to blunt the response by wrapping its accusers up in procedure. The game is to confuse the narrative, delay the international response — and demonstrate to the Russian people and the wider world that the Kremlin can act with impunity.

(bold italics added)

The first thing to say about these articles is that they are an admission that in the Skripal case due process – ie. proper procedure in a case like this – is not being followed.

The second thing to say is that they show a startling failure to understand the purpose of due process.

Due process in a criminal investigation is not a favour to the defendant.  It is the way to arrive at the truth.

That is why in England in criminal appeals judges say that convictions in cases where due process has not been followed are ‘unsafe’.  What they mean is that because due process was not followed the court cannot be sure that the case which has been made against the defendant has been made out.

It follows that doubts about a defendant’s good faith (the reason Jonathan Freedland and the Financial Times are giving for disapplying due process in cases involving Russia) can never be a reason for disapplying due process.

It is ridiculous to say – as Jonathan Freedland and the Financial Times are in effect saying – that due process should be disapplied simply because they believe the defendant in this case – ie. Russia –  is lying and is never going to admit its guilt.

Defendants often lie when cases are brought against them.  If they did not there would be no reason to have trials.

Defendants very often go on denying their guilt even when courts have convicted them.  That is not a reason to deny them due process and their right to state their defence.

Stripped of their bogus arguments, what Jonathan Freedland and the Financial Times are saying is that when Russia is accused of something it has no right to defend itself.

That is an astonishing and deeply troubling thing to say.

It also looks to me rather like an admission that in the Skripal case the British authorities do not have the evidence to prove that their accusation against Russia is true.

That does not surprise me because the British authorities have apparently been unable to provide even their closest allies with evidence which proves that their accusation against Russia is true.

Here is what Der Spiegel says the British have told the Germans about the evidence – or lack of evidence – they have in the case

The key to the Skripal case is to be found in the toxin that was used. When the British briefed their German colleagues this week, they didn’t go into great detail, according to sources in German security circles. Intelligence services suspect that could be because the British no longer completely trust the Americans and are particularly wary of Donald Trump.

The British didn’t even tell their German counterparts which variation of the nerve agent they believe was used. Western intelligence experts suspect that it was Novichok of the A-232 variety, which is fluid enough to be used as a spray.

The vocabulary used by the UK and its allies indicates that British intelligence officials are highly confident in their assessment. Yet although it is clear which substance was used and that it very likely came from Russian stockpiles, there is no definitive proof that the Russian state was behind the attack, according to a senior German official on Thursday evening. The official has read through all of the documents that have thus far been presented. He said that intelligence officials are viewing the evidence laid out in those documents — several tightly printed pages — as a “compelling chain of clues.”

(bold italics added)

In other words the British case against Russia in the Skripal case is no more than surmise (a “compelling chain of clues”).

It is not based on evidence because as of Thursday 15th March 2018 (when the Germans were given the facts) there was none.

What of the argument Jonathan Freedland and the Financial Times both make – echoing things the British government has said – that concrete proof of Russian guilt in the Skripal case is not needed because Russia’s guilt can be presumed from Russia’s previous conduct.

Putting aside that there are conflicting opinions about Russia’s previous conduct, it is actually a further breach of due process to declare someone guilty not on the evidence in the case itself but purely on the basis of their previous conduct.

Putting that aside there have been at least three cases since The Duran was founded in May 2016 when declarations of Russian guilt which were confidently asserted proved on proper examination of the evidence to be untrue.

(1) On 19th September 2016 an attack on a humanitarian convoy in Syria was widely blamed by Western governments and by the Western media on Russia.  Yet a UN inquiry headed by an Indian military officer effectively cleared Russia of responsibility for the attack.

(2) In a succession of reports Professor Richard McLaren has claimed to have found proof of a gigantic government organised state sponsored doping conspiracy amongst athletes in Russia.

These claims have been enthusiastically repeated by the Western media, and led to partial bans on Russian participation in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, and in the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, and to a complete ban on Russian participation in the 2016 Summer Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

However the Schmid Commission, which on behalf of the International Olympic Committee, carried out a thorough review of Professor McLaren’s claims of a government organised state sponsored doping conspiracy in Russia, concluded that contrary to what Professor McLaren has said those claims have not been proved, and that they are most likely untrue.

(3) The third case is more controversial, but I personally have no doubt that the same applies.

Since at least the summer of 2016 it has been repeatedly and confidently claimed that there was a vast conspiracy between Russia and Donald Trump’s campaign to steal the US Presidential election from Hillary Clinton and to swing it to Donald Trump.

The House Intelligence Committee, having investigated this claim in detail, now says it is untrue.

Though the Mueller investigation, which is also looking in this claim, has yet to report, none of the indictments it has issued suggest that this claim is true, whilst it seems the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is also investigating the claim, is also going to report that the claim is untrue.

Here we have three examples of claims of wrongful activity confidently made against Russia proving to be untrue.  Why then assume that the claim of wrongful activity made against Russia in the Skripal case is true?

Obviously presumptions of guilt based on claims of previous Russian misconduct are wrong and unsafe, and that whole approach must be abandoned as both flawed and ethically wrong.

I would finish by repeating a point I have made many times before.

Underpinning the regular allegations made in the West about Russian misconduct including the ones now being made in connection with the Skripal case is the intense Western prejudice against Russia and against all things Russian.

I discussed this Western prejudice against Russia and Russians in detail in a long article The Duran published on 12th October 2016, and I discussed it again more recently in articles I have written about a recent report by a group of US Democratic Party Senators targeting Russia, and about the Hollywood film Red Sparrow which is currently on general release.

Now we see further examples of this prejudice with the demand in the Skripal case that Russia be denied the right to defend itself, a right which every other defendant accused of a crime has.

Personally I cannot see a more straightforward example of prejudice against Russia than that.

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Clinton-Yeltsin docs shine a light on why Deep State hates Putin (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 114.

Alex Christoforou

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Bill Clinton and America ruled over Russia and Boris Yeltsin during the 1990s. Yeltsin showed little love for Russia and more interest in keeping power, and pleasing the oligarchs around him.

Then came Vladimir Putin, and everything changed.

Nearly 600 pages of memos and transcripts, documenting personal exchanges and telephone conversations between Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin, were made public by the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Dating from January 1993 to December 1999, the documents provide a historical account of a time when US relations with Russia were at their best, as Russia was at its weakest.

On September 8, 1999, weeks after promoting the head of the Russia’s top intelligence agency to the post of prime minister, Russian President Boris Yeltsin took a phone call from U.S. President Bill Clinton.

The new prime minister was unknown, rising to the top of the Federal Security Service only a year earlier.

Yeltsin wanted to reassure Clinton that Vladimir Putin was a “solid man.”

Yeltsin told Clinton….

“I would like to tell you about him so you will know what kind of man he is.”

“I found out he is a solid man who is kept well abreast of various subjects under his purview. At the same time, he is thorough and strong, very sociable. And he can easily have good relations and contact with people who are his partners. I am sure you will find him to be a highly qualified partner.”

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the nearly 600 pages of transcripts documenting the calls and personal conversations between then U.S. President Bill Clinton and Russian President Boris Yeltsin, released last month. A strong Clinton and a very weak Yeltsin underscore a warm and friendly relationship between the U.S. and Russia.

Then Vladimir Putin came along and decided to lift Russia out of the abyss, and things changed.

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Here are five must-read Clinton-Yeltsin exchanges from with the 600 pages released by the Clinton Library.

Via RT

Clinton sends ‘his people’ to get Yeltsin elected

Amid unceasing allegations of nefarious Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election, the Clinton-Yeltsin exchanges reveal how the US government threw its full weight behind Boris – in Russian parliamentary elections as well as for the 1996 reelection campaign, which he approached with 1-digit ratings.

For example, a transcript from 1993 details how Clinton offered to help Yeltsin in upcoming parliamentary elections by selectively using US foreign aid to shore up support for the Russian leader’s political allies.

“What is the prevailing attitude among the regional leaders? Can we do something through our aid package to send support out to the regions?” a concerned Clinton asked.

Yeltsin liked the idea, replying that “this kind of regional support would be very useful.” Clinton then promised to have “his people” follow up on the plan.

In another exchange, Yeltsin asks his US counterpart for a bit of financial help ahead of the 1996 presidential election: “Bill, for my election campaign, I urgently need for Russia a loan of $2.5 billion,” he said. Yeltsin added that he needed the money in order to pay pensions and government wages – obligations which, if left unfulfilled, would have likely led to his political ruin. Yeltsin also asks Clinton if he could “use his influence” to increase the size of an IMF loan to assist him during his re-election campaign.

Yeltsin questions NATO expansion

The future of NATO was still an open question in the years following the collapse of the Soviet Union, and conversations between Clinton and Yeltsin provide an illuminating backdrop to the current state of the curiously offensive ‘defensive alliance’ (spoiler alert: it expanded right up to Russia’s border).

In 1995, Yeltsin told Clinton that NATO expansion would lead to “humiliation” for Russia, noting that many Russians were fearful of the possibility that the alliance could encircle their country.

“It’s a new form of encirclement if the one surviving Cold War bloc expands right up to the borders of Russia. Many Russians have a sense of fear. What do you want to achieve with this if Russia is your partner? They ask. I ask it too: Why do you want to do this?” Yeltsin asked Clinton.

As the documents show, Yeltsin insisted that Russia had “no claims on other countries,” adding that it was “unacceptable” that the US was conducting naval drills near Crimea.

“It is as if we were training people in Cuba. How would you feel?” Yeltsin asked. The Russian leader then proposed a “gentleman’s agreement” that no former Soviet republics would join NATO.

Clinton refused the offer, saying: “I can’t make the specific commitment you are asking for. It would violate the whole spirit of NATO. I’ve always tried to build you up and never undermine you.”

NATO bombing of Yugoslavia turns Russia against the West

Although Clinton and Yeltsin enjoyed friendly relations, NATO’s bombing of Yugoslavia tempered Moscow’s enthusiastic partnership with the West.

“Our people will certainly from now have a bad attitude with regard to America and with NATO,” the Russian president told Clinton in March 1999. “I remember how difficult it was for me to try and turn the heads of our people, the heads of the politicians towards the West, towards the United States, but I succeeded in doing that, and now to lose all that.”

Yeltsin urged Clinton to renounce the strikes, for the sake of “our relationship” and “peace in Europe.”

“It is not known who will come after us and it is not known what will be the road of future developments in strategic nuclear weapons,” Yeltsin reminded his US counterpart.

But Clinton wouldn’t cede ground.

“Milosevic is still a communist dictator and he would like to destroy the alliance that Russia has built up with the US and Europe and essentially destroy the whole movement of your region toward democracy and go back to ethnic alliances. We cannot allow him to dictate our future,” Clinton told Yeltsin.

Yeltsin asks US to ‘give Europe to Russia’

One exchange that has been making the rounds on Twitter appears to show Yeltsin requesting that Europe be “given” to Russia during a meeting in Istanbul in 1999. However, it’s not quite what it seems.

“I ask you one thing,” Yeltsin says, addressing Clinton. “Just give Europe to Russia. The US is not in Europe. Europe should be in the business of Europeans.”

However, the request is slightly less sinister than it sounds when put into context: The two leaders were discussing missile defense, and Yeltsin was arguing that Russia – not the US – would be a more suitable guarantor of Europe’s security.

“We have the power in Russia to protect all of Europe, including those with missiles,” Yeltsin told Clinton.

Clinton on Putin: ‘He’s very smart’

Perhaps one of the most interesting exchanges takes place when Yeltsin announces to Clinton his successor, Vladimir Putin.

In a conversation with Clinton from September 1999, Yeltsin describes Putin as “a solid man,” adding: “I am sure you will find him to be a highly qualified partner.”

A month later, Clinton asks Yeltsin who will win the Russian presidential election.

“Putin, of course. He will be the successor to Boris Yeltsin. He’s a democrat, and he knows the West.”

“He’s very smart,” Clinton remarks.

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New Satellite Images Reveal Aftermath Of Israeli Strikes On Syria; Putin Accepts Offer to Probe Downed Jet

The images reveal the extent of destruction in the port city of Latakia, as well as the aftermath of a prior strike on Damascus International Airport.

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Via Zerohedge


An Israeli satellite imaging company has released satellite photographs that reveal the extent of Monday night’s attack on multiple locations inside Syria.

ImageSat International released them as part of an intelligence report on a series of Israeli air strikes which lasted for over an hour and resulted in Syrian missile defense accidentally downing a Russian surveillance plane that had 15 personnel on board.

The images reveal the extent of destruction on one location struck early in attack in the port city of Latakia, as well as the aftermath of a prior strike on Damascus International Airport. On Tuesday Israel owned up to carrying out the attack in a rare admission.

Syrian official SANA news agency reported ten people injured in the attacks carried out of military targets near three major cities in Syria’s north.

The Times of Israel, which first reported the release of the new satellite images, underscores the rarity of Israeli strikes happening that far north and along the coast, dangerously near Russian positions:

The attack near Latakia was especially unusual because the port city is located near a Russian military base, the Khmeimim Air Force base. The base is home to Russian jet planes and an S-400 aerial defense system. According to Arab media reports, Israel has rarely struck that area since the Russians arrived there.

The Russian S-400 system was reportedly active during the attack, but it’s difficult to confirm or assess the extent to which Russian missiles responded during the strikes.

Three of the released satellite images show what’s described as an “ammunition warehouse” that appears to have been completely destroyed.

The IDF has stated their airstrikes targeted a Syrian army facility “from which weapons-manufacturing systems were supposed to be transferred to Iran and Hezbollah.” This statement came after the IDF expressed “sorrow” for the deaths of Russian airmen, but also said responsibility lies with the “Assad regime.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also phoned Russian President Vladimir Putin to express regret over the incident while offering to send his air force chief to Russia with a detailed report — something which Putin agreed to.

According to Russia’s RT News, “Major-General Amikam Norkin will arrive in Moscow on Thursday, and will present the situation report on the incident, including the findings of the IDF inquiry regarding the event and the pre-mission information the Israeli military was so reluctant to share in advance.”

Russia’s Defense Ministry condemned the “provocative actions by Israel as hostile” and said Russia reserves “the right to an adequate response” while Putin has described the downing of the Il-20 recon plane as likely the result of a “chain of tragic accidental circumstances” and downplayed the idea of a deliberate provocation, in contradiction of the initial statement issued by his own defense ministry.

Pro-government Syrians have reportedly expressed frustration this week that Russia hasn’t done more to respond militarily to Israeli aggression; however, it appears Putin may be sidestepping yet another trap as it’s looking increasingly likely that Israel’s aims are precisely geared toward provoking a response in order to allow its western allies to join a broader attack on Damascus that could result in regime change.

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“Transphobic” Swedish Professor May Lose Job After Noting Biological Differences Between Sexes

A university professor in Sweden is under investigation after he said that there are fundamental differences between men and women which are “biologically founded”

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Via Zerohedge


A university professor in Sweden is under investigation for “anti-feminism” and “transphobia” after he said that there are fundamental differences between men and women which are “biologically founded” and that genders cannot be regarded as “social constructs alone,” reports Academic Rights Watch.

For his transgression, Germund Hesslow – a professor of neuroscience at Lund University – who holds dual PhDs in philosophy and neurophysiology, may lose his job – telling RT that a “full investigation” has been ordered, and that there “have been discussions about trying to stop the lecture or get rid of me, or have someone else give the lecture or not give the lecture at all.”

“If you answer such a question you are under severe time pressure, you have to be extremely brief — and I used wording which I think was completely innocuous, and that apparently the student didn’t,” Hesslow said.

Hesslow was ordered to attend a meeting by Christer Larsson, chairman of the program board for medical education, after a female student complained that Hesslow had a “personal anti-feminist agenda.” He was asked to distance himself from two specific comments; that gay women have a “male sexual orientation” and that the sexual orientation of transsexuals is “a matter of definition.”

The student’s complaint reads in part (translated):

I have also heard from senior lecturers that Germund Hesslow at the last lecture expressed himself transfobically. In response to a question of transexuallism, he said something like “sex change is a fly”. Secondly, it is outrageous because there may be students during the lecture who are themselves exposed to transfobin, but also because it may affect how later students in their professional lives meet transgender people. Transpersonals already have a high level of overrepresentation in suicide statistics and there are already major shortcomings in the treatment of transgender in care, should not it be countered? How does this kind of statement coincide with the university’s equal treatment plan? What has this statement given for consequences? What has been done for this to not be repeated? –Academic Rights Watch

After being admonished, Hesslow refused to distance himself from his comments, saying that he had “done enough” already and didn’t have to explain and defend his choice of words.

At some point, one must ask for a sense of proportion among those involved. If it were to become acceptable for students to record lectures in order to find compromising formulations and then involve faculty staff with meetings and long letters, we should let go of the medical education altogether,” Hesslow said in a written reply to Larsson.

He also rejected the accusation that he had a political agenda – stating that his only agenda was to let scientific factnot new social conventions, dictate how he teaches his courses.

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