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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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Rod Rosenstein resigns from his post before President Trump can fire him

Rosenstein’s comments about secretly recording the President backfire, and resignation may throw the Mueller Russiagate probe into question.

Seraphim Hanisch

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The Washington Times broke the story that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein resigned from his post. He submitted his resignation to Chief of Staff John Kelly.  At present the breaking story says the following:

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is out at the Department of Justice.

Axios reported that Mr. Rosenstein verbally resigned to White House Chief Of Staff John Kelly, but CNN said that he is expecting to be fired.

Sarah Isgur Flores, a Department of Justice spokeswoman, declined to comment on the reports.

Mr. Rosenstein’s departure immediately throws Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russian collusion probe into chaos.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the investigation, leaving Mr. Rosenstein in charge.

President Trump mulled firing the No. 2 at the Department of Justice over the weekend.

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This report came after Fox News reported that the Deputy AG was summoned to the White House. Fox reported a little more detail:

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is heading to the White House expecting to be fired, sources tell Fox News, in the wake of a report that he suggested wearing a wire against President Trump and invoking the 25th Amendment to remove him from office last year.

This is a developing story, however one major factor that comes under consideration is the fate of Robert Mueller and his Russiagate investigation, which was authorized by Rosenstein. CNBC had this to say in their piece:

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is resigning Monday, according to Axios, which cited a source familiar with the matter.

NBC News’ Pete Williams, however, reported that Rosenstein would not resign of his own accord, and that he will only depart if the White House fired him. He will refuse to resign if asked to do so, Williams added.

Rosenstein was at the White House when Williams reported this on the air. However, President Donald Trump is in New York for the United Nations General Assembly.

Bloomberg later reported that the White House accepted Rosenstein’s resignation, citing a person familiar with the matter.

Rosenstein’s expected resignation will immediately raise questions about the fate of the ongoing investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is probing Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, and possible obstruction of justice by President Donald Trump.

Rosenstein’s job security was called into question after The New York Times reported last week that the No. 2 DOJ official had discussed invoking the 25th amendment to remove Trump, and had also talked about surreptitiously recording the president.

Rosenstein oversees the special counsel investigation, and has appointed Mueller to run the Russia probe last year, after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the case.

The special counsel’s office declined to comment on the report.

The White House did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment on Axios’ report. The Justice Department did not immediately respond to CNBC’s inquiry.

Trump has repeatedly blasted Mueller’s inquiry, which also is focused on possible collusion with Russia by members of the Trump campaign.

He has called the investigation a “witch hunt,” and has repeatedly vented frustration about Sessions’ recusal, which directly led to Mueller’s appointment by Rosenstein.

Rosenstein’s expected departure comes on the heels of a guilty plea by Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort to conspiracy charges related to his consulting work in Ukraine, which predates his role on the campaign.

As part of the investigation, Mueller’s team has been locked in an ongoing back-and-forth with Trump’s legal team over an in-person interview with the president.

Trump’s lawyers, including former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, have signaled that Trump is unwilling to sit for an interview, calling it a “perjury trap” and setting up a potential challenge for Mueller to subpoena the president.

This story is developing. Please check back for updates.

 

 

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European Council crushes Theresa May’s soft Brexit dream (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 116.

Alex Christoforou

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UK Prime Minister Theresa May hoped that the European Council was ready to see things her way, in terms of proceeding with a soft Brexit, which was essentially no Brexit at all…at least not the hard Brexit that was voted on in a democratic referendum approximately two years ago.

Much to May’s surprise, European Council President Donald Tusk delivered a death blow verdict for May’s Brexit, noting that EU leaders are in full agreement that Chequers plan for Brexit “will not work” because “it risks undermining the single market.”

Without a miracle compromise springing up come during the October summit, the UK will drift into the March 29, 2019 deadline without a deal and out of the European Union…which was initially what was voted for way back in 2016, leaving everyone asking, what the hell was May doing wasting Britain’s time and resources for two years, so as to return back to the hard Brexit terms she was charged with carrying forward after the 2016 referendum?

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss what was a disastrous EU summit in Salzburg for UK PM Theresa May, in what looks to be the final nail in May’s tenure as UK Prime Minister, as a hard Brexit now seems all but certain.

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Via Zerohedge

Tusk was speaking at the end of an EU summit in Salzburg, where the leaders of the 27 remaining states in the bloc were discussing Brexit. He said that while there were “positive elements” in May’s Chequers plan, a deal that puts the single market at risk cannot be accepted.

“Everybody shared the view that while there are positive elements in the Chequers proposal, the suggested framework for economic co-operation will not work, not least because it is undermining the single market,” Tusk said. He also said that he could not “exclude” the possibility that the UK could exit the EU in March with no deal.

May has been urging her European counterparts to accept her controversial Chequers plan which has split both the Conservative party and the broader UK population after it was thrashed out back in July. However, despite the painfully-slow negotiation process, which appears to have made little headway with just a few months left, the UK is set to leave the EU on March 29 2019 – with or without an exit deal.

The main sticking point that has emerged, and left May and the EU at loggerheads, has been how to avoid new checks on the Irish border. May has claimed that her proposals were the “only serious, credible” way to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland. She said during a press conference after the Salzburg meeting that she would not accept the EU’s “backstop” plan to avoid a Northern Ireland hard border. She said the UK would shortly be bringing forward its own proposals.

May also said that there was “a lot of hard work to be done,” adding that the UK was also preparing for the eventuality of having to leave the EU without a deal. Tusk, meanwhile, said that the upcoming October summit would be the “moment of truth” for reaching a deal, and that “if the conditions are there” another summit would be held in November to “formalize” it.

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Russia makes HUGE strides in drone technology

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The US and Israel are universally recognized leaders in the development and use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones. Thousands of American and Israeli UAVs are operating across the world daily.

The US military has recently successfully tested an air-to-air missile to turn its MQ-9 Reaper drone into an effective long-endurance, high-altitude surveillance unmanned spy aircraft capable of air-to-surface as well as air-to-air missions. This is a major breakthrough. It’s not a secret that Russia has been lagging behind in UAV development. Now its seems to be going to change with tangible progress made to narrow the gap.

Very few nations boast drones capable of high-altitude long endurance (HALE) missions. Russia is to enter the club of the chosen. In late 2017, the Russian Defense Ministry awarded a HALE UAV contract to the Kazan-based Simonov design bureau.

This month, Russian Zvezda military news TV channel showed a video (below) of Altair (Altius) heavy drone prototype aircraft number “03”, going through its first flight test.

Propelled by two RED A03/V12 500hp high fuel efficiency diesel engines, each producing a capacity of 500 hp on takeoff, the 5-ton heavy vehicle with a wingspan of 28.5 meters boasts a maximum altitude of 12km and a range of 10,000km at a cruising speed of 150-250km/h.

Wingspan: about 30 meters. Maximum speed: up to 950 km/h. Flight endurance: 48 hours. Payload: two tons, which allows the creation of a strike version. The vehicle is able to autonomously take off and land or be guided by an operator from the ground.

The UAV can carry the usual range of optical and thermal sensors as well as synthetic-aperture ground-surveillance radar with the resolution of .1 meter at the range of 35km and 1 meter at the range of 125km. The communications equipment allows real-time data exchange.

Russia’s UAV program currently underway includes the development of a range of large, small, and mid-sized drones. The Orion-E medium altitude long endurance (MALE) UAV was unveiled at the MAKS 2017 air show. Its developer, Kronstadt Technologies, claims it could be modified for strike missions. The one-ton drone is going through testing now. The Orion-E is capable of automatic takeoff and landing.

It can fly continuously for 24 hours, carrying a surveillance payload of up to 200 kg to include a forward looking infra-red (FLIR) turret, synthetic aperture radar and high resolution cameras. The drone can reach a maximum altitude of 7,500 m. Its range is 250 km.

The Sukhoi design bureau is currently developing the Okhotnik (Hunter) strike drone with a range of about 3,500km. The drone made its maiden flight this year. In its current capacity, it has an anti-radar coating, and will store missiles and precision-guided bombs internally to avoid radar detection.

The Kazan-based Eniks Design Bureau is working on the small T-16 weaponized aerial vehicle able to carry 6 kg of payload.

The new Russian Korsar (Corsair) tactical surveillance unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) will be upgraded to receive an electronic warfare system. Its operational range will be increased from 150km to 250km. The drone was revealed at Victory Day military parade along with the Korsar unmanned combat helicopter version.

The rotary wing drone lacks the speed and altitude of the fixed wing variant, but has a great advantage of being able to operate without landing strips and can be sea-based. Both drones can carry guided and unguided munitions. The fixed-wing version can be armed with Ataka 9M120 missiles.

The first Russian helicopter-type unmanned aerial vehicle powered by hydrogen fuel cells was presented at the Army-2018 international forum. With the horizontal cruising speed of the drone up to 60 kph, the unmanned chopper can stay in the air at least 2.5 hours to conduct reconnaissance operations. Its payload is up to 5 kg.

Last November, the Kalashnikov Concern reported that it would start production of heavy unmanned aerial vehicles capable of carrying up to several tons of cargo and operating for several days at a time without needing to recharge.

All in all, the Russian military operate 1,900 drones on a daily basis. The multi-purpose Orlan-10 with a range of 600km has become a working horse that no military operation, including combat actions in Syria, can be conducted without. Maj. Gen. Alexander Novikov,
the head of the Russian General Staff’s Office for UAV Development, Russian drones performed over 23,000 flights, lasting 140,000 hours in total.

Russia’s State Armament Program for 2018-2027 puts the creation of armed UAVs at the top of priorities’ list. Looks like the effort begins to pay off. Russia is well on the way to become second to none in UAV capability.

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Via Strategic Culture

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