Reuters reported today on possible EU legal action against Hungary for its new media law passed in 2010 (reported here by WL Central). Hungary has two weeks to show that the new law complies with EU rules regarding free speech and media freedom, and with EU regulations on broadcasting. The report goes on to state:
The commission, which serves as the EU executive body, is concerned whether the new rules limit freedom of expression in Hungary by requiring all broadcasters to provide balanced coverage of news and to register with a state authority.
The full article can be read here.
The Guardian: WikiLeaks points to US meddling in Haiti
"US embassy cables reveal how anxious the US was to enlist Brazil to keep the deposed Jean-Bertrand Aristide out of Haiti.
Confidential US diplomatic cables from 2005 and 2006 released this week by WikiLeaks reveal Washington's well-known obsession to keep exiled former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide out of Haiti and Haitian affairs."
Le Monde: En 2007, les ministres suédois voulaient stopper les réfugiés irakiens (In 2007, the Swedish ministers wanted to stop the Iraqi refugees)
"Des télégrammes diplomatiques américains transmis par WikiLeaks au quotidien suédois Svenska Dagbladet font état, vendredi 21 janvier, des efforts de plusieurs ministres suédois pour limiter l'arrivée de réfugiés irakiens en Suède. (The American diplomatic cables sent by Wikileaks to the Swedish paper "Svenska Dagbladet" report, this friday January 21st, the efforts of several Swedish ministers to limit the entry of Iraqi refugees in Sweden.)"
Today, The German news outlet Frankfurter Rundschau reported on some comments made by Jebali Hamadi. Hamadi was the leader of the Islamic party Al-Nahdha just prior to the fall of the Ben Ali government of Tunisia. In the brief interview, Jebali Hamadi is reported to have said:
Aber eine Beteiligung an dieser Regierung lehnen wir ab. Wir wollen eine Regierung, an der sich alle beteiligen, ohne Ausnahme.
(Participation in this government, we reject. We want to be involved in a government in which all political parties are equally represented, without exception.)
Jebali Hamadi continued in the interview to state:
Wir sind gegen Einschränkungen. Aber schauen Sie auf die Straße! Das Volk hat sich gegen die Politik der RCD ausgesprochen. Wer in die Repression verwickelt ist, kann nicht an der Regierung beteiligt werden
The Guardian: Iran has cleared major hurdle to nuclear weapons
"Tehran has 'technical ability' to make highly enriched uranium, say experts, as efforts turn to disrupting supply of other materials.
US officials believe Iran now has the "technical ability" to make highly enriched uranium, an essential step towards building a nuclear bomb, according to a leaked US diplomatic cable."
The Guardian: US embassy cables: Botswana's forced relocation of indigenous tribespeople condemned
"Ambassador Huggins visited Botswana's western town of Ghanzi and the San/Basarwa relocation settlement of New Xade on March 10-11. Rural poverty, severe dependence on government assistance, lack of income-generating opportunities, despair among youth, and the underperformance of the parastatal Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) were identified by interlocutors as dominant issues in the district. Officials proclaimed the advantages of the relocation of the San/Basarwa out of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve into villages. NGOs emphasized the forcible aspect of the exercise and the psychological trauma and cultural disorientation it had produced. The GOB, as revealed in a subsequent meeting with the MFA PermSec, views the San as a group which, like other ethnic minorities in Botswana, should use education to move forward."
Hispanically Speaking News: Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom Said Rigoberta Menchu is “A Fabrication”
Rudolf Elmer, the founder of Swiss Whistleblower who we wrote about here is in the news again. He will return to Switzerland to appear in court on January 19, where he will face charges of stealing banking information. Two days earlier he will be at the Frontline Club in London to present Wikileaks with CD's containing the offshore bank account details of 2,000 "high net worth individuals" and corporations.
Elmer told the Observer that the details on the CD's will include information on business people, approximately 40 politicians, people who have made their living in the arts and multinational conglomerates, from US, Britain, Germany, Austria, Asia, and all over.
Elmer, says he is releasing the information "in order to educate society". He is concerned about the wealthy individuals and multinationals who use banking secrecy to hide possibly criminal activities such as tax evasion.
"What I am objecting to is not one particular bank, but a system of structures, I have worked for major banks other than Julius Baer, and the one thing on which I am absolutely clear is that the banks know, and the big boys know, that money is being secreted away for tax-evasion purposes, and other things such as money-laundering – although these cases involve tax evasion."
"I agree with privacy in banking for the person in the street, and legitimate activity, but in these instances privacy is being abused so that big people can get big banking organisations to service them. The normal, hard-working taxpayer is being abused also.
We are indebted to Julian Assange who apparently instructed his counsel to make available the "Skeleton Argument" for the extradition hearing proper.
It was expected, per my previous post Extradition Part 3 that the issue of extradition (and arrest) for the purposes of investigation only, would be a highly significant issue for the extradition arguments, and so it was.
One part of that document however that shocked me, that I have discussed with colleagues (likewise shocked) was paragraph 88, the legal implications of which I was unaware. It now seems that some (or indeed all?) of the prospective charges of a sexual nature in Sweden do not have as a required element that the prosecution must prove (for a conviction to be sustained) the element of mens rea, the "guilty mind" otherwise known as the fault element.
Le Monde: WikiLeaks dévoile aussi comment fut gérée la crise bancaire (WikiLeaks reveals as well how the banking crisis was handled)
A U.S. diplomatic cable in which figure Mervyn King, chairman of the Bank of England, Robert Kimmitt, then U.S. deputy treasury secretary, and Robert Tuttle, U.S. ambassador to Britain, has been released by WikiLeaks. It shows the players agreeing, March 17, 2008, on a diagnosis of the crisis, one that they admit ceased, from summer 2007, to be a liquidity crisis and that became instead a solvency crisis generalized within the banking sector. Although a view widely shared by commentators in the financial press at the time, it will reverse the diagnosis that these players have chosen to present to the public, a position from which they have never departed.
UK Information Commissioner Christopher Graham is interviewed by the Guardian:
We are strongly of the view that things should be published. Where you're open things will not be WikiLeaked. Whatever view you take about WikiLeaks – right or wrong – it means that things will now get out. It has changed things. I'm saying government and authorities need to factor it in. Be more proactive, [by] publishing more stuff, because quite a lot of this is only exciting because we didn't know it. You can't un-invent WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks is part of the phenomenon of the online, empowered citizen ... these are facts that aren't going to go away. Government and authorities need to wise up to that. ...
One response is that they will clam up and not write anything down, which is nonsense, you can't run any organisation that way. The other is to be even more open. The best form of defence is transparency — much more proactive publication of what organisations do. It's an attitude of 'OK. You want to know? Here it is'.
The following Pirate Parties of Europe have issued a joint statement condemning all attacks on the infrastructure of Wikileaks and employees of Wikileaks.
- Pirate Party of Germany
- Pirate Party of France
- Pirate Party of Italy
- Pirate Party of Austria
- Pirate Party of Russia
- Pirate Party of Switzerland
- Pirate Party of Luxembourg
- Pirate Party of the United Kingdom
There is no doubt that Wikileaks is under continuous attack: threats from the Pentagon; calls by the old Republican right and the recently empowered Tea Party for a direct attack on what they have called a “terrorist threat”; the renowned boycotts by Paypal, Moneybookers, Amazon and now even Apple; the Australian government’s reticence to defend its citizen (Julian Assange); the rejection of Mr. Assange’s residence in Sweden for unexplained causes, and the list grows.
Now even though many voices have hinted, or even openly declared, that the rape charges against him are just another part of this campaign, because of its sensitive nature it is wiser not to hurry in our conclusions. What is clear though is that the constant irregularities at the heart of the case can make it questionable, which is why many of those voices are worried about the real motivation behind the accusations. Last August, in the middle of the political storm unleashed by the leak in July related to the war in Afghanistan, Mr. Assange was casually dating the liberal politologist and Swedish activist, Anna Ardin. According to her version of the story, he would have forced her sexually on the night of the 14th of that month, pressing charges around a week later.
Backtracking a little from the UK’s Extradition Act (in the Extradition 1 post) it is necessary to understand that the origin of that legislation comes from the European Arrest Warrant (“EAW”) regime in turn based on the Council Framework Decision of 13 June 2002 on the European arrest warrant and the surrender procedures between Member States.(Pdf)
It is also necessary to understand that where interpreting legislation like the UK’s Extradition Act (that will be applied in Assange's hearing) and if finding ambiguity or uncertainty, resort can be made--ordinarily to parliamentry second reading speeches in countries like Australia for example
—to examining, in this case, that very document of the Council Framework Decision.
The Preamble to the Council Framework Decision states in part:
I object to the Guardian's decision to publish selective passages from the Swedish police report, whilst omitting exculpatory evidence contained in the document. ...
Assange has been criticized for not being willing to return to Sweden to prove his innocence. It is hardly surprising he has reservations, given Sweden's human rights record. ...
In the Today Show on December 21st, Assange revealed that Sweden has requested that if he returns and is arrested, he is to be held incommunicado, and his Swedish lawyer is to be given a gag order. ...
I suspect that what is on trial here is not Julian Assange's alleged sexual misconduct, but freedom of speech ....
Julian Assange said today that it would be "politically impossible" for Britain to extradite him to the United States, and that the final word on his fate if he were charged with espionage would rest with David Cameron.
In an interview with the Guardian in Ellingham Hall, the Norfolk country mansion where he is living under virtual house arrest, the founder of WikiLeaks said it would be difficult for the prime minister to hand him over to the Americans if there was strong support for him from the British people.
"It's all a matter of politics. We can presume there will be an attempt to influence UK political opinion, and to influence the perception of our standing as a moral actor," he said.
Ekklesia asks for support for twenty-four year old medic Michael Lyons. On 17 December he lost his appeal to be allowed to leave the Royal Navy on grounds of conscience.
When he heard reports about civilian casualties, including children, he made an effort to find out more about the situation. ''I was unable to find a real, just and noble cause to go out but I still had a sense of duty to my country,'' he explained at his hearing.
Then WikiLeaks revelations alerted him to the fact that civilian casualties were far greater than had originally been reported. “'Examples included a convoy of marines tearing down a six-mile highway, firing at people with no discrimination.”
What is more, despite being a medic, he might not be allowed to treat everyone needing his help, and might even be called on to kill: “It seems from previous testimony and courses I've done that even going out as a medic with all good intention, if you're at a patrol base or forward operating base, it's likely you'll have to use your weapon and will have to turn civilians away who are in need of medical aid."
For those wondering why data previously in a system which allowed close to one million authorized users, currently in a world where the citizens of almost every country can view it, is being blocked only from the people serving in the military it concerns, this could be the reason. Please support Michael Lyons.
Following the Crown Prosecution Service's decision to appeal the bail granted on Tuesday by the Westminster Magistrates' Court, another hearing will take place today at 11:30 GMT at the High Court.
Peter Alexander of NBC News noted on Twitter that "Assange lawyer says defense has collected $315K bail. He's free if appeal's denied." The court had requested on Tuesday that the full bail amount be presented in cash.
Journalists present at the court, including a team from The Guardian, report that Julian Assange and his legal team have already arrived at the court for the hearing, which is expected to take two hours. It is unclear at this point whether live updates via Twitter will be allowed from the courtroom, as was the case at Tuesday's hearing.
Update 1: Justice Ouseley has ruled that no Twitter updates will be allowed from the courtroom today, reports The Guardian's Luke Harding.
Update 2: The Guardian's Luke Harding quoted Justice Ouseley as saying, "The history of the way it [the case] has been dealt with by the Swedish prosecutors would give Mr Assange some basis that he might be acquitted following a trial." According to Mr Harding, "the case is looking good" for Julian Assange.
Update 3: The prosecution's appeal has been denied, reports Channel 4. Julian Assange has been granted bail, on slightly modified conditions compared to those specified at Tuesday's hearing, namely additional sureties, reports Guy Rundle for Crikey.
The next extradition hearing will take place on January 11.
According to testimony at Tuesday's hearing, Julian Assange will stay at the estate of Captain Vaughan Smith, founder of the Frontline Club. You can read Mr Smith's exclusive piece in yesterday's Independent, explaining his support for Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, concluding: "If to fight for this country we will have to fight for its fundamental principles of justice then I declare my position in the ranks."
Update 4: Guy Rundle reports that hearing costs have been awarded against the Crown Prosecution Service.
Update 5: After the formalities were completed, Julian Assange was released today at 6pm London time. He gave a short speech on the steps of the High Court, thanking supporters, his lawyers, members of the press "who were not all taken in," and the British justice system. He called on people to support those facing conditions harder than he did in prison, and promised to continue his work and reveal the evidence behind the allegations.
A video of the statement is available via the New York Times.
It's taken a while before some detailed information has come to light on the arguments presented by prosecutor and defence at the bail hearing yesterday.
The Telegraph reports:
Earlier, during the two hour long hearing, the court was told that the “strength” of the evidence was poor.
His legal team argued that particularly the rape allegation was wrong and if the case was tried in Britain the case would not be classified as such a crime.
This refers or alludes to, apparently, the rape allegation being in the nature of a relatively minor sexual molestation in which case it seems to me, it then doesn't fit within the 12 month European Arrest Warrant system requirement of an offence where the maximum sentence must be 12 months or more for extradition to be valid. If in the UK such an alleged rape evidence was prima facie (on the face of it) low category molestation, per UK law, attracting less than 12 months custodial sentence, then it would not appear to qualify as an extraditable offence.
Il s'en explique dans un édito publié, mardi, sur le Huffington Post...
Michael Moore est remonté, et il le fait savoir. Dans l'édito «Pourquoi j'ai payé une partie de la caution de Julian Assange» publié mardi sur le Huffington Post, il livre un long plaidoyer en faveur de WikiLeaks.
«J'ai versé 20.000 dollars (15.000 euros, sur une caution de 240.000 euros, ndr) et j'offre mon site Internet, mes serveurs, mon nom de domaine et tout ce qui pourra être utile à WikiLeaks pour rester en vie et continuer à révéler les crimes concoctés en secret et perpétrés en notre nom avec l'argent du contribuable», explique le cinéaste. Il indique que le réalisateur Ken Loach a fait de même. La libération sous caution a dans un premier temps été acceptée par le juge, mais le parquet a fait appel, au nom des autorités suédoises.
Selon Moore, la raison invoquée par George W. Bush pour aller en Irak (la présence d'armes de destruction massive) était «un mensonge», et «des centaines de milliers de personnes sont mortes». Il demande: «Imaginez si WikiLeaks avait existé à l'époque.»
La transparence, rempart contre la corruption
Le réalisateur de Fahrenheit 9/11 va même plus loin. Il estime que le 11-Septembre aurait eu une chance d'être évité si les mémos remis à Bush trois mois avant, alertant de «la détermination de Ben Laden à frapper les Etats-Unis», notamment via «des détournements d'avion», avaient été rendus publics.
Selon Moore, «l'ouverture et la transparence sont les seuls moyens pour protéger les citoyens de la corruption». Publier des documents confidentiels peut-il causer du tort à des négociations diplomatiques? «Peut-être, mais c'est le prix à payer quand le gouvernement déclenche une guerre sur un faux prétexte.»
Cyberguerre au nom de la liberté d'expression. Près de 200 activistes québécois auraient pris part dans les derniers jours aux attaques informatiques lancées contre les détracteurs du site de coulage d'information WikiLeaks et son créateur, Julian Assange. C'est du moins ce qu'a indiqué hier au Devoir un de ces pirates informatiques engagés, membre d'un groupe international baptisé Anonymous.
Julian Assange Bail Appeal Trial
Julian Assange appeared in court this morning to appeal the court's decision last week to deny him a release on bail. Live updates were provided by The Guardian. and live tweeting in the court on the #wikitrial hashtag. It was apparently the first time a UK judge had allowed live tweeting during a trial (according to tweets).
An earlier article in The Guardian stated:
Assange's lawyer Mark Stephens visited him in Wandsworth prison yesterday afternoon and said his client was being held under harsher conditions than last week. He claimed Assange was being confined to his cell for all but half an hour a day, and denied association with others prisoners, access to the library or TV.
"He's subject to the most ridiculous censorship," Stephens said. "Time magazine sent him a copy of the magazine with him on the cover and they censored it not just by ripping off the cover but by destroying the whole magazine."
Stephens also claimed a number of letters to Assange from media organisations have not reached him. He said Assange was under 24-hour video surveillance and had complained that a tooth which broke off while he was eating had later been stolen from his cell.
According to Stephens, Assange's UK legal team had still not seen the prosecution evidence against him. "His Swedish lawyers have some of the material but not all and it's in Swedish so we can't take proper instructions."
Besides the lack of evidence provided by the Swedish prosecution, a key point is the fact that the crime Assange is accused of is not a crime in the UK. For extradition to go forward, the crime must be of a serious nature in both countries. This time, Assange's lawyers also offered a permanent address in England and suggested electronic monitoring, a curfew and travel restrictions as alternatives to incarceration. Over £200,000 was offered in surety for bail and ten international public figures also offered surety.
The appeal was granted with the following conditions:
Assange's counsel pointed out that it was a huge bail amount to be paid in cash, and Assange did not have the option of using Mastercard or Visa. The prosecution immediately appealed the decision, so Assange was taken back to jail to await the appeal trial which must be held within 48 hours. More information can be found here.