The National President, The Apostolic Church of Nigeria, Pastor Gabriel Oladele Olutola, has on Thursday expressed the Church’s readiness to support the administration of Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun on infrastructural development by giving up a branch of the church at the heart of the state capital for road construction.
The Clergy stated this while receiving an N87,932,510 cheque as compensation for The Apostolic Church of Nigeria whose branch at Olaiya Junction in Osogbo has been marked for removal to allow for the construction of Olaiya-Ita Olokan dual carriage way.
Pastor Olutola held that the Church is a partner with the governor in his quest to turn Osun’s fortune around for good, thus the agreement by the church on the separation of her branch for the project to enhance free flow of traffic at the popular Olaiya Junction.
He also expressed satisfaction over the decision of the state to compensate the church, saying Governor Aregbesola has distinguished himself as an epitome of transformation and performance.
Olutola noted that the leadership of the church found it easy to cooperate with government on the removal of the church building simply because it has been the principle of the church to abide and support the authority.
The Clergy said, “We want to thank God today that the leadership of our church and Government of Osun were able to arrive at a meaningful conclusion that resorted in this compensation.
“Our general principle in the Apostolic Church is respect for constituted authorities and government, because the Holy Book (Bible) teaches us to obey those people in the position of authority. That is why we deemed it fit to release the church for the state to construct road which we believe will serve the general public.
“With this compensation, our Governor has really shown to us his love for peace and passion for development which has manifested and impacted tremendously in the lives of Osun people.
“It is our duty as men of God to pray, support and as well assist government in all ramifications for general success, and we are ready to continue in supporting this administration because once government fails, we all fail.
The Governor of Osun, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola however used the occasion of the presentation of cheque to the church to reiterate that his administration remains committed to its resolve to turn the state around through massive infrastructural development and financial re-engineering in the face of the present cash crunch affecting the country.
Aregbesola stressed that he will live up to his statutory responsibilities regardless of the current economic situation the state may be encountering.
He noted that the church was valued at sum of N57.9 million, stressing that the state having considered the constant renovation of the church resolved to add N30million to its valued cost making N87.9 million.
The Governor disclosed that his administration had paid over one billion Naira as compensation to people whose property will be affected in the course of development and transformation of the state.
He stated that his government has also made available N392 million as compensation fees for another set of 149 identified to have been affected by various constructions going on in the state.
Aregbesola emphasised that people whose property fall between Olaiya-Odiolowo axis will be compensated monetarily, while those around Isale-Osun/Ita Olokan axis would be resettled to Awosuru area, Osogbo.
He pointed out his government would not in any way trample on the rights of the citizens, saying the time has come for all and sundry to see personal sacrifice as a veritable tool to all-round development.
Governor Aregbesola noted that his government has no intention to victimise or disturb people of the state including religious organisations.
According to him, ” Before our administration, physical planning of our towns and cities was nothing to write home about as the state lacked availability of good access roads. I am confident that this era would go down in history. Our desire is to modernise our towns particularly the state capital and city centres through our urban renewal projects.
“Our joy is in the fact that the leadership of the Apostolic Church of Nigeria has agreed to our request to remove one of its branches in Osogbo for the purpose of upgrading and beatification of the state.
“Our government has set aside N392 million as compensation to our people whose property will be removed in the course of the ongoing reconstruction of Olaiya-Ita Olokan. “We are doing this in other to give our towns a befitting look and guard against any form of human and vehicular conflict within our cities, dual carriage ways have been the priority of our administration since inception”.
Governor Aregbesola therefore commended the leadership of the church for being part of the state developmental process.
“I thank the leadership of this church for their willingness to be part of the progress of our state particularly the state capital. We thank God that your church has really cooperated and supported us, infact this is win-win for us.
“We pray God to reward the leadership of the church, the members and those who contributed to the success of this agreement,l” he stressed.
All Progressives Congress in Osun State has asserted that history will vindicate its governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, regardless of what pessimists and critics may have to say about his tenure.
It said that knowledgeable people in the country who have seen through the quality and content of Aregbesola’s programmes are already giving their thumps up, especially on education.
This was contained in a statement made available to the media in Osogbo yesterday by the party’s Director of Publicity, Research and Strategy, Barr. Kunle Oyatomi.
The party was responding to the award which the Nigerian Association of Primary Schools Headteachers presented to the governor last week in acknowledgment of the quality and content of the governor’s policy in enhancing primary school education in Osun.
The Ooni of Ife-elect, Prince Adeyeye Ogunwusi, is expected to leave Ilofi, where he has been undergoing installation rites in the past 21 days later on Sunday (yesterday)
Ogunwusi, who was appointed as the 51st Ooni of Ife, will on Monday (today) go to the Ile Oodua, the palace where he is expected to be crowned traditionally the same day.
One of his close aides, Mr. Biyi Odunlade, said this while briefing journalists on Sunday.
The new monarch, who will be crowned by traditional chiefs at a ceremony for only the initiated, will later appear in public briefly. His inauguration and elaborate ceremony will hold on Monday, December 7.
He said, “The Ooni will leave Ilofi later tonight (Sunday) and he will be crowned tomorrow (Monday). The Ooni does not receive the crown in the public. Unlike other Obas, who are crowned in public, Ooni of Ife doesn’t receive the crown in public.
“The traditional crowning will be done at the palace on Monday (today) but the inauguration would hold on December 7. The Ooni will come out to see some people after the traditional coronation.”
The Obadio of Ife, Oba Olajide Faloba, when contacted, also said Ogunwusi would be crowned on Monday.
He said the traditional coronation would hold on Monday and the inauguration ceremony, which would hold later, would be an occasion for the presentation of staff of office to the new Ooni.
Governor Rauf Aregbesola approved the appointment of Ogunwusi as the Ooni of Ife in a letter by the Secretary to the Osun State Government, Moshood Adeoti.
In the wake of Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris, police arrested seven suspects in the Molenbeek district of Brussels. According to data compiled by RFE/RL, Belgium has contributed the most fighters to the so-called Islamic State of any EU nation on a per capita basis. RFE/RL estimate that there are 40 fighters per million Belgian inhabitants present in Syria and Iraq. Jordan, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia are the top three nations worldwide for supplying the so-called Islamic State with foreign fighters, contributing 315, 280 and 107 per million people respectively.
This chart shows the estimated number of foreign fighters per capita in 2015 (per million people).
The Governor of Osun, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola has on Wednesday said his administration will leave no stone unturned in giving Osun a legacy of an enhanced environment of learning obtainable in any advanced country of the world.
This was even as the Association of Primary Schools Headteachers of Nigeria (AOPSHON) lauded the educational policies and programmes initiated by the Osun State Government under the leadership of Governor Rauf Aregbesola.
The governor stated this while receiving an Award of Excellence from the Association of Primary school Headteachers of Nigeria (AOPSHON) in Osogbo.
Aregbesola noted that his government has come to the realisation that school environment largely determine the quality and character of students produced.
He stressed that as part of his administration’s commitment to the development of education in the state, government will be putting forward for use a High school facilty with the capacity of 3,000 students named after Prof. Wole Soyinka in Ejigbo on Monday
He thanked the Association for finding the state worthy of being the host of her National convention, contrary to adversarial media impression.
The Governor held that Osun is a safe haven and the best place for the meeting of serious minds, saying It is peaceful, safe and endowed with the beauty of nature in its grandeur.
Aregbesola added that education has been a major policy thrust of his government in Osun since the inception of our administration and the reason for the considerable amount of resources and effort spent on education.
According to the Governor, “undoubtedly, education is also a common denominator between us; it is a passion we both share and it is my great desire that we both take it to a great level. On our part, we have given our possible best to education and will continue to do so.
“We are therefore building state of the art 100 elementary schools. The idea behind this is that there should be an elementary public school in every neighbourhood. We are also building 50 middle and 20 high schools. Out of these, 14 elementary schools, 15 middle schools and 11 high schools have been completed.
“Work is ongoing on the rest and they are at different stages of completion. It is our sincere hope that we shall complete them before the end of our tenure.
“On Monday, we are going to present our model high school, named after a worthy Nigerian and a great educationist himself, Prof Wole Soyinka. It is a school in a class of its own, that will accommodate 3,000 pupils, with full learning infrastructure”. The governor told the gathering.
The Association through its National President, Alhaji Mahmud Lawal commended the governor. For his giant stride in Education.
He described the state educational policies as one of the best in the world, saying Governor Aregbesola has bridged the wider gap between the public and private education in the country.
Alhaji Lawal who identified with the state government on the current economic situation lauded Aregbesola for his unwavering support to quality education as he has provided a smooth template and conducive academic environment for pupils and students across the state.
He averred that in spite the current financial challenges being encountered by the present administration, the state didn’t deter from all the programmes embarked upon.
The (AOPSHON) National President contented that the state government has been building its educational policies on the solid rock of academic transformation, success and development which according to him has manifested in the quality of its pupils and students.
He said the provision of viable educational sector in the state has significantly translated into what he described as vibrant basic education knowledge acquisition which according to remain the best stage of learning.
According to him ” Osun State deserves a worthwhile commendation and encomium especially on its giant strides and laudable achievements in educational sector which had earned it several accolades and international recognition.
“Though our coming to Osun State was primarily to hold our annual National Seminar/Workshop and as well acknowledge the trends of general development and immense contributions of the current government in education most importantly elementary education.
“we have identified primary education as the most essential part of human life which must not be ignored by any serious government as it sets pace for subsequent knowledge acquisition and academic qualifications.
President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday maintained that the only way out of poverty in Nigeria is through diversification of the economy.
Diversification of the economy through agriculture and solid minerals mining, he said, is the way to go.
He spoke in Kebbi State while officially launching N40 billion “Anchor Borrowers’ Programme” organized by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for rice farmers across the country and launching of the 2015/2016 dry farming season.
The ABP programme aims to create an ecosystem to link out-growers (Small Holder Farmers) to local processors.
To tackle challenges of poor funding, the CBN has set aside the sum of N40 billion from the N220 billion Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Fund (MSMEDF) for farmers at a single-digit interest rate of 9.0 per cent.
Stressing that the discovery of oil in Nigeria ought to have complemented her agricultural productivity, President Buhari said it was almost allowed to replace agriculture to the detriment of the country.
According to him, the falling oil prices in the international market have necessitated urgent need to diversify the economy.
He said: “Economic diversification is no longer an option for us as a nation. It is the only way to reclaim economic momentum and drive to prosperity. The only way to do this is to develop our agricultural production.”
He said that the ABP will go a long way in achieving food security for the country.
He added: “In 2014 for example, the total demand for rice in Nigeria was estimated to be about 6.1 million metric tonnes of which 2.6 million metric tonnes was produced locally while the rest was imported.
“Equally, the demand for wheat in Nigeria is now about 5 million metric tonnes, a significant amount of which can be produced locally.”
The 156 years old Riemann Hypothesis, the most important problem in Mathematics has been successfully solved by Nigeria Scholar, Dr Opeyemi Enoch.
With this breakthrough, Dr Enoch, who teaches at the Federal University, Oye Ekiti (FUOYE), has become the fourth egghead to resolve one of the seven Millennium Problems in Mathematics.
The Kogi State-born mathematician had, before now, worked on mathematical models and structures for generating electricity from sound, thunder and Oceanic bodies.
A statement in Ado Ekiti yesterday said Dr Enoch presentation of the Proof on November 11, 2015 during the International Conference on Mathematics and Computer Science in Vienna, Austria becomes more symbolic coming on the exact day and month 156 years after the problem was delivered by a German Mathematician in 1859.
The Riemann Zeta Hypothesis is one of the seven Millennium problems set forth by the Clay Mathematics Institute with a million Dollar reward for each solved problem for the past 16 years.
According to the statement, “Dr Enoch first investigated and then established the claims of Riemann. He went on to Consider and to correct the misconceptions that were communicated by Mathematicians in the past generations, thus paving way for his solutions and proofs to be established.
“He also showed how other problems of this kind can be formulated and obtained the matrix that Hilbert and Poly predicted will give these undiscovered solutions. He revealed how these solutions are applicable in cryptography, quantum information science and in quantum computers,” it stated.
Three of the problems had been solved and the prizes given to the winners. This makes it the fourth to be solved of all the seven problems.
Dr Enoch had previously designed a Prototype of a silo for peasant farmers and also discovered a scientific technique for detecting and tracking someone on an evil mission.
Enoch has succeeded in inventing methods by which oil pipelines can be protected from vandalism and he is currently working on Mathematical approaches to Climate Change
The siege of Knightsbridge is both an emblem of gross injustice and a gruelling farce. For three years, a police cordon around the Ecuadorean embassy in London has served no purpose other than to flaunt the power of the state. It has cost £12 million. The quarry is an Australian charged with no crime, a refugee whose only security is the room given him by a brave South American country. His “crime” is to have initiated a wave of truth-telling in an era of lies, cynicism and war.
The persecution of Julian Assange is about to flare again as it enters a dangerous stage. From August 20, three quarters of the Swedish prosecutor’s case against Assange regarding sexual misconduct in 2010 will disappear as the statute of limitations expires. At the same time Washington’s obsession with Assange and WikiLeaks has intensified. Indeed, it is vindictive American power that offers the greatest threat – as Chelsea Manning and those still held in Guantanamo can attest.
The Americans are pursuing Assange because WikiLeaks exposed their epic crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq: the wholesale killing of tens of thousands of civilians, which they covered up, and their contempt for sovereignty and international law, as demonstrated vividly in their leaked diplomatic cables. WikiLeaks continues to expose criminal activity by the US, having just published top secret US intercepts – US spies’ reports detailing private phone calls of the presidents of France and Germany, and other senior officials, relating to internal European political and economic affairs.
None of this is illegal under the US Constitution. As a presidential candidate in 2008, Barack Obama, a professor of constitutional law, lauded whistleblowers as “part of a healthy democracy [and they] must be protected from reprisal”. In 2012, the campaign to re-elect President Barack Obama boasted on its website that he had prosecuted more whistleblowers in his first term than all other US presidents combined. Before Chelsea Manning had even received a trial, Obama had pronounced the whistleblower guilty. He was subsequently sentenced to 35 years in prison, having been tortured during his long pre-trial detention.
Few doubt that should the US get their hands on Assange, a similar fate awaits him. Threats of the capture and assassination of Assange became the currency of the political extremes in the US following Vice-President Joe Biden’s preposterous slur that the WikiLeaks founder was a “cyber-terrorist”. Those doubting the degree of ruthlessness Assange can expect should remember the forcing down of the Bolivian president’s plane in 2013 – wrongly believed to be carrying Edward Snowden.
According to documents released by Snowden, Assange is on a “Manhunt target list”. Washington’s bid to get him, say Australian diplomatic cables, is “unprecedented in scale and nature”. In Alexandria, Virginia, a secret grand jury has spent five years attempting to contrive a crime for which Assange can be prosecuted. This is not easy. The First Amendment to the US Constitution protects publishers, journalists and whistleblowers.
Faced with this constitutional hurdle, the US Justice Department has contrived charges of “espionage”, “conspiracy to commit espionage”, “conversion” (theft of government property), “computer fraud and abuse” (computer hacking) and general “conspiracy”. The Espionage Act has life in prison and death penalty provisions.
Assange’s ability to defend himself in this Kafkaesque world has been handicapped by the US declaring his case a state secret. In March, a federal court in Washington blocked the release of all information about the “national security” investigation against WikiLeaks, because it was “active and ongoing” and would harm the “pending prosecution” of Assange. The judge, Barbara J. Rosthstein, said it was necessary to show “appropriate deference to the executive in matters of national security”. Such is the “justice” of a kangaroo court.
The supporting act in this grim farce is Sweden, played by the Swedish prosecutor Marianne Ny. Until recently, Ny refused to comply with a routine European procedure routine that required her to travel to London to question Assange and so advance the case. For four and a half years, Ny has never properly explained why she has refused to come to London, just as the Swedish authorities have never explained why they refuse to give Assange a guarantee that they will not extradite him on to the US under a secret arrangement agreed between Stockholm and Washington. In December 2010, The Independent revealed that the two governments had discussed his onward extradition to the US.
Contrary to its 1960s reputation as a liberal bastion, Sweden has drawn so close to Washington that it has allowed secret CIA “renditions” – including the illegal deportation of refugees. The rendition and subsequent torture of two Egyptian political refugees in 2001 was condemned by the UN Committee against Torture, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch; the complicity and duplicity of the Swedish state are documented in successful civil litigation and in WikiLeaks cables. In the summer of 2010, Assange had flown to Sweden to talk about WikiLeaks revelations of the war in Afghanistan – in which Sweden had forces under US command.
“Documents released by WikiLeaks since Assange moved to England,” wrote Al Burke, editor of the online Nordic News Network, an authority on the multiple twists and dangers facing Assange, “clearly indicate that Sweden has consistently submitted to pressure from the United States in matters relating to civil rights. There is every reason for concern that if Assange were to be taken into custody by Swedish authorities, he could be turned over to the United States without due consideration of his legal rights.”
Why hasn’t the Swedish prosecutor resolved the Assange case? Many in the legal community in Sweden believe her behaviour inexplicable. Once implacably hostile to Assange, the Swedish press has published headlines such as: “Go to London, for God’s sake.”
Why hasn’t she? More to the point, why won’t she allow the Swedish court access to hundreds of SMS messages that the police extracted from the phone of one of the two women involved in the misconduct allegations? Why won’t she hand them over to Assange’s Swedish lawyers? She says she is not legally required to do so until a formal charge is laid and she has questioned him. Then, why doesn’t she question him? And if she did question him, the conditions she would demand of him and his lawyers – that they could not challenge her – would make injustice a near certainty.
On a point of law, the Swedish Supreme Court has decided Ny can continue to obstruct on the vital issue of the SMS messages. This will now go to the European Court of Human Rights. What Ny fears is that the SMS messages will destroy her case against Assange. One of the messages makes clear that one of the women did not want any charges brought against Assange, “but the police were keen on getting a hold on him”. She was “shocked” when they arrested him because she only “wanted him to take [an HIV] test”. She “did not want to accuse JA of anything” and “it was the police who made up the charges”. (In a witness statement, she is quoted as saying that she had been “railroaded by police and others around her”.)
Neither woman claimed she had been raped. Indeed, both have denied they were raped and one of them has since tweeted, “I have not been raped.” That they were manipulated by police and their wishes ignored is evident – whatever their lawyers might say now. Certainly, they are victims of a saga which blights the reputation of Sweden itself.
For Assange, his only trial has been trial by media. On August 20, 2010, the Swedish police opened a “rape investigation” and immediately – and unlawfully – told the Stockholm tabloids that there was a warrant for Assange’s arrest for the “rape of two women”. This was the news that went round the world.
In Washington, a smiling US Defence Secretary Robert Gates told reporters that the arrest “sounds like good news to me”. Twitter accounts associated with the Pentagon described Assange as a “rapist” and a “fugitive”.
Less than 24 hours later, the Stockholm Chief Prosecutor, Eva Finne, took over the investigation. She wasted no time in cancelling the arrest warrant, saying, “I don’t believe there is any reason to suspect that he has committed rape.” Four days later, she dismissed the rape investigation altogether, saying, “There is no suspicion of any crime whatsoever.” The file was closed.
Enter Claes Borgstrom, a high profile politician in the Social Democratic Party then standing as a candidate in Sweden’s imminent general election. Within days of the chief prosecutor’s dismissal of the case, Borgstrom, a lawyer, announced to the media that he was representing the two women and had sought a different prosecutor in the city of Gothenberg. This was Marianne Ny, whom Borgstrom knew well, personally and politically.
On 30 August, Assange attended a police station in Stockholm voluntarily and answered all the questions put to him. He understood that was the end of the matter. Two days later, Ny announced she was re-opening the case. Borgstrom was asked by a Swedish reporter why the case was proceeding when it had already been dismissed, citing one of the women as saying she had not been raped. He replied, “Ah, but she is not a lawyer.” Assange’s Australian barrister, James Catlin, responded, “This is a laughing stock… it’s as if they make it up as they go along.”
On the day Marianne Ny reactivated the case, the head of Sweden’s military intelligence service – which has the acronym MUST — publicly denounced WikiLeaks in an article entitled “WikiLeaks [is] a threat to our soldiers.” Assange was warned that the Swedish intelligence service, SAPO, had been told by its US counterparts that US-Sweden intelligence-sharing arrangements would be “cut off” if Sweden sheltered him.
For five weeks, Assange waited in Sweden for the new investigation to take its course. The Guardian was then on the brink of publishing the Iraq “War Logs”, based on WikiLeaks’ disclosures, which Assange was to oversee. His lawyer in Stockholm asked Ny if she had any objection to his leaving the country. She said he was free to leave.
Inexplicably, as soon as he left Sweden – at the height of media and public interest in the WikiLeaks disclosures – Ny issued a European Arrest Warrant and an Interpol “red alert” normally used for terrorists and dangerous criminals. Put out in five languages around the world, it ensured a media frenzy.
Assange attended a police station in London, was arrested and spent ten days in Wandsworth Prison, in solitary confinement. Released on £340,000 bail, he was electronically tagged, required to report to police daily and placed under virtual house arrest while his case began its long journey to the Supreme Court. He still had not been charged with any offence. His lawyers repeated his offer to be questioned by Ny in London, pointing out that she had given him permission to leave Sweden. They suggested a special facility at Scotland Yard commonly used for that purpose. She refused.
Katrin Axelsson and Lisa Longstaff of Women Against Rape wrote: “The allegations against [Assange] are a smokescreen behind which a number of governments are trying to clamp down on WikiLeaks for having audaciously revealed to the public their secret planning of wars and occupations with their attendant rape, murder and destruction… The authorities care so little about violence against women that they manipulate rape allegations at will. [Assange] has made it clear he is available for questioning by the Swedish authorities, in Britain or via Skype. Why are they refusing this essential step in their investigation? What are they afraid of?”
This question remained unanswered as Ny deployed the European Arrest Warrant, a draconian and now discredited product of the “war on terror” supposedly designed to catch terrorists and organised criminals. The EAW had abolished the obligation on a petitioning state to provide any evidence of a crime. More than a thousand EAWs are issued each month; only a few have anything to do with potential “terror” charges. Most are issued for trivial offences, such as overdue bank charges and fines. Many of those extradited face months in prison without charge. There have been a number of shocking miscarriages of justice, of which British judges have been highly critical.
The Assange case finally reached the UK Supreme Court in May 2012. In a judgement that upheld the EAW – whose rigid demands had left the courts almost no room for manoeuvre – the judges found that European prosecutors could issue extradition warrants in the UK without any judicial oversight, even though Parliament intended otherwise. They made clear that Parliament had been “misled” by the Blair government. The court was split, 5-2, and consequently found against Assange.
However, the Chief Justice, Lord Phillips, made one mistake. He applied the Vienna Convention on treaty interpretation, allowing for state practice to override the letter of the law. As Assange’s barrister, Dinah Rose QC, pointed out, this did not apply to the EAW.
The Supreme Court only recognised this crucial error when it dealt with another appeal against the EAW in November 2013. The Assange decision had been wrong, but it was too late to go back. With extradition imminent, the Swedish prosecutor told Assange’s lawyers that Assange, once in Sweden, would be immediately placed in one of Sweden’s infamous remand prisons.
Assange’s choice was stark: extradition to a country that had refused to say whether or not it would send him on to the US, or to seek what seemed his last opportunity for refuge and safety. Supported by most of Latin America, the courageous government of Ecuador granted him refugee status on the basis of documented evidence and legal advice that he faced the prospect of cruel and unusual punishment in the US; that this threat violated his basic human rights; and that his own government in Australia had abandoned him and colluded with Washington. The Labor government of prime minister Julia Gillard had even threatened to take away his passport.
Gareth Peirce, the renowned human rights lawyer who represents Assange in London, wrote to the then Australian foreign minister, Kevin Rudd: “Given the extent of the public discussion, frequently on the basis of entirely false assumptions… it is very hard to attempt to preserve for him any presumption of innocence. Mr. Assange has now hanging over him not one but two Damocles swords, of potential extradition to two different jurisdictions in turn for two different alleged crimes, neither of which are crimes in his own country, and that his personal safety has become at risk in circumstances that are highly politically charged.”
It was not until she contacted the Australian High Commission in London that Peirce received a response, which answered none of the pressing points she raised. In a meeting I attended with her, the Australian Consul-General, Ken Pascoe, made the astonishing claim that he knew “only what I read in the newspapers” about the details of the case.
Meanwhile, the prospect of a grotesque miscarriage of justice was drowned in a vituperative campaign against the WikiLeaks founder. Deeply personal, petty, vicious and inhuman attacks were aimed at a man not charged with any crime yet subjected to treatment not even meted out to a defendant facing extradition on a charge of murdering his wife. That the US threat to Assange was a threat to all journalists, to freedom of speech, was lost in the sordid and the ambitious.
Books were published, movie deals struck and media careers launched or kick-started on the back of WikiLeaks and an assumption that attacking Assange was fair game and he was too poor to sue. People have made money, often big money, while WikiLeaks has struggled to survive. The editor of the Guardian, Alan Rusbridger, called the WikiLeaks disclosures, which his newspaper published, “one of the greatest journalistic scoops of the last 30 years”. It became part of his marketing plan to raise the newspaper’s cover price.
With not a penny going to Assange or to WikiLeaks, a hyped Guardian book led to a lucrative Hollywood movie. The book’s authors, Luke Harding and David Leigh, gratuitously described Assange as a “damaged personality” and “callous”. They also revealed the secret password he had given the paper in confidence, which was designed to protect a digital file containing the US embassy cables. With Assange now trapped in the Ecuadorean embassy, Harding, standing among the police outside, gloated on his blog that “Scotland Yard may get the last laugh”.
The injustice meted out to Assange is one of the reasons Parliament reformed the Extradition Act to prevent the misuse of the EAW. The draconian catch-all used against him could not happen now; charges would have to be brought and “questioning” would be insufficient grounds for extradition. “His case has been won lock, stock and barrel,” Gareth Peirce told me, “these changes in the law mean that the UK now recognises as correct everything that was argued in his case. Yet he does not benefit.” In other words, the change in the UK law in 2014 mean that Assange would have won his case and he would not have been forced to take refuge.
Ecuador’s decision to protect Assange in 2012 bloomed into a major international affair. Even though the granting of asylum is a humanitarian act, and the power to do so is enjoyed by all states under international law, both Sweden and the United Kingdom refused to recognize the legitimacy of Ecuador’s decision. Ignoring international law, the Cameron government refused to grant Assange safe passage to Ecuador. Instead, Ecuador’s embassy was placed under siege and its government abused with a series of ultimatums. When William Hague’s Foreign Office threatened to violate the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, warning that it would remove the diplomatic inviolability of the embassy and send the police in to get Assange, outrage across the world forced the government to back down. During one night, police appeared at the windows of the embassy in an obvious attempt to intimidate Assange and his protectors.
Since then, Julian Assange has been confined to a small room under Ecuador’s protection, without sunlight or space to exercise, surrounded by police under orders to arrest him on sight. For three years, Ecuador has made clear to the Swedish prosecutor that Assange is available to be questioned in the London embassy, and for three years she has remained intransigent. In the same period Sweden has questioned forty-four people in the UK in connection with police investigations. Her role, and that of the Swedish state, is demonstrably political; and for Ny, facing retirement in two years, she must “win”.
In despair, Assange has challenged the arrest warrant in the Swedish courts. His lawyers have cited rulings by the European Court of Human Rights that he has been under arbitrary, indefinite detention and that he had been a virtual prisoner for longer than any actual prison sentence he might face. The Court of Appeal judge agreed with Assange’s lawyers: the prosecutor had indeed breached her duty by keeping the case suspended for years. Another judge issued a rebuke to the prosecutor. And yet she defied the court.
Last December, Assange took his case to the Swedish Supreme Court, which ordered Marianne Ny’s boss – the Prosecutor General of Sweden Anders Perklev – to explain. The next day, Ny announced, without explanation, that she had changed her mind and would now question Assange in London.
In his submission to the Supreme Court, the Prosecutor General made some important concessions: he argued that the coercion of Assange had been “intrusive” and that that the period in the embassy has been a “great strain” on him. He even conceded that if the matter had ever come to prosecution, trial, conviction and serving a sentence in Sweden, Julian Assange would have left Sweden long ago.
In a split decision, one Supreme Court judge argued that the arrest warrant should have been revoked. The majority of the judges ruled that, since the prosecutor had now said she would go to London, Assange’s arguments had become “moot”. But the Court ruled that it would have found against the prosecutor if she had not suddenly changed her mind. Justice by caprice. Writing in the Swedish press, a former Swedish prosecutor, Rolf Hillegren, accused Ny of losing all impartiality. He described her personal investment in the case as”abnormal” and demanded that she be replaced.
Having said she would go to London in June, Ny did not go, but sent a deputy, knowing that the questioning would not be legal under these circumstances, especially as Sweden had not bothered to get Ecuador’s approval for the meeting. At the same time, her office tipped off the Swedish tabloid newspaper Expressen, which sent its London correspondent to wait outside Ecuador’s embassy for “news”. The news was that Ny was cancelling the appointment and blaming Ecuador for the confusion and by implication an “uncooperative” Assange – when the opposite was true.
As the statute of limitations date approaches – 20 August 2015 – another chapter in this hideous story will doubtless unfold, with Marianne Ny pulling yet another rabbit out of her hat and the commissars and prosecutors in Washington the beneficiaries. Perhaps none of this is surprising. In 2008, a war on WikiLeaks and on Julian Assange was foretold in a secret Pentagon document prepared by the “Cyber Counterintelligence Assessments Branch”. It described a detailed plan to destroy the feeling of “trust” which is WikiLeaks’ “centre of gravity”. This would be achieved with threats of “exposure [and] criminal prosecution”. Silencing and criminalising such a rare source of truth-telling was the aim, smear the method. While this scandal continues the very notion of justice is diminished, along with the reputation of Sweden, and the shadow of America’s menace touches us all.
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