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After CIA, UK Prison Authorities Violate Julian Assange’s Rights

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Julian Assange

Gareth Pierce, lawyer of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, has complained at the Westminster Magistrates Court that the prison officers have stopped her from spending adequate time with her client to discuss the US extradition case.

She added that the absence of adequate time is delaying the case, ultimately leading to more prison time for Assange. She also complained about the journey in the prison van from the high-security-prison HMP Belmarsh to the court and termed the commute as “uncomfortable” during the hearing.

The 48-year-old WikiLeaks founder is fighting the case to avoid extradition to the US for leaking military secrets with the aid of army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning. He is facing 18 charges that include conspiring to hack government computers and violating an espionage law.

This is not the first time when Julian Assange has endured the ordeal of having his basic rights breached in the UK.

Earlier in late December, Assange via video link gave witness testimony to a judge in Spain and said that the Spanish security company, UC Global SL recorded his conversations illegally and transferred them to the CIA. 

As per credible sources, Assange said that UC Global SL, which was responsible for the security of Ecuadorian embassy in London, recorded his conversation with his lawyer Pierce when he was in Ecuador “by placing microphones inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London” and violated his attorney-client privilege.

Sources also claimed that Julian Assange will file a complaint to the UK court for the violation of his rights (mainly attorney-client privilege) at the end of February.

Furthermore, US violating the rights of a UK prisoner, who is held in a foreign embassy, points to the fact that in reality the US wants to extradite Assange only for political reasons and retaliate against the disclosure of documents like Iraq War logs, which shed light on its human rights violations and war crimes.

To some, it even raises the question if the Ecuadorian government and the administration at the embassy also colluded with the UC Global SL and CIA and targeted Assange knowingly.

Considering all the scenario, uncertainty looms if Julian Assange, based on his prison time at the HMS Belmarsh and Ecuadorian embassy and considering his violation of rights as a prisoner and a client (defendant), will be set free or not.

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After Sir Kier Starmer, Lisa Nandy Enters Labour Leadership Race

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Lisa Nandy

Generous support from three party “affiliates” has helped Labour candidate, Lisa Nandy to reach the final ballot of the Labour leadership contest. Nandy is the second candidate of the final ballot, after Sir Kier Starmer.

Lisa Nandy confirmed her position after getting support from the Chinese for Labour group. Earlier, she had been nominated by GMB and NUM trade unions. Expressing her delight on securing a place in the ballot paper, she said, “As someone of mixed heritage, I’m incredibly proud that it is Chinese for Labour who have secured my place on the ballot paper. They do incredibly important work to ensure we are a representative and inclusive party that can truly speak for modern Britain.”

Nandy affirmed that she was “looking forward to getting out into the country” and put forth her “vision for reuniting the party, rebuilding trust and returning Labour to power”. As per the leadership rules, candidates have to be endorsed by minimum three affiliates or unions, counting for at least five percent of affiliated members. Support from at least one of the major unions is necessary for making it through to the end stage.

The first candidate to enter the final ballot paper in the labour leadership contest, Sir Keir Starmer received backing from unions Unison and Usdaw and from affiliate group the Socialist Environment and Resources Association (Sera).

In her speech at the Centrepoint charity in London, Lisa Nandy elaborated on her plans to increase taxes for overpowering the welfare cuts made by the Tory government. She mentioned that “tax is not an evil” and stated her objective to create a “genuinely empowering” social security system.

As per Nandy, taxes should be based on the principles of fairness. She added, “Almost every time a firm avoids corporation tax, we allow a cut to the well-off at the expense of those in greater need, we chip away at the system and people’s trust in it.”

If YouGov poll is to be trusted, Lisa Nandy is still an outsider in the Labour leadership contest, with only seven percent of Labour members considering her as the first preference. The polls put Kier Starmer at a striking 46 percent. Although Jess Phillips gained 11 percent in the poll, her withdrawal from the leadership race gave an upper edge to both Nandy and Keir.

Hopeful about a woman winning, Nandy said, “It is painful to me that we are a party that stands for equality but we’ve never had a woman [leader]. I think we may be the only party that’s never done it.”

Nandy was seen criticising the Blair and Brown governments for not speaking against the Thatcher-era idea to end the post-war consensus on the importance of the welfare state. Nandy believes that “we tacitly accepted that four decades of economic conservatism was a bigger priority than people, that only by showing we could be as tight as the Tories could we buy legitimacy for helping people in the most need.”

Meanwhile, Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner seems to be the only candidate having enough support to become the new deputy leader of the Labour Party. She is in direct competition with shadow equalities minister Dawn Butler, Scotland’s only Labour MP, Tooting MP Rosena Allin-Khan and shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon.

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Brexit Bill: Fourth Defeat Compels Johnson to Accept Dubs Amendment

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Brexit bill, officially termed as the Withdrawal Agreement ensuring the UK’s exit on January 31 with a deal, has once again been defeated in the House of Lords, despite being passed in the Commons unamended by 99 votes.

The fourth and tougher defeat in the House of Lords came as a shock to the newly formed Conservative government, pressurising Prime Minister Boris Johnson to drop his opposing ideologies over a number of issues. The peers’ agreement to make amendments on EU citizens, EU Court of Justice rulings and court independence brought three defeats for the government.

The defeat of the Brexit bill has now put Johnson under immense pressure to accept the measures allowing unaccompanied child refugees to be reunited with their families in the country. The move was first sponsored by Lord Dubs, who himself is a former child refugee taken in by Britain when he fled the Nazis.

Dubs amendment first brought in 2016 as an amendment to the Immigration Act 2016, allowed children’s safe passage to Britain amid the European migrant crisis. It was earlier passed by 300 votes to 220, making a fourth loss to the Johnson-government. Another amendment got the backing of Lords, with the government losing by 239 votes to 235.

With five back-to-back losses, the Brexit bill changed to the Sewel Convention, confining the legislation on the matter within the devolved competence of the Scottish Parliament, National Assembly for Wales or Northern Ireland Assembly.

Meanwhile, the peers passed the amended bill on Tuesday night without needing a vote, and will now return to the Commons on Wednesday afternoon. The defeated prime minister has vowed to overturn all the amendments made by Lords as soon as the Brexit bill completes its passage through parliament.

The amendment seeking reunion of children with their families has been widely supported throughout the country, with major charities such as the British Red Cross and Safe Passage personally backing the Dubs amendment. They have urged the prime minister not to strike out the provision benefitting the children that have long been left stranded in many European camps.

Aware of the fact that the prime minister would attempt to quash his amendment, Dubs called on the Commons to resist the move. The acts safeguarding the interests of child refugees were already mentioned in the Brexit bill enacted during the office of former Prime Minister Theresa May but Johnson’s government failed to revise the legislation after victory in December elections.

Most of the Conservative leaders were of the impression that they have been doing the most for the lone minors, but the voting in the House of Lords stated it otherwise. It has sent a clear signal to the government which claims that they back family reunion whilst taking away the legal protections that support it. Focus on reinstating the protections has become a key chant of the peers, amongst whom Lord Dubs is seen as taking the foremost initiative.

Dubs clearly warned against the government’s using of the unaccompanied child refugees as “bargaining chips” in the next phase of Brexit negotiations with the EU. He even brought the comparisons of how the affected ones have survived the dire situations and are still at the risk of sexual exploitation.

Since, the government is the only hope for the child refugees, closing the possible doors would further bring them closer to the traffickers and smugglers. There is no telling of what dangerous options would the children opt in a bid to re-unite with their families. As of now the critics are waiting for Johnson to show compassion and agree to the Lords amendment in the Brexit bill to reach the safety of the left ones.

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Harry and Meghan’s Future Time in Canada Stuck at Royalty Costs

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Harry and Meghan’s Future Time in Canada Stuck at Royalty Costs

Removing the royal batches from their pockets, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle stepped back as the senior members of the royal families, and decided to spend part of their time in Canada. However, their relocation to North America is carrying uncertainties, where the Canadians are having hard time assessing the potential costs of giving space to royalty amongst them.

The obsession of royal family is not much relevant amongst the Canadians, as it is in the United States. But, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex have a strong connection with the country. While Markle spent six years in Canada while filming for TV show Suits, Prince Harry has too paid several visits throughout his life.

Once the couple steps back from public life in the UK, they would “spend time in Canada”, according to the Buckingham Palace. “There’s a lot of excitement about it,” said a North Saanich resident Sue Rogers. “But people here also understand [the couple] wanting to have some of the peace and quiet we have here. It makes perfect sense.”

For Canadians, the current focus point is the potential cost required for extensive security of the couples, which has been estimated to be ranging from C$1.3m (US$1m) to more than C$10m (US$7.7m) annually.

“Canadians do not have an appetite to pick up that bill,” said Shachi Kurl, executive director at the Angus Reid Institute. A public opinion poll by the institute revealed that three-quarters of the Canadian citizens, 73 per cent, turned down the idea of funding royal security and other relocation expenditures through tax dollars.

Besides, 19 per cent of respondents were fine with paying a portion of the bill and only 3 per cent said that the country should pick up the tab for security. The government of Canada foots the bill generally during the royal visits. However, it is uncertain if Prince Harry and Meghan Markle would qualify for official protection or not.

Last week, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told Global News that “there’s still a lot of decisions to be taken by the Royal Family, by the Sussexes themselves as to what level of engagement they choose to have”. He said that the issue of security costs is “part of the reflection that needs to be had and there are discussions going on”.

Both Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have not yet spoken on the matter. Besides, the federal officials are also not sure of how the costs would be divided. Although Queen Elizabeth II has also agreed to the couple’s wish of becoming financially independent, the transition details are still being worked out. It was recently learned that the Megxit deal has come to an halt, where the Queen’s aides were finalizing the details.

The decision of the royal couple to leave royalty is certainly huge, as is their desire to spend time in Canada. As it is in nature, the twin announcements have created slight distress and conflicts in both the UK and Canada.

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Police Released Counter-Terror List Shoves Extinction Rebellion as Neo-Nazi

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Recently released by the UK Police, a “Counter-terror list” has received negative waves from several environmental, animal rights and pacifist groups. Sources have reported that the list places the signs of these groups along with several Neo-Nazi groups.

Several organisations, otherwise involved in peaceful protests, like Greenpeace, Extinction Rebellion and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) are enraged to find their logos beside the glossary of icons in the counter-terror list, which is essentially a record of the extremist groups. Speaking in defence of the protestors accusations, the police officers said that they do not consider the environmental groups to be extremist.

Police claims that the document is meant “to help police and close partners identify and understand signs and symbols they may encounter in their day-to-day working lives”.

By shoving the counter-terror list to the category of “Prevent programme”, the police are in one way trying to calm the otherwise enraged environmental groups.

Seen as one of the four “Ps” of the government’s counter-terrorism strategy (other three being Pursue, Prepare and Protect), the “Prevent Programme” is meant to train teachers, youth workers and other people who work with young vulnerable people for spotting signs of radicalisation.

The counter-terror list has been released several days after rumours claimed the inclusion of Extinction Rebellion in a list of extremist organisations in a regional counter-terrorism report. The document was later withdrawn by the Counter-Terrorism Policing South East.

Exasperated at the inclusion, Extinction Rebellion posted on it’s website, “This is nothing short of pointing a finger at anyone that thinks differently to ‘business as usual’ – which is taking humanity to its grave – and lumping them all together.”

An active protestor and a part of Campaign Against Arms Trade, Andrew Smith said, “The message that this appalling list sends is that if you care about social justice or oppose war, arms sales, discrimination or conflict then you can be included alongside white nationalists and neo-Nazi hate groups.”

As per the Deputy Assistant Commissioner Dean Haydon, senior national co-ordinator for the UK’s counter-terror police, “not all of the symbols within this document are of counter-terrorism interest, and should be viewed in context”.

He added, “We need our officers, front-line police colleagues and partners to be able to understand what organisations people may be affiliated with, and what their aims and activities – lawful or otherwise – are.” As per him, the counter-terror list clearly states that the membership of these environmental groups is in no way inclined to crime of any kind and to “suggest anything else is both unhelpful and misleading.”

According to the General Secretary of the CND, the group’s inclusion in the list is “massive state overreach and threatens our right to political engagement and peaceful protest”.

Previous records validate the stained relationship between several environmental campaign groups and the UK Police. In recent times, women protestors have complained that police officials lead a double life by forming illegitimate relations with them. The inclusion in a way is against the right to peaceful protest that every citizen is entitled to!

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Brexit Might Misfire as Doubts Emerge Over UK’s Future with EU

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Post winning vote to leave the European Union (EU) via majority of 330-231 in the House of Commons, Prime Minister Boris Johnson will finally guide his nation out of the EU, come 31 January 2020.

However, even with the Withdrawal Agreement in hand, the doubts have emerged over whether Northern Ireland part of the deal can be implemented by the end of 2020.

Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland border has remained disputed since Withdrawal Agreement was first presented by the former prime minister, Theresa May. She proposed the Irish backstop plan, which was later substituted by Johnson with an all-island regulatory zone, an effort that seeks to avoid hard border between EU’s member state, Republic of Ireland and the UK’s Northern Ireland.

After the UK leaves the EU on January 31, it will enter an 11-month transition period, where it will follow the rules devised by the EU, but will not have any representation in the bloc. The period will come to an end on 31 December, which Johnson has ruled out extending, if a deal is not reached between the both sides.

As this period ends and the UK has its sole identity, Northern Ireland will still continue to follow the EU rules on agricultural and manufactured goods. Additionally, whole of the UK will also leave the EU’s customs union, while Northern Ireland will continue to apply the EU’s custom’s code at its ports.

The happening that means there would be checks on the border in order to process movement of goods from Northern Ireland to rest of the UK.

Meanwhile, even if Johnson wants the hard border not to return and has an alternative plan, it will for sure need more time than 11 months. As informed, the negotiations will take place through a body called the Joint Committee, which has not yet been set up, and thus, time up the UK’s sleeve is even lesser than inscribed on papers.

The responsibility for implementing the provisions fall entirely upon the UK, and the failure would imply that European Commission can begin levying penalty and impose fines through European Court of Justice. Such moves would not only put pressure on the UK, but also mark failure for Johnson, even after leaving with a deal in hand.

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