Assange appeal rejected by Swedish court

WikiLeaks founder Assange to appeal against decision by Swedish court not to drop an arrest warrant against him. 

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is to take his battle against an arrest warrant to Sweden’s Supreme Court, his lawyer has disclosed.

Per Samuelson’s comments came on Thursday after a Swedish court rejected an attempt by Assange, who remains in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, to overturn a four-year-old detention order brought against him in connection with allegations of sexual assault in Sweden.

Samuelson told Anadolu Agency: “I just talked to my client Julian Assange and he is very disappointed but still optimistic.

“He rests assured that it is only a matter of time before we shall win, and he has instructed me to appeal the ruling of the Swedish appeals court to the Supreme Court.”

“Assange needs to remain in the embassy as long as there’s a realistic threat of him being extradited to the U.S., in the end facing maybe 35 years in prison,” he said, referring to the U.S. criminal inquiry against Assange in his capacity as front man of the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks.

– Appeal rejected

The 43-year-old Australian continues to shelter in the Ecuadorian embassy in order to avoid extradition to Sweden where he faces claims of sexual molestation, lesser-degree rape and unlawful coercion allegedly committed against two women in Sweden in August, 2010.

The Svea Court of Appeal in Sweden earlier rejected his appeal against his detention order.

The court said in a statement: “In the view of the Court of Appeal there is no reason to set aside the detention solely because Julian Assange is in an embassy and the detention order cannot be enforced at present for that reason.”

Assange has yet to be charged with any crime in connection with the allegations which are subject to a “preliminary investigation” in Sweden.

– Controversial communications

Police have encircled the Ecuadoran embassy where Assange has been granted asylum after British authorities threatened him with arrest if he leaves.

The U.K. police operation has cost more than $10 million to date.

Assange claims that, if he is extradited to Sweden, he could be extradited to the United States, where authorities are pursuing a “national security” case against him after WikiLeaks published high-level and controversial U.S. military and diplomatic communications regarding the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and the U.S. State Department.

By Tommy Hansen and Assed Baig

Read the original article published in Anadolu Agency on 20 November 2014

UK collaborated with Assad, says ex-Guantanamo inmate

Moazzam Begg tells Anadolu Agency that UK security services handed over intelligence to Syrian regime.

Former Guantanamo detainee Moazzam Begg says he believes that “vindictive” terror charges levelled against him in the U.K. – which have now been dropped – were brought because of his efforts to expose links between the British and U.S. governments and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency in an exclusive interview, Begg, who was charged in Britain in February with seven Syria-related terror offences, said the court case against him collapsed after it emerged MI5 had spoken to him about his trip to Syria trip and assured him he could go about it unhindered.

Begg said: “The reason I think they went for me is because somebody, and I think it is someone high up in the government, said, ‘This Mr Begg character is causing us too much embarrassment. He keeps pointing out how we’ve been involved in secret rendition, in kidnapping, torture, and abuse of people’s basic human rights’.

“The reason why I went to Syria in the first place was because I found a link between British intelligence services working with Bashar al-Assad.”

The 46-year-old walked free from Belmarsh prison in London at the start of October after the case against him at the Old Bailey, which had been due to start within days, was dropped after Crown prosecutors told the judge that they had “recently become aware of relevant material”.

Begg, who had entered a not guilty plea, had spoken to the U.K. intelligence services in the presence of lawyers and informed them why he was travelling to Syria, but the information was not passed onto police or the Crown Prosecution Service until Begg had already been in custody for seven months.

– ‘Evidence of collaboration’

Speaking to AA from the offices of Cage, a charity which works on behalf of the victims of the so-called “war on terror” and of which he had been a director at the time of his arrest, said he had told MI5 that he was travelling to Syria to investigate rendition and how intelligence was passed onto the Syrian regime by U.K. security forces.

Speaking calmly, Begg who was incarcerated on three separate continents; Bagram in Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay Cuba, and Belmarsh in the U.K – all without ever being taken to court – said he found evidence of collaboration of the British intelligence services and Bashar Al Assad’s regime.

He said: “I found evidence of this from one of the Libyans who I know had been rendered by the Syrians who had found him in Syria, before any of the revolutions took place, and was handed over to the Libyans.

“We know this because the headquarters of the intelligence (services) of the Libyan government was stormed by the rebels and they discovered documents that showed this man had made a telephone call to Britain and his call had been intercepted by MI5, who handed that information to the Assad regime.”

He said he had uncovered numerous cases which showed the American intelligence agencies had been working with the Assad regime.

However, he says that the British involvement was indicative of a wider policy.

– ‘Lies and manipulation’

“The British involvement shows very clearly that when it comes to intelligence cooperations, there’s no such thing as ethics, there’s no such thing as morals, there’s no such thing as values, it’s all to do with interests, and those interests can be against human rights and against democracy,” he told AA.

“Lies and manipulation are what’s on the menu,” he added.

Begg, who was arrested at his home in Birmingham, was kept as a Category A prisoner – a regime used for the most dangerous prisoners.

However, he said he was “disappointed” when the case against him was dropped, saying he had been waiting for the fight and was confident he had done nothing wrong.

Once Begg was released he revealed he had offered to help work towards the release of British hostage Alan Henning, whose beheading by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants in early October was shown on an ISIL video, but he said the offer was rejected by the U.K. government.

Begg, who spent several months in Syria, also dismissed claims that Turkey was supporting ISIL.

He said that if it was not for Turkey, rather than 200,000 Syrian deaths that there would have been half-a-million.

– Turkey ‘a lifeline’

He said Turkey was the only lifeline for the Syrian people.

“I don’t think there is a link between ISIL and the Turkish government,” said Begg, adding: “There may be a reality in that they both oppose the Assad regime, but that doesn’t necessary make them work together.”

Begg also praised Turkey’s humanitarian efforts in trying to help and accommodate Syrian refugees.

“If you see the numbers of people in the refugee camps, which the Turks by their graces have built and helped the Syrians with, despite all of their problems, and then you come to the realizations, what the Turks have done for the Syrians has been a brotherly stance and act … and I don’t think the Syrians will forget that,” said Begg.

“Turkey has its own interests, and its interest is maintaining the support of the civilians,” he added.

Moazzam Begg was arrested in Pakistan in 2002 and initially kept at Bagram airbase I in Afghanistan before being taken to Guantanamo Bay where he was released without charge in 2005.

Begg told AA that he would continue his work with Cage and also argue that those that have traveled to Syria to fight should be allowed back into the U.K. and not be treated like terrorists.

Read the original article published in Anadolu Agency on 17 November 2014

Legal challenge mounted against UK anti-terror law

Anti-terror powers allowing police to stop individuals at UK ports for up to nine hours are challenged in Supreme Court.

Human rights organizations have launched a legal challenge in the U.K. against a controversial anti-terror power which allows police to question people for up to nine hours on whether they have been involved in acts of terrorism.

The challenge to the Schedule 7 powers, which allow police to hold people at U.K. ports, was brought to the Supreme Court on Wednesday by the Muslim Council of Britain, the London-based Islamic Human Rights Commission and CAGE, which campaign on behalf of the victims of the so-called “war on terror”.

CAGE spokesman Asif Bhayat said: “Recent statistics show a 100 percent rise in Islamophobia-related incidents in the U.K., and Muslims are feeling targeted by state institutions in the same way.

“It is about time the Muslim community stopped being scared of being branded ‘extremist’ for challenging the status quo.”

Bhayat said that he hoped that the Schedule 7 power would be scrapped.

The rights organisations are claiming the powers are being widely used to harass and gather intelligence on Muslims travelling to and from the UK and say anyone detained under the powers must “give the examining officer any information in his possession which the officer requests” or face arrest.

‘Religious profiling’

Police need have no reasonable suspicion to stop, interrogate or detain anybody under the power, they point out.

The groups will present evidence of what they say is the “discriminatory and disproportionate impact of Schedule 7 on Muslims and minority ethnic communities”.

The organizations say that since Schedule 7 came into force, its powers have been “systematically misused to implement ethnic and religious profiling”.

The same power was used to stop and detain journalist Glenn Greenwald’s partner David Miranda for nine hours at Heathrow airport in August last year.

IHRC Chairman Massoud Shadjareh, who was a member of the now disbanded National Accountability Board set up by the government to oversee Schedule 7, said: “The overwhelming extent of the Schedule 7 power has resulted in highly discriminatory racial and religious profiling.”

He said that the powers were being misused and had left Muslims “feeling like second-class citizens” and called for a reform of the law and greater accountability to be established.

‘Unjustifiable interference’

More than 46,000 people were stopped at Britain’s ports under Schedule 7 powers in 2013.

Anadolu Agency’s analysis of the figures released in June this year showed that Schedule 7 stops only resulted in 1.19 percent of people being detained, and out of those only two people were convicted – or 0.0043 percent of those stopped.

Wednesday’s hearing relates to the case of Sylvie Beghal, a French national of Algerian descent, who was stopped after arriving with her children at East Midlands Airport on a flight from Paris in January 2011.

The mother of three refused to answer the questions put to her – which included requests for information about the French-Algerian community in the UK – without the presence of a lawyer and was subsequently convicted for willfully failing to comply with her duty under Schedule 7 to answer questions.

She unsuccessfully brought a challenge against her conviction before the High Court last year, claiming that the detention had violated her rights under the European Convention on Human Rights.

Beghal argued the prosecution was an unjustifiable interference with her “right to free movement” within an EU country as an EU national.

Power ‘abused’

Her Algerian husband had been convicted and jailed in France on terrorism charges, but claims that he was tortured and the conviction was unjust.

U.K. government statistics show that proportionately many more people from ethnic minorities are stopped than whites.

In 2012-13 ethnic minorities accounted for 79 percent of all those who were stopped.

A recent Equality and Human Rights Commission report found that people who identified themselves as being Pakistani were 154 times more likely to be held for more than an hour than those identifying themselves as white.

All three organisations claim they have received scores of complaints of the powers being abused.

They claim that security officials ask Muslims they have stopped if they pray or if they would be willing to spy on their communities or even which political party they voted for.

Read the original article published in Anadolu Agency on 12 November 2014

UK to begin joint NATO military exercise in Poland

Exercise Black Eagle designed to ‘deter Russian aggression’.

Britain is to begin a bi-lateral military exercise with Poland in the next few days that will involve 1,350 U.K. military personnel and 350 vehicles, the Ministry of Defence has told the Anadolu Agency.

The announcement came on Monday as tensions between west European states and Russia continue to worsen following the fall from power of Ukraine’s democratically elected, pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovych, and the annexation of Crimea by Russia.

The Ministry of Defence told the AA in a statement the exercise was a NATO response to “Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and continuing efforts to destabilize eastern Ukraine”.

The U.K. said that the move was developed by the Supreme Allied Command “to provide visible reassurance of the Alliance’s [NATO] commitment to collective defense”.

But Lindsey German from Stop the War Coalition told the AA the exercise in Poland was a “dangerous sign”.

‘NATO expansionism’

She said that it was clear that the tension between Russia and the West was escalating and was a sign of NATO “expansionism”.

“We’re looking at a situation that may well escalate into war over the next two or three years and that would be the most serious war in Europe since we’ve seen since the Second World War,” she warned.

She added, “Russia is not only surrounded by NATO bases to its west but to the south too. There’s actually less Russian-controlled territory since the time of Catherine the Great, which was two to three hundred years ago.”

“I don’t think you can see Russia as an expansionist force, but if you look at what NATO is doing, it is moving in an expansionist direction,” German added.

Speaking on Sunday near the Brandenburg Gate in the German capital at an event marking 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, former Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev warned that the world was “on the brink of a new Cold War”.

Euphoria and triumphalism’

He said the west had rescinded on a promise that NATO would not expand eastwards if East and West Germany were unified.

“Instead of building new mechanisms and institutions of European security and pursuing a major demilitarization of European politics … the west, and particularly the United States, declared victory in the Cold War,” he said.

“Euphoria and triumphalism went to the heads of western leaders. Taking advantage of Russia’s weakening and the lack of a counterweight, they claimed monopoly leadership and domination in the world,” added the man who spearheaded the Glasnost and Perestroika reforms in the Soviet Union.

The exercise called Black Eagle will see about 3,000 personnel being deployed and comes after leaders from nine ex-communist countries met in Poland in July to agree upon a defence strategy from a perceived Russian threat on their eastern frontier.

U.S. President Barack Obama set aside $1bn in military funding for Western allies on NATO’s eastern borders in June in addition to air and sea defenses already in the region.

The U.K. said the measures demonstrated the resolve of NATO allies, particularly the Baltic partners, adding the moves were designed to deter “further Russian aggression”.

The Black Eagle exercise is the first significant move by NATO following the holding of a summit by the organization in the U.K. in September.

Read the original article published in Anadolu Agency on 10 November 2014

Report: One in five youths forced to sleep rough in UK

Charity reports nearly a fifth of young people in Britain have slept on the streets and in cars and night buses.

One in five young people in the U.K. have been forced to sleep rough, a charity for homeless people has reported.

According to a poll published on Thursday and carried out on behalf of Centrepoint, a charity which supports homeless young people, showed that about 18 percent of 18-25 year olds had slept rough in the last year – including sleeping on streets and in cars and night buses – as they had nowhere else to stay.

Seyi Obakin, Centrepoint’s Chief Executive, said: “Homelessness is killing young people and 80,000 young people across the UK face homelessness each year.”

“We know that homeless young people are twice as likely to die as their peers, which is why we urgently need help to get them off the streets,” he said.

 ‘Huge problem’

The charity, which has organized its annual “sleep out” for Thursday evening, to raise awareness and funds for the charity, said 15,000 young people were facing homelessness over the coming Christmas and more than 1,000 beds for homeless people had been lost in the last year.

“Currently the government does not track the number of 18-25 year olds rough sleeping nationally. Our poll proves the issue of young people sleeping rough is huge and nobody else is giving an accurate picture of the problem,” Obakin added.

He said: “The government’s only data on rough sleeping does not break down by age and is limited to estimates and a one-night snap-shot survey.”

“From this it’s impossible to ensure that vital support services for homeless young people are available in the right place at the right time,” Obakin said.

Families struggling

The charity commissioned ComRes to speak to 2,011 young people.

Of those who disclosed they had slept rough over the past year, 40 percent said they had spent one night doing so and a third said they had done so for between one night and one week.

Since the introduction by the British government of “austerity measures”, including a cap on benefits, many families have struggled with accommodation and household bills with some being forced to move to areas where housing is cheaper, the charity said.

More than one million people in the U.K. have become dependent on food banks since the austerity measures were put in place.

Read the original article published in Anadolu Agency on 6 November 2014

UK: Two sons lost, father says ‘Do not go to Syria’

Abubaker Deghayes has now lost two sons to the Syrian conflict, with another still fightng in the war torn country.

The father who lost two of his sons fighting in Syria has said that he does not want others to suffer the same fate.

Abubaker Deghayes, who lives in Saltdean, East Sussex, has lost his second son last week in the space of a year, to the fighting in Syria.

Jaffar Deghayes, 17, is believed to have died last weekend in a battle against Syrian regime troops near Idlib.  Deghayes’ eldest son is still fighting in the country.

It has only been six months since he lost his other son, 18-year-old Abdullah, who was killed in Latakia.

 Deghayes told the Anadolu Agency (AA) that his eldest son, Amer, messaged him with the news. “He told me that Jaffar had been shot in the head, but was alive for 15 minutes after that,” the father said.

“Jaffar recited the shahada (article of faith) and praised God before his death,” he told AA.

However, Deghayes was adamant that others should not go.  He said that he would encourage other people who wanted to help in Syria not to go and fight, but to send aid and to lobby politicians to help the people of Syria.

“I hope my son comes back safe. Don’t let your families go through what we are going through,” he told AA.

All three of his sons were fighting for the Al Nusra front, which the U.K. government considers a terrorist organisation.

Deghayes says that the Al Nusra front fighters are not terrorists, but are helping the Syrian people.

“I have been to the refugee camps and the Syrians I have spoken to speak highly of Al Nusra, and how they are helping people, they are not terrorists,” he told AA.

Following the death of Abdullah in April, the police raided Abubaker’s home and confiscated laptops, mobile phones and passports. Deghayes told AA that he is yet to receive the items back, including his passport.

“The police said that they were investigating Abdullah’s death,” he said.

The three brothers travelled together to Syria in January this year to take part in the fighting against the Syrian regime.

Deghayes has six children.  He is of Libyan origin, and has been living in the U.K. since 1986.  Deghayes’ father was killed by the Gaddafi regime when he returned to Libya.

Abubaker’s brother was held without charge at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo bay.  He was released in 2007.

Last month King’s College London’s International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation reported that 23 British fighters had died fighting in Syria and Iraq.

Their research revealed that British fighters are being killed in Syria and Iraq at the rate of one every three weeks.

The British government states that up to 500 Britons have traveled abroad to take part in fighting in Syria, and that at least 218 of those have returned to the U.K.

Read the original article published in Anadolu Agency on 4 November 2014

Rights groups slam UK spy chief’s ‘web terror’ remarks

Head of GCHQ Robert Hannigan accused of being ‘securocrat’ destroying Britain’s ‘best traditions’ and regard for rule of law.

Human rights groups have dismissed claims made by the head of the UK government’s communications headquarters that the internet has become a “command-and-control network” for terrorists.

The criticism came on Tuesday after Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) chief Robert Hannigan wrote in the Financial Times daily that some U.S. technology companies were “in denial” about how their social media websites were being used, saying groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, had “embraced the web”.

He wrote: “GCHQ and its sister agencies, MI5 and the Secret Intelligence Service, cannot tackle these challenges at scale without greater support from the private sector, including the largest US technology companies which dominate the web.”

Hannigan also controversially declared that “privacy has never been an absolute right”.

But Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, asked in a statement to Anadolu Agency: “In what democracy do securocrats dictate policy or make law?”

‘Traditions trashed’

“Mr Hannigan shouldn’t grab the megaphone whilst wearing the headphones or use threats and smears that ignore due process and the rule of law,” she said.

“Rather than trashing our best traditions for convenience, the UK should lead the way on improving lawful access to data between states in the fight against terrorism,” Chakrabarti added.

UK-based privacy rights organization Privacy International called Hannigan’s remarks “disappointing” and said the internet was “the greatest tool for innovation, access to education and communication humankind has ever known”.

Deputy Director Eric King said in a statement to Anadolu Agency: “Before he condemns the efforts of companies to protect the privacy of their users, perhaps he should reflect on why there has been so much criticism of GCHQ in the aftermath of the Snowden revelations.”

‘Lost trust’

Files leaked by Edward Snowden last year containing revelations about the scope and nature of the largely illegal surveillance activities carried out around the global by the National Security Agency (NSA) sparked widespread outrage.

King added: “GCHQ’s dirty games – forcing companies to handover their customers’ data under secret orders, then secretly tapping the private fibre optic cables between the same companies’ data centers anyway – have lost GCHQ the trust of the public, and of the companies who services we use.”

“Robert Hannigan is right, GCHQ does need to enter the public debate about privacy – but attacking the internet isn’t the right way to do,” he said.

Snowden has been hailed a hero around the world for exposing the mass surveillance activities employed by NSA and the UK’s GCHQ communications monitoring center to the global public.

Read the original article published in Anadolu Agency on 4 November 2014

UK snubs Merkel’s warnings over immigration curbs

British government insists it will pursue immigration changes despite Germany’s chancellor’s reported ‘UK can quit EU’ remarks.

The U.K. government has said the “Prime Minister will do what is right for Britain” in response to reports that Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel said she would rather see the UK leave the EU than compromise over the bloc’s principle on the free movement of people.

The comments came on Monday after German magazine Der Spiegel reported that sources in Berlin had said Britain was nearing the “point of no return” and Germany viewed British calls for curbs on the free movement of people as a “red line”.

A Downing street spokesperson told the Anadolu Agency: “Cameron thinks limiting migration is a key principle for Britain to remain in the EU.”

Cameron’s Conservative party has been under pressure from the anti-EU and anti-immigration UK Independence Party (UKIP) over the past year as public sentiment has hardened towards immigrants amid harsh “austerity measures” imposed by the government.

The conservatives have lost many votes to the party, according to opinion polls, and two Conservative MPs have defected to it.

Cameron has responded by taking a stronger line on the EU and immigration to address the growing concerns of his party members, and said he would give a speech on immigration before Christmas.

  UK ‘must clarify role’ 

In Germany, government spokesman Steffen Seibert did not refute Der Spiegel’s story during Monday’s regular press conference at the Federal Press Service and said Germany’s position on the UK’s future in the EU had not changed.

He said: “It is first of all a matter for the UK to clarify itself what role it wants to play in future within the EU.”

Seibert said the matter was not a bilateral issue between London and Berlin, but one between the UK and all its EU partners.

He underlined that freedom of movement within the EU was a non-negotiable principle for the German government.

He acknowledged the difficulties faced by several European countries including the UK as well as Germany due to the growing number of immigrants coming from new member states to benefit from social security systems.

“Combatting the misuse of freedom of movement is a legitimate interest. We also share this. But the general principle of freedom of movement should not be called into question,” Seibert stressed.

  ‘Calm and rational’

The UK’s chancellor, George Osborne said he was not worried about the German Chancellor’s reported remarks.

“I think it’s a little bit thin” he told the BBC, referring to the Der Spiegel report and added that he felt Germany understood the British public’s concerns over EU migrants and welfare benefits.

“The British public want this addressed. We are going to do this in a calm, rational way,” he said.

Douglas Carswell sparked a by-election when he switched from the Conservative Party to UKIP in August and stood down from his parliamentary seat in Clacton, Essex.

He retook the constituency for UKIP with a 12,404 majority.

Mark Reckless, the Conservative MP for Rochester and Strood, announced weeks later that he was also defecting to UKIP, triggering another by-election to be held later this month.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso warned in October that Britain would be making a “historic mistake” if it decided to curb freedom of movement or leave the European Union.

The outgoing EC President said: “In the years to come the UK could be facing a choice – to stay or leave the European Union.”

A Downing Street source rejected Barroso’s warnings and said that the “status quo was not acceptable” to the U.K.

*Ayhan Simsek contributed to this report from Berlin. 

Read the original article published in Anadolu Agency on 3 November 2014

90,000 UK children facing homelessness at Xmas

Shelter issues emergency appeal and says number of homeless living in bed and breakfasts has nearly doubled in three years.

A total of 90,000 UK children will face Christmas without a home, according to a charity’s analysis of the latest government figures on homelessness in Britain.

Shelter, a charity which helps people in England and Scotland struggling with poor housing or homelessness, said on Monday they would launch an emergency appeal in response to what they said was a crisis.

Campbell Robb, Shelter’s chief executive, called on the public to donate what they could to the emergency appeal, saying: “In the 21st century, it cannot be right that homeless children are experiencing severe emotional distress, facing three-hour round trips to school and having to eat their dinner on the floor.”

He added: “Our advisers will be working tirelessly to support people who find themselves homeless this Christmas, but it’s getting harder and harder for us to be there for every family that needs us.”

‘We urgently need more support from the public to help us make sure no-one has to fight homelessness on their own this Christmas,” said Robb.

‘Shocking’ conditions

Shelter said in a report that, according to government figures, the number of homeless families living in bed and breakfasts had also almost doubled in three years.

It said that this was “particularly alarming” following the charity’s own investigation into living conditions in bed and breakfasts, which they described as “shocking”.

The charities investigation into accommodation revealed that many children felt unsafe in temporary accommodation, with parents reporting exposure to drug and alcohol abuse, fighting, swearing and racist language.

Since the introduction by the British government of austerity measures, including a cap on benefits, many families have struggled with accommodation and household bills with some being forced to move to areas where housing is cheaper, the charity said.

More than one million people in the U.K. have become dependent on food banks since the austerity measures were put in place.

Read the original article published in Anadolu Agency on 3 November 2014