Wikileaks founder Julian Assange faces arrest, police say

20 Jun

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, -who is seeking asylum at Ecuador’s London embassy, faces arrest for breaching his bail, police say.

Mr Assange, 40, whose conditions included staying at his bail address between 2200 and 0800 BST, spent Tuesday night at the embassy.
Mr Assange claims the sex was consensual and that the allegations are politically motivated.

Last Thursday, seven judges at the UK’s Supreme Court dismissed Mr Assange’s attempt to reopen his extradition appeal as being “without merit”.
Gavin MacFadyen, a visiting professor at City University, London, who has been to see Mr Assange at the embassy, said his friend was “very grateful” for its help.

“He’s in very good humour and the generosity of the embassy is impressive and moving,” he said.

A small group of protesters, waving placards with messages including “free Assange, no rendition” have gathered outside the embassy, in Knightsbridge.
Mr Assange will remain at the embassy under the protection of the Ecuadorean government while the department assesses his application.

In April 2011, Ecuador expelled the US ambassador in Quito after Wikileaks published an American diplomatic document alleging widespread corruption within the Ecuadorean police force.

Earlier this year, Mr Assange interviewed Mr Correa on the Australian’s chat show on the Russia Today TV channel.

Orlando Perez, editor of Ecuador’s pro-government newspaper El Telegrafo, told BBC Mundo that, during the interview, “empathy really appeared between them” and it was at that moment that seeking political asylum with Mr Correa “came to Assange’s mind”.
Meanwhile, Ecuador – whose President Rafael Correa has previously clashed with Washington and is a fan of Wikileaks – had said it would consult the UK, Sweden and the US before deciding on Mr Assange’s asylum request.

Our correspondent said Mr Assange faced an “uphill struggle” in persuading Ecuador to grant him asylum, as he would have to show he was being persecuted for his political beliefs.

UK government representatives met the Ecuadorian Ambassador Anna Alban at the Foreign Office on Wednesday for talks Ms Alban described as “cordial and constructive”.

She added: “I welcome the statement from the UK government last night [Tuesday] in which they stated that they would work with the Ecuadorian government to find a resolution.

“I also emphasised to the UK government that it was not the intention of the Ecuadorian government to interfere with the processes of either the UK or Swedish governments.

“The decision on Mr Assange’s application [will] be assessed by the department of foreign affairs in Quito and would take into account Ecuador’s long and well-established tradition in supporting human rights.”
The Australian has until 28 June to take his case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg. His lawyer, Dinah Rose QC, said he was considering whether to do this.

Swedish authorities have said the ECHR would intervene if Mr Assange was to face the prospect of “inhuman or degrading treatment or an unfair trial” in the US.
‘Extraordinary twist’

As part of Mr Assange’s bail conditions, securities totalling £200,000 were lodged at City of Westminster Magistrates Court.

A further £40,000 put up as sureties are thought to have been provided by socialite Jemima Khan and film director Ken Loach, who each offered £20,000.

Lawyers say bail would only be forfeited if Mr Assange failed to turn up for a scheduled court appearance.

BBC News legal correspondent Clive Coleman said that, as Mr Assange had broken the condition of his bail that he live at a friend’s house in Norfolk, he could be arrested and brought before a court.
Last week he failed to reopen an appeal against his extradition to Sweden.

Mr Assange, wanted for questioning in Sweden over rape and sexual assault allegations, denies any wrongdoing.

Ecuador had said it was “studying and analysing” Mr Assange’s request for asylum.
‘Without merit’

Mr Assange’s website has published a mass of leaked diplomatic cables that embarrassed several governments and international businesses.

Mr Assange fears if he is sent to Sweden it may then lead to him being sent to the US to face charges over Wikileaks, for which he could face the death penalty.

Two female ex-Wikileaks volunteers alleged in 2010 that Mr Assange had attacked them while he was in Stockholm to give a lecture. No charges have been filed.


El Salvador murders drop as gang truce passes 100 days

20 Jun

Murders in El Salvador have dropped from about 14 a day in March to five, as a truce between the country’s powerful street gangs passed 100 days.

Police said that overall this year killings had fallen nearly 24%, while murders in May were down by more than 50% on the same period last year.

The gangs, Mara Salvatrucha and Barrio 18, agreed a halt to hostilities, in a deal brokered by the Catholic Church.

El Salvador’s street gangs have a reputation for ruthless violence.

Announcing the latest crime figures, Justice and Public Security Minister David Munguia Payes said that the truce between the gangs “has had an important effect on the drop in violence”.

The deal between the Mara Salvatrucha gang, also known as MS-13, and Barrio 18, came about after their leaders were moved from maximum security jails to more relaxed conditions.

President Mauricio Funes has stressed his government did not negotiate with the gangs but merely facilitated the accord.

Imprisoned gang members held ceremonies on 19 June to mark the first 100 days of the accord.

Gang leaders indicated they were ready for talks about making the peace pact permanent, the Associated Press reported.

“We want a definitive ceasefire,” one leader, Oscar Armando Reyes, told AP. But he said the government had to come up with concrete proposals on jobs.

El Salvador’s gangs have their roots in the immigrant street gangs of the US.

Over the years they have grown to become powerful, trans-national criminal organisations with thousands of members.

The truce has attracted the attention of neighbouring countries, Honduras and Guatemala, which also suffer high murder rates and gang violence.

Brazilian Guarani tribe could get £53m in damages

20 Jun

A Brazilian prosecutor has requested that the government pay an indigenous tribe evicted from its ancestral lands 170 million reais ($83m;£53m) in damages.

Prosecutor Marco Antonio Delfino de Almeida argues that the Guyraroka community must be compensated for moral and material damages.

“I hope this suit will help governments to reconsider their actions,” he said.

The Guyrarokas are part of the Guarani people in western Brazil.He told Agencia Brasil, the Brazilian government official news agency, that “the Indians will need the financial resources they lack to make their land productive and their environment sustainable again.”

The law suit against the Brazilian Federal Government and Funai – the national indigenous agency – was filed in April but only made public now.

Mr Delfino wants the compensation money to be used in policies that benefit Guarani communities in Mato Grosso do Sul.

The Guarani are Brazil’s largest indigenous minority, with around 46,000 members living in seven states.

Many others live in neighbouring Paraguay, Bolivia and Argentina.

Last week, a biofuels company set up in Brazil by Shell – Raizen – signed an agreement last week with the Brazilian authorities giving up plans to buy sugar cane sourced from indigenous lands, including those of the Guyrarokas.

The move was announced after months of pressure by the Brazilian government.

According to the Public Prosecution Office in Brazil, the tribe began to be expelled from its ancestral lands, near the Paraguay border, in 1927.

The authorities demarcated their lands only in 2009.

Mr Delfino, a prosecutor for Mato Grosso do Sul state, said that the allowing them access to their land was not enough after so many years.

“When they go back, most of the land will have been cleared of its forests. The soil will be exhausted by decades of intensive agriculture.”

Antonis Samaras offers ‘hope’ as new Greece prime minister

20 Jun

Antonis Samaras has vowed to “give hope” to the Greek people, -moments after being sworn in as prime minister.

His party, New Democracy, has forged a coalition with the Socialists (Pasok) and the smaller Democratic Left.

The deal ends weeks of uncertainty in Greece. An inconclusive election on 6 May raised fears Greece could leave the eurozone and trigger a wider crisis.
The 61-year-old said he would demand “hard work” from the new government “so that it will be able to give hope to our people”.

The three coalition party leaders are due to meet outgoing Finance Minister Giorgos Zanias and the man tipped to be his successor, National Bank chairman Vassilis Rapanos, on Wednesday evening.

More detail on the cabinet make-up is also expected to emerge before Thursday, when Mr Zanias will represent the new government at a meeting of eurozone finance ministers in Luxembourg.

Earlier, announcing the coalition deal, Pasok leader Evangelos Venizelos said the three parties in the new coalition had “taken on the burden of responsibility to renegotiate the bailout agreement and [the job] of exiting Greece from the crisis”.

Democratic Left leader Fotis Kouvelis said he expected the cabinet to “release the country from the painful terms” of the bailout, reported AFP news agency.
‘Limited room’

The BBC’s Andrew Walker in Brussels says European leaders will be relieved that there is now a Greek government to negotiate with, but concern about what they will be asking for.

European leaders have indicated that there is limited room for manoeuvre on the bailout.

Greece has seen many street demonstrations – sometimes violent – by people angered by the job losses, pay cuts and reduced welfare resulting from the bailout.

The country got an initial EU-IMF package worth 110bn euros (£89bn; $138bn) in 2010, then a follow-up this year worth 130bn euros.

It has also had 107bn euros (£86bn; $135bn) of debt, held by private investors, written off.

New Democracy won 129 seats in Greece’s 300-seat parliament on Sunday, followed by Syriza with 71, Pasok with 33 and the Democratic Left with 17.

Between them, New Democracy, Pasok and Democratic Left would have a majority of 29.
But the new coalition is expected to face immediate pressure from an austerity-weary Greek public.

They have endured five years of recession and are increasingly resistant to the tough terms of Greece’s huge bailout from the EU and International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Syriza – the leftist party that came second in Sunday’s poll and strongly opposes the austerity measures – will be a defiant voice of opposition, correspondents say.

Greek stocks rose moderately in response to the news that a coalition had been formed, with Athens shares closing up 0.5%.
‘Burden of responsibility’

Mr Samaras became Greece’s fourth prime minister in eight months at a brief ceremony at the presidential palace in Athens, presided over by the archbishop of Greece and chanting Orthodox Greek clergy.

In his first public words following his swearing in, he asked the Greek people for “patriotism and strong national unity and trust, [so] that with the help of God, we’ll do whatever we can for the people to come out of this crisis”.

North Koreans ‘holding 29 Chinese fishermen’

20 Jun

Unidentified North Koreans have detained 29 Chinese fishermen from three boats and are demanding payment for their release, Chinese media says.

They were seized on 8 May in the Yellow Sea between China and North Korea by a gunboat, said the Beijing News.

The captors have asked for payment by Thursday for the release of the men and boats, the newspaper reported.

China’s foreign ministry said it was in touch with North Korean authorities and hoped to resolve the situation soon.

“We urged the North Korean side to guarantee the legal rights of the Chinese fishermen,” the ministry’s spokesman Hong Lei said.

He refused to confirm if the payment being demanded was a ransom, said an Associated Press report.

It is not clear if the boats were seized by North Korean authorities or kidnappers as some reports have suggested.

Pyongyang has not commented on the incident.

The owners of the boats have been reported as saying that the men were fishing in Chinese waters when the incident took place.

One of the owners, Zhang Dechang, told the Beijing News that the captors initially demanded payment of 1.2 million yuan (£119,300, $189,800) for the return of the men and boats, now reportedly in North Korea.

The captors then reportedly reduced their demand to 900,000 yuan.

Mr Zhang said that the captors included both North Koreans and Chinese, according to a Global Times report.

”They had guns; no one resisted. The captured fishermen have been locked in a small house, with no food to eat,” he was quoted as saying in the report.

China is North Korea’s closest ally. But the waters of the Yellow Sea, home to rich marine life, have seen clashes in the past between vessels from China and the two Koreas.

North Korea Calls Clinton Criticism ‘Reckless’

19 Jun

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea on Sunday accused Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clintonof being “reckless” for advising its new leader to give priority to improving the lives of his pe

North Korea can now “steadily boost its nuclear deterrent by itself without letting its people fasten their belts any longer,” the North’s official Korean Central News Agency quoted a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying.

The United States and South Korea often claim that North Korea is impoverishing its people by diverting its scant resources into building nuclear weapons and long-range missiles.

On Thursday, Mrs. Clinton urged the new leader, Kim Jong-un, to chart a course different from that of his father, Kim Jong-il, whose sudden death in December left his relatively inexperienced third son at the helm. The son, still believed to be in his late 20s, has vowed to continue his father’s “military first” policy.

“This young man, should he make a choice that would help bring North Korea into the 21st century, could go down in history as a transformative leader,” Mrs. Clinton told reporters after a meeting with the South Korean foreign and defense ministers in Washington. “Or he can continue the model of the past and eventually North Korea will change, because at some point people cannot live under such oppressive conditions — starving to death, being put into gulags and having their basic human rights denied.”

North Korea always bristles at any outside criticism of its leadership and often counters with sharp language. It has labeled various American and South Korean leaders “human scum,” “war maniacs” and “running dogs.” It once called Mrs. Clinton a “minister in a skirt.”

In recent months, North Korea has focused on the South Korean president, Lee Myung-bak, calling him a “rat,” an epithet often used by Mr. Lee’s most vocal domestic critics. It has also threatened to attack South Korean television stations and newspapers that have published reports critical of the North’s new leadership.

Mr. Lee has also raised the ire of the North by withholding large shipments of aid until it gives up its nuclear weapons program. Political analysts say they suspect that the North is increasing its anti-South Korea propaganda to help consolidate support for its new leader.

On Sunday, the North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman said the country built nuclear weapons to protect its dignity and would continue to bolster its nuclear weapons program “as long as the U.S. persistently antagonizes it.”

The United States should mind its own business, since “99 percent of its population is exploited by those who account for just 1 percent,” he said. “Hillary would be well advised to pay more attention to the issues of economic crisis and huge hordes of jobless people, which have become so serious that they may dash the hope of the administration of the Democratic Party” to stay in power.

ople instead of spending money on weapons.

Advertise on 3 Boats Held by Gunmen, China Says

19 Jun

BEIJING — The Chinese state news media said Thursday that North Korean gunmen plying the Yellow Sea had seized three Chinese fishing boats with 29 sMany of the details remained murky. The Beijing News said the boats were intercepted on May 8 in waters between China and North Korea. The report quoted one of the ships’ owners, Zhang Dechang, as saying that he had spoken by phone to a kidnapped sailor and that the captors were demanding about $189,000. Later reports said that had been reduced to about $142,000.

Another newspaper, The Global Times, quoted Mr. Zhang as saying that the attackers had brandished weapons and that the Chinese sailors had not resisted. “The captured fishermen have been locked in a small house, with no food to eat,” he said.

There were conflicting accounts about where the fishing boats originated. Most said they were from the city of Dalian in the northeast, but on Thursday an engineer from the Wenzhou Engineering Survey Institute, in the southern province of Zhejiang, sent messages on Twitter and on China’s Sina Weibo microblog service saying the boats were from his institute and asking the public to pressure Beijing to take action.

“I have two appeals,” the engineer, Lu Zichuan, wrote. “First, release our people safely, this is most important; second, release the boats.”

It was not clear whether the gunmen were connected with the North Korean government or were rogue mariners. At a briefing on Thursday, Hong Lei, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, declined to discuss details but said officials were in touch with their North Korean counterparts. “We hope this problem will be appropriately solved as soon as possible,” he said.

There was no immediate comment from North Korea.

The episode threatened to aggravate relations between North Korea and China, a critical source of aid for the impoverished North and one of its few remaining allies. The alliance has been strained by the bellicosity of the North and its threat to test a third nuclear device despite international condemnation and United Nations sanctions.

The timing was also inopportune for China, which faces a nettlesome array of maritime challenges, including a recent flare-up of territorial disputes with the Philippines, Vietnam and Japan. In recent months, there have also been violent clashes between Chinese fishermen and the South Korean Coast Guard. ailors aboard and were demanding a ransom for their release.