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Sweden to hear Julian Assange warrant appeal

Posted 28/04/2015

Julian Assange has been sheltering in Ecuador's London embassy since June 2012

Sweden's Supreme Court has said it would hear a legal appeal from WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to overturn the arrest warrant against him.

"The Supreme Court grants leave to appeal in the matter regarding the arrest," the court said in statement.

The 43-year-old Australian has been sheltering inside Ecuador's London embassy since June 2012 to avoid a British extradition to Sweden, which wants to question him on allegations of sexual assault, which he denies.

Assange says he fears that if Britain extradited him to Sweden, he would then be extradited to the United States where he could be tried for one of the largest information leaks in US history.



The Australian publisher and journalist is known as the editor-in-chief of the website WikiLeaks, which he co-founded in 2006 after an earlier career in hacking and programming. WikiLeaks achieved particular prominence in 2010 when it published U.S. military and diplomatic documents leaked by Chelsea Manning. 


Assange has been under investigation in the United States since that time. In the same year, the Swedish Director of Public Prosecution opened an investigation into sexual offences that Assange is alleged to have committed. In 2012, facing extradition to Sweden, he sought refuge at the Embassy of Ecuador in London and was granted political asylum by Ecuador.

Assange is wanted for questioning over one count of unlawful coercion, two counts of sexual molestation, and one count of lesser-degree rape alleged to have been committed against two women during a visit to Sweden in August 2010, Assange denies the allegations.

On 7 December 2010, Assange was remanded in custody at London's Wandsworth Prison after a judge denied bail at a hearing considering his extradition to Sweden for criminal investigation into the sexual assault allegations against him. On 16 December 2010, he was released on bail after another appeal.

On 13 March 2015, in a reversal of their prior position on the matter, the Swedish prosecutors announced that they would be willing to interview Assange in the UK.



Horsemeat Probe Arrests

Posted 26/04/2015

The horsemeat probe involved police in France, Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, UK & Netherlands

Police from seven European countries have arrested 26 people in a crackdown on a horse meat trafficking ring two years after a tainted meat scandal that rocked the European Union.


The EU's judicial agency Eurojust said in a statement that the swoop gathering hundreds of police and judicial officials "succeeded in stopping an organised criminal network involved in trade in illegal horse meat."

The operation involved officers and the judiciary in France, Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Britain, the European Union agency said.

Eurojust did not say where the 26 suspects were arrested but the Dutch public prosecutor's office said three were arrested in the Netherlands.
France had requested the trio's extradition, the prosecutors added.

Media in Belgium said four of its nationals, including the alleged ringleader, were arrested in France.

Eurojust said the main suspect in the ring, which is accused of introducing horse meat unfit for human consumption into the European food chain, was Belgian.

The suspect, who was operating out of Belgium, had been under investigation since November 2012, the statement added.

French authorities estimate that between 2010 and 2013 some 4,700 horses unfit for human consumption were slaughtered for the food trade, Eurojust said.

Dozens of commercial and private premises were searched in the raids and more than 800 horse passports seized along with medication, microchips and computer equipment.

The arrests come two years after a major scandal triggered by the discovery that horsemeat was being passed off as beef in burgers and other meat products sold across Europe.

Meatballs, sausages and frozen burgers were pulled from supermarket shelves by the millions over the find.

Eurojust did not say whether there was any connection between this week's raids and the 2013 horsemeat scandal.



The European meat adulteration scandal goes back to 2013; when foods advertised as containing beef were found to contain undeclared or improperly declared horse meat, as much as 100% of the meat content in some cases, and other undeclared meats, such as pork. The issue came to light on 15 January 2013, when it was reported that horse DNA had been discovered in frozen beef burgers sold in several Irish and British supermarkets. Horse meat is not harmful to health and is eaten in many countries, but is considered a taboo food in many countries, including the UK and Ireland.

The analysis stated that 23 out of 27 samples of beef burgers also contained pig DNA; pork being a taboo food in the Muslim and Jewish communities.

While not a direct food safety issue, the scandal revealed a major breakdown in the traceability of the food supply chain, and therefore some risk that harmful ingredients were included as well. Sports horses for instance could have entered the food supply chain, and with them the veterinary drug phenylbutazone which is banned in food animals.

The scandal spread to 13 other European countries and European authorities decided to find an EU-wide solution. The EU used to collect data on slaughtering of horses but stopped in 2008 when a voluntary agreement was made between Member States to provide this information. Since then, no country has made its data available, and there were further seizures in December 2013.

Meat testing was initiated of about 4,000 horse meat samples for the veterinary drug, and recommendations on stricter Labelling of the Origin of Processed Meat were published.

In recent years, statistics have however been published on imports and exports of horsemeat. Though the data is incomplete, it does provide an indication of the UK and Ireland's place in EU trade of horsemeat.



Auschwitz bookkeeper admits to 'moral guilt'

Posted 21/04/2015

Oskar Groening is accused by prosecutors of being an accessory in the murder at Auschwitz

Former SS officer Oskar Groening, known as the "bookkeeper of Auschwitz," admitted at his trial to "moral guilt" over the mass murder at the death camp and asked for "forgiveness".

"For me there's no question that I share moral guilt," the 93-year-old told the judges, admitting that he knew about the gassing of Jews.

"I ask for forgiveness," he told the court.Oskar GroeningOskar Groening

"You have to decide on my legal culpability."

The former bookkeeper has gone on trial in Germany, with 70 Holocaust survivors and victims' relatives attending the court.

Mr Groening is accused by prosecutors of being an accessory in the murder of 300,000 people, even though he was not involved in any actual killing at the notorious Nazi death camp.

The trial of Mr Groening, who was 21 and by his own admission an enthusiastic Nazi when he was sent to Auschwitz in 1942, is significant for several reasons.

It may turn out to be one of the last big Holocaust trials because so few Nazis suspected of committing crimes during World War Two are still alive.

The case is also unusual because Mr Groening, unlike many of the other SS men and women who worked at concentration camps,has spoken openly about his time at Auschwitz in interviews over the years, in part, he says, to counter Holocaust denial.

He has told of the horrible crimes he witnessed at the camp, describing himself as a "small cog in the wheel" while also making clear that he never killed anyone and therefore sees himself as legally innocent.

Mr Groening's job at Auschwitz was to collect the belongings of deportees after they had arrived at the camp by train and had been put through a selection process that resulted in many being sent directly to the gas chambers.

He was responsible for inspecting their luggage, removing and counting any bank notes that were inside, and ensuring they were sent on to SS offices in Berlin, where they helped to fund the Nazi war effort.

"Through his actions, he helped the NS (Nazi) regime financially and supported its systematic killing campaign," Hanover prosecutors say in their 85-page indictment.

Mr Groening's lawyer Hans Holtermann says his client's actions do not make him an accessory to murder and, until recently, the German justice system agreed with him.


In 1985, prosecutors in Frankfurt decided not to pursue the case against Mr Groening and dozens of other concentration camp workers, saying there was no causal link between their actions and the killings that occurred around them.

Just two years ago, they declined a new request to take up the case.

Prosecutors in Hanover disagreed, emboldened by the case of Ivan Demjanjuk, who in 2011 was convicted of being an accessory to mass murder despite there being no evidence of him having committed a specific crime during his time as a guard at the Sobibor camp.



The charges against Mr Groening relate to the period between May and July 1944 when 137 trains carrying roughly 425,000 Jews from Hungary arrived in Auschwitz.

At least 300,000 of them were sent straight to the gas chambers, the indictment says.

The Groening trial will be attended by a number of Auschwitz survivors who are also joint plaintiffs in the case.

They spoke at a news conference in Lueneburg, near Hamburg, on the eve of the hearing.

"If I think back at the long period of time, the 70 years, that have gone by between me leaving Auschwitz-Birkenau and now, this trial is one of the most important events in my life," said Eva Pusztai-Fahidi, a survivor from Budapest.

Hedy Bohm, a survivor from New York, said she wanted to see Mr Groening declared guilty but was not out for vengeance, and saw no need for him to go to jail now, at the age of 93.

"Those who commit crimes today must know they will be held responsible in the future," she said. "And never again will they be able to just plead 'I'm a cog in the machinery, I didn't kill'."


Source: Reuters



Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias gives King Felipe ‘Game of Thrones’ box set

Posted 15/04/2015

The Spanish Monarch appeared amused with gift, despite politician skipping protocol to hand over discs.

The leader of anti-austerity party Podemos, Pablo Iglesias, skipped protocol on Wednesday in order to personally deliver a gift to Spain’s King Felipe VI.

The pony-tailed Iglesias, whose new party is faring well in the opinion polls ahead of this year’s general election, handed over a box-set of Game of Thrones to the monarch.

"That’s great, I haven’t seen it,” the King said with a grin

Despite the politician’s unorthodox approach, King Felipe appeared amused by the gesture. That’s great, I haven’t seen it,” he said with a grin. Shortly after, Iglesias told reporters he had given the king the four seasons of the violent fantasy series so that he “would understand the key points of the political crisis in Spain.”

The exchange marked the first time that Iglesias and Felipe VI had met, and took place during a visit the monarch was making to European Union institutions in Brussels. The King was due to meet with Spanish MEPs for 20 minutes in the European Parliament. Iglesias had confirmed he would be attending, despite the refusal to appear of other Spanish groups, such as United Left (IU) and pro-Basque independence party Bildu.


Expectations over a possible meeting between the king and Iglesias have been high after the latter requested an audience with Felipe VI earlier this year. He has not yet received an official response.



Germany to bring tanks back into serviceGuadalupe del OlmoGuadalupe del Olmo

Posted 11/04/2015

By Guadalupe del Olmo

On the 18th of March this year US military tanks arrived in Poland to take part in NATO military exercises as tensions continue to simmer in Eastern Europe.

Over two dozen US military vehicles, along with around 200 soldiers from the 1st Brigade Combat Team, will take part in the exercises and will stay in Poland until the end of June.

Further to that we learn today Germany plans to bring 100 retired tanks back into service in what is widely seen as a response to rising tensions with Russia over Ukraine and to presumably reinforce “NATO’s resolve.” The tanks were sold to industry as part of defence cuts after the Cold War. The German defence ministry said it would spend €22m (£16m - $24m) on bringing its total of tanks to 328.

NATO officials agreed in February to create a quick-reaction force to meet the challenges posed by the Ukraine crisis and by Islamic extremists, and defence ministers have also agreed to more than double the size of the alliance's Response Force.

The moves were seen as a signal that NATO regards Russia's seizure of Crimea and its illegal military adventures into eastern Ukraine as much more than a temporary crisis.


German defence ministry spokesman Jens Flosdorff confirmed a report by Der Spiegel saying 100 Leopard 2 battle tanks will be bought back from the defence industry, which has kept them in storage.

Jens FlosdorffJens Flosdorff

The spokesman said Germany has to ensure that it can deploy troops with the correct equipment to the right place in a short period of time, given the new goals of flexibility and swift reaction times.

The move partially reverses a decision made four years ago to cut the total number of German tanks from 350 to 225."This can only succeed if the equipment does not need to be first moved around through the country," Mr Flosdorff said. The tanks will begin to be modernised in 2017.

The Leopard 2 is the main battle tank developed by Krauss-Maffei in the early 1970s for the then West German Army. The tank first entered service in 1979 and succeeded the earlier Leopard 1 as the main battle tank of the German Army.

Various versions have served in the armed forces of Germany and twelve other European countries, as well as several non-European nations. More than 3,480 Leopard 2 have been manufactured. The Leopard 2 first saw combat in Kosovo with the German Army and has also seen action in Afghanistan with the Danish and Canadian contributions to the International Security Assistance Force.

One thinks, for perspective in terms of numbers, of the greatest tank battle of World War II, which took place on July the 12th 1943, where in total, 1,500 tanks were involved at Prokhorovka, some 50 miles to the south-east of Kursk. This came out of a total number of 2,700 German, and 3,600 Soviet tanks engaged. But of course that was a very different time.

NATO exercises are nothing new, although this development in Germany is significant, in terms of optics, I doubt Vladimir Putin will lose any sleep!


By Guadalupe del Olmo for EU Spectator



Blair's warning over Cameron's EU referendum promise

Posted 07/04/2015

British Prime Minister David Cameron's plan to hold a European Union membership referendum if he is re-elected would lead to an intense period of uncertainty for businesses, former British prime minister Tony Blair has said.

Mr Cameron's Conservatives are neck-and-neck with the opposition Labour Party in most polls ahead of the 7 May vote.

He has promised to renegotiate Britain's ties with Brussels, and then hold a referendum by the end of 2017.

In a campaign speech this morning, Mr Blair, a former Labour leader and prime minister from 1997-2007, said the "short-term" pain of             Mr Cameron's proposed re-negotiation has been underestimated.

"Think of the chaos produced by the possibility, never mind the reality, of Britain actually quitting Europe," Mr Blair said.

"Jobs that are secure suddenly insecure; investment decisions postponed or cancelled; a pall of unpredictability hanging over the British economy."

Responding, Mr Cameron accused Mr Blair of not "trusting" the British people.

Speaking on a campaign visit to Northern Ireland, Mr Cameron hit back at suggestions he is risking the stability of the country in order to appease UKIP.

"I think Tony Blair is wrong. I want changes in Europe but then, unlike Tony Blair, I will trust the people in an in-out referendum," he said.

The Tory leader went on to say "we should ask people if they want to stay a member of this organisation."

"You cannot ignore the will of the people as Tony Blair thinks we should - and it is not just him, it is Ed Miliband."

Conservative finance minister George Osborne rejected the idea that the referendum would deter investors.

He cited continued inward investment since his party first made the pledge.

"He's doing a good service to us all today by ... advertising the fact that if you vote Conservative, you get a referendum on Britain's membership of the European Union," Mr Osborne told a news conference.

If Britain voted to leave the EU, business would face the most intense uncertainty since World War II, Mr Blair said.

"There would be significant business uncertainty in the run-up to a vote but should the vote go the way of exit, then there would be the most intense period of business anxiety, reconsideration of options and instability since the war."

Mr Blair argued that Mr Cameron made the referendum pledge to appease Eurosceptic members of his party and to try to win back voters who have defected to the anti-EU UK Independence Party.

"This issue, touching as it does the country's future, is too important to be treated like this," Mr Blair said.


Source: Reuters