Archive for UK
Julian Assange will be given a month’s notice to leave the Ecuadorian embassy if the country’s main opposition candidate wins the presidency in next week’s election. In an interview with the Guardian, Guillermo Lasso, of the rightwing Creo-Suma alliance, said it was time for the WikiLeaks founder to move on because his asylum was expensive and no longer justified. “The Ecuadorian people have been paying a cost that we should not have to bear,” he said during an interview in Quito. “We will cordially ask Señor Assange to leave within 30 days of assuming a mandate.” Even if there is no change in power in Quito, however, it seems increasingly likely that Assange will soon be moving from the cramped embassy in Knightsbridge that has been his refuge for more than four and a half years. Although the current government has maintained its position of solidarity, all involved have grown increasingly frustrated with a situation that Ecuador’s top diplomat described as “something out of a John le Carré novel”. “Our staff have been through a lot. There is a human cost,” said the foreign minister, Guillaume Long. “This is probably the most watched embassy on the planet.” British police and intelligence have kept the embassy under close surveillance since Ecuador granted asylum in June 2012 to prevent Assange’s extradition to Sweden for questioning about a sexual assault accusation.
Thousands of people converged in London on Saturday for the latest Donald Trump protest. They gathered at outside the US Embassy before making their way down to Downing Street in protest at the immigration ban being imposed by President Donald Trump. It is the latest mass demonstration against the travel ban, which affects seven Muslim-majority countries in Africa and the Middle East. More than 11,000 people are estimated to have joined the demonstration outside the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square, Mayfair. The protest comes after airlines said they are allowing nationals targeted by the ban to board flights to America, after a US judge ruled the Executive Order, signed by Trump on January 27, was unconstitutional.
One of South Africa’s most influential diplomats is accused of running his embassy “like a spaza shop”, brokering personal business deals with international companies and soliciting donations for his foundation. Obed Mlaba, South Africa’s high commissioner to the UK, has been sending letters to directors of various companies operating in the UK and South Africa, on government letterheads, to secure business deals for his personal projects. The projects include the building of a technical school and a private hospital in KwaZulu-Natal under the auspices of the Obed Mlaba Foundation Trust. As far back as 2015, Mlaba received queries from the Department of International Relations and Co-operation regarding his “potential conflict of interest” relating to the nondisclosure of his financial interests. Yet no action has been taken against him. Mlaba said this week that there was nothing inappropriate about his deals, but two South African businessmen based in London said he was known for abusing his position for personal gain.
Assange fears he is being bugged at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Lawyers claim the WikiLeaks founder, who has been holed up in the embassy for the past two years to avoid extradition to Sweden, ‘is most likely under auditory surveillance’. Last year a covert listening device was found behind a plug socket in the ambassador’s office, but security experts described it as rudimentary and unlikely to have been the work of police or the security services. Mr Assange’s new eavesdropping claim was included in a court submission last week in which his lawyers argue his confinement is a ‘deprivation of liberty’ under European law. Among other reasons, they cite his cramped living conditions which mean he ‘cannot carry out his professional duties in a normal fashion’. The 43-year-old has lived at the embassy since Ecuador gave him asylum in 2012.
A Thai diplomat has been summoned to the Foreign Office over concerns about the country’s investigation into the murders of two British backpackers. Foreign minister Hugo Swire took the step amid fears over Thai authorities’ handling of the deaths of Hannah Witheridge, 23, and David Miller, 24. Mr Swire told Thai charge d’affaires Nadhavathna Krishnamra of his “real concern” after two Burmese workers were charged with the killings and paraded in front of cameras having apparently made confessions – before reportedly later withdrawing them. The men, named in reports as bar workers Zaw Lin and Win Zaw Htun, are accused of the brutal murders of Miss Witheridge, from Great Yarmouth, and Mr Miller, from Jersey, on the paradise island of Koh Tao in September. The two suspects, both 21, were charged with three offences – conspiracy to murder, conspiracy to rape and robbery. But later reports – denied by the Thai police – suggested that a Burmese embassy official had formally retracted their confessions amid allegations the pair were tortured. Following Mr Krishnamra’s meeting with Mr Swire today, the Foreign Office said in a statement: “Mr Swire stressed that there was a real concern in the UK about how the investigation has been handled by the Thai authorities. He said that it was crucial for the investigation to be conducted in a fair and transparent way. Earlier this month, Mr Swire spoke to Thailand’s deputy prime minister Tanasak Patimapragorn about the case.
The government has insisted both the British and Myanmar embassies in Thailand “have no problems” with the Thai police’s handling of the Sept 15 murders of two British tourists on Koh Tao even as police face claims the Myanmar suspects were tortured. Foreign Minister Tanasak Patimapragorn said he was confident the case would not lead to any disputes between Thailand and Myanmar because he had spoken with the embassy and it did not have any problems with the investigation results. His remarks came after the police held a press conference Tuesday to insist on the accuracy of the investigation which had resulted in charges against two Myanmar men. Police and diplomatic sources said that the British ambassador or a senior embassy official would attend the press conference. Instead, the embassy was not represented. The bodies of Hannah Witheridge, 23, and David Miller, 24, were found on a beach of the southern island of Koh Tao in Surat Thani province on Sept 15. Police pursued the case for more than two weeks before they detained three Myanmar migrant workers, two of whom were charged over the murders while the other was treated as an eyewitness. National police chief Somyot Pumpanmuang defended the arrest of the two Myanmar men for the murders even though the suspects claimed they were tortured by police while in custody. Contradicting earlier reports that Myanmar embassy officials were satisfied with explanations provided by Thai authorities over the arrest of their nationals, Htun Aye, the embassy’ s second secretary, told the Bangkok Post Tuesday it was too early to say whether his team was satisfied with all the information they were given by authorities.
A senior Iranian lawmaker slams the UK premier’s recent accusations against the Islamic Republic, urging Iran’s Foreign Ministry not to allow reopening of the British embassy in Tehran. In his address to the UN General Assembly in New York, UK Prime Minister David Cameron claimed that “Iran’s support for terrorist organizations” needs to change. Chairman of Iran’s Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Committee Alaeddin Boroujerdi said Cameron’s recent statements show the UK government’s continued “animosity” toward the Islamic Republic. “The [Iranian] Foreign Ministry should reconsider [its decision] to allow the British embassy to resume its activities in Tehran,” added the senior Iranian legislator. Iran and the UK officially resumed direct diplomatic ties in February after the two countries severed diplomatic relations in 2011. Tehran and London have appointed non-resident chargés d’affaires as a first step toward reopening their respective embassies.