‘Stop torture, imprisonment of Julian Assange’


A pedestrian passes pro-Assange graffitti outside Westminster Magistrates Court in London. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

By Laura Tiernan:

The Lancet publishes letter from doctors: “End torture and medical neglect of Julian Assange

18 February 2020

This week’s edition of the Lancet—the world’s pre-eminent peer-reviewed medical journal—carries a letter from 117 medical doctors in 18 countries, renewing their call for urgent action to save the life of WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange. Their letter appears less than one week before the start of the US extradition hearing in London that may decide Assange’s fate.

The doctors’ two-page letter appears in the correspondence section of the Lancet under the heading “End torture and medical neglect of Julian Assange.” It was written by Dr Stephen Frost (UK), Dr Lissa Johnson, clinical psychologist (Australia), Dr Jill Stein (former leader of the US Green Party) and William Frost (UK).

“The case of Assange… is multifaceted,” the doctors write. “It relates to law, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, journalism, publishing, and politics. It also, however, clearly relates to medicine and public health. The case highlights several concerning aspects that warrant the medical profession’s close attention and concerted action.”

Nearly three months ago, on November 22, more than 65 doctors issued an open letter to the UK government challenging the illegal and arbitrary detention of Assange. A follow-up letter to the Australian government was issued on December 16. Neither government has responded.

Issuing their appeal to medical colleagues throughout the world—the Lancet has 1.8 million subscribers—the letter’s authors describe multiple human rights violations by the US, UK, Swedish, Ecuadorian and Australian governments against Assange. This includes nearly a decade of “illegal and arbitrary detention” and relentless state persecution amounting to “prolonged psychological torture.”

Readers of the Lancet might be shocked to learn that doctors treating Assange in London have faced intimidation and state surveillance—methods commonly employed by military dictatorships. “There was… a climate of fear surrounding the provision of health care in the Embassy,” the letter recounts, with treating doctors forced to report their identity to police.

“Disturbingly,” they write, “it seems that this environment of insecurity and intimidation, further compromising the medical care available to Assange, was by design. Assange was the subject of a 24/7 covert surveillance operation inside the embassy, as the emergence of secret video and audio recordings has shown.

“He was surveilled in private and with visitors, including family, friends, journalists, lawyers, and doctors. Not only were his rights to privacy, personal life, legal privilege, and freedom of speech violated, but so, too, was his right to doctor–patient confidentiality.”

The signatories state emphatically, “We condemn the torture of Assange. We condemn the denial of his fundamental right to appropriate health care. We condemn the climate of fear surrounding the provision of health care to him. We condemn the violations of his right to doctor–patient confidentiality. Politics cannot be allowed to interfere with the right to health and the practice of medicine.”

Doctors for Assange (as the doctors are collectively known) have launched a new website, and their letter to the Lancet links to this, “We invite fellow doctors to join us as signatories to our letters to add further voice to our calls. Even as the world’s designated authorities on arbitrary detention, torture, and human rights added their calls to doctors’ warnings, governments have sidelined medical authority, medical ethics, and the human right to health.

“This politicisation of foundational medical principles is of grave concern to us, as it carries implications beyond the case of Assange. Abuse by politically motivated medical neglect sets a dangerous precedent, whereby the medical profession can be manipulated as a political tool, ultimately undermining our profession’s impartiality, commitment to health for all, and obligation to do no harm.”

The doctors issue a stark warning, “Should Assange die in a UK prison, as the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture has warned, he will have effectively been tortured to death. Much of that torture will have taken place in a prison medical ward, on doctors’ watch. The medical profession cannot afford to stand silently by, on the wrong side of torture and the wrong side of history, while such a travesty unfolds.”

Yesterday, Doctors for Assange sent copies of their letter to UK Home Secretary Priti Patel and to Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne. “Mr Assange’s human rights to health care and freedom from torture must be upheld. At this late hour, we call on you to act decisively,” the doctors wrote.

Their letter to the Lancet concludes, “Our appeals are simple: we are calling upon governments to end the torture of Assange and ensure his access to the best available health care before it is too late. Our request to others is this: please join us\.”

This video from the USA says about itself:

The Prosecution of Julian Assange and Its Impact on the Freedom of the Press | National Press Club

WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange has been indicted on 17 counts of Espionage and 1 count of conspiracy to commit computer crime for WikiLeaks’ 2010 publications of the Iraq War Logs, the Afghan War Diary, and State Department cables leaked to WikiLeaks by US Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning. On Jan. 30th 2020, these legal and academic experts discussed the impact of Assange’s prosecution on the freedom of the press, at the National Press Club’s First Amendment Lounge in Washington DC.

Speakers:
-Jameel Jaffer, Director, Knight First Amendment Institute
-Amy Jeffress, Attorney, former US Department of Justice
-Ben Wizner, Director, ACLU Speech, Privacy & Technology Project

Moderator:
-Mary-Rose Papandrea, Constitutional Law Professor, UNC

The Courage Foundation supports whistleblowers and the public’s right to know. Courage hosts Julian Assange’s defense site at defend.wikileaks.org.

By Fred Mazelis in the USA:

Courage Foundation holds public meeting in New York City in defense of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange

18 February 2020

An audience of about 150 heard a panel of speakers in New York City on February 15 at a meeting in defense of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. He is now being held under harsh conditions in London’s maximum-security Belmarsh prison pending the outcome of a request for extradition to the United States, where he faces up to 175 years in prison on trumped-up charges of violating the 1917 Espionage Act. Assange’s real crime is his courageous exposure of secrecy, corruption and imperialist war crimes.

The extradition hearing in London is scheduled to begin on Monday, February 24. A rally has been called at the British Consulate in New York City, at Second Avenue and 47th St., for 11 a.m. on that day.

The February 15 meeting, held at the City University of New York Law School in Queens, New York, was organized by the Courage Foundation. Other sponsors included the New York City chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, and Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR).

The panel of speakers included James Goodale, the former general counsel of the New York Times during the Pentagon Papers case of 1971; Renata Avila, a member of the defense team for Julian Assange and a close friend of the journalist and publisher; Glen Ford, the executive editor of the Black Agenda Report; and Max Blumenthal, the editor of The Grayzone website.

Several others appeared on video, including Daniel Ellsberg, the whistleblower who leaked the Pentagon Papers to the press nearly 50 years ago; linguist and political activist Noam Chomsky; and author Alice Walker.

The meeting opened with brief video greetings from Jennifer Robinson, a leading member of the Assange defense team, who stressed the international significance of the attempt to railroad the WikiLeaks publisher into an American prison. Robinson pointed to the recent attempt by the fascistic government headed by Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil to bring charges against journalist Glenn Greenwald that are virtually identical to those facing Assange.

The first speaker, James Goodale, related the experience of the Pentagon Papers case, which was at first a civil action attempting to enjoin the Times and the Washington Post from publishing the classified government study of the quagmire facing US imperialism in Vietnam. Goodale explained that Richard Nixon’s attorney general, John Mitchell, who was later jailed in the Watergate scandal, directed that the Times and reporter Neil Sheehan be criminally prosecuted under the 1917 Espionage Act for the publication of the Pentagon Papers. However, that the effort collapsed in the face of the deepening scandal and crisis that would lead eventually to Nixon’s resignation.

Speaking of the indictment facing Assange, Goodale warned that if it is successful, it means the end of investigative journalism. “This is a case I have dreaded for 50 years. It is a case that we must all fight.”

A high point of the meeting was the appearance on video of Daniel Ellsberg. He warned that if the prosecution of Assange succeeds, “the public will know essentially what the government chooses to tell them, however untrue and however selective and misleading. … It’s hard to call that a democratic republic.”

Ellsberg explained that both Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump had used the Espionage Act to silence dissent. Along with the other speakers, he also stressed the importance of coming to the defense of whistleblower Chelsea Manning, who had already served seven years in prison when she was thrown back in jail last March, where she has been held in contempt for nearly a year after she refused to participate in the attempt to frame up Assange.

Noam Chomsky declared that the vendetta against Assange reminded him of Italy under the fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, who silenced the voice of Italian Marxist and Communist Party leader Antonio Gramsci, who was imprisoned in 1926 and remained there under brutal conditions until his death 11 years later, at the age of 46.

The second member of the panel to speak was Renata Avila, who brought greetings from Assange. “He’s one of us, he should be here,” she declared. Assange “has a very long list of enemies. … His most important ally is the people.” Avila explained that most of the newspapers that had partnered with WikiLeaks in the publication and exposure of corruption and war crimes had now abandoned him. Assange was a political prisoner, she said, who had dedicated his life to the public interest, to resisting secrecy and censorship, rather than using his enormous talents to become wealthy. She warned that the extradition case could drag on until the summer of 2021, and that a powerful movement in defense of Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning must be developed and strengthened during this period.

Glen Ford declared that Assange and Manning are being punished because the images made available by WikiLeaks of a massacre in Iraq “demolished the image of the US military as a force for good in the world. … They have contributed materially to the weakening of the US war machine.” US imperialism claims “the power, the right to police the world, imprisoning and killing anyone who opposes its global supremacy,” he added

Ford also related the attack on Assange to “Russiagate”, the campaign to use alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election to portray Assange as an agent of a foreign power in order to frame him under the Espionage Act, while launching a campaign of censorship and other attacks on democratic rights. While Washington lies about its concern for human rights at home and abroad, “the United States meddles in the internal affairs of every nation on the earth,” currently targeting elected governments in Syria, Venezuela and elsewhere. “Julian Assange and WikiLeaks were put at the top of the empire’s hit list. … Assange is of course not a US citizen, he is Australian, but none of that matters” in the campaign to punish him, Ford declared.

The final speaker was Max Blumenthal. He spoke about the years of public demonization of Assange, speaking ironically of his portrayal as “a far-right libertarian, a far-left anarchist, a Russian asset wrecking the otherwise perfectly democratic Democratic Party. …” Blumenthal referred to the fact that the vicious persecution of Assange is now being ignored by the mainstream press and public officials, who are complicit in the attempt to silence and destroy him. The attack on Julian Assange threatens “the survival of critical, courageous, adversarial journalism.”

This author spoke from the floor in the brief question period after the speakers, stressing that the WSWS, the most widely read online socialist publication, has, along with the Socialist Equality Parties around the world, been in the forefront of the campaign in defense of Assange and Manning.

In the past three months alone, more than 100 separate reports, statements and interviews on this campaign have been published by the WSWS. Earlier this month, the SEP held a meeting in defense of Assange in Montreal; and over the next two weeks, a series of rallies are being held by the Australian SEP and the New Zealand Socialist Equality Group, in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, Australia, as well as Wellington, New Zealand. The British SEP is holding a meeting in London next Sunday, the day before the start of the extradition hearing there.

The campaign in defense of Assange and Chelsea Manning must be armed with a political strategy. Max Blumenthal, concluding his remarks on Saturday night, advanced the call for support for Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders in the current Democratic Party presidential primary campaign, along with a pressure campaign to convince him to drop the charges against Assange once elected.

As the WSWS has insisted from the outset, there is only one social force that can successfully lead the fight to free Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning. The defense of these political prisoners is part of the struggle of the international working class against the preparations for world war and dictatorship.

Trump ordered Assange’s seizure by British police and wanted him dead: here.

CIA torture scandal, new information


This 7 December 2019 video says about itself:

An article in the New York Times has raised more concerns over America’s human rights record. The article cites a report entitled “How America Tortures”, describing the treatment one current Guantanamo Bay prisoner and others endured at the hands of American intelligence agents.

By Tom Carter in the USA:

America’s torturers and their co-conspirators must be prosecuted

9 December 2019

“I was in such an indescribable state of pain… I could hear sounds coming from the brothers, not only one but more than one brother; one was moaning, another one vomiting and another one screaming: my back, my back!”

“He started banging my head against the wall with both his hands. The banging was so strong that I felt at some point my skull was in pieces… Then he dragged me to another very tiny squared box. With the help of the guards he shoved me inside the box…”

—Denbeaux, Mark et al., How America Tortures (2019), Appendix I: Abu Zubaydah’s Notes

**

Last month, the Seton Hall University School of Law’s Center for Policy and Research published a paper titled “How America Tortures”, which contains eight significant drawings by torture victim Abu Zubaydah.

The drawings by themselves are a powerful indictment of the entire political establishment in the United States, which has failed to hold anyone accountable for the crimes that are depicted.

The paper represents the work of a team led by Professor Mark Denbeaux, who is serving as an attorney for a number of Guantanamo Bay detainees, including Abu Zubaydah. The paper brings together material from numerous sources, including Central Intelligence Agency cables and other government documents, and Abu Zubaydah’s own account of what occurred, to provide a chronology “not only from the CIA’s perspective, but also from the perspective of the tortured.” The result is damning.

The CIA’s torture techniques are cataloged in comprehensive detail in the report. They include “cramped confinement” in small boxes, in some cases “adding insects to the dark box as another way to scare the detainee locked inside.” The paper documents the use of female soldiers to sexually abuse and humiliate detainees, with “female military personnel going shirtless during interrogations, giving forced lap dances, and rubbing red liquids on the detainees which they identified as menstrual blood.”

One FBI agent described finding detainees “chained hand and foot in a fetal position on the floor, with no chair, food, or water. Most times they had urinated or defacated [sic] on themselves, and had been left there for [eighteen, twenty-four] hours or more.”

Loud rap music was played around the clock. The now-infamous practice of “involuntary rectal feeding” involved pumping pureed food into the victim’s rectum for no medical reason.

How have the perpetrators of these bestial crimes managed to avoid prosecution? It is not for lack of evidence.

Today is the fifth anniversary of the release of the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s “executive summary” of its findings regarding the CIA torture program. This executive summary, which runs in the hundreds of pages, is itself merely an outline of the full 6,700-page report, including 38,000 footnotes, which has been suppressed.

The World Socialist Web Site wrote at the time of the release of the summary: “From a legal standpoint, the war crimes and crimes against humanity that are documented in the report warrant the immediate arrest, indictment, and prosecution of every individual involved in the program, from the torturers themselves and their ‘outside contractors’ all the way up to senior officials in the Bush and Obama administrations who presided over the program and subsequently attempted to cover it up.”

The crimes perpetrated by the American military and intelligence agencies in the course of the so-called “war on terror” were heinous, premeditated, and involved extreme depravity. These crimes were further aggravated by protracted efforts to cover them up, destroy evidence and obstruct investigations.

The crimes cannot be written off as the overzealous conduct of low-level “rogue” agents. On the contrary, they were organized in cold blood and at the highest levels. The Seton Hall Law School paper states as a matter of fact that “top officials in the West Wing of the White House and the Office of Legal Counsel of the Department of Justice orchestrated and poorly oversaw a horrific torture program that was responsible for the detention and interrogation of countless detainees.”

A New York Times editorial dated December 5, titled “Don’t Look Away”, is an attempt at damage control following the release of the Abu Zubaydah illustrations. While denouncing torture as “barbaric and illegal”, the article seeks to blame the torture program on the Republicans, denouncing President Trump and “those who think like him.”

The Times concludes: “The United States has by far the greatest security establishment on earth, with the greatest reach. When the United States commits or abets war crimes, it erodes the honor, effectiveness, and value of that force.”

The Times does not attempt to explain how it came to pass that nobody was ever prosecuted for conduct that it admits was “barbaric and illegal” and constituted “war crimes”.

In reality, the CIA torture program was entirely bipartisan. Jay Rockefeller, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, as well as then-House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi were briefed on the program in 2002.

The Obama administration played a key role in legitimizing torture and shielding war criminals from prosecution. Under the slogan of “looking forward not backward”, the Democrats refused to prosecute anyone involved in the program or cover-up. The only CIA employee who was ever prosecuted by the Obama administration in connection with torture was analyst John Kiriakou, who was jailed for publicly acknowledging that the CIA was engaged in waterboarding.

Obama refused for years to release the Senate torture report and assisted the CIA’s efforts to suppress it. In 2015, the Obama administration successfully sued to prevent the American Civil Liberties Union from obtaining it under the Freedom of Information Act.

What did the New York Times have to say about these “barbaric and illegal” practices at the time? On April 6, 2002, a Times headline gloated, “A Master Terrorist is Nabbed”. Describing the abduction of Abu Zubaydah in Pakistan, without charges or legal proceedings of any kind, the Times wrote, “His seizure demonstrates that the painstaking international detective work of the current phase of the war on terror is paying off.”

On June 12, 2002, in an article titled “Traces of Terror”, the Times continued its role as a CIA stenographer: “After nearly 100 sessions with CIA and FBI interrogators at a heavily guarded, undisclosed location, the captured terrorist Abu Zubaydah has provided information that American officials say is central to the Bush administration’s efforts to pre-empt a new wave of attacks against the United States.”

This version of events was, as is now universally acknowledged, a pack of lies. Abu Zubaydah was not a high-level operative in Al Qaeda, and he may not have even been a member. He has never been charged with a crime, let alone tried and convicted. Yet to this day, he continues to rot in a cell in the Guantanamo Bay torture camp, with no prospect of being released.

Five years after the publication of the Senate report, where are the torturers and their co-conspirators now? Gina Haspel, who presided over a CIA torture compound in Thailand and was implicated in the destruction of tapes of Abu Zubaydah’s torture in 2005, was promoted by Trump to become the new director of the agency.

The previous director, John Brennan, who was a high-level CIA official during the Bush administration and under Obama ordered agents to break into Senate staffers’ computers in an effort to search for incriminating information relating to torture, is now serving as a well-paid “senior national security and intelligence analyst” for NBC News and MSNBC. He makes regular appearances on news programs to agitate in favor of the Democrats’ impeachment drive.

James Mitchell, whose company, Mitchell Jessen and Associates, received a $81 million contract from the CIA to develop and implement the “enhanced interrogation” techniques that were used on Abu Zubaydah and others, remains at large. According to a Bloomberg News article in 2014, he is now retired and spends his free time kayaking, rafting and climbing.

And what has been the fate of those who have exposed official criminality? Julian Assange is imprisoned in Belmarsh Prison in London, where his life is endangered by conditions amounting to torture. Chelsea Manning was imprisoned and tortured, released, and then imprisoned again for refusing to testify against Assange before a grand jury. Edward Snowden was forced to flee the country and seek refuge in Russia.

The torturers and their co-conspirators have not been prosecuted, not because of lack of evidence or insufficient legal grounds, but because the entire political establishment is implicated at the highest levels, including the Democrats, the Republicans, the military and intelligence agencies, the establishment media, and all of those who perpetrated the reactionary fraud of the “war on terror”.

The failure to prosecute the torturers has served to embolden the most fascistic layers in the state apparatus, opening the way for Trump to boast of his support for torture in broad daylight. Trump and his fascistic advisers, frightened by the growth of social opposition, believe that the Gestapo-style methods that have been implemented in the course of the “war on terror” are necessary to terrify and suppress opposition both abroad and internally. While Trump brags that he is in favor of implementing torture practices at Guantanamo Bay that are a “hell of a lot worse”, he tells police officers within the US: “Don’t be too nice.”

The Democrats and their allies are concerned that public discussion of the crimes of the state would serve to fuel popular hostility towards the institutions the New York Times describes as the “greatest security establishment on earth”. It would cut across the Democrats’ ongoing efforts to ingratiate and align themselves with the CIA as part of the impeachment drive against Trump. Moreover, the revelations of CIA torture underscore the hypocrisy of their efforts to justify American imperialist aggression and subversion all over the world in the name of “human rights”.

For these reasons, the demand to bring the torturers to justice must be taken up by the international working class. Every individual who participated in the CIA torture program or the cover-up in any capacity, including those who failed to intervene when they had an opportunity to do so, should face arrest, indictment and prosecution.

The fight to end torture once and for all must be connected to the mounting struggles of the international working class to defend and expand its democratic and social rights and halt the drive of the ruling class toward dictatorship. The entire existing social order is implicated in torture and must be overthrown.

CIA, FBI not good alternatives to Trump


This 24 March 2016 video says about itself:

The Dark Prison: The Legacy of the CIA Torture Programme | Fault Lines

“In the immediate aftermath of 9/11 we did some things that were wrong. We did a whole lot of things that were right, but we tortured some folks.”

It’s been more than a year since US President Barack Obama admitted that the CIA tortured prisoners at its interrogation centres.

While the CIA has long admitted the use of waterboarding, which simulates drowning by pouring water into a person’s nose and mouth, a truncated and heavily redacted report by the Senate Intelligence Committee in December 2015 detailed other abuses that went beyond previous disclosures.

Reading like a script from a horror film, some of the techniques involved prisoners being slapped and punched while being dragged naked up and down corridors, being kept in isolation in total darkness, subject to constant deafening music, rectal rehydration and being locked in coffin-shaped boxes.

Critical to the development of the CIA’s brutal interrogation programme was a legal memo that said the proposed methods of interrogation were not torture if they did not cause “organ failure, death or permanent damage”.

Despite failing to produce any useful information about imminent terrorist attacks, the CIA meted out these and other brutal treatments for years after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

And with dozens of people having since been released without charge, and at least a quarter of them officially declared to have been “wrongfully detained”, the effects of torture live on with the victims, burned into their minds.

In this episode of Fault Lines, we explore the plight of these men struggling to overcome their harrowing experiences of torture since leaving CIA-run black sites.

By Barry Grey in the USA:

“Meet the Press” anchor Chuck Todd grills senator: “You don’t trust the FBI and CIA?”

8 October 2019

An exchange on Sunday between NBC News’ “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd and Senator Ron Johnson (Republican from Wisconsin) sums up the right-wing basis on which the Democratic Party and its media allies are conducting their impeachment drive against President Trump.

In the interview, Johnson refused to condemn Trump for withholding military aid in order to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate the role of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden in his son Hunter’s business dealings with a Ukrainian oligarch, the central issue in the impeachment inquiry.

The senator, who cosponsored a bipartisan bill to send arms to the right-wing anti-Russian regime, also sought to defend Trump’s demand that Kiev investigate collaboration between the 2016 Clinton election campaign and Ukraine in depicting Trump as a stooge of Russian President Vladimir Putin and charging Moscow with hacking Democratic Party emails.

At the beginning of 2017, in advance of Trump’s inauguration, the CIA and the rest of the US intelligence agencies officially adopted the fabricated narrative of Russian “meddling” in the 2016 election and Trump campaign collusion. This became the basis for a secret FBI counterintelligence investigation into the Trump White House, which then morphed into the nearly two-year investigation by Special Council Robert Mueller. The current impeachment drive is an extension of this CIA-driven campaign.

When Johnson evaded Todd’s questions concerning Trump’s bullying of Ukraine to advance his personal electoral chances, and instead repeatedly raised the Clinton campaign’s collaboration with Ukrainian officials against Trump, Todd exclaimed as though in exasperated disbelief:

“Do you not trust the FBI? You don’t trust the CIA?” …

Nothing could more clearly reveal the role of the Democratic Party and its media allies in fronting for the intelligence agencies than this exchange between the “liberal” news analyst and the right-wing Republican defender of Trump. The Democrats’ alternative to Trump’s efforts to establish a form of presidential dictatorship and create a fascist movement based on anti-immigrant racism and extreme nationalism is to install a government directly run by the CIA and the Pentagon. …

They evidently believe that the public is infinitely gullible and suffering from collective memory loss.

These, after all, are the organizations that justified the war in Iraq on the basis of the Big Lie of “weapons of mass destruction”. They created the fraudulent narrative of the “war on terror” to justify aggressive wars in Afghanistan, the Middle East and North Africa that killed millions and destroyed entire societies. Meanwhile, in Libya and Syria, they funded and collaborated with Al Qaeda-linked terrorist militias in wars for regime-change.

The CIA has engineered coups and installed military dictatorships and far-right regimes all over the world. It would take many volumes to detail all of the lies and crimes of these pillars of the “deep state” against the people of the United States and the entire world. …

It is crucial that working people not allow their opposition to Trump to be channeled behind the CIA-Democratic impeachment drive. The working class must conduct the struggle against Trump independently of all sections of the ruling class and both capitalist parties. Its methods are those not of palace coup, but class struggle, which must be expanded to embrace all sections of workers and youth both in the US and internationally in the fight against the capitalist system, the source of inequality, war and dictatorship.

As Donald Trump responds to the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives’ impeachment inquiry by seeking to whip up far-right and fascistic forces, the Democrats and their allies in the media are promoting dissident elements in the military command that are publicly denouncing the White House’s decision to withdraw US troops from northern Syria. The extraordinary intervention of high-ranking retired generals is a breach of the core constitutional principle of the subordination of the military to civilian authority. It highlights the right-wing and anti-democratic character of both factions in the political conflict in Washington and the immense dangers facing the working class if the resolution of the crisis is left in the hands of the warring factions of the ruling class: here.

Tortured Saudi feminist’s sister speaks


Lina al-Hathloul, photo by Kristof Vadino

Translated from daily De Standaard in Belgium, 27 July 2019:

Interview

Lina al-Hathloul, sister of imprisoned Saudi activist

“After the torture, silence was no longer an option”

For unclear reasons, activist Loujain al-Hathloul (29) has been in a Saudi cell for over a year, where she was tortured. Her sister Lina (24) lives in Brussels. “She has been electrocuted, beaten and subjected to waterboarding“, she says. Women can now drive cars in Saudi Arabia,

while the activist women who made that possible are threatened by the death penalty

but they also have to keep their mouths shut.

By Jorn De Cock

Brussels: “There is no news”, says Lina al-Hathloul in a flex office in Brussels, where she recently started working for a starting company that works for more solar energy. She has lived in Brussels for seven years, studied law and wants to stay there. But for more than a year, her attention has been constantly diverted to her birthplace, Saudi Arabia, where her sister Loujain is one of the best-known prisoners.

On May 15, 2018, Loujain was brutally taken out of her house at night. She disappeared for weeks without an official statement. The unresolved paradox of that night is that Loujain al-Hathloul became best known for her campaigns against the Saudi driving ban for women. Shortly after her arrest, that driving ban was lifted.

Why did the Saudi regime, which supposedly is modernizing, feel it was necessary to put Loujain and ten other activists in jail just then? In the pro-regime Saudi media, the female activists – some of them professors and grandmothers, others in their twenties such as Loujain – were called ‘traitors’. They were accused of undermining the “security, stability and national unity of the kingdom”.

This spring, a trial finally followed – behind closed doors – but there too, nothing seems to have moved since April. Seven female activists have now been released conditionally, but not Loujain. “She herself has no idea where it’s going”, says sister Lina. “As a survival strategy, she therefore assumes that she will be imprisoned indefinitely.”

The trial initially seemed an elegant solution for the Saudi royal family to finally close that nasty issue. But it turned out differently.

Lina al-Hathloul: “Since April, there has been no further session and nothing has been announced. My sister can now call my family every Sunday. She is in solitary confinement, reading books, but little can be said about this in the telephone conversations. It is mainly we who talk – sometimes via a telephone that my parents hold on to their telephone in Riyadh – so that she hears us.”

How did your sister become an activist?

“She studied in Canada. She was not only an enthusiastic driver there – which she was not allowed to do in Saudi Arabia at the time – but she also became active on the Kik app, as one of the first Saudis. On that app you see a face, a full name, and you can post comments and short videos – which she began to do diligently about everything that happened in Saudi Arabia. ”

“When she returned to the Middle East, she started working in the United Arab Emirates and began campaigning against the driving ban for women in Saudi Arabia. One day she was driving home from the airport by car. My father sat next to her and filmed her. When she then drove again, she was stopped and had to go into jail for 73 days. At that time, she realized that it was not about a driving ban for women, but about the entire system of male custody in Saudi Arabia. ”

“Together with other activists, she started a petition addressed to King Salman. About which she was arrested again in 2017. In February 2018 there was an international conference against discrimination against women in Switzerland, where an official delegation from Saudi Arabia was invited. Loujain also went to sit in the audience and commented on what the delegation said via Twitter. That made them pretty angry.”

“A month later, Loujain was kidnapped in the Emirates: local state security surrounded her car, blindfolded her, and put her on a plane to Saudi Arabia. Then she was in jail for another day, without a reason being given. And last year, on May 15, they suddenly invaded our house in Saudi Arabia overnight and was taken away. For a while we didn’t get any news. After that she was allowed to call occasionally, but there was clearly someone standing next to her. In August my parents were finally allowed to visit her. They noticed that she could barely walk, had red marks on her neck and could not even hold a pen. She didn’t talk about it. It was only at a subsequent visit in September that she gradually started talking.”

What she revealed then went very far.

“Loujain has started telling our parents more month after month. How she was electrocuted, beaten, subjected to waterboarding (sham drowning, ed.), sexual harassment, threat of execution. There is nothing they haven’t done to her.”

On the one hand, the young crown prince Mohamed bin Salman preaches a new era in Saudi Arabia, with “moderate Islam”, entertainment for a mixed audience and the lifting of the driving ban for women. But on the other hand, those who worked for that were imprisoned. What did the royal family want to show?

(carefully): “Their power has been abused. In a previous arrest at the airport, Saud Qahtani (a former close associate of Crown Prince MBS who is also mentioned in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul, ed.) came to her and asked her if she would rather be in jail for twenty years or wanted to get the death penalty. While the torture was going on, she was laughed at and spit on her.”

“In the beginning I thought they just wanted to keep control of the story about the lifting of the driving ban. They did not want anyone to have an opinion about it. So I thought they would release my sister after a month or two. When the months passed, the torture followed, followed by a trial without any transparency.”

A lot of things suddenly surfaced last fall, when journalist Khashoggi was brutally murdered and your sister’s testimonies came. International pressure seemed to be increasing. Did it work out?

“There was more talk about atrocities at the time. The US American senator Marco Rubio

of President Donald Trump’s own party

said Saudi Arabia had gone “full gangster”. Some realized that they might have to answer, that they could not just do everything. Maybe some pressure came, but nothing happened after that. I note that my sister and others are still in jail. ”

You talk fairly openly about your sister’s situation, the families of other prisoners usually don’t. Why did your family start talking?

“The moment we knew about the torture, silence was no longer an option. That is not a simple decision: you break your head about the best risk management. What can be the consequences for her if we talk or not? But if she is tortured, nothing is worse than being silent.”

“She is now in solitary confinement again, but we no longer hear about other tortures. My family would therefore prefer to keep the silence. I can’t do that myself. The last year has made me more rebellious. (smiles) I have become many years older in that one year.”

Your sister also has the support of your parents. That is already an advantage.

“My parents are religious and support the Saudi royal family, but they also have a critical mind. My father, eg, would not simply welcome complete freedom of religion, but at the same time he does not understand why women should be second-class citizens, not allowed to work or to drive a car. My parents are certainly not liberal by European standards, but my brother and sisters have been allowed to study abroad, just like me. Some of us are still there (laughs).”

Your sister also receives international support: she is an honorary citizen of Paris and received an American PEN Award and an honorary doctorate in Louvain-la-Neuve. Meanwhile, the most open pressure comes from the world of entertainment. American actors such as Alec Baldwin plead for her release, singer Nicki Minaj has just cancelled a concert in Saudi Arabia. And that while Saudi Arabia wants to focus more on culture and entertainment. …

Lina: But concerts have nothing to do with fundamental human rights. …

Saudi Arabia was never a real police state. People knew that there were certain “red lines”, but they knew them. Now it seems that everything has become a red line.”

Suppose your sister would be released tomorrow, what would happen to her?

“If that would happen, then I fear she will be forced to remain silent until she would be forgotten.”

Dutch soldiers transfer Afghan prisoners to torturers


This November 2013 video says about itself:

Afghan army torture prisoner as US forces look on

Investigative reporter Matthieu Aikins has uncovered video from Afghanistan showing Afghan National Army members repeatedly whipping a prisoner as US forces look on.

He obtained the video whilst working on an investigation into alleged US war crimes for Rolling Stone magazine. US forces have frequently been accused of turning a blind eye to their Afghan colleagues torturing their prisoners during interrogation.

Here are links to the Matthieu Aikins reports for Rolling Stone:

The A-team killings: here.

Torture video: here.

Democracy Now Interview with Aikins: here.

Vice documentary – “This is What Winning Looks Like”: here.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

‘Prisoners of Dutch military mission tortured by Afghanistan’s secret service

Prisoners who were transferred to the Afghan security service during the Dutch military mission in Uruzgan have been tortured and extorted. That happened despite promises from the then minister Ben Bot that the treatment of the prisoners would be closely monitored, Trouw daily writes.

The newspaper reports on research by the Dutch journalists’ collective Lighthouse Reports. That states that a prisoner tracking system has hardly worked, despite Bot’s promises.

Minister Bot’s promise came after concerned questions from the House of Representatives. The Afghan security service NDS had an extremely bad reputation. It was therefore agreed that the prisoners would be monitored. The International Red Cross and the local AIHRC organization were supposed to get access to the prisoners and Dutch diplomats were supposed to visit the prisoners regularly.

Prisoner tracking system

Lighthouse Reports states that the prisoner tracking system barely functioned. Not only were there not enough people to visit the prisoners, the Red Cross and the AIHRC did not always have access to the prisoners.

There are only 69 reports of prison visits, which are sometimes very short. That means there are no reports on a majority of the approximately 230 people who were transferred to the NDS. A total of 574 people were captured by Dutch soldiers.

Threats

In those 69 reports there is nothing about abuse, but according to Lighthouse Reports that did happen. Together with an Afghan research organisation, the collective tracked down various people who were transferred from the Dutch army to the NDS.

One of those prisoners is M., who was tortured because shortly after the transfer by the Netherlands he was unable to pay an amount of one thousand euros to the NDS.

M. asked his brother to sell their land and bring the proceeds the next day, but when the brother did not come, M. was ill-treated again. That also happened when the brother turned up the day after, but with too little money. Eventually, M. was released, with the announcement that he would be killed if he told someone about the torture and the money.

Cold cell

Also A., then 18 years old, was tortured after the transfer. Sometimes he didn’t get food for days. “If I did get food, it was so filthy that I had to puke.” He was locked up in a cold cell and kept awake. Moreover, his guards threatened with transfer to the US Americans and Guantánamo Bay.

A.’s father eventually managed to scrape together nearly three thousand euros, so that his son was released after a year and a half. Prisoners who could not raise money were sometimes killed, say both M. and A.

Witness

Dutch soldiers have also witnessed the abuse, according to conversations that journalists from Lighthouse Reports had with a number of them. One of them talks about the transfer of a prisoner who was thrown by an Afghan into the loading box of a pickup truck. The prisoner’s head bounced and immediately started bleeding.

Later the veteran asked his senior officer what would happen to the prisoners. To which his supervisor said: “If you are very quiet and you wait a little longer, then you will hear it automatically.”

The Netherlands left Uruzgan in 2010, after which Australia took over the mission. That decided a year later to temporarily stop the transfer of prisoners to the NDS and again in 2013, following an investigation into reports of torture in the NDS prison in Tarin Kowt.

Saudis tortured, beheaded for peacemongering, pro-democracy demonstration


This 7 June 2019 video says about itself:

Saudi Arabia Wants To Crucify Murtaja Qureiris

The Saudi regime intends to have the death penalty for Murtaja Qureiris for peacefully demonstrating for democracy when he was ten years old.

By Bill Van Auken in the USA:

US-backed Saudi regime tortures dissidents on eve of threatened beheadings

8 June 2019

Saudi Arabia’s US-backed monarchical dictatorship has savagely tortured political prisoners facing imminent execution by means of public beheading, according to reports by human rights organizations.

The Saudi human rights organization Al Qst told Al Jazeera that “prisoners are being tortured during interrogations” at the country’s maximum-security prisons. The founder of Al Qst, Yahya Assiri, said the methods of torture routinely used against political prisoners include “electrocution, waterboarding and suspending victims from the ceiling by their hands.”

Amnesty International has reported that women’s rights activists have also been targets of “brutal” physical and psychological torture, including sexual abuse by masked men. Victims of these torture sessions, the human rights group said, “were unable to walk or stand properly, had uncontrolled shaking of the hands and marks on the body. One of the activists reportedly attempted to take her own life repeatedly inside the prison.”

Among those subjected to this horrific abuse and reportedly slated for execution in the immediate aftermath of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which ended this week, are three men described as “moderate” Muslim scholars—Sheikh Salman al-Odah, Awad al-Qarni and Ali al-Omari—who fell afoul of the regime headed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler and Washington’s closest ally in the Arab world.

Salman al-Odah, Awad al-Qarni and Ali al-Omari

Al-Odah is known internationally as a “progressive” Islamic scholar; al-Qarni is an academic, author and preacher; al-Omari is a popular broadcaster. All three are prominent public figures in Saudi Arabia. Al-Odah has 14 million followers on Twitter throughout the Arab world. Al-Qarni has some 2.2 million Twitter followers and al-Omari half a million.

All three men were arrested in September 2017, al-Odah after tweeting a prayer for reconciliation between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which has been subjected to a Saudi-led blockade for the last two years, in large measure because of Qatari economic and political cooperation with Iran.

Al-Qarni was fined and instructed by the monarchical regime to cease all activity on Twitter after he issued statements denouncing corruption and political tyranny. Al-Omari came under the regime’s scrutiny after using his television show to call for greater rights for Saudi women.

Al Jazeera cited human rights activists as stating that both Salman al-Odah and Awad al-Qarni have been hospitalized as result of the damage done by torture sessions and solitary confinement. Ali al-Omari, they reported, has burns and injuries all over his body as a result of electric shock torture inflicted during a year of solitary confinement.

All three are facing the death sentence on the basis of trumped-up “terrorism” charges in the Specialized Criminal Court in Riyadh. Two Saudi government sources and a relative confirmed to the online publication Middle East Eye (MEE) that the government planned to execute the three men soon after Ramadan.

One of these sources also told MEE that the killing spree carried out in April, in which 37 men were decapitated with swords in a single day, most of them Shias charged in connection with the mass protests that swept Saudi Arabia’s predominantly Shiite Eastern Province beginning in 2011, constituted a “trial balloon.”

The House of Saud, according to the report, carried out the mass executions—which included the crucifixion of one of the headless corpses—to test international reaction before putting to death its more publicly prominent political prisoners. It was reportedly satisfied that the bloodbath provoked barely a murmur, and even less than that from its key patron and ally, Washington.

The mass beheadings followed by barely five months the assassination and dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi, a US resident and journalist and former regime insider, at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The brief flurry of media attention to this shocking international crime subsided after the Trump administration made it clear it had no intention of holding bin Salman responsible for ordering and directing the state murder.

The parasitical Saudi monarchy’s understanding that it can carry out its bloody crimes with impunity has been reinforced by the intervention of the Trump White House to override Congress by declaring a state of emergency in order to expedite arms sales to the Saudi kingdom. The Trump administration’s action will allow the Raytheon Company to ship 120,000 bombs to Riyadh, restocking the murderous arsenal it has used to slaughter some 80,000 Yemenis during a four-year-long war that has brought millions in the country to the brink of starvation.

The arms package also includes support for the Saudi F-15 warplanes that are carrying out the bombardment of Yemen, as well as mortars, antitank missiles and rifles. It has been justified by the Trump administration as necessary to counter “Iranian aggression.” The reality is that Saudi Arabia and its fellow Sunni oil monarchies of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) are spending as much as nine times more than Iran on military hardware.

Among those facing beheading in the next round of Saudi mass executions is Murtaja Qureiris, who was arrested at age of 13 and has been sentenced to death for “crimes” he committed when, as a 10-year-old boy, he participated in a bicycle protest in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province.

Murtaja Qureiris, arrested at 13, tortured and facing beheading

At least three of those put to death in the last round of mass beheadings in April were minors at the time of their alleged offenses, making their executions a flagrant violation of international laws barring capital punishment for minors. Among them was Abdulkarim al-Hawaj, who was 16 when he was arrested and charged with participating in demonstrations and using social media to incite opposition to the monarchy. He was convicted based on a confession extracted through torture, including electric shocks and being held with his hands chained above his head.

Also murdered in April was Mujtaba al-Sweikat, who was 17 when he was arrested at King Fahd International Airport. He was grabbed as he prepared to board a plane to the United States to begin life as a student at Western Michigan University. He was severely tortured and beaten, including on the soles of his feet, until he provided his torturers with a confession.

The torture chambers and public beheadings of the House of Saud are the clearest expression of Washington’s role in the Middle East. With all of the US state and media propaganda about “democracy”, “human rights” and a “war on terrorism”, it is founded upon mass murder, naked state terrorism and the torture and execution of children. All of these crimes are committed to further the predatory interests of US imperialism in its efforts to assert hegemony over the energy-rich and geostrategically critical region, and to push back the influence of Iran, Russia and China.

In the end, reliance upon the House of Saud as the keystone of US imperialist interests can end only in a debacle, with the intensification of the class struggle in both the Middle East and the United States itself.