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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, arrested in London. US seek extradition

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The United States has requested the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, 47, British police said, after they arrested him at the Ecuadorean embassy in London on Thursday.

The founder of WikiLeaks Julian Assange was found guilty of skipping bail in the U.K. on Thursday, and faces likely extradition to the U.S., after a dramatic day that began with his arrest at the Ecuadorean embassy in London where he had been under diplomatic protections since 2012.

U.K. police confirmed on Thursday that he was arrested “on behalf of the United States authorities” as well as on U.K. charges of “failing to surrender without reasonable excuse.” The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia said that he faces up to five years in prison on charges of “conspiracy to commit computer intrusion” related to the 2010 leak of hundreds of thousands of U.S. diplomatic cables.

Ecuador withdrew Assange’s asylum on Thursday morning, inviting police officers with a warrant for his arrest into the Central London embassy. Assange first barged past officers shouting “this is unlawful, I’m not leaving,” according to prosecutors, before being handcuffed and bundled into a police van. Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno cited Assange’s bad behavior in the embassy as one reason for allowing U.K. police to arrest Assange.

At trial later that afternoon, a U.K. district judge found Assange guilty of skipping bail — a charge for which he had been wanted since 2012 — calling him “a narcissist who cannot see beyond his own selfish interest.”

Assange could be sentenced to up to a year in prison in the U.K. but may be extradited to the U.S. before serving time. “Papers for the extradition proceedings have to be circled within 65 days,” Assange’s barrister Liam Walker told TIME.

Assange, 47, received diplomatic asylum from Ecuador after breaching bail in the U.K. during an investigation into sexual assault allegations in Sweden. Sweden has since rescinded its arrest warrant for Assange, though the case is not closed.

The WikiLeaks founder shot to prominence in 2010 when his site published a cache of leaks from the U.S. military provided by former U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning, including videos showing U.S. troops allegedly killing civilians. Assange has argued that he could be arrested by the U.S. if he were arrested in the U.K. or extradited to Sweden.

U.S. prosecutors allege that that Assange helped Manning crack a password to access a government network on Department of Defense computers. Manning then downloaded classified records and sent them to Wikileaks.

“Cracking the password would have allowed Manning to log on to the computers under a username that did not belong to her,” the U.S. attorney’s office said. “Such a deceptive measure would have made it more difficult for investigators to determine the source of the illegal disclosures.”

At one point, Manning told Assange, “after this upload, that’s all I really have got left,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

“Curious eyes never run dry in my experience,” Assange responded, prosecutors said.

In a video posted to Twitter Thursday, the Ecuadorean President Lenin Moreno criticized Assange’s “discourteous and aggressive” behavior in the embassy, saying it had “led the situation to a point where the asylum of Mr. Assange is unsustainable and no longer viable.” Moreno took office as President in May 2017, replacing Rafael Correa, who had extended asylum to Assange.

“He particularly violated the norm of not interfering in the internal affairs of other states,” Moreno said. Assange had been accused by Ecuador of endangering its standing on the international stage by continuing to participate in releasing leaks on WikiLeaks from the embassy. “The patience of Ecuador has reached its limit,” Moreno said.

Ecuador said Thursday that officials had received a guarantee from the U.K. that Assange would not be extradited to a country where he could face the death penalty, according to Reuters.

WikiLeaks’ release of thousands of emails from the Democratic National Committee in 2016 played a role in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Prosecutors said Russian hackers had passed those emails to WikiLeaks in order to disrupt Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

In December 2018, the U.N. criticized what it called the U.K.’s “arbitrary deprivation of liberty” of Assange. “States that are based upon and promote the rule of law do not like to be confronted with their own violations of the law, that is understandable,” a U.N. panel of experts on arbitrary detention said.

“The only ground remaining for Mr. Assange’s continued deprivation of liberty is a bail violation in the UK, which is, objectively, a minor offense that cannot post facto justify the more than 6 years confinement that he has been subjected to since he sought asylum in the Embassy of Ecuador.”

After Assange’s arrest, Prime Minister Theresa May thanked the Metropolitan Police and said that Assange’s apprehension proved that in the U.K., “no one is above the law.”

Assange was appearing in court on Thursday.

Police were invited into the embassy on Thursday morning by the Ecuadorean ambassador, police said.

TIME

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Comedian becomes Ukraine’s president

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Volodymyr Zelensky, a comedian with no political experience won a landslide victory in Ukraine’s presidential election Sunday, exit polls showed, dealing a stunning rebuke to the country’s political establishment.

Volodymyr Zelensky

Zelensky whose only previous political role was playing the president on television, trounced incumbent Petro Poroshenko by taking 73 percent of the vote, according to exit polls conducted by several think tanks.

Poroshenko, who lost to the television star across all regions of the country, including in the west where he traditionally enjoyed strong support, has already called Zelensky to congratulate him.

In a series of tweets, he also said he would not quit politics yet.

“Never give up…. Never, never, never… Neither in the big nor in the small, nor in the a significant, nor in the shallow… Never give up if that doesn’t contradict honour and common sense.

“Already next month I will leave the post of head of state. So the majority of Ukrainians decided, and I perceive this decision. I will go from the office of President. But I do not go out of politics. Firmly want to declare and explain why.

“Our team will defend our course for the European Union and NATO membership. Because only in the world’s strongest collective security system, we can receive reliable protection from Russia, guarantee the independence of the country and the safety of citizens.

“Our team will be protecting visa-free. Our team will protect our army from mid-country attacks, from any attempts to diminish the historical significance of its exploit. Our team will protect the Ukrainian language. If the next week’s board adopts the law on language, I will definitely sign it.”

The election was an extraordinary outcome to a campaign that started as a joke but struck a chord with voters frustrated by poverty, corruption and a five-year war that has claimed some 13,000 lives.

The 41-year-old star of TV series “Servant of the People” will now take the helm of a country of 45 million people beset by challenges and having run on the vaguest of political platforms.

After taking the most votes in last month’s first-round election, Zelensky had enjoyed a strong lead over the 53-year-old Poroshenko going into Sunday’s poll.

Voting earlier in the capital Kiev, the beaming frontrunner had said his campaign managed to bring Ukrainians together.

“We have united Ukraine,” he said, wearing a casual suit with a t-shirt and accompanied by his wife. “Everything will be all right.”

Sparkling wine was on offer at his campaign headquarters as the star’s team prepared to toast his victory on Palm Sunday, a week before Orthodox Easter.

Preliminary results were expected in several hours but the same exit polls were accurate in the first round.

From Ukrainian-speaking regions in the west of the country to Russian-speaking territories in the war-torn east, many voters said they feared uncertainty but yearned for change.

“We’re tired of all the lies,” said Marta Semenyuk, 26, who cast her ballot for the comedian.

“I think it just cannot get any worse and I hope he’ll live up to his promises,” said Larisa, an 18-year-old student from the government-held eastern port city of Mariupol.

Zelensky’s victory opens a new chapter in the history of a country that has gone through two popular uprisings in the last 20 years and is mired in a conflict with Moscow-backed separatists in the east.

His supporters say only a fresh face can clean up Ukraine’s politics and end the separatist conflict.

But others doubt the showman will be able to take on the country’s influential oligarchs, negotiate with the likes of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and stand up to Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

“People have gone mad,” Viktoriya Olomutska, a 39-year-old Poroshenko supporter, said in Kiev. “Cinema and reality are two different things.”

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Fraud: Eight Nigerians sentenced to death in UAE

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Eight men, identified as Nigerians, have been sentenced to death in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, for a string of robberies at money exchanges and cash machines (ATMs) across the emirate in December 2016.

The ninth Nigerian, found guilty for possession of stolen money, was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment.

He will be deported after serving his prison term.

The Gulf News is reporting that the Nigerian denied the charge against him, saying that one of the accused’s brothers asked him to transfer Dh60, 000 to an account in Nigeria.

Both the Gulf News and Khaleej Times, local newspapers, which reported the trial, did not identify all the convicted Nigerians.

A total of 20 suspects were initially held for attacking security guards in four violent attacks at ATMs and money exchanges across Sharjah in late 2016.

Out of the 20 suspects, nine were convicted.

Some of the accused confessed to their crimes, while others denied the charges levelled against them.

Judge Majid Al Muhairi of Sharjah Criminal Court handed down the verdict on Wednesday.

The eight-member gang attacked security trucks and entered establishments by force and threatened and assaulted staff and members of the public with bladed weapons in a spate of robberies, three of which were carried out on the same day on December 18, 2016.

The gang, who were all in the UAE on visit visas, were said to be highly organised and plotted a string of orchestrated attacks to ambush security trucks that were transporting money boxes to and from ATMs, and at least one money exchange in Sharjah.

The first robbery took place at a Dubai Commercial Bank ATM on King Abdul Aziz Street, where Dh340, 000 was stolen.

Then two days later, they attacked an ATM in Al Safeer Mall in Al Nahda, fleeing with Dh700, 000, and an ATM in Muweilah where they stole Dh710, 000.

Police foiled a fourth attack at a money exchange office near National Paints.

The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, Mrs Abike Dabiri-Erewa has described the death sentence passed on eight Nigerians in United Arab Emirate (UAE) as unfortunate.

Dabiri-Erewa in a statement yesterday in Abuja expressed concern over the development, saying the incident was not an actual description of personalities of people of Nigeria.

”It is an unfortunate incident, but it is not an incident that defines who we are as a people.

”If a few Nigerians have committed a crime for which they are being punished, thousands of Nigerians are doing great in that same country and are being appreciated and celebrated.

”Mr President, who meets Nigerians every time he goes on official trips outside the country, always appeals to Nigerians to be good ambassadors wherever they are.

”I must commend millions of our brothers and sisters excelling all over the world.

“Bad news travels fast and I appeal to the media to help spread the good news about Nigerians and not concentrate only on the once in a while negative stories,” she said.

The gang of 20 was arrested in record time, but police confirmed that only a portion of the stolen money — almost Dh1.8 million — had been recovered, as the gang members had divided the money among themselves and transferred it to their home country.

Suspects were taken into custody in cooperation with police in Dubai, Ajman and Fujairah.

The gang committed the heists at the busiest times of the day when streets were crowded, which added to the confusion and enabled them to escape, said police.

In each robbery, the assailants struck quickly before police could arrive.

The attackers, however, could not evade security cameras and police were able to recognise the suspects through surveillance footage captured at the exchange house in the mall.

Video footage showed the suspects attacking security guards, making off with cash and in one of the robberies, slashing the hands of a security guard with a knife before running away with moneyboxes.

Police believe the suspects had monitored and tracked the security trucks used to transport money for a period of time before launching the attacks.

A prosecutor told Gulf News on Thursday that as per the law, groups of people who threaten the lives of others, while committing robbery, are subject to the death sentence.

However an appeal is expected to be launched and the sentences could get downgraded to life imprisonment.

The trial appeared unconnected with the arrest of five Nigerians in March this year, who robbed a Bureau de Change operator of Dh2.3 million (N225.4 million) in Sharjai, Dubai.

The suspects were identified as Chimuanya Emmanuel Ozoh, Benjamin Nwachukwu Ajah, Kingsley Ikenna Ngoka, Tochukwu Leonard Alisi and Chile Micah Ndunagu.

The five Nigerians reportedly barged into the BDC on March 20 and smashed the glass barrier between the customers and the staff, stole the money in multiple currencies and fled.

Two employees at the exchange were injured as they resisted the robbers.

One of them managed to notify the police.

The Sharjah Police coordinated with forces from Abu Dhabi, Ras Al Khaimah and Ajman to nab the suspects from four emirates within 48 hours after the robbery was committed.

A top police official said the suspects came to the UAE on visit visas on March 18, 2019.

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President Buhari congratulates newly elected Isreali Prime Minister

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President Muhammadu Buhari has congratulated Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of the State of Israel on his victory in the parliamentary election.

President Muhammadu Buhari

Buhari in a statement by his Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, in Abuja on Sunday, extended best wishes to the people of the State of Israel in the aftermath of the successful conclusion of the poll.

The Nigerian leader, who also wished them peace, progress and stability, said he looked forward to continue to work with the Israeli Prime Minister to strengthen existing cordial and mutually-beneficial relations between the two countries.

Buhari wished Netanyahu a successful new term in office and prayed that his record fifth term would bring enduring peace and security to the Middle East.

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Army overthrows Sudan president, Omar al-Bashir

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President Omar al-Bashir, who ruled Sudan in autocratic style for 30 years, was on Thursday overthrown and arrested in a coup by the armed forces.

In an address on state television, Defence Minister Awad Mohamed Ahmed Ibn Auf, announced a two-year period of military rule to be followed by presidential elections.

He said Bashir, 75, was being held in a “safe place” and a military council would now run the country. He did not say who would head it.

Seated on a gold-upholstered armchair, Auf announced a state of emergency, a nationwide ceasefire and the suspension of the constitution. Sudan’s airspace would be closed for 24 hours and border crossings shut until further notice.

The main organizer of protests against Bashir, the Sudanese Professionals Association, rejected the minister’s plans. It called on protesters to maintain a sit-in outside the defense ministry that started on Saturday, a source with the group said.

Sudanese sources told Reuters that Bashir was at the presidential residence under “heavy guard”. A son of Sadiq al-Mahdi, the head of the country’s main opposition Umma Party, told al-Hadath TV that Bashir was being held with “a number of leaders of the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood group”.

Bashir has been indicted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague and is facing an arrest warrant over allegations of genocide in Sudan’s Darfur region during an insurgency that began in 2003 and led to death of an estimated 300,000 people.

Despite the arrest warrant Bashir defied the court by visiting several ICC member states. Diplomatic rows broke out when he went to South Africa in 2015 and Jordan in 2017 and both failed to arrest him.

The downfall of Bashir follows the toppling this month of Algerian strongman Abdelaziz Bouteflika, also following mass protests after three decades in power.

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