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Julian Assange wins UK High Court victory in case against extradition to US

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London, May 20 (IANS) WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Monday won a victory in his ongoing battle against extradition from the United Kingdom (UK) to the United States after the High Court in London granted him permission to appeal.

Assange had been granted permission to appeal only if the U.S. government was unable to provide the court with suitable assurances that Assange is permitted to rely on the First Amendment (free speech) for protections, reports Xinhua News Agency.

The U.S. government had to assure that Assange, who is Australian, shall not be prejudiced at trial by reason of his nationality and is afforded the same protections as a U.S. citizen.

The U.S. side also had to provide assurance that Assange would not be sentenced to death if convicted.

Assange’s legal team criticized the assurances provided by the U.S. government at the hearing, arguing that “based on the principle of the separation of powers, the U.S. court can and will apply U.S. law, whatever the executive may say or do.”

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Most of the assurances were “blatantly inadequate,” said Edward Fitzgerald KC, representing Assange. But the legal team had accepted the promise about the death penalty.

The lawyer said in written submissions that while the assurance over the death penalty was “an unambiguous executive promise,” the other assurance does not give “any reliable promise as to future action.”

According to Assange’s legal team, it could be months before the new appeal is heard.

The latest move came after the High Court deferred a decision in March on whether Assange could take his case to another appeal hearing.

Assange, 52, is wanted by the United States on allegations of disclosing national defense information following WikiLeaks’s publication of hundreds of thousands of leaked military documents relating to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars a decade ago, which included an Apache helicopter video footage documenting the U.S. military gunning down journalists and children in Baghdad’s streets in 2007.

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He has been held at southeast London’s high-security Belmarsh Prison since 2019. The UK approved his extradition to the United States in 2022 under then Home Secretary Priti Patel after a judge initially blocked it on Assange’s mental health concerns. Assange and his lawyers have appealed since then.

–IANS

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349 prisoners pardoned in Afghanistan before Eid

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Kabul, June 16 (IANS) The Afghan caretaker government’s Supreme Leader Hibatullah Akhundzada has pardoned 349 inmates before Eid al-Adha, according to a statement by the country’s Supreme Court.

The statement noted that 279 other inmates were also exempted from their remaining prison sentence, Xinhua news agency reported.

Eid al-Adha, the largest annual religious festival in Afghanistan, will be celebrated from Monday to Wednesday.

–IANS

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Energy vouchers for 1.3 mn S. Korean vulnerable households this summer

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Seoul, June 16 (IANS) The ruling People Power Party (PPP) and government officials on Sunday agreed to provide energy vouchers to 1.3 million vulnerable households as the country braces for a hotter-than-average summer.

The support scheme was announced during a meeting of senior officials of the government, the presidential office and the PPP, according to Rep. Jang Dong-hyuk, the PPP’s chief spokesperson.

The decision to provide support of up to 53,000 won ($38), up 10,000 won from last year, comes as South Korea’s weather agency has forecast this summer to be hotter than average, reports Yonhap news agency.

The officials also decided to extend an electricity freeze for 3.6 million households in vulnerable groups.

–IANS

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Zelensky calls for second event as Ukraine peace summit ends

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Vienna, June 16 (IANS/DPA) The two-day Ukraine peace summit in Switzerland should be quickly followed up with a second meeting, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Sunday towards the close of proceedings.

Preparations would take only months and not years, Zelensky said after representatives of some 100 countries and organisations came together at the Burgenstock mountain hotel resort near Lucerne.

Some countries had already signalled their willingness to host such a summit, according to Zelensky.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that a prerequisite for Russia’s participation would be Moscow’s commitment to the UN Charter.

The final declaration of the summit, which was signed by 80 of the countries present, makes no mention of a follow-up conference.

Swiss President Viola Amherd acknowledged diverse perspectives at the conference but emphasized that it marked the first high-level discussion on a peace process. Some substantive prerequisites for a path to an end to the war in Ukraine had been created, she said.

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The fact that the vast majority of the states present agreed on the Burgenstock Communique shows what diplomacy can achieve through patient work, Amherd added.

Russia had not been invited to the event and showed no interest in participating. The summit was also an attempt by the West to involve other countries in South America, Asia and Africa in peace efforts based on international law.

Ukraine is calling for a “just and lasting” peace.

–IANS/DPA

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Iran condemns G7 claims against its nuclear activities

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Tehran, June 16 (IANS) Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Nasser Kanaani slammed on Sunday the claims of the Group of Seven (G7) over the country’s nuclear activities as “anti-Tehran”.

Reacting to a G7 communique issued on Friday, Kanaani stressed in a statement that Iran’s nuclear programme is “exclusively peaceful”, reported Xinhua News Agency.

He said Iran would carry forward its “peaceful” nuclear projects and plans in line with the Non-Proliferation Treaty and safeguards agreement, regardless of political pressures and “propaganda campaigns.” He said the communique’s mention of an anti-Iran resolution of the Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was another proof of “the political approach pursued by those behind the resolution” and certain governments’ “abuse” of international mechanisms against independent states.

The communique called on Tehran to “cease and reverse nuclear escalations”, stop the continuing “uranium enrichment activities”, engage in serious dialogue, provide convincing assurances that its nuclear programme is exclusively peaceful, fully cooperate with the IAEA, and comply with the agency’s monitoring and verification mechanism, “including the Board of Governors’ resolution of June 5”.

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The IAEA Board of Governors’ resolution urged Iran to “step up cooperation with the IAEA and reverse its recent barring of inspectors.”

Kanaani regretted that some countries with “political motivations” made baseless and unproven claims to continue the failed policy of sanctions on Iran, advising the G7 members to refrain from using outdated, “destructive” policies. He stressed that the United States and the E3 group of France, Britain and Germany should give proof of their goodwill and refrain from taking “futile politically-motivated” measures against Iran.

Iran signed a nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), with world powers including the United States and the E3 group in July 2015, accepting restrictions on its nuclear programme in exchange for the lifting of sanctions. However, the United States withdrew from the agreement in May 2018, reinstating sanctions and prompting Iran to scale back some of its nuclear commitments. Efforts to revive the JCPOA commenced in April 2021 in Vienna, but despite multiple rounds of negotiations, no substantial progress has been reported since the last talks in August 2022.

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–IANS

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2 killed, multiple injured in shooting in Texas

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San Francisco, June 16 (IANS) A shooting left two people dead and several wounded on Saturday night near the capital city of the US state of Texas, local police said.

The shooting took place before 11 p.m. Saturday (4 a.m. GMT Sunday) during a Juneteenth celebration at Old Settlers Park in Round Rock, about 19 miles (30.4 km) north of Austin, reported Xinhua News Agency.

An altercation began between two groups during a concert at the event and resulted in the shooting, Round Rock Police Chief Allen Banks said during a news conference at the scene. The two victims who died at the scene were not involved in the altercation, Allen said, adding that multiple wounded victims were transported to local hospitals.

An investigation was going on. Police did not know how many shooters were involved, and no suspect was yet in custody, he said.

–IANS

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