LONDON, April 16 -- Shamima Begum was a member of the Isis morality police, a feared group which enforced the terror organisation’s strict interpretation of Islamic law – and she also tried to recruit other young women to join the jihadist group.
The 19-year-old British citizen, who fled her home in Bethnal Green four years ago with two other schoolgirls, has claimed that she was only a “housewife” during her time living with the group in Syria.
But according to a report in The Sunday Telegraph she played a much more active role in the organisation’s reign of terror as a member of the “hisba” – which metes out punishment to those found flouting Isis laws on how to dress and behave.
One activist quoted by the newspaper said Begum had been seen holding an automatic weapon and shouting at Syrian women in the city of Raqqa for wearing brightly coloured shoes. “Members of our group from Raqqa knew her well”, said Aghiad al-Kheder, an activist from Deir ez-Zor who founded an anti-Isis collective that published information about Isis crimes from sources on the ground. “There were lots of young European women in the hisba. Some of them were very harsh and the local population became very scared.” There were separate allegations that Begum stitched suicide bombs onto explosive vests, so they could not be removed without detonating. The Mail on Sunday reported that the prime minister and home secretary had been briefed on intelligence received by the CIA and Dutch military intelligence.
LONDON, April 13 -- More than 70 British members of parliament have signed a letter urging the home secretary to ensure that WikiLeaks cofounder Julian Assange is extradited to Sweden if a case there is reopened against him.
The letter, signed late on Friday by mostly Labour Party MPs, urged UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid to "stand with the victims of sexual violence" and ensure the rape claim against him can be "properly investigated". "We do not presume guilt, of course, but we believe due process should be followed and the complainant should see justice be done," it said. The 47-year-old Australian activist was arrested by British police on Thursday and forcibly removed from the Ecuadorian embassy in London after his asylum was revoked, bringing to an end more than six years in the building. Assange originally sought asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden, where prosecutors wanted to question him over a rape allegation, which he denied. Sweden suspended its investigation of serious sexual misconduct two years ago because Assange was beyond their reach while at the embassy. But on Friday, Swedish prosecutors said they were examining the rape case at the request of the alleged victim's lawyer.
British Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott said it was right that he should face justice if charges are brought. "If the Swedish government wants to come forward with those charges, I believe that Assange should face the criminal justice system," said Abbott, who added that the arrest was politically motivated as WikiLeaks has published enormous tranches of sensitive military information. "We all know what this is about. It's not the rape charges, serious as they are, it's about WikiLeaks. All that embarrassing information about the activities of the American military that was made public and that is what it is about." The move by British MPs to push for Assange's extradition to Sweden came hours after the Labour Party called on the government to halt his extradition to the United States, where he has been charged with offences related to his work with whistle-blower Chelsea Manning. Abbott said Prime Minister Theresa May should intervene as she did in the case of British hacker Gary McKinnon, whose extradition request she rejected on medical grounds in 2012. But May has shown no desire to interfere with the US's wishes this time. She welcomed the arrest in Parliament on Thursday, where Sajid Javid, the current home secretary, accused Labour of supporting a man with "a track record of undermining the UK and our allies and the values we stand for".
US prosecutors say Assange faces five years in prison if convicted of "conspiracy to commit computer intrusion", though further charges are expected to be brought against him. Abbott's comments followed a post on Twitter by Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn on Thursday that praised Assange's exposing of US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan and said that his extradition to the US "should be opposed by the British government".
LONDON, April 12 -- Nigel Farage ahead of the launch of his new Brexit party todayHe said today that he was "determined to make sure the referendum result is enacted" and fight back against the betrayal of the British people.
Speaking to Radio 4 he blasted EU politicians for "talking down to and bullying" the UK which has made us "a laughing stock in the eyes of the world". And he said Ukip are finished because "the brand is now tarnished". His new Brexit Party would be able to take large chunks out of the Ukip, Tory and Labour votes, telling them we should have left the EU on March 29. It's raked in three quarters of a million pounds in just over 10 days, mostly made up of smaller donors, he claimed in an article for The Daily Telegraph today. And describing Brexit is a "national humiliation" he insisted Britain was still being governed by a "ruling class" who didn't believe in the country. "We are a great nation and a great people. But we are being held back by weak leadership. The time to change this is now,' he wrote.
"We see the next few weeks as the beginning of a fightback against an establishment that has wilfully betrayed our trust." Today he put a whopping £1,000 bet that his new party would win the European elections and get the most seats if Britain is forced to take part in them.
Tories fear their own party will face a battering at the local polls next month, and the European elections if we have to hold them. Conservative MEP David Campbell Bannerman said today the party "will get a kicking" on May 23 and lose half of their 18 MEPs.
KUALA LUMPUR, April 12 --The spectacle of Julian Assange, bearded and haggard, resisting arrest while London police officers dragged him through the street, punctuated the end of seven confounding years inside the Ecuadorean Embassy, where he lived with his cat in a small corner room as the world's most famous self-proclaimed political refugee.
Assange, 47, has long fashioned himself as a crusader for revealing secrets. The Internet group he founded, WikiLeaks, published caches of classified US government communications, as well as e-mails hacked by Russian intelligence clearly intended to damage the presidential candidacy of Mrs Hillary Clinton. Though arrested on Thursday (April 11) morning by the British for skipping bail, Assange was immediately charged in the United States for conspiracy to hack a government computer. To supporters, Assange is a martyr and champion of free speech. To the US government, he is a pariah and a lackey of the Kremlin. But it was the hardened opinion of Ecuador's government that perhaps mattered most. He had become an unwanted houseguest. At the tiny red-brick embassy, he continued to run his Internet group, conducted news conferences before hundreds of fawning admirers from a balcony, rode his skateboard in the halls, and played host to a parade of visitors, including Lady Gaga and Pamela Anderson, a rumoured lover who brought vegan sandwiches.
On Thursday, Anderson sent out a batch of Twitter messages attacking the arrest as a "vile injustice" and called Britain and the US "devils and liars and thieves". In interviews with The New York Times in 2016, as part of a long look at his ties to Russia, Assange denied any link to Russian intelligence, in particular regarding the leaked Democratic e-mails. Mrs Clinton and the Democrats were "whipping up a neo-McCarthyist hysteria about Russia", he said. There is "no concrete evidence" that what WikiLeaks publishes comes from intelligence agencies, he said, even as he indicated that he would happily accept such material. Small as they were, Assange's living quarters at the embassy, close to the lavish self-indulgence of Harrods, the famous department store, did not cramp his desire to remain in the limelight. Assange had an office equipped with a bed, sunlamp, phone, computer, kitchenette, shower, treadmill and bookshelves. Three years ago, one person familiar with the set-up called it "a gas station with two attendants". Mr Vaughan Smith, who had been a long-time supporter of Assange and helped put up his bail money, said: "Julian's a big bloke, with big bones, and he fills the room physically and intellectually." "It's a tiny embassy with a tiny balcony," he added, "small, hot and with not great air flow, and it must be jolly difficult for everyone there." But from there, Assange for years held court for admirers and famous curiosity seekers, among them footabll star Eric Cantona, and Mr Nigel Farage, the pro-Brexit radio host and former head of UK Independence Party.
Still, Assange's isolation was wearing on him, a friend said on Thursday, especially the long, lonely weekends in an essentially empty embassy he could not leave. Even his friends have described him as difficult, a narcissist with an outsized view of his importance and a disinterest in mundane matters like personal hygiene. He was becoming deeply depressed and wondered about simply walking out, the friend said, speaking on condition of anonymity. And relations with his hosts were becoming deeply strained, even adversarial. A copy of a 2014 letter from Mr Juan Falconi Puig, then Ecuador's ambassador to Britain, to the Foreign Ministry, seen by The New York Times, outlined the growing resentment between the diplomats and Assange over his behaviour at the embassy. Among Mr Falconi's top concerns was Assange's penchant for riding a skateboard and playing football with visitors. His skateboarding, Mr Falconi said, had "damaged floors, walls and doors". The ambassador said the football games had destroyed embassy equipment. When an embassy security agent stopped the game and took away the ball, Assange "began to shake, insult and push the agent", reclaimed the ball and then "launched the ball at his body". The letter said Assange had invited a television reporter to interview them at the embassy and had showed the visitor off-limits parts of the building. At one point, according to the letter, Assange used the alarm setting on a megaphone "to attract the police" to record them for the show. "This last action, in the middle of the night, was a clear attempt to annoy the police," Mr Falconi wrote.
Another time, the letter said, Assange "violently hit the embassy control room door" demanding in a "threatening manner" that one of the guards come out to speak to him. The guards came out, only to be harassed by Assange, who yelled and shoved them, Mr Falconi wrote. Assange's long presence in the embassy, long after the Ecuadorean president who granted him political asylum had been replaced, finally became too much for the Ecuadorean government. President Lenin Moreno, elected in 2017, explained the decision on Twitter and in a video. "In a sovereign decision, Ecuador withdrew the asylum status to Julian Assange after his repeated violations to international conventions and daily-life protocols," he said. He accused Assange of having installed forbidden "electronic and distortion equipment", accessing the embassy's security files without permission, blocking the embassy's security cameras and mistreating its personnel, including guards.
BUENOS AIRES, April 12 -- Ecuador’s police have detained an accomplice of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, Ecuadorian Interior Minister Maria Paula Romo said on Thursday.
"A person who is close to him lives here, we have convincing evidence that he maintained contacts with former Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino. He was detained this afternoon," she told Sonorama radio station. Assange’s accomplice was hauled off at the airport when he tried to fly to Japan. At a news conference, Roma said that Ecuador’s authorities had information that a person close to Assange, who lives in Ecuador, "contributed to the attempts of destabilizing the situation in the country with the goal of harming the government." Daily Express reported citing journalist Vijay Prashad that the detained individual was Swedish national Ola Bini, a WikiLeaks software developer. He does not speak Spanish.
In 2006, Assange set up WikiLeaks that published classified documents on certain governments, including the US. In 2012, Assange sought asylum at the Ecuadorian embassy in London in a bid to avoid extradition to Sweden, which had issued a warrant for his arrest on sexual harassment and rape charges. He was holed up inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London for nearly seven years. On Thursday, Ecuador terminated political asylum of Assange. British police arrested Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy for breaching bail issued in 2012 and on a US extradition warrant issued in 2018.
Assange’s attorneys fear that in case of his handover to the US, he may face up to 35 years in jail or capital punishment. However, the US Department of Justice claims that the Australian faces just five years behind bars on hacking charges.
The Metropolitan Police Service also said it "had a duty to execute the warrant, on behalf of Westminster Magistrates' Court, and was invited into the embassy by the Ambassador, following the Ecuadorian government's withdrawal of asylum." British Home Secretary Sajid Javid, in turn, said on Twitter that "nearly seven years after entering the Ecuadorean Embassy, I can confirm Julian Assange is now in police custody and rightly facing justice in the UK". "I would like to thank Ecuador for its cooperation and the Metropolitan Police for its professionalism. No one is above the law," he added.
Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno said on Thursday that Ecuador had decided to withdraw diplomatic asylum from Assange.
LONDON, April 10 -- Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) has shut down production for a week because of uncertainties around Brexit.
It affects thousands of staff at Castle Bromwich, Solihull and Wolverhampton in the West Midlands, and Halewood on Merseyside. The shutdown is in addition to a scheduled closure for Easter. JLR has confirmed the break is under way and calls it a "Brexit matter" - a move deemed "prudent" by the union Unite. It was agreed in January when the UK was due to leave the EU on 29 March. The shutdown - from Monday to Friday - has gone ahead amid continuing uncertainty over the UK's future, despite the projected leave date arriving with no outcome. The Easter closure will get under way the following week. JLR said it needed more certainty around Brexit, and warned that a "no-deal" Brexit would cost it more than £1.2bn in profit each year.
Mick Graham, Unite's convenor at Solihull, said: "We had to make some plans to protect the business as best we could and we started talking about this in January. "We knew we had to take reactive action to mitigate the potential effect of a bad Brexit or no-deal Brexit. "Suppliers need notice to get their parts across to us... It was a prudent thing to do." The car maker, which employs just under 39,000 workers, also announced in January it was cutting 4,500 jobs, with the majority coming from its UK workforce. JLR is facing several challenges, including a slump in demand for diesel cars and a sales slowdown in China.
LONDON, April 8 -- The London Stock Exchange said its pan-European platform Turquoise would shift trading in euro-denominated shares to its new Dutch hub if Britain leaves the European Union at the end of the week without a deal.
British, Swiss and U.S. shares would remain on its existing platform in London, the LSE said in a statement. Turquoise was committed to offering the full range of shares on its UK platform, the LSE said in a statement on Monday. In the event of a hard Brexit on April 12, Turquoise intends to reintroduce European Economic Area shares on its London platform over the course of the year, it added. The LSE’s preparations are similar to those announced by Europe’s biggest pan-European share trading platform, Cboe, on Friday. Britain’s exit from the EU was still hanging in the balance on Monday as Prime Minister Theresa May tried to coax the Labour Party into agreeing a divorce deal, two days before an emergency summit. The sector is waiting to see if Britain’s markets watchdog will impose restrictions on where shares can be traded if there is a no-deal Brexit. The moves announced by LSE and Cboe provide flexibility to offer trading to customers in Britain and on the continent, whatever the FCA watchdog decides.
LONDON, April 5 -- Theresa May has written to European Council president Donald Tusk today with the UK's request for a further delay to Brexit.
The Prime Minister is seeking an extension until June 30, but said she wants to ratify her Withdrawal Agreement by May 23 in order to avoid European Parliament, but will make "responsible preparations" to take part if that does not prove possible. In her letter, she wrote: "I am writing to inform the European Council that the United Kingdom is seeking a further extension to the period provided under Article 50(3) of the Treaty on European Union, including as applied by Article 106a of the Euratom Treaty.
"The United Kingdom proposes that this period should end on 30 June 2019. If the parties are able to ratify before this date, the Government proposes that the period should be terminated early. "The Government will want to agree a timetable for ratification that allows the United Kingdom to withdraw from the European Union before 23 May 2019 and therefore cancel the European Parliament elections, but will continue to make responsible preparations to hold the elections should this not prove possible." Mrs May said if ongoing talks with Labour do not lead to a "single unified approach soon" then the Government would instead look to establish a "consensus" on options on a future relationship that could be put to the Commons. She wrote: "The Government stands ready to abide by the decision of the House, if the Opposition will commit to doing the same." It comes after reports that President Tusk is set to propose at 'flexible' extension to the timescale for the UK's exit. The arrangement would reportedly set a maximum end date of next Spring 2020 for the UK's departure while making clear that the UK could leave earlier if it passes the Withdrawal Agreement before then and ratifies a Brexit treaty.
Mr Tusk is understood to have held talks with officials over several hours in Brussels yesterday outlining his proposals to the key players. The proposal - dubbed a 'flex-tension' - is expected to be tabled officially by Mr Tusk later today, but it will require the sign off of all 27 EU member states at the EU's Brexit summit next Wednesday, April 10, when Mrs May will be present. Mr Tusk said it was "the only reasonable way out". Some EU leaders are likely to be very sceptical about a long extension, however, amid fears that it increases risk of Brexit disorder "infecting" the wider EU region.
BRUSSELS, April 5 -- Donald Tusk will push the EU27 to offer Theresa May a one-year “flexible” extension to article 50 with an option to leave the EU once the withdrawal agreement is ratified by parliament, according to senior EU sources.
The European council president will tell leaders at a summit on Wednesday the “flextension” idea would avoid the heads of state and government having to consider extra Brexit delays every few weeks. The EU27 will need to unanimously agree to the plan, which Tusk is backing after hours of preparatory meetings in recent days, senior EU sources said. The former Polish president is determined to give Downing Street as much flexibility as possible to avoid any suggestion that Brussels is seeking to trap Britain in the EU. There will be concerns in some EU capitals about both the length of the extension, given the potential for the British government to meddle in the EU’s long-term planning, and the uncertainty it would create about the UK’s position in the bloc.
The failure of the parliament to coalesce around a post-Brexit vision will also be a source of frustration for Emmanuel Macron, the French president, who has insisted that the UK must have a “credible plan” for the EU to offer any further extension at all. The UK would have to hold elections to the European parliament on 23 May under the Tusk plan, but British MEPs would leave the chamber once the UK had left the bloc. A set of elected MEPs from the other 27 member states would then step in, UK sources said. The development comes as the attorney general, Geoffrey Cox, said he thought the offer from the EU was “likely to be a long one”, in an interview with the BBC. The current legal position is that the UK is to leave the EU at 11pm GMT on 12 April. The prime minister had said earlier this week that she would seek a short extension until 22 May to allow cross-party talks with the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to come to fruition. But speaking to the European parliament within 24 hours of May making her intent clear, the European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker rejected it. He instead set an “ultimate deadline” of 12 April for the Commons to approve the withdrawal agreement.
“If it has not done so by then, no further short extension will be possible,” he said. “After 12 April, we risk jeopardising the European parliament elections, and so threaten the functioning of the European Union.” With the Commons now tying the prime minister to avoiding a no-deal Brexit, and the EU preparing an option that it believes will suit Downing Street, the threat of the UK crashing out of the bloc is heavily diminished. The chancellor, Philip Hammond, has in recent days backed the idea of a flextension. Meanwhile, May is expected to write to Jeremy Corbyn to set out the government’s offer on Brexit, with negotiations due to resume in Downing Street on Friday. With five days to go before the prime minister travels to Brussels to request a Brexit delay from EU leaders, little progress appeared to have been made on finding a compromise deal both Labour and the Conservatives can back.