Copenhagen, May 20 (AP/UNB) — Swedish authorities on Monday issued a request for a detention order against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is now jailed in Britain, a Swedish prosecutor said.
Prosecutor Eva-Marie Persson says if the Swedish court decided to detain Assange "on probable cause suspected for rape ... I will issue a European Arrest Warrant."
The development sets up a possible future tug-of-war between Sweden and the United States over any extradition of Assange from Britain.
Assange was evicted last month from the Ecuadorian Embassy where he had been holed up with political asylum since 2012. He was then immediately arrested by British police on April 11 and is currently serving a 50-week sentence in Britain for jumping bail in 2012.
The Australian secret-spiller also faces a U.S. extradition warrant for allegedly conspiring to hack into a Pentagon computer.
Persson said Monday that British authorities will decide any conflict between a European arrest warrant and U.S. extradition request for Assange.
On May 13, Swedish prosecutors reopened a preliminary investigation against Assange, who visited Sweden in 2010, after two Swedish women said they were the victims of sex crimes committed by Assange.
While a case of alleged sexual misconduct against Assange in Sweden was dropped in 2017 when the statute of limitations expired, a rape allegation remains. Swedish authorities have had to shelf it because Assange was living at the embassy at the time and there was no prospect of bringing him to Sweden.
The statute of limitations in the rape case expires in August next year. Assange has denied wrongdoing, asserting that the allegations were politically motivated and that the sex was consensual.
Persson said the day and time for the detention hearing at the Uppsala District Court north of Stockholm that will make the decision has not yet been decided.
"However, in my view, the Swedish case can proceed concurrently with the proceedings in the U.K.," Persson said in a statement.
Kiev, May 20 (AP/UNB) — Ukrainian TV star Volodymyr Zelenskiy was sworn in as the country's new president on Monday, promised to stop the war in the country's east against Russian-backed separatists and immediately disbanded parliament, which he has branded as a group only interested in self-enrichment.
Even before he disbanded the Supreme Rada, which had been one of his campaign promises, the 41-year-old Zelenskiy had upended the traditions of Ukrainian politics.
He ditched the idea of a traditional motorcade to his inauguration, walking to the parliament through a park packed with people. Flanked by four bodyguards, he was giving high-fives to some spectators and even stopped to take a selfie with one of them.
Before he made the announcement, Zelenskiy asked the Supreme Rada to adopt a bill against illegal enrichment and support his motions to fire the country's defense minister, the head of the Ukrainian Security Service and the Prosecutor General. All of them are allies of former President Petro Poroshenko, who lost the presidential election in a landslide to the comedian with no previous political experience.
In a feisty speech after his inauguration, Zelenskiy told the Rada that his main goal for the presidency is to bring peace to eastern Ukraine, where government troops have been fighting Russia-backed separatists for five years.
"I'm ready to do everything so that our heroes don't die there," he said. "I'm ready to lose my popularly and, if necessary, I'm ready to lose my post so that we have peace."
Zelenskiy garnered 73% of the vote at the presidential election last month in a victory that reflected Ukrainians' exhaustion with politics-as-usual. For years, he has played the Ukrainian president in a popular television show.
The new president wrapped up his speech at parliament by referring to his career as a comedian.
"Throughout all of my life, I tried to do everything to make Ukrainians laugh," he said with a smile. "In the next five years I will do everything so that Ukrainians don't cry."
Rome, May 20 (AP/UNB) — The Italian interior ministry vowed Sunday to press ahead with a new decree formalizing the closure of Italian ports to aid groups that rescue migrants, even after U.N. human rights investigators said it violated international law.
Ministry officials said the security decree was "necessary and urgent" and was expected to be approved at a Cabinet meeting Monday.
In a May 15 letter to Italy's government released Saturday, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights urged Italy to withdraw the decree, calling it "yet another political attempt to criminalize search and rescue operations."
The decree "further intensifies the climate of hostility and xenophobia against migrants," said the letter, which was signed by several U.N. human rights rapporteurs.
It was issued as a ship carrying more than 40 migrants from the German aid group Sea-Watch remained off the island of Lampedusa waiting for a port to disembark its passengers. Sea-Watch said it had flouted Italy's ban and entered Italian territorial waters on Saturday for humanitarian reasons.
Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, a hard-line populist, proposed the decree before the European Parliament elections this week, where nationalist, anti-migrant parties are hoping to make strong gains. Salvini's League has soared in popularity in part because of his hard-line migration policy, which has involved boosting the Libyan coast guard's ability to rescue migrants and bring them back.
Among other provisions, the decree leaves it to the interior minister to limit or prohibit entry into Italian territorial waters any ships for public security reasons. It foresees fines of up to 5,500 euros ($6,145) for each migrant transported.
The U.N. letter says the measures would violate migrants' human rights, which are enshrined in U.N. conventions that Italy has signed. It said Italy is obliged to rescue migrants in distress and can't impede others from doing so. And it says that Libya can't be considered a safe port for migrants rescued at sea, particularly after the recent spike in fighting.
In a statement late Sunday, the Italian foreign ministry said the letter carried no juridical weight and suggested it was based on imprecise information. It noted that since Jan. 1, 2018, Italy has received eight such letters, whereas the U.S. has received 30, Britain 16 and France 12.
Interior ministry officials told journalists in a statement Sunday that Turkey and North Korea similarly punish border violations and that Italy has long had fines in its legal code, which have merely been updated.
"The hope is that the authoritative U.N. dedicates its energies to the humanitarian emergency in Venezuela rather than engage in electoral campaigning in Italy," they said.
Meanwhile, British and French authorities have stopped 61 migrants who tried to cross the English Channel in five small boats over the weekend.
The British Home Office said 52 migrants on four boats were intercepted Saturday and Sunday off the Kent Coast and handed to immigration officials. The migrants said they were from Iraq and Iran.
The French maritime authority for the Channel and North Sea said a patrol ship spotted a boat carrying nine migrants Sunday off the coast of Cape of Gris-Nez. The nine were suffering light hypothermia and were handed over to border police in Calais.
Several of the migrants were children.
Illegal migrant crossings across the English Channel are on the rise in recent weeks despite joint British-French efforts to crack down on them.
Anchorage, May 16 (AP/UNB) — A newly married couple, a pilot who used his family's savings to buy his own plane, a devoted family man from Australia and an office manager at an insurance company with a vivacious personality and a heart of gold were among the six victims in this week's deadly midair collision of two sightseeing planes in Alaska.
Ten others survived the Monday crash over an inlet in southeast Alaska near the cruise ship port community of Ketchikan. All 14 passengers were off the cruise ship Royal Princess, which is on a seven-day trip in Alaska.
Alaska State Troopers identified the passengers who died as 46-year-old Louis Botha of San Diego, 56-year-old Simon Bodie from Tempe, New South Wales, Australia, 62-year-old Cassandra Webb from St. Louis, 39-year-old Ryan Wilk from Utah and 37-year-old Elsa Wilk of Richmond, British Columbia, Canada. Also killed was the pilot of one of the planes, 46-year-old Randy Sullivan of Ketchikan.
Responders have begun to recover the wreckage of planes, according to federal accident investigators. The larger of the floatplanes was recovered and put on a barge to be transported to Ketchikan, National Transportation Safety Board member Jennifer Homendy said Wednesday. The NTSB has a team of investigators from Washington, D.C., at the scene.
The recovery of the smaller plane has begun and will take longer because of the large debris field from that aircraft, Homendy said.
Here's a closer look at the victims:
Simon Bodie, 56, was a businessman from Tempe, New South Wales, Australia, and described in Australian media as a "devoted family man."
Bodie, a father of two, is believed to have taken the fateful flight with his wife of 31 years, Stephanie, The Australian newspaper reported.
"Simon was a unique beautiful person and a devoted family man. He will be greatly missed by all that knew him," his family said in a statement issued through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Randy Sullivan knew the perils of flying in southeast Alaska, where weather is always a challenge.
"The danger," Sullivan told the Los Angeles Times in a profile in 2015, "it's on people's minds. Always."
His wife, Julie, also knew the risks.
She kissed him before each flight as a gesture of good luck and love.
The Sullivans owned and operated Mountain Air Service, a flight service specializing in Misty Fjords National Monument tours, bear viewing and glacier tours, according to the company website. It says Sullivan grew up in Ketchikan, spending time as a child in remote logging camps.
He received aviation training at Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology in Tulsa, Oklahoma, before returning to Ketchikan. He flew in the Ketchikan area for 14 years, according to the website.
"After countless hours of flying, he has become extremely well respected and known to be 'one of the best' in his field," the page states.
He spent his family's $500,000 savings on a 1952 Beaver airplane, he told the Los Angles newspaper. It wasn't clear if that aircraft was the doomed plane.
Julie Sullivan has been given legal advice not to speak to reporters, said her father, Bud Kenyon.
"We're shocked, you know. We're just in disbelief about all this. It's hard to understand this. It's tough for us, you know," he said, his voice breaking. "It's a roller coaster."
RYAN and ELSA WILK
Ryan and Elsa Wilk planned to move from British Columbia to their new home in a Salt Lake City suburb.
They were killed in Monday's crash.
Ryan Wilk, 39, was a cybersecurity expert who had been featured in a number of articles, including in the New York Times.
He was a vice president for the Canadian firm NuData Security, a division of MasterCard.
Friends and colleagues remember Wilk as an intelligent, witty man who cherished good beer and long conversations.
"I can tell you my brother was an amazing man, son, husband, brother and uncle. We are completely devastated," his sister, Shannon Wilk, told Salt Lake City television station KSL.
"Ryan was a very kind man with a fun personality. I loved how much we laughed together," Daniela Veliz Llaguno, Wilk's first wife, told The Associated Press.
His free time was spent camping, watching college football and listening to the Grateful Dead, she added.
Friends remembered Elsa Wilk, 37, as a kind, dedicated friend looking forward to the next stage of her life.
Mark Pashley, who knew Elsa through their taekwondo practice, said Wilk was a fierce competitor in the studio and a social butterfly who loved to joke with friends in her free time.
Wilk had worked as a marketing director for different tech companies in Vancouver and held a black belt in taekwondo. She traveled around the world to compete in the sport.
Pashley said the couple hoped to start a family together in Salt Lake City.
"Everyone knew them as a wonderful couple, they were totally in love," he added.
Shannon Wilk told KSL that another victim, Louis Botha of San Diego, was Elsa Wilk's brother. Attempts by The Associated Press to reach the Botha family were not immediately successful.
Cassandra Webb, 62, liked to be called Cassie and was looking forward to retirement, getting a little travel time in ahead of that by taking trips with friends who have already ended their careers.
The Alaska trip was one she was really looking forward to, said Kevin Epperson, her boss and a co-worker in St. Louis for 30 years.
Webb and her friends spent three days in Vancouver, British Columbia, and then planned to be on the Royal Princess cruise in Alaska for seven days before ending the trip with a seven-day rail trip across Canada.
"Cassie was just an absolutely amazing person," Epperson said. "I mean, she was, you know, just a hoot to be around, she was a lot of fun. She always had a positive outlook on everything, had a heart of gold."
Epperson said he was in shock when he got the news. "The last thing you expect when somebody goes on a vacation, that they're going to perish," he said.
He will feel her absence every day at his insurance firm where she was the office manager.
"It's a loss that she's not going to be sitting across from me anymore. I'm not going to get to see her and talk to her every day," he said. "She was like a second mom to me."
Among her survivors are two sons, Dustin and Caleb.
Paris, May 16 (AP/UNB) — The White House is not endorsing a global pledge to step up efforts to keep internet platforms from being used to spread hate, organize extremist groups and broadcast attacks, citing respect for "freedom of expression and freedom of the press."
The statement came Wednesday after World leaders led by French President Emmanuel Macron and executives from Facebook, Google, Twitter and other tech companies gathered in Paris to compile a set of guidelines dubbed the "Christchurch Call," named after the New Zealand city where 51 people were killed in a March attack on mosques. Much of the attack was broadcast live on Facebook, drawing public outrage and fueling debate on how to better regulate social media. Facebook said before the meeting that it was tightening rules for livestream users.
In a statement, the White House said it will "continue to be proactive in our efforts to counter terrorist content online" while also protecting free speech.
The Christchurch Call "is a global response to a tragedy that occurred on the shores of my country but was ultimately felt around the world," said New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinta Ardern, who has played a leading role pushing for globally coordinated efforts to eliminate online extremism.
"Fundamentally it ultimately commits us all to build a more humane internet, which cannot be misused by terrorists for their hateful purposes," she said at a joint news conference with Macron.
The French and New Zealand governments drafted the agreement — a roadmap that aims to prevent similar abuses of the internet while insisting that any actions must preserve "the principles of a free, open and secure internet, without compromising human rights and fundamental freedoms."
The call was adopted by U.S. tech companies that also included Amazon, Microsoft and YouTube, along with France's Qwant and DailyMotion, and the Wikimedia Foundation. Countries backing France and New Zealand were Britain, Canada, Ireland, Jordan, Norway, Senegal, Indonesia and the European Union's executive body. Several other countries not present at the meeting added their endorsement.
The meeting in Paris comes at a pivotal moment for tech companies, which critics accuse of being too powerful and resistant to regulation. Some have called for giants like Facebook to be broken up. Europe is leading a global push for more regulation of how the companies handle user data and copyrighted material. The tech companies, meanwhile, are offering their own ideas in a bid to shape the policy response.
Unlike previous official attempts to regulate the internet, "the Christchurch Call is different in that it associates all actors of the internet" including the tech companies themselves, Macron said.
He said he hopes to get broader support for the agreement in coming months, with technical questions to be discussed by June.
In Wednesday's agreement, which is not legally binding, the tech companies committed to measures to prevent the spread of terrorist or violent extremist content. That may include cooperating on developing technology or expanding the use of shared digital signatures.
They also promised to take measures to reduce the risk that such content is livestreamed, including flagging it up for real-time review.
And they pledged to study how algorithms sometimes promote extremist content. That would help find ways to intervene more quickly and redirect users to "credible positive alternatives or counter-narratives."
Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Twitter issued a joint supporting statement, outlining in further detail actions they would take individually or together to combat abuse of technology to spread extremist content. They include making it easier for users to flag up inappropriate content, using enhanced vetting for livestreaming and publishing transparency reports on material that's removed.
Facebook, which dominates social media and has faced the harshest criticism for overlooking the misuse of consumer data and not blocking live broadcasts of violent actions, said separately it is toughening its livestreaming policies.
It's tightening the rules for its livestreaming service with a "one strike" policy applied to a broader range of offenses. Activity on the social network that violates its policies, such as sharing an extremist group's statement without providing context, will result in the user immediately being temporarily blocked. The most serious offenses will result in a permanent ban.
Previously, the company took down posts that breached its community standards but only blocked users after repeated offenses.
The tougher restrictions will be gradually extended to other areas of the platform, starting with preventing users from creating Facebook ads.
Facebook, which also owns Instagram and WhatsApp, said it's investing $7.5 million to improve technology aimed at finding videos and photos that have been manipulated to avoid detection — a problem the company encountered with the Christchurch shooting, where the attacker streamed the killing live on Facebook.
"Tackling these threats also requires technical innovation to stay ahead of the type of adversarial media manipulation we saw after Christchurch," Facebook's vice president of integrity, Guy Rosen, said in a blog post.
The Christchurch Call was drafted as 80 CEOs and executives from technology companies gathered in Paris for a "Tech for Good" conference meant to address how they can use their global influence for public good — for example by promoting gender equality, diversity in hiring and greater access to technology for lower income users.
Ardern and Macron have insisted that the Christchurch guidelines must involve joint efforts between governments and tech giants. France has been hit by repeated Islamic extremist attacks by groups who recruited and shared violent images on social networks.
Free speech advocates and some in the tech industry bristle at new restrictions and argue that violent extremism is a societal problem that the tech world can't solve.
Former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, a member of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said that while "a higher level of responsibility is demanded from all of the platforms," it is necessary to find a way to not censor legitimate discussion.
"It's a hard line to draw sometimes," he said.