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Home / Press review / Archive / Press review | 17/08/2012

 

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Conflict over asylum for Assange

Assange supporters demonstrate on Thursday before the Ecuadorian embassy in London. (© AP/dapd)

 

Ecuador granted political asylum to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange on Thursday. Assange sought refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London in June, for fear of being extradited to Sweden. Commentators criticise Britain's statement that it may invade the embassy, calling it an unprecedented violation of international conventions, but say Assange should go to Sweden to answer charges of sexual crimes.

The Guardian - United Kingdom

Unprecedented violation of international law

British diplomats explained on Wednesday that under British law Wikileaks founder Julian Assage can be arrested in the Ecuadorian embassy where he has taken refuge since June. But storming the building would represent an unprecedented move, the left-liberal daily The Guardian writes: "Such an assault would be so extreme in violating international law and diplomatic conventions that it is difficult to even find an example of a democratic government even making such a threat, let alone carrying it out. ... At the same time, it shows how important it is to have democratic governments that are independent of the US and - unlike Sweden and the UK - will not collaborate in the persecution of a journalist for the sake of expediency. Hopefully other governments will let the UK know that threats to invade another country's embassy put them outside the bounds of law-abiding nations. ... Now we will see if the UK government will respect international law and human rights conventions and allow Assange safe passage to Ecuador." (16/08/2012)

NRC Handelsblad - Netherlands

Governments must avoid escalation

The UK has not ruled out the option of arresting Wikileaks founder Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy. London has the right to do this, writes the liberal daily NRC Handelsblad, but calls for a diplomatic solution to the conflict: "There is a widespread misconception that embassies have extraterritorial status. But a cautious approach is vital. The immunity that a diplomatic post enjoys is aimed at regulating diplomatic interaction and should not unduly politicise the situation when bilateral tensions escalate. But citizens take advantage of this, too. It is not often that the embassy of an anti-American country like Ecuador becomes a place of refuge. Frequently it's the other way round. … The best solution would be for Assange to go on trial for rape but not to be extradited to the US on charges of subversive activities. The punishment for such activities is disproportionately harsh there. However this solution would only be practicable if all the countries in question, like the UK and Sweden, used diplomatic channels to achieve it."  (17/08/2012)

Die Presse - Austria

Assange and Ecuador a good match

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange would fit in perfectly in authoritarian Ecuador, writes the liberal conservative daily Die Presse, because he is less interested in campaigning for freedom of opinion than in fighting the American superpower: "Wikileaks wanted to be a torch of enlightened democracy - but instead it became the digital cudgel of America-haters. And in view of Assange's behaviour, one has to conclude that this development was no accident but deliberate. Anyone who, like the head of Wikileaks, can carry out ingratiating interviews with champions of democracy like Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasralla - backed by Vladimir Putin - can only view the US as a 'great Satan'. So it's only fitting that Assange is trying to flee to Ecuador under the protection of diplomatic immunity. Now he can debate the advantages of freedom of expression with President Rafael Correa, who is notorious for cracking down on disobliging journalists." (17/08/2012)

Dagens Nyheter - Sweden

Sweden's judiciary hard done by

Ecuador has granted asylum to wanted Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, justifying its decision with fears that after extradition to Sweden Assage would be handed over to the US, where he would not be given a fair trial. This should also give the Swedish authorities and politicians pause for thought, writes the liberal daily Dagens Nyheter: "For almost two years it has been impossible to complete the investigations because Assange has remained beyond the reach of the Swedish judicial system. This means that the rights of two women [who accuse him of sexual assault] are still being suspended. The granting of asylum should also prompt the Swedish authorities and government representatives to a self-critical examination. The at times very poor image that has been conveyed of Sweden's legal system is totally unfounded. Sweden is a constitutional state and the investigations against Assange are based on its principles, as would be the case in the event of a trial. But Swedish politicians have sometimes expressed themselves so carelessly that it has benefited those who claim that our courts are not independent." (17/08/2012)

POLITICS

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Süddeutsche Zeitung - Germany

Israel's threats lead to regional conflict

According to US defence minister Leon Panetta, Israel not yet reached a decision on whether to attack nuclear facilities in Iran. However the plans are evidently at an advanced stage. With a pre-emptive strike Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would jeopardise the currently stable domestic situation in Israel, the left-liberal daily Süddeutsche Zeitung comments: "With his threats of war Netanyahu looks like the winner across the board. … At home, no one is protesting against the high cost of living now that gas masks are being distributed for free. Americans and Europeans have stopped being so annoying with their constant calls for the peace process to be resumed, and have gone silent on the subject of settlement expansion. … [But] if Israel unilaterally launches a military attack against Iran, Netanyahu risks losing everything he has gained in one fell blow. The West, which is now coddling him, will hardly forgive him for triggering a new regional conflict in the midst of the Arab revolution and on top of that for destabilising the global economy as a result of rising oil prices." (17/08/2012)

Les Dernières Nouvelles d'Alsace - France

Pussy Riot trial shows Putin's authoritarianism

The sentence against the three singers of the punk band Pussy Riot, who are standing trial for singing an anti-Putin song in Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, will be handed down in Moscow today. The trial perfectly illustrates Putin's authoritarian system, the daily Les Dernières Nouvelles d'Alsace writes: "The proceedings against the punk trio that has been declared public enemy number one has unmasked Russian domestic policy, which is as brutal as a whiplash. The ruler in the Kremlin could not care less that each attack on human rights prompts an international outcry. He knows full well that the world can't get along without him and that he is unassailable from outside his country. With this trial he wants to accentuate his total control over Russian society, over the courts and the Orthodox Church, which are the indispensable pillars of the regime. The people are to be made to understand and accept that their only freedom is to remain silent, and that there is no room for protest." (17/08/2012)

Delfi - Lithuania

Lithuania must punish Swedish activists

Belarus is demanding that Lithuania provide it with information on a small aircraft piloted by Swedish activists that illegally penetrated Belarusian airspace at the end of July. However the Lithuanian government has denied claims that Lithuania's airspace was violated despite radar evidence to the contrary. The news portal Delfi criticises this stance: "A diplomatic war is raging between our neighbours to the East and West. And the Republic of Lithuania which lies between them is burying its head in the sand. … It is a disgrace for Lukashenko alone that Belarus failed to stop the flight after its bombastic celebration of independence. But the fact that this small airplane re-appeared on Lithuanian radars after one and a half hours and no one took any action sends a message. … It is not too late to summon the Swedes and punish them for the illegal flight according to Lithuanian laws. This is the duty of a state based on the rule of law." (16/08/2012)

REFLECTIONS

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Ta Nea - Greece

Giannis Mitsos on racism in Greek society

The number of racist attacks against immigrants is spiralling in Greece. Columnist Giannis Mitsos criticises society for tolerating such attacks in the left-liberal daily Ta Nea: "We read about the daily assaults on immigrants in Greece and are appalled by the brutality of the perpetrators, the incompetence of the police, the apathy of the government. … Organised racism, legitimised by parliament, has taken root in our society and can no longer be eradicated. On the contrary, even rougher times lie ahead. … One of the bitter consequences of the crisis is that we have grown used to the darkness, F. wrote yesterday on Facebook. He was referring to the type of darkness that spreads when all hope has died and a lack of solidarity results from the predominance of ugliness. Is there a way out of this? Perhaps new elections?. … No! The wound goes too deep; radical things would have to happen. … One reads about the murderous attack on an Iraqi immigrant on Sunday and can only conclude that certain books should be compulsory reading at Greek schools. Above all the 'Banality of Evil' by Hannah Arendt." (16/08/2012)

ECONOMY

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Il Sole 24 Ore - Italy

US brings about turning point in Libor scandal

In the case of the manipulated Libor interest rates, the attorneys general of the US states of New York and Connecticut have issued subpoenas to seven major banks, according to media reports. With this step the investigations into the scandal take a decisive turn, the liberal-conservative business paper Il Sole 24 Ore notes jubilantly: "With New York, the centre of the financial world is finally launching into action, and with a healthy dose of geopolitics - considering that German, British and Swiss banks are now all in the prosecutors' sights. The latter are citing a law passed in 1921 that does not require proof from the prosecutors that the accused were acting with the intention of committing fraud. … It looks like this time a verdict will be passed. All too often the authorities have confined themselves to merely imposing fines that, although high, were ultimately counter-productive. Because firstly they were never high enough to have a deterrent impact and secondly they allowed banks that had been caught red-handed to reacquire a semblance of respectability, since the sanctions were never a verdict of guilty but merely a matter of negotiated punishment." (17/08/2012)

Cinco Días - Spain

Investors believe in Spanish bailout in near future

The Spanish share index, the Ibex, rose to 7.417 points on Thursday while the yields on Spanish bonds dropped considerably. The markets are clearly acting on the assumption that Spain will soon seek a bailout, the business paper Cinco Días concludes: "Slowly but surely the market has begun to send out positive signals regarding Spain's sovereign debt. The reason for this is the growing conviction among investors that Spain will request help from Europe to cover the costs of its public debt. This was the precondition stipulated by ECB chief Mario Draghi at the beginning of August for the ECB to continue purchasing Spanish bonds. … And since then the conviction that the government will soon request assistance from its European partners and that the ECB will then proceed to make massive purchases of Spanish bonds has gained ground." (17/08/2012)

Neue Zürcher Zeitung - Switzerland

Banks not assistants to tax authorities

In the course of the difficult negotiations on a tax agreement between Austria, Germany, the UK, the US and Switzerland, the Swiss Minister of Finance Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf proposed a "clean money strategy" back in February. Under this strategy Swiss banks would be allowed to examine whether the money deposited by their clients has previously been correctly declared. Such controls would be against the law, contends Dan Kohler, CEO of Zurich Trust AG, in the liberal-conservative daily Neue Zürcher Zeitung: "With a 'clean money strategy' we would foist upon the banks a responsibility which they are not in a position to shoulder. We would be making the gravest mistake: imposing responsibility without ensuring that those charged with that responsibility have the necessary authority in terms of both expertise and legal scope. … German and American public prosecutors are currently trying to expand their legal expertise and their legislation to encompass Swiss banks. The banks are to be turned into assistants to foreign tax authorities. This is inadmissible, violates Swiss law and should not be tolerated by the Swiss authorities." (17/08/2012)

SOCIETY

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Népszava - Hungary

Anti-Semitism socially acceptable in Hungary

Hungarian fans chanted anti-Semitic slogans during a football game against Israel on Wednesday in Budapest. Anti-Semitism has become acceptable in Hungary, the left-leaning daily Népszava fears: "The organisers of the friendly match between Hungary and Israel had been warned in the run-up to the event. They were ready for provocations, even insults, and in the end there were 'only' anti-Semitic chants. For the newspapers in our country the incident was trivial, not even worth covering. It would seem that anti-Semitic chants are not merely acceptable here, but even welcome. Above all in a country whose capital city rewards representatives of anti-Semitic ideas with a theatre. ... And who knows, perhaps the bellowing and chanting football fans will be the ones who end up going to the theatre. .. Then, just like at certain Hungarian football matches, plays could begin with a Nazi salute." (16/08/2012)

Nordschleswiger - Denmark

Paperless classroom causes digital dementia

Ørestad High School in Copenhagen wants to stop using printed material altogether in classes and confine itself to the use of electronic media. The daily Nordschleswiger doesn't think much of the idea: "Is it possible for information to be lodged in the brain in this way for any longer than the next exam? Can young people who leap from one digital snippet to the next, from an Internet clip to a text message and from there to a tweet, still understand long, coherent texts and write them themselves? The buzzword digital dementia is making the rounds, and ever more professors are despairing because none of their students read books any more, and none of them are capable of writing decent term papers. ... Schools have the job of conveying our culture. That includes teaching students how to use what Gutenberg's invention in 1440 made possible: the book. Bold concepts like the one presented by the school in Copenhagen can be a sensible step. But not dispensing entirely with books." (17/08/2012)

LOCAL COLOURS

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Svobodata - Bulgaria

Borisov's football buddies above the law

The Bulgarian amateur football league Vitosha, in which Prime Minister Boyko Borisov plays as a striker, recently flew from Sofia to Varna for a friendly match using Bulgaria's government jet. That is not only illegal, it's a flagrant display of Borisov's authoritarian governing style, the opinion portal Svobodata criticises: "No one, not even Bulgaria's prime minister, can order the government fleet to undertake such flights. For one thing the pilots bear far too great a responsibility, which prevents them from flying counter to regulations. For another thing, it denigrates the dignity of the executive, violates democratic rules and is a sign of authoritarian arbitrariness. In the view of Bulgaria's prime minister however, who bears government responsibility and should stand behind state decisions, this flight was perfectly in line with regulations. Worse yet, he maintained that it is common practice to fly football clubs around in state aircraft. Seen from this perspective, the government jet is just a sort of taxi for footballers." (16/08/2012)

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