- WikiLeaks’s Assange Closer to Freedom as Swedes Drop Case
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange moved closer to freedom Friday after Swedish prosecutors moved to drop a rape investigation against him, leaving the door open for him to emerge from his self-imposed exile in a London embassy.
Sweden Prosecutor Marianne Ny said Friday that her office will drop an investigation into Assange regarding suspected rape. Assange’s seven years of evading questioning has made it impossible to handle the case properly.
“It is unfortunate that we haven’t been able to conduct this investigation the way we would have wanted,” Ny said at a press conference. “We have used the means at our disposal to advance the investigation with satisfactory quality and we have to face the fact that this is where we stand today.”
Assange sought refuge at the Ecuadorian embassy in London in June 2012, after exhausting options in U.K. courts to avoid extradition over the allegations stemming from a 2010 trip to Sweden. He has refused to return to the Scandinavian country, citing risks he will be extradited to the U.S. over the release of secret documents.
While mostly out of public view in the embassy, the 45-year-old Assange managed to command attention even in his hideout London’s tony Knightsbridge district. Last year, Wikileaks injected itself into the middle of the U.S. presidential campaign by publishing hacked emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
Assange’s lawyer, Per E. Samuelson, told Swedish media that Assange could leave the embassy soon.
“It’s a big victory day for Julian Assange,” Samuelson said in an interview.
London’s Metropolitan Police said the prosecutor’s decision left Assange wanted for a “much less serious offense” and the police “will provide a level of resourcing which is proportionate to that offense.”
“The priority for the MPS must continue to be arresting those who are currently wanted in the capital in connection with serious violent or sexual offenses for the protection of Londoners,” the police said in an emailed statement.
One police car with three cops inside was parked outside the embassy on early on Friday, with more arriving to control a growing crowd of journalists and photographers.
London police ended the round-the-clock guards at the Ecuadorian embassy in October after anger over the cost. U.K. government offices referred comment on Assange’s case to the police.
Assange’s Twitter feed had a picture of him smiling and looking relaxed posted on Friday morning.
“He is free to leave the embassy when he wants to,” Assange attorney Samuelson said to Swedish Radio, according to news agency TT. “He’s of course happy and relieved but is critical of the fact that this has been going on for such a long time.’’
The Australian was the world’s best-known activist hacker in 2012 when he walked into Ecuador’s embassy, a modest row house in London, applying for humanitarian asylum rather than face questioning in Sweden over accusations of rape and sexual molestation.
He said American officials made up the case in an attempt to have him extradited. The U.S. opened a criminal investigation into WikiLeaks after the organization published hundreds of thousands of leaked State Department cables in 2010.
Although he has not been formally charged, Assange has often implied —- without much hard evidence — that the U.S. would gladly try to assassinate him.
WikiLeaks played a central role in the 2016 presidential race when it published emails stolen through hacking the Democratic National Committee and later from John Podesta, chairman of Clinton’s campaign. U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded Russia was behind the hacking in an effort to interfere with the U.S. political process, damage Clinton’s campaign and ultimately help Republican Donald Trump win the White House.
In April, Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo said Assange was the leader of a hostile force that threatens the U.S.
“It is time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is — a non-state hostile intelligence service” often aided by nations such as Russia, Pompeo said April 13 in his first public speech after becoming head of the agency. “WikiLeaks walks like a hostile intelligence service and talks like a hostile intelligence service.”
The group has encouraged followers to pursue jobs at the CIA in order to pilfer intelligence, Pompeo told the audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. He denounced Assange, who calls himself a champion of transparency in government, as a “narcissist” and a “fraud — a coward hiding behind a screen.”
Russia’s role remains the subject of multiple investigations by congressional intelligence committees and the FBI, which has said it’s looking into whether any associates of Trump had contact or colluded with Russian government operatives.
Assange has denied that he was given the leaked documents by Russia, although he has refused to say where he got them.
Lagos- Ibadan Rail Project Delayed Due To Technical Issues- Amaechi
The Minister of Transportation, Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, yesterday attributed the delay in inaugurating the Lagos-Ibadan rail project to infrastructural and technical issues within the seaport in Apapa.
This, according to him, would be resolved at a meeting involving all stakeholders and experts to proffer solutions to the problem.
Amaechi, during an inspection tour of the project within the seaport axis yesterday in Lagos, said he could not say exactly when the project would now be launched.
He said: “This project is very technical. If I have given you a timeline, how would I have found a solution to the customs building, so we are working hard to find these solutions; it is only after when the engineers have come up with proper solutions and time-based solutions that I can speak on time. Now I cannot speak on time until when that happens.
“You know, you can actually commission this project without that because it is not just one track, there are several tracks; that is one of the tracks we are going to fix. I am not an engineer, am just a policymaker; I am the head of the ministry.”
Amaechi, however, expressed the determination of the government to complete the project despite the challenges.
“All I am doing is to make sure that out of the three tracks one or two can get to the quays so that we can commission, pending when the other ones are completed as a result of challenges we are meeting inside the seaport. It means this is the difficulty we are having and we want to face them. The fact that we have not gone to other places means other places are functioning. But this one we have this crisis and we have to find a solution to it.
“We are going to have a meeting now, and in that meeting, everybody will be there both the experts and once we make a decision, then we can convey it to the public. We have about three tracks coming into here, is only one that we are having problems with.”
Managing Director of the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC), Mr. Fridet Okhiria, expressed the need to have the rail fully operational at the seaside of the port.
”The essence of the rail is to move freight, passengers and to provide service and we have to get to the port meaningfully, not just getting to the port. We have to get to the seaside so that the ship can load directly to reduce multiple handling of goods and by doing so it will reduce the cost of the movement because presently we now get ourselves in multiple handling.
“You have to pay for a truck to take it to the railway head that is why the minister is insisting that we must get to the seaside and which is the best way to go for Nigeria. We should earn more revenue and reduce cost and the goods will get to the market and eliminate double handling of goods,” he said.
INEC Plans Expansion Of Polling Units For 2023 General Election
Ahead of 2023 general elections, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has promised to make polling units accessible to the electorate to remove voter apathy during elections.
INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC) in Kwara, Malam Garba Attahiru-Madami, made this known on Monday in Ilorin while declaring open two-day training on “Implementation of expansion of voters’ access to polling units”.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the training was for Electoral Officers (EOs) and Assistant Electoral Officers (AEOs) in charge of Administration, Operations and Cluster Registration areas drawn from the 16 local government areas of Kwara.
He noted that many eligible voters refused to vote on election day because of the distance of polling units to their residences.
The REC told the participants that the training was very important to INEC, just as election was important, adding that without polling unit, there would be no election.
“Election start from polling unit, if there is no polling unit, there would be no election and collation, that is how important polling unit is,” he added.
He therefore charged the participants to take the training very serious as the outcome of the training would offer opportunity on what they would do on the field.
“I don’t need to re-emphasise why access to polling unit is very important. We already know that this exercise was carried out in 1996 and it was to serve 50 million voters.
“In 2019 election, we have greater voters of 84 million; you can see that the polling units now are grossly inadequate.
“By the time general election will take place in 2023, our projection is to have over 120 million voters.
“The number of polling units we have now cannot serve the 120 million voters, so the training is very important,” he said.
According to the REC, one of the reasons for voter apathy is because the polling unit was not accessible to them.
He said that some polling units have over 1,000 to 5,000 voters that were spread to polling points.
“So, we want to see how we can convert some of these voting points to polling units to meet the need of the people on election day.
“In some communities with communal clash, having their own polling unit would solve such conflict, because you will see a villager that will say, I will not go to that village to vote,” he added.
He said the idea of expansion of polling units was to remove voter apathy and reduce distance from home to the polling unit. (NAN)
African Union Holds Global Conference to Accelerate African Vaccine Development and Manufacturing Capacity
African leaders assembled at a global meeting to discuss the status of local pharmaceutical manufacturing on the continent, underscored the need to increase local production of vaccines and therapeutics to achieve greater public-health security.
“The production of vaccines and access to vaccines is an absolute priority,” Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa, said Monday in opening remarks at the start of the two-day virtual meeting, convened by the African Union.
The meeting was attended by several African heads of state, health, finance and trade ministers from across the continent, as well as officials from global financial institutions, foundations, pharmaceutical manufacturers, business leaders, and the general public. The African Development Bank was represented by Solomon Quaynor, Vice President Private Sector, Infrastructure and Industrialization.
Although Africa consumes approximately one-quarter of global vaccines by volume, it manufactures less than 1% of its routine vaccines, with almost no outbreak vaccine manufacturing in place. The region lags behind in procuring vaccines amid a global scramble for the medicines among wealthier nations. Thus far, only around 2% of the world’s vaccination against Covid-19 has taken place in Africa.
The need for a new public health order in Africa, which promotes domestic vaccine manufacturing, epidemic preparedness and upgraded healthcare systems to meet the needs of the world’s fastest-growing population, was the conference’s main objective.
The African Union and the Africa CDC said they would continue to work with all stakeholders to identify implementable actions, financing needs and timelines to competitively produce vaccines in Africa.
Quaynor noted that the current undertaking would require immense investment. “Vaccine manufacturing, because of its complexity, is not really an entrepreneurial drive but actually an institutional drive,” he added.
The African Development Bank is working with global and African stakeholders, to articulate a 2030 vision for Africa’s Pharmaceutical Industry in response to several calls received from African Heads of State, who have expressed a strong political will. This vision aligns with its “industrialize Africa” priority strategy.
The vision will build on previous efforts to produce a continental plan of action to boost local African pharmaceutical manufacturing capacity, such as the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Plan for Africa adopted in Abuja in January 2005 and the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Plan for Africa (PMPA), prepared by the African Union Commission and the United Nations in 2012, to assist local manufacturers with pharmaceutical production.
Quaynor said Africa could count on the African Development Bank’s support to secure Africa’s health defense system. “Leveraging on our comparative advantages, we will both provide upstream support to governments on the enabling environment, as well as provide financing to private sector and PPPs both indirectly through some of our private equity investee funds and directly through lending, and credit and risk guarantees. We will also use the Africa Investment Forum to bring in all relevant stakeholders and partner DFIs into bankable opportunities…”
The 2030 vision for Africa’s pharmaceutical industry would also work with pharmaceutical industry associations in Africa to create capacity development links between universities and industry in Africa, and work with African scientists in the diaspora, Quaynor said in remarks made on behalf of African Development Bank President Akinwumi A. Adesina.
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