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Mass Cleanup of Italian Beaches Planned for Weekend

Every year, 8 million tons of waste suffocate beaches and sea beds, says Italy’s environment league, Legambiente. Its Beach Litter report issued this week revealed that more than 80 percent of the waste found on 93 beaches was plastic. 

 

A mass cleanup is planned next weekend, involving thousands of volunteers on 250 beaches and coastal sites. Legambiente, which organized the effort, also urged the government to approve the Salvamare (Save Our Seas) bill that would allow fishermen to bring to shore any plastic that ends up in their nets, without having to pay for disposal costs.

Greenpeace Italy sounded its alarm this week when a young sperm whale washed ashore on a Sicilian beach with plastic in its stomach. Giorgia Monti, campaign manager for Greenpeace, said five sperm whales had beached in the last five months in Italy. She could not confirm whether plastic was the cause of the death of the last whale found, but said it was very likely.

“The sea is sending us a cry of alarm, a desperate SOS,” Monti said.

Later this month, Greenpeace is launching an effort to monitor plastic pollution levels at sea, with a focus on the west coast of Italy. 

 

To stem the tide of plastic waste, initiatives have been spearheaded across Italy. Among new technology to combat pollution in many Italian ports are filters called sea-bins, which are active 24 hours and able to capture more than 1.5 kilograms of plastic daily. 

 

While campaigners say much more needs to be done, some tourist resorts have banned the use of non-recyclable plastic and fine violators. 

 

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Britain’s May Urged to Quit

Even by the highly colorful standards of Britain’s great big Brexit mess, what looks like Prime Minister Theresa May’s final days in office are turning into a psychodrama without much precedence in modern British political history.

With lawmakers in her ruling party in open revolt, ministers resigning, and more threatening to do so, joining a long list of dozens who’ve quit in the past two years, a teary-eyed May seemed determined Thursday to try to eke out some more time in Downing Street.

She was accused by a former Conservative party leader of having shut herself in with the “sofa against the door.”

May refused to meet a trio of top ministers Wednesday, who were going to tell her either to resign or at the very least to drop the contentious Brexit withdrawal agreement she negotiated with Brussels, and which she’s trying to get parliament to approve next month for a fourth time following three previous heavy defeats.

Earlier this week, she re-introduced the deal, but added the possibility of Britain holding a second Brexit referendum to confirm that a majority still wants to leave the European Union. That was too much for Brexit hardliners in her party.

Her refusal to contemplate a customs union with the EU has enraged those in her party, as well as opposition politicians, who want to remain either in the bloc or closely tied to it. She is caught in a vice, as has been the case since last November when she finalized negotiations with the EU.

The resignation Wednesday of a senior cabinet member, Andrea Leadsom, a keen Brexiter, has triggered what looks like the final chapter for May.

Clinging to power

Conservative lawmakers were lining up for TV interviews Thursday to tell her by way of the broadcasters to quit, and preferably before polling stations close in European parliamentary elections. The ruling Conservatives look destined to suffer a drubbing in the polls — and possibly their worst electoral performance in their storied history.

But the pleas fell on deaf ears.

Britain has seen other prime ministers desperately cling to power when the writing was on the wall. Margaret Thatcher in 1990 sought to see off a challenge to her leadership but eventually gave in when her cabinet made clear it was time for her to go. The denouement took two weeks.

In 2010, Labour’s Gordon Brown squatted in Downing Street after leading his party to its worst general election result in decades, but eventually gave up after several tortured days.

Theresa May has clung to power since December, when she saw off narrowly a confidence vote by her rebellious lawmakers. Now it would appear, say party insiders, she’s run out of road. Even loyalists were urging her to go — if for no other reason than personal dignity.

“Her deal is dead but she is stubbornly playing for time,” said Iain Duncan Smith, a former Conservative leader.

For weeks now May has said she would be going soon and has repeatedly promised to announce a timetable for her departure. But she has not done so, preferring instead try to bend an unenthusiastic parliament to her will. She is convinced, her critics said, that her brinkmanship would be rewarded.

In more normal times in Britain a prime minister in such a political hole would have quit much earlier. But these are anything but normal times.

Deep divisions

Brexit has rancorously divided the country and fractured political parties into quarrelsome unyielding factions. It also has upended a political rulebook better suited for more stable times. Long-established procedures and conventions have increasingly been cast aside as May, cabinet ministers and lawmakers, both Brexiters and those who are pro-EU, have battled desperately about how to part company with the bloc.

May’s tenure at Downing Street has witnessed a series of startling setbacks. She gambled in 2017 by calling a snap election, hoping to secure a larger majority for the Conservatives only to see Labour dash her hopes, leaving her heading a precariously positioned minority government.

She has drawn emphatic “red lines” with EU negotiators only to be forced to cave when confronted with firm resistance from Brussels or outrage from hardline Brexiters or Europhiles in her own party. And as the Brexit drama has unfolded, both she and the country have been drawn deeper into a political labyrinth.

Why has she persisted as prime minister? She certainly has stamina, despite battling diabetes 1. Grant Shapps, a former Conservative Party chairman who once tried to organize a coup against her, once noted she seems to thrive on danger and can operate when “it is fairly high on the scale.” He added: “she operates at the upper end of that scale almost every day of her life and, remarkably, walks out at the other end.”

Like Germany’s equally dogged leader Angela Merkel, May is the daughter of a clergyman, and she remains a devout church-goer. May has said that her Christian faith “is part of me. It is part of who I am and therefore how I approach things.” She has spoken glowingly of her father’s devotion and dutifulness to parishioners.

One of her favorite hymns is on the subject of Crucifixion, Isaac Watts’ “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” a canticle that embraces sacrifice and duty and rejects pride. Even her political foes have acknowledged her conscientiousness, but also say that has morphed into destructive stubbornness.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph on Thursday, commentator Sherelle Jacobs, argued May was determined to leave Downing Street with a legacy of success, saying that the clergyman’s daughter is “maddened by the scale of her failures.” She added: “The irony is that the more Mrs. May stubbornly fights for survival, the worse her record becomes.”

Few believe she can survive for much longer, and her foes are counting not the days but the hours.

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Dutch, UK First to Vote in 4 Days of European Elections

Dutch and U.K. polls opened Thursday in elections for the European Parliament, starting four days of voting across the 28-nation bloc that pits supporters of deeper integration against populist Euroskeptics who want more power for their national governments.

A half hour after voting started in the Netherlands, polls opened across the United Kingdom, the only other country voting Thursday, and a nation still wrestling with its plans to leave the European Union altogether and the leadership of embattled Prime Minister Theresa May.

The elections, which end Sunday night, come as support is surging for populists and nationalists who want to rein in the EU’s powers, while traditional powerhouses like France and Germany insist that unity is the best buffer against the shifting economic and security interests of an emerging new world order.

French President Emmanuel Macron says the challenge is “not to cede to a coalition of destruction and disintegration” that will seek to dismantle EU unity built up over the past six decades.

In a significant challenge to those centrist forces, populists appear largely united heading into the elections. On Saturday, Italy’s anti-migrant Interior Minister Matteo Salvini was joined at a rally by 10 other nationalist leaders, including include far-right leaders Marine Le Pen of France’s National Rally party and Joerg Meuthen of the Alternative for Germany party.

On Thursday morning, U.K. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn released a message with a warning that “the far-right is on the rise” and added that “the actions we take now will have huge consequences for our future.”

Voters across Europe elect a total of 751 lawmakers, although that number is set to drop to 705 when the UK leaves the EU. The Dutch make up 26 currently and 29 after Brexit. The UK has 73 European lawmakers, who would lose their jobs when their country completes its messy divorce from the EU.

Results of the four days of voting will not be officially released until Sunday night, but Dutch national broadcaster NOS will publish an exit poll after ballot boxes close Thursday night. 

The Netherlands could provide a snapshot of what is to come. Polls show the right-wing populist Forum for Democracy led by charismatic intellectual Thierry Baudet running neck-and-neck with the center-right VVD party of Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

While the country, an affluent trading nation, profits from the EU’s open borders and single market, it also is a major contributor to EU coffers. Skeptical Dutch voters in 2005 rejected a proposed EU constitution in a referendum. 

Baudet, whose party emerged as a surprise winner of provincial elections in March, identifies more with hard-line Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban than with the nationalist populist movement led by Salvini, although in a debate Wednesday night he called Salvini a “hero of Europe” for his crackdown on migration.

“The immigration we get here from Africa and the Mideast is completely contrary to our culture, our values, our way of life, tolerance, love of women and so on,” Baudet said. “That has to stop and it will not happen at the European level.”

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Libya’s Haftar Reportedly Rules Out Cease-fire in Talks with France’s Macron

Libyan eastern commander Khalifa Haftar told French President Emmanuel Macron that conditions for a cease-fire were not in place, although he would be ready to talk if those conditions were met, a French presidency official said.

Macron and French officials have for several weeks called for an unconditional cease-fire in the battle for Tripoli after Haftar last month launched an offensive on the Libyan capital.

“The distrust we see between the Libyan actors is stronger than ever today,” said a French presidential official after the meeting between Macron and Haftar in Paris.

“When the question of the cease-fire was put on the table, Haftar’s reaction to this was to ask, ‘Negotiate with whom for a cease-fire today?'” the official said.

“He considers that the GNA [U.N.-backed Government of National Unity led by Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj] is completely infested by militias and it is not for him to negotiate with representatives of these militias.”

The official said Macron had asked Haftar to make a public step toward a cease-fire and Haftar responded by saying that an inclusive political dialogue was necessary and he would be ready for it if the conditions for a cease-fire were in place.

Macron met Serraj earlier this month, but a day after meeting him, Serraj’s administration asked 40 foreign firms including French oil major Total to renew their licences or have their operations suspended.

Tripoli is home to the internationally-recognized administration, but some European countries such as France have also supported eastern military commander Haftar as a way to fight militants in a country in chaos since the toppling of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

Haftar also said neither him nor his army were benefiting from oil sales in the east of the country, the official said.

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Cyprus Editor Hails Acquittal over Turkey Insult Charge

The editor of a Turkish Cypriot newspaper said Wednesday his acquittal on charges he insulted Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was a triumph of Turkish Cypriot justice.

Sener Levent, editor of Afrika newspapers in the breakaway north of ethnically divided Cyprus, said he’s confident the supreme court will side with him should his acquittal be challenged.

Levent and colleague Ali Osman Tabak were acquitted last week over a 2017 front-page cartoon Afrika ran depicting a Greek statue urinating on Erdogan accompanied by the caption “as seen through Greek eyes.”

He called the ruling the “biggest legal achievement” by Turkish Cypriots since Cyprus was divided in 1974 when Turkey invaded after a coup by supporters of union with Greece. Only Turkey recognizes the breakaway Turkish Cypriot administration.

He said the ruling sent Turkey a message that “you shall not pass.”

“A brave judge has acquitted us,” Levent told the Associated Press. “If we win at the Supreme Court, it will be a very important ruling.”

Levent, an outspoken critic of Turkey’s outsized influence in the north where it maintains more than 35,000 troops, said he has several other cases pending against him. He has written an article that likened Turkey’s military presence in Syria to that in Cyprus, calling it an “occupation.”

His newspaper’s offices were attacked last year by group of Erdogan supporters.

Levent and five other Turkish Cypriots have formed the Jasmin Movement to vie for Cyprus’ six seats in Sunday’s European Parliament election, running under the mantra “one state, one people, one Cyprus.”

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Spanish Oil Giant Winds Down Operations in Venezuela   

Spain’s Repsol, the last western oil giant with major operations in Venezuela, is leaving the embattled country, as pressure mounts from U.S. sanctions and continuing unrest.

Repsol’s investments in Venezuela, valued at nearly $1.7 billion (1,480 billion euros) in 2017, have fallen 70% over the past year.  The company’s annual report also says the firm will continue winding down its Venezuelan business in the next few months.

Repsol has been the subject of intense negotiations between Spain and Washington as the Trump administration tries to get Madrid’s socialist government to join efforts to isolate President Nicolas Maduro.

Spanish oil companies are maintaining “certain activity” (in Venezuela) which can “pose a problem” with U.S. sanctions according to Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrel.  He spoke after a meeting with U.S. secretary of state Mike Pompeo in Washington last month.

Pompeo asked Spain to “apply all possible financial and political pressures” on the Maduro regime according to Borrel,  who said that Spain would act within the framework of the European Union.  EU foreign ministers decided not to impose sanctions on Venezuela at a recent meeting in Brussels. 

Meantime, Repsol is negotiating the reduction of its Venezuelan business interests with the State Department, according to U.S. diplomatic sources.

U.S. special envoy for Venezuela Eliot Abrams recently said during a visit Madrid, that “Repsol’s business in Venezuela is under very active discussion in Washington” where the company applied for special exemptions for its remaining joint ventures with the Venezuela’s national oil company PDVSA.

“There will be decisions made in Washington in the coming days about this,” Abrams said.

Repsol has consistently adapted to the socialist policies of the left-wing populist government abandoned by other oil giants like Exxon Mobil and BP.  It was one of the few companies to remain in Bolivia when president Evo Morales, a close ally of Maduro, forced foreign firms to accept majority state ownership in energy projects.

Repsol has also explored for offshore oil in Cuba.

Repsol executives have denied that U.S. pressure is forcing it out of Venezuela. But the Trump administration’s actions are increasingly blocking the company’s ability to conduct business with Venezuela’s national oil company PDVSA. 

Russia conducts oil business in Venezuela through an affiliate that PDVSA recently opened in Moscow. The Russian company Rosneft owned by a close friend of premier Vladimir Putin has increasingly assumed control of Venezuela’s diminishing oil production. 

Some of Repsol’s oil contracts with the Venezuelan government run until 2036. The company has a 40% stake in four oil blocks under a joint venture company, as well as majority stakes in gas projects. 

The firm has been trying to get around U.S. sanctions by bartering shipments of Venezuelan crude for refined fuel sent back to Venezuela.

But this swap system is now endangered by a new U.S. Energy Department directive that authorizes officials to confiscate oil tankers and freeze assets of companies moving Venezuelan oil.

According to the Reuter news agency, Europe-bound tankers loading crude at Venezuelan ports have been paralyzed in port.

Washington has given Repsol a grace period to wind down its Venezuelan operations in an orderly way according to company spokesmen.

There are also growing legal pressures on Spanish individuals involved in Venezuela’s oil business. Spain’s ambassador to Venezuela under former socialist prime minister Rodriguez Zapatero, Raul Morodo, is being investigated for laundering money through false contracts with PDVSA. Three people including his son were arrested this week on orders from Spain’s highest court. 

 

 

 

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Thousands of Czechs Demand Justice Minister Resign

Tens of thousands of protesters rallied in the Czech capital Tuesday as demands intensified for the resignation of the new justice minister.

The protesters say the minister might compromise the legal system at a time when prosecutors have to decide whether to indict Prime Minister Andrej Babis over alleged fraud involving European Union funds.

Babis denies any wrongdoing.

Concerns of bias

The justice minister has significant control over prosecutors. The protesters are angry that Marie Benesova was appointed shortly after police recommended Babis’ indictment in April.

As a lawmaker, Benesova voted against a police request to strip Babis of parliamentary immunity to face investigation.

She’s a lawyer and adviser to President Milos Zeman, Babis’ close ally. Zeman has repeatedly criticized prosecutors.

Protesters and opposition members say she might try to influence his case, a claim that Benesova denies.

“We’ve had enough,” and “Shame,” the crowd chanted.

Fraud accusations

The fraud case involves a farm that received EU subsidies after its ownership was transferred from the Babis-owned Agrofert conglomerate of around 250 companies to Babis’ family members. The subsidies were meant for medium and small businesses and Agrofert wouldn’t have been eligible for them.

Later, Agrofert again took ownership of the farm.

“We are worrying about democracy,” former NHL goaltender Dominik Hasek said in an address to the crowd. “We’re worrying about an independent justice system.”

Government should go

Some of the protesters said Babis and his government should go.

“I think that the entire government should (resign),” said Eva Bernartova, a retiree who traveled from the southern town of Prachatice to join the demonstration.

“When you have the prime minister who faces criminal charges, how can he keep the government together? He’s no example to follow.”

After three previous protests packed Prague’s Old Town Square, the demonstrations moved Tuesday to the city’s much-bigger Wenceslas Square. They are set to spread across the Czech Republic next week.

The organizers also called on Babis to defend his steps in a television debate with them.

Babis, a populist billionaire, is a controversial figure because of a power-sharing deal with the Communist Party and the fraud charges. His position is also complicated by allegations he collaborated with the former communist-era secret police and accusations he’s in a conflict of interests because he formally still controls his business empire whose ownership he was forced to transfer to two funds.

 

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Austrian Government Collapses Over Ibiza Video Scandal

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz called time Monday on his coalition government with the far-right Freedom Party after its leader was shown on video appearing to offer favors to a purported Russian investor.

Kurz said he was seeking the removal of the country’s interior minister, Freedom Party politician Herbert Kickl, to ensure an unbiased probe into the video.

“I’m firmly convinced that what’s necessary now is total transparency and a completely and unbiased investigation,” Kurz told reporters in Vienna.

The Freedom Party reacted by withdrawing its ministers from the government.

“We won’t leave anyone out in the rain,” said the party’s interim leader, Norbert Hofer.

Kickl’s removal, which must still be approved by Austria’s president, follows the resignation on Saturday of Freedom Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache, who was also Austria’s vice chancellor. 

That came a day after two German newspapers published a video showing Strache pandering to a woman claiming to be a Russian tycoon’s niece at a boozy gathering in Ibiza two years ago, shortly before national elections. Strache and party colleague Johann Gudenus are heard telling the woman that she can expect lucrative construction contracts if she buys an Austrian newspaper and supports the Freedom Party. They also discuss ways of secretly funneling money to the party.

Gudenus, who was instrumental in arranging the meeting, has quit as leader of the party’s parliamentary group and is leaving the party.

The Hamburg-based weekly Der Spiegel and Munich daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung said the meeting in Ibiza was likely a trap that Strache and Gudenus had fallen for. The papers refused to reveal the source of the video.

Kurz noted that at the time the video was shot, Kickl was general-secretary of the Freedom Party and therefore responsible for its financial conduct. The chancellor added that in his conversations with Kickl and other Freedom Party officials following the video’s release, he “didn’t really have the feeling (they had) an awareness of the dimension of the whole issue.”

String of scandals

The ouster of the Freedom Party from the government was a setback for populist and nationalist forces as Europe heads into the final days of campaigning for the European Parliament elections, which run Thursday through Sunday.

Kurz has endorsed a hard line on migration and public finances, and he chose to ally with the Freedom Party after winning the 2017 election. 

The chancellor, who is personally popular, had said Saturday that “enough is enough” — a reference to a string of smaller scandals involving the Freedom Party that had plagued his government. In recent months, those have included a poem in a party newsletter comparing migrants to rats and questions over links to extreme-right groups.

Kickl, a longtime campaign mastermind of the Freedom Party, had already drawn criticism over matters including a raid last year on Austria’s BVT spy agency, which opposition parties claimed was an attempt by the new government to purge domestic political enemies.

Kickl’s party said he had done nothing wrong and sought to portray itself as the victim of a plot. 

Response from Russia

The Russian government, meanwhile, said it couldn’t comment on the video “because it has nothing to do with the Russian Federation, its president or the government.”

President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said of the woman in the Strache video that set off the crisis: “We don’t know who that woman is and whether she’s Russian or not.” 

Pledging to ensure stability in Austria over the coming months, Kurz said vacancies in the government left by the Freedom Party’s departure would be filled with civil servants and technocrats.

His government, meanwhile, may find it difficult to continue as planned until Austria holds early elections, likely in September. Opposition parties plan to call for a vote of no confidence in Kurz’s government in the coming days. 

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French Drug Smuggler Sentenced to Death in Indonesia

Indonesia on Monday sentenced a French drug smuggler to death by firing squad, in a shock verdict after prosecutors had asked for a long prison term.

The three-judge panel in Lombok handed a capital sentence to Felix Dorfin, 35, who was arrested in September at the airport on the holiday island next to Bali, where foreigners are routinely charged with drugs offenses.

Indonesia has some of the world’s strictest drug laws — including death for some traffickers.

It has executed foreigners in the past, including the masterminds of Australia’s Bali Nine heroin gang.

While Dorfin was eligible for the death penalty, prosecutors instead asked for a 20-year jail term plus another year unless he paid a huge fine equivalent to about $700,000.

But Indonesian courts have been known to issue harsher-than-demanded punishments.

Dorfin was carrying a suitcase filled with about three kilograms (6.6 pounds) of drugs including ecstasy and amphetamines when he was arrested.

“After finding Felix Dorfin legally and convincingly guilty of importing narcotics … (he) is sentenced to the death penalty,” presiding judge Isnurul Syamsul Arif told the court.

The judge cited Dorfin’s involvement in an international drug syndicate and the amount of drugs in his possession as aggravating factors.

“The defendant’s actions could potentially do damage to the younger generation,” Arif added.

The Frenchman made headlines in January when he escaped from a police detention center and spent nearly two weeks on the run before he was captured.

A female police officer was arrested for allegedly helping Dorfin escape from jail in exchange for money.

It was not clear if the jailbreak played any role in Monday’s stiffer-than-expected sentence.

Wearing a red prison vest, Dorfin, who is from Bethune in northern France, sat impassively through much of the hearing, as a translator scribbled notes beside him.

After the sentencing, he said little as he walked past reporters to a holding cell.

“Dorfin was shocked,” the Frenchman’s lawyer Deny Nur Indra told AFP.

“He didn’t expect this at all because prosecutors only asked for 20 years.”

The lawyer said he would appeal against the sentence, describing his client as a “victim” who did not know the exact contents of what he was carrying in the suitcase.

“If he had known, he wouldn’t have brought it here,” Indra added.

In Paris, the French foreign ministry said it was “concerned” by the sentence and reiterated France’s opposition to the death penalty.

“We will remain attentive to his situation,” the statement said, adding that seven French people faced the death penalty worldwide.

In 2015, Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran — the accused ringleaders of the Bali Nine  — were executed by firing squad in Indonesia.

The Bali Nine gang’s only female member was released from jail last year, while some others remain in prison.

The highly publicized case sparked diplomatic outrage and a call to abolish the death penalty.

“The death penalty verdict marks another setback for human rights in Indonesia,” Human Rights Watch campaigner Andreas Harsono said Monday.

“The Indonesian government’s many pledges about moving toward abolishing the death penalty clearly meant nothing in Lombok”.

There are scores of foreigners on death row in Indonesia, including cocaine-smuggling British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford and Serge Atlaoui, a Frenchman who has been on death row since 2007.

Last year, eight Taiwanese drug smugglers were sentenced to death by an Indonesian court after being caught with around a tonne of crystal methamphetamine.

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Battle Breaks out for WikiLeaks Founder Assange’s Computers

With Julian Assange locked away in a London jail, a new battle has broken out over what may contain some of the WikiLeaks founder’s biggest secrets: his computers.

On Monday, judicial authorities from Ecuador carried out an inventory of all the belongings and digital devices left behind at the London embassy following his expulsion last month from the diplomatic compound that had been his home the past seven years.  

It came as Sweden announced it was seeking Assange’s arrest on suspicion of rape, setting up a possible future tug-of-war with the United States over any extradition of Assange from Britain.

It’s not known what devices authorities removed from the embassy or what information they contained. But authorities said they were acting on a request by the U.S. prosecutors, leading Assange’s defenders to claim that Ecuador has undermined the most basic principles of asylum while denying the secret-spiller’s right to prepare his defense.  

“It’s disgraceful,” WikiLeaks’ editor in chief, Kristinn Hrafnsson, said in an interview with The Associated Press. “Ecuador granted him asylum because of the threat of extradition to the U.S. and now the same country, under new leadership, is actively collaborating with a criminal investigation against him.”

Assange, 47, was arrested on April 11 after being handed over to British authorities by Ecuador. He is serving a 50-week sentence in a London prison for skipping bail while the U.S. seeks his extradition for conspiring to hack into military computers and spill secrets about U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Hrafnsson, who has visited the Australian activist in jail, said Assange saw his eviction coming for weeks as relations with President Lenin Moreno’s government deteriorated, so he took great care to scrub computers and hard drives of any compromising material, including future planned leaks or internal communications with WikiLeaks collaborators.

Still, Hrafnsson said he fully expects Moreno or the Americans to claim revelations that don’t exist. He called Monday’s proceedings a “horse show” because no legal authority can guarantee Assange’s devices haven’t been tampered with, or the chain of custody unbroken, in the six weeks since his arrest.

“If anything surfaces, I can assure you it would’ve been planted,” he said. “Julian isn’t a novice when it comes to security and securing his information. We expected this to happen and protections have been in place for a very long time.”

A group of Assange’s supporters gathered outside Ecuador’s Embassy in London to protest the judicial proceeding. Demonstrators put banners on the railings with images of Assange, his mouth covered by an American flag, and chanted “Thieves! Thieves! Thieves! Shame on you!”

Ecuadorian authorities said they will hand over any belongings not given to U.S. or Ecuadorian investigators to Assange’s lawyers, who weren’t invited to Monday’s inventory-taking. Hrafnsson said he didn’t have a full inventory of Assange’s devices.

Moreno decided to evict Assange from the embassy after accusing him of working with political opponents to hack into his phone and release damaging personal documents and photos, including several that showed him eating lobster in bed and the numbers of bank accounts allegedly used to hide proceeds from corruption.

Moreno’s actions immediately were celebrated by the Trump administration, which was key in helping Ecuador secure a $4.2 billion credit line from the International Monetary Fund and has provided the tiny South American country with new trade and military deals in recent weeks.

“The Americans are the ones pulling the strings, and Moreno their puppet dancing to the tune of money,” said Hrafnsson.

Separately on Monday, Swedish authorities issued a request for a detention order against Assange.

On May 13, Swedish prosecutors reopened a preliminary investigation against Assange, who visited Sweden in 2010, because 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 shelve 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.

According to the request for a detention order obtained by The Associated Press, Assange is wanted for “intentionally having carried out an intercourse” with an unnamed woman “by unduly exploiting that she was in a helpless state because of sleep.”