[Pnews] US Venezuelan embassy protectors denied right to fair trial
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Tue Dec 17 12:49:31 EST 2019
US Venezuelan embassy protectors denied right to fair trial
December 17, 2019
Four US activists protecting Venezuela’s embassy in Washington,
DC face prison time after the Trump administration illegally
arrested them. And now a judge’s ruling blocking discovery will
result in a farcical trial where the jury will not be allowed to
consider the contentious legality of the coup.
By Bahman Azad and Ajamu Baraka
/This piece originally appeared at Popular Resistance
Four US peace activists were arrested on May 16, after staying in the
Venezuelan embassy in Washington, DC
for 37 days to prevent it from being handed over to right-wing
violation of the Vienna Convention.
Seven months after the arrest, the embassy protectors warn they are not
being guaranteed the right to a fair trial.
On December 13, the chief judge of the US District Court for Washington,
DC, Beryl A. Howell, denied discovery motions requested by the defendants.
This denial will severely restrict the scope of the trial, currently
scheduled for February 11, 2020, of Adrienne Pine, David Paul, Margaret
Flowers, and Kevin Zeese.
The activists face federal charges punishable by up to a year in prison,
a $100,000 fine each, and restitution to the government for police time
Judge Howell’s ruling will result in a farcical trial where the jury
will not be allowed to consider the contentious legality of the Trump
administration’s recognition of the leadership of the coup in Venezuela,
and thus the legal basis of the charges the defenders are facing.
Judge Howell’s lack of objectivity and understanding of the issue were
revealed when she referred to the embassy protectors as a “gang” and
stated the facts supported their guilt.
She made it clear a trial will result in their conviction, and promptly
made rulings that will ensure that outcome.
What were the Embassy Protectors seeking?
The embassy protectors had permission from the internationally
recognized, elected Venezuelan government to be in the embassy.
The Trump administration is arguing that Juan Guaido’s fake ambassador,
former oil executive Carlos Vecchio
who fled Venezuela because he is wanted for violent coup activities, had
the authority to order the embassy protectors to leave. This is the crux
of the case, but jurors will not be permitted to know this.
The documents that the embassy protectors sought in discovery would
demonstrate the de-facto recognition by the Trump administration of
the democratically elected president of Venezuela, who is also
recognized by the United Nations and most of the world.
The Trump administration was in negotiations with the Maduro government
for a mutual protecting power agreement for the US embassy in Caracas
and the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, DC. This is a standard
procedure used when diplomatic relations between countries are broken.
On May 15, one day before the arrest, the Venezuelan ambassador to the
United Nations Samuel Moncado held a press conference at the UN where he
explained they were in discussion for Switzerland to be the protector of
the US embassy in Venezuela and Turkey to be the protector of the
Venezuelan embassy in the United States.
The embassy protectors in Washington told the police on May 13 they
would leave the embassy when these negotiations were complete.
The protecting power agreement was not being negotiated with Juan Guaidó
the self-proclaimed “interim president,” because he lacks the power to
enact such an agreement.
Trump’s special representative for Venezuela, said on January 25 that
Guaidó’s term would not begin until President Nicolás Maduro left
office. On August 2, Abrams was interviewed by the American Enterprise
where he expressed frustration that Maduro was still in office.
The jury will not know that the person in charge of Venezuelan policy
for the US was publicly acknowledging Maduro is still the president,
because Judge Howell declared this is not relevant to the case.
Another area of discovery denied by the Obama-appointed Judge Howell was
that the State Department failed to protect the embassy.
A pro-coup mob
working with the Trump administration, surrounded the embassy for 17
days. Embassy protectors called on the Secret Service to protect the
embassy multiple times when the pro-coup mob was destroying it.
When a member of the mob broke windows to enter the embassy, police
waited while the embassy protectors got permission from the elected
Venezuelan government to remove him.
On another occasion, hundreds of people called the Secret Service to
demand they protect the embassy when the pro-coup mob was damaging it,
but the Secret Service declined to intervene.
In fact, the pro-coup mob who destroyed doors and windows defaced the
embassy and broke into the building worked with the Secret Service and
State Department to terrorize embassy protectors, block food deliveries
and assault people outside the embassy. The judge is not going to permit
the jury to hear this testimony.
The actions of Judge Howell are turning Trump’s prosecution of the
embassy protectors into a charade where they and their lawyers will not
be allowed to mount a defense. This is another example of how the legal
system is designed to deny justice.
Our responsibility as citizens of US Empire
Beyond the legal and political implications of this case, there is the
human element. The embassy protectors face the real possibility of
imprisonment and steep fines for the crime of living up to their
responsibilities as citizens of US empire.
More than 70 activists joined the Embassy Protection Collective over 37
days. And they slept in the embassy not to seek publicity, as they knew
the corporate press wouldn’t cover them; and not because they enjoyed
going hungry, when the right-wing thugs with the help of Trump
administration would not let food and water inside; and not because they
wanted to live in the dark, after the government shut off the power
rather, they put their bodies on the line and gave their time because
they wanted to stand in solidarity with the people of Venezuela in
support of international law.
The suffering they endured to protect the embassy was a microcosm of the
suffering of the Venezuelan people
who lack food, medicine, and electrical power because of illegal
unilateral coercive measures from the US economic war
which is seeking to force Venezuela to put in place a US puppet government.
What can you do?
The embassy protectors represented all of us who are citizens of the US
empire but could not make our way to Washington, DC to carry out our
responsibility to resist US lawlessness.
We need to join together to demand the charges against the embassy
protectors be dismissed.
You can take action here <https://defendembassyprotectors.org/> to
demand that all charges are dropped.
And you can support the embassy protectors’ defense for their legal fees
by donating here <https://defendembassyprotectors.org/>.
*Ajamu Baraka* and *Bahman Azad* are the co-chairs of the Embassy
Protectors Defense Committee <https://defendembassyprotectors.org/>.
*Ajamu Baraka* is the national organizer for the Black Alliance for
Peace <https://blackallianceforpeace.com/> and the Secretariat of the
U.S. Peace Council.
*Bahman Azad* is coordinator for the Coalition Against U.S. Foreign
Military Base and the Executive Secretary of the U.S. Peace Council.
Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415
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