[Pnews] US Venezuelan embassy protectors denied right to fair trial

Prisoner News 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 
<https://thegrayzone.com/2019/05/16/guaido-mob-venezuelan-embassy/> in 
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 
and damages.

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 
Nicolas Maduro 
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.

Elliott Abrams 
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 
863.9977 https://freedomarchives.org/
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