Ecuador gave Assange political asylum after he sought refuge in the embassy in 2012 to avoid a Swedish extradition request on a case of alleged rape. While Sweden temporarily dropped that investigation, British officials say they’d still arrest him on charges of bail jumping. Assange also fears a possible U.S. extradition request stemming from the leaking of classified U.S. documents.
Britain’s Foreign Office said Thursday it had rejected Ecuador’s request to grant diplomatic status to Assange, who was born in Australia.
“The granting of Ecuadorean nationality does not in any way change Julian Assange’s legal status in the U.K.,” a government spokesman said. “The Government of Ecuador knows that the way to resolve the situation is for Julian Assange to leave the embassy to face justice. Nobody should pretend that granting him Ecuadorean citizenship is a route to solving this longstanding issue.”
Five hundred years ago, an unknown monk named Martin Luther marched up to the church in Wittenberg, a small town in what is now Germany, and nailed a list of criticisms of the Catholic church to its door.
The date was Oct. 31, 1517, and Luther had just lit the fuse of what would become the Protestant Reformation. His list of criticisms, known as the 95 theses, would reverberate across world history. The Church would split, wars would be fought and people would be burned at the stake. It was the birth of Protestant Christianity.
Religiously speaking, the Reformation led to the translation of the Bible into languages other than Latin, allowing many people to engage with scripture for the first time. It also brought an end to the controversial sale of “indulgences” — payments the Church said reduced punishment for sins after death, which Luther regarded as corrupt.
More generally, the Reformation contributed to the expansion of literacy, with people no longer needing to rely on priests to read and interpret the Bible. Luther promoted universal education for girls and boys at a time when education was reserved for the wealthy, and believed in the connection between literacy and empowerment, both spiritually and socially.
Luther’s act is taught as one of the cornerstones of world history, even though most historians now agree that it was a relatively unremarkable event which was canonized at a later date for political ends. Nevertheless, it remains a lasting symbol of resistance 500 years later.
So how is an anniversary of that magnitude being celebrated?
The hub of anniversary celebrations will be Luther’s homeland, Germany, where “Reformation Day” has long been celebrated as a holiday in certain states. This year, it’s set to be a full-blown national holiday. Chancellor Angela Merkel, the daughter of a Lutheran pastor, has encouraged German churches to promote a narrative of unity over division in their celebrations.
That’s a line that the Catholic Church and some of the biggest protestant denominations are also keen to stress. On last year’s 499th anniversary, Pope Francis joined leaders of the Lutheran World Federation in Sweden (where Lutheranism is the dominant religion) to hold a joint commemorative service. In his address, Francis said: “We have the opportunity to mend a critical moment of our history by moving beyond the controversies and disagreements that have often prevented us from understanding one another.”
Not long after Francis’ address, the Protestant Archbishop of Canterbury in England expressed remorse for the violence committed there in the name of the Reformation. Hundreds of churches and monasteries were demolished in the 1500s, and many people gruesomely killed, during England’s pained transition from Catholicism to Protestantism.
After 500 years of division, there seems to be a consensus from the top that this anniversary will be one of reconciliation.
But official church celebrations aren’t the only ways in which the milestone is being marked.
In popular celebrations Germany also leads the way, and for proof you need look only as far as its toy economy. In 2015, a commemorative Martin Luther figurine from Playmobil became the German company’s fastest-selling product ever. It took just 72 hours for the initial run of 34,000 to sell out, leading the company to rush another batch into production. A spokesperson labeled the demand a “big mystery.”
Americans are also doing their bit. A musical entitled Luther: The Rock Operapremiered in Wittenberg earlier this year. The North Dakota pastor responsible for the two-and-a-half hour production describes it as “Hamilton meets Jesus Christ Superstar meets Monty Python.” Performances in Berlin and Wittenberg will mark the anniversary.
And, as the anniversary falls each year on the same day as Halloween, around the world people are taking inspiration from Luther for their costumes. On Reddit’s Christianity subreddit, a post asked whether it would be sinful to dress up as Martin Luther for Halloween. On Twitter, others had no qualms about their plans to do the same, whilst on Amazon, a search for “Martin Luther Costume” turns out enough results to dress a small congregation.
Back in Germany, the broadcaster ZDF is airing a two-part serial entitled “Reformation” commissioned especially for the anniversary, starring Maximilian Brückner as Martin Luther. It is also airing in the U.K. on the BBC, and both channels have also commissioned special documentaries to mark the occasion.
For some people, this anniversary may be the first they’ve heard of Luther and the Reformation. But the wide range of celebrations, exhibits, documentaries and even commemorative toys mean that it’ll be hard to escape its legacy, 500 years on.
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Police in a Moscow suburb have threatened to kill supporters of opposition politician Alexei Navalny, after they compared police wages in Russia to those in Sweden.
Swedish police officers earn an equivalent of $4,500 per month on average, compared to their Russian counterparts who take home $625 monthly.
In a YouTube video posted by Navalny’s election campaign team in Korolyov on Monday, one of the politician’s supporters is heard comparing police wages in Russia and Sweden.
The police officer retorts saying he doesn’t care about Sweden, suggesting the Navalny supporters migrate to the Scandinavian country.
“Listen to me, I will find you and kill you,” the officer is heard yelling to the departing Navalny supporters.
The video features text of a Criminal Code article which says the threat of murder or infliction of grave injury carries a punishment of up to 2 years.
The video follows a series of secret recordings made by schoolchildren in which pro-government educators deride them or their parents for supporting the embattled opposition politician. Presidential hopeful Navalny has been barred from running in elections next March due to criminal charges his supporters say are politically motivated.
The video culminates with the officer calling the video’s author a ‘Swedish homosexual.’
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People attend a memorial ceremony at Sergels Torg plaza in Stockholm, close to the point where a truck drove into a department store two days before on April 9, 2017. AFP
Sweden on Monday observed a minute of silence for the victims of last week’s truck attack by a man whom police believe is a jihadist sympathizer and who had gone underground after receiving a deportation order.
A solemn ceremony was held outside Stockholm’s City Hall, under grey and rainy skies with flags flying at half-mast, attended by Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, King Carl XVI Gustaf and most of the royal family, as well as other representatives of Swedish society.
After the minute of silence, the Swedish army’s music corps played a solemn piece then Stockholm Mayor Karin Wanngard gave an address.
“We will never give in to violence. We will never let terror prevail,” Wanngard said, adding: “Stockholm will remain an open and tolerant city.”
To the families of the victims, Prime Minister Lofven said: “You are not alone, we are thinking of you. All of Sweden stands with you.”
In Friday’s attack, the assailant ploughed a hijacked beer truck down a pedestrian street in the heart of Stockholm before crashing it into the facade of the busy Ahlens department store.
Four people were killed and 15 were wounded.
Outside the department store, a huge crowd also observed the minute of silence, some visibly moved with tears streaming down their cheeks.
The motive for the attack was not known, but the method resembled previous attacks using vehicles in London, Berlin and Nice, all of them claimed by ISIS.
Sweden’s police chief Dan Eliasson said he remained confident that the person in custody is the truck driver.
“I am confident and certain that we have the right perpetrator. Then it is up to the prosecutor to prove this in court,” Eliasson told a news conference.
The main suspect has been identified as a 39-year-old Uzbek who went underground when he received a deportation order after his permanent residency application in 2014 was rejected.
Swedish media have identified the suspect as Rakhmat Akilov, a construction worker and father of four children living with their mother in Afghanistan.
Two sources who had worked with Akilov independently identified him to Reuters from images distributed by police as the manhunt got underway on Friday.
Two police spokespersons declined to confirm his identity as did the suspect’s court-appointed lawyer.
Many Swedes were on Monday back at work for the first time since the attack, while the department store into which the truck slammed had already reopened.
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A man steered a stolen beer truck into a crowd of people and then rammed it into a department store, killing at least three people in what officials were calling a terrorist attack in the heart of Stockholm on Friday afternoon.
“Sweden has been attacked. All indications are that it was a terrorist attack,” Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said in a statement.
The suspect in the attack was still at large. But at a news conference later in the evening, the Swedish police released a photo of a man being sought in connection for questioning.
The authorities said they did not know if it had been an isolated assault, or something bigger. The Swedish intelligence agency said “a large number” of people had been wounded.
Mats Löfving, the head of national operative department of the Swedish police, said, “This is now declared a national security event,” adding that officers across the nation were on heightened alert.
The Swedish Parliament was on lockdown, according to news reports. Train service in and out of the city grounded to a halt, and the police, who blocked off the affected area, urged people to stay at home and to avoid the city center.
The police said the first emergency call came in around 2:50 p.m. local time as the attack unfolded in Drottninggatan, Stockholm’s busiest shopping street. Witnesses described a scene of panic and terror.
“I saw hundreds of people running; they ran for their lives” before the truck crashed into the Ahlens department store, a witness identified only as Anna told the newspaper Aftonbladet.
At first, she said, she thought the noise was people moving things around the store, but then the fire alarm went off and staff members told her and other shoppers to get out of the building.
“We were running, we were crying, everyone was in shock,” Ms. Libert said. “We rushed down the street, and I glanced to the right and saw the truck. People were lying on the ground. They were not moving.”
Ms. Libert, who followed others as they were guided by officials to shelter, added, “My sister in law and some friends are close to the scene and at lockdown, can’t leave their office.”
She said that she usually avoided busy areas that could be potential terrorist targets, but that she had decided to take the Friday afternoon off to do some shopping.
“Some people felt that this was just a matter of time,” she said. “Paris, Brussels, London and now Stockholm. I just had a feeling something like this would happen.”
After the assailant plowed into people, the front of the truck ended up inside the department store.
A representative of the Spendrups brewery told Radio Sweden that the vehicle had been taken earlier in the day. A spokesman for the company told SVT, a national public broadcaster, that the truck had been stolen while the driver was loading it from the rear.
The brewery’s driver told the police that a masked man stole the vehicle, and that he was injured trying to stop him, the authorities said.
At the news conference, officials released a photo of a man wearing a hoodie. They did not name him as a suspect, saying only that they wanted to question him in connection with the attack.
The national police chief, Dan Eliasson, said, “We have the truck and the driver who usually drives it, but we do not have contact with the person or persons who drove it.”
Mr. Löfving, also of the police, asked for the public’s help in sharing the photo: “We want to get in touch with this man.”
The authorities also said that they could not confirm the number of dead or injured until they received more information from the hospitals.
The chief medical doctor at Stockholm’s Karolinska University Hospital, Nelson Follin, told the newspaper Dagens Nyheter that the hospital was treating “a handful” of people.
“The injuries are quite serious, but for now I cannot give further comments on conditions,” Dr. Follin said.
Previous accounts of shots being fired in parts of Stockholm were unfounded, the police said, adding that officers across Sweden were protecting high-risk sites.
The attack reverberated as far away as Norway, where the police said on Twitter that officers in that nation’s largest cities and at the airport in Oslo would be armed until further notice following the attack in Stockholm.
The assault came after several other episodes in Europe in the past year in which a vehicle was used to attack people.
The Islamic State group revived the idea of using cars as weapons after it broke with Al Qaeda in 2014. In the past year, ISIS militants have claimed responsibility for the deaths of more than 100 people in Europe.
Although some Swedes have expressed concern that immigration has led to a crime wave in the country — and President Trump seemed to suggest in a speech on Feb. 18 that there had been an attack in Sweden, when in fact nothing had occurred — the country and the region remain largely peaceful and safe.
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE LOS ANGELES TIMES)
Sweden officially declares WWII hero Raoul Wallenberg is dead
Swedish authorities have formally pronounced World War II hero Raoul Wallenberg dead, 71 years after he disappeared in Hungary.
The Swedish diplomat, credited with helping at least 20,000 Hungarian Jews escape the Holocaust, is believed to have died in Soviet captivity, though the time and circumstances of his death remain unresolved.
The Swedish Tax Authority, which registers births and deaths in Sweden, confirmed a report Monday in the newspaper Expressen that Wallenberg had been pronounced dead.
Pia Gustafsson, who heads the agency’s legal department, told the AP that the decision was taken on Oct. 26 after an application from Wallenberg’s trustee.
She said the date of Wallenberg’s death was set as July 31, 1952, a date chosen by default under a rule saying a missing person who is presumed to have died should be declared dead five years after his disappearance.
Wallenberg vanished after being arrested by the Red Army in 1945. The Soviets initially denied he was in their custody, but in 1957 they said he had died of a heart attack in prison on July 17, 1947.
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Islam Karimov, the man who ruled Uzbekistan for 27 years and was criticized for his authoritarian tendencies, died at age 78, leaving no obvious successor. (Reuters)
As the head of an authoritarian regime sometimes likened to North Korea, Islam Karimov was known to be ruthless. The president of Uzbekistan whose death became public Friday was accused of having his political opponents jailed, exiled or even killed.
A particularly delicate case, however, is his daughter Gulnara Karimova, 42, who was believed to be one potential successor of Karimov until a few years ago.
Her fall demonstrated how divided a country Uzbekistan had become — and how brutal Karimov’s leadership had turned.
Gulnara Karimova. (AP)
Karimova made headlines in 2014, when she was put under house arrest by her father. Secret recordings, obtained by theBBC and published that year, offered a firsthand account of how Uzbekistan’s once-most prominent face has turned into the country’s most famous prisoner.
In the secret recordings that were later sent abroad via USB stick, Karimova said: “I’m not talking about myself now. We need medical help.” She indicated that “no one [answered] why we’re kept in the house,” and she seemed particularly worried about her daughter Iman, who suffers from a heart condition.
Did Islam Karimov consider his daughter a threat to his own popularity?
According to a confidential U.S. diplomatic cable from 2008, published by Wikileaks, Karimova used to be a favorite of her father and was simply referred to as the “Uzbek princess.” After graduating from Harvard in June 2000, she became adviser to several foreign affairs officials and advanced to the position of deputy foreign minister.
In a 2005 U.S. cable, she was described as “the single most-hated person” in the country. According to the cable, she was perceived as greedy, power-hungry and interested in using her father’s power to her own financial advantage. The diplomatic analysis concluded that recent PR campaigns “promoting [her] virtue and selflessness [were] likely part of a larger strategy to clean up the First Daughter’s image.” Another file from 2010 specifies that by then, Karimova was believed to own the largest conglomerate of Uzbekistan, which she used “in support of [her] private business interests.” But then, things started to go wrong.
When the suspicious conglomerate was abruptly shut in 2010, Karimova moved on to become ambassador to Spain and the Uzbek representative to the United Nations in Geneva. At the same time, she successfully worked on an alternative career as a singer. John Colombo, who produced one of her music videos, told theBBC that, back then, Karimova “owned the country. She was everywhere.” As her alter-ego GooGoosha, she dominated Uzbek radio stations and, according to Colombo, “people seemed to love her” — a remarkable change after having been described as the most-hated Uzbek only years earlier.
The glamour of her music videos, however, didn’t win over her critics. At a runway show in New York promoting Karimova’s brands in 2011, protesters demanded an end to alleged child labor in Uzbekistan and tried to raise awareness of the precarious human rights situation in the country. The show was canceled by organizers of New York Fashion Week.
In 2011, the Associated Press critically described Karimova: “Glamour queen. International diplomat. Plunderer of the poor.” In 2013, she was overwhelmed by a major corruption scandal in Sweden, in which journalists made public that Telecommunications giant TeliaSonera had allegedly bribed Uzbek officials to enter the country’s mobile phone market. Despite denials from TeliaSonera, the path of the money was traced back by prosecutors to Karimova — a scandal in which she seems to have lost the loyalty and support of her dictatorial father.
Karimova faced a separate investigation related to money laundering in Switzerland in March but is believed to have already been under house arrest back home by then. According to the Economist, Uzbek tax prosecutors had recently begun to look into her businesses.
Her empire rapidly crumbled: Charities and TV stations belonging to her were shut down, luxury stores and jewelry lines she had founded were closed. Although her Twitter account has since been suspended, she voiced loud protest on the social media platform, writing that the forced closures were “a serious attack on civic organizations, and on thinking society as a whole.”
Within only six years, Karimova went from being Uzbekistan’s deputy foreign affairs minister to the reputed owner of the country’s largest conglomerate. After working in secret, she became the most prominent face and voice of the Uzbek nation. Then, she turned into one of the most outspoken critics of the country’s government. Photos sent to The Washington Post in 2014 appeared to show confrontations between Karimova and her guards, while she was under house arrest.
A photo obtained in 2014. (Ryan Locksley)
Such confrontations “occur all the time whenever she tries to go out the door, to get some air or to see if people are around and particularly when she is requesting extra food,” her spokesman, Ryan Locksley, told The Post then.
Karimov’s death has now put a new spotlight on the fate of his daughter, who was once supposed to succeed him.
A version of this post was first published in 2014. It was updated Sept. 3, 2016.
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