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Corruption

UN Says Trump Violated International Law With Pardons for Blackwater War Criminals

The four Blackwater guards were convicted of killing 14 unarmed Iraqi civilians and injuring 20.

Elias Marat

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A United Nations panel has strongly denounced U.S. President Donald Trump’s pardons for several former Blackwater mercenaries and convicted war criminals that were found guilty of massacring over a dozen civilians in Baghdad.

The U.N. working group on the use of mercenaries released a statement Wednesday condemning the White House decision to pardon the four killers as an offense to basic justice and insult to the memory of over a dozen people killed in the 2007 massacre, reports Reuters. The panel also sharply condemned the move as a violation of U.S. obligations to international law.

“Pardoning the Blackwater contractors is an affront to justice and to the victims of the Nisour Square massacre and their families,” said panel  chair Jelena Aparac.

“These pardons violate U.S. obligations under international law and more broadly undermine humanitarian law and human rights at a global level,” she added.

The four men, all of whom were American, were involved in the indiscriminate killing of 14 unarmed Iraqi civilians, when the mercenaries opened fire during busy traffic at the Baghdad square. Twenty additional civilians were injured. Nicholas Slatten was convicted of first-degree murder while Dustin Heard, Evan Liberty and Paul Slough were each convicted of voluntary and attempted manslaughter.

The four men were employed by the private security firm Blackwater which was owned by security contractor Erik Prince, the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

Prince has reportedly served as an informal adviser to the White House while also helping to orchestrate spying efforts to infiltrate campaigns by political and labor groups considered hostile to Trump, the New York Times reported earlier this year.

The four mercenaries were included in a wave of controversial pre-Christmas pardons announced by the Trump administration that critics derided as corrupt and immoral.

“While U.S. Army contractors convicted of massacring civilians in Iraq are pardoned, the man who exposed such crimes against humanity, [WikiLeaks founder] Julian Assange, rots in Britain’s Guantanamo,” tweeted Greek economist and parliamentarian Yanis Varoufakis.

The pardons for the former Blackwater mercenaries, in particular, were sharply criticized by Gen. David Petraeus and Ryan Crocker, the two top American officials in charge of U.S. policy in Iraq at the time of the 2007 massacre, who called the move “hugely damaging, an action that tells the world that Americans abroad can commit the most heinous crimes with impunity” in a joint statement.

The U.N. working group’s chair also said that the pardons send the signal that private security contractors would essentially give them the green light to “operate with impunity in armed conflicts” as states increasingly rely on the firms to circumvent their obligations under humanitarian law.

In recent years, military contractors have increasingly been deployed in sensitive conflict zones by companies from the U.S., U.K., Russia, South Africa and other countries.

Blackwater, which has since been renamed as Academi, earned worldwide notoriety for the 2007 massacre, after which the company was stripped of its license to operate in Iraq by the country’s government.

Documents released by WikiLeaks have also highlighted major human rights abuses, including the murder of civilians, by private security services such as Blackwater throughout the Iraq War.

Corruption

Cop Who ‘Accidentally’ Killed Daunte Wright Arrested on 2nd-Degree Manslaughter Charges

Elias Marat

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The former Minnesota cop who shot and killed Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old unarmed Black man, during a traffic stop will now face charges of second-degree manslaughter, a prosecutor announced on Wednesday.

The brutal killing of Wright, which comes amid the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for last May’s killing of George Floyd, threatens to spark a new round of nationwide protests against police brutality and discriminatory policing.

On Wednesday, Washington County Attorney Pete Orput confirmed that Potter, a 26-year veteran of the Brooklyn Center Police Department, would be charged.

On Wednesday morning, agents with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension arrested Potter, the bureau announced in a statement.

Potter was taken into custody in St. Paul and will be booked at Hennepin County jail.

On Tuesday, Potter resigned as demands for justice for Wright reverberated nationwide. Her resignation coincided with that of the city’s former police chief, who claims that Potter accidentally grabbed her Glock when she thought she was reaching for her Taser during the Sunday traffic stop.

Wright’s family and attorneys have rejected the claim that Wright’s death was merely the result of an “accident” and are demanding accountability and sweeping reforms of policing in Minnesota.

Potter could face up to 10 years in prison along with a $20,000 fine, per Minnesota law.

“While we appreciate that the district attorney is pursuing justice for Daunte, no conviction can give the Wright family their loved one back,” said Wright family attorney Ben Crump in a statement.

“This was no accident. This was an intentional, deliberate and unlawful use of force,” the statement added.

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Corruption

Trump “Pretty Likely” to Land in Jail For Many Alleged Crimes, Legal Analyst Says

Elias Marat

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Legal experts continue to say that it remains likely that former President Donald Trump could land in jail if convicted on one of the many legal challenges he faces.

Throughout his life, Trump has been involved in a number of lawsuits – both as the subject and instigator of them – but he is currently facing no less than 29 lawsuits and is also the subject of several criminal lawsuits, including one which saw his tax returns opened up to lawyers.

Trump is being investigated for potential bank, tax and insurance fraud by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office for what Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.’s office calls “possibly extensive and protracted criminal conduct at the Trump Organization,” reports the New York Times.

The former head of state denies any malfeasance and has said that he is “proud” of his tax returns.

However, legal analyst Jay Michaelson told Daily Beast’s The New Abnormal that Trump is “pretty likely” to face jail time if found guilty.

“Trump’s lawyers will always come up with something, but there should be no reason why the grand jury won’t get these financial records tomorrow,” Michaelson said.

“Will he go to jail for, like, the rest of his life? Probably no,” he continued. “Is it possible that this would lead to criminal charges that would carry jail time? I would say that’s pretty likely, and we could have a grand jury indictment fairly soon.”

Last month, the Supreme Court rejected the Trump legal team’s appeal to keep his tax returns closed from prosecutors. The move opens the door to the returns being shown to a grand jury in New York.

Following the ruling, Trump denounced the move as a result of him being a victim of “’the greatest political witch hunt in the history of our country.”

“In the meantime, murders and violent crime are up in New York City by record numbers, and nothing is done about it,” he added. “Our elected officials don’t care. All they focus on is the persecution of President Donald J. Trump.”

“I will fight on, just as I have, for the last five years (even before I was successfully elected), despite all of the election crimes that were committed against me. We will win!”

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Corruption

Minneapolis Police Lieutenant Calls Chauvin’s Use of Force On George Floyd “Totally Unnecessary”

Elias Marat

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The head of the Minneapolis Police Department’s homicide division flatly denounced former officer Derek Chauvin’s use of force against George Floyd as “totally unnecessary.”

Lt. Richard Zimmerman testified on Friday about his over three decades of police training and the lethal dangers of the techniques used on Floyd on May 25, 2020.

Chauvin, a white former Minneapolis police officer, is currently facing trial for his role in the killing of Floyd, 46, a Black man, by pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck for over nine minutes as he lay handcuffed on the ground.

“Once you handcuff a person you need to get them out of the prone position as quickly as possible, because it restricts their breathing,” Zimmerman said, adding that being handcuffed “stretches the muscles back through your chest and it makes it more difficult to breathe.”

“That would be the top tier, the deadly force,” he said, noting that escalating to such a degree goes against use-of-force training at MPD. “Because if your knee is on someone’s neck, that can kill them.”

When asked if such force was necessary, Zimmerman responded that it was “totally unnecessary” given that any potential threat from Floyd had been subdued.

“First of all, pulling him down to the ground facedown and putting your knee on the neck for that amount of time is just uncalled for,” Zimmerman said. “I saw no reason why the officers felt they were in danger, if that’s what they felt. And that’s what they would have to feel to use that type of force.”

Continuing, Zimmerman noted that handcuffing a person quickly alters the permissible use of force that can be used in a situation.

“Once a person is cuffed, the threat level goes down all the way to, they’re cuffed, how can they really hurt you?” he said. “That person is handcuffed, and the threat level is just not there.”

At that stage, the use of force quickly declines, he added.

“If they become less combative, you may just have them sit down on the curb,” Zimmerman said. “The idea is to calm the person down and if they are not a threat to you at that point, you try to, you know, to help them so that they’re not as upset as they may have been in the beginning.”

Derek Chauvin has faced at least eighteen complaints during his 19-year career with the Minneapolis police, including six times in which prosecutors claim the former officer used force against arrestees.

However, these incidents – like George Floyd’s own criminal record – won’t be introduced to jurors in the Chauvin trial so that the defendant isn’t punished for prior misconduct, and is instead evaluated on the charges he faces for the death of Floyd: third- and second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

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