Mueller seeks tough sentence for ex-Trump campaign chairman Manafort

US Special Counsel Robert Mueller, shown in this file photo, wants a strict prison sentence for President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort, after a jury last year convicted him on eight counts of bank and tax fraud. (REUTERS)
Updated 16 February 2019
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Mueller seeks tough sentence for ex-Trump campaign chairman Manafort

  • Manafort was convicted by a jury last year on eight counts of bank and tax fraud
  • A judge ruled lately that Manafort had breached his plea agreement in a parallel case

WASHINGTON: Prosecutors for Special Counsel Robert Mueller urged a federal judge in Virginia on Friday to impose a strict prison sentence for President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort, after a jury last year convicted him on eight counts of bank and tax fraud.
In their sentencing memo filed in US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, prosecutors said Manafort, who is 69, deserves between 19.6 and 24.4 years in prison and a fine of between $50,000 and $24 million.
Friday’s court filing in Virginia came just days after a federal judge in Washington, D.C., ruled that Manafort had breached his plea agreement in a parallel case by lying to investigators despite a pledge to cooperate.
That finding earlier this week by Judge Amy Berman Jackson in US District Court for the District of Columbia could have a direct impact on how Manafort is sentenced in the Virginia case.
Judge T.S. Ellis in Alexandria, Virginia, had planned to sentence Manafort on Feb. 8, but he later postponed that until after Jackson’s ruling, saying it “may have some effect on the sentencing decision in this case.”
Manafort was one of the first people in Trump’s orbit to face criminal charges as part of Mueller’s investigation into whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to tilt the 2016 presidential election in his favor.
Trump has denied colluding and called the probe a witch hunt, while Russia has denied meddling in the election.
None of the charges Manafort faced related directly to Russian interference in the 2016 campaign.
In the Virginia case, prosecutors accused Manafort of hiding from US tax authorities $16 million he earned as a political consultant for pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine, money he used to fund an opulent lifestyle.
Later, when his lobbying work started to dry up following the ouster of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, prosecutors said Manafort began lying to banks to secure $20 million in loans to keep his lifestyle afloat.
After almost four days of deliberations, a 12-member jury found Manafort guilty on two counts of bank fraud, five counts of tax fraud and one charge of failing to disclose foreign bank accounts. 


Germany in push to resurrect talks with Taliban

Updated 26 May 2019
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Germany in push to resurrect talks with Taliban

  • Only the Afghans ‘can decide upon the future of their country’

KABUL, BERLIN: Germany, a leading donor and member of the NATO-led coalition in Afghanistan, has been talking with the Taliban and the Afghan government in an effort to restart peace talks to end 18 years of conflict, officials said.

While the Taliban have been talking with US officials since October about withdrawal of international troops, they have so far refused formal talks with the Western-backed government, which they dismiss as a “puppet” regime.

Berlin’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Markus Potzel, has visited Kabul for talks with the Afghan government and met Taliban officials in Doha at least twice this month.

“The current chance for a process toward a more peaceful Afghanistan should not be missed. If the friends of Afghanistan — and Germany is one of them — together can help in this effort, then we should do it,” Potzel said.

“In the end, only the Afghans themselves, including the Taliban, can decide upon the future of their country.”

The chief US negotiator in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, in March said that a draft agreement had been reached on a withdrawal of US forces in exchange for a commitment by the Taliban to cut ties with militant groups such as Al-Qaeda.

But there has been no agreement yet on a cease-fire or a start to talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, both seen as key conditions for a settlement.

An Afghan delegation had been due to meet Taliban officials in the Qatari capital Doha last month to build the basis for possible negotiations, but the meeting was canceled at the last minute after a dispute over the number of participants.

FASTFACT

 

● At least 3,804 Afghan civilians were killed in the war last year. ● 14,000 US troops are still stationed in Afghanistan.

“We realize that US-Taliban talks will gain momentum only if the insurgent leaders start engaging with the Afghan representatives,” a senior German official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Sohail Shaheen, a spokesman for the Taliban’s political office in Doha, said that Germany was one among several countries to have offered help to seek a peaceful resolution. 

The EU and Indonesia are among those to have offered help, another Taliban official said, declining to be named.

Discussions were held with Germany about an Afghan-Taliban meeting in Germany but no decision has been made, Shaheen told Reuters.

 

Captives subjected to abuse

Afghan captives held by the Taliban have been subjected to abuse, ill-treatment and actions that may amount to torture, the UN said on Sunday.

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said it interviewed 13 detainees from a group of 53 recently rescued from the Taliban, mainly members of Afghan forces but also civilians and government officials captured by the insurgents.

The group was freed on April 25 when Afghan troops raided a Taliban-run detention facility in the Khas Uruzgan district in southern Uruzgan province.

Most of the captives were held since 2018, with three since 2016, the UNAMA statement said, adding they were kept in poor conditions and subjected to forced labor. It cites the detainees as saying that the Taliban killed some of their captives.

“I am gravely concerned about these serious allegations of ill-treatment, torture and unlawful killing of civilians and security personnel, as well as the deplorable conditions of detention,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the head of UNAMA.

The detainees were shackled while in captivity and almost all said they were beaten. The Taliban told them it was punishment for supporting the government, working with the Americans or fighting the insurgents.