Assange ‘may die in jail,’ father warns

John Shipton said he had visited his son in a British prison two days ago and needed to ‘face the bitter truth’ that he ‘may die in jail.’ (AFP)
Updated 08 November 2019

Assange ‘may die in jail,’ father warns

  • John Shipton: This is not the bitter disappointment of a father, this is simply fact. Julian may die in jail over a nine-year persecution for revealing the truth of war crimes
  • The 48-year-old whistleblower is currently being held at a top-security British prison since April after police sensationally dragged him out of the Ecuadoran embassy in London

GENEVA: THE father of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said Friday he worried his son would die in prison after nine years of “persecution” for daring to reveal US “war crimes.”
John Shipton told reporters in Geneva that he had visited his son in a British prison two days ago and needed to “face the bitter truth” that he “may die in jail.”
“This is not the bitter disappointment of a father, this is simply fact,” he said.
Assange used WikiLeaks to publish classified military and diplomatic files in 2010 about US bombing campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq that proved highly embarrassing to the US government.
Since then, he has been entangled in a web of judicial proceeding, and is currently fighting a US bid to extradite him from Britain on charges filed under the Espionage Act that could land him a sentence of up to 175 years in a US prison.
The 48-year-old whistleblower is currently being held at a top-security British prison since April after police sensationally dragged him out of the Ecuadoran embassy in London.
He had been holed up in the embassy since 2012 to avoid a extradition order to Sweden, where he was wanted for questioning over accusations of sexual assault, which he has denied.
“Julian may die in jail over a nine-year persecution for revealing the truth of war crimes,” Shipton said.
“It is beyond obscene.”
His comments followed a warning from an independent UN rights expert last week that the treatment of Assange was putting his life “at risk.”
“Unless the UK urgently changes course and alleviates his inhumane situation, Mr.Assange’s continued exposure to arbitrariness and abuse may soon end up costing his life,” the UN special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, Nils Melzer, said in a statement.


Somalia struggles after worst flooding in recent history

Updated 14 November 2019

Somalia struggles after worst flooding in recent history

  • At least 10 people went missing when their boat capsized after the Shabelle river burst its banks
  • More than 250,000 people across Somalia were displaced by the recent severe flooding
MOGADISHU, Somalia: Ahmed Sabrie woke up to find his house half-submerged in fast-rising flood waters.

Frightened and confused, he herded his sleepy family members onto the roof of their home in central Somalia as scores of thousands of people in the town, Beledweyne, scrambled for their lives. Clinging to an electric power pylon by the edge of their roof, the family watched as their possessions were washed away.

“I could hear people, perhaps my neighbors, screaming for help but I could only fight for the survival of my family,” the 38-year-old Sabrie, the father of four, recalled.

As one of his children, unfed, wailed the family waited for more than 10 hours before a passing rescue boat spotted them.

Authorities have not yet said how many people died in the Somalia flooding last month, the country’s worst in recent history and the latest reminder that the Horn of Africa nation must prepare for the extremes expected to come with a changing climate.

At least 10 people went missing when their boat capsized after the Shabelle river burst its banks. Local officials have said at least 22 people in all are presumed dead and that toll could rise.

“This is a catastrophic situation,” Mayor Safiyo Sheikh Ali said. President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, who visited the town and waded through submerged areas, called the devastation “beyond our capacity” and pleaded for more help from aid groups.

With no proper emergency response plan for natural disasters, local rescuers used rickety wooden dhows to reach trapped people while helicopters provided by the United Nations plucked people from rooftops. African Union and Somali forces have joined the rescue operations and the Somali government airlifted food.

“Many people are still trapped in their submerged houses and we have no capacity and enough equipment to cover all areas,” said Abdirashakur Ahmed, a local official helping to coordinate rescue operations. Hundreds are thought to still be stuck.

With more heavy rains and flash flooding expected, officials warned thousands of displaced people against returning too quickly to their homes.

More than 250,000 people across Somalia were displaced by the recent severe flooding, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council.

Beledweyne town was the worst affected. Several thousand people were sheltering under trees or in tents.

“Floods have destroyed more than three-quarters of Beledweyne and submerged many surrounding villages,” said Victor Moses, the NRC’s country director.

Aid groups said farms, infrastructure and roads in some areas were destroyed. The destruction of farmland near rivers is expected to contribute to a hunger crisis.

The possibility of further damage from heavy rains in the coming days remains a concern, according to the International Organization for Migration.

Parts of the Lower Juba, Gedo and Bay regions, where IOM has supported displaced populations for years, have been affected. Many displaced people were stranded without food, latrines or shelter.

“In Baidoa, people have moved to high ground where they are in immediate need of support,” said Nasir Arush, the minister for humanitarian and disaster management for South West State.

Survivors like Sabrie now must struggle to rebuild their lives.

“We’re alive, which I am thankful to Allah for, but this flood disaster wreaked havoc on both our livelihoods and households so I see a tough road ahead of us,” he said from a makeshift shelter built on higher ground outside town.