Britain’s Supreme Court has upheld the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to Sweden after a more than year-long legal fight. Swedish authorities want to question Assange over accusations of rape and sexual assault made by two women. He has been under house arrest in Britain since December 2010. Assange’s lawyers had argued that the Swedish public prosecutor did not have the legal authority to issue the arrest warrant, but earlier today the British judges sided with Sweden in a 5-to-2 decision. Assange’s supporters have voiced fears he will wind up in the hands of the United States should he be deported to Sweden. He has been given 14 days to leave Britain and return to Sweden.
The United States and 11 other countries have formally expelled Syrian diplomats following a massacre of more than 100 people in the village of Houla. In a coordinated action, countries including Germany, France, Britain, Canada and Japan ordered the departure of Syrian ambassadors from their capitals. In Washington, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said Syria’s top diplomat in the United States has been told to leave within three days and also blamed Iran for the massacre.
Victoria Nuland: “This morning, we called in Syrian chargé d’affaires Zuheir Jabbour and informed him that he is no longer welcome in the United States and gave him 72 hours to depart. We took this action in response to the massacre in the village of Houla — absolutely indefensible, vile, despicable massacre against innocent children, women shot at point-blank range by regime thugs, the Shabiha, aided and abetted by the Iranians, who were actually bragging about it over the weekend.”
Dozens of Syrian children were killed in the Houla attack, which marked one of the deadliest single incidents of the 15-month uprising against Bashar al-Assad. It is widely believed Syrian forces committed the slayings, but that remains unconfirmed. New video emerged on Tuesday from survivors of the massacre blaming Syrian forces and describing the killings of their loved ones.
Woman: “They hit my husband with guns until his brains burst out before they shot him. They killed four of my daughters, my sister-in-law and two of her children, my cousin and her four children, my other sister-in-law and her daughter.”
Following the killings in Houla, U.N.-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan made an emergency trip to Damascus to meet with Assad. Annan said Syria has reached a “tipping point” after more than a year of conflict.
Kofi Annan: “I shared with President Assad my assessment that the six-point plan is not being implemented as it must. We are at a tipping point. The Syrian people do not want a future, their future, to be one of bloodshed and division. Yet the killings continue, and the abuses are still with us today.”
An international tribunal has sentenced former Liberian President Charles Taylor to 50 years in prison following his conviction on war crimes during Sierra Leone’s civil war. Taylor was found guilty last month of overseeing crimes including murder, rape, conscripting child soldiers and sexual slavery. Taylor is the first African head of state to be found guilty in an international court and the first head of state to be convicted since the Second World War. Earlier this year, U.S. officials confirmed long-held suspicions Taylor worked for the CIA and other U.S. intelligence agencies during his emergence as a warlord in the 1980s.
The Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has arrived in Thailand for her first trip outside Burma in 24 years. Earlier today, Suu Kyi met with a group of Burmese migrant workers to discuss their labor conditions and mistreatment. Suu Kyi was elected to Burma’s parliament last month.
In news from Bahrain, the pro-democracy activist Zainab Alkhawaja has been released from prison after a month behind bars. Alkhawaja was jailed in April protesting the imprisonment of her father, Abdulhadi Alkhawaja. Zainab’s release comes one day after the elder Alkhawaja ended a more than three-month hunger strike.
The former communications director for British Prime Minister David Cameron has been detained by police on suspicion of perjury in the latest case connected to allegations of phone hacking in Rupert Murdoch’s media empire. Andy Coulson served as editor of Murdoch’s now defunct News of the World tabloid before working for Cameron. He is now being held for questioning over evidence he gave as a witness in the 2010 perjury trial of the Scottish politician Tommy Sheridan.
Mitt Romney has officially wrapped up the Republican presidential nomination following a primary win in Texas. Romney’s opponents had already conceded the race, but his Texas victory formally gives him the more than 1,100 delegates needed for the nomination. He will be formally nominated at the Republican National Convention in Florida in August.
A group of roughly two dozen African-American pilots have sued United Airlines, saying they have been passed over for promotions because of their ethnicity. In a suit filed in San Francisco federal court, pilots said United Continental Holdings, the parent company of United Airlines, discriminates against people of color, relegating them to part-time jobs with less security. The complaint says almost all African-American employees at the company are in non-management roles.
New figures show the United States has one of the highest child poverty rates in the so-called developed world. According to UNICEF, out of 35 wealthy countries, only Romania has a higher child poverty rate than the United States’ 23 percent.
A death row prisoner in California convicted of the 1979 murder of a young teenager has hanged himself. The body of James Lee Crummel was found in his cell at San Quentin State Prison in northern California. Crummel’s suicide comes months before California voters are set to vote on whether to abolish the death penalty.
A U.S. appeals court has given oil giant Shell the go-ahead to pursue drilling plans in the Alaskan Arctic this year. Alaska Native groups had opposed the effort, saying the federal government had failed to properly consider the risks of Arctic drilling. Environmental groups delivered more than a million signatures to the White House this month asking Obama to stop Shell’s plans.
At the White House, President Obama awarded 13 people on Tuesday with the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Recipients included the folk legend Bob Dylan, the author Toni Morrison, and United Farm Workers co-founder Dolores Huerta.
President Obama: “Every one of today’s honorees is blessed with an extraordinary amount of talent. All of them are driven, but we could fill this room many times over with people who are talented and driven. What sets these men and women apart is the incredible impact they have had on so many people, not in short blinding bursts, but steadily over the course of a lifetime.”