Capitalism, oppression and the cases of Sowore, Saab and Assange

The past three years have highlighted the ongoing crisis of capitalism and the suppression of dissent. The widespread oppression against groups or individuals opposing the status quo requires a response from the part of the movements. We cite in this article three examples: Omoyele Sowore, Alex Saab and Julian Assange.

Omoyele Sowore

On August 3, 2019, the hotel where Omoyele Sowore 52- year-old was staying was raided by the State Security Service (SSS), resulting in a physical assault against him, his arrest and detention. The Nigerian SSS subsequently charged him with treason after his call for a protest named #RevolutionNow. The SSS obtained a court order to detain him for 40 days to investigate the allegations against him. Weeks later, he was charged with treasonable felony.

This arrest prompted global condemnation. Sowore, 51, is a Nigerian human rights advocate, pro-democracy campaigner, and founder of Sahara Reporters, an online news agency known for exposing corruption and oppression in high places.

Sowore has been unable to visit his family (which is living in the US) since the ruling class in Nigeria attempted to break him. For him, the struggle to save Nigeria from the corrupt ruling class requires sacrifice and could jeopardize his life. Yet, he remains undeterred, consistently fighting against corruption since the early 1990s.

Sowore, the co-founder of the African Action Congress and a 2023 Nigerian presidential candidate, faced unsuccessful treason charges by the Buhari regime. Instead, he was charged with “conspiracy to commit treason and insulting former President Muhammadu Buhari.” On September 24, 2019, the Federal High Court Abuja granted him bail under the condition of surrendering his international passport within forty-eight hours.

Despite meeting all bail conditions, the State Security Service (SSS) refused to release Sowore, citing concerns for his safety. The SSS’s actions led to protests in New York and a global outcry demanding Sowore’s release. During a court appearance on September 29, 2019, Sowore described poor treatment and requested access to a television, highlighting disparities with detainees of Boko Haram.

On December 5, 2019, the court set Sowore free, confirming his compliance with bail terms. However, SSS operatives attempted to re-arrest him the next day, causing resistance from Sowore’s supporters. After sustained pressure, he was finally released on December 24, 2019.

Sowore later appealed for a variation of his bail conditions, successfully having the ruling restricting him to Abuja voided in July 2022. The court reduced the bond to N50 million and allowed him to leave Abuja but not travel outside Nigeria, deeming the attempt to confine him to Abuja excessive.

The matter, which has faced delays since 2019, recently came before Justice Emeka Nwite, slated for the re-arraignment of Sowore but was unable to proceed. Justice Nwite of the Federal High Court in Abuja has declined to release Sowore’s passport, despite multiple unsuccessful attempts to try him for alleged treason. The federal government’s reluctance to bring witnesses, except one three years ago, has raised doubts about the seriousness of the case. The trial has been reassigned to three different judges, with no tangible progress.

Sowore’s lawyers, led by Femi Falana (SAN), filed a motion requesting the court to release Sowore’s passport, given the lack of progress in the treason trial. The new administration in Nigeria, five months into its tenure, sent numerous lawyers from the Ministry of Justice to oppose the application, arguing that Sowore cannot apply for an international passport since he hasn’t been re-arraigned. Justice Nwite ruled in favor of the government, stating that since the case was starting “de novo” (anew), he couldn’t entertain the application. Sowore’s lawyer questioned why the court should retain his passport if charges were not properly filed. Sowore called the case a waste of taxpayers’ money and asserted that the Federal Government has no case against him. The case, ongoing since 2019, remains in a state of limbo, hinting at a vendetta due to his anti-corruption and anti-oppression stance.

Alex Saab

Alex Saab 51-year-old is a Venezuelan diplomat who was unlawfully abducted and detained in Cape Verde at the request of the United States on June 12, 2020. On October 16, 2021, he was essentially kidnapped by the US with the support of the Cape Verde government, something that went against international law. Since then, he has been undergoing an endless trial in a federal court in Miami, Florida.

In court, Saab’s defense attorneys asserted his status as a Venezuelan diplomat, urging the dismissal of the case. The defense team raised broader concerns about the US, the arrest, and unilateral sanctions against Venezuela. Saab’s lawyers presented official Venezuelan documents supporting his diplomatic immunity, while the US government disputed their credibility and questioned their validity. US prosecutors argued that they do not accept Saab’s diplomatic status because they don’t recognize the Maduro government in Caracas!

Alex Saab’s arrest violates international and customary laws respecting the immunity of diplomats. The prolonged psychological torture of Saab must cease. The US used as a pretext for this move the accusations against Saab for corruption. We cannot judge if this accusations are true or false. This can only be revealed by an open investigation involving independent journalists, unions and local committees of Venezuelan people. The US government and judiciary system cannot be trusted over this, as they have imposed unlawful measures against the Venezuelan people and have vested interests to topple the elected government of Maduro.

Τhe US government is accusing Saab of participating in the transfer of USD 350 million for a housing construction project in Venezuela in 2011. However, the same case was investigated in Switzerland, and the investigation was closed due to lack of sufficient evidence. In any case, charges for corruption do not make the abduction of foreign citizens by the US acceptable.

It’s crucial to note that the actions against Saab are politically motivated, stemming from US’ imperialist agenda. Initiated during Donald Trump’s administration, the persecution continues under the Joe Biden government. To give credence to their actions, the US government deployed a warship from Syria to Cape Verde, spending significant amounts daily. The ship was withdrawn as soon as Saab was unlawfully abducted to US territory.

The historical pattern of the US imposing conditions on countries with independent positions is leading to a humanitarian crisis and crimes against the human rights of the Venezuelan people.

Despite the ECOWAS court ruling Saab’s detention as illegal and unlawful, ordering the termination of the extradition process and compensation of US$200,000 by Cape Verde, the Cape Verde government refused to comply. Even UN Human Rights experts have called for Saab’s release.

Julian Assange

Julian Assange is a 52-year-old Australian editor, publisher, and activist who founded WikiLeaks in 2006. Assange’s story unfolds as a tale of persistent prosecution and ongoing international collaboration to punish him for publishing information disliked by the world’s rulers. The saga began around 2010 when Assange published leaked documents regarding US army’s unlawful operations. Major media organizations collaborated to release excerpts from 250,000 documents in the “Cablegate” leak, exposing the inner workings of US diplomacy worldwide. Even though these media organizations oppose charging Assange under a law designed to prosecute World War I spies, his relentless persecution persists. Assange remains in prison after being forcefully arrested at the Ecuador embassy in London.

Under Barack Obama’s leadership, the US government refrained from prosecuting Assange in 2010. Under Donald Trump’s administration, renowned efforts were made to establish a case against Assange, relying on the Espionage Act of 1917, a law never before used to prosecute a publisher or broadcaster.

Assange has been held in Belmarsh prison in south London since his forceful arrest in 2019. Former UK home secretary Priti Patel approved Assange’s extradition to the US, but his lawyers have filed an appeal against this decision. Assange faces extradition to the US and a potential sentence of up to 175 years in an American maximum-security prison. The condemnation of Assange’s continued detention is widespread. Publishing should not be a crime; it is the right of journalists worldwide to publish in the interest of the people.

Julian Assange’s plight reveals a grim reality: he languishes in a British prison for exposing truths about American atrocities. His “unforgivable crime” is uploading vast amounts of truth onto the internet. If his actions were based on falsehoods, they could have been exposed. The injustice of his prolonged imprisonment highlights the need to protect press freedom and the right to publish information that serves the public interest.

Assange has garnered international support, including campaigns by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), whose general secretary, Anthony Bellanger, expressed concern about the potential impact on independent journalism. He emphasized the need for a full investigation. The IFJ called for the British authorities to release Assange immediately, highlighting the serious risk to his life if extradited to the United States.

The cases of Alex Saab, Julian Assange and Omoyele Sowore have provoked solidarity campaigns. But we have to intensify demands for the release of these individuals and all those dissidents jailed for standing against the establishment and imperialism. This requires the unity of oppressed people and a collective struggle for a world free from oppression, injustice and corruption. The power lies in the collective voice and action of those who stand against the infringement of human rights and the suppression of truth.

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