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Trump pardons, commutes sentences of 20 people

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With less than 30 days left in office, President Donald Trump on Tuesday evening pardoned 15 individuals and commuted the sentences of five, including two Republican congressmen, former government contractors convicted in a 2007 massacre in Baghdad, among others.

This latest slate of pardons comes after the president controversially pardoned former National Security Adviser Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn toward the end of last month, who had twice pleaded guilty to lying to FBI agents after he was accused of having contacts with Russian officials.

Months ago, Trump also commuted the sentence of longtime ally Roger Stone days before he was scheduled to report to prison.

According to a range of reports, the president is likely to issue more pardons before leaving office on January 20.

This latest wave of pardons include those for former GOP Reps. Duncan Hunter (Calif.) and Chris Collins (N.Y.), who were some of the earliest Republican lawmakers to rally behind Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. Also related to this is Trump commuting the sentences of five other individuals the same day, including former Congressman Steve Stockman (R-TX).

Following Collins pleading guilty to misusing campaign funds in 2019, the congressman was sentenced to 26 months in federal prison.

Hunter pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit securities fraud and lying to the FBI in 2019, and was then sentenced to 11 months in federal prison.

Former Border Patrol Agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean who shot a suspected drug smuggler fleeing custody were pardoned by Trump. Sara A. Carter wrote of the pair in 2006 and continued to advocate for their pardons.

Click here to read her story for the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin.

The president on Tuesday also pardoned four former Blackwater Worldwide contractors—Nicholas Slatten, Paul Slough, Evan Liberty, and Dustin Heard—who were convicted in a 2007 massacre in Baghdad that resulted in more than a dozen Iraqi civilians dead. The news story sparked global outcry over the use of private military contractors in combat zones.

Those campaigning for pardons of the former contractors had claimed the four were excessively punished in an investigation and prosecution they said was undercut by issues and withheld exculpatory evidence. Prior to their pardons, the four were serving out long prison sentences.

Two other pardons for people involved in Robert Mueller’s Russia probe were also announced Tuesday.

One was for George Papadopoulos, a foreign policy adviser on Trump’s 2016 campaign. He pleaded guilty to lying to FBI investigators during the Russia probe, serving 12 days in prison back in 2018.

The second one was for the Dutch lawyer Alex van der Zwaan, who was sentenced to 30 days in prison for also lying to the FBI during Mueller’s Russia probe.

The president also commuted the rest of three people’s sentences Tuesday. Crystal Munoz, Tynice Nichole Hall, and Judith Negron had been convicted on drug and fraud-related charges, and had been previously granted clemency by Trump.

Moreover, calls to pardon National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden have been mounting astronomically in recent months and weeks as the sun sets on Trump’s time in the Oval Office. During the summer, Trump himself even expressed interest in possibly pardoning the whistleblower, who has been hiding away in Russia since leaking classified NSA information to the public in 2013.

“I’m going to take a look at [Snowden’s case] very strongly,” Trump said during a news conference in August. “It seems to be a split decision,” he said. “Many people think he should be somehow treated differently, and other people think he did very bad things.”

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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REPORT: China has vast network of covert police stations around the world

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China has a vast network of covert police stations abroad, according to a recent report by Safeguard Defenders, an NGO that focuses on human rights violations in China and other Asian countries. These police stations serve consular functions, but are also used by China to crack down on what the CCP deems “illegal” activity of Chinese nationals abroad. The police stations include at least 38 run by the Fuzhou City police, and 22 run by the Qingtian City police. Cities housing these police stations include New York, Toronto (which has three stations), London (two), Paris (three), Buenos Aires, Rio De Janeiro, and Tokyo.

Key findings of the report are below.

“Persuaded to return”

According to China, China has “persuaded to return [to China]” 230,000 Chinese nationals living aboard from April 2021 to July 2022 alone to face charges of fraud and telecommunications fraud. A Yangxia police station set up in Mozambique, for example, persuaded a Chinese national to return to China after being accused of stealing money from his employer. Chinese authorities also put pressure on the accused family to convince the accused to surrender.

Roughly 54,000 Chinese nationals were persuaded to return from northern Myanmar alone, in the first nine months of 2021. In July 2022, the government of Wenchang City warned that its citizens living in northern Myanmar must check in with their local police stations or face multiple penalties including blocking their children from attending urban schools back in China. Similarly, in February 2022, the government of Liayang City stated that Chinese “illegally staying” in northern Myanmar must return or the bank accounts of their immediate family members could be frozen.

The Nine Forbidden Countries

China has claimed that nine countries contain serious levels of fraud and telecom fraud perpetrated by Chinese nationals. Since November 2021, China has declared that Chinese citizens living in these nine countries must return to China immediately unless they have an “emergency reason” or a “strict necessity” to travel or stay in those countries. Those countries are: Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, the UAE, and Turkey. However, the report questions whether these countries are truly awash in such fraud, as most of China’s oversees police stations are in the West, and only one of the nine countries (Cambodia) has such a police station. Chinese staying in the nine forbidden countries, as well as threats to family members as stated above, creates a “guilt-by-association” atmosphere intended to repatriate the Chinese nationals.

Conclusion

According to the report, Chinese police stations abroad serve to bypass “bilateral extradition treaties or other mechanisms of judicial cooperation” to cooperate with CCP-linked NGOs which effectively “[sets] up an alternative policing and judicial system within third countries.” Instead of using international judicial cooperation, which establishes due process, the presumption of innocence, and the right to a fair trial, China uses the above “persuade-to-return” methods and transnational police stations to circumvent international law and coerce Chinese nationals to return to China for trials. These policies show the power of China’s long-arm oppression over its own subjects.

You can follow Steve Postal on Twitter @HebraicMosaic

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