US indicts Russian intel officers ahead of Trump-Putin meet

In this file photo taken on June 19, 2013 Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Robert Mueller testifies before the US Senate Judiciary Committee on oversight during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. (AFP)
Updated 14 July 2018
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US indicts Russian intel officers ahead of Trump-Putin meet

  • The US president recalled that 60 intelligence officers were expelled from the Russian embassy in Washington in response to a nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy in Britain
  • Mueller previously indicted 13 Russians and three companies for allegedly interfering in the presidential vote

WASHINGTON: Twelve Russian intelligence officers were charged on Friday with hacking Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and the Democratic Party in a stunning indictment just three days before President Donald Trump meets with Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
The charges were drawn up by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the former FBI director who is looking into Russian interference in the November 2016 vote and whether any members of Trump’s campaign team colluded with Moscow.
Democratic leaders immediately called for Trump to cancel Monday’s scheduled meeting with Putin in Helsinki, but the White House said the summit would go ahead.
“It’s on,” spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said.
The 29-page indictment accuses members of the Russian military intelligence agency known as the GRU of carrying out “large-scale cyber operations” to steal Clinton campaign and Democratic Party documents and emails.
“There’s no allegation that the conspiracy changed the vote count or affected any election result,” Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said in announcing the charges at a press conference in Washington.
“There’s no allegation in this indictment that any American citizen committed a crime,” Rosenstein added, although the “conspirators corresponded with several Americans during the course of the conspiracy through the Internet.”
However, he said, “there’s no allegation in this indictment that the Americans knew they were corresponding with Russian intelligence officers.”
Rosenstein said he briefed Trump about the indictment before Friday’s announcement and that the timing was determined by “the facts, the evidence, and the law.”
News of the indictment came as Trump was meeting Queen Elizabeth II and just 72 hours before his meeting with Putin.

Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic Senate minority leader, urged Trump to cancel the Putin talks.
“These indictments are further proof of what everyone but the president seems to understand: President Putin is an adversary who interfered in our elections to help President Trump win,” Schumer said in a statement.
“President Trump should cancel his meeting with Vladimir Putin until Russia takes demonstrable and transparent steps to prove that they won’t interfere in future elections.”
Republican Senator John McCain said the summit should be called off if Trump is not ready to warn Putin there is a “serious price to pay for his ongoing aggression toward the United States and democracies around the world.”
“If President Trump is not prepared to hold Putin accountable, the summit in Helsinki should not move forward,” McCain said.
Speaking in Britain before the indictments were unveiled, Trump said he would ask Putin about the allegations of election meddling.
“I will absolutely, firmly ask the question, and hopefully we’ll have a good relationship with Russia,” he told a joint press conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May.
But he simultaneously denounced the Mueller investigation as a “rigged witch hunt,” and said he has been “tougher on Russia than anybody.”
The US president recalled that 60 intelligence officers were expelled from the Russian embassy in Washington in response to a nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy in Britain.
Russia has denied any involvement in the attack and rejected accusations that it interfered in the US presidential election in a bid to help Trump win.

In a statement, the White House highlighted Rosenstein’s remarks that no Americans had been charged.
“Today’s charges include no allegations of knowing involvement by anyone on the campaign and no allegations that the alleged hacking affected the election result,” it said. “This is consistent with what we have been saying all along.”
Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, said on Twitter that the indictments were “good news for all Americans.”
“The Russians are nailed. No Americans are involved. Time for Mueller to end this pursuit of the President and say President Trump is completely innocent,” Giuliani said.
Rosenstein called for unity in the face of Russian meddling.
“When we confront foreign interference in American elections, it is important for us to avoid thinking politically as Republicans or Democrats and instead to think patriotically as Americans,” he said.
The indictment alleges that beginning in March 2016, the GRU agents began targeting over 300 employees and volunteers of the Clinton campaign, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) and the Democratic National Committee (DNC).
“The conspirators covertly monitored the computers of dozens of DCCC and DNC employees, implanted hundreds of files containing malicious computer code, and stole emails and other documents,” it said.
Around June 2016, they began releasing tens of thousands of the stolen emails and documents using “fictitious online personas, including ‘DCLeaks’ and ‘Guccifer 2.0,’” the indictment said.
Some of the documents and emails were released through a website identified in the indictment only as “Organization 1” — believed to be Julian Assange’s WikiLeaks.
Other documents and emails were made public through a website and Twitter account known as DCLeaks, which the GRU falsely attributed to a group of “American hacktivists.”
Mueller previously indicted 13 Russians and three companies for allegedly interfering in the presidential vote.
Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort has been charged with money laundering and other crimes, while former national security adviser Michael Flynn has admitted lying to the FBI.


El Salvador court frees woman jailed for delivering stillborn

Evelyn Hernandez (C) is surrounded by activists after being released from the women's Readaptation Center, in Ilopango, El Salvador, on February 9, 2019, where she was serving a 30-year-sentence for aggravated homicide after her baby died at birth. (AFP)
Updated 1 min 59 sec ago
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El Salvador court frees woman jailed for delivering stillborn

  • Even women who abort due to birth defects or health complications risk jail sentences of up to 40 years in El Salvador

SAN SALVADOR: A Salvadoran court on Friday freed Evelyn Hernandez, who was sentenced to 30 years in prison after she gave birth to a stillborn baby at home.
After serving 33 months for aggravated homicide, 20-year-old Hernandez smiled as she was reunited with her parents and a brother in the capital San Salvador.
The court in Cojutepeque, east of the capital, ruled that she will be retried but while living at home. A hearing has been set for April 4, with a new judge, her lawyer Angelica Rivas said.
El Salvador has an extremely strict abortion ban. Hernandez gave birth in the makeshift bathroom of her home in the central Cuscatlan region. She was 18 years old and eight months pregnant.
She said her son was stillborn but was convicted of murdering him, abortion rights group ACDATEE said.
ACDATEE cited a pathologist’s report which it said indicated the baby had choked to death while still in the womb.
Prosecutors argued Hernandez was culpable for not having sought prenatal care, ACDATEE said.
The group said Hernandez had not known she was pregnant and gave birth on the toilet after feeling abdominal pains. She got pregnant as the result of a rape, which she did not report out of fear because her family had been threatened.
Even women who abort due to birth defects or health complications risk jail sentences of up to 40 years in El Salvador. Campaigners say some have been jailed after suffering miscarriages.
The country’s abortion law made international headlines in 2013 when a sick woman was forbidden from aborting a fetus which developed without a brain.
Under a ruling by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the Salvadoran state eventually authorized her to undergo a cesarean section. The baby died shortly after the procedure.