Extradition Blues

Seattle Times photo, Alan BernerSeattle Times photo, Alan BernerThe US government is in the process of spending at least a quarter of a million dollars to investigate, arrest and kidnap a prominent Canadian citizen from Canada and put him on trial in the United States.
That citizen is a man named Marc Emery, who has for many years sold marijuana seeds via the internet and his store in Vancouver.

Emery has been investigated or arrested several times by Canadian officials, but Canada’s drug war is not as fanatical as America’s, and Canadian prosecutors and judges declined to shut down Emery’s worldwide seed business even as Emery earned millions of dollars, paid taxes on his earnings, and gave away most of his money to political and social justice causes.

On July 29, Emery was approached by US and Canadian police on a Nova Scotia street and taken into custody. His store and home in Vancouver were raided at the same time, and two of his employees were arrested.

The arrests were carried out at the direction of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) with the assistance of Vancouver police. There is some suspicion that the Vancouver police, as with many Canadian police angry that judges don’t give longer sentences to marijuana “criminals” ? and also pissed off that Emery had created an Amsterdam-like scene in Vancouver ? gave their files to the DEA and asked them to take Emery down.

The US government is now seeking the extradition of Emery and his two co-workers to stand trial in United States federal court on marijuana charges that carry a possibility of life imprisonment.

In Canada, nobody has ever gone to jail for selling marijuana seeds; only a handful have been arrested. There are about 50 companies openly selling marijuana seeds in Canada and hundreds more worldwide, but Emery’s is the only company that spent its money on political and social activism. Statements made about his arrest by DEA Director Karen Tandy indicate that Emery’s non-profit motives are what got him arrested while all the other seed retailers operate with impunity.

Emery and his co-defendants face prison terms and fines in America that are more harsh than the penalties they’d face in Canada even if convicted of mass murder.

Lawyers for Emery are hoping to defeat his extradition, but Emery himself in media interviews seems almost eager to be extradited and martyred for the cause. Unlike other prominent marijuana defendants Canadian and American, he has not attempted to distance himself from his actions or pretend that he didn’t break marijuana laws. He says forthrightly that he was breaking laws because he considers them immoral laws that must be broken; he refuses to apologize for selling marijuana seeds or advocating cannabis legality.

It is interesting to note the worldwide context of extradition cases to get a true picture of the criminality of the US government and those colluding with it in the arrest and extradition proceedings against Emery.

DEA agents ruining another lifeDEA agents ruining another lifeFor example, the United States is refusing to grant Spain an extradition request for three soldiers who allegedly targeted a Baghdad hotel for journalists on April 8, 2003, killing Spanish television reporter Jose Couso and Reuters cameraman Taras Portyuk.

The attack on the Hotel Palestine was filmed by journalists who were concerned that US forces were menacing journalists and the hotel. Since the beginning of the illegal Iraq war, American soldiers have killed, injured or detained dozens of journalists, and have never been punished for it.

US military officials claim that US forces were fired on from the hotel, which was full of journalists and was nearly a mile away. Video footage clearly shows that US forces were not fired upon. The tank that killed the journalists was rolling along on an empty highway in total silence. It stopped, slowly aimed its weapons, and fired a missile at the hotel without provocation, killing two innocent men.

Spanish Judge Santiago Pedraz issued the warrant for Sgt. Shawn Gibson, Capt. Philip Wolford and Lt. Col. Philip de Camp, all from the U.S. 3rd Infantry is based in Fort Stewart, Ga.

Judge Pedraz has repeatedly requested that the three suspects be questioned by Spanish investigators, but the American military and federal government has been totally uncooperative, so he issued the arrest and extradition order.

In the order, Pedraz said, “This is the only effective measure to ensure the presence of the suspects in the case being handled by Spanish justice, given the lack of judicial cooperation by U.S. authorities.”

A similar situation is occurring in relation to Italy’s request to extradite 22 Americans to Italy to face charges regarding to the blatant kidnapping of Muslim religious leader Abu Omar in Milan in February, 2003.

Italian authorities allege that the kidnapping was carried out by CIA operatives, including a former US embassy official. Their evidence for this allegation is voluminous, with eyewitness accounts, phone records, and a clear paper trail linking American government employees to the illegal kidnapping.

After he was kidnapped, American agents secretly transported him to several countries. He finally ended up in an underground dungeon in Egypt, where he was tortured by interrogators.

For two years, Italian officials have sought US cooperation to put the alleged kidnappers and their handlers on trial, but American authorities have stonewalled.

The Italian government issued extradition requests after an incident in February, 2005 in which American soldiers in Iraq killed Italian intelligence agent Nicola Calipari and wounded Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena as they were approaching Baghdad airport in a car.

The US military claims that the car had not been cleared at security checkpoints and that the car’s driver ignored soldiers’ attempts to stop the car using lights and hand signals, but Sgrena and other witnesses have stated under oath that the US soldiers are lying, that there were no warnings, and that the killing of Calipari is murder.

American officials have refused to cooperate with Italian officials who seek a full and objective criminal investigation into the matter.

Mel Sembler, left, with Italian PremierMel Sembler, left, with Italian PremierThese troubling rifts in Italian-US relations came during the time when a Florida land developer named Mel Sembler was US ambassador to Italy.

Sembler and his wife Betty founded the notorious Straight, Incorporated drug treatment centers that operated on the east coast of the United States during the 1980’s. Former Straight inmates have long reported lurid tortures that allegedly took place in the Sembler’s centers.

The Semblers are close friends with the Bush family, and are especially tight with Florida Governor Jeb Bush, whose daughter has been described as a “crackhead” and whose son was recently arrested after allegedly assaulting a police officer. The Semblers have been major fundraisers and donors to the Republican Party at the state and federal level.

Mel Sembler and his wife have repeatedly been accused of official or personal corruption in regards to Straight, Inc., environmental destruction and in regards to actions taken by the Semblers during Mel’s tenure as ambassador to Italy, which ended in August, 2005.

The US refusal to honor international extradition treaties goes beyond individual cases, and extends to an overall refusal by the US to respect the jurisdiction of the World Trade Organization, the International Criminal Court in The Hague, the United Nations, and other international legal treaties and agencies.

Indeed, President Bush and his Republican Congressional allies passed a law in 2002 that authorizes the United States to invade Holland if American soldiers are brought to The Hague to be put on trial in the International Criminal Court (ICC). Bush has also sought to punish countries that participate in the ICC.

The US has similarly handled a situation regarding tariffs on Canadian lumber. According to judicial panels operating for the North American Free Trade Agreement, the US owes Canada billions of dollars because the US put illegal tariffs on Canadian wood exports.

The United States refuses to abide by the rulings.

It should be obvious that the United States does not honor international extradition treaties, economic treaties and other rules that seek to create a peaceful, just world.

In light of this, Canadian government officials have clear justification to refuse to extradite Emery and his co-defendants to the United States.

It is perhaps idealistic, but not without precedent, that Canadian Justice Minister could respond to the American extradition request with the following words:

Mel Sembler, left, with Italian Premier“Dear United States Government:

In regards to the extradition of Marc Emery and two co-defendants to face trial and life imprisonment for charges that, in Canada, do not even warrant jail time, we refuse the request.

We note that various lawsuits, extradition requests and criminal proceedings are pending against Americans at every level of US government employment, including soldiers, CIA operatives, and even the president and vice president.

We also note that your government does not honor the wishes of other nations and the world community in regards to such proceedings. We note that your government defies NAFTA rulings.

Thus, we refuse to honor your Emery extradition request, and respectfully state that we will not even consider handing over Emery and his co-defendants until your government has handed over your soldiers sought for killing journalists and other people, complied with NAFTA, and consented to be governed by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, where world citizens have filed requests that George W. Bush, Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, and other US officials be put on trial for war crimes.

Respectfully yours,
Irwin Cotler.”
Mel Sembler, left, with Italian Premier

To read the Seattle Times feature story on Marc Emery’s extradition battle, read today’s news article here on their website.