News diary 24 February-1 March: Assange US extradition hearing begins and Lyra McKee murder suspect in court

Julian Assange

Foresight News provides a look-ahead to the key events that need to be in your news diary for next week… 

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange’s (pictured) full extradition hearing to the United States on computer intrusion charges begins in London on Monday.

The build-up to the full hearing has proven far from straightforward; Assange’s doctors have alleged “psychological torture” during his detainment, and politicians from his native Australia used a recent press conference to directly appeal for Boris Johnson’s intervention in the case. The first part of the hearing runs for two weeks, and then adjourns until 18 May.

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In Berlin, leaders from Germany’s governing CDU gather following the announcement from Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who had been tipped to replace Angela Merkel as Chancellor, that she plans to step down as the party’s leader, prompting a new party leadership contest.

There has been pressure for the question to be resolved quickly, rather than waiting for the party’s annual conference in December.

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse releases its highly anticipated report into the allegations surrounding Westminster on Tuesday. While the inquiry has separate strands looking at allegations levelled at Lord Janner and Cyril Smith, the Westminster inquiry focused on how the government, parties and police handled accusations made against politicians.

Former Liberal leader Lord Steele came under heavy criticism after it emerged he knew about Smith’s abuse, and is reportedly facing expulsion from the Liberal Democrats when the report is published at midday.

EU ministers are expected to adopt the bloc’s mandate for negotiations on its new partnership with the UK at the General Affairs Council in Brussels.

Member states have been busy updating the initial draft directives presented by Michel Barnier on 3 February, reportedly hardening their stance on level playing field guarantees and even throwing the Elgin Marbles into the mix, while publicly disagreeing with UK negotiator David Frost about the feasibility of a Canada-style agreement.

Critical UN-brokered political talks on the ongoing conflict in Libya are scheduled to begin on Wednesday in Geneva. There has been a renewed international focus of late on making peace between the internationally-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA), led by Fayez al-Sarraj, and Libyan National Army forces loyal to Khalifa Haftar, not least because the conflict has quickly become a proxy war between a host of regional forces.

The fragility of the negotiations was underscored last week when the UN’s military talks were briefly suspended in the wake of attacks on the GNA-held capital city of Tripoli.

Apple shareholders gather in Cupertino for an update from chief executive Tim Cook at the company’s annual meeting, which comes just weeks after the iPhone maker posted all-time record quarterly revenue driven largely by international sales.

The outlook for the future appears to be less rosy, however, with the firm warning this month that it is unlikely to meet its Q2 forecast due to the coronavirus-induced closure of manufacturing sites in China.

Thursday marks the Government’s target start date for new measures banning the automatic early release of convicted terror offenders. The emergency legislation was announced in response to the Streatham and London Bridge terror incidents in London, both of which were carried out by convicted terrorists on release.

Downing Street’s attempt to push through the legislation coincides with the planned early release on Friday of Mohammed Zahir Khan, who was sent to prison in May 2018 for voicing his support for the Islamic State group.

In Derry, Paul McIntyre is expected before magistrates in his second appearance since being charged with the murder of journalist Lyra McKee in April last year. McIntyre denied the charge in a preliminary hearing earlier this month.

IPSOS publishes its Global Trends Survey, detailing the opinions of consumers and citizens in 20 countries globally. A survey published by the organisation last month found that 60 per cent of respondents felt their country is on the “wrong track”, although four in ten Brits believed the UK is progressing positively.

Key concerns cited by respondents included poverty and social inequality, unemployment, crime and violence, corruption, and healthcare.

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick is among the headline speakers at the Conservative Councillors’ Association conference, which opens in the East Midlands on Friday and marks the party’s first major post-election gathering.

December’s general election and the (mostly) pain-free reshuffle should have gone some way to restoring faith at a local level after the party’s ballot-box bruising in May 2019, though the reaction to council tax increases at Tory-run authorities shows the party still faces a delicate balancing act in keeping both traditional supporters and the new-found base happy.

Three days after the EU approves its negotiating directives, France’s Europe Minister Amelie de Montchalin delivers a speech at Chatham House on the future of UK-EU and UK-France relationships post-Brexit.

In January, de Montchalin told reporters it was “impossible to imagine a completely new trading system in 11 months”, insisting that level playing field guarantees would be necessary for a quick free trade agreement.

The end of a drawn-out nomination process saw Emily Thornberry narrowly fail to make the cut, leaving Keir Starmer, Rebecca Long-Bailey and Lisa Nandy as the three names on the ballot when Labour members began voting on Monday for their next leader.

The trio faces off for a final time at a hustings in Brighton on Saturday before a 40-day period in which they must convince members they can effectively take on Boris Johnson, begin to woo back former voters, and one day reverse 2019’s electoral losses.

Democratic voters head to the polls in South Carolina for the first southern state primary in the US presidential race. The state is considered to be a final chance for one-time-frontrunner Joe Biden to take advantage of his famed support among African American voters, following disappointing performances in Iowa and New Hampshire.

The primary will be an important opportunity for candidates to gain momentum going into Super Tuesday on 3 March.

Sunday marks the beginning of Northern Rail’s renationalisation after the Government stripped Arriva of its franchise. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced in January that the franchise was “no longer financially sustainable” and later made the decision to take the rail network back into public ownership.

South Western Railway has similarly come under fire for poor performance, and  Shapps will reportedly use the upcoming Williams Rail Review to phase out rail franchising in the future.

Carabao Cup holders Manchester City face promoted side Aston Villa in the first final of the English domestic season. Villa’s chances of lifting the cup and securing their first trophy since 1996 could be looking up, with City reeling after being fined and banned from European football for failing to comply with UEFA spending regulations.

The news diary is provided in association with Foresight News.

Picture: Victoria Jones/PA Wire

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Comments

1 thought on “News diary 24 February-1 March: Assange US extradition hearing begins and Lyra McKee murder suspect in court”

  1. “..Assange’s doctors have alleged “psychological torture” during his detainment..”
    I suppose the 117 doctors as published in the Lancet are just making allegations? Nils Melzer, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture is probably just making allegations too.
    “…politicians from his native Australia used a recent press conference to directly appeal for Boris Johnson’s intervention in the case.”
    Should read
    “… One politician from his native Australia used a recent press conference to directly appeal for Boris Johnson’s intervention in the case.”
    It seems Foresightnews, as most of the British press really don’t care about freedom of speech.

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