By Lauren Smith
Bulletin: On Nov. 1 U.S. District Judge Robert Scola dropped all but one money laundering charge against Alex Saab, but the one remaining count of “conspiracy to commit money laundering” carries a maximum sentence of 20 years. Saab continues to be denied access to legal counsel and to cancer medications.
The article below has been edited.
On Sunday, Oct. 24, representatives from more than six independent activist groups led by the Bolivarian Circle of Miami joined forces at the foot of the statue of Latin American hero, Simón Bolivar, in the Miami Torch of Friendship Park, to demand Venezuelan Deputy Ambassador to the African Union Alex Saab’s immediate release from U.S. prison and repatriation to Venezuela.
The Venezuelan diplomat was kidnapped twice by Washington. First, Saab was kidnapped under orders of the Trump administration on June 12, 2020, while his plane refueled in Cape Verde, then again under the Biden administration on Oct. 16, from Cape Verde to Miami. Ambassador Saab was abducted from Cape Verde without the knowledge of his legal team or family the day before the island’s presidential election.
It was rightfully feared by Washington that the sure-to-be-elected opposition government in Cape Verde would resist their criminal dictates and immediately free Ambassador Saab — and thus no longer be a stooge for the U.S. diplomatic hostage-taking and its infliction of physical and psychological torture.
While in custody, three of Diplomat Saab’s molar teeth were broken, and he was repeatedly beaten and subjected to electroshock among degrading “searches,” long periods in stress positions, the withholding of food and water for three days and coercion through deplorable holding cell conditions. Additionally, Diplomat Saab was denied medication for treating cancer and his other critical needs.
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro explained on state TV that interrogators in Cape Verde used electric shocks to torture Ambassador Saab and extract a false confession that in the end never came: “They wanted to force him into becoming a monster, a false accuser against Venezuela, against me and against the Bolivarian revolution — something he never allowed.” Nonetheless, Ambassador Saab released a statement that he “is of sound mind and not suicidal.” He is rightfully concerned that the authorities will fake his murder. Diplomat Saab pledged his fidelity to President Maduro and the Venezuelan people.
Ambassador Saab urged everyone to “be strong and always stay united” for justice for the people of Venezuela and all those oppressed worldwide by illegal U.S. unilateral economic sanctions — which amount to nothing less than gangster imperialism.
According to U.S. authorities, Ambassador Saab is being held in a federal prison in Miami near its courthouse. This could not be confirmed by his legal team or his supporters and remains a point of concern at this time — as Ambassador Saab was only permitted to view his Miami court arraignment on Monday, Oct. 18 by video. Alex Saab’s next court appearance was Nov. 1, and support groups organized events.
Multiple violations of international law
Washington’s actions against Diplomat Saab contradict both international and humanitarian laws. First, in Cape Verde Diplomat Saab was illegally arrested, since it was carried out in advance of Interpol’s “red-notice.” Additionally, on March 15, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) court ruled that the continued detention and push for extradition of Saab, by the Cape Verde government was illegal.
Second, charges of money laundering were dropped by Switzerland, upon review by a Genevan investigation, for inadequate evidence.
Third, the United States’ case has no legal standing. It erroneously claims that Ambassador Saab was bribing Venezuelan government officials. If this is the case, then clearly this matter belongs in Venezuelan court, not in Miami using up federal and state tax dollars. Seriously, the U.S. is beset with the highest drug abuse numbers in the world. Why are we wasting millions on alleged “money laundering” charges over actions that were at worst used to supply food and medicine to Venezuelans?
Fourth, with diplomatic status, Alex Saab cannot be arrested or imprisoned under international law. Outrageously, Washington claims Alex Saab isn’t a diplomat because “the State Department hasn’t approved him.” They also claim Maduro, who won over 67% of the popular vote for his second term, “isn’t the president of Venezuela.” Instead, they anointed Juan Guaidó as interim president. Guaidó, a traitor to the Venezuelan people and a U.S. sock puppet, wasn’t even a candidate in the 2018 election. Yet, with Washington’s lawlessness, what would be a farce in any other context remains a threat — as Guaidó, left to his own devices, is merely a self-appointed president and a self-appointed leader of a self-appointed assembly.
Fifth, charges levied against Ambassador Saab involve his circumventing U.S. unilateral coercive economic sanctions waged against the Venezuelan people — which are illegal under both international and humanitarian law. This charge makes Ambassador Saab a hero for his repeated delivery of food and medicine to the impoverished. And as such, all people of conscience in and on behalf of 39 countries illegally oppressed by U.S. unilateral economic sanctions ally with Simón Bolivar and Alex Saab against Yankee imperialism today and always.
Without question and by admission, unilateral coercive economic sanctions are done routinely to “make the economy scream” and “enable regime change” in the targeted country. However, in the longstanding cases of both Cuba and Iran, this strategy hasn’t worked. In the case of Venezuela, it is hoped by Washington that the starvation and illness of its people will somehow facilitate the giveaway of its oil reserve, the largest in the world, to Exxon Mobil.
Let’s stop subsidizing corporate plunder. The U.S. has already committed theft and piracy against Venezuela and Iran with the unlawful seizing of Citgo and its transiting oil tankers. Also, why aren’t the alleged and unnamed U.S. Miami banks that are involved in Ambassador Saab’s case put on trial? The Manhattan district attorney has no problem fining foreign banks for “sanction” violations.
Judge and prosecutors responsible for Saab’s treatment
U.S. Magistrate Judge John J. O’Sullivan (C. Clyde Atkins U.S. Courthouse, 301 North Miami Avenue, 5th floor, Miami, Fla. 33128, (305) 523-5920) of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida is presiding over the case of Ambassador Saab. Trial Attorney Alexander Kramer (Alexander Kramer, Trial Attorney Criminal Division, Fraud Section U.S. Department of Justice, Court ID No. A5502240, 1400 New York Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 20005, (202) 768-1919, [email protected]) and Assistant U.S. Attorney Kurt K. Lunkenheimer (Kurt K. Lunkenheimer, Assistant U.S. Attorney, Court ID No. A5501535, 99 N.E. 4th Street, Miami, Fla. 33132-2111, (305) 961-9008, [email protected]) are prosecuting the case.
The aforementioned judge and prosecutors are responsible for the illegality of these charges and for Ambassador Saab’s continued health and safety.
Alexa Weber, leader for the Bolivarian circle of Miami, provided interviews to independent press, and the following speakers were informative and energizing, leading the diverse group in chants to support President Maduro’s leadership, freedom for Diplomat Alex Saab and Hands-off Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua: Cassia Laham from Power People’s Opposition to War, Imperialism and Racism and United National Antiwar Coalition; Kahlil Sankara from Troika Collective; Didier Ortiz from Bolivarian Circle of Miami and Troika Collective; Will Blake from Committee to Stop FBI Repression; and Pete Seidman from Hands off Cuba and Venezuela.
Please follow the above-referenced groups for evolving information on Ambassador Saab’s next court appearance scheduled for Nov 1. Washington be warned — Alex Saab is already considered a humanitarian in the international community and with U.S. activists. If he’s incapacitated or murdered in custody, Ambassador Saab will be elevated to martyr status, and his image will be used worldwide in perpetuity to rally millions against illegal U.S. unilateral coercive economic sanctions that kill the impoverished.
Lauren Smith is an independent journalist and member of the Green Party and SanctionsKill.com. Her work has been published by Alliance for Global Justice, Black Agenda Report, Common Dreams, Counterpunch, Global Research CA, Monthly Review and Telesur among others.