Mistrial Outcome for Venezuelan Embassy Protectors

By Leni Villagomez Reeves

Even with the defenders not allowed to present facts and the prosecutors free to present political fantasy as if it were reality, they couldn’t convict. On Feb. 14, the weird and unfair trial of the four who remained to protect the Venezuelan embassy from being taken from the representatives of that country and turned over to a pseudo-government proclaimed by the Trump administration ended in a mistrial. Adrienne Pine, Kevin Zeese, Margaret Flowers and David Paul were facing a year in prison and a $100,000 fine each.

Pine stated the issue clearly: “We were prosecuted because the Trump administration wants to set an example to terrify others who might consider putting their bodies on the line to protest U.S.-led coups, counterinsurgency programs, unilateral coercive measures and other imperialist wars and policies, and to stand in solidarity with peoples and nations wishing to forge their own path without U.S. interference around the world.”

L to R: Venezuela Embassy protectors and antiwar activists David Paul, Margaret Flowers, Adrienne Pine, and Kevin Zeese

Will the government try again? After Judge Beryl Howell ruled that no facts at all about Venezuela or about international law could be presented as part of the defense, the four determined not to attempt any defense at all. Even under these conditions, a jury was unable to reach a verdict and a mistrial was declared, although not until after the judge tried to pressure the jury to continue deliberating. Howell has called for a retrial.

The four Embassy Protectors will appear in court on Feb. 28 for another status hearing when the government will decide whether to retry. The four, with the support of their legal team and their defense committee, are making preparations for a likely second prosecution.

What’s it all about? And why is this the only newspaper that is printing this news?The four people on trial are members of a collective that, with the permission of the actual elected government of Venezuela, entered and remained in the Venezuelan Embassy in the United States to prevent the Trump government from turning the embassy over to its own chosen “Venezuelan government”—a scattering of right-wing political failures who also failed to pull off their attempted military coup. Nicolás Maduro is, was and remains the president of Venezuela.

Embassies are supposed to be inviolate; there’s international law on this (see sidebar), and the United States is a signatory to that. But apparently other countries have no rights that the United States is bound to respect. (Yes, this is a deliberate paraphrase of the Taney opinion in the Dred Scott case.)

None of these facts or this international law was allowed as evidence in the trial. And no mainstream news media in the United States covered this bizarre “fact-free” trial. Why? Perhaps because the so-called free press is in fact corporate-owned and responsible to the interests of money and not to the interests of truth or to the people.

Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, 1961

Article 22:

  1. The premises of the mission shall be inviolable. The agents of the receiving State may not enter them, except with the consent of the head of the mission.
  2. The receiving State is under a special duty to take all appropriate steps to protect the premises of the mission against any intrusion or damage and to prevent any disturbance of the peace of the mission or impairment of its dignity.
  3. The premises of the mission, their furnishings and other property thereon and the means of transport of the mission shall be immune from search, requisition, attachment or execution.

Article 45:

If diplomatic relations are broken off between two States, or if a mission is permanently or temporarily recalled:

(a) The receiving State must, even in case of armed conflict, respect and protect the premises of the mission, together with its property and archives;

(b) The sending State may entrust the custody of the premises of the mission, together with its property and archives, to a third State acceptable to the receiving State.

*****

Leni Villagomez Reeves is a local physician, activist, and friend of Veterans For Peace. Contact her at lenivreeves@gmail.com.

This article originally appeared in the March issue of Fresno’s Community Alliance newspaper.

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