The Trump administration’s case against Venezuelan embassy protectors was severely biased, but ended up with a hung jury. The mistrial is a victory for sovereignty and democracy, and another failure in the coup attempt.
By Leonardo Flores / CODEPINK
A hung jury in the Donald Trump administration’s case against activists who were arrested protecting Venezuela’s internationally recognized embassy in Washington, DC is being heralded as a major win for sovereignty, amid the US government’s floundering coup attempt against the Chavista government in Caracas.
On February 14, a jury of 12 DC residents were deadlocked over the issue of the embassy defenders, forcing the judge to declare a mistrial — in a blow to the federal government and to a judicial system that had stacked the odds against them.
The embassy defenders — Adrienne Pine, Margaret Flowers, Kevin Zeese, and David Paul — had been accused of “interfering with the protective functions” of the US State Department after they, as part of the Embassy Protection Collective, had spent 37 days in the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, DC in the spring of 2019, protecting it from an illegal takeover by the US-backed supporters of coup leader Juan Guaidó.
Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell overtly favored the prosecution by severely limiting the scope of the case, ruling that the defendants were limited to speaking only about events between May 13 and May 16.
For context, the Embassy Protection Collective began staying in the building on April 11. All was peaceful until April 30, when coup supporters surrounded the embassy and attacked the protectors with physical and verbal abuse, as well as death threats.
The protectors were then put under a joint siege by the police and coup supporters — the latter of whom did all they could to prevent food from being delivered into the premises. On May 8, the electricity and water were cut off.
On May 13, they subsequently received a trespass “notice” — a piece of paper with no official letterhead, signature or seal that was most likely written in Spanish and translated. They were then asked, but not ordered, to leave the premises by police.
Finally on May 16, the protectors were arrested, when, in violation of international law, US federal agents in swat-style gear raided the sovereign Venezuelan embassy.
Judge Howell’s pre-trial decisions to severely limit the defense from putting the arrest in context ensured a bias that many observers considered impossible to overcome in a jury trial. The embassy defenders were not allowed to say that Nicolás Maduro is the president of Venezuela.
The defense was not allowed to talk about international law, including the Vienna Convention (which prohibits entry into another country’s embassy, even in times of war). They were not allowed to talk about the protecting power agreement (an agreement for third countries to ensure the safety of embassies in Caracas and DC) that was being negotiated by the US, Switzerland, Turkey, and Venezuela.
They were not allowed to mention that President Maduro, Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza, Vice Minister Carlos Ron, and UN Ambassador Samuel Moncada had all authorized the activists’ stay in the embassy. They were not allowed to discuss the fact that the Trump and Maduro administrations had been in contact throughout April and May.
They were not allowed to discuss the blatant cooperation between law enforcement and Guaidó supporters in DC. They were not allowed to discuss Guaidó’s corruption and connections to paramilitary drug cartels. They were not allowed to question Guaidó’s legitimacy.
In short, they were not allowed to tell the whole truth.
The partiality on brazen display against citizens who are supposedly presumed to be innocent made it clear that the US justice system was doing its best to ensure justice would be denied — a true kangaroo court.
The justice system’s subservience to the Trump administration’s attempt to install an unelected president in Venezuela effectively made this court that supports a coup — a kanga-coup court, if you will.
That this trial resulted in a mistrial means that US citizens saw through the farce, just as Venezuelans saw through the farce represented by Juan Guaidó….
Embassy Protection Collective
Feb. 14, 2020