Tuesday, September 24th, 2019


On the US froze military aid to Ukraine this year multiple news outlets now say president trump personally ordered that freeze days before his phone call call asking you about political dirt house this all look in Ukraine's capital. I'm Steve Inskeep with David Green and this is up I from NPR news. In the president's spoke rejecting globalism the last time he addressed the UN the United States will not be taken advantage of any longer so what to expect in twenty nine thousand nine also a network of torture survivors is trying to hold the Assad regime to account in Syria their work lead to the arrest of a Syrian military officer. He's the the biggest fish arrested in in the west to this point while anywhere in the world to this point could their efforts lead to government officials prosecuted for war crimes. Stay with us. We'll guide you through this. 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Let's hear from a country that has been a special focus for president trump right the country is Ukraine to which the United States froze vital vital military aid now president trump also had a phone call with Ukraine's new president trump acknowledges seeking dirt on a political opponent Joe Biden though he insists he was speaking against corruption the Washington Post and multiple other news outlets now come close to connecting these events they quote senior officials who say the president personally finally ordered the military aid withheld at least a week before his phone call to Ukraine in Washington. Democrats are increasing their calls for impeachment. There was a lot to discuss is here so let's go back a few years and also go over to the to another continent here with NPR's Lucian Kim who's in Ukraine's capital. Keep Good Morning Good Morning Steve. How're Ukrainians responding. Branding is more is known about trump's actions. Well unfortunately Ukrainians are very used to corruption scandals and are also used to their prosecutors doing almost nothing to go after corruption in fact. That's one reason why Vladimir's Alinsky who professional comedian was elected president this year it was a protest vote against the old way of doing business as for Ukraine being in the middle of this partisan scandal in the US. I think it's unpleasant to say the least people here see the US as Ukraine's most powerful ally and it puts them in a very uncomfortable spots ought to be in the middle of this political firestorm. I've tried speaking to people. Ukrainian officials are not commenting on this. They want to wait until their president's alinsky meets President President trump tomorrow at the United Nations and when you say most powerful ally we should note Ukraine's neighbor. Russia has has attacked the territory in various ways and that's why the Ukraine Sir relying on US support now how Joe Biden rather his family get involved in Ukraine at all well Joe Biden Son Hunter Biden showed up pretty much out of the blue in two thousand fourteen and joined the board of an energy company run by a former environment minister now hiring hunter Biden. This was at the time when they were also hiring in a former president of pull into the board was part of an attempt to give this company some respectability. There are a lot of questions about its owner. this former environment armament minister he was being investigated for money laundering and there are questions about how he obtained his drilling licenses so the accusations of wrongdoing actually predate Hunter Entre Biden and hiring him was actually part of this sort of cleanup effort what frustrated Western countries including the US and many anti corruption activists here in Ukraine crane was that prosecutors were not investigating this company or basically any other wrongdoing in the country or what drew then Vice President Joe Biden into into your crane well. Steve the first thing to understand about Joe Biden and Ukraine as vice president he was the Obama Administration's point man on Ukraine he often visited and it was is really part of his brief to monitor of the reform process that was supposed to be going on here now the accusation we hear that Joe Biden tried to use this position to somehow on how protect the energy company where his son was on the board. I asked Brian Bonner about that. He's the editor of the key of post-ukraine's English language newspaper. Hip Joe Biden as vice president did not try to kill the investigation into Barista in fact one of the reasons why the prosecutor general was fired was because he obstructed one corruption case after another. He prosecuted no one for corruption. He protected corruption option so you know Biden's pressure to fires prosecutor was really in line with what other Western governments were demanding at the time we should emphasize this then since president trump faces this questions about his conduct and he says no actually the problem here is Joe Biden. Is there any evidence that Joe Biden is vice president or otherwise did anything improper well here in Kiev if nobody is saying that the fact that he was pressuring Ukraine to fire this prosecutor was the US government's position as well as that of other Western countries one anti corruption activist here in Kiev told me Ukrainian reformers were actually thankful for that pressure and that this kind of carrot stick approach was the only way to push reforms Lucian. Thanks for the insights. Appreciate it thank you. NPR's Lucian Kim is in Kiev. So how does all of this look to the White House. Let's go to NPR's Frank O. DONA WHO's traveling with President Trump in New York today Franco Good Morning Good morning so what is the president saying to justify his various actions here and especially that phone call demanding information about the Biden's well. He's been an extremely emphatic that he did nothing wrong but he really hasn't been able to get away from it even trying to get to New York in Washington pressure continues to build seven Freshman Democrats who are also members of the military. They wrote an op Ed last night in the Washington Post saying that if the allegations are true they represent a threat to what they swore to protect attacked as. I said he's been very emphatic. He teased US reporters that he might share the transcript but he stopped short doing it saying that he would do it he. He just says it sets the wrong precedent for the calls. We've heard that kind of thing before I am sure based on the new reports that will hear about it again today so if they were the Franko because of course the president has a big appearance in New York where you are today. He speaks before the United Nations General Assembly. That's right in. US presidents have often used this speech as a way to emphasize America's leadership role on the global stage. This great institution must work for great purposes to free people from tyranny and violence hunger and disease illiteracy and ignorance. Let's in poverty and despair we can choose to press forward with a better model of cooperation and integration or we can retreat into a world old sharply divided it is entirely up to us whether we lift the world to new heights or let it fall into a valley of disrepair eh trump's address at the UN this year comes against a backdrop of a trade war with China also insecurity in the Persian Gulf and of course calls for stronger action on climate change. Did you talk about Franko. So what will the president say well. The president and his staff are being a bit coy about his speech. White House officials say the president will present the US as an alternative to authoritarianism Arion his They'll probably discuss respect for independence of individual members particularly on national security issues. I was among reporters when he was asked about Iran that it will certainly come up. This is what the president said. A lot of things are going to happen. Let me just put it this way. A lot of things are happening with respect to Iran a lot more than you would know a lot more than the media announced. The things are happening. I'll be discussing it a little bit tomorrow. Trump got a boost from Germany France and the UK last night. They released a joint joint statement also blaming. Iran for the attack on the Saudi oil facility president trump also said yesterday that he's going to talk about the US economy and the global economy all right. Let's face did the president of course still a very powerful figure president of the United States but also very unpopular figure globally. Do World leaders still listen to what he has to say. Well world leaders certainly listen but they won't necessarily follow the reality is American global leadership isn't what it used to be. I spoke with Yvo dolder who who formerly served as the ambassador to NATO. This is what he said. Woody Allen once said that eighty percent of life is showing up the Chinese are showing up in places where the United States used used show up and as a result the Chinese are gaining influence. The reality is president have pulled back in many ways. He's pulled from the Paris climate accord. He promise that he wouldn't be president of the world and we're seeing that break. Oh thanks thank you. NPR's Franco or Donas is in New York City today. of documents in Europe has become evidence against the government of Serious Bishara yet. These are documents from inside. Syria revealing abuse in Syrian prisons lawyers and survivors collected these papers and NPR has gained access to them. Some cases against the Syrian government are now getting into court in Europe. Many of the hundreds of thousands of refugees who arrived there bring personal stories of the torture they survived. NPR's Deborah Amos has seen the evidence and talk with witnesses and she's on the line good morning good morning. Where do you go to see this evidence well to get into the offices of the Commission for International Justice and Accountability or CJ. You have to agree not to say where the offices. It's a security issue. These are experienced war crime investigators and they are storing evidence eight hundred thousand documents three and a half tons of paper. All of this official documents smuggled out of Syria over eight years of war this this February this paid off. They were part of why the German police arrested a former Syrian intelligence officer who had slipped into Berlin with refugees now. There's going to be a trial and Bill Wylie. WHO's the Canadian investigator he founded seizure. He says International Justice is based on what's called Kalinka JR cases because International Criminal Justice is focused on higher level perpetrators who normally don't get their hands dirty. Those who are known to the public appear in impeccably tailored suits speak fluid English in the case of President Assad ultimately those are the guys that were after because they are most responsible for the offenses. Oh you say linkage cases because these people may not personally have killed someone and yet get their participants enter even directing the effort so you have documents that you've seen relating to these cases also survivors right. Yes and many of these people are becoming witnesses and it's restored some hope considering what they've been through in two thousand eleven. There was an uprising the Assad regime responded with violence in then they had sweeping arrests tens of thousands of people were jailed. They say tens of thousands and there are documents wants to show this were tortured to death Omar. I'll show gre- is someone I talked to his twenty four years old. He was arrested when he was seventeen years old. He endured three years years in two of the worst prisons in Syria. You can't ask me how many thousand times I want to die but I never want want to see how kill me. I want them to come Eli fast but they didn't he survived. His mother paid an intermediary twenty thousand dollars that it saved his life because it got him out. He's now on a mission. He's talking to Swedish war crimes uh-huh units. He's talking to German prosecutors. He is helping to build these cases against Assad. Do some of those cases go forward well. Last year the French the Germans issued arrest warrants for senior Syrian officials. There's this upcoming case in Germany and what I am told by lawyers and the people apple is there's about a dozen of mid level Syrian officials who are in Europe. These are the most promising cases because there is documentation. Shen there are witnesses in Europe. There's thirteen European states who are moving on these investigations and I'm told that they expect more trials to come although I have to ask. Is there any chance that a Syrian official is going to be brought out of Syria and into a French or German court if they stay in Syria. No Oh they are immune from arrest but in a way what the prosecutors lawyers witnesses say is the effort sends a message for one thing it encourages is prosecutors to open more cases but as important it gives Syrian survivors away to be hurt to testify in open court you now the experience of torture is a loss of control. They have control back. It's it's almost like therapy. They want to sign up to become witnesses deborah. I want to circle back to something you said at the beginning you said the documents that you viewed are in a hidden location. They're in hiding. I would imagine some of the people you talked with their also so being quiet about their exact locations are they in danger even though they're far beyond the borders of Syria I you know I can tell you that that Omar Al.. Show is concerned about his security. He has been threatened on the telephone. Sweden is so open that you can find anybody address address online. They're all supposed to be there so you have to ask. If you want yours to be private. He has just gotten that there are plenty of Syrian Syrian intelligence officers in Europe and those witnesses who have family in Syria or even refugees in the surrounding countries. That's where their families ended up. They won't testify justify. They're afraid there is still fear that the long arm of the regime can can reach them all the way to Europe so the people who are testifying fine other Syrians think that they are the most brave the most remarkable people to bring these stories to the open. I'm just trying to get my brain around the idea idea that European justice cannot reach into Syria and yet Syrian power potentially can reach into Europe claim by different rules. That's what these trials about Deborah. Thanks so much thank you that's. NPR's Deborah Amos and that's up I for this Tuesday September twenty fourth. I'm Steve INSKEEP and I'm David Greene. We hope you come back here with us again tomorrow. You can subscribe to US wherever you listen to your podcasts and if you've got a minute or two we'd love if he would rate us in review us on Apple podcasts. Thanks for waking up with NPR news. Remember the NPR station makes up I possible every day you can support them and support us by going to donate that. 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