Reporter shackled, caged, denied a phone call

This is disturbing.

Max Blumenthal, the editor of the news site The Gray Zone, was arrested on the morning of October 25 on a fabricated charge related to the siege of the Venezuelan embassy in Washington, DC that took place between April and May.

A team of DC police officers appeared at Blumenthal’s door at just after 9 AM, demanding entry and threatening to break his door down.  A number of officers had taken positions on the side of his home as though they were prepared for a SWAT-style raid.

Max Blumenthal

Blumenthal was hauled into a police van and ultimately taken to DC central jail, where he was held for two days in various cells and cages.  He was shackled by his hands and ankles for over five hours in one such cage along with other inmates.  His request for a phone call was denied by DC police and corrections officers, effectively denying him access to the outside world.

Blumenthal was informed that he was accused of simple assault by a Venezuelan opposition member. He declared the charge completely baseless.

“This charge is a 100 percent false, fabricated, bogus, untrue, and malicious lie,” Blumenthal declared. “It is clearly part of a campaign of political persecution designed to silence me and the The Gray Zone for our factual journalism exposing the deceptions, corruption and violence of the far-right Venezuelan opposition.”

The arrest warrant was five months old.  According to an individual familiar with the case, the warrant for Blumenthal’s arrest was initially rejected.  Strangely, this false charge was revived months later without the defendant’s knowledge.

“If the government had at least told me I had a warrant I could have voluntarily surrendered and appeared at my own arraignment. I have nothing to fear because I’m completely innocent of this bogus charge,” Blumenthal stated. “Instead, the federal government essentially enlisted the DC police to SWAT me, ensuring that I would be subjected to an early morning raid and then languish in prison for days without even the ability to call an attorney.”

Source: The Gray Zone

The background is that President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela in January ordered the closing of all Venezuela’s Washington embassy and all its U.S. consulates.  This was a response to U.S. recognition of Juan Guaido as interim president of Venezuela.  A few days later Guaido appointed his own U.S. ambassador.

A group of U.S. protestors, with Maduro’s consent, occupied the embassy on April 10 and tried to prevent the new ambassador from moving in.  Pro-Guaido protestors besieged the embassy and tried to prevent the protestors’ supporters from bringing them food and water.

Two members of the Grey Zone staff were embedded with the protestors.  Blumenthal took part in a delivery of food and sanitary supplies on May 8.   Authorities cut off electricity on May 8 and running water on May 11.  The  remaining few protestors were arrested and evicted on May 16.

The protestors’ position is that they were not trespassing because Maduro is recognized as the lawful President of Venezuela by the United Nations and most of the world’s governments.

Certainly the Trump administration’s economic sanctions against Venezuela and seizure of Venezuelan assets has not yet starved the country into submitting to the U.S.-backed puppet.

Blumenthal thinks he was arrested in retaliation for an article in The Gray Zone documenting that Guiado lobbyists are being paid by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).  It came out just a short time before his arrest.

LINKS

‘This charge is 100 percent false’: Grayzone editor Max Blumenthal arrested months after reporting on Venezuelan opposition violence by Ben Norton for The Gray Zone.  Hat tip to Pete’s Politics and Variety.

Journalist Max Blumenthal Arrested and Charged in Political Prosecution by Kevin Gosztola for ShadowProof.

USAID funds salaries of Venezuelan coup leaders to lobby US politicians for regime change by Leonardo Flores for The Gray Zone.

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