The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

By Karin Strohecker

VIENNA (Reuters) — Three young children suffering from dehydration and close to death have been rescued from a van crammed with 26 refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh, Austrian police said on Saturday.

The two girls and a boy, aged five and six, were found in a dire state when police stopped the vehicle after a chase near the Austrian town of St. Peter am Hart on the border with Germany, a police spokesman said. They are recovering in hospital.

“The emergency doctor told us they would not have made it much longer — two, maybe three hours,” said David Furtner, police spokesman for Upper Austria province.

The incident follows the discovery of the corpses of 71 refugees in an abandoned lorry on an Austrian highway on Thursday — victims of an unfolding tragedy as refugees and migrants escaping conflict and poverty in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East flock to Europe in unprecedented numbers.

The International Organization for Migration estimates a third of a million people have crossed the Mediterranean so far this year, leaving from Libya, Turkey, and other countries to land in Europe.

Hundreds have drowned in shipwrecks but the recent deaths on land have exposed another horrific side of the people-smuggling racket.

“The driver did not give a damn about the people in the back. We would not transport animals under these conditions on our roads in Austria,” said Furtner, referring to Friday’s discovery.

Austria lies on the way from poorer countries in southern and eastern Europe where many refugees first land, such as Greece, to more prosperous nations in the north and west.

Driver Arrested

The 29-year-old Romanian driver of the van found on Friday, registered in Romania, was arrested. The children and their parents were taken to the hospital in Braunau, where they are now in a stable condition.

Among the dead found in the lorry on Thursday, four were children, one of them a baby girl, police said on Saturday. They were presumed to be from Syria — in the grip of a four-year-old civil war — or possibly Afghanistan.

Three Bulgarians and an Afghan arrested in Hungary in connection with the deaths made their first appearance in a court in the central Hungarian town of Kecskemet on Saturday. They were given one month’s detention pending further proceedings.

A prosecution spokesman told journalists the truck had left Kecskemet and picked up the migrants near Hungary’s border with Serbia, before taking them through Hungary to Austria.

Police hoped to identify the dead refugees by examining mobile phones found on some of the bodies. Searches of backpacks, luggage, and clothing had provided few clues apart from one Syrian travel document, said Helmut Marban, a police spokesman in Burgenland province.

Marban was speaking in front of a former customs hall where the lorry was parked on a tarpaulin to catch fluids, with investigators in protective suits gathering forensic evidence.

Police estimated the refugees could have been dead for up to two days and the truck might have been standing on the hard shoulder of the highway for as long as 24 hours.

“It seems unbelievable,” said Marban, asked about how 71 people could have fitted into the medium-sized refrigeration lorry.

“At first when they got in they were of course standing, but when we had to bring them out they were (entangled) all together.”

In nearby camps, refugees said the news had left them stunned, but they saw little choice but to flee to Europe.

“We had to walk so much, it was so dangerous, in the forest and in the water,” said 21-year-old Qariburahman, who had been on the road for a month before Austrian police picked him up and brought him to the Nickelsdorf refugee reception center.

“When I came from Afghanistan, about three people died on the way, the way is very dangerous,” he said.

His journey had cost him $5,000.

A Syrian refugee in the camp of Traiskirchen south of Vienna said people had no choice but to go with traffickers.

“We didn’t know what the car was, maybe it’s a truck, maybe it’s a van. And we had to follow [the trafficker] because in his area, he is the boss,” he said, his pregnant wife and baby son close by.

“My wife, she told me, oh maybe we were supposed to be one of them … maybe it is one of my friends, maybe it is one of my brothers on that truck.'”

“Mass Grave”

On another front in the crisis, Libyan authorities arrested three people on suspicion of involvement in launching a boat packed with migrants that sank off the country’s Mediterranean coast, killing up to 200 people, a security official said.

The vessel, with up to 400 African, Syrian, and Asian migrants on board, capsized on Thursday after setting off from the town of Zuwara, close to the Italian island of Lampedusa and a center of operations for people smugglers exploiting the anarchy in Libya, a country with two rival governments.

By Saturday, 115 bodies had been recovered and about 198 migrants rescued, officials said.

Arrests of smugglers are rare in Libya, where the judiciary has little power since the country is effectively controlled by former rebel groups which helped to oust Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

The head of the European Parliament meanwhile said the “glaring failures” of some European countries to take in refugees were turning the Mediterranean into a mass grave.

Martin Schulz, a German Social Democrat, said those European governments that had resisted European Union proposals to agree to a common plan must do more to deal with the crisis.

He did not single out any states. However, Hungary, which is part of Europe’s passport-free Schengen zone, is building a fence along its border with Serbia to contain what it calls a threat to European security, prosperity, and identity.

“The Mediterranean becomes a mass grave, gruesome scenes play out at borders, there is mutual blame — and those in greatest need, seeking our protection, are left without help,” Schulz told Germany’s Die Welt newspaper.

Germany’s highest court on Saturday overturned a weekend ban on assemblies in an eastern town that was the scene of violent protests against refugees. More than 30 policemen were injured in clashes in the town of Heidenhau, near Dresden, last weekend.

Chancellor Angela Merkel traveled to Heidenau on Monday and condemned the protests. Germany expects the number of asylum seekers to quadruple to about 800,000 this year.

(Additional reporting by Marton Dunai in Kecskemet, Anna McIntosh in Traiskirchen, Shadia Nasrallah in Vienna and Ahmed Elumami in Tripoli; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

Photo: Police escort suspects in the deaths of 71 refugees found in a truck on an Austrian motorway, in Kecskemet, Hungary, August 29, 2015. REUTERS/Laszlo Balogh

Advertising

Start your day with National Memo Newsletter

Know first.

The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning

  • 1.Why did Trump choose to hide certain specific files and not others at Mar-a-Lago? What were the criteria that Trump used to keep some files concealed and not others? Who selected those files? Did Trump consult or direct anyone in his selection of secret files? Trump was notorious for being too impatient to read his briefing papers, even after they had been drastically shortened and simplified. Is there the slightest evidence that he spirited these papers away so that he could consult or study them? Who besides Trump knew of the presence of the files he had concealed at Mar-a-Lago?
  • 2. Mar-a-Lago has an infamous reputation for being open to penetration even by foreign spies. In 2019, the FBI arrested a Chinese woman who had entered the property with electronic devices. She was convicted of trespassing, lying to the Secret Service, and sentenced and served eight-months in a federal prison, before being deported to China. Have other individuals with possible links to foreign intelligence operations been present at Mar-a-Lago?
  • 3. Did members of Trump's Secret Service detail have knowledge of his secret storage of the files at Mar-a-Lago? What was the relationship of the Secret Service detail to the FBI? Did the Secret Service, or any agent, disclose information about the files to the FBI?
  • 4. Trump's designated representatives to the National Archives are Kash Patel and John Solomon, co-conspirators in the investigations into Russian interference in the presidential election of 2016, the Ukraine missiles-for-political dirt scandal that led to the first impeachment in 2019, and the coup of 2020. Neither has any professional background in handling archival materials. Patel, a die-hard Trump loyalist whose last job in the administration was as chief of staff to the Acting Secretary of Defense, was supposedly involved in Trump’s “declassification” of some files. Patel has stated, “Trump declassified whole sets of materials in anticipation of leaving government that he thought the American public should have the right to read themselves."
  • The White House counsel failed to generate the paperwork to change the classification markings, but that doesn’t mean the information wasn’t declassified.” If Pat Cipollone, the White House legal counsel, did not “generate the paperwork,” was he or anyone on his staff aware at all of the declassifications? The White House Staff Secretary Derek Lyons resigned his post in December 2020. Did his successor, who held the position for a month, while Trump was consumed with plotting his coup, ever review the material found in Trump’s concealed files for declassification? Or did Patel review the material? Can Patel name any individual who properly reviewed the supposed declassification?
  • 5. Why did Trump keep his pardon of Roger Stone among his secret files? Was it somehow to maintain leverage over Stone? What would that leverage be? Would it involve Stone's role as a conduit with the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers during the coup? Or is there another pardon in Trump’s files for Stone, a secret pardon for his activities in the January 6th insurrection? Because of the sweeping nature of the pardon clause, pardons can remain undisclosed (until needed). Pardons are self-executing, require no justification and are not subject to court review beyond the fact of their timely execution. In other words, a court may verify the pardon was valid in time but has no power to review appropriateness. A pardon could even be oral but would need to be verifiable by a witness. Do the files contain secret pardons for Trump himself, members of his family, members of the Congress, and other co-conspirators?
  • 6.Was the FBI warrant obtained to block the imminent circulation or sale of information in the files to foreign powers? Does the affidavit of the informant at Mar-a-Lago, which has not been released, provide information about Trump’s monetization that required urgency in executing the warrant? Did Trump monetize information in any of the files? How? With whom? Any foreign power or entity? Was the Saudi payment from its sovereign wealth fund for the LIV Golf Tournament at Trump’s Bedminster Golf Club for a service that Trump rendered, an exchange of anything of value or information that was in the files? If it involved information in the files was it about nuclear programs? Was it about the nuclear program of Israel? How much exactly was the Saudi payment for the golf tournament? The Saudi sovereign wealth fund gave Jared Kushner and former Trump Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin $2 billion for their startup hedge fund, Affinity Partners. Do the Saudis regard that investment as partial payment for Trump’s transfer of nuclear information? Were Kushner or Mnuchin aware of the secret files at Mar-a-Lago?
  • 7.Did Trump destroy any of the files? If so, when? Did those files contain incriminating information? Did he destroy any files after he received the June subpoena?
  • 8.Were any of the secrets of our allies compromised? Has the U.S. government provided an inventory of breaches or potential breaches to our allies?
  • 9.Does the resort maintain a copying machine near the classified documents that Trump hid? Were any of the documents copied or scanned? Are Trump’s documents at Mar-a-Lago originals or copies? Were any copies shown or given to anyone?
  • 10.Trump’s lawyer Christina Bobb has revealed that a video surveillance system covers the places where Trump hid the files at Mar-a-Lago, and that the system is connected to a system at his other residences at the Bedminster Golf Club in New Jersey and Trump Tower in New York City. According to Bobb, Trump and members of his family observed the FBI search and seizure of his files at Mar-a-Lago, “actually able to see the whole thing” through their surveillance system. Who has that surveillance system recorded entering the rooms where the files were kept?

Kevin Bacon, right, in "The Following"

The aftermath of the August 8, 2022 search of the Mar-a-Lago club, former President Donald Trump’s Florida home, isn’t the first showdown between the FBI and a cult leader.

The Following, a 2013 Fox Pictures series, played out in similar fashion. Three seasons was enough for the producers and it’s been nine years since our introduction to Joe Carroll, English professor-novelist-serial killer, so there’s a spoiler risk -- but not enough to prevent the comparison.

Keep reading... Show less
{{ post.roar_specific_data.api_data.analytics }}