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Newsline: US diplomat’s wife gets suspended sentence for killing UK teen in car crash

A US diplomat’s wife on Thursday narrowly avoided jail in Britain for killing a teenage motorcyclist by driving on the wrong side of the road and then fleeing the country. Anne Sacoolas was given an eight-month prison sentence suspended for 12 months, during which period she faces jail if she commits another offence. (https://news.yahoo.com/us-diplomats-wife-gets-suspended-163044617.html) She did not attend the sentencing hearing in London in person and followed proceedings by video-link. Harry Dunn, 19, died in August 2019 when his motorbike collided with Sacoolas’s car that she was driving on the wrong side of the road near a US airbase in southern England. She left Britain after the accident and the US government claimed she had immunity from criminal prosecution because she was at the base as a dependent of her husband. A request for her extradition was denied, turning the case into a high-profile diplomatic spat between London and Washington. Sacoolas was originally charged with causing death by dangerous driving but pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of careless driving which carries a maximum jail term of five years. Sacoolas had declined to attend court in person on the advice of the US government, her employer, which claimed her presence could “place significant US interests at risk”.

Newsline: U.S. diplomat’s wife will not return to UK for sentencing over fatal car crash

Anne Sacoolas, the wife of a U.S. diplomat, will not return to Britain for sentencing this week after admitting causing the death of a teenager by driving carelessly in England three years ago, a British court has said. Harry Dunn, 19, died in August 2019 after his motorcycle was hit by a car driven on the wrong side of the road by Sacoolas near RAF Croughton, an air force base in the English county of Northamptonshire that is used by the U.S. military. Sacoolas, whose husband worked as a U.S. intelligence officer at the base, left Britain shortly after the accident, claiming diplomatic immunity from criminal prosecution and the United States refused to extradite her. In October, appearing at London’s Old Bailey court by videolink from the United States, Sacoolas denied causing death by dangerous driving but admitted the less serious charge. The judge had previously directed that she attend the sentencing, due to take place on Thursday, in person. The Old Bailey said in a statement on Tuesday that an application for Sacoolas to take part and be sentenced via videolink had been renewed. “The defence have supplied material in support of the application including evidence that Mrs Sacoolas’ government employer has advised her not to attend in person. The judge has granted the application,” the statement said. Radd Seiger, a spokesperson for Dunn’s family, said they were “horrified”. (https://news.yahoo.com/u-diplomats-wife-not-return-124851779.html) The crash led to a diplomatic spat between London and Washington, with the British government backing the call for Sacoolas to be prosecuted. The charge she admitted carries a maximum jail term of five years but guidelines suggest either a community order or a shorter prison sentence.

Newsline: Chinese ‘super embassy’ blocked in London

A Chinese bid for a “super embassy” on the site on the old Royal Mint near Tower Bridge has been blocked amid fierce opposition and a growing political rift between Westminster and Beijing. In a shock decision, Tower Hamlets council voted unanimously to reject planning permission for the new multi million pound development in the heart of central London, despite advisers recommending the new hub be given the go ahead. Councillors normally follow these recommendations. (https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2022/12/01/chinese-super-embassy-blocked-london-blow-xi-jinping/) The move will pile more pressure on London Mayor Sadiq Khan and Housing Secretary Michael Gove, who have a six-week challenge period in which they could decide to call in the verdict. Any public inquiry could take up to 18 months to resolve. Beijing’s new “super embassy” in London would be the largest of its kind in Europe and only around three miles away from Westminster.

Newsline: London councillors to vote on Chinese Embassy move

A decision about whether the Chinese Embassy can move to a site near the Tower of London is to be made later. Chinese officials want to move to Royal Mint Court from its current location in Portland Place, central London. Tower Hamlets Borough Council has received 51 objection letters from residents citing security, privacy and safety concerns. The planning application said it would deliver “significant improvements” to the area and create up to 20 jobs. (https://news.yahoo.com/chinese-embassy-tower-hamlets-councillors-055605106.html) Tower Hamlets’ Strategic Development Committee will either approve, refuse or defer the plans at a meeting later. A deferment would happen if committee members raised concerns and requested more detail beyond the scope of the planning application.

Newsline: UK summons Chinese ambassador over BBC journalist arrest

China’s ambassador to the UK has been summoned to the Foreign Office after a BBC journalist was allegedly kicked and beaten by Chinese police while covering anti-lockdown protests. The department has called on Zheng Zeguang for a “full and thorough explanation” of the detention of Edward Lawrence. Chinese officials have claimed that Mr Lawrence “didn’t voluntarily present” his press credentials. (https://news.yahoo.com/uk-foreign-office-minister-summons-154117882.html) The broadcaster said that police claimed Mr Lawrence was arrested in case he caught Covid from the crowd.

Newsline: US Embassy in London ‘sacks’ diplomat ahead of World Cup match

A United States embassy official has been ‘sacked’ for supporting England ahead of the clash between the countries at the Qatar World Cup. The US embassy in London posted a cheeky video of their spokesperson with his office decked out with England regalia as the Three Lions continue their World Cup campaign. (https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-11469333/US-Embassy-sacks-diplomat-trolls-England-ahead-crunch-World-Cup-match.html) The official Twitter account for the American embassy in London then jokingly announced he had been fired ahead of the England v US game.

Newsline: UK abandons plans to move British Embassy to Jerusalem

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has dropped his predecessor’s controversial plans to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel by moving the British embassy to Jerusalem. The move would have followed the example set by former US President, Donald Trump. “There are no plans to move the British Embassy from Tel Aviv,” a Downing Street spokesman said. (https://muslimnews.co.uk/newspaper/home-news/sunak-abandons-plans-to-move-british-embassy-to-jerusalem/) The confirmation was made after Sunak replaced Liz Truss, who was MP for just 44 days before resigning. The Palestinian Mission in London immediately welcomed the clarification. “We would like to thank the UK government, opposition parties, faith leaders, activists, and members of the public whose efforts have helped keep the UK in line with international law on the matter,” said Palestinian Ambassador to the UK, Husam Zomlot, said. The U-turn appeared to be a policy reversal by Sunak. In August he told the Conservative Friends of Israel that Jerusalem was Israel’s “undisputed capital”. And that there was a “very strong case” for relocating the UK embassy there. At a meeting of the UN General Assembly in New York in September, Truss told her then-Israeli counterpart, Yair Lapid, that she was carrying out a “review of the current location of the British Embassy in Israel.” Previously, she declared at a CFI meeting that she was a “huge Zionist” and “a huge supporter of Israel”. Truss was warned by politicians, religious leaders, other countries, as well as Palestinians, not to follow the example set by Trump.

Newsline: UK police identify offences committed in Chinese consulate incident

British police said they had identified a number of offences committed during an incident at a Chinese consulate in northern England last month, in which a man protesting outside said he was dragged into the grounds and assaulted. Bob Chan, who is originally from Hong Kong, says he was with a group demonstrating against Chinese President Xi Jinping outside the consulate in Manchester, northern England, when masked men pulled him inside and kicked and punched him. Consul-General Zheng Xiyuan said his staff, including himself, had been defending themselves after protesters had stormed the grounds in an unprovoked attack. Greater Manchester Police said they had been gathering evidence from mobile phone footage and witnesses to establish the full circumstances of what had happened. There have been no arrests so far, but they had “identified a number of offences including assaults and public order offences”. “We’re continuing to gain a clearer understanding of the timeline of events that led to an initially peaceful protest escalating in the way it did, and this has seen us identify a number of offences and potential suspects and victims,” Assistant Chief Constable Chris Sykes said. (https://news.yahoo.com/uk-police-identify-offences-committed-172514130.html) Chan, aged in his 30s, said he suffered bruising to his eye, head, neck and all over his back. The incident sparked another diplomatic spat between Britain and China, whose relationship has soured in recent years.

Newsline: Britain summons Iran’s diplomat over threats to UK journalists

The British foreign office said it has summoned Iran’s most senior diplomat over alleged threats by Iranian security forces to journalists in the UK. “I summoned the Iranian representative today to make clear that we do not tolerate threats to life and intimidation of any kind towards journalists, or any individual, living in the UK,” Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said in a statement. (https://www.reuters.com/world/uk/britain-summons-irans-senior-diplomat-over-alleged-threats-uk-journalists-2022-11-11/) Iran has responded to widespread internal protests with the suppression of freedom of expression and the targeting of media outlets operating in Iran, the foreign office said, adding that over 40 journalists have been arrested and detained.

Newsline: UK embassy worker in Berlin pleads guilty to Russia spying charges

A British man who worked in the UK embassy in Berlin has pleaded guilty to eight offences under the Official Secrets Act related to passing on information useful to Russia. David Ballantyne Smith, who was living in Potsdam, Germany and was employed as a security guard at the embassy, was extradited to Britain from Germany following his arrest by German police in August 2021. The 58-year-old pleaded guilty to eight offences on Nov. 4. Judge Mark Wall lifted restrictions on reporting Smith’s pleas on Friday after the prosecution indicated it will not seek a trial on a ninth charge to which Smith pleaded not guilty. Smith appeared at the Old Bailey in London last week and pleaded guilty to one charge of passing information about British civil servants to General Major Sergey Chukhurov, described in the prosecution indictment as the Russian military attaché to Berlin, between October and December 2020. He also admitted seven other charges relating to collecting information which might be “useful to an enemy, namely the Russian state”, including material “relating to the operation and layout of the British embassy in Berlin”. (https://finance.yahoo.com/news/1-british-worker-uk-embassy-160708782.html) A hearing is expected to take place in February 2023 to determine the basis on which Smith will be sentenced.