State Department Briefing by Mark C. Toner, June 24, 2010

Washington, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)–June 24, 2010.


Ongoing legal process, sentencing of the five AmCits
US urges release of detained AmCit Aijalon Gomes on humanitarian grounds
US calls for the immediate release of the three detained AmCit hikers
US urges Sri Lankan Government to accept offer of UN international observer team
Secretary has full confidence in her team in Afghanistan, as well as Ambassador Holbrooke and his team here
US calls for owners of the wells to be compensated if reports that oil rigs were nationalized are true
Questions regarding the details of Mr. Coke’s arrest and extradition proceedings should be directed to Jamaican authorities
Beresford-Redman case/US can’t discuss matters of extradition unless completed


12:52 p.m. EDT

MR. TONER: I’ll take your questions.

QUESTION: Excellent.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Pakistan – the sentencing of the five American students.

MR. TONER: Sure thing, Arshad. Well, our understanding is that, at this point, is that the verdict may be appealed by one or both parties. So I can’t comment too much as this appears to be an ongoing legal process. But we’ve continued to provide consular assistance to these U.S. citizens throughout. And in fact, the consular officer attended the court hearing. And just more broadly, we continue to respect Pakistan’s right to conduct its – these kinds of judicial proceedings, but premature to comment any further.

QUESTION: But when you say one or both parties, what does that mean?

MR. TONER: One or both sides, I guess. Both the –

QUESTION: The government –

MR. TONER: — individuals or the government.

QUESTION: Apparently they’re going to ask for more?

QUESTION: Yes, that’s what our story says.


QUESTION: More what? I’m sorry.

QUESTION: Twenty years.

QUESTION: Longer time.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: The prosecution wants 20 years.

QUESTION: Can you say whether you think – one of the things that the U.S. Government typically does in cases like this, although you don’t generally want to comment on the judicial proceedings directly, is you’re interested in making sure that it’s a fair process and that U.S. citizens are treated fairly. Is it your assessment that it has been a fair process so far, that you don’t have concerns about the underlying integrity of the judicial process?

MR. TONER: Again, I think our statements saying that we respect Pakistan’s right to conduct its own judicial proceedings – we did have a consular officer attend the trial. So I think that speaks for itself that we —

QUESTION: No it doesn’t. I mean a consular officer could be sitting in the back and being like, give me a break. I mean, just because he’s there doesn’t mean that it’s a fair trial. Do you think that evidence was presented in a fair way? Did they have a chance to —

MR. TONER: Sure. Again, a consular officer monitored the proceedings —

QUESTION: So then you should be able to comment, then.

MR. TONER: But it’s premature since the trial is not over. Our understanding is that there’s going to be an appeal process. But we did have someone there and we do respect its – the —

QUESTION: I think you’re being selective. Because there have been other cases where you have said that you don’t think – that you think that this is a sham, we hope that on appeal —

MR. TONER: That’s your opinion. I just – I don’t want to get out in front of what –

QUESTION: It’s not my opinion. I’ve seen from the podium that people have said that when you think it’s a sham trial you’re very vocal about saying so. So the fact that you won’t say that, could we assume that you think that this was a fair process, a fair trial?

MR. TONER: Again, we’ve had a consular officer there the entire time monitoring the proceedings. It’s their role to – as you said, to judge the fairness of the trial.

QUESTION: So what’s their judgment?

MR. TONER: We believe that Pakistan has a right to conduct such judicial proceedings and we respect that right. But again, I don’t want to get out in front of what’s an appeal process.

QUESTION: So are you saying that it’s premature to determine whether the trial is fair?

MR. TONER: It’s premature to make any judgment on the trial yet.

QUESTION: Do you know if there was any attempt made to lobby for them to be released?

MR. TONER: I don’t know that, Matt.

QUESTION: All right. Can we go to other Americans in distress around the world? And there are quite a few, actually, I’ve got here. One, do you have any comment on the North Koreans saying that —

MR. TONER: I do.

QUESTION: — saying that they are going to pop popcorn 24 hours a day? Did you even know what I was – North Korea guy?

MR. TONER: I assume you’re referring to American citizen Aijalon Gomes.


MR. TONER: Gomes? I think it’s Gomes, I believe. We urge the North Korean Government, the DPRK Government, to release Mr. Gomes on humanitarian grounds. And while he remains detained in the DPRK, we expect the authorities to treat him in a humane manner consistent with international human rights law. And finally, we urge the authorities there to separate political rhetoric from this matter concerning a private American citizen.

QUESTION: Do you know when the last time the Swedes got – saw him?

MR. TONER: Literally, every – June 10th. The last consular visit from our protective power – protecting power in Pyongyang was June 10th.

QUESTION: Can you – I’m sorry.

QUESTION: And how many was that? How many times now?

MR. TONER: Sure. Seven.

QUESTION: Can you just read the last part one more time? You expect authorities to —

MR. TONER: Yeah. We just expect them to sort of refrain from political rhetoric around a matter that involves a private American citizen or not to link the political rhetoric.

QUESTION: What about the fact that they said that they’re going to – is that what you mean when they say that they’re going to try him under wartime —

MR. TONER: Exactly what I mean.

QUESTION: And you expect authorities to treat him — I’m sorry?

MR. TONER: In a humane manner consistent with international human rights law.

QUESTION: Also on North Korea, apparently, they think that the United States owes them a considerable amount of money in reparations, like 65 trillion. Do you have any comment on that?

MR. TONER: I really don’t have any comment on that — (laughter) – other than that it’s a ridiculous —

QUESTION: A bazillion dollars. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Are you willing to pay that for the release of Mr. —

MR. TONER: Is it million? (Inaudible.) Six million dollars. No, no comment. I’m not going to —

QUESTION: Back to Americans in distress.

MR. TONER: — dignify that with a comment.

QUESTION: The Nation is reporting that the hikers were actually abducted in Iraqi territory and spirited across the border by the Revolutionary Guard.

MR. TONER: Well, I mean obviously, those are disconcerting allegations. And —

QUESTION: That we’re disconcerted?

MR. TONER: Yes, we’re disconcerted. No, I mean, obviously, we have no evidence to back up those allegations. And we would just again call on the Iranian authorities to immediately release Josh Fattal, Shane Bauer, and Sarah Shourd, as well as all other American citizens who are being unjustly detained.

And in answer to your follow-up, if you have it, the Swiss ambassador was granted a third consular visit on April – last visited on April 22nd.

QUESTION: He saw all three of them?

MR. TONER: I believe yes, that’s right.

QUESTION: When was that?

MR. TONER: April 22nd.

QUESTION: Wait a second. Didn’t the families go after —

MR. TONER: Yeah, that was on May 19th and 21st was —

QUESTION: Yeah, that was afterwards–

MR. TONER: I assume he was involved in – they were involved in that as well.

QUESTION: And when was the last visit to them?

MR. TONER: Well, Matt raises a good point. It was probably May 19th and 21st, since that’s when the mothers were there. Previously to that, it was April 22nd.

QUESTION: Did you see that Likud said that it continues – it supports continued settlement activity in the West Bank?

MR. TONER: I have not seen that report.

QUESTION: Can I move to Sri Lanka?

MR. TONER: Move to Sri Lanka.

QUESTION: Yeah. The government there said they will not allow three UN experts to enter the country. It’s – yeah, an inquiry on the – its actions during the civil war.

MR. TONER: Believe that Ambassador Rice spoke to this and essentially said that we urge the Sri Lankan Government to take advantage of this team. It’s the – this is the international observer team?


MR. TONER: Yeah. Basically to just take advantage of their offer.

QUESTION: Do you have a list of calls from yesterday? They said you were going to put that out, but —

MR. TONER: Yeah. I apologize, we have not gotten a really clear update on that, other than that they have reached out to all ISAF members —

QUESTION: Secretary Clinton or —

MR. TONER: It’s not been just the Secretary. It’s been a whole Department effort, if you will, just because of her busy schedule.

QUESTION: Who did you call?

MR. TONER: And I realize – we also realized last night that, obviously, with the press of the day, that it was obviously late in many European capitals. But the Department has reached out to all ISAF foreign ministers as well as Pakistan and Afghanistan. And again, we’re just – it’s a whole Department effort. In addition to the Secretary, we’ve got the Deputy Secretaries Lew and Steinberg are also reaching out to folks, as well as our embassies.

QUESTION: Has she made any calls?

MR. TONER: I’d have to double-check and confirm which ones she made.

QUESTION: Some senators are calling for a change in the civilian component in Afghanistan. Does this imply that Holbrooke or Eikenberry should change postings?

MR. TONER: Not at all, Lach. I would say that the Secretary has full confidence in her team in Afghanistan, as well as Ambassador Holbrooke and his team here. And as the President put it very clearly yesterday, now is the time to move forward and to get on with the job at hand.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. TONER: But I’m sure Gates and Mullen will have other things to say, so —

QUESTION: Great. Thank you.

QUESTION: Can I – the Venezuelan Government apparently is nationalizing some oil rigs, apparently before BP can get their hands on them or something.


QUESTION: Good idea.

MR. TONER: I do have something for you on that; however, I can’t seem to find it. But essentially, we would just call on them to – if they did make such a move, to compensate the owners of those wells. And this is the latest in such an instance where international investors are being – companies are being – or investments are being nationalized by the Government of Venezuela. It doesn’t speak well or bode well for the investment climate there.

QUESTION: You don’t have anything on Dudus Coke, do you?

MR. TONER: Sure thing, although I said that about the last one. He’s scheduled to appear before a Jamaican court today. And that’s about the latest in terms of any news value I can —

QUESTION: Does the State Department have anything to do with his coming to the United States? It seems to be (inaudible).

MR. TONER: Questions regarding the details of Mr. Coke’s arrest and extradition proceedings should be directed to Jamaican authorities.

QUESTION: Have you – I don’t know if you’ve gone over this. His name – is it Beresford-something? Have you received a formal extradition request from Mexico for his —

MR. TONER: This is the case in LA?


MR. TONER: The producer?

QUESTION: Have you received a formal request by Mexico for his extradition?

QUESTION: Did you read the transcript from yesterday?


MR. TONER: Yeah. We can’t – this is a tortured conversation, but we can’t —

QUESTION: Why, because he’s a television producer?

MR. TONER: No, it’s not because it’s a television producer. We can’t discuss matters of extradition until, as we discussed yesterday with Noriega, once it’s a done deal, then we’ll acknowledge it.

All right?

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. TONER: Thanks, everybody. Appreciate it.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:04 p.m.)