Myanmar court hears appeal of convicted Reuters journalists
Court News | 2018/12/24 15:45
A court in Myanmar has heard an appeal filed by lawyers for two Reuters journalists sentenced to seven years in prison on charges of illegal possession of official documents, a case that has drawn worldwide criticism and attention to the crisis that drove members of the Muslim Rohingya minority to flee the country.

The court announced a ruling would be issued next month after submissions were made Monday by both the prosecution and lawyers for Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who said they were framed by police but were convicted in September.

The journalists had been reporting last year on the brutal crackdown by security forces on the Rohingya in Myanmar's Rakhine state. Some 700,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh to escape the violence of a government counterinsurgency campaign.



Spain court grants $1.7 billion compensation for oil spill
Court News | 2018/12/20 17:23
Spain's Supreme Court has ruled that the captain and the insurer of the Prestige oil tanker must pay more than 1.5 billion euros ($1.7 billion) in compensation for Spain's biggest environmental disaster, when the vessel sank in 2002.

The court said in a statement Thursday that captain Apostolos Mangouras and The London Owners Mutual Insurance Association shall pay the damages to Spain, France and authorities in Spain's Galicia region, as well as to another 269 companies, communities and individuals affected by the spill.

The tanker sprang a leak and sank off northwest Spain, polluting a long stretch of coastline and ruining the area's rich fishing grounds. Years of legal challenges slowed the compensation process.



Thai court extends detention of refugee sought by Bahrain
Court News | 2018/12/11 18:47
A Thai court ruled Tuesday that a soccer player who holds refugee status in Australia can be held for 60 days pending the completion of an extradition request by Bahrain, the homeland he fled four years ago on account of alleged political persecution and torture.

Hakeem al-Araibi, who was detained Nov. 27 upon entry at Bangkok's main airport, was denied release on bail during his court appearance. Thai officials said he was originally held on the basis of a notice from Interpol in which Bahrain sought his custody because he had been sentenced in absentia in 2014 to 10 years in prison for vandalizing a police station, a charge he denies. He came to Thailand on vacation with his wife.

Al-Araibi says he fears being tortured if sent to Bahrain. Australia, which granted him refugee status and residency in 2017, has called for his release and immediate return to his adoptive home. He had played for Bahrain's national soccer team and now plays for Melbourne's Pascoe Vale Football Club. He has been publicly critical of the Bahrain royal family's alleged involvement in sports scandals.

He also has alleged he was blindfolded and had his legs beaten while he was held in Bahrain in 2012.

He said he believed he was targeted for arrest because of his Shiite faith and because his brother was politically active in Bahrain. Bahrain has a Shiite majority but is ruled by a Sunni monarchy, and has a reputation for harsh repression since its failed "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011.

Thai officials insist they are following the letter of the law in holding him, but rights groups suggest he should not have been detained because of his refugee status, and that international law to which Thailand is a party bars sending him to Bahrain if he has a legitimate fear of persecution and even torture. The court can extend the 60-day detention by another 30 days on application of the prosecutor's office, but otherwise he is free to go if Bahrain does not finish its extradition application by then.


Sri Lanka court orders prime minister to refrain from duties
Court News | 2018/12/02 01:01
A Sri Lankan court on Monday ordered disputed Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and his ministers to refrain from carrying out their duties as it hears an appeal against them.

While the ruling by the Court of Appeal is an interim order, it is yet another setback for Rajapaksa, who has held on to the position of prime minister with President Maithripala Sirisena's backing despite losing two no-confidence votes.

The parliamentary speaker announced that Rajapaksa's government was dissolved after the passage of the no-confidence motions. Parliament has also passed resolutions to cut off funds to the offices of Rajapaksa and his ministers.

Still, Rajapaksa continued to function as prime minister, with Sirisena dismissing the no-confidence votes, saying proper procedures were not followed.

Rajapaksa said in a statement later Monday that he did not accept the interim order and would file an appeal early Tuesday with the Supreme Court, the country's highest court.

Sri Lanka has been in political turmoil since Oct. 26, when Sirisena sacked Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and appointed Rajapaksa in his place.


Indicted US lawmaker to return to court after re-election
Court News | 2018/11/30 19:02
Indicted Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter Will is set to return to court Monday for the first time since being re-elected to a sixth term in California amid corruption charges.

The congressman and his wife have pleaded not guilty to a 60-count indictment alleging they spent more than $250,000 in campaign finance funds on family trips, tequila shots and other items. A judge could set a trial date at the hearing in San Diego.

Hunter, a 41-year-old Marine veteran, has said he is looking forward to the trial to defend his name.

Prosecutors say the couple used campaign money to go on $11,000 shopping sprees at Costco and to buy more than $400 in tequila shots. They also went to Italy and Hawaii with their children on the campaign's dime, according to the indictment.

The couple tried to cover their tracks by lying on their campaign reports to the Federal Election Commission, prosecutors say.


Court could deal blow to porn star, award Trump legal fees
Court News | 2018/11/28 01:03
Lawyers for President Trump want porn actress Stormy Daniels to pay them $340,000 in legal bills they claim they earned successfully defending Trump against her frivolous defamation claim.

The attorneys are due in a Los Angeles federal courtroom Monday to make their case that they rang up big bills because of gamesmanship and aggressive tactics by attorney Michael Avenatti, who represents Daniels.

Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, alleges she had a one-night affair with Trump in 2006. She sued him earlier this year seeking to break a non-disclosure agreement she signed days before the 2016 election about the tryst as part $130,000 hush money settlement. Trump has denied the affair.

Despite the deal to stay quiet, Daniels spoke out publicly and alleged that five years after the affair she was threatened to keep quiet by a man she did not recognize in a Las Vegas parking lot. She also released a composite sketch of the mystery man.

She sued Trump for defamation after he responded to the allegation by tweeting: "A sketch years later about a nonexistent man. A total con job, playing the Fake News Media for Fools (but they know it)!"

U.S. District Court Judge S. James Otero ruled in October that Trump's statement was "rhetorical hyperbole" against a political adversary and was protected speech under the First Amendment. Trump is entitled to legal fees, Otero said.

Trump's team of lawyers have accounted for more than 500 hours of work — at rates as high as $840 an hour.


Lawyer for WikiLeaks’ Assange says he would fight charges
Court News | 2018/11/18 04:32
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will not willingly travel to the United States to face charges filed under seal against him, one of his lawyers said, foreshadowing a possible fight over extradition for a central figure in the U.S. special counsel’s Russia-Trump investigation.

Assange, who has taken cover in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where he has been granted asylum, has speculated publicly for years that the Justice Department had brought secret criminal charges against him for revealing highly sensitive government information on his website.

That hypothesis appeared closer to reality after prosecutors, in an errant court filing in an unrelated case, inadvertently revealed the existence of sealed charges. The filing, discovered Thursday night, said the charges and arrest warrant “would need to remain sealed until Assange is arrested in connection with the charges in the criminal complaint and can therefore no longer evade or avoid arrest and extradition in this matter.”

A person familiar with the matter, speaking on condition of anonymity because the case had not been made public, confirmed that charges had been filed under seal. The exact charges Assange faces and when they might be unsealed remained uncertain Friday.

Any charges against him could help illuminate whether Russia coordinated with the Trump campaign to sway the 2016 presidential election. They also would suggest that, after years of internal Justice Department wrangling, prosecutors have decided to take a more aggressive tack against WikiLeaks.

A criminal case also holds the potential to expose the practices of a radical transparency activist who has been under U.S. government scrutiny for years and at the center of some of the most explosive disclosures of stolen information in the last decade.

Those include thousands of military and State Department cables from Army Pvt. Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning, secret CIA hacking tools, and most recently and notoriously, Democratic emails that were published in the weeks before the 2016 presidential election and that U.S. intelligence officials say had been hacked by Russia.

Federal special counsel Robert Mueller, who has already charged 12 Russian military intelligence officers with hacking, has been investigating whether any Trump associates had advance knowledge of the stolen emails.


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