Court upholds guilty verdict for Russian opposition leader
Court Watch | 2017/02/08 15:28
A Russian court on Wednesday found opposition leader Alexei Navalny guilty in the retrial of a 2013 fraud case, which formally disqualifies him as a candidate for president next year.

However, the first time Navalny was convicted, his sentence was suspended and he was allowed to be a candidate for mayor of Moscow. An associate said Navalny will carry on with the presidential campaign he announced in December.

In a webcast hearing in Kirov, a city nearly 800 kilometers (500 miles) east of Moscow, Judge Alexei Vtyurin found Navalny guilty of embezzling timber worth 16 million rubles ($270,000) and gave him a five-year suspended sentence. The previous guilty verdict was overturned by the European Court of Human Rights which ruled that Russia violated Navalny's right to a fair trial.

During a break in the proceedings, Navalny told reporters that he and his lawyers were comparing this verdict with the text of the 2013 verdict and found them to be identical.

"You can come over and see that the judge is reading exactly the same text, which says a lot about the whole trial," Navalny told reporters, adding that even the typos in the names of companies were identical in both rulings.

Navalny, the driving force behind massive anti-government protests in Moscow 2011 and 2012, had announced plans to run for office in December and had begun to raise funds.

Navalny's campaign manager, Leonid Volkov, insisted that the campaign goes on even though the guilty verdict formally bars Navalny from running.


Supreme Court considers suit over 2001 detention of Muslims
Court Watch | 2017/01/17 06:54
Ahmer Abbasi speaks softly as he describes the strip searches, the extra shoves, the curses that he endured in a federal jail in Brooklyn following the Sept. 11 attacks.

"I don't think I deserved it," Abbasi said during a telephone interview with The Associated Press from his home in Karachi, Pakistan.

Abbasi's quiet, matter-of-fact tone belies his determination, even after 15 years, to seek justice in American courts — provided the Supreme Court will let him.

The justices on Wednesday are hearing an appeal from former Attorney General John Ashcroft, former FBI Director Robert Mueller and other former U.S. officials that seeks to shut down the lawsuit that human rights lawyers have filed on behalf of Abbasi and others over their harsh treatment and prolonged detention.

"Somebody has to be accountable, somebody has to be responsible," said Abbasi, 42, who works in real estate in Pakistan.

The former officials, including the top immigration enforcement officer and the warden and deputy warden at the New York City jail, say it should not be them.

"Senior government officials should not be regularly second-guessed by lawsuits seeking money damages from them in their personal capacity," said Richard Samp, chief counsel at the Washington Legal Foundation and author of a brief from four former attorneys general.

Abbasi was among more than 80 men who were picked up in the days and weeks following Sept. 11 on immigration violations. Until then, he said he had been "living the American dream" since coming from Pakistan in 1993. He was living in Jersey City, New Jersey, across the river from Manhattan and driving a taxi in New York.



High court: Israel must explain lack of access to holy site
Court Watch | 2017/01/13 06:55
Israel's Supreme Court has given the government a month to explain why it prevents women from praying from a Torah scroll at a key Jewish holy site.

In the court's ruling Wednesday, it also suggested that an alternative site for women to pray at Jerusalem's Western Wall was insufficient and ordered that searches of visiting women be halted.

Israel's government agreed in January to create an equal prayer site after three years of negotiations between Jewish liberal groups, ultra-Orthodox leaders and the government.

But the site was never established, with liberal groups accusing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of caving to pressure from two ultra-Orthodox parties in his coalition.

The groups accuse the government of violating the right to equality and freedom of worship by not implementing its decision.


Man who escaped from Rhode Island prison to appear in court
Court Watch | 2017/01/08 02:13
A man who escaped from a Rhode Island prison and was on the run for five days before being captured in Massachusetts is scheduled to make an initial appearance before a federal magistrate judge.

James Morales escaped from the Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls last Saturday and was captured Thursday in Somerville. Authorities believe he may have tried to rob two banks before he was caught.

Morales is scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court in Providence on an escape charge.

Authorities say Morales escaped New Year's Eve by climbing a basketball hoop, cutting through a fence and climbing through razor wire. It took hours for correctional officers to notice.

The 35-year-old former Army reservist was being held on charges he stole 16 guns from a U.S. Army Reserve Center in Worcester.


Former Haitian rebel leader due in US court on drug charges
Court Watch | 2017/01/07 02:13
A former Haitian rebel leader who was recently elected senator in Haiti has been brought to the U.S. to face longstanding federal drug trafficking charges.

Court records show that Guy Philippe is to make his initial appearance Friday afternoon in Miami federal court. Philippe was flown to the U.S. following his arrest Thursday in the Haitian capital while he appeared on a live radio show.

Philippe faces several drug trafficking charges including conspiracy to import cocaine into the U.S. He has long maintained his innocence and blamed the accusations on political enemies.

Philippe was recently elected to the Haitian Senate. A former police chief, Philippe was a key part of a 2004 uprising that ousted then-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. It wasn't immediately clear if Philippe is represented by a U.S. lawyer.


Nevada high court considering email public records question
Court Watch | 2016/11/21 20:56
Neighbors' efforts to block the reopening of a mine in a historic Nevada mining town have unearthed a legal question about whether emails kept by elected officials on their personal devices are public records.

The Comstock Residents Association wants the Nevada Supreme Court to order Lyon County to release communications between county commissioners and Comstock Mining Inc. ahead of a January 2014 decision to allow mining again at Silver City.

The question focuses on whether the public has a right to government information contained on personal electronic devices and in personal email accounts.

Senior Washoe County District Court Judge Steven Kosach rejected the request earlier this year, ruling records on personal devices and accounts are outside the public agency's control and aren't covered under the Nevada Public Records Act.

The judge also found the communications were not official actions. But he acknowledged his ruling "may cause public employees to skirt the provision of the (public records law) by conducting business on their personal devices," the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.

Barry Smith, director of the Nevada Press Association, said the lower court ruling allows the "electronic version of the old backroom deal."

"Officials could avoid the open-records law by conducting public business through their private phones and email accounts," Smith said.

In a brief filed Nov. 7 with the state high court, association attorney Luke Busby said the court's decision would provide "critical guidance" to public officials about access to public records.

In court filings, Busby noted that then-Commissioner Vida Keller said at the January 2014 commission meeting that she had contacted her colleagues outside the public meeting regarding the land-use change.

"As it turned out, Commissioner Keller and other members of the Lyon County Commissioners used their personal devices or email accounts to conduct official business," Busby said. "An otherwise public record does not lose public status simply because it was created, received or stored on a personal device or personal account."

A three-member panel of justices heard oral arguments in the case Sept. 14. It could be several months before a ruling is made.


ICC prosecutors: US forces may have committed war crimes
Court Watch | 2016/11/15 20:57
U.S. troops and CIA agents could face investigation and possible charges by the International Criminal Court after its chief prosecutor said in a report that they may have committed war crimes by torturing detainees in Afghanistan.

"Members of US armed forces appear to have subjected at least 61 detained persons to torture, cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity on the territory of Afghanistan between 1 May 2003 and 31 December 2014," according to the report issued late Monday by Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda's office. Bensouda didn't immediately give any for further comment Tuesday.

The report added that CIA operatives may have subjected at least 27 detainees in Afghanistan, Poland, Romania and Lithuania to "torture, cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity and/or rape" between December 2002 and March 2008.

Most of the alleged abuse happened in 2003-2004, the report said, adding that Afghan government forces and the Taliban were also responsible for atrocities.

Prosecutors said they will decide "imminently" whether to seek authorization to open a full-scale investigation in Afghanistan that could lead to war crimes charges.

Param-Preet Singh, associate international justice director at Human Rights Watch, welcomed the publication Tuesday.


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