London High Court rejects bid to halt British arms sales to Saudi Arabia

FILE PHOTO: The Royal Courts of Justice are seen in London Britain. (REUTERS)
Updated 11 July 2017
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London High Court rejects bid to halt British arms sales to Saudi Arabia

LONDON: The London High Court threw out an attempt to halt UK military sales worth billions of dollars to Saudi Arabia, in a case brought by an anti-arms group.
The Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) had asked the court for an order to block export licenses for British-made military exports to the Kingdom, which it claimed had been used in Yemen in breach of human rights law.
The judges found that the UK secretary of state for international trade was “rationally entitled to conclude” that the Saudi Arabia-backed coalition was not deliberately targeting civilians.
The 58-page judgment handed down by Lord Justice Burnett and Mr. Justice Haddon-Cave follows three days of hearings in February. 
In their judgment, the pair said: “Saudi Arabia has been and remains genuinely committed to compliance with international humanitarian law.”
The court, which heard much of the government’s case in hearings closed to the media and public, said there had been extensive political and military engagement with Saudi Arabia regarding the conduct of operations in Yemen.
Referring to the closed material submitted by the government, the judges said, “The advantage of the closed material procedure is that we have had full access to all the facts and materials relied upon by the secretary of state.”
Saudi Arabia has been backing Yemen’s internationally recognized government following the outbreak of a civil war in the country in 2015.
The court decision helped to lift shares in the UK’s BAE Systems, Europe’s largest defense contractor, which rose 2 percent to 630 pence.
Sales to Saudi Arabia accounted for more than a fifth of the FTSE 100-listed company’s total revenues last year.
Thousands of UK defense-industry jobs depend on Saudi arms exports, while BAE Systems also employs thousands of workers in the Kingdom.
“Saudi Arabia is critical for UK defense exports,” said Ben Moore, an analyst with IHS Jane’s, who estimates that there are some $8.6 billion in booked orders destined for the Kingdom from the UK over the next decade.
Saudi Arabia is the biggest export customer for the Eurofighter combat aircraft and also buys a range of other military equipment from the UK including training aircraft and radar systems.
The closely watched case comes as Britain prepares to leave the EU and is seeking to boost defense industry exports in key markets that include Saudi Arabia.
Defense spending across the Middle East and North Africa is expected to rise by about 1.4 percent to $165 billion this year according to IHS Jane’s.
A UK government spokesperson said: “We welcome this judgment, which underscores the fact that the UK operates one of the most robust export control regimes in the world.
“We will continue to keep our defense exports under careful review to ensure they meet the rigorous standards of the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria.”
Rosa Curling, a lawyer for CAAT, described the judgment as “very disappointing.”
“Our client has put in an immediate application to appeal which we hope will be granted,” she said.


Police slam US actor, say he staged racist attack to boost career

Updated 22 February 2019
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Police slam US actor, say he staged racist attack to boost career

  • Jussie Smollett, the African-American actor who stars on Fox music industry drama ‘Empire,’ went from victim to suspect after he reported an assault late last month
  • Smollett accused of first sending himself a fake threatening letter and then staging an attack to tap into Americans’ anxieties over political and racial divisions

CHICAGO: An American TV actor was criminally charged Thursday for allegedly masterminding an elaborate “publicity stunt” that sought to exploit the “pain and anger of racism” with a staged assault on the streets of Chicago.

It was the latest twist in a weeks-long saga that has seen 36-year-old Jussie Smollett, the African-American actor who stars on Fox music industry drama “Empire,” go from victim to suspect after he reported an assault late last month.

An incredulous Chicago police chief accused Smollett of first sending himself a fake threatening letter and then staging an attack to tap into Americans’ anxieties over political and racial divisions, because he was allegedly “dissatisfied with his salary.”

In a sign of the national attention the case has drawn, President Donald Trump weighed in Thursday, taking issue with the fact Smollett claimed his assailants invoked the president’s “Make America Great Again” slogan along with racist slurs during the purported attack.

“‘Empire’ actor Jussie Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career,” Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson told an emotionally-charged news conference — during which he lashed out angrily at the actor for sullying the city’s image.

“Smollett paid $3,500 to stage this attack and drag Chicago’s reputation through the mud in the process,” he said. “This publicity stunt was a scar that Chicago didn’t earn and certainly didn’t deserve.”

Smollett turned himself in early Thursday morning, was arrested and charged with a felony count of disorderly conduct for filing a false police report, and was granted $100,000 bond.

He was freed from jail late in the afternoon, and said nothing to the throng of media. If convicted, he faces up to three years in prison.

His legal team pushed back hard later Thursday, claiming the police press conference had been prejudicial and “the presumption of innocence, a bedrock in the search for justice, was trampled upon.”

“Today we witnessed an organized law enforcement spectacle that has no place in the American legal system,” attorney Jack Prior told AFP in a statement.

“Mr. Smollett is a young man of impeccable character and integrity who fiercely and solemnly maintains his innocence and feels betrayed by a system that apparently wants to skip due process and proceed directly to sentencing.”

Smollett had claimed that two masked men beat him late at night in downtown Chicago, poured bleach on him and tied a rope around his neck — but police grew suspicious of his account after they failed to corroborate it.

Trump took aim at the actor for having tarnished his supporters, tweeting: “what about MAGA and the tens of millions of people you insulted with your racist and dangerous comments!?“

Meanwhile, Fox Entertainment and 20th Century Fox Television, which produce “Empire” and had stood by the actor, said “we understand the seriousness of this matter” and “are considering our options.”

Authorities said the two men who staged the attack with Smollett were brothers Ola and Abel Osundairo, who have both previously worked on “Empire,” and were acquaintances of the actor — while one provided him with drugs.

The brothers have cooperated with police since their arrest late last week and have not been charged with a crime.

Smollett allegedly first concocted a false threatening letter he had sent to himself — which is under a separate FBI investigation — and when that did not get enough attention, paid the brothers to have the assault staged.

Prosecutor Risa Lanier detailed an elaborate plot that Smollett allegedly orchestrated with exacting detail — telling the brothers when and how to attack him, including pointing out a street camera he assumed would capture the event, but was in fact pointing in a different direction.

The allegations were backed by a mountain of evidence, including a cashed check that Smollett wrote to pay for the stunt, authorities said.

Initial news of Smollett’s claims led to widespread condemnation and shock, and an outpouring of support from celebrities and politicians alike, including Democratic 2020 presidential candidates Cory Booker and Kamala Harris who denounced “an attempted modern day lynching.”

Trump initially described the alleged attack as “horrible.”

Since then, Smollett’s story has become a cautionary tale in an era where incomplete information is quickly spread via social media.

Opinion writers have complained about a rush to judgment, and politicians, celebrities and nonprofit groups have felt pressure to explain their initial reactions.

The president of the LGBT advocacy group Human Rights Campaign said the Smollett news was “both devastating and frustrating.”

“I want to ask everyone feeling angry, hurt and disappointed to channel that into productive activism — because there are thousands targeted by hate violence each year who need our help,” Chad Griffin tweeted.