Canada appeals court upholds landmark tobacco ruling

Imperial Tobacco spokesman Eric Gagnon speaks to the media after the Quebec Court of Appeal's decision to uphold a Superior Court ruling in two class-action lawsuits against three tobacco companies, Friday, March 1, 2019, in Montreal. (AP)
Updated 02 March 2019

Canada appeals court upholds landmark tobacco ruling

MONTREAL: Quebec’s appeals court on Friday upheld a historic ruling ordering three tobacco firms to pay Can$15.5 billion ($11.6 billion) to smokers in the Canadian province who claimed they were never warned about the health risks associated with smoking.
Imperial Tobacco Canada, a subsidiary of British American Tobacco, Rothmans Benson & Hedges and JTI-MacDonald have one month to launch an eventual appeal before Canada’s Supreme Court.
In June 2015, the Superior Court of Quebec ruled that the three companies should pay the whopping amount to tens of thousands of smokers suffering from emphysema, lung cancer or throat cancer.
According to media reports, accruing interest will bring the final amount to more than Can$17 billion.
The two class action lawsuits behind the award, which were originally filed in 1998, affected nearly one million smokers or ex-smokers, some of whom had been consuming tobacco since the 1960s. The trial only began in March 2012.
“We are disappointed with today’s decision,” Imperial Tobacco Canada spokesman Eric Gagnon told reporters. “As the ruling in the lower court showed, Canadian consumers know the risks associated with tobacco use. We should not be held responsible.”
Lawyers for the plaintiffs meanwhile celebrated the “historic” ruling, going so far as to call it a “masterpiece.”
“The ruling reached the same conclusions as did the lower court, solidifies them and confirms that the companies conspired for 50 years to lie to the public,” one of the attorneys, Andre L’Esperance, told journalists.
“This is a total victory, on all fronts,” added his colleague Philippe Trudel.
The lower court had ruled that the companies failed in their general duty “not to cause injury to another person” and to inform their customers of the risks associated with their products.


Militant attack on Afghan prison frees hundreds

Afghan security personnel in front of a prison gate after an attack by Daesh that had freed hundreds in Jalalabad, east of Kabul, on Monday. (AP)
Updated 23 min 57 sec ago

Militant attack on Afghan prison frees hundreds

  • The attack, reportedly by Daesh, took place hours before end of cease-fire

KABUL: Militants have stormed a prison in eastern Afghanistan and released hundreds of prisoners, officials said.

The attack on the main prison in Jalalabad, in Nangarhar province, where several hundred Daesh fighters have been detained, began on Sunday afternoon with a car bomb detonated at the entrance to the jail.
The attack came hours before the end of a three-day ceasefire between the Afghan government and the Taliban, who immediately denied any involvement in the assault. Several Western media outlets reported that the Daesh had claimed responsibility.
The Nangarhar governor’s spokesman, Attaullah Khogyani, told Arab News that there was still gunfire on Monday morning, and that more than 20 civilians and personnel and three attackers have died in the fighting.
Two local security sources speaking on condition of anonymity said that nearly half of the prison’s 1,500 inmates managed to flee.
They said 20 assailants made their way into the prison and a number of explosions were heard from inside the jail.
Residents said one group of attackers was firing on the jail from a nearby building and they reported heavy and sustained exchanges of small fire.
According to Khogyani, most of the escapees have been caught. He gave no further details about the attack.
The assault comes amid official claims that Daesh leaders have been arrested or killed in recent months, notably in Nangarhar, which used to be the group’s bastion.
“This is a major embarrassment for the government, which every now and then claims to have wiped out or paralyzed the Daesh. The government needs to answer why such a high security lapse has happened,” analyst Shafiq Haqpal said.
The Eid Al-Adha ceasefire between the Taliban and Afghan government forces was a part of efforts to begin long-awaited peace talks following a US-Taliban agreement signed in Qatar in late February.
In accordance with the deal, the Taliban is releasing 1,000 Afghan troops in exchange for 5,000 militants held by President Ashraf Ghani’s government.
The process is near completion, but Kabul is refusing to free 400 remaining Taliban inmates, saying they have been behind “heinous crimes.”
After Eid prayers on Sunday, Ghani announced he would summon a traditional grand assembly, Loya Jirga, to help him decide whether the rest of Taliban prisoners should be freed.
The assembly is scheduled to start on Aug. 7. Loya Jirga has deep roots in Afghan history and tradition and is usually summoned during times of crisis or emergency.
The Taliban have voiced their opposition to the convocation of the jirga. Their Qatar-based spokesman, Suhail Shaheen, told TOLO News that Kabul’s decision would only complicate the peace process.
Afghan politicians are divided on the jirga announcement. Hamidullah Tokhi, a member of parliament from southern Zabul province, said: “The nation and parliament have deep doubts about Ghani’s goal for summoning the jirga to decide over the fate of 400 Taliban.
“All of the 4,500 Taliban already freed were involved in some sort of bloody attacks. Why did the government not ask for the jirga on the overall release of the Taliban?”
“Summoning the jirga now is a treason to this country and a clear blocking of the peace process,” he said.
Torek Farhadi, who served in the previous government as an adviser, said Ghani hopes that the victory of Democrats in the upcoming US elections, would sideline Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special envoy for Afghanistan who struck the Qatar deal with the Taliban, allowing Kabul to be in charge of the peace process.
“We should have one Loya Jirga to discuss substantive matters on peace with the Taliban and the type of future regime,” Farhadi said, adding that the Taliban, too, should participate in the assembly. “This meeting would be like a half-baked national dialogue (if it is) conducted by only one side of the conflict.”