Chauvin convicted of murdering George Floyd in landmark US racial justice case

Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin in court. (Screenshot)
Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin in court. (Screenshot)
Short Url
Updated 21 April 2021

Chauvin convicted of murdering George Floyd in landmark US racial justice case

Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin in court. (Screenshot)
  • “It was a murder in the full light of day and it ripped the blinders off for the whole world to see the systemic racism,” President Joe Biden said in televised remarks. “This can be a giant step forward in the march toward justice in America”

MINNEAPOLIS: Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted on Tuesday of murdering George Floyd, a milestone in the fraught racial history of the United States and a rebuke of law enforcement’s treatment of Black Americans.
A 12-member jury found Chauvin, 45, guilty of all three charges of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter after considering three weeks of testimony from 45 witnesses, including bystanders, police officials and medical experts. Deliberations began on Monday and lasted just over 10 hours.
In a confrontation captured on video, Chauvin, a white veteran of the police force, pushed his knee into the neck of Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man in handcuffs, for more than nine minutes on May 25, 2020. Chauvin and three fellow officers were attempting to arrest Floyd, accused of using a fake $20 bill to buy cigarettes at a grocery store.
The jurors remained still and quiet as the verdict was read. Chauvin, wearing a gray suit with a blue tie as well as a light-blue face mask, nodded and stood quickly when the judge ruled that his bail was revoked. He was taken out of the courtroom in handcuffs and placed in the custody of the Hennepin County sheriff.
The conviction triggered a wave of relief and reflection not only across the United States but in countries around the world.
“It was a murder in the full light of day and it ripped the blinders off for the whole world to see the systemic racism,” President Joe Biden said in televised remarks. “This can be a giant step forward in the march toward justice in America.”
Outside the courthouse, a crowd of several hundred people erupted in cheers when the verdict was announced — a scene that unfolded in cities across the country. Car horns honked, demonstrators blocked traffic and chanted: “George Floyd” and “All three counts.”
At George Floyd Square in Minneapolis, the intersection where Floyd was killed and which was later named in his honor, people screamed, applauded and some threw dollar bills in the air in celebration.
While celebrating the verdict, protesters called for justice in the case of Daunte Wright, a Black man who was fatally shot by a police officer after a routine traffic stop on April 11, just a few miles from where Chauvin stood trial. Kimberly Potter, who has turned in her badge, has been charged with manslaughter in that case.
George Floyd’s brother Philonize, speaking at a news conference with several family members, said: “We are able to breathe again” after the verdict, but he added the fight for justice was not over.
“We have to protest because it seems like this is a never-ending cycle,” he said.

’FIRST STEP TOWARDS JUSTICE’
Chauvin could now face up to 40 years in prison. While the US criminal justice system and juries have long given leeway and some legal protection to police officers who use violence to subdue civilians, the Minneapolis jurors found that Chauvin had crossed the line and used excessive force.
Chauvin’s defense team did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the verdict but is considered likely to appeal the conviction.
In a trial that opened on March 29, the defense argued that Chauvin behaved as any “reasonable police officer” would have under those circumstances, and sought to raise doubts about the cause of Floyd’s death.
In his comments, Biden emphasized his support for legislation “to root out unconstitutional policing,” including the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which has been passed by the US House of Representatives and seeks to increase accountability for law enforcement misconduct.
The Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis said in a statement published in the Minneapolis Star Tribune that “there are no winners in this case, and we respect the jury’s decision,” adding: “We need to stop the divisive comments, and we all need to do better to create a Minneapolis we all love.”
The intersection of race and law enforcement has long been contentious in the United States, underscored by a series of deadly incidents involving white police officers and Black people in recent years.
Floyd’s death prompted protests against racism and police brutality in many US cities and other countries last summer, even as the world grappled with the coronavirus pandemic.
Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris watched the verdict being read out along with staff in the White House’s private dining room, the White House said. Biden, Harris and first lady Jill Biden all spoke with Philonize Floyd.
“Nothing is going to make it all better but at least ... now there’s some justice,” Biden told the Floyd family, according to a video posted to Twitter.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison told reporters that the verdict was a “first step toward justice” and should serve as a launching point for police reform. “We need to use this verdict as an inflection point.”

HOURS OF TESTIMONY
Under Minnesota sentencing guidelines, Chauvin faces 12-1/2 years in prison for his murder conviction as a first-time criminal offender.
Prosecutors could seek a longer sentence of up to 40 years if Hennepin County District Judge Peter Cahill determines that there were “aggravating factors.” Cahill said Chauvin’s sentencing was likely eight weeks away.
The Minneapolis Police Department fired Chauvin and the three other officers the day after Floyd’s murder. The three others are due to face trial later this year on aiding-and-abetting charges.
Witnesses called by prosecutors included a cardiologist, a pulmonologist and a forensic pathologist, who testified that videos and autopsy results confirmed that Chauvin killed Floyd by starving him of oxygen.
Also among the prosecution witnesses was Darnella Frazier, a teenager who used her cellphone to make a video depicting Floyd’s ordeal — images that catalyzed the subsequent protests. Floyd can be heard crying out for his mother and telling officers he could not breathe.
Other eyewitnesses described the horror and trauma of watching Floyd die in front of them. Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo testified that Chauvin’s actions during the arrest represented an egregious breach of his training.
The jurors, who consisted of four white women, two white men, three Black men, one Black woman and two multiracial women, were sequestered during deliberations.


Former Ugandan rebel commander Ongwen sentenced to 25 years in prison

Former Ugandan rebel commander Ongwen sentenced to 25 years in prison
Updated 06 May 2021

Former Ugandan rebel commander Ongwen sentenced to 25 years in prison

Former Ugandan rebel commander Ongwen sentenced to 25 years in prison
  • Dominic Ongwen was convicted in February of 61 crimes including rape and sexual enslavement
  • Ongwen was abducted by the group as a 9-year-old boy and forced into life of violence
AMSTERDAM: Judges at the International Criminal Court on Thursday sentenced a former Ugandan child soldier who became a commander of the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army to 25 years in prison.
Dominic Ongwen, who was taken into ICC custody in 2015, was convicted in February of 61 crimes including rape, sexual enslavement, child abductions, torture and murder.
Presiding Judge Bertram Schmitt said the panel of judges had considered sentencing Ongwen to life imprisonment, the court’s harshest punishment, but had sided against it due to the defendant’s own personal suffering.
Led by fugitive warlord Joseph Kony, the LRA terrorized Ugandans for nearly 20 years as it battled the government of President Yoweri Museveni from bases in northern Uganda and neighboring countries. It has now largely been wiped out.
Ongwen was abducted by the group as a 9-year-old boy and forced into life of violence. At the same time, the judges found, he knowingly committed a vast range of heinous crimes as an adult, many of them against defenseless children and women who had been forced into slavery.
He was “a perpetrator who willfully brought tremendous suffering upon his victims, however, also a perpetrator who himself has previously endured extreme suffering at the hands of the group of which he later became a prominent member and leader,” Judge Schmitt said.
Prosecutors had demanded he get at least 20 years in prison, while his defense argued he should get no more than a 10-year sentence because he was traumatized as a child soldier.
The sentence can be appealed.

France ‘won’t be intimidated’ by UK maneuvers around Jersey

France ‘won’t be intimidated’ by UK maneuvers around Jersey
Updated 06 May 2021

France ‘won’t be intimidated’ by UK maneuvers around Jersey

France ‘won’t be intimidated’ by UK maneuvers around Jersey

PARIS: France “won’t be intimidated” by the deployment of British navy ships to the Channel island of Jersey, which is at the center of a standoff between the two neighbors over post-Brexit fishing rights, France’s European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune said Thursday.
Beaune told AFP he had spoken with Britain’s minister for relations with the EU, David Frost, and added: “Our wish is not to have tensions, but to have a quick and full application of the (Brexit) deal.”


Australian COVID-19 travel restrictions challenged in court

Australian COVID-19 travel restrictions challenged in court
Updated 06 May 2021

Australian COVID-19 travel restrictions challenged in court

Australian COVID-19 travel restrictions challenged in court
  • Government resisting growing pressure to lift the Indian travel ban imposed last week until May 15
  • Almost one third of Australians are born overseas and most barred from leaving the country for more than a year

CANBERRA: Australia’s drastic COVID-19 strategies of preventing its citizens leaving the country and returning from India were challenged in court Thursday.
The government is resisting growing pressure to lift the Indian travel ban imposed last week until May 15 to reduce infections in Australian quarantine facilities.
A challenge to the ban by Gary Newman, one of 9,000 Australians prevented from returning home from India, will be heard by a Federal Court judge on Monday, Chief Justice James Allsop said.
The ban was made by order of Health Minister Greg Hunt under the Biosecurity Act which carries penalties for breaches of up to five years in prison and fines of up to $51,000 (A$66,000).
A libertarian group LibertyWorks took its case to the full bench of the Federal Court on Thursday against a separate order under the Biosecurity Act that has prevented most Australians from leaving the country without compelling reasons since March last year.
The government hopes to maintain Australia’s relatively low levels of community transmission of the virus by preventing its citizens from becoming infected overseas and bringing variants home. Travel to and from New Zealand has recently been exempted.
LibertyWorks argues that Hunt does not have the power to legally enforce the ban, which has prevented thousands of Australians from attending weddings and funerals, caring for dying relatives and meeting newborn babies.
With almost one third of Australians born overseas and most barred from leaving the country for more than a year, a win by LibertyWorks is likely to lead to a surge in citizens wishing to travel internationally. The three judges hearing the case will likely announce their verdicts at a later date.
The challenge to the Indian travel ban will be heard by Justice Michael Thawley five days before flights could potentially resume.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the pause was working in reducing infection rates among returned travelers within Australian quarantine facilities.
“The early evidence indicates that that temporary pause to May 15 is on track and that we are very hopeful and confident that on the other side of May 15 we’ll be able to start restoring those repatriation flights,” Morrison said.
A decision would be made before May 15, but Morrison could not say how long before that date that a decision would be announced. Around 20,000 Australians had been repatriated from India before the travel ban.
Newman’s lawyer Christopher Ward told a preliminary hearing on Thursday that the legal team wanted a verdict before May 15.
Newman’s lawyers argue that it is important that the minister’s power was reviewed by the court even if the travel ban was not extended.
The court cases were heard in Sydney where new pandemic restrictions were imposed on Wednesday due to two recent cases of community infections.
Masks have become compulsory in the greater Sydney area in all public indoor venues and on public transport from late Thursday and visitors to homes in Australia’s largest city have been capped at 20.
The measures follow a Sydney man on Wednesday becoming New South Wales state’s first case of COVID-19 community transmission in a month. The man’s wife on Thursday was confirmed as also being infected.
Authorities have yet to determine how the couple became infected with the same variant as a traveler from the United States had been diagnosed while in Sydney hotel quarantine.


Hong Kong’s Joshua Wong handed extra jail time for Tiananmen vigil

Hong Kong’s Joshua Wong handed extra jail time for Tiananmen vigil
Updated 06 May 2021

Hong Kong’s Joshua Wong handed extra jail time for Tiananmen vigil

Hong Kong’s Joshua Wong handed extra jail time for Tiananmen vigil
  • Pleads guilty to taking part in an ‘unlawful’ protest last year over the Tiananmen Square crackdown
  • Joshua Wong currently serving a total of 17.5 months in jail for two convictions linked to the 2019 protests

HONG KONG: Jailed Hong Kong dissident Joshua Wong was handed an additional 10-month sentence on Thursday after he pleaded guilty to taking part in an “unlawful” protest last year over the Tiananmen Square crackdown.
Hong Kong has regularly marked the anniversary of Beijing’s deadly 1989 repression of protests in Tiananmen Square with huge candlelight vigils.
But last year’s event was banned for the first time, with police citing the coronavirus pandemic and security fears following huge democracy protests that roiled Hong Kong the year before.
Tens of thousands defied the ban and massed peacefully at the vigil’s traditional site in Victoria Park.
Since then prosecutors have brought charges against more than two dozen prominent democracy activists who showed up at the vigil, the latest in a string of criminal cases that have ensnared the city’s beleaguered democracy movement.
On Thursday, four of those activists – Joshua Wong, Lester Shum, Tiffany Yuen and Janelle Leung – were handed jail terms after pleading guilty to unlawful assembly charges last month.
Wong – one of the most recognizable faces of Hong Kong’s democracy movement – is currently serving a total of 17.5 months in jail for two convictions linked to the 2019 protests.
Judge Stanley Chan handed the 24-year-old a consecutive 10 months of jail for the new conviction which will start once current sentences are finished.
“The sentence should deter people from offending and reoffending in the future,” Chan said.
Shum, 27, was given six months while Yuen, 27, and Leung, 26, were both handed four months.
Wong, Shum and Yuen have also been charged under a new national security law Beijing imposed on the city last year.
Ahead of Thursday’s sentencing they were being held in pre-trial detention and face up to life in prison if convicted under the new security law.
The other defendants – who include some of the city’s most prominent activists, many of them also jailed or in detention – will be tried later this summer.
The annual Tiananmen vigil remembering victims of the 1989 suppression of pro-democracy protests has taken on particular significance as many Hong Kongers chafe under Beijing’s increasingly authoritarian rule.
Crowds grew in size in recent years, often chanting slogans like “End one party rule” and calling for democracy in China.
But it is unclear if Hong Kong will ever see another legal Tiananmen vigil.
Beijing has rolled out a sweeping crackdown against critics in the finance hub, with scores of opposition figures in detention, facing prosecution or fleeing overseas.
As well as the security law, a new campaign dubbed “patriots rule Hong Kong” will ensure everyone standing for public office is vetted for political loyalty first.
Officials have already signaled that this year’s Tiananmen vigil will be refused permission both as a security risk and because of the coronavirus.
Some have also suggested that chanting “End one party rule” – as well as the vigil itself – could now be illegal under the new law, which criminalizes a wide array of acts deemed to be subversion, secession, terrorism and colluding with foreign forces.
Chow Hang-tung, a barrister and a member of the coalition that organizes the annual vigil, criticized Thursday’s sentencing.
“The court has failed to draw a line between what is really unlawful, that is violence activities and what is completely within our rights – peaceful assembly,” she told reporters.
But Judge Chan said the four defendants’ attendance at the vigil was “deliberate, premeditated ... and openly defied the law.”
Protests can only go ahead in Hong Kong with police permission, something that has been routinely denied since the 2019 protests and subsequent coronavirus outbreak.
Chow said Hong Kongers would still mark each Tiananmen anniversary, even if the traditional vigil is banned.
“We will find a way to remember this and we will find a way to publicly do this,” she said.


US backs plan to waive COVID-19 vaccine patents

US backs plan to waive COVID-19 vaccine patents
Updated 06 May 2021

US backs plan to waive COVID-19 vaccine patents

US backs plan to waive COVID-19 vaccine patents

WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden’s administration on Wednesday announced support for a global waiver on patent protections for COVID-19 vaccines, offering hope to poor nations that have struggled to access the life-saving doses.
India, where the death toll hit a new daily record amid fears the peak is still to come, has been leading the fight within the World Trade Organization (WTO) to allow more drugmakers to manufacture the vaccines — a move pharma giants oppose.
US Trade Representative Katherine Tai said that while intellectual property rights for businesses are important, Washington “supports the waiver of those protections for COVID-19 vaccines” in order to end the pandemic.
“This is a global health crisis, and the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic call for extraordinary measures,” she said in a statement.
Biden had been under intense pressure to waive protections for vaccine manufacturers, especially amid criticism that rich nations were hoarding shots.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the World Health Organization (WHO), called the US decision “historic” and said it marked “a monumental moment in the fight against COVID-19.”
Tai cautioned however that negotiations “will take time given the consensus-based nature” of the WTO.
With supplies for Americans secured, the Biden administration will continue efforts “to expand vaccine manufacturing and distribution,” and will work to “increase the raw materials needed to produce those vaccines.”
For months the WTO has been facing calls to temporarily remove the intellectual property protections on COVID-19 vaccines, known as a TRIPS waiver in reference to the agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property.
But that notion has been fiercely opposed by pharmaceutical giants and their host countries, which insist the patents are not the main roadblocks to scaling up production, and warned the move could hamper innovation.
“A waiver is the simple but the wrong answer to what is a complex problem,” the Geneva-based International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations lobby group said, describing the US move as “disappointing.”
Countries such as New Zealand, however, welcomed the US announcement, while Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison called the move “tremendous news,” adding that it would help his country manufacture mRNA vaccines locally.
France, on the other hand, has said it is opposed to the waiver, stating it prefers instead a donation-based model to help poor countries overcome a lack of vaccines.
While the United States has reached the point of offering donuts and beer to entice vaccine holdouts to get their shots, India reported 3,780 new pandemic deaths and not enough doses to inoculate its people.
India has in recent weeks endured a devastating surge in coronavirus cases, with more than 380,000 infections reported on Wednesday.
K Vijay Raghavan, the Indian government’s principal scientific adviser, said the country of 1.3 billion people had to prepare for a new wave of infections even after beating down the current wave, which has taken the country’s caseload above 20 million.
In an effort to boost the country’s collapsing health system, India’s reserve bank announced $6.7 billion in cheap financing for vaccine makers, hospitals and health firms.
India’s crisis has been partly fueled by a lack of vaccines. This has in turn exacerbated the global shortage as India is the world’s biggest producer of COVID-19 shots.
In London, foreign ministers from the Group of Seven wealthy democracies committed to financially support the vaccine-sharing program, Covax.
But there was no immediate announcement on fresh funding.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Denmark, where the spread of the virus has been deemed under control, will open up cinemas and theaters plus gyms and fitness centers Thursday. And bars, cafes and restaurants, which have already reopened, will no longer require reservations.
All patrons, however, must present a “corona pass” certificate confirming they have either tested negative in the past 72 hours, been vaccinated or recently recovered from COVID-19.
The pandemic has claimed more than 3.2 million lives worldwide since it first emerged in late 2019, but many wealthy nations have made progress in suppressing the virus as mass vaccination campaigns gather steam.
More than 1.2 billion doses have been administered globally, but fewer than one percent in the least developed countries.
Vaccine shortages are not an issue in the United States, which could soon be sitting on as many as 300 million extra doses — nearly equivalent to its entire population.
Biden on Tuesday said he wanted 70 percent of US adults to have received at least one shot by the July 4 Independence Day holiday.
He also said his administration was “ready to move immediately” if regulators authorize the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for 12- to 15-year-olds.
But some experts question the wisdom of devoting limited vaccine supplies to a low-risk group instead of sharing them with high-risk groups abroad.
In the Middle East, Egypt announced a partial shutdown of malls and restaurants and called off festivities for the Muslim holiday of Eid Al-Fitr to curb rising coronavirus cases.
And on Wednesday Argentina broke its record for COVID-19 deaths with 633 recorded fatalities in 24 hours, despite stepped-up measures to reduce movement of people across the country.