US appeals court to hear arguments on whether to reinstate gag order against Donald Trump

US appeals court to hear arguments on whether to reinstate gag order against Donald Trump
Prosecutors say the restrictions are necessary to prevent Donald Trump from undermining confidence in the court system and intimidating people who may be called to testify against him. (AP)
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Updated 20 November 2023
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US appeals court to hear arguments on whether to reinstate gag order against Donald Trump

US appeals court to hear arguments on whether to reinstate gag order against Donald Trump
  • Defense lawyers have called the gag order an unconstitutional muzzling of former president’s free speech rights

WASHINGTON: A federal appeals court is hearing arguments Monday on whether to reinstate a gag order against Donald Trump in the federal case charging him with plotting to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.
Prosecutors with special counsel Jack Smith’s team will urge a three-judge panel of the Washington-based appeals court to put back in place an order barring the former president from making inflammatory statements about lawyers in the case and potential witnesses.
The prosecutors say those restrictions are necessary to prevent Trump from undermining confidence in the court system and intimidating people who may be called to testify against him. Defense lawyers have called the gag order an unconstitutional muzzling of Trump’s free speech rights and say prosecutors have presented no evidence to support the idea that his words have caused harm or made anyone feel threatened.
The gag order is one of multiple contentious issues being argued ahead of the landmark March 2024 trial. Defense lawyers are also trying to get the case dismissed by arguing that Trump, as a former president, is immune from prosecution and protected by the First Amendment from being charged. The outcome of Monday’s arguments won’t affect those constitutional claims, but it will set parameters on what Trump as both a criminal defendant and leading presidential candidate can and cannot say ahead of the trial.
The order has had a whirlwind trajectory through the courts since US District Judge Tanya Chutkan imposed it last month in response to a request from prosecutors, who cited among other comments Trump’s repeated disparagement of Smith as “deranged.”
The judge lifted it days after entering it, giving Trump’s lawyers time to prove why his words should not be restricted. But after Trump took advantage of that pause by posting on social media comments that prosecutors said were meant to sway his former chief of staff against giving unfavorable testimony, Chutkan put it back in place.
The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit later lifted it as it considered Trump’s appeal.
The judges hearing the case include Cornelia Pillard and Patricia Millett, both appointees of former President Barack Obama, and Brad Garcia, who joined the bench earlier this year after being nominated by President Joe Biden.
The panel is not expected to immediately rule on Monday. Should the judges rule against Trump, he’ll have the option of asking the entire court to take up the matter. His lawyers have also signaled that they’ll ask the Supreme Court to get involved.
The four-count indictment in Washington is one of four criminal cases Trump faces as he seeks to reclaim the White House in 2024.
He’s been charged in Florida, also by Smith’s team, with illegally hoarding dozens of classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate. He’s also been charged in state court in New York in connection with hush money payments to a porn actress who alleged an extramarital affair with him, and in Georgia with scheming to subvert the 2020 presidential election in that state.


UN expert urges probe of alleged torture of Palestinian prisoners

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UN expert urges probe of alleged torture of Palestinian prisoners

UN expert urges probe of alleged torture of Palestinian prisoners
The UN special rapporteur on torture, Alice Jill Edwards, said she had received allegations of abuse against Palestinians held in prisons run by the Israeli Prison Service
She had been carrying out a “thorough review for the past two months” based on multiple sources, but that her investigation was continuing.

GENEVA: A UN rights expert on Thursday called on Israeli authorities to investigate allegations of torture and abuse of detained Palestinians since Hamas’s October 7 attacks sparked the war in Gaza.
The UN special rapporteur on torture, Alice Jill Edwards, said she had received allegations of abuse against Palestinians held in prisons run by the Israeli Prison Service and in Israeli military camps.
She pointed to estimates that thousands of Palestinians, including children, had been detained since the war erupted.
Edwards told AFP she had been carrying out a “thorough review for the past two months” based on multiple sources, but that her investigation was continuing.
In a statement, she described receiving allegations of cases where prisoners were beaten, held in cells blindfolded and handcuffed for long periods, deprived of sleep, and threatened with physical and sexual violence.
There were also reports suggesting that prisoners had been subjected to humiliating treatment, including being photographed and filmed in degrading poses, she said.
Edwards, who is an independent rights expert appointed by the UN Human Rights Council but who does not speak on behalf of the United Nations, said did not have enough information to determine whether the alleged abuse might be systemic.
She said she had raised the issue with Israeli authorities, and had asked them to investigate and to allow “access to international human rights and humanitarian observers,” and to herself.
“It’s very important that there are independent inspections,” she said, expressing concern about an “emerging pattern of violations.”
She urged Israeli authorities to “investigate all complaints and reports of torture or ill-treatment promptly, impartially, effectively and transparently.”
Edwards also insisted that those responsible, at all levels, “must be held accountable.”
Edwards has previously issued statements demanding accountability for the multitude of alleged crimes committed during Hamas’s October 7 attack inside Israel, including killings, hostage-taking, torture and sexual violence.
More than 1,170 people died as a result of Hamas’s October 7 attack, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.
Militants also took 252 hostages, 124 of whom remain in Gaza, including 37 the army says are dead.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 35,800 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.


A UN rights expert on Thursday called on Israeli authorities to investigate allegations of torture and abuse of detained Palestinians since Hamas’s October 7 attacks sparked the war in Gaza. (AFP/File)

Norway to block entry for most Russian tourists, Moscow says it will respond

Norway to block entry for most Russian tourists, Moscow says it will respond
Updated 23 May 2024
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Norway to block entry for most Russian tourists, Moscow says it will respond

Norway to block entry for most Russian tourists, Moscow says it will respond

Norway will further curb access for Russian tourist travelers due to the ongoing war in Ukraine, blocking almost all entry from May 29, the Nordic country’s justice ministry said on Thursday.
Russia called the decision “purely discriminatory” and said it would respond.
Norway, a NATO member that shares a border with Russia in the Arctic measuring almost 200 km (124 miles), first imposed restrictions on Russian tourist visas in 2022, shortly after Russia began a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
“The decision to tighten the entry rules is in line with the Norwegian approach of standing by allies and partners in reaction to Russia’s illegal war of aggression against Ukraine,” Justice Minister Emilie Enger Mehl said in a statement.
Any Russian citizens whose purpose is tourism and other non-essential travel will be turned back at the border. Exceptions may be granted in cases such as visits to close family residing in Norway, the ministry said in a statement.
“The change implies that the police can refuse the entry of Russian citizens who are covered by the instruction,” it said.
In Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters such moves “cannot go unanswered.”
He added: “Of course, the decision is purely discriminatory. We do not accept such decisions. We regret that the Norwegian leadership has chosen this way of worsening our bilateral relations, which have already been of poor quality recently, and not on our initiative.”
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Russia did not intend to bar entry to Norwegian citizens. “But this does not mean that retaliatory measures won’t be taken. They will be,” she told reporters.


Over 100 human rights groups urge Biden to oppose sanctions on ICC

Over 100 human rights groups urge Biden to oppose sanctions on ICC
Updated 23 May 2024
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Over 100 human rights groups urge Biden to oppose sanctions on ICC

Over 100 human rights groups urge Biden to oppose sanctions on ICC
  • Open letter follows calls by US senators to punish court over Netanyahu arrest warrant
  • ‘The ability of the ICC to provide justice for victims requires full respect for its independence’

LONDON: More than 100 human rights and civil society organizations have called on US President Joe Biden to oppose punitive measures against the International Criminal Court.

It follows news earlier this week that the court’s prosecutor, Karim Khan, is seeking arrest warrants against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, as well as three Hamas leaders.

Khan’s move was condemned by some members of the US Congress and Senate, who threatened retaliation against the ICC, including sanctions and travel bans on officers of the court.

In an open letter published on Thursday, the 121 human rights and civil society groups urged Biden to resist calls to punish the ICC.

Major human rights organizations signed the letter, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

Biden should “oppose any legislative efforts to undermine the ICC,” and “make clear that regardless of its views on specific ICC investigations, the US continues to support independent international justice mechanisms,” the letter says.

“Accountability is important for its own sake and protects against the commission of future atrocity crimes,” it added.

“The ability of the ICC to provide justice for victims requires full respect for its independence. A selective approach to judicial decisions undermines the credibility, and ultimately, the force of the law as a shield against human rights violations and abuses.”

The US is not a member of the ICC, but both Republican and Democratic administrations have supported actions taken by the court on several occasions, including by assisting in the arrests of wanted suspects.

The Biden administration has publicly welcomed ICC statements on the conflicts in Ukraine and Sudan.


Group of graduates walk out of Harvard commencement chanting ‘Free, free Palestine’

Group of graduates walk out of Harvard commencement chanting ‘Free, free Palestine’
Updated 23 May 2024
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Group of graduates walk out of Harvard commencement chanting ‘Free, free Palestine’

Group of graduates walk out of Harvard commencement chanting ‘Free, free Palestine’
  • Student speaker Shruthi Kumar said “this semester our freedom of speech and our expressions of solidarity became punishable,” she said to cheers and applause
  • “I am deeply disappointed by the intolerance for freedom of speech and the right to civil disobedience on campus”

CAMBRIDGE: A group of graduates walked out of the Harvard commencement chanting “Free, Free Palestine” after weeks of protests on campus.
School officials announced Wednesday, the day before Thursday’s graduation, that 13 Harvard students who participated in a protest encampment would not be able to receive degrees alongside their classmates.
Some students chanted “Let them walk, let them walk walk,” during Thursday’s commencement, referring to allowing those 13 students to get their degrees along with fellow graduates.
Harvard University held its commencement address Thursday following a weekslong pro-Palestinian encampment that shut down Harvard Yard to all but those with university ties and roiled tensions on the campus.
Those tensions were ticked up a notch on Wednesday when school officials announced that 13 Harvard students who participated in the encampment won’t be able to receive degrees alongside their classmates. Some students chanted “Let them walk, Let them walk,” during commencement.
Student speaker Shruthi Kumar said “this semester our freedom of speech and our expressions of solidarity became punishable,” she said to cheers and applause.
She said she had to take a moment to recognize “the 13 undergraduates in the class of 2024 who will not graduate today,” Kumar said to prolonged cheers and clapping. “I am deeply disappointed by the intolerance for freedom of speech and the right to civil disobedience on campus.”
Over 1,500 students had petitioned, and nearly 500 staff and faculty had spoken up, all over the sanctions, she said.
“This is about civil rights and upholding democratic principals,” she said. “The students had spoken. The faculty had spoken. Harvard do you hear us?”
Those in the encampment had called for a ceasefire in Gaza and for Harvard to divest from companies that support the war.
Also on Thursday, the leaders of Northwestern University and Rutgers University are expected to testify at a House Committee on Education and the Workforce hearing about concessions they gave to pro-Palestinian protesters to end demonstrations on their campus. The chancellor of the University of California, Los Angeles, also was scheduled to appear at the latest in a series of hearings looking into how colleges have responded to the protests and allegations of antisemitism
The decision by the school’s top governing board follows a recommendation Monday by faculty members to allow the 13 to receive their degrees despite their participation in the encampment.
Harvard’s governing board, the Harvard Corporation, however said that each of 13 have been found to have violated the university’s policies by their conduct during the encampment protest.
“In coming to this determination, we note that the express provisions of the Harvard College Student Handbook state that students who are not in good standing are not eligible for degrees,” the corporation said in a written statement.
The statement left open the possibility of an appeals process saying the corporation understands “that the inability to graduate is consequential for students and their families” and supports the Faculty of Arts and Sciences’ intention to provide an expedited review of requests for appeal.
“We care deeply about every member of our community — students, faculty, staff, researchers, and alumni — and we have chosen a path forward that accords with our responsibilities and reaffirms a process for our students to receive prompt and fair review,” the statement added.
Supporters of the students said the decision not to allow them to receive degrees at commencement violated a May 14 agreement between interim President Alan Garber and the Harvard Out of Occupied Palestine coalition that would have allowed the students to graduate.
Protesters against the war between Israel and Hamas voluntarily dismantled their tents after they said university officials agreed to discuss their questions about the endowment, bringing a peaceful end to the kinds of demonstrations that were broken up by police on other campuses.
The group issued a statement late Wednesday saying the decision jeopardizes the post-graduation lives of the 13 students.
“By rejecting a democratic faculty vote, the Corporation has proved itself to be a wholly illegitimate body, and Garber an illegitimate president, accountable to no one at the university,” the group said.
“Today’s actions have plunged the university even further into a crisis of legitimacy and governance, which will have major repercussions for Harvard in the coming months and years,” the group said,
There was a noticeable presence of police officers around the campus Thursday mixing with soon-to-be-graduates, their family members and sidewalk flower sellers.
A small plane circled above trailing an Israeli and US flag. A truck was parked outside the campus with an electronic billboard with the names and images of some of the pro-Palestinian protesters under the banner “Harvard’s Leading Antisemites.”
At Drexel University in Philadelphia, protesters packed up their belongings and left a pro-Palestinian encampment Thursday after the school announced a decision to have police clear the encampment. A wave of pro-Palestinian tent encampments on campuses has led to over 3,000 arrests nationwide.


Russia says main power line to Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant goes down, no safety threats

Russia says main power line to Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant goes down, no safety threats
Updated 23 May 2024
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Russia says main power line to Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant goes down, no safety threats

Russia says main power line to Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant goes down, no safety threats
  • The reasons for the outage, which had not caused any change in the radiation level, were being investigated
  • The main 750 kilovolt (kV) “Dniprovska” power line went down at 13.31 local

MOSCOW: Russia said on Thursday that the main power line supplying the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant (ZNPP) in Ukraine had gone down, but that there was no threat to safety and the plant was being supplied via a backup line.
The six reactors at the Zaporizhzhia plant, held by Russia and located close to the front line of the conflict in Ukraine, are not in operation but it relies on external power to keep its nuclear material cool and prevent a catastrophic accident.
The Russian management said on their official channel on the Telegram app that the reasons for the outage, which had not caused any change in the radiation level, were being investigated.
It said the main 750 kilovolt (kV) “Dniprovska” power line went down at 13.31 local (1031 GMT), while the 330 kV “Ferosplavnaya” line was supplying power to the plant now.
The main “Dniprovska” power line also went down for almost five hours on March 22, highlighting what the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said were “ever present dangers to nuclear safety and security” from the Russia-Ukraine war.
Russia and Ukraine have each accused the other at various times of shelling the Zaporizhzhia plant, which is Europe’s largest.
IAEA has said that the ZNPP has been experiencing major off-site power problems since the conflict began in early 2022, exacerbating the nuclear safety and security risks facing the site.