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Defamation lawsuit against activist continues in state court
Legal News | 2018/12/09 03:07

A Maine activist who accused an orphanage founder in Haiti of being a serial pedophile asked the state supreme court on Tuesday to dismiss a defamation lawsuit that was moved from federal court.

An attorney for Paul Kendrick told justices that the assertions were protected by a Maine law that protects people from meritless suits aimed at chilling First Amendment rights.

The argument that invoked Maine's Anti-SLAPP statute was met with skepticism from justices who questioned whether the law was intended to apply to harassment and cyberbullying.

But Supreme Court Chief Justice Leigh Saufley suggested there's a balancing act when between free speech and defamation.

"Are we not sliding into an areas where we have to be very careful not to chill the voices of people who say we must speak up in support of children who have been abused?" she asked an attorney at one point. "We know that if people are afraid to speak up that abuse can go on for decades."



Palestinian court extends detention of Palestinian-American
Legal News | 2018/12/07 03:10

A Palestinian court on Thursday extended the detention of a hunger-striking Palestinian-American activist who claims she was tortured in captivity.

Suha Jbara, 31, a U.S. citizen born in Panama, shuffled into the Jericho courtroom with her head down, appearing ashen and weak. Her father and son reached out to embrace her but were restrained by Palestinian authorities.

The court ordered that Jbara remain in custody 15 more days on suspicions she funded "illegal organizations" and "worked with the enemy." Palestinian authorities refused to elaborate on the accusations. Jbara insists the only organizations she supports are Islamic charities advocating for Palestinian prisoners in Israel.

When the judge announced her extended detention, her youngest son, Mohammed, erupted into sobs and her father shook his fist, wailing, "Shame on you! I swear this is not justice!" as security officials ushered him out of the courtroom.

Jbara started a hunger strike two weeks ago to protest what she says is unjust treatment by Palestinian authorities. She told her lawyer on Thursday that she will continue striking for her remaining days of detention in hopes of bringing attention to her plight.


New campaign seeks support for expanded Supreme Court
Legal News | 2018/10/13 20:51

A couple of liberal Harvard law professors are lending their name to a new campaign to build support for expanding the Supreme Court by four justices in 2021.

The campaign, calling itself the 1.20.21 Project and being launched Wednesday, also wants to increase the size of the lower federal courts to counteract what it terms "Republican obstruction, theft and procedural abuse" of the federal judiciary. This includes the recent near party-line confirmation of Justice Brett Kavanaugh that cemented a conservative majority on the Supreme Court.

It is premised on Democratic victories in next month's elections and the 2020 presidential contest that could leave Democrats in charge of Congress and the White House in 2021, a possibility but by no means a sure thing. Additional justices nominated by a Democrat could change the court's ideological direction.

Harvard professors Mark Tushnet and Laurence Tribe are joining an effort being led by political scientist Aaron Belkin. He was a prominent advocate for repealing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy that prohibited LGBT people from serving openly in the military.

The Kavanaugh confirmation was the culmination of a process that started with Republicans blocking many of President Barack Obama's nominees to lower courts and then refusing to consider his Supreme Court nomination of Judge Merrick Garland in 2016, Belkin said. President Donald Trump's victory in November 2016 allowed him to fill the high court vacancy with Justice Neil Gorsuch.



Indian court allows deportation of 7 Rohingya to Myanmar
Legal News | 2018/10/04 12:44

India on Thursday deported its first group of Rohingya Muslims since the government last year ordered the expulsion of members of the Myanmar minority group and others who entered the country illegally.

The deportation was carried out after the Supreme Court rejected a last-minute plea by the seven men's lawyer that they be allowed to remain in India because they feared reprisals in Myanmar. They were arrested in 2012 for entering India illegally and have been held in prison since then.

Indian authorities handed the seven over to Myanmar officials at a border crossing in Moreh in Manipur state, a police officer said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters. Each carried a bag of belongings.

The Supreme Court said it would allow their deportation because Myanmar had accepted them as citizens. Government attorney Tushar Mehta told the judges that Myanmar had given the seven certificates of identity and 1-month visas to facilitate their deportation.

Most Rohingya Muslims in Buddhist-majority Myanmar are denied citizenship and face widespread discrimination.

Defense attorney Prashant Bhushan said the government should treat them as refugees, not as illegal migrants, and send a representative of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees to talk to them so they would not be deported under duress.

About 700,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since August 2017 to escape a brutal campaign of violence by Myanmar's military.

An estimated 40,000 other Rohingya have taken refuge in parts of India. Less than 15,000 are registered with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

Many have settled in areas of India with large Muslim populations, including the southern city of Hyderabad, the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, New Delhi, and the Himalayan region of Jammu-Kashmir. Some have taken refuge in northeast India bordering Bangladesh and Myanmar.


UN court asked to probe Venezuela; leader defiant in speech
Legal News | 2018/09/29 10:28

Six nations made the unprecedented move Wednesday of asking the U.N.’s International Criminal Court to investigate Venezuela for possible crimes against humanity, even as President Nicolas Maduro made an unexpected trip to the world body’s headquarters to deliver a nearly hourlong speech declaring his nation “will never give in.”

Maduro’s speech at the General Assembly gathering of world leaders came hours after Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Peru, Paraguay and Canada formally asked the ICC to investigate Venezuela on a range of possible charges, from murder to torture and crimes against humanity.

“To remain indifferent or speculative in front of this reality could be perceived as being complicit with the regime. We are not going to be complicit,” said Paraguayan Foreign Minister Andres Rodriguez Pedotti.

The six countries hope the move puts new pressure on Maduro to end the violence and conflict that have sent more than 2 million people fleeing and made Venezuela’s inflation and homicide rates among the highest in the world.

Venezuelan officials have widely rejected international criticism, saying they’re driven by imperialist forces led by the U.S. to justify launching an invasion. And Maduro sounded a defiant tone Wednesday night, complaining that Washington was attacking his country through sanctions and other means and strong-arming other countries into going along in a “fierce diplomatic offensive.”

“The U.S. wants to continue just giving orders to the world as though the world were its own property,” Maduro said. “Venezuela will never give in.”

But at the same time, he said he was willing to talk with Trump.

Wednesday marked the first time that member countries have referred another country to the Netherlands-based U.N. court.

Canada was among nations referring Venezuela to the ICC, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau seized the moment to defend the idea of global justice the court represents — the day after Trump attacked it in a stinging speech that challenged multilateral organizations.

Its chief prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, already has opened a preliminary investigation into allegations that Venezuelan government forces since April 2017 “frequently used excessive force to disperse and put down demonstrations,” and abused some opposition members in detention.


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