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Italy moves towards criminalizing Holocaust denial
Legal World News | 2007/01/26 11:19

Italy is set to become the latest country in Europe to criminalize Holocaust denial after the cabinet of Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi unanimously approved a draft bill Thursday. The draft, written by Justice Minister Clemente Mastella, will now be given to parliament for debate. It makes it a crime punishable by up to four years in prison to defend, justify, or otherwise instigate crimes against humanity.

Earlier this month, Germany announced that as part of its 2007 EU presidency, it would propose EU-wide laws criminalizing Holocaust denial. A prior German attempt at such a law was blocked by Italy, which has since softened its opposition. It is currently illegal to deny the Holocaust in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany and Spain. DPA has more.



S. Korea court rejects lawsuit against tobacco companies
Legal World News | 2007/01/26 09:21

A Seoul court ruled Thursday that cancer patients suing South Korean tobacco firm Korea Tobacco and Ginseng Co. (KTG) do not have enough evidence to link their diseases to negligence on the part of the companies. The court conceded the link between smoking and the plaintiffs' illnesses, but said that there was insufficient evidence to show that their diseases were explicitly caused by smoking the defendant's cigarettes. In addition, the court said that there was no evidence to support assertions that the companies provided inadequate warnings about their products.

South Korea has an extremely high smoking population, at 12 million out of 47 million people, according to a 2005 report by Euromonitor International. Widespread anti-smoking campaigns have been largely ineffective. The suit dismissed Thursday was the first brought by cancer patients against tobacco companies in South Korea and was a consolidation of two separate lawsuits filed in 1999 against KTG, which was then a government-run company. Lawyers for the plaintiffs have said they will appeal the decision.



Israeli president granted leave of absence
Legal World News | 2007/01/25 17:05

Israeli President Moshe Katsav, who may be indicted on rape and other sexual assault charges, had his request for a leave of absence granted Thursday by a parliamentary panel. Legislators approved the request, which could last up to six months, with a 13-11 vote.

Under Israeli law, Katsav had to receive the approval of a Knesset committee before he could be removed. On Tuesday, prosecutors said they have enough evidence to charge Katsav with rape, harassment, abusing his power for sex, obstructing justice and illegally distributing gifts while president and cabinet minister. Katsav has said publicly that he will resign if indicted. In an emotional news conference Wednesday, he blamed the media for their "witch hunt," "McCarthyism" and "persecution."

Also on Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert added to the growing political pressure on Katsav to resign. "Under these circumstances, there is no doubt in my mind that the president cannot continue to fulfill his position and he must leave the president's residence," Olmert said at a security conference.

Attorney-General Meni Mazuz said Tuesday that while he planned to indict Katsav, he first wanted to give the president a chance to plead his case before him.

The first woman to accuse Katsav came forward last summer accusing him of forcing her to have sex in his office. Other women then came forward with similar accusations. If found guilty, Katsav could face more than 20 years in prison.



Senate panel vote opposes troop buildup
Law & Politics | 2007/01/25 17:01

A day after President Bush pleaded with Congress to give his Iraq policy one last chance, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee rebuffed him by approving a nonbinding resolution declaring his troop increase in Iraq to be against "the national interest."

The committee voted 12 to 9 yesterday to send a resolution of disapproval of the president's Iraq policy to the Senate floor next week, setting up what could be the most dramatic confrontation between Congress and the Bush administration since the war was launched four years ago. Many Republicans voiced anguish over the president's policy, but only one, Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, a co sponsor, voted in support of the resolution.

While some lawmakers and anti war activists have dismissed the resolution as largely meaningless, senior Republicans and White House officials have worked furiously to minimize GOP defections, worried that a large, bipartisan vote would have significant political repercussions.

"In an open democracy, we voice our agreements and disagreements in public, and we should not be reticent to do so. But official roll call votes carry a unique message," said Senator Richard G. Lugar of Indiana, the Foreign Relations Committee's senior Republican. A vote for the resolution "will confirm to our friends and allies that we are divided and in disarray," he said.

But Hagel implored his colleagues to take a stand after four years of docile acquiescence.

"What do you believe? What are you willing to support? . . . Why were you elected?" he asked. "If you wanted a safe job, go sell shoes. This is a tough business."

But the committee's partisan divide belied the deep undercurrent of GOP misgivings, as one Republican after another spoke out against the deployment of 21,500 additional troops to bolster the faltering government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Lugar called the Bush strategy "dubious" even as he denounced the resolution as "the legislative equivalent of a sound bite." Senator John Sununu, Republican of New Hampshire, said additional troops should not be deployed until the Iraqi government showed more resolve. Senator Lisa Murkowski, Republican of Alaska, said she opposed the president and was not afraid to tell him so. And Senator George V. Voinovich, Republican of Ohio, said he had delivered a tough message to the White House personally: "You are not listening."

"Congress has allowed this war to go on without anyone having a stake," said an exasperated Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee. "We passed the debt on to future generations. Nobody has sacrificed but the military men and women and the families."



Prosecutors want DeLay charge reinstated
Court Feed News | 2007/01/25 12:43

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals heard oral arguments Wednesday on whether criminal conspiracy charges brought against former US Rep. Tom Delay were properly dismissed at trial. Charges of conspiracy to violate election law and conspiracy to commit money laundering were dismissed last December after the trial court found that the Texas campaign finance statute was explicitly extended to allow the laying of criminal conspiracy charges only after DeLay's alleged wrongful acts. In April, the Texas Third Court of Appeals affirmed that decision but refused to dismiss actual money laundering charges against DeLay.

Prosecutors Wednesday asked the court to either overrule or distinguish those cases. Lawyers for DeLay argued that DeLay would not have had fair notice that his conduct was illegal at the time it occurred unless the statute then explicitly contemplated criminal conspiracy charges, which it did not, and that the legislature's subsequent amendment of the statute to include those charges showed that criminal conspiracy to violate election laws was a crime at the time of DeLay's actions.



USDOJ Settles with Honolulu Apartment Complex
Court Feed News | 2007/01/25 00:47

WASHINGTON - The Justice Department today reached a partial settlement with the owner, builder, architect and civil engineer of the West Loch Village, a 150-unit apartment complex in Ewa Beach, Hawaii. Today’s agreement, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii, partially resolves allegations of disability discrimination in the design and construction of the complex.

The original complaint was filed to enforce provisions of the federal Fair Housing Act that require recently constructed dwellings to include features designed to make the dwellings more accessible to persons with physical disabilities. The Department’s suit was brought as a result of a referral to the Justice Department by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Under the partial settlement, which must be approved by the court, the defendants, (the City and County of Honolulu; Mecon Hawaii Limited; Yamasato, Fujiwara, Higa & Associates Inc.; Hawaii Affordable Properties Inc.; and R.M. Towill Corp.) will pay all costs related to making the apartment complex accessible to persons with disabilities. The defendants must also establish a $75,000 fund which will be used to compensate individuals harmed by the inaccessible housing. The settlement also requires the defendants to undergo training on the requirements of the Fair Housing Act.

"Accessible housing is a necessity for people with disabilities," said Wan J. Kim, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "These types of design and construction cases reflect the Justice Department’s commitment to enforcing this nation’s fair housing laws."

The United States’ claim against the City and County of Honolulu, alleging that one resident of the complex was hurt when he fell due to the design and construction defects, is not settled by this partial settlement agreement.

Fighting illegal housing discrimination is a top priority of the Justice Department. In February 2006, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales announced Operation Home Sweet Home, a concentrated initiative to expose and eliminate housing discrimination in America. This initiative was inspired by the plight of displaced victims of Hurricane Katrina who were suddenly forced to find new places to live. Operation Home Sweet Home is not limited to the areas hit by Hurricane Katrina and targets housing discrimination all over the country. More information about Operation Home Sweet Home is available at the Justice Department Web site at http://www.usdoj.gov/fairhousing. Individuals who believe that they may have been victims of housing discrimination can call the Housing Discrimination Tip Line (1-800-896-7743), email the Justice Department at fairhousing@usdoj.gov, or contact the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development at 1-800-669-9777.



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