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Prominent Chinese rights lawyer tried in closed proceedings
U.S. Legal News | 2018/12/27 09:19
The trial of a prominent human rights lawyer began in northern China on Wednesday with about two dozen plainclothes officers stationed outside a courthouse and at least one supporter taken away by police.

Reporters, foreign diplomats and supporters were prevented from approaching the municipal court in Tianjin city where lawyer Wang Quanzhang was being tried. Wang's wife, Li Wenzu, was kept from attending the proceedings by security agents who had blocked the exit of her apartment complex since Tuesday.

Li told The Associated Press by phone Wednesday that Liu Weiguo, Wang's government-appointed lawyer, confirmed the trial had started. But he did not tell her whether it was now over or whether a verdict had been reached.

The court said in a statement on its website that it "lawfully decided not to make public" the trial hearings because the case involved state secrets. A decision will be announced at a future date, the court said.

Wang is among more than 200 lawyers and legal activists who were detained in a sweeping 2015 crackdown. A member of the Fengrui law firm, among the most recognized in the field broadly known in China as "rights defending," he was charged with subversion of state power in 2016. He has been held without access to his lawyers or family for more than three years.

Fengrui has pursued numerous sensitive cases and represented outspoken critics of the ruling Communist Party. Wang represented members of the Falun Gong meditation sect that the government has relentlessly suppressed since banning it as an "evil cult" in 1999. Group leaders have been sentenced to lengthy prison terms and ordinary followers locked up as alleged threats.


Thai court extends detention of refugee sought by Bahrain
U.S. Legal News | 2018/12/12 19:05
A Thai court ruled Tuesday that a soccer player who holds refugee status in Australia can be held for 60 days pending the completion of an extradition request by Bahrain, the homeland he fled four years ago on account of alleged political persecution and torture.

Hakeem al-Araibi, who was detained Nov. 27 upon entry at Bangkok's main airport, was denied release on bail during his court appearance. Thai officials said he was originally held on the basis of a notice from Interpol in which Bahrain sought his custody because he had been sentenced in absentia in 2014 to 10 years in prison for vandalizing a police station, a charge he denies. He came to Thailand on vacation with his wife.

Al-Araibi says he fears being tortured if sent to Bahrain. Australia, which granted him refugee status and residency in 2017, has called for his release and immediate return to his adoptive home. He had played for Bahrain's national soccer team and now plays for Melbourne's Pascoe Vale Football Club. He has been publicly critical of the Bahrain royal family's alleged involvement in sports scandals.

He also has alleged he was blindfolded and had his legs beaten while he was held in Bahrain in 2012.

He said he believed he was targeted for arrest because of his Shiite faith and because his brother was politically active in Bahrain. Bahrain has a Shiite majority but is ruled by a Sunni monarchy, and has a reputation for harsh repression since its failed "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011.


Defamation lawsuit against activist continues in state court
U.S. 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."



Dutch court rejects man’s request to be 20 years younger
U.S. Legal News | 2018/12/02 01:42
Dutch motivational speaker Emile Ratelband may feel like a 49-year-old but according to Dutch law he is still 69.

A Dutch court on Monday rejected Ratelband’s request to shave 20 years off his age in a case that drew worldwide attention.

“Mr. Ratelband is at liberty to feel 20 years younger than his real age and to act accordingly,” Arnhem court said in a press statement . “But amending his date of birth would cause 20 years of records to vanish from the register of births, deaths, marriages and registered partnerships. This would have a variety of undesirable legal and societal implications.”

Ratelband went to court last month, arguing that he didn’t feel 69 and saying his request was consistent with other forms of personal transformation which are gaining acceptance in the Netherlands and around the world, such as the ability to change one’s name or gender.

The court rejected that argument, saying that unlike in the case of a name or gender, Dutch law assigns rights and obligations based on age “such as the right to vote and the duty to attend school. If Mr. Ratelband’s request was allowed, those age requirements would become meaningless.”

Ratelband, perhaps unsurprisingly given his background as self-described advocate of positive thinking, was undeterred by the court’s rejection and vowed to appeal.



Group asks court to reject Arkansas justice's ad lawsuit
U.S. Legal News | 2018/10/30 05:36
A Washington-based conservative group is asking a federal court to reject an Arkansas Supreme Court justice's attempt to halt its attack ads and mailers against her.

Attorneys for the Republican State Leadership Committee's Judicial Fairness Initiative on Monday asked the court to reject Justice Courtney Goodson's request for a preliminary injunction against the ads and mailers.

Goodson is running against David Sterling, an attorney for the Department of Human Services, in next month's election. The group's filing Monday said blocking the ads and mailers would be "patently unconstitutional."

RSLC says it's spent $1.1 million so far this fall on the high court race. A state judge in the spring temporarily blocked another group's TV ad attacking Goodson through the May 22 judicial election.



The Latest: 6 countries seek criminal probe of Venezuela
U.S. Legal News | 2018/09/28 10:26
Six countries from the Americas say they are asking the International Criminal Court to investigate Venezuela's government for alleged crimes against humanity. It's the first time that member countries have referred another country to the Netherlands-based U.N. court.

Argentina, Peru, Colombia, Chile, Paraguay and Canada made the announcement on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly meeting.

The court has already opened a preliminary investigation into allegations that since April 2017 Venezuelan government forces "frequently used excessive force to disperse and put down demonstrations," and abused some opposition members in detention.

Wednesday's move could broaden the scope of the existing preliminary probe. The countries accuse Venezuela of several crimes including murder, torture and unjust imprisonment.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says his meeting with North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho was "very positive."

Pompeo made the comment on Twitter on Wednesday after meeting with Ri at the U.N. General Assembly. The meeting comes as U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un work to set up a widely expected second summit to restart stalled diplomacy meant to rid the North of its nuclear weapons.

Pompeo said that "much work remains, but we will continue to move forward."

Kim made denuclearization vows last week in a summit with the South Korean president in Pyongyang, but there's still skepticism over his sincerity to relinquish weapons that many believe are the only major guarantee of his continued authoritarian rule.


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