Is Ex-Soviet Georgia Backsliding on Justice?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF GLOBAL VOICES)

 

Is Ex-Soviet Georgia Backsliding on Justice?

Georgian Policemen on Duty. Photo by Flickr user jb via Wikimedia Commons. (CC BY 2.0)

by JUSTINE DOODY

The following article was written for Bertelsmann Stiftung’s Transformation Index(BTI) and published on Global Voices with permission. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of Global Voices.

On June 10, 2017, thousands of Georgians protested on the streets of Tbilisi, the country’s capital, in support of two members of the rap group Birja Mafia. The young men were arrested on drugs charges they allege to have been trumped up. The protests marked a further step in the decline of Georgians’ trust in their law enforcement system.

Former president Mikheil Saakashvili’s successful police reforms in the first decade of the 21st century served as a model for reform in transition countries, but the gains may have been short-lived. By April 2017, only 38% of Georgians rated police performance good or very good, down from 60% as recently as November 2013. Meanwhile, only 13% rated the performance of both the courts and the office of the Chief Prosecutor good or very good; 27% said the courts performed badly or very badly, and 19% said the same of the Office of the Chief Prosecutor. Is the rule of law in Georgia on a downward trend?

Georgia scored 6.5 on the “Rule of Law” criterion in the Bertelsmann Transformation Index (BTI) 2016, a respectable showing that placed it in the “Sound” category alongside 22 other transitional and developing countries. Georgia was ranked lower than the nine countries ranked as “Excellent”, but higher than the remaining 97 countries designated “Fair”, “Flawed”, or “Poor”. However, the report notes problems in the country both with the prosecution of abuse of office and the independence of the judiciary, two issues that are contributing to the current deterioration in public confidence.

The Birja Mafia affair is not the only high-profile case to hit the headlines. In May, Azerbaijani journalist Afgan Mukhtarli was abducted in Tbilisi and transferred to prison in Azerbaijan, and accusations of complicity among the Georgian police led to the suspension of the head of the Border Police and the chief of Counterintelligence in July. Mukhtarli’s lawyers and wife say that the journalist’s abductors wore the uniform of the Georgian police. In June, one of Tbilisi’s police chiefs was suspended after Georgian media released a video showing apparent police abuse, in a March incident in which a man called Shota Pakeliani ended up in a coma after injuries received while in police custody. In both cases, the authorities took action after the public outcry, but critics say that this happens too rarely, and that even when it does the consequences are insufficiently severe.

Difficult Reforms

In 2015, the Prosecutor’s Office announced plans for the creation of a Department for Investigation into Crimes Committed throughout the Judicial Process. But as the Prosecutor’s Office is frequently accused of having political motivations, this department might not represent a real solution to the problem. In 2016, investigations were opened into 173 cases of alleged police mistreatment; but none of these for police brutality or torture, only for the less serious crime of “exceeding official powers.” Only five investigations led to criminal proceedings, and only two resulted in guilty verdicts. In its 2016/2017 annual report, Amnesty International raised concerns about the Georgian government’s failure to move on legislation to create an independent mechanism for investigating human rights violations by law enforcement bodies.

Georgia received visa-free travel to the European Union in March 2017, and its Association Agreement with the EU entered into force in July 2016. Georgians overwhelmingly support eventual EU membership. In a poll taken in February and March this year, 90% of respondents favored EU membership. So, although accession is not on the EU’s radar just yet, the Georgian government should be strongly motivated to comply with the Association Agenda, which includes reforming the prosecution service. Efforts to do that are in progress. The Prosecutor’s Office was separated from the Ministry of Justice in 2012, and in early 2016 a Prosecutorial Council and a Consultation Board were established to increase the office’s independence. In a January 2017 report, the Council’s anti-corruption body, the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO), praised Georgia’s progress in reducing corruption, and welcomed the country’s efforts to reform its prosecution service. But GRECO noted that further work was needed to fully implement reforms and reduce the influence of the executive and the legislature on high-level prosecutorial appointments and on the activity of the Prosecutorial Council.

De-Politicization of Justice

The same kind of political linkages contribute to the problems within the police force. The appointment of top police officers is dependent on the will of the interior minister, which undermines the independence of the force. In the courts, too, the legacy of politicization left over from the Saakashvili administration persists, although the new government has taken some steps to improve the situation. The Public Defender’s Office is one bright spot. Responsible for overseeing human rights and freedoms in Georgia, it enjoys broad public support, although its recommendations are not implemented often enough.

De-politicization of justice needs to be a priority of the ruling Georgian Dream party, for the sake of the public at large, the country’s EU hopes, and perhaps even the party’s own political fortunes. The former governing party, Saakashvili’s United National Movement, found, to its detriment, that failing to provide adequate support for the rule of law can have political consequences. Widely publicized cases of prison abuse and police violence contributed to the party’s loss of public trust and eventual ouster in 2012. If the current government cannot improve public confidence in the system, it might find that history can repeat itself.

Justine Doody is an editor and analyst. She writes for the Bertelsmann Stiftung’s BTI Blog and SGI News.

Chinese Former Soldier Brags Of Killing Vietnamese Woman Raping Her 13 Yr Old Daughter

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CHINA GLOBAL VOICES)

 

Despite Censorship, a Former Chinese Soldier Brags of His War Crimes Online

Left: Zhang Jingyu. Right: Screenshot of his war crime narrative, first shared via WeChat.

A former Chinese solider boasted to a private chat group this week that during the Sino-Vietnamese War, he killed a Vietnamese woman and raped her teenage daughter.

Chinese authorities have been struggling to contain online outrage in response to the post of Zhang Jingyu, a self-described Maoist patriot, who told his story to a private group on the social media platform WeChat.

Zhang described how in 1979, at just 17 years old, he went into the village of Cao Bang in Vietnam in the midst of a crossfire, where he killed a woman and raped her teenage daughter in the ruin.

Zhang was caught by the head of the combat team and sentenced to one week in solitary confinement after he returned to China. After that, the army dismissed him, but recommended him to a college to study foreign languages.

The brief Sino-Vietnamese War was declared by former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping in 1979 after Vietnam invaded Cambodia. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army captured Cao Bang near the border area in less than two weeks, but did not enter the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi.

Deng claimed victory after one month of fighting, and the Chinese forces suffered great losses. In some Chinese oral history records, Vietnamese soldiers criticized the Chinese army of being crueler than US army, which had pulled out of Vietnam a few years earlier after nearly 20 years in the country. Some other English sources also accused the Chinese army of mass killings of Vietnamese civilians when retreating from Vietnam.

In Zhang’s comments, he showed no remorse for his actions:

Killed her mother, raped her 13-14 year-old daughter. They were all soldiers. During the war, the only good Vietnamese people were the dead ones.

I did it when I was 17.5 years old. Would you dare to do such a thing? If you did not have the courage, I tell you: you would be lying underneath the hero’s tomb. But I’m still alive…

Despite efforts to censor the tale, Zhang’s post has been screen-captured and since has gone viral on Chinese social media. Netizens have widely condemned his actions and called for authorities to investigate the case and clarify the historical facts.

Thus far, there has been no public information regarding an official investigation. But there has been ample censorship of online criticism and discussion about the incident.

Nearly all discussions of the post and associated events have either been censored or are too graphic for public re-distribution. Below is a typical censored comment:

Even if Zhang Jingyu’s story is a fiction and he never raped the teenage girl or he hadn’t been a soldier at all, his narrative has an adverse effect on the People’s Liberation Army. If he is not punished, there will be more Zhang Jingyus or patriotic thugs who stand out to challenge the baseline of humanity. By then, nothing can be done [to undo the wrong]. Censorship or internet shutdowns won’t work.

Those who managed to climb over the Great Firewall left their comments on Twitter. Below is one:

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter

·、强奸13岁少女,这在哪个国家都是重罪。可是,在共产党的中国、一名中国人民解放军战士,在犯下如此重罪时,却只受到脱去军装、禁闭一周的处罚。至今,他不仅不忏悔,反而在微博洋洋得意炫耀。请大家记住他的丑陋面貌,并请记住他的名字,他叫:张靖宇,网名:归云楼。
·

#Killing kid’s mother, raping a 13-year-old teenage, these are serious crimes in any country. But in CCP’s China, when a People’s Liberation Army soldier committed such serious crimes, the punishment was dismissed from the army and one week solitary confinement. Till now, he did not have any remorse and boasted about his crime. Please remember this ugly creature and remember his name: Zhang Jingyu. Screen name: Gui Yun Luo.

As all criticisms on Chinese social media platforms were censored, Chinese blogger Li Hanfan decided to praise Zhang for telling the truth about the Sino-Vietnamese War:

Up till now, we had no evidence to prove if Zhang Jingyu was telling the truth. But in my opinion, it now seems more probably that he was telling the truth. Any logical person would not defame themselves with such a serious crime.

If it is not self-defamation, Zhang is reviewing history and retelling historical facts. This should be praised.

The blogger then argued:

What we, in particular our government and our army, need to do now is to investigate if Zhang Jingyu is telling the truth. If he is, then we have to take the history seriously. Our government and army should apologize sincerely to Vietnam and compensate for such serious crimes. We should even send this devil to military court.

Of course, it is also possible that Zhang Jingyu had made up the story, he just wanted to be famous…If this is really the case, our government and army should investigate thoroughly and explained the situation to Vietnam. Then punish the rumor creator who has defamed our admirable soldier.

The response to Zhang’s comments underlines the imbalance that many Chinese netizens see in the state’s approach to so-called “rumors” online. While some types of political content are subject to heavy censorship, others are not.

Earlier this month, officials released new regulations that hold people who run chatrooms and message groups — who are often just regular citizens — criminally liable for the circulation of rumors, scams and politically sensitive topics in such online groups. Many say the crackdown has targeted views that are critical of the Chinese government and party authorities. Yet speech that is framed as being patriotic — even when it is as inhumane and bellicose as Zhang’s — is spared punishment.

Altaf Hussain Is A Traitor And Hhould Be Hanged, Says Sindh Home Minister

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE PAKISTAN NEWSPAPER ‘DAWN’)

 

Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) founder Altaf Hussain is a traitor like arrested Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav and should be handed a death sentence as well, Sindh Home Minister Sohail Anwar Sial said while addressing a ceremony in Karachi on Tuesday.

Sial said the Sindh government has already written to the federal government asking it to issue red warrants for Hussain. “It is now the responsibility of the federal government to issue the red warrants,” he said.

Sial also took on the former president Pervez Musharraf and former home minister Zulfikar Mirza for accusing PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari of involvement in Benazir Bhutto’s murder.

“Why did Pervez Musharraf do nothing against Asif Zardari when he was the president?” Sial asked. “Zulfiqar Mirza was the Sindh home minister [at the time]. Why did he not speak then?”

The PPP leader said the provincial government has requested the federal government to suspend cellphone services on the 9th and 10th of Muharram.

The Sindh home minister also credited the Pakistan Army, Sindh government and Rangers for bringing peace to the province.

Man Beat Woman, Threw Her Off A 77 Foot Cliff, Then Murdered 5 Yr Old Son Over Dad’s $200 Debt

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF LEXINGTON KENTUCKY WKYT)

 

Detective: Man beat woman, murdered Jackson Co. child over $200

WATCH Detective: Man beat woman, murdered Jackson Co. child over $200

WATCH Detective: Man beat woman, murdered Jackson Co. child over $200

WATCH Detective: Man beat woman, murdered Jackson Co. child over $200
By WKYT News Staff |
 
     

JACKSON COUNTY, Ky. (WKYT) – A detective with Kentucky State Police testified in court on Monday about their case against a man accused of murdering a five-year-old boy.

Kentucky State Police charged Lonnie Belt with the killing of five-year-old James Spoonamore. Police found the boy’s body a few days after hikers came across his severely beaten mother over a cliff.

ORIGINAL STORY: KSP: Boy reported missing in Jackson County found dead

The detective testified that Belt was upset that Jessica Durham’s husband stole $200 from him. The detective told the court that Belt planned to take Durham and her son back to his house and hold them until he got the money he was owed. Detective Charles Brandenburg told the court that on September 8, Belt tricked Durham into thinking her husband was at his home.

“So she went to the end of the hallway, where David was supposed to be, the bedroom. She went into the bedroom. David was not there. She was struck in the back of the head with a metal object by Lonnie,” Brandenburg said.

“She went on to say, when she got back in the vehicle she was blindfolded and tied up, and her head was bleeding. Her small child, her 5-year-old son was in the back seat,” Brandenburg testified. “She could hear him say, ‘Mommy you’re bleeding, Mommy you need a doctor.'”

The detective went on to say that Belt took Durham to different sites on that Friday, beating her repeatedly. Eventually, police say Belt took Durham to the woods and kicked her off a cliff. She fell 77-feet. According to the officer, Durham was there for nearly 24 hours before hikers found her.

Belt told detectives that he killed five-year-old James Spoonamore because he witnessed the assault.

“He finally admitted to taking James, putting him in a car and driving him to a separate location, in the same wooded area, across Sparks Ridge Road, where he hit James in the back of the head with a metal object multiple times.”

Investigators said they have not been able to locate the hollow pipe Belt allegedly used in the attack.

Police charged Lonnie Belt with murder, assault, kidnapping an adult, kidnapping a minor, and tampering with physical evidence.

At the end of testimony, the judge decided there was enough evidence to send the case to a grand jury.

Erdogan protesters beaten and ejected from New York speech

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

Erdogan protesters beaten and ejected from New York speech

Media captionAnti-Erdogan demonstrators are punched as they are removed from a New York hotel

Violence erupted at a New York hotel after protesters heckled a speech by Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan with chants of “terrorist”.

Mr Erdogan was addressing supporters in Turkish at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Times Square when he was interrupted by several demonstrators.

“You’re a terrorist, get out of my country,” one protester shouted before he was punched and dragged away.

Mr Erdogan is in New York for the UN General Assembly.

A protester is removed from a New York room during a speech by Turkey's President Recep Tayyip ErdoganImage copyrightVOA

In footage from the speech on Thursday, protesters are seen being pushed and punched in the head as they are ejected from the venue by suited men.

It is not clear at this stage if they were pro-Erdogan attendees, presidential bodyguards, or guards providing security at the hotel.

The demonstrators, who later posted images of the clashes on social media, said their aim was to publicly condemn the president’s policies in Turkey, Syria and Iraq.

Some protesters carried flags and banners in support of the Kurdish militant group, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).

Mr Erdogan sees the YPG as an extension of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has fought for Kurdish autonomy in Turkey for three decades. He has repeatedly said that he will never accept a US alliance with Kurdish forces fighting in Syria.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan gives a thumbs up to supporters outside of The Peninsula hotel on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in Manhattan, New York, U.S. September 20, 2017.Image copyrightREUTERS
Image captionPresident Erdogan is in New York for the UN General Assembly

Supporters of Mr Erdogan can be heard shouting the president’s name in the footage, in attempts to muffle the protesters’ chants.

One protester, Meghan Bodette, wrote on Twitter that she had been “thrown out” of the hotel.

“Yes. I stood up with YPJ flag… was pulled from chair and removed,” she wrote, adding: “I got escorted out and ran, some friends were briefly questioned.”

The YPJ is an all-female Kurdish military group – the women’s equivalent of the YPG.

Another Twitter user, Gissur Simonarson‏, posted images taken from amateur video footage showing a number of protesters being violently attacked.

One eyewitness, Halil Demir, said he saw a man being pushed to the ground after interrupting Mr Erdogan’s speech. Mr Demir said he later saw a second man outside the hotel in handcuffs on the floor, the New York Times reports.

Mr Erdogan was speaking at the invitation of the Turkish American National Steering Committee.

The New York Police Department said that about five protesters had been “briefly detained” but that no arrests were made.

In May, eleven people were injured and two arrested outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence in Washington DC, after a brawl broke out between supporters and opponents of Mr Erdogan.

The US summoned the Turkish ambassador over the incident, which Washington police called a “brutal attack on peaceful protesters”.

The Turkish embassy denied that, saying the demonstrators had aggressively provoked Turkish-Americans gathering to greet Mr Erdogan, and that they had responded in self-defense.

Trump’s Personal Attorney Reached Out To The Kremlin For Help During The Campaign

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

President Donald Trump’s attorney reached out to the Kremlin for assistance in building a Trump Tower in Moscow well into the business mogul’s presidential campaign, he said Monday, adding that he discussed the project with Trump three times.

The attorney, Michael Cohen, denied that the project was related “in any way” to Trump’s campaign, though the developments appear to contradict Trump’s vehement denials of any such business connections to Russia in the past.
Previous reports have indicated that efforts to build a Trump Tower in Moscow were underway during the presidential campaign in 2015, but it had not been reported that those efforts continued into 2016.
“The Trump Moscow proposal was simply one of many development opportunities that the Trump Organization considered and ultimately rejected,” Cohen said in a written statement.
“In late January 2016, I abandoned the Moscow proposal because I lost confidence that the prospective licensee would be able to obtain the real estate, financing and government approvals necessary to bring the proposal to fruition,” he added. “It was a building proposal that did not succeed and nothing more.”
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Cohen’s own attorney provided documents to the House intelligence committee that included a reference to the Moscow project. In a second, separate statement Monday, Cohen said the proposal “was not related in any way to Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign. The decision to pursue the proposal initially, and later to abandon it, was unrelated to the Donald J. Trump for President campaign. Both I and the Trump Organization were evaluating this proposal and many others from solely a business standpoint, and rejected going forward on that basis.”
Cohen told CNN he reached out to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, describing the message as “an email that went unanswered that was solely regarding a real estate deal and nothing more.” In the second statement, Cohen said he contacted Peskov after it was suggested that the proposal would require approval by the Russian government, but that it was never provided.
Trump and Cohen discussed the proposal three times, though Cohen said he “never considered asking Mr. Trump to travel to Russia in connection with this proposal” and did not brief on him on his decision to terminate the development.
Cohen told CNN that the conversations were “short.” The first was to inform him about negotiations happening for a possible deal. Second time was to sign a letter of intent. The third time was letting him know that the deal was off after he decided himself to terminate it.
Cohen said the proposal was under consideration from September 2015 until the end of January 2016 and progressed to soliciting building designs and negotiations over financing.
The Washington Post, citing several people familiar with the proposal and new records reviewed by Trump Organization lawyers, first reported the project, which involved Russian-born developer Felix Sater.
The Post said that Sater “urged Trump to come to Moscow to tout the proposal and suggested he could get Russian President Vladimir Putin to say ‘great things’ about Trump.” Cohen said he determined that the proposal was “not feasible.”
According to the Post, in a November 2015 email to Cohen, who at the time was executive vice president of the Trump Organization, Sater also said that he and Trump Organization leaders would soon be celebrating the real estate project and Trump’s election.
In a statement Monday, Cohen said Sater has “sometimes used colorful language and has been prone to ‘salesmanship.'”
The Trump Organization has signed similar letters in the past, pursuing deals in Russia and elsewhere only to see those efforts fall through in the initial stages.
Cohen has been a central focus for investigators on the House intelligence committee who are digging into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia — he is one of only two people to have been subpoenaed by the committee so far; the other is former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Trump’s involvement and awareness of the negotiations remains unclear and there is no public record that Trump has ever spoken about the effort to build a Trump Tower in 2015 and 2016. Trump denied having any business interests in Russia in July 2016, tweeting, “for the record, I have ZERO investments in Russia.” He then reiterated that point again at a news conference the following day, telling reporters “I have nothing to do with Russia.”
However, Trump has spoken out in news interviews and in sworn depositions about his previous efforts to develop properties in Russia, which date back decades, praising the market there as ripe for investment. Messages left with the White House were not returned Monday.
Sater confirmed to CNN that he put together a real estate proposal for the development of “the world’s tallest building in Moscow” in the latter half of 2015, and presented the development to Cohen, which resulted in a signed Letter of Intent for the project. Cohen was the only member of the Trump Organization he communicated with on the project, Sater said, and added that he would not have been compensated by the Trump Organization if the project had been successful.
“During the course of our communications over several months, I routinely expressed my enthusiasm regarding what a tremendous opportunity this was for the Trump Organization,” he said. “Ultimately, in January 2016, Michael informed me that the Trump Organization decided not to move forward with the project.”
But his interest in developing a project in Russia has been well documented, and Trump himself said he wanted to build a Trump property in Moscow at the Miss Universe pageant in 2013.
Cohen said he worked with a Moscow-based development company, I.C. Expert Investment Company, through Sater. The Trump Organization would license the Trump name for the building. Other reports have detailed similar efforts between Trump and Aras Agalarov, an Azerbaijani-Russian oligarch close to Putin.
Agalarov is also tied to the June 2016 meeting Donald Trump Jr. attended on the premise that he would receive dirt on Hillary Clinton from the Kremlin — the publicist for Agalarov’s son first proposed the meeting to Trump Jr. in an email made public last month.
New details about Trump’s business deals also come as federal investigators have seized on Trump and his associates’ financial ties to Russia as one of the most fertile avenues for moving their probe forward, people familiar with the investigation told CNN earlier this month.

Trump spoke positively of Putin

While Cohen was working on the Trump Tower deal, Trump was speaking positively about working with Putin and also minimizing Russia’s aggressive military moves around the world. His openness to Putin, and his willingness to accept narratives favored by the Kremlin, contrasted strongly with not only his Republican opponents but also with the Obama administration.
“I would talk to him, I would get along with him,” Trump said about Putin at a Republican primary debate in September 2015. “I would get along with a lot of the world leaders that this country is not getting along with.”
At that debate, moderated by CNN’s Jake Tapper, Trump went on to suggest that the US stand back as Russia fought ISIS in Syria. But Obama administration officials at the time were saying that Russia wasn’t going after ISIS but instead was targeting other Syrian rebel groups, some of whom were trained and armed by the US government.
Two months later, Trump quickly pivoted when asked on the debate stage what he would do about Russia’s aggressive moves in both Syria and Ukraine, where it annexed the Crimean peninsula and has supported a separatist insurgency since 2014.
“First of all, it’s not only Russia,” he said. “We have problems with North Korea, where they actually have nuclear weapons.”
This friendly posture toward Russia continued after the Trump Tower deal was terminated. During a March 2016 debate, Trump lavished the Russian leader, who has been criticized for rigging elections, killing his enemies and crippling free speech.
“As far as Putin is concerned, I think Putin has been a very strong leader for Russia,” Trump said. “I think he has been a lot stronger than our leader, that I can tell you. I mean, for Russia. That doesn’t mean I’m endorsing Putin.”

Four young American women were attacked with acid Sunday in Marseille France

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE USA TODAY NEWS)

 

PARIS – Four young American women were attacked with acid Sunday in the French city of Marseille by a woman who has been arrested, the Marseille prosecutor’s office said.

Two of the tourists were injured in the face in the attack in the city’s main Saint Charles train station and one of them has a possible eye injury, a spokeswoman for the Marseille prosecutor’s office told The Associated Press in a phone call.

She said all four of the women, who are in their 20s, have been hospitalized, two of them for shock.

The spokeswoman said the 41-year-old female suspect did not make any extremist threats or declarations during the attack. She said there were no obvious indications that the woman’s actions were terror-related, but added that officials could not be 100 percent sure about ruling out terror links at such an early stage of the investigation.

The spokeswoman spoke on condition of anonymity, per the custom of the French judicial system.

She did not release any further details about the suspects or the victims, including where in the United States the tourists were from.

The Marseille fire department was alerted just after 11 a.m. and dispatched four vehicles and 14 firefighters to the train station, a department spokeswoman said.

Two of the Americans were “slightly injured” with acid but did not require emergency medical treatment from medics at the scene, the spokeswoman said. She requested anonymity in keeping with fire department protocol.

A spokesman for the United States embassy in Paris said the U.S. consulate in Marseille was in contact with French authorities about the attack investigation and the condition of the American women.

U.S. authorities in France are not immediately commenting further on what happened to protect the privacy of the American tourists, embassy spokesman Alex Daniels said.

Marseille is a port city in southern France that is closer to Barcelona than Paris.

In previous incidents in Marseille, a driver deliberately rammed into two bus stops last month, killing a woman, but officials said it wasn’t terror-related.

In April, French police say they thwarted an imminent “terror attack” and arrested two suspected radicals in Marseille just days before the first round of France’s presidential election. Paris prosecutor Francois Molins told reporters the two suspects “were getting ready to carry out an imminent, violent action” on French territory.

In January 2016, a 15-year-old Turkish Kurd was arrested after attacking a Jewish teacher on a Marseille street. He told police he acted in the name of the Islamic State group.

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FBI Special Council Mueller Gets Important Warrant: Trump And Family Federal Prison Bound?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BUSINESS INSIDER)

 

  • Robert Mueller obtained a search warrant for records of “inauthentic” Facebook accounts
  • It’s bad news for Russian election interference “deniers”
  • Mueller may be looking to charge specific foreign entities with a crime

FBI Special Counsel Robert Mueller reportedly obtained a search warrant for records of the “inauthentic” accounts Facebook shut down earlier this month and the targeted ads these accounts purchased during the 2016 election.

The warrant was first disclosed by the Wall Street Journal on Friday night and the news was later confirmed by CNN.

Legal experts say the revelation has enormous implications for the trajectory of Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s election interference, and whether Moscow had any help from President Donald Trump’s campaign team.

“This is big news — and potentially bad news for the Russian election interference ‘deniers,'” said Asha Rangappa, a former FBI counterintelligence agent.

Rangappa, now an associate dean at Yale Law School, explained that to obtain a search warrant a prosecutor needs to prove to a judge that there is reason to believe a crime has been committed. The prosecutor then has to show that the information being sought will provide evidence of that crime.

Mueller would not have sought a warrant targeting Facebook as a company, Rangappa noted. Rather, he would have been interested in learning more about specific accounts.

“The key here, though, is that Mueller clearly already has enough information on these accounts — and their link to a potential crime to justify forcing [Facebook] to give up the info,” she said. “That means that he has uncovered a great deal of evidence through other avenues of Russian election interference.”

It also means that Mueller is no longer looking at Russia’s election interference from a strict counterintelligence standpoint — rather, he now believes he may be able to obtain enough evidence to charge specific foreign entities with a crime.

Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti, now a partner at Thompson Coburn LLP, said that the revelation Mueller obtained a search warrant for Facebook content “may be the biggest news in the case since the Manafort raid.”

The FBI conducted a predawn July raid on the home of Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, in late July. The bureau is reportedly investigating Manafort’s financial history and overseas business dealings as part of its probe into possible collusion between the campaign and Moscow.

jared kushnerWhite House senior adviser Jared Kushner listens as President Donald Trump answer questions regarding the ongoing situation in North Korea, Friday, Aug. 11, 2017, at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J.Associated Press/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

The Facebook warrant “means that Mueller has concluded that specific foreign individuals committed a crime by making a ‘contribution’ in connection with an election,” Mariotti wrote on Saturday.

“It also means that he has evidence of that crime that convinced a federal magistrate judge of two things: first, that there was good reason to believe that the foreign individual committed the crime. Second, that evidence of the crime existed on Facebook.”

That has implications for Trump and his associates, too, Mariotti said.

“It is a crime to know that a crime is taking place and to help it succeed. That’s aiding and abetting. If any Trump associate knew about the foreign contributions that Mueller’s search warrant focused on and helped that effort in a tangible way, they could be charged.”

Congressional intelligence committees are homing in on the campaign’s data operation as a potential trove of incriminating information.

Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, told MSNBC earlier this month that he wants to know how sophisticated the Russian-bought ads were — in terms of their content and targets — to determine whether they had any help from the Trump campaign.

The House Intelligence Committee also wants to interview the digital director for Trump’s campaign, Brad Parscale, who worked closely with Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Kushner was put in charge of the campaign’s entire data operation and is  now being scrutinized by the FBI over his contacts with Russia’s ambassador and the CEO of a sanctioned Russian bank in December.

Facebook said in its initial statement that about 25% of the ads purchased by Russians during the election “were geographically targeted,” and many analysts have found it difficult to believe that foreign entities would have had the kind of granular knowledge of American politics necessary to target specific demographics and voting precincts.

In a post-election interview, Kushner told Forbes that he had been keenly interested in Facebook’s “micro-targeting” capabilities from early on.

“I called somebody who works for one of the technology companies that I work with, and I had them give me a tutorial on how to use Facebook micro-targeting,” Kushner said.

“We brought in Cambridge Analytica,” he continued. “I called some of my friends from Silicon Valley who were some of the best digital marketers in the world, a nd I asked them how to scale this stuff . . . We basically had to build a $400 million operation with 1,500 people operating in 50 states, in five months to then be taken apart. We started really from scratch.”

Two criminal cases — one in China, one in Taiwan Show Huge Differences In Legal Systems

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE LOS ANGLES TIMES)

 

Two criminal cases — one in China, one in Taiwan — show a deeper rift between the political systems

Ralph Jennings

Courts in China and Taiwan, rivals for 70 years, each took a criminal state-security case this week involving a suspect from the other side, and outcomes so far are baring schisms between the political systems that will complicate already strained relations.

A court in China’s Hunan province heard the case Monday against Lee Ming-che, a Taiwanese activist charged with subversion of state power. He faces 10 years in a Chinese prison if convicted of using social media since 2012 to advocate multiparty democracy for the Communist country.

On Friday, the district court in Taipei sentenced Chinese national Zhou Hongxu to 14 months in prison for endangering state security. The 29-year-old MBA holder tried to bribe a government worker to pass information to China, a court statement says.

These cases are reminders of the festering divide between Taiwan — with its 30-year democracy — and China’s Communist rule. In Taiwan, it raises support for its autonomy from Beijing and frustrates China’s goal of uniting the two lands. China claims sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan.

“These cases will remind people China’s not a free country ruled by law — maybe politically motivated — and people will ask the government here how to handle that,” said Gratiana Jung, senior political researcher with the Taipei think tank Yuanta-Polaris Research Institute.

Lee, a 42-year-old philosophy major who went missing on a trip to China in March, would not face prosecution in Taiwan for advocating a different type of government. China, however, regards vocal democracy advocates as threats to Communist rule.

“This is an issue about which the [Communist] Party is hyper-sensitive and maximally heavy-handed,” said Denny Roy, senior fellow at the East-West Center think tank in Honolulu. “Mr. Lee unfortunately walked into a merciless buzz saw.”

The hearing, which produced video footage shown outside court, could worry Taiwanese tourists in China as well as the 1 million to 3 million people who live there long term, usually for business, said Shane Lee, political scientist with Chang Jung Christian University in Taiwan. “I think it’s getting harder and harder to see why these things happen,” he said.

The Chinese spy case, though hardly a first for the two sides, could stir concern that Beijing is trying to undermine Taiwan further during a low point in overall relations.

China resents Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen for rejecting Beijing’s condition for dialogue. That condition holds that both sides belong to a single country called China. China sees dialogue, which happened regularly from 2008 to 2015, as a conduit to eventual unification.

The two sides have been ruled separately since Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists rebased in Taiwan after losing the Chinese civil war in the 1940s.

“The biggest thing people will take away this week is awareness of the legal process,” Taiwan lawmaker Lee Chun-yi said. The Taiwanese activist’s hearing will be regarded as a “show” rather than a legal process, he said, and “they’ll trust China less.”

The bribery case, he said, raises questions about how many more people like the man sentenced Friday are still operating in Taiwan.

Most Taiwanese have said in government surveys over the past two years they oppose unification with China. Many prefer their democratic freedoms, which China cannot offer.

Washington-based advocacy group Freedom House gave China a score of 15 and Taiwan a 91 in this year’s rankings of the strongest political rights and civil liberties.

Since Tsai took office in May 2016, Beijing has sent an aircraft carrier near the island about 100 miles away, persuaded two allies to cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan and scaled back Taiwan-bound tourism.

The Taiwan government’s Mainland Affairs Council, a China policymaking body, anticipated the Lee case would affect relations with China.

“The Mainland Affairs Council appeals to mainland China after today’s court hearing to respond appropriately to the common hope from all circles and carefully act in accordance with universal values as well as trends in the just handling of human rights,” it said in a statement Monday.

The Chinese national’s sentence, about a quarter of the maximum for his crime, will show that Taiwan is not using the case to punish China, analysts say. The Tsai government has avoided directly offending Beijing even as talks have ended in a stalemate.

“It’s a very funny period of time to watch cross-Strait relations,” Shane Lee said, referring to China-Taiwan ties. “We’ve been trying to show goodwill toward China.”

Gold miners at a bar bragged about slaughtering members of a reclusive Brazilian tribe

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

 

Authorities: Gold miners at a bar bragged about slaughtering members of a reclusive Brazilian tribe

 September 11 at 4:59 PM

(G.Miranda/Funai/Survival International)

The outside world might never have heard about the suspected massacre if not for some barroom boasting by a group of miners fresh from working an illegal gig in the Amazon jungle.

The garimpeiros had bragged that they’d come across members of a reclusive, uncontacted Amazonian tribe near Brazil’s border with Peru and Colombia, authorities say.

The tribe members were greater in number — there were as many as 10 — but the gold miners said they’d gotten the better of them and killed the entire lot, said Carla de Lello Lorenzi, communications officer for Survival International in Brazil.

The miners cut the tribe members’ bodies so that they wouldn’t float, Lorenzi said, then dropped them into the Jandiatuba River.

The miners had collected tools and jewelry from the indigenous dead, corroborating their story.

An unidentified person who overheard the story was disturbed by it, recorded the miners’ conversation and turned the audio over to authorities. They have since launched an investigation into what, if confirmed, would be one of the largest mass murders of uncontacted people in decades.

Advocates for stricter protective measures say the suspected massacre is evidence that the Brazilian government isn’t doing enough to safeguard the more than 100 vulnerable tribes that have never made contact with the outside world — and have no desire to.

“If these reports are confirmed, [Brazilian President Michel Temer] and his government bear a heavy responsibility for this genocidal attack,” said Survival International’s director, Stephen Corry. Corry said the government has slashed funds for an agency that protects the tribes, leaving them “defenseless against thousands of invaders — gold miners, ranchers and loggers — who are desperate to steal and ransack their lands.”

“All these tribes should have had their lands properly recognized and protected years ago — the government’s open support for those who want to open up indigenous territories is utterly shameful, and is setting indigenous rights in Brazil back decades.”

According to the New York Times, the government closed five of the 19 bases it uses to monitor uncontacted tribes and prevent incursions by miners and loggers.

Three of the closed bases were in the Javari Valley, home to more uncontacted tribes than anywhere else on Earth.

For obvious reasons, little is known about the indigenous group involved in the suspected killings.

Locally, Lorenzi said, they’re known as Fleicheros, or “the ones who throw arrows,” but their language and customs — and how they interact with at least two other uncontacted tribes in the immediate area — remain a mystery.

But the tribe members are not the only people in that part of the Amazon, Lorenzi said. It is illegal to mine there, but prospectors have brought earth-moving equipment to the area, leaving giant craters that can be seen from the sky.

They also bring violence, according to the government, which says garimpeiros are responsible for threats, child prostitution and killings.

Even their nonviolent presence in the protected lands can be dangerous to uncontacted tribes, which lack the immunity to fight the diseases that miners and loggers bring.

Any contact can be contentious and even violent, with the uncontacted usually getting the worst of it because, as Lorenzi told The Post, “it’s usually bows and arrows against guns.”

Details about those contacts remain hazy, because they involve two groups of people unlikely to speak to authorities.

Still, tales of the worst violence sometimes get out. Survival International documented the story of Marisa Yanomami and Leida Yanomami, survivors of the Haximu massacre in 1993:

“The gold-miners killed our brothers and sisters and also killed our father with machetes; some of them were killed with guns,” they told the organization. “After the first 10 people died, at the start of the war, we moved to another place to hide and stayed in our shabono(communal house), but the next day, the miners appeared again.”

In a statement on its website, the Brazilian National Indian Foundation, or Funai, said it had prompted the federal public prosecutor’s office to investigate the most recent allegation.

The government has also trumpeted its latest operation against incursions on protected lands. In August, it shut down an illegal mining operation. Soldiers destroyed four dredging machines and fined mining operators $1 million for environmental crimes.

Investigations are tough undertakings. The site of the suspected killing, for example, is a 12-hour trek by boat during the dry season. And it involves a group of people with their own language and a centuries-long wariness of outsiders.

Even the details of the killing are sketchy, Lorenzi said. And the vacuum of information speaks to another fear advocates have: that these types of violent interactions happen a lot more frequently than is reported.

“That’s highly probable, yes, because it’s so difficult to document,” she said. “It’s the uncontacted versus illegal miners who think they can get away with anything.

“Unfortunately, a lot of the time they do.”

Read more: 

Before Irma hit, a stranger gave the last generator to a crying woman for her ailing father

Archaeologists unearth a 500-year-old tower of skulls — and another gruesome Aztec mystery

A researcher discovered how cave men cleaned their teeth. It will make you want to brush yours.

Was Anne Frank’s family betrayed? After 72 years, historians have a new theory.

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