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Court OKs extradition of man linked to Venezuela's Maduro
Court Watch | 2020/08/04 17:57
A court in the West African nation of Cape Verde has approved the extradition to the United States of a Colombian businessman wanted on suspicion of money laundering on behalf of Venezuela's socialist government, his lawyers said Tuesday.

The court made the decision to extradite Alex Saab on Friday, but his legal team said in a statement it was informed about the decision only on Monday. They said they would appeal.

Saab was arrested in June when his private jet stopped to refuel in the former Portuguese colony on the way to Iran.
Saab was waiting for the court to schedule a hearing at which he could argue against extradition, according to the statement sent by the legal team, which is led by former Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon.

The legal team described the extradition order as “alarming” and accused Cape Verdean authorities of denying him his legal rights. The defense lawyers plan to appeal to Cape Verde’s Supreme Court and, if necessary, the Constitutional Court, the statement said.

U.S. officials trying to reignite their campaign to oust Maduro believe Saab holds many secrets about how Venezuelan president, his family and top aides allegedly siphoned off millions of dollars in government contracts at a time of widespread hunger in the oil-rich nation.

Venezuela’s government had protested the arrest of Saab, 48, who it said was on a “humanitarian mission” to buy food and medical supplies. Saab came onto the radar of U.S. authorities a few years ago after amassing a large number of contracts with Maduro’s government.

Federal prosecutors in Miami indicted him and a business partner last year on money laundering charges connected to an alleged bribery scheme that pocketed more than $350 million from a low-income housing project for the Venezuelan government that was never built.



Lawsuit: Trump still blocks Twitter critics after court loss
Court Watch | 2020/08/02 00:57
An organization that successfully proved President Donald Trump violated the law when he blocked Twitter critics sued him anew on Friday, saying he continues to reject some accounts two years after losing in court.

The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University sued Trump a second time in Manhattan federal court over use of his @realDonaldTrump Twitter account, saying the president and his staff continue to block some accounts.

Some individuals identified in a lawsuit filed in 2017, along with dozens of others who were blocked on the basis of viewpoint, have been unblocked, the lawsuit said.

But lawyers say the White House has refused to unblock those who can't identify which tweet led them to be blocked and others who were blocked before Trump was sworn in more than three years ago.

“It shouldn’t take another lawsuit to get the president to respect the rule of law and to stop blocking people simply because he doesn’t like what they’re posting,” said Katie Fallow, senior staff attorney at the Knight Institute, in a release.

The lawsuit identified as plaintiffs five individuals who remain blocked, including a digital specialist with the American Federation of Teachers, a freelance writer and researcher, a former teacher, an actor and Donald Moynihan, a professor of public policy at Georgetown University.

Moynihan could not point to a specific tweet that caused him to be blocked because he periodically deletes tweets, the lawsuit said. It added that when the institute pressed the White House to unblock Moynihan, the request was rejected.


Court hears testimony on whether Assange was spied on
Court Watch | 2020/07/27 19:56
Spain’s National Court heard testimony Monday in an investigation into whether a Spanish company was hired to spy on Julian Assange during the seven years the WikiLeaks founder spent in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London.

The court is investigating whether David Morales, a Spaniard, and his Undercover Global S.L. security agency invaded the privacy of Assange and his visitors at the embassy by secretly recording their meetings. The intelligence that Morales’ company collected is suspected of being handed over to third parties, according to court papers.

Among those set to face the court's questions Monday were prominent Spanish lawyer Baltasar Garzón, who is part of Assange’s legal team; former Ecuadorean consul in London Fidel Narváez; and Stella Morris, a legal adviser and Assange’s partner, who revealed earlier this year that she had two children with him while he lived in the embassy. Staff of the Spanish security company are due to testify on Tuesday.

Assange, whose lawyers filed a complaint at the court to trigger the investigation, is in a British prison after being removed from the embassy last year. He is fighting extradition to the United States, where he faces espionage charges over the activities of WikiLeaks.

The court is conducting an investigation, begun last year, before deciding whether there is evidence of wrongdoing that warrants a trial.

Undercover Global, also known as UC Global, was hired by Ecuador’s government to provide security at the Ecuadorean embassy in London between 2015 and 2018. Its main task was to secure the property’s perimeter, including the deployment of security staff, due to Assange’s presence inside, court papers say.



US Supreme Court denies Nevada church’s appeal of virus rule
Court Issues | 2020/07/25 02:57
A sharply divided U.S. Supreme Court denied a rural Nevada church’s request late Friday to strike down as unconstitutional a 50-person cap on worship services as part of the state’s ongoing response to the coronavirus.

In a 5-4 decision, the high court refused to grant the request from the Christian church east of Reno to be subjected to the same COVID-19 restrictions in Nevada that allow casinos, restaurants and other businesses to operate at 50% of capacity with proper social distancing.

Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley argued that the hard cap on religious gatherings was an unconstitutional violation of its parishioners’ First Amendment rights to express and exercise their beliefs.

Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the liberal majority in denying the request without explanation.

Three justices wrote strongly worded dissenting opinions on behalf of the four conservatives who said they would have granted the injunctive relief while the court fully considers the merits of the case.

“That Nevada would discriminate in favor of the powerful gaming industry and its employees may not come as a surprise, but this Court’s willingness to allow such discrimination is disappointing,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in a dissent joined by Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh.

“We have a duty to defend the Constitution, and even a public health emergency does not absolve us of that responsibility,” Alito said. “The Constitution guarantees the free exercise of religion. It says nothing about freedom to play craps or blackjack, to feed tokens into a slot machine or to engage in any other game of chance.”

Kavanaugh also wrote his own dissent, as did Justice Neil Gorsuch, who said today’s world “with a pandemic upon us, poses unusual challenges.”

“But there is no world in which the Constitution permits Nevada to favor Caesars Palace over Calvary Chapel,” Gorsuch wrote.

David Cortman, senior counsel for Georgia-based Alliance Defending Freedom representing the church, said in an email sent to The Associated Press late Friday that they were disappointed in the ruling but will continue to work to protect Calvary Chapel and others “from discriminatory policies that put religious groups at the back of the line for reopening.”

“When the government treats churches worse than casinos, gyms, and indoor amusement parks in its COVID-19 response, it clearly violates the Constitution,” he said.

The governor’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.


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