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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange made a brief court appearance Monday in his bid to prevent extradition to the United States to face serious espionage charges.

He and his lawyers complained they weren't being given enough time to meet to plan their battle against U.S. prosecutors seeking to put him on trial for WikiLeaks' publication of hundreds of thousands of confidential documents.

The 48-year-old was brought to court from Belmarsh Prison on the outskirts of London. He saluted the public gallery, which was packed with ardent supporters including the musician MIA, when he entered the courtroom. He later raised his right fist in defiance when he was taken to holding cells to meet with lawyer Gareth Peirce.

Peirce said officials at Belmarsh Prison are making it extremely difficult for her to meet with Assange.

“We have pushed Belmarsh in every way —- it is a breach of a defendant's rights,” she said.

Assange refrained from making political statements. He confirmed his name and date of birth, and at one point said he didn't understand all of the proceedings against him during the brief hearing at Westminster Magistrates' Court.

He faces 18 charges in the U.S., including conspiring to hack into a Pentagon computer. He has denied wrongdoing, claiming he was acting as a journalist entitled to First Amendment protection.

Many advocacy groups have supported Assange's claim that the charges would have a chilling effect on freedom of the press.



Crews could start building a private border wall in South Texas within the coming days following a federal judge’s ruling Thursday that lifted a restraining order against the project.

U.S. District Judge Randy Crane’s order was the second federal ruling in two days in favor of border barriers. On Wednesday, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals lifted a lower court’s stay that had prevented President Donald Trump’s administration from diverting $3.6 billion from military construction projects to fund 175 miles (280 kilometers) of border wall.

While the White House on Thursday celebrated the appeals court’s ruling, saying it rightfully lifted an “illegitimate nationwide injunction,” Crane’s ruling actually went against the U.S. government’s position.

Fisher Industries, a North Dakota-based construction firm, wants to install 3 miles (4.8 kilometers) of steel posts about 35 feet (10 meters) from the U.S. bank of the Rio Grande, the river that forms the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas. The company’s president, Tommy Fisher, wants to spend $40 million on the private border wall — originally promoted by a pro-Trump online fundraising group — to prove that his company can build barriers more effectively.

The U.S. government sued to stop Fisher on the grounds that building so close to the Rio Grande risked changing the flow of the river and potentially pushing floodwaters into Mexico, in violation of treaty obligations. The U.S. attorney’s office argued the project could shift the river and the international boundary, which violated the president’s authority “to conduct the foreign relations of the United States.”

Existing segments of fencing and the small sections that the government is currently building typically run along the Rio Grande levee or through property a significant distance away from the river. The U.S. is currently working to seize private land  to build more sections of wall in Texas.

Crane issued a restraining order in December, but lifted that order Thursday. He also declined to grant a restraining order at the request of the National Butterfly Center, a nonprofit located next to the South Texas construction site. The butterfly center and environmentalists warn building a border barrier so close to the river could worsen erosion and potentially damage other land.


The Montana Supreme Court on Wednesday reversed a $35 million judgment against the Jehovah’s Witnesses for not reporting a girl’s sexual abuse to authorities.

Montana law requires officials, including clergy, to report child abuse to state authorities when there is reasonable cause for suspicion. However, the state’s high court said in its 7-0 decision that the Jehovah’s Witnesses fall under an exemption to that law in this case.

“Clergy are not required to report known or suspected child abuse if the knowledge results from a congregation member’s confidential communication or confession and if the person making the statement does not consent to disclosure,” Justice Beth Baker wrote in the opinion.

The ruling overturns a 2018 verdict awarding compensatory and punitive damages to the woman who was abused as a child in the mid-2000s by a member of the Thompson Falls Jehovah’s Witness congregation. The woman had accused the church’s national organization of ordering Montana clergy members not to report her abuse to authorities.

The Montana case is one of dozens that have been filed nationwide over the past decade saying Jehovah’s Witnesses mismanaged or covered up the sexual abuse of children.

The attorney for the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Joel Taylor, said in a statement that there are no winners in a case involving child abuse.

”No child should ever be subjected to such a debased crime,“ Taylor said. “Tragically, it happens, and when it does Jehovah’s Witnesses follow the law. This is what the Montana Supreme Court has established. ”

The woman’s attorney, Jim Molloy, read a prepared statement: “This is an extremely disappointing decision, particularly at this time in our society when religious and other institutions are covering up the sexual abuse of children.”

The Montana woman’s abuse came after the congregation’s elders disciplined the man over allegations of abusing two other family members in the 1990s and early 2000s, the woman’s lawsuit said.


A Greek court on Wednesday postponed the retrial of seven suspects on murder charges over the 2017 fatal beating of a Texan tourist on an island resort to allow a lawyer newly hired by the victim's family to familiarize himself with the case.

The court in the western port town of Patras postponed the case until Jan. 13.

Six of the men -- five Serbian nationals and a British man of Serbian origin -- had been convicted by a first instance court last year and sentenced to between five and 15 years in prison, but four have since been released. The seventh defendant, a Greek barman, had been acquitted. A public prosecutor had ordered the retrial of all seven, deeming the sentences too lenient.

Bakari Henderson, a 22-year-old from Austin, died in July 2017 after being beaten in the street following an argument in a bar in the Laganas resort area of Zakynthos island.


President Donald Trump got a reprieve in a former “Apprentice” contestant’s lawsuit over his response to her sexual assault allegations, when appeals judges gave him permission to appeal to New York’s highest court and put proceedings on hold in the meantime.

Trump’s lawyers have been trying to get Summer Zervos’ defamation suit delayed through his presidency or dismissed altogether.

Courts so far have said no, but Trump’s attorneys can now try to persuade the top-level state Court of Appeals to hear the case. Tuesday’s ruling also holds off other pretrial action until the high court decides. Trump had been due to undergo sworn pretrial questioning by Jan. 31, under an agreement the two sides reached last fall.

Trump’s lawyers said they were pleased with the ruling.

“We believe that the Court of Appeals will agree that the U.S. Constitution bars state court actions while the president is in office,” Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP said in a statement.



A Cypriot court on Tuesday handed a four-month suspended sentence to a 19-year-old British woman who was found guilty of public mischief after authorities said she made up claims that she was raped by up to a dozen Israelis.

The woman continues to insist that she was raped, and that she was coerced into withdrawing her statement. Her lawyers say she will appeal.

Judge Michalis Papathanasiou said although the public mischief charge was a serious offense, he decided to give the woman a “second chance” because she admitted through her lawyers during mitigation that she made a mistake in making the false rape claim.

He also cited other reasons, including her young age, immaturity, clean criminal record, personal circumstances, psychological condition and the fact that she had already spent a month in detention during the six months that legal proceedings including her trial lasted.

The judge said he also took into account that the huge publicity that her case has received in U.K. and Israeli media had weighed against the woman, who had to put her academic career on hold as she was due to start university in September.

Papathanasiou also fined the woman 140 euros ($156) and told her defense lawyers that the sentence could be activated if she commits another serious offense within three years.



The Vermont Supreme Court will be hearing a case that tests the validity of nearly a dozen newly merged school districts.
   
The court is scheduled to hear the case Jan. 15 that will look at the education reform law, known as Act 46, that encouraged, provided incentives for and compelled some school districts to merge.

Lawyers from 33 school districts, seven select boards, one planning commission and several residents, are seeking to block the law. It took effect last July 1.

The people and groups who brought the suits will argue the law is unconstitutional.

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