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A far-right extremist in Germany was convicted Thursday and sentenced to life in prison for the murder of a regional politician who had advocated helping refugees — a brazen killing that shocked the country.

In its verdict against 47-year-old Stephan Ernst, the Frankfurt state court noted the “particular severity” of the crime, meaning that he will likely not be eligible for release after 15 years as is typical under German law, the dpa news agency reported.

During his trial, Ernst admitted to the June 1, 2019 shooting of Walter Luebcke, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party who led the regional administration in the Kassel area of central Germany — though he gave three different versions of events.

Luebcke was targeted because he had been outspoken in favor of helping refugees. Prosecutors said Ernst had attended a 2015 town hall event where the politician had defended the German government’s decision to allow hundreds of thousands of asylum-seekers into the country.

The court found that Ernst “projected xenophobia onto Dr. Luebcke.”

Ernst shot Luebcke on the politician’s porch and he died hours later.

The German government warned after the Luebcke killing and other attacks — including one on a synagogue on Yom Kippur, Judaism’s holiest day, in October 2019 — that far-right extremism posed a significant security threat in the country.

An accomplice who prosecutors alleged was with Ernst at the scene of the crime, identified only as Markus H. due to German privacy laws, was convicted of weapons violations and sentenced to 18 months probation.

H. had been charged with being an accessory to murder, but his attorney argued he wasn’t involved and he was only found guilty of the lesser charge.

Ernst was cleared of separate charges of stabbing and seriously wounding an Iraqi refugee in 2016. Presiding Judge Thomas Sagebiel said there are circumstances that point to him as the perpetrator, “but no sustainable evidence.”

“Today’s verdict encourages me and at the same time is a reminder to us all — we will not let our country be destroyed by right-wing terrorists and their intellectual instigators,” said Armin Laschet, the leader of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party.

Laschet said that “the slaying of Walter Luebcke was not just an abhorrent, inhuman crime against an individual, but an attack on us all.” He added that it’s important to stand behind other local politicians who are exposed to “personal hostility.”


A Chinese court on Monday sentenced a former lawyer who reported on the early stage of the coronavirus outbreak to four years in prison on charges of “picking fights and provoking trouble,” one of her lawyers said.

The Pudong New Area People’s Court in the financial hub of Shanghai gave the sentence to Zhang Zhan following accusations she spread false information, gave interviews to foreign media, disrupted public order and “maliciously manipulated” the outbreak.

Lawyer Zhang Keke confirmed the sentence but said it was “inconvenient” to provide details — usually an indication that the court has issued a partial gag order. He said the court did not ask Zhang whether she would appeal, nor did she indicate whether she would.

Zhang, 37, traveled to Wuhan in February and posted on various social media platforms about the outbreak that is believed to have emerged in the central Chinese city late last year.

She was arrested in May amid tough nationwide measures aimed at curbing the outbreak and heavy censorship to deflect criticism of the government’s initial response. Zhang reportedly went on a prolonged hunger strike while in detention, prompting authorities to forcibly feed her, and is said to be in poor health.

China has been accused of covering up the initial outbreak and delaying the release of crucial information, allowing the virus to spread and contributing to the pandemic that has sickened more than 80 million people worldwide and killed almost 1.8 million. Beijing vigorously denies the accusations, saying it took swift action that bought time for the rest of the world to prepare.

China’s ruling Communist Party tightly controls the media and seeks to block dissemination of information it hasn’t approved for release. In the early days of the outbreak, authorities reprimanded several Wuhan doctors for “rumor-mongering” after they alerted friends on social media. The best known of the doctors, Li Wenliang, later succumbed to COVID-19.


A British woman accused of stabbing her husband to death at their Malaysian resort home entered court Monday for the start of a murder trial that could end with her sentenced to be hanged.

Wearing a mask and handcuffed, Samantha Jones, 51, was escorted by police into the courthouse in Alor Setar in the northern state of Kedah.

She was charged after police found a blood-stained kitchen knife in the couple’s home where John William Jones was found dead on Oct. 18, 2018.

Police have said Jones confessed she stabbed her husband in the chest during a heated argument.

The couple moved to the tropical Langkawi island 11 years ago under Malaysia My Second Home program, which gives foreigners long-staying visas.

A conviction for murder carries a mandatory death sentence by hanging.



The U.S. Supreme Court will hear an appeal Wednesday by an Arizona death row inmate who is seeking a new sentencing trial, arguing the horrific physical abuse that he suffered as a child wasn't fully considered when he was first sentenced.

The appeal of James Erin McKinney could affect as many as 15 of Arizona's 104 death row inmates. Attorneys say the Arizona courts used an unconstitutional test in examining the mitigating factors considered during the sentencing trials of the inmates.

The Supreme Court has ruled both that juries, not judges, must impose death sentences, and that mitigating factors, including childhood deprivations, must be factored into sentencing decisions.

McKinney's attorneys say the Arizona Supreme Court erred last year in upholding his sentences after a federal appellate decision concluded that the state court used an unconstitutional test in examining the mitigating factors considered during his sentencing.

Prosecutors said McKinney shouldn't get a sentencing retrial, arguing his case was considered officially closed years before the 2002 Supreme Court decision that required death penalty decisions to be made by jurors, not judges.

Attorneys say the decision in McKinney's case could affect other Arizona death row inmates who could challenge the test used in evaluating the mitigating factors considered during sentencing. But it's unclear whether the ruling would affect death penalty cases from other states.

Jordon Steiker, a law professor at the University of Texas who filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting McKinney's position, said he doesn't think the McKinney decision will have much of an effect on cases outside of Arizona.


The lawyer for U.S. rapper A$AP Rocky says he is “disappointed” by the decision of a Stockholm court to find his client guilty of assault for his role in a June 30 street brawl in the city.

Slobodan Jovicic says he had hoped for a “complete acquittal.”

Jovicic told reporters that it was too early to say whether the ruling from the Stockholm District Court will be appealed.

A Swedish court that found American rapper A$AP Rocky guilty of assault for his role in a June 30 street brawl in Stockholm says he and his two bodyguards “assaulted the victim by hitting and kicking him as he lay on the ground.”

During the trial, prosecutors played video footage that showed the rapper, whose real name is Rakim Mayers, throwing a young man to the ground.

Per Lennerbrant, the presiding judge, told a news conference that “the evidence in the case has been complex.”

The victim, 19-year-old Mustafa Jafari, was struck in the back of the head with a bottle but “it could not be established by whom,” he said, adding that “this has affected the assessment of the seriousness of the crime.”

The three avoided prison sentences. They were given conditional sentences and also ordered to a pay a total of 12,500 kronor ($1,307) in compensation.



Wisconsin liberals hope to take a key step this spring toward breaking a long conservative stranglehold on the state's Supreme Court, in an election that could also serve as a barometer of the political mood in a key presidential swing state.

If the liberal-backed candidate wins the April 2 state Supreme Court race, liberals would be in prime position to take over the court when the next seat comes up in 2020 — during a presidential primary when Democrats expect to benefit from strong turnout.

The bitterly partisan court, which conservatives have controlled since 2008, has upheld several polarizing Republican-backed laws, none more so than former GOP Gov. Scott Walker's law that essentially eliminated collective bargaining for public workers.

If liberals can win in April and again in 2020, they would have the majority until at least 2025.

"It is absolutely critical we win this race," liberal attorney Tim Burns, who lost a Wisconsin Supreme Court race in 2018, said of the April election. "It does set us up for next year to get a court that's likely to look very differently on issues of the day like voters' rights and gerrymandering."

The court could face big decisions on several partisan issues in the coming years, including on the next round of redistricting that follows the 2020 Census, lawsuits challenging the massive Foxconn Technology Group project backed by President Donald Trump, and attempts to undo laws that Republicans passed during a recent lame-duck session to weaken the incoming Democratic governor before he took office.


India's Supreme Court on Thursday struck down a colonial-era law that made gay sex punishable by up to 10 years in prison, a landmark victory for gay rights that one judge said would "pave the way for a better future."

The 1861 law, a relic of Victorian England that hung on long after the end of British colonialism, was a weapon used to discriminate against India's gay community, the judges ruled in a unanimous decision.

"Constitutional morality cannot be martyred at the altar of social morality," Chief Justice Dipak Misra said, reading the verdict. "Social morality cannot be used to violate the fundamental rights of even a single individual."

As the news spread, the streets outside the courthouse erupted in cheers as opponents of the law danced and waved flags.

"We feel as equal citizens now," said activist Shashi Bhushan. "What happens in our bedroom is left to us."

In its ruling, the court said sexual orientation was a "biological phenomenon" and that discrimination on that basis violated fundamental rights.

"We cannot change history but can pave a way for a better future," said Justice D.Y. Chandrachud.

The law known as Section 377 held that intercourse between members of the same sex was against the order of nature. The five petitioners who challenged the law said it was discriminatory and led to gays living in fear of harassment and persecution.

Jessica Stern, the executive director of the New York-based rights group OutRight Action International, said the original law had reverberated far beyond India, including in countries where gay people still struggle for acceptance.

"The sodomy law that became the model everywhere, from Uganda to Singapore to the U.K. itself, premiered in India, becoming the confusing and dehumanizing standard replicated around the world," she said in a statement, saying "today's historic outcome will reverberate across India and the world."

The court's ruling struck down the law's sections on consensual gay sex, but let stand segments that deal with such issues as bestiality.

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