The trial of Michael Kovrig, the second of two Canadians detained in China for more than two years, is underway in Beijing in a closed courtroom, a senior Canadian diplomat said Monday.
China arrested Kovrig, a former diplomat, and fellow Canadian Michael Spavor in December 2018, soon after Canadian police detained Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Chinese tech company Huawei, on a U.S. warrant.
Beijing insists the detentions are not linked to the arrest of Meng, who remains under house arrest in Vancouver as she fights extradition to the United States.
Global Affairs Canada confirmed Sunday that Canadian officials won’t be granted permission to attend.
“We’ve requested access to Michael Kovrig’s hearing repeatedly but that access is being denied” over national security reasons, said Jim Nickel, chargé d’affaires at the Embassy of Canada to China, outside the court on Monday in Beijing.
“Now we see that the court process itself is not transparent. We’re very troubled by this.”
In a show of solidarity, 28 diplomats from 26 countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, Netherlands and Czech Republic, turned up outside the Beijing No. 2 Intermediate Court on Monday, which was marked by a heavy police presence.
“[U.S.] President [Joe] Biden and [Secretary of State Antony] Blinken have said that in dealing with the cases of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, the United States will treat these two individuals as if they were American citizens,” William Klein, chargé d’affaires of the U.S. embassy in China, told reporters as he stood beside Nickel.
“We are here to show solidarity. Arbitrary detention is not the way,” another diplomat told Reuters, declining to be named as she was not authorized to speak on the record about the Canadians’ trial.
More than 50 countries signed a declaration in February to condemn the arbitrary detention of foreign citizens for political purposes.
Some diplomats took off their face masks as they posed for a group photo outside the court, with each shouting out which country they represented to help reporters identify them.
Verdict to come in Spavor trial
On Friday, Spavor, a businessman, underwent a trial behind closed doors in a court in the northeastern city of Dandong. The court said it will set a date later for a verdict.
Canadian and other diplomats were not allowed to attend Spavor’s trial on what China said were national security grounds, a lack of transparency that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called “completely unacceptable.”
Observers have said the likely convictions of the two men could ultimately facilitate a diplomatic agreement whereby they are released and sent back to Canada. Chinese courts have a conviction rate of over 99 per cent.
Earlier Sunday, Vina Nadjibulla, Kovrig’s wife, praised recent public comments from Trudeau, Biden and Blinken in support of “the two Michaels,” as they have become known around the world.
But Nadjibulla said in an interview on CBC’s Rosemary Barton Live that she wants to see those words translated into actions that secure their release as soon as possible.
“Solidarity and support and words are good, and we must continue to say those things,” Nadjibulla told host Rosemary Barton.
“But what really will make a difference for Michael [Kovrig] and for Michael Spavor now are actions and concerted diplomatic effort on the part of all three governments to find a path forward.”
WATCH | Michael Kovrig’s wife calls for end of detention ahead of trial:
The wife of Canadian Michael Kovrig, who was to stand trial Monday in China for alleged espionage, is calling for a diplomatic solution to end the detention of her husband as well as fellow jailed Canadian Michael Spavor. 2:01
A second former aide has come forward with sexual harassment allegations against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who responded with a statement Saturday saying he never made advances toward her and never intended to be inappropriate.
Charlotte Bennett, a health policy adviser in the Democratic governor’s administration until November, told The New York Times that Cuomo asked her inappropriate questions about her sex life, including whether she had ever had sex with older men.
Another former aide, Lindsey Boylan, a former deputy secretary for economic development and special adviser to the governor, recently accused Cuomo of subjecting her to an unwanted kiss and inappropriate comments. Cuomo denied the allegations.
Cuomo said in a statement Saturday that Bennett was a “hardworking and valued member of our team during COVID” and that “she has every right to speak out.”
He said he had intended to be a mentor for Bennett, who is 25.
For those wondering what it’s like to work for the Cuomo admin, read <a href=”https://twitter.com/LindseyBoylan?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@LindseyBoylan</a>’s story. <a href=”https://t.co/PfWhTJgHuU”>https://t.co/PfWhTJgHuU</a>
“I never made advances toward Ms. Bennett nor did I ever intend to act in any way that was inappropriate,” Cuomo’s statement said. “The last thing I would ever have wanted was to make her feel any of the things that are being reported.”
Cuomo, however, said he had authorized an outside review of Bennett’s allegations.
The governor’s special counsel, Beth Garvey, said that review would be conducted by a former federal judge, Barbara Jones.
“I ask all New Yorkers to await the findings of the review so that they know the facts before making any judgements,” Cuomo said. “I will have no further comment until the review has concluded.”
‘Horribly uncomfortable and scared’
Bennett told the Times that her most disturbing interaction with Cuomo happened last June 5 when she was alone with him in his Albany, N.Y., office. She said Cuomo started asking her about her personal life, her thoughts on romantic relationships, including whether age was a factor, and said he was open to relationships with women in their 20s.
Bennett said she also dodged a question from Cuomo about hugging by saying she missed hugging her parents. She said Cuomo never touched her.
“I understood that the governor wanted to sleep with me, and felt horribly uncomfortable and scared,” Bennett told the Times. “And was wondering how I was going to get out of it and assumed it was the end of my job.”
Bennett said she informed Cuomo’s chief of staff, Jill DesRosiers, about the interaction less than a week later. She said she was transferred to another job on the opposite side of the Capitol. At the end of June, she said she also gave a statement to a special counsel for Cuomo.
Garvey acknowledged that the complaint had been made and that Bennett had been transferred as a result to a position in which she had already been interested.
Bennett told the newspaper she eventually decided not to push for any further action by the administration. She said she liked her new job and “wanted to move on.”
The allegations did not result in any action taken against Cuomo at the time.
Jones, who will oversee the investigation, was appointed to the bench in 1995 by then-U.S. President Bill Clinton. As a judge, she struck down a portion of the Defence of Marriage Act denying federal recognition of same-sex marriage in a ruling later upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.
After retiring, she joined the law firm Bracewell LLP, where her work focuses on corporate compliance and investigations.
Her arbitration work included a 2014 decision throwing out Ray Rice’s suspension by the NFL for punching his fiance in an elevator in an attack recorded on video.
A 17-year-old from Illinois who is charged with killing two people during a protest in Wisconsin and whose case has become a rallying cry for some conservatives posted $ 2 million US bail Friday and was released from custody.
Kyle Rittenhouse is accused of fatally shooting Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber and wounding Gaige Grosskreutz during a demonstration on Aug. 25 that followed the police shooting of a Black man named Jacob Blake in Kenosha. He posted bond through his attorney at about 2 p.m., Kenosha County Sheriff’s Sgt. David Wright said.
Rittenhouse, of Antioch, Ill., told police he was attacked while he was guarding a business and that he fired in self-defence.
He faces multiple charges, including intentional homicide, reckless endangerment and being a minor in possession of a firearm. Wisconsin law doesn’t permit minors to carry or possess a gun unless they’re hunting. He is due back in court on Dec. 3 for a preliminary hearing.
His case has taken on political overtones. Supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement have painted Rittenhouse as a trigger-happy white supremacist. Conservatives upset over property destruction during recent protests have portrayed him as a patriot exercising his right to bear arms during unrest.
WATCH | Rittenhouse becomes poster boy for armed self-defence:
Gun-rights and armed-self-defence advocates have turned Kyle Rittenhouse, charged with intentional homicide in the shooting deaths of two protesters in Kenosha, Wis., into their latest poster boy and are raising money for his defence. 2:38
A legal defence fund for him has attracted millions of dollars in donations, and his mother got a standing ovation from women at a Waukesha County GOP function in September.
Huber’s father, John Huber, asked Kenosha County Circuit Court Commissioner Loren Keating during a hearing Nov. 2 to set Rittenhouse’s bail between $ 4 million and $ 10 million US.
Huber said at the time that Rittenhouse thinks he’s above the law and noted the effort to raise money on his behalf. He also suggested militia groups would hide him from police if he were released.
Rittenhouse’s attorney, Mark Richards, asked for bail to be set at $ 750,000 US.
Keating ultimately set bail at $ 2 million US, saying Rittenhouse was a flight risk given the seriousness of the charges against him.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom said this week he made a “bad mistake” by attending a friend’s birthday dinner during a spike in coronavirus cases and promised to “own it” and move forward. But there was more to the story than he revealed.
Photos obtained by Fox 11 in Los Angeles show the governor in the company of multiple lobbyists and raise questions about how truthful Newsom was in claiming the dinner was outdoors.
The images threaten his credibility at a time when he and health officials are pleading with Californians to stay home and not gather with friends and relatives outside their households.
Los Angeles County Health Director Barbara Ferrer, whose county is facing the possibility of a three-week lockdown if cases continue on their current trajectory, called Newsom’s decision to attend the dinner “a big mistake” that she trusts won’t happen again.
Jack Pitney, a professor of politics at Claremont McKenna College, said “in the future, when critics of lobbyists make their case, this dinner will be Exhibit A.”
Newsom attended the dinner on Nov. 6 at the French Laundry, one of the most expensive restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area. His administration didn’t acknowledge it until a week later, when a reporter was tipped and asked about it.
EXCLUSIVE: We’ve obtained photos of Governor Gavin Newsom at the Napa dinner party he’s in hot water over. The photos call into question just how outdoors the dinner was. A witness who took photos tells us his group was so loud, the sliding doors had to be closed. 10pm on <a href=”https://twitter.com/FOXLA?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@FOXLA</a> <a href=”https://t.co/gtOVEwa864″>pic.twitter.com/gtOVEwa864</a>
Newsom, a Democrat, apologized on Monday and described the dinner as having been outdoors. But the photos show Newsom and his wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, sitting maskless around a crowded table of 12 inside a room that was enclosed on three sides.
The fourth side was open, though the woman who took the photos and provided them to Fox 11 said a sliding glass door eventually was closed after Newsom’s group became loud. The woman was not identified by the station.
Nathan Click, a spokesperson for Newsom, did not address whether the room was closed off and why the governor maintained the dinner was outdoors.
Mask use questioned
The restaurant is in Napa County, which at the time of the dinner was allowed to offer limited indoor service. It is now among 41 counties that can only serve outdoors.
California’s coronavirus guidance for restaurants does not describe in detail what counts as outdoor dining, but many have set up tents that create spaces enclosed on three sides. The guidelines do say that people at the same table don’t have to socially distance, though Newsom repeatedly has encouraged people to do so when around those outside their households.
Newsom’s office has not responded to repeated questions from The Associated Press about whether the governor wore a mask when not eating or drinking or whether he was tested following the dinner.
Last month, his office tweeted, “Going out to eat with members of your household this weekend? Don’t forget to keep your mask on in between bites.”
The full list of attendees has not been disclosed, but it’s known Newsom was seated among at least three lobbyists, including two top officials for the California Medical Association (CMA), an organization that represents and lobbies for 50,000 doctors and has recently tweeted messages including #StayHome and #WearAMask.
Spokesman Anthony York confirmed CMA CEO Dustin Corcoran and senior vice-president Janus Norman were in attendance.
Pop Quiz: In California, $ 350 is equal to:<br><br>(𝐚) one week’s unemployment check for millions of California workers<br>(𝐛) the cost of Gavin Newsom’s dinner at Napa’s French Laundry restaurant<br>(𝐜) both of the above.
The dinner was held for the 50th birthday of Jason Kinney, a friend of Newsom’s as well as a lobbyist. His firm, Axiom Advisers, has high-profile clients including energy companies, Facebook and Netflix, and the California Building Industry Association. Kinney used to lobby for the California Medical Association and served on Newsom’s transition team in 2019.
The three-star Michelin restaurant offers a $ 350 US tasting menu and separate $ 450- and $ 850-per-person menus for parties of up to 12 people. It’s not clear what Newsom’s party had but he said he and his wife paid for their meals.
Critics, including Republican state senator Shannon Grove, quickly noted the disconnect between dining at a fancy restaurant when so many Californians are unemployed.
Legislators took trip to Hawaii
While Newsom faces heat for his decision, some state lawmakers — both Republicans and Democrats — are being criticized for going to Hawaii this week for the annual Independent Voter Project conference as California’s nearly 40 million residents are told to avoid travel.
A full list of legislators has not been made public, but two Southern California Assembly members, Democrat Blanca Rubio and Independent Chad Mayes, issued statements Wednesday acknowledging their participation.
Both said it is an important gathering for public policy discussions and that this year’s conference was especially salient because it focused on reopening the economy. They said all participants adhered to strict health safety protocols.
Hayes said he was impressed with Hawaii’s Safe Travels program for visitors and “will strongly advocate that California implement a similar program to help breathe new life into our tourism economy.”
Pitney, the Clarement McKenna College professor, said by ignoring recommendations on travel and gatherings, Newsom and the legislators reinforce “the perception that there’s one rule for the elites and one rule for the rest of us.”
A long-awaited report on Russian influence in British politics criticized the British government for neglecting to investigate whether Russia interfered in the 2016 Brexit referendum, describing its utter lack of curiosity about the threats to democracy as being a major failure at the heart of power.
The parliamentary report’s authors accused the British government of “actively avoiding” looking into evidence of the Russian threat to the EU referendum. The authors found this particularly unforgivable given the evidence that emerged of Russian interference in the U.S. elections in 2016 and in the Scottish independence referendum in 2014.
“There has been no assessment of Russian interference in the EU referendum, and this goes back to nobody wanting to touch the issue with a 10-foot pole,” committee member Stewart Hosie said, demanding that such a study be done and the public informed.
While the report from the parliament’s intelligence and security committee said it would be “difficult — if not impossible — to prove” allegations that Russia sought to influence the referendum, it was clear that the government “was slow to recognize the existence of the threat.”
Committee members concluded that the goal of a resurgent Russia in influencing the vote would be to amplify existing divisions and thus possibly destabilize Western political systems.
In a 20-page response, officials denied the government had “badly underestimated” the Russian threat and rejected the call for an assessment of alleged Russian meddling during the Brexit referendum.
“We have seen no evidence of successful interference in the EU referendum,” the statement said.
The report says Russia sees Britain as one of its top intelligence targets in the West. It said Russian influence in the U.K. is the “new normal,” and successive governments have welcomed Russian oligarchs with open arms.
Russia denies meddling
Russians with “very close links” to President Vladimir Putin were “well integrated into the U.K. business, political and social scene — in ‘Londongrad’ in particular,” the report said.
Speaking before the report was released, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Tuesday that Russia “never interfered in electoral processes,”not in the United States, not in Britain, not in any other country.”
“We don’t do that ourselves and we don’t tolerate when other countries try to interfere with our political affairs,” Peskov said.
Authors cite delay in making report public
The report’s authors said they were subjected to an unprecedented delay in making the document public, with officials holding off its release for more than six months. Critics claimed that was meant to shield Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Conservative Party from embarrassment.
The committee did not offer a theory as to why the government delayed the report but did say the government’s explanations for delaying the report were not true.
The report was originally submitted to Johnson on Oct. 17. The government initially said it couldn’t be published until it was reviewed for national security issues, which postponed its release until after the Dec. 12 general election.
Further holdups were caused by delays in appointing new members to the intelligence and security committee.
Finally, Johnson named five Conservative lawmakers to the nine-person panel in hopes his hand-picked candidate would be chosen as the chair and block the report. The gambit failed when a renegade Conservative was chosen to head the committee with backing from opposition parties.
The opposition Labour Party has accused the government of failing to publish the report because it would lead to further questions about links between Russia and the pro-Brexit campaign in the 2016 referendum on European Union membership, which Johnson helped lead.
Another parliamentary panel — the digital, culture, media and sport committee — previously published the results of its own inquiry into disinformation and “fake news,” which called on election regulators and law enforcement to investigate reports that a British businessman with links to Russia donated 8.4 million pounds (approximately $ 14.3 million Cdn) to the Brexit campaign. The National Crime Agency said in September that it found no evidence of criminal offences related to the donation.
The intelligence committee report covered the full range of the Russian threat to the U.K., including election interference, espionage and targeted assassinations, such as the attempt to kill former spy Sergei Skripal in the English city of Salisbury two years ago.
The report urged British authorities to beef up their defences, saying the “clearest requirement for immediate action” was for new legislation to give tools to the British intelligence community faced with a “very capable” adversary and to battle espionage, illegal financial dealings of Russian elite in Britain and their “enablers.”
It called for better co-ordination with Britain’s Western allies and said Britain should be ready to lead international action and should work to develop new rules on “offensive cyber” operations.
It faulted unspecified social media companies for “failing to play their part” and said the British government should set up rules to “ensure that they take covert hostile state use of their platforms seriously” and “name and shame” those that fail to act.
The report’s release comes only days after Britain, the United States and Canada accused hackers linked to Russian intelligence agencies of trying to steal information from researchers working on a potential coronavirus vaccine.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson faced mutiny in his party and fury across Britain on Monday for refusing to sack his closest aide, Dominic Cummings, who is accused of flouting the coronavirus lockdown by driving 400 kilometres from London.
Defending one of Britain’s most powerful men, Johnson said over the weekend Cummings acted “responsibly and legally and with integrity” by heading from London to northern England at the end of March with his son and his wife, who was ill with COVID-19 symptoms.
Many believe that was hypocritical given the government’s mantra at the time to avoid such movements.
“What planet are they on?” asked the Daily Mail, an influential right-wing paper usually supportive of Johnson and his adviser, who helped the prime minister to power and to secure Britain’s exit from the European Union.
Some 20 ruling Conservative Party lawmakers, 14 Church of England bishops and some scientists also expressed anger.
“Johnson has now gone the full Trump,” said Pete Broadbent, bishop of Willesden, comparing Britain’s leader to U.S. President Donald Trump.
With a death toll around 43,000, Britain is the worst-hit country in Europe and the government was already under pressure over its handling of the pandemic.
‘Trashed all the advice we have given’
Conservative lawmakers reported being contacted by outraged constituents who had made sacrifices during the lockdown, including staying away from dying relatives.
“I got swamped with even more emails from people who don’t have a political axe to grind and who say … ‘it looks as though it’s one rule for them and one for us, why should we now abide by government guidance?’ ” said lawmaker Tim Loughton.
Behavioural scientist Stephen Reicher, a member of a panel that advises the government, said the furore would wreck public confidence. “In a few short minutes tonight, Boris Johnson has trashed all the advice we have given on how to build trust and secure adherence to the measures necessary to control COVID-19.”
Johnson’s Downing Street office said Cummings made the journey to his parents’ property in County Durham to ensure his four-year-old son could be properly cared for by relatives if he fell ill along with his wife.
At the time, the government’s instruction to anyone showing symptoms was not to leave the house for 14 days.
The architect of the successful Brexit campaign in 2016, Cummings, 48, is a polarizing figure, accused by many who wanted to stay in the EU of using inflammatory tactics and playing fast and loose with the facts.
Ominously for him and for Johnson, many of the lawmakers and newspaper columnists calling for him to be sacked were Brexit supporters, not his usual critics.
Coming home late on Sunday, Cummings was harangued by neighbours, including a woman who broke down in tears as she leaned out of her window and described the hardship she and her family had endured during the lockdown.
In contrast to Cummings, Scotland’s chief medical officer and a senior epidemiologist who advised the government both resigned after admitting they had broken lockdown rules.
Ten women filed a civil class-action lawsuit on Thursday accusing one of Canada’s wealthiest businessmen and clothing manufacturers, Peter Nygard, of raping them at his seaside mansion in the Bahamas, and operating what they refer to as a “sex trafficking ring.”
The women are seeking damages for the alleged rapes.
Three of the women were 14 years old at the time of the alleged rapes. Three others were 15 years old.
The alleged rapes took place between 2008 and 2015.
The women are not named in the lawsuit “to protect their identities because of the sensitive and highly personal nature of this matter.”
According to the lawsuit, filed in New York, Nygard “recruited, lured, and enticed young, impressionable, and often impoverished children and women, with cash payments and false promises of lucrative modeling opportunities to assault, rape, and sodomize them.”
There are no criminal charges associated with any of the allegations.
Nygard’s lawyer “vigorously” denied the accusations as “completely false [and] without foundation” in a statement Thursday.
“Peter Nygard looks forward to fully exposing this scam, and once and for all clearing his name,” said Jay Prober.
Nygard operates a multi-million dollar clothing empire, based in Winnipeg. According to its website, the privately owned company operates more than 170 stores across North America.
Lawsuit alleges bribery
The lawsuit goes on to accuse Nygard of drugging women by putting “Rohypnol and/or other mind-altering drugs in their drinks.”
It also alleges he “initiated a scheme to purchase police protection and political cover in the Bahamas by making regular payments of tens of thousands of dollars to law enforcement, government officials, regulators, and even to a former Cabinet Minister who became the Prime Minister of the Bahamas.”
It further claims “Nygard also paid people, using Nygard Company money, to intimidate his former ‘girlfriends’ by slashing their tires, committing arson, paying police to threaten to arrest them, and by having them followed.”
“This lawsuit was expected,” said Prober, his lawyer.
Prober says the lawsuit is the latest in a decade-long attempt to destroy his reputation by his former neighbour in the Bahamas, U.S. billionaire and former hedge fund owner Louis Bacon.
Their dispute began as a noise complaint, and has evolved into multiple lawsuits in multiple countries spanning more than 10 years.
Nygard’s most recent legal assault against Bacon was launched in New York in November 2019
It alleges Bacon has hired a team of lawyers and private investigators who are “engaging in a pattern of illicit and illegal conduct designed to improperly influence witnesses to make false statements, file false reports, abuse process, tortiously interfere with business relations and aid and abet the dissemination of false statements … all for the intentional purpose of damaging [Nygard].”
Nygard says allegations in the lawsuit filed Thursday are a response to his November lawsuit against Bacon, saying the complainants were “bought off to make such false claims.”
According to Thursday’s lawsuit the alleged rapes took place after or during what Nygard has referred to as “pamper parties” at his home in the Bahamas.
His staff were instructed to recruit young women for the weekly parties, the lawsuit claims. When guests checked in, their details would be entered in a database and photos sent to Nygard for review.
“Nygard would then use this information to select his potential victims for the night,” the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit claims Nygard has a database of more than 7,500 underage girls and women.
The lawsuit also includes details of the alleged assaults against the 10 women who made the allegations.
The allegations include vaginal rape, anal rape, oral sex and requests to urinate or defacate in Nygard’s mouth.
According to the lawsuit, one of the complainants, who was 14 at the time, says the encounter began with Nygard showing her pornography, then Nygard asked her to use a sex toy on him and it ended when he raped her “causing her extrordinary trauma and pain.”
The lawsuit says he paid the complainants thousands of dollars after each of the rapes.
He resorted to tactics of violence, intimidation, bribery, and payoff to attempt to silence the victims and to continue his scheme.-civil class-action lawsuit
“The Nygard Companies fund all of Nygard’s ‘pamper parties’ by transferring cash from the company’s bank account in Canada and routing it through New York,” the lawsuit says.
“[Nygard’s] destruction of innocent lives is immeasurable,” it says.
“When Nygard became aware of the investigation into his sex trafficking ring, he resorted to tactics of violence, intimidation, bribery, and payoffs to attempt to silence the victims and to continue his scheme”
There is a 10-year statute of limitations for cases like this under New York law.
The lawsuit requests it be extended because the complainants “were impeded because of a combination of force, threats of force, shame, embarrassment, fear, political and law enforcement corruption, weak laws that are rarely enforced to protect the victim, and bribery.”
If not some accusers may be barred from the suit. The class-action lawsuit must also be certified by a judge before it can proceed.
Thursday’s allegations follow two additional lawsuits accusing Nygard of sexual assault, filed in Los Angeles in January, that came to light recently
Nygard denies those allegations as well.
One lawsuit is from an unnamed woman who claims Nygard sexually assaulted and falsely imprisoned her while she was a minor. The age of consent in California is 18.
The incidents began, the lawsuit alleges, at Nygard’s home in California in 2012 and continued during a trip to China on his private plane, in a club in New York and and while visiting Florida.
“Nygard committed sexual battery upon the plaintiff by acting with the intent to cause a harmful or offensive contact with intimate parts of the plaintiff’s body,” the lawsuit alleges.
Plaintiff objected to being forced to be involved in procuring women for Defendant Nygard. She told him that she was not a madam and that she did not want to be involved in these activities.– civil class-action lawsuit
“Defendant Nygard intentionally deprived Plaintiff of her freedom of movement by the use of menace, fraud, deceit and/or unreasonable durres, for an appreciable period of time.”
The second lawsuit was filed by a former employee of Nygard, who says she managed a medical cannabis facility for him in Los Angeles.
The woman is named in the lawsuit, but CBC News has decided to withhold her identity because of the nature of the allegations.
She claims in her lawsuit that Nygard touched her sexually without consent on several occasions between 2016 and 2018.
Nygard “caused a harmful or offensive contact with [the woman’s] breasts and/or buttocks and/or groin,” the lawsuit alleges.
On one occasion, the lawsuit says Nygard said, “that her ‘ass’ looked amazing. He said, ‘you know what they say about pregnant women.’ He said ‘they want it more’ while making forward motion with his hips.”
The lawsuit alleges the woman was ordered to invite women to attend parties at Nygard’s home in California, and that he would then choose a few of them to “to stay the night with him.”
“Defendant Nygard paid these women for their ‘services,'” the lawsuit claims.
“Plaintiff objected to being forced to be involved in procuring women for Defendant Nygard. She told him that she was not a madam and that she did not want to be involved in these activities.”
According to the lawsuit, the woman quit in 2018, following the alleged assaults and claims Nygard failed to pay her the salary and benefits he promised. Nygard says lawsuits filed in Los Angeles are also part of Bacon’ campaign to destroy his reputation.
None of the allegations in the lawsuits have been proven in court.
Myanmar has repeatedly been blamed in the systematic displacement, killing and widespread sexual assault of Rohingya Muslims, but only today has it been formally accused in an international court of acts of genocide.
The case filed at the International Court of Justice at The Hague is the first attempt to work around international inertia around Myanmar’s actions on its own soil, and push through the legal and political obstacles that have so far frustrated calls to exact justice for the hundreds of thousands of victims.
Since violence erupted in Rakhine state in August 2017, several investigations concluded that Myanmar security forces were behind the atrocities that razed dozens of Rohingya villages, displaced more than 700,000 civilians, and killed countless others.
In August 2018, a UN fact-finding mission declared those acts a campaign of genocide, and called for the prosecution of the military commander and generals in charge for genocide and war crimes.
Still there seemed to be little global appetite for legal action.
Last year, Canada became the first country to call the violence an act of genocide, after Parliament voted unanimously to do so. A campaign followed by senators and dozens of human rights groups — as well as a motion in the Senate — urging the Canadian government to take the genocide accusation to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which arbitrates disputes between states.
But Canada has called on the UN Security Council to refer Myanmar to the International Criminal Court instead. The Council is the only avenue for putting the matter before the ICC because Myanmar is not a state party to the statues that created the court, which means it’s outside of its jurisdiction.
However, a reference by the Security Council was highly unlikely, at minimum due to China’s opposition.
‘Our moral obligation’
In a novel attempt to get around these challenges, the application Monday by a team of American, Canadian and British lawyers was filed on behalf of the African nation of The Gambia. It is accusing Myanmar of contravening the 1948 Genocide Convention, to which both The Gambia and Myanmar are state parties.
The Gambia is bringing the case forward on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, whose leaders voted to proceed with with a legal challenge earlier this year.
“Despite our size, we believe that it is at least our moral obligation,” The Gambia’s justice minister, Abubacarr Tambadou, said in an interview.
A former prosecutor of genocide cases in Rwanda, Tambadou added that the treatment of Rohingya “illustrates the failure of the international community to prevent genocide.”
The hope, he said, is that Canada and other countries will intervene in the case.
“This is not just a case legal case; this is about humanity, about us as human beings in this world.”
Typically, nations bringing cases to the ICJ are directly affected by the accusations at hand. That makes Monday’s application an “unprecedented case” under the Genocide Convention of “altruistic litigation, where a country is not directly affected but acts on behalf of the common interest,” says Canadian Payam Akhavan, a former UN prosecutor and McGill law professor, who is serving as legal counsel on the team taking the case forward.
The Gambia, he added, is showing “moral leadership” where “many other powerful nations have failed to act.”
The application says actions “adopted, taken and condoned” by the government of Myanmar targeted “a distinct ethnic, racial and religious group that resides primarily in Myanmar’s Rakhine State.”
The acts that were “calculated to bring about physical destruction, imposing measures to prevent births, and forcible transfer, are genocidal in character because they are intended to destroy the Rohingya group in whole or in part.”
Particularly troubling — and further cementing accusations of genocide — are the widespread reports of systematic and brutal sexual assault perpetrated by uniformed men and their supporters against Rohingya women.
The application quotes the UN’s findings detailing reports of “gang rapes, sexually humiliating acts, sexual slavery and sexual mutilations … ‘perpetrated on a massive scale.'”
The application filed Monday also includes a request for an injunction from the court ordering Myanmar to prevent any further violence.
‘We feel there is a very, very strong case’
Longtime ICJ litigator Paul Reichler, whose Washington firm Foley Hoag has been retained to lead the case, says he hopes an urgent hearing on an injunction would be heard sometime in December.
“You can’t really wait for the end of the lawsuit to gain the protection of the court, because you can win the case, but by that time there may be no Rohingya left,” said Reichler.
There remains at least 600,000 Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state where violence and displacement is still ongoing. Last month, the chief of the UN’s fact-finding mission on Myanmar said there is a “serious risk of genocide recurring.”
It could be three or four years before the ICJ rules, says Reichler.
“We feel there is a very, very strong case.”
The Rakhine state has been off limits to international investigators, and visits by international politicians or media (including the CBC) are tightly controlled. However, much of the evidence comes from powerful testimony of the displaced, most of whom are now living in horrific camps across the border in Bangladesh.
“All the survivors I spoke with wanted to tell their stories to the world. They wanted some measure of justice,” says Akhavan, who is also counsel to Bangladesh in a separate case against Myanmar related to the displacement of Rohingya.
“It’s difficult ever to do justice for genocide. But some justice is better than none at all.”
In a wild outburst in a Moscow courtroom, Canadian Paul Whelan shouted down a Russian judge Tuesday as he tried to defend himself against charges of being a spy.
“I was set up. I did not commit a crime,” Whelan yelled from the glassed-in prisoners box during a hearing on having his eight-month detention extended.
Whelan, who is 49 and originally from Ottawa, also has passports from the United States, the United Kingdom and Ireland. He has been held by Russian authorities since being arrested in a Moscow hotel and charged with espionage in December 2018.
In previous court appearances, he has criticized Russia’s justice system and used the occasions to convey messages back to his family.
Tuesday’s hearing, however, was especially chaotic. Whelan tried to drown out the judge, who was reading the detention order into the record.
“I can speak louder than you, your honour!” he yelled.
“I have to tell you my dog, Flora, a golden retriever, has received better medical treatment than I have received from the government of Russia,” he continued.
Whelan is suffering from a hernia, and his lawyer says he’s often in a great deal of pain.
“I’d like to say to my family that I love them and I appreciate their support. They know this is garbage. Everyone in the West knows this is garbage.”
Whelan, a former U.S. marine, was working as a security consultant for a U.S. auto parts company when he says he came to Moscow for the wedding of another ex-marine in December 2018. Previously, Whelan had been a frequent visitor to the country and had made many acquaintances online.
The exact sequence of events that led up to his arrest has never been fully disclosed, but on Tuesday he and his lawyers provided some new details.
Whelan said in court that on the morning of Dec. 28, he returned to his room in Moscow’s Metropol Hotel after taking a tour of the Kremlin, which is just a few blocks away.
He said a Russian man he had known for 10 years came to his room and “put something in my pocket.”
Whelan believes his so-called friend was really an officer with Russia’s secret police. Russian media have reported that the item was a USB stick that contained a list of names of Russians working at a classified security agency.
“I didn’t even know I had it until I was arrested,” Whelan said.
Neither Whelan nor his lawyers would name the man they believe set him up.
CBC News has learned that the pair met on the internet and that the Russian man lived in Sergiev Posad, a popular tourist town on Moscow’s Golden Ring, a cluster of ancient towns about an hour from Moscow.
The two men got to know each other, and Whelan became a frequent visitor. They had dinner together just three days before Whelan’s arrest.
Outside court, Whelan’s lawyer Olga Karlova said the bulk of the evidence against her client is from surveillance and wiretap recordings of conversations between him and the undercover FSB officer.
“There are some conversations, but it can be interpreted this way or that way. It depends on the situation.”
“We haven’t seen any strict, direct evidence of his guiltiness yet,” she added.
His brother David Whelan, who lives in Newmarket, Ont., says Tuesday’s outburst in court points to the stress Paul Whelan is enduring.
“I think after almost nine months he has run out of patience,” he told CBC News in an interview. “It’s all bogus.”
Initially, after Whelan’s arrest, there had been speculation that he might be quickly traded for a Russian held by Britain or the United States, but such a prisoner swap hasn’t happened.
“I think there needs to be relationships between governments for those sorts of trades to happen, and there doesn’t seem to be that kind of relationship between any of the governments that are representing Paul’s interest.”
Last week, a bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers in the Senate and House of Representatives tried to turn up the political pressure on Russia by passing dual resolutions calling on Russia to present credible evidence of Whelan’s guilt or else release him.
They were joined in Washington by Whelan’s sister, Elizabeth.
But in a tweet, Russia’s Foreign Ministry dismissed the criticism that Whelan is being held unfairly, claiming he was caught “red-handed” and that complaints about their handling of the case was “disinformation.”
David Whelan says the family has been preparing themselves for a bad outcome.
He says he expects a formal trial will start early in 2020 and that the only possible result will be a guilty verdict.
With their parents already in their 80s, he says they are considering a trip for them to visit Paul in Russia during the trial, on the assumption that it may be the last time the three of them will see each other.
“I think we are looking at giving a final opportunity to get together before he goes to a labour camp or detention centre.”