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More than 15 years after the truck bomb assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in Beirut, a U.N.-backed tribunal in the Netherlands is announcing verdicts this week in the trial of four members of the militant group Hezbollah allegedly involved in the killing, which deeply divided the tiny country.

The verdicts on Tuesday at the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, based in a village on the outskirts of the Dutch city of The Hague, are expected to further add to soaring tensions in Lebanon, two weeks after a catastrophic explosion at Beirut’s port that killed nearly 180 people, injured more than 6,000 and destroyed thousands of homes in the Lebanese capital.

Unlike the blast that killed Hariri and 21 others on Feb. 14, 2005, the Aug. 4 explosion was believed to be a result of nearly 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrate that accidentally ignited at Beirut’s port. While the cause of the fire that provided the trigger is still not clear, Hezbollah, which maintains huge influence over Lebanese politics, is being sucked into the public fury directed at the country’s ruling politicians.

Even before the devastating Beirut port blast, the country’s leaders were concerned about violence after the verdicts. Hariri was Lebanon’s most prominent Sunni politician at the time, while the Iran-backed Hezbollah is a Shiite Muslim group.

Tensions between Sunni and Shiites in the Middle East have fueled deadly conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Yemen and to a smaller scale in Lebanon. Some Lebanese see the tribunal as an impartial way of uncovering the truth about Hariri’s slaying, while Hezbollah ? which denies involvement ? calls it an Israeli plot to tarnish the group.



Landlord advocacy groups filed a special action with the Arizona State Supreme Court Wednesday seeking to invalidate as unconstitutional Gov. Doug Ducey's moratorium on evictions of people who have missed rent payments because they became ill or lost their income due to the coronavirus.

The Arizona Multihousing Association, the Manufactured Housing Communities of Arizona and several individual property owners filed the action directly with the high court. It argues the moratorium violates the state constitution's separation of powers and its contract clause.

The multihousing association's president and CEO Courtney Gilstrap LeVinus says owners have waived fees, worked with renters to make payments, and helped them fill out government relief applications.

But five months after the moratorium was first imposed “we are at a breaking point,” she said, noting that property owners also have mortgages, taxes and other bills to pay.

She said rental housing is the only area of the state economy that has been compelled to provide a product or service free of charge during the pandemic. Ducey signed the moratorium order on March 24 and recently extended it until Oct. 31.

There was no immediate reaction from the governor's office to the court filing, which named the state and several justices of the peace and constables from around Arizona who are charged with serving eviction notices.

Arizona’s initial 120-day moratorium ending July 22 was supposed to ensure people wouldn’t lose their homes if they got COVID-19 or lost their jobs during pandemic restrictions. But advocates argued it was too early to end the ban because most of the government money set aside to help pay rents and mortgages still hasn’t been doled out.

The Arizona Housing Department still has a backlog of people trying to get rental assistance. Gregory Real Estate Management of Phoenix in July sued Ducey over the moratorium and asked that it be allowed to evict a family in a rental home in the city of Surprise over unpaid rent, which the firm says has passed $8,000.

But a Maricopa County Superior Court judge upheld the moratorium and disagreed with the company's argument that the governor’s action exceeded his authority or was unconstitutional. For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. Pandemic restrictions, such as reducing capacity or closing businesses, are intended to limit crowds that can spread the virus.



The Supreme Court of New Jersey ruled a defendant must turn over the passcodes for his two phones in response to a search warrant, opening the way for law enforcement to compel other defendants in the state to do the same.

The court's majority decision on Monday was supported by four justices with three dissenting in the case of a former Essex County sheriff’s officer who is suspected of helping a man charged with trafficking drugs, NJ Advance Media reported.

Robert Andrews was charged in 2016 for official misconduct, hindering and obstruction for passing on information about an ongoing law enforcement investigation to the suspect, who was in the same motorcycle club as him.

Andrews had appealed an order from a lower court to turn over the passcodes to his phones so authorities could execute a search warrant on phone calls and texts between the two men.

“It’s time to rethink whether you should keep anything simply private or personal on a personal electronic device because if the government wants it they can now get it,” said Charles J. Sciarra, Andrews’ attorney in a statement.

Sciarra argued, in part, that Andrews did not have to turn over the passcodes because the Fifth Amendment protected him from self-incrimination. But the court found the passcodes were not “testimonial” and noted Andrews did not challenge the search warrants, which give the state “the right to the cellphones’ purportedly incriminating contents,” the majority decision said.

Justice Jaynee LaVecchia, who authored the dissenting opinion, said the law had reached a crossroads.

“Will we allow law enforcement -- and our courts as their collaborators -- to compel a defendant to disgorge undisclosed private thoughts -- presumably memorized numbers or letters -- so that the government can obtain access to encrypted smartphones?” she wrote.

Andrews' attorney did not respond to the newspaper's questions about whether he would appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court or turn over his passcodes.

In October, an Oregon court of appeals ruled in a similar case that a defendant there must enter the passcode into a phone found in her purse in response to a search warrant. She entered in the wrong code twice and was ordered to be held for 30 days in jail in contempt of court.

In another case in Louisiana, the FBI said it managed to unlock a defendant's phone before an appeals court issued a decision over whether the law compels him to disclose the password to his phone in response to a search warrant.



A federal appeals court in Washington on Friday revived House Democrats' lawsuit to force former White House counsel Don McGahn to appear before a congressional committee, but left other legal issues unresolved with time growing short in the current Congress.

The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit voted 7-2 in ruling that the House Judiciary Committee can make its claims in court, reversing the judgment of a three-judge panel that would have ended the court fight.

The matter now returns to the panel for consideration of other legal issues. The current House of Representatives session ends on Jan. 3. That time crunch means “the chances that the Committee hears McGahn’s testimony anytime soon are vanishingly slim," dissenting Judge Thomas Griffith wrote. Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson also dissented.

The Judiciary Committee first subpoenaed McGahn in April 2019 as it examined potential obstruction of justice by President Donald Trump during special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. Trump directed McGahn not to appear and the Democratic-led panel filed a federal lawsuit to force McGahn to testify.

A trial judge ruled in November that the president’s close advisers do not have the absolute immunity from testifying to Congress that the administration claimed. Griffith and Henderson formed the majority when the appellate panel said in February that the Constitution forbids federal courts from refereeing this kind of dispute between the other two branches of government.

On Friday, the full court said the panel reached the wrong decision. Lawmakers can ask the courts “for judicial enforcement of congressional subpoenas when necessary," Judge Judith Rogers wrote. Congress needs detailed information about the executive branch for both oversight and impeachment, she wrote.

House lawmakers had sought McGahn’s testimony because he was a vital witness for Mueller, whose report detailed the president’s outrage over the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and Trump’s efforts to curtail it.

In interviews with Mueller’s team, McGahn described being called at home by the president on the night of June 17, 2017, and being directed to call the Justice Department and say Mueller had conflicts of interest and should be removed. McGahn declined the command, deciding he would resign rather than carry it out, the report said.



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.



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