India’s federal investigators will take over the probe into the alleged gang-rape and murder of a low-caste teenaged woman that has sparked nationwide outrage and days of protests.
The 19-year-old woman from the marginalised Dalit community was attacked in mid-September in northern Uttar Pradesh state and died on Tuesday, in the latest case highlighting India’s epidemic of sexual violence.
Five senior police officers have already been suspended over the investigation amid criticism of law enforcement’s actions — including the cremation of the woman’s body in the middle of the night against the wishes of her family.
The chief minister of the state — India’s most populous with 200 million people — announced the decision to transfer the probe to the Central Bureau of Investigation late Saturday.
“We are committed to giving the strictest punishment to the people responsible for this incident,” Yogi Adityanath, who is from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), wrote on Twitter.
The police have arrested four high-caste men on the charges of gang-rape and murder.
Local authorities barricaded the village after the cremation to block opposition politicians and media from meeting the victim’s family.
The decision was reversed Saturday after widespread criticism.
The involvement of leaders of the opposition Congress party, Priyanka and Rahul Gandhi, in several demonstrations, has sparked accusations from the BJP that they were politicising the issue.
The young woman’s death comes months after four men were hanged for 2012 gang-rape and murder of a student on a bus in New Delhi, in a case that shook the nation.
An average of nearly 90 rapes were reported in India every day last year, according to data by the National Crime Records Bureau, but large numbers are thought to go unreported.
India’s 200 million low-caste Dalits have long faced discrimination, and campaigners say attacks have increased during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Inspector-General of Police, (IGP) Mohammed Adamu, has ordered the immediate transfer of the ongoing investigations into the inhuman sexual assault and death of Miss Vera Uwaila Omosuwa which occurred recently in Benin, Edo State, from the Police Headquarters in Benin to the Force headquarters in Abuja.
This was disclosed in a statement signed by the Force Public Relations Officer, Force Headquarters, Abuja, Dcp Frank Mba, on Tuesday.
The directive follows a preliminary report from the team of investigators and forensic experts who were earlier deployed to assist the Police in Edo State in the investigations into the unfortunate incident.
According to the statement, the DIG in charge of the Force Criminal Investigation Department (FCID), DIG Anthony Ogbizi Michael, fdc will henceforth provide direct supervision and ensure speedy and thorough investigation of the case.
In a similar vein, the IGP also ordered the immediate deployment of specialized investigators and additional investigation assets to all the Gender Desks Offices and the Juvenile Welfare Centres (JWC) across the country.
This, according to the Police boss, is to strengthen and enhance the capacity of the units to respond to increasing challenges of sexual assaults and domestic/gender-based violence linked with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and other social ills within the country.
Meanwhile, the IGP has called on members of the public to provide the police with useful information that could aid investigations into ongoing cases of sexual assaults and domestic/gender-based violence across the country.
He also enjoined parents and guardians to pay closer attention to their children and wards in these trying times.
Ukraine asked international partners to provide any evidence they may have to help investigators probing a Ukrainian passenger plane that crashed in Iran, as US media reported it was mistakenly shot down by a missile.
All 176 people on board died when Ukraine International Airlines (UIA) Boeing 737NG went down on Wednesday, shortly after Tehran launched missiles at US forces in Iraq in response to the killing of a top Iranian general in a US drone strike in Baghdad.
“If any country has information that can help conduct a transparent and objective investigation into the tragedy, we are ready to receive it and cooperate in further verification,” the Ukraine presidency said in an English-language statement.
“Ukraine is interested in finding the truth. Therefore, I ask all our international partners: if you have any evidence to assist the investigation, please provide it.”
Investigators are pursuing several leads following the crash of the Ukrainian passenger plane in Iran, including a surface-to-air missile strike, an act of terror and engine failure, Oleksiy Danilov, the secretary of Ukraine’s national security and defence council (RNBO), told AFP earlier Thursday.
The council is tasked with coordinating the probe into the disaster, the first fatal crash involving Ukraine’s biggest carrier UIA.
US President Donald Trump said Thursday he had “suspicions” about the crash as unnamed officials told American media that Iranian air defence systems likely accidentally shot down the airliner.
Newsweek, CBS, and CNN said that satellite, radar, and electronic data indicated the tragic error, which followed a ballistic missile barrage by Iran on two military bases in Iraq where US troops work.
Lawyers for Karim Benzema urged a top French appeals court on Monday to throw out a years-long case over an alleged attempt to blackmail Mathieu Valbuena over a sex tape, which has kept the Real Madrid star from playing for France’s national side.
The French striker argues that a police officer used dishonest methods to draw him into the affair, which began in June 2015.
That was when Valbuena received a call from a blackmailer who threatened to release an intimate video and contacted the police.
Investigators later accused Benzema of acting as an intermediary between the presumed blackmailers and Valbuena, which Benzema has denied.
While resorting to some ruses can be common in police work, “the sin is in the zeal shown by this officer”, Benzema’s lawyer Fabrice Spinosi told the Court of Cassation in Paris.
A coalition of US states unveiled on Friday an antitrust investigation of Facebook, the first of what is expected to be a wave of action against dominant technology firms.
New York state Attorney General Letitia James announced the action on behalf of seven other states and the District of Columbia to probe “whether Facebook has stifled competition and put users at risk.”
The case may be the first in a series of antitrust actions against Big Tech firms and highlights growing “techlash,” based on worries about platforms which control the flow of online information and dominate key economic sectors.
“We will use every investigative tool at our disposal to determine whether Facebook’s actions may have endangered consumer data, reduced the quality of consumers’ choices, or increased the price of advertising,” James said.
Joining the action were attorneys general of Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, and Tennessee, said James.
Earlier this year the US Department of Justice said it would launch a “review” of major online platforms to determine if they have stifled innovation or reduced competition.
It was not immediately clear if the states would be working in coordination with federal officials.
Facebook offered no immediate comment, but in the past it has claimed it is not a monopoly and that consumers have many choices for how to connect with people online.
The new probe “shows how unease with large tech companies is spreading beyond Congress and the federal government agencies to the states,” said Michael Carrier, professor of antitrust law at Rutgers University.
“With each passing day, there are greater fears about these companies controlling our online lives.”
Yet the legal basis for an antitrust action remains unclear, said Eric Goldman, director of the High Tech Law Institute at Santa Clara University.
“It remains to be seen if the (attorneys general) have any merit to their complaints or if they will be conducting a fishing expedition hoping to find some damning evidence,” Goldman said.
“Companies as large as Google or Facebook probably have minor problematic practices the AGs could target, but I’m still waiting for any evidence that would support more structural challenges to the internet giants’ practices.”
More on Monday
A separate coalition of states was set to launch another antitrust initiative, with Google reportedly a target.
The office of the Texas attorney general scheduled an event Monday in Washington with a “broad coalition of states” to unveil a probe into “whether large tech companies have engaged in anticompetitive behavior that stifled competition, restricted access, and harmed consumers.”
Google confirmed Friday that the Department of Justice had asked for its records on previous antitrust probes.
“The DOJ has asked us to provide information about these past investigations, and we expect state attorneys general will ask similar questions,” Kent Walker, Google’s senior vice president of global affairs, said in a blog post.
He stressed that Google was “one of America’s top spenders on research and development, making investments that spur innovation” and pledged to work constructively with regulators.
What’s the remedy?
Maurice Stucke, a University of Tennessee law professor, said he expects one of the areas being investigated will be online advertising markets, which are dominated by Google and Facebook.
“This is a great area to look at because the market has been criticized as being opaque,” Stucke said.
Stucke said the investigations may go further by looking at how tech platforms control data, potentially examining “the intersection between competition law and privacy.”
Amazon and Apple may also be in the crosshairs. Critics have complained that Amazon wields too much power in online retail, and that Apple may disadvantage rivals offering services in its app store.
In the European Union, Google has faced a series of antitrust actions and Amazon is now being targeted by enforcers.
Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren has made a breakup of the big tech firms a part of her campaign platform.
But some analysts say the case against the tech firms faces challenges because the companies have in many cases provided services for free and brought prices down, making it hard to prove they harmed “consumer welfare,” a longstanding judicial precedent.
Jessica Melugin of the Competitive Enterprise Institute said the state officials are stretching the limits of antitrust.
“This sort of high-profile activism may benefit state AGs’ political ambitions, but impose harmful costs on consumers, businesses, and the economy,” she said in a statement.
But Stucke said it would be wrong to view antitrust law as solely focused on consumer prices, and that it may be applied to questions of competition and innovation.
The probes could end up with a variety of outcomes including fines, restrictions on conduct or a breakup, Stucke maintained.
“You’d have to show how the remedy would address the concerns,” he said.
Bayern Munich and former German national team football star Jerome Boateng, 31, has been charged with assault after allegedly attacking his former partner, German prosecutors confirmed Tuesday.
“The Munich prosecutor’s office has had proceedings open against Jerome Boateng for dangerous assault since autumn 2018. Following extensive investigations, charges were brought on February 11, 2019,” chief prosecutor Anne Leiding told AFP-subsidiary SID, confirming reports in German media outlets Sueddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) and WDR.
Leiding added that the court was yet to open the case, but had accepted an accessory prosecution from the alleged victim, named only as ‘S.’.
According to the SZ and WDR reports, ‘S.’ is Boateng’s former partner of ten years and the mother of two of his three children.
Prosecutors also confirmed that Boateng was the subject of a separate police investigation into assault.
Former Germany central defender Boateng is one of the country’s most successful players, having won the World Cup with Germany in 2014 and the Champions League with Bayern in 2013.
His career has declined in recent months, after he was dropped from the national squad earlier this year.
Boateng’s relationship with his club has also suffered after he slipped down the defensive pecking order at German league champions Bayern.
In May, club president Uli Hoeness advised the 31-year-old to “find a new club”, but a mooted transfer to Italian giants Juventus fell through at the last minute on the final day of the European transfer window on Monday.
The Abia State Police Command has launched a manhunt for a police officer, Sergeant Collins Apugo, who allegedly shot and killed a young man, Chibuike Onuoha in Umuahia North Local Government Area of the state.
The 24-year-old man was reportedly shot dead by Sergeant Apugo in the Okwulagha Afara community in Umuahia, the state capital on Monday night, during an argument.
The policeman allegedly took to his heels and abandoned his patrol vehicle, after the shooting, and angry residents of the area immediately set it ablaze in protest.
Reacting to the incident, the Commissioner of Police in the state, Mr Ene Okon said a five-man committee including an Assistant Commissioner of Police, the Area Commander, and the Security Adviser to State Government, has been set up to prevent a breakdown of law and order.
While condemning the action of the policeman, Okon admitted that the officer failed to adhere to the rules of engagement and vowed to leave no stone unturned to apprehend the culprit.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office took the rare step Friday of disputing a news report on his Russia investigation, saying a BuzzFeed article alleging that US President Donald Trump directed his former lawyer to lie to Congress is “not accurate.”
Trump’s lieutenants had already strongly pushed back against the report, which said that the president ordered Michael Cohen to lie about a Russian skyscraper project they pursued during the 2016 election.
“BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the Special Counsel’s Office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s Congressional testimony are not accurate,” spokesman Peter Carr said in a statement.
Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 vote and possible collusion between Trump’s campaign and Moscow is the subject of frequent articles and even more frequent speculation.
But it is extremely rare — if not unprecedented — for Mueller’s office to issue such a statement.
BuzzFeed’s editor-in chief, however, said the news organization stood by its work.
“We stand by our reporting and the sources who informed it, and we urge the Special Counsel to make clear what he’s disputing,” Ben Smith tweeted.
The statement was nevertheless a cause for celebration for the president, who retweeted numerous supporters slamming BuzzFeed and later wrote it was “A very sad day for journalism, but a great day for our Country!”
“Fake News is truly the ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!” he added, a now familiar refrain when talking about critical media.
Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani had earlier called the allegation in the BuzzFeed report “categorically false” in a comment sent to several White House reporters, while Deputy White House Spokesman Hogan Gidley labelled the report “ridiculous.” He said Cohen is someone “who now quite frankly has been proven to be a liar.”
Democrats in Congress had pledged to investigate the report to see if the president had committed an impeachable felony.
“These allegations may prove unfounded, but, if true, they would constitute both the subornation of perjury as well as obstruction of justice,” said Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
BuzzFeed reported late Thursday that Cohen, who worked for Trump for more than a decade, has told investigators that the president personally instructed him to lie about the Moscow Trump Tower plan in testimony in 2017 to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees.
The BuzzFeed article was based on interviews with two anonymous “federal law enforcement officials” who are familiar with Cohen’s testimony to the investigation led by Mueller.
“Any suggestion — from any source — that the president counselled Michael Cohen to lie is categorically false. Michael Cohen is a convicted criminal and a liar,” Giuliani said in a statement quoted by New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman.
“Lying to reduce his jail time!” Trump said on Twitter of Cohen, who was convicted last year of fraud and perjury.
A plea deal
No other media have confirmed BuzzFeed’s reporting.
It came two months after Cohen pleaded guilty in a New York court to making “false, fictitious and fraudulent” written testimony to the House and Senate intelligence committees in August 2017 in connection with the Moscow project.
A statement of the facts in his November 29 plea deal with Mueller’s prosecutors suggested that his testimony had been prepared in consultation with unnamed people in the White House.
Cohen had told the two committees that the Moscow project talks ended in January 2016, when in fact, as he later admitted, they went on at least six months longer, to June 2016 when Trump had already secured the Republican nomination for president.
Cohen had also testified that others in the campaign, including Trump, were not informed about the project.
But in the November plea deal, Cohen also admitted the project had been discussed with Trump — designated “Individual 1” in court documents — several times in early 2016.
“Cohen made the false statements to minimize links between the Moscow project and Individual 1… in hopes of limiting the ongoing Russia investigations,” prosecutors wrote.
Trump’s right-hand man
Cohen was the president’s right-hand man for years at the Trump Organization, the umbrella company, often relied upon to quietly fix difficult problems and negotiate deals for the real estate mogul.
But he turned on his former boss after he was charged with giving hush money to women alleging affairs with Trump ahead of the 2016 election — payments that violated campaign finance laws.
Cohen, who has been sentenced to three years in jail, said Trump ordered him to make the payments, and now says he regrets his work for the president.
While Democrats could not confirm the BuzzFeed report, they said they were poised to further probe the allegations.
“Our committee is already working to secure additional witness testimony and documents related to the Trump Tower Moscow deal and other investigative matters,” said Intelligence Committee chairman Schiff.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on Saturday demanded an “exhaustive and diligent investigation” into the death of Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi who Riyadh now admits was killed inside its Istanbul consulate.
“Many questions remain… unanswered. They require an exhaustive and diligent investigation to establish exactly who was responsible and ensure that those guilty of the murder of Mr Jamal Khashoggi answer for their actions,” Le Drian said in a statement.
A US judge has ordered hip-hop megastar Jay-Z to testify in an investigation into the sale of his Rocawear apparel brand after he repeatedly refused to show up for questioning.
US market regulators are investigating possible securities law violations by the Iconix Brand Group, which markets apparel brands including Joe Boxer and London Fog.
Iconix paid Jay-Z more than $200 million for Rocawear assets. But in March 2016, the company announced a $169 million write-down of Rocawear, followed by a $34 million write-down this March, the Securities and Exchange Commission said.
Paul Gardephe, a federal judge in Manhattan, signed a written order requiring Jay-Z, real name Shawn Carter, to appear for testimony on May 15 at 9:00 am at a mutually agreed location.
“The court expects the parties to proceed in good faith, and that all reasonable efforts will be made to complete respondent’s testimony in a single day,” Gardephe said in the written order, dated Tuesday.
The SEC asked a federal judge to intervene last week, saying the repeat Grammy winner should be compelled to testify in the investigation after he ignored subpoenas in November and again in February after he hired new lawyers.
In a statement issued through Jay-Z’s attorneys last week, a representative said the star “had no role” in Iconix’s actions as a public company, and was “a private citizen who should not be involved in this matter.”
The SEC says it is seeking Jay-Z’s testimony about his joint ventures with Iconix among other matters. There is no indication he has violated securities laws.
A judicial inquiry had been launched following the death of 31-year-old Italian footballer Davide Astori, whose autopsy is expected to be carried out later in the day.
Italy was in shock following the sudden death of the captain of Fiorentina who played for his country 14 times.
“We have opened a manslaughter investigation, against X for the moment,” Antonio de Nicolo, a magistrate in the northeastern city of Udine, told Rai radio, adding that such a procedure was “mandatory”.
He also said arrangements were in place to perform an autopsy, which according to Italian media, including Gazzetta dello Sport, will be done later on Monday.
Astori was found dead in a hotel room on Sunday in Udine, where his team was due to play Udinese in a Serie A match.
De Nicolo was quoted Sunday as saying Astori died of “natural causes” after a “cardiac circulatory collapse” — a type of heart attack.
All seven matches in Italy’s top flight on Sunday were postponed following the news of Astori’s death.
Russia is investigating whether the gunman behind a deadly attack on an Orthodox church in the North Caucasus had extremist ties, the Kremlin said Monday after Islamic State claimed the shooting.
“There is an investigation into whether the attacker was linked to extremist organisations,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists a day after five women were shot dead near an Orthodox church in Kizlyar, a town in the Dagestan region.
The attack was claimed by the Islamic State (IS) group who referred to the gunman, who was shot dead by police, as “a soldier of Islam” in a post on the Telegram messaging app.
Peskov did not mention the IS explicitly, saying only “there are indeed several organisations, including those tied to international terrorism, who are continuing their destructive activities.”
The Investigative Committee said Sunday the assailant was a local resident born in 1995. It launched a murder probe but not an official terrorism investigation.
Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill condemned the attack, saying it aimed to sow discord between religious groups in the Caucasus.
The Mufti of Dagestan, the North Caucasus region’s official Muslim institution, also condemned the attack in a statement saying those who used “pseudo-Islam as cover (for violence) have nothing to do with Islam.”
The church in Kizlyar on Monday held a service in memory of the victims while all Orthodox churches in Dagestan boosted security.
“We must think of how to educate our youth, because the attacker was a very young person but already deeply confused in his views,” said Orthodox Archbishop Varlaam, a top-ranking cleric in the region who led the service.
“Clearly somebody used him, somebody who wants to sow discord between Orthodox and Muslim people,” he told the worshippers Monday.
Four people remained in hospital after Sunday’s attack, including two women in serious condition, the regional health ministry said.