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The European Union's top court ruled Monday that a Polish law that pushed Supreme Court judges into early retirement violates EU law, a setback for Poland's right-wing government but a move welcomed by critics who worried the measure would cause a serious erosion of democratic standards.

In its ruling, the European Court of Justice said the measures breach judicial independence. An interim decision from the Luxembourg-based court in November ordered the Polish government to reinstate judges who were forced to retire early and to amend the law to remove the provisions that took about one-third of the court off the bench.

The court said the law "undermines the principle of the irremovability of judges, that principle being essential to their independence."

There was no immediate reaction from Poland's government, but the decision is a blow to the ruling authorities, who since winning power in 2015 have increasingly taken control of the judicial system.

The government and president have said they wanted to force the early retirement of the Supreme Court judges as part of a larger effort to purge communist-era judges.

But legal experts say that argument holds no water because most communist-era judges are long gone from the judicial system 30 years after the fall of communism. Many critics believe the true aim is to destroy the independence of the Polish judiciary.

The biggest fear is that the judiciary could become so politicized that those not favored by the ruling authorities could be unfairly charged with crimes and sentenced, essentially deprived of fair hearings. Though a separate court, the Constitutional Tribunal, and other bodies are already under the ruling party's control, many judges have continued to show independence, ruling against the authorities, even the justice minister, in recent cases.


Brazil's supreme court officially made homophobia and transphobia crimes similar to racism on Thursday, with the final justices casting their votes in a ruling that comes amid fears the country's far-right administration is seeking to roll back LGBT social gains.

Six of the Supreme Federal Tribunal's 11 judges had already voted in favor of the measure in late May, giving the ruling a majority. The final justices voted Thursday for a tally of eight votes for and three against.

Racism was made a crime in Brazil in 1989 with prison sentences of up to five years. The court's judges ruled that homophobia should be framed within the racism law until the country's congress approves legislation specifically dealing with LGBT discrimination.

The court's judges have said the ruling was to address an omission that had left the LGBT community legally unprotected.

"In a discriminatory society like the one we live in, the homosexual is different and the transsexual is different. Every preconception is violence, but some impose more suffering than others," said justice Carmen Lucia.

Justice Ricardo Lewandowski, one of the judges who voted against the measure, recognized the lack of congressional legislation on the issue but said he voted against putting homophobia inside the framework of the racism legislation because only the legislature has the power to create "types of crimes" and set punishments.



A Baghdad court on Sunday sentenced three French citizens to death for being members of the Islamic State group, an Iraqi judicial official said. They were the first French IS members to receive death sentences in Iraq, where they were transferred for trial from neighboring Syria.

The verdict raised new questions about the legal treatment of thousands of foreign nationals formerly with the extremist group. Many now languish in prisons in Iraq or detention camps in northern Syria. Their home countries hesitate to take back citizens they see as having gone willingly to join the militant group.

The official said the three were among 12 French citizens whom the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces handed over to Iraq in January. The Kurdish-led group spearheads the fight against IS in Syria and has handed over to Iraq hundreds of suspected IS members in recent months.

The convicted French militants can appeal the sentences within a month, according to the official, who official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak to the media.

Iraqi President Barham Saleh had said during a February visit to Paris that the 12 will be prosecuted in accordance with Iraqi laws. In March, Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi asserted Iraq's authority to try foreign IS suspects detained in Syria because "the battlefields were one."

The trials of the French nationals in Baghdad raise the difficult question of whether foreign IS suspects should be tried and punished in the country of their alleged crimes, even when there are serious doubts about the impartiality of the courts in Iraq and Syria.


A majority in Brazil's supreme court has voted to make homophobia and transphobia crimes like racism, a decision coming amid fears the country's far-right president will roll back LGBT social gains.

Six of the Supreme Federal Tribunal's 11 judges have voted in favor of the measure. The five other judges will vote in a court session on June 5, but the result will not be modified. The measure will take effect after all the justices have voted.

Racism was made a crime in Brazil in 1989 with prison sentences of up to five years. The court's judges ruled that homophobia should be framed within the racism law until the country's congress approves legislation specifically dealing with LGBT discrimination.

Brazil's Senate is dealing with a bill to criminalize discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender with sentences of up to five years.

"Racism is a crime against flesh and blood, whether it is a member of the LGBT community, a Jew or an Afro-descendant," justice Luiz Fux said Thursday.


Former South African president Jacob Zuma is in court facing charges of corruption, money laundering and racketeering.

Zuma, 77, appeared at the High Court in Pietermaritzburg in eastern KwaZulu-Natal province Monday on charges of receiving bribes when the government purchased arms in 1999.

Zuma was South Africa's president from 2009 until 2018, when he was forced to resign by his ruling African National Congress party amid persistent allegations of corruption.

The criminal charges against Zuma were first raised more than 10 years ago but were withdrawn by the National Prosecution Authority in 2008. The charges were reinstated after a court ruled that there are sufficient grounds to bring him to trial.

Zuma's former financial adviser, Schabir Shaik, was in 2005 convicted of fraud and corruption.


Slovakia's Supreme Court on Monday dismissed a request by the country's prosecutor general to ban a far-right party that has 14 seats in the country's parliament.

In his request filed two years ago, Jaromir Ciznar said the far-right People's Party Our Slovakia is an extremist group whose activities violate the country's constitution and its goal is to destroy the country's democratic system.

But the court ruled the prosecutor general failed to provide enough evidence for the ban. The verdict is final.

"The ruling has clearly showed that our party is legitimate and democratic," party chairman Marian Kotleba said on Monday. He said it was "a political trial."

The prosecutor's office didn't immediately comment. Kotleba's supporters applauded in the court room while the opponents unveiled a banner in front of the court that read "Stop Fascism."

The party openly admires the Nazi puppet state that the country was during World War II. Party members use Nazi salutes, blame Roma for crime in deprived areas, consider NATO a terror group and want the country out of the alliance and the European Union.

If granted, it would have been the first ban on a parliamentary party.

There is a precedent, though. In 2006, the same court banned a predecessor of People's Party, the neo-Nazi Slovak Togetherness-National Party, also led by Kotleba.


It was one of European soccer's most heartwarming stories, an unconventional club from a sleepy city in central Sweden making an eight-year journey from the amateur ranks to beating Arsenal in the Europa League.

But was the remarkable rise of Ostersund built on illegal foundations?

In a case that has rocked Swedish sport in recent months, Daniel Kindberg, the larger-than-life former chairman of Ostersund who is regarded as the mastermind behind the team's success, is heading to court for a trial in which he is accused of serious financial crimes.

The basic premise? Kindberg is alleged to have helped funnel 11.8 million kronor ($1.3 million) of taxpayers' money into the club in an elaborate scheme that involved two other men and three companies — one being the municipality's housing corporation for which Kindberg was chief executive.

Kindberg could go to jail for a maximum of six years, according to the Swedish Economic Crime Authority. Ostersund could lose its place in the top league in Sweden. A small soccer club's great achievement, which was celebrated and enjoyed across the continent, might be tainted.

"As good as it was for the Ostersund brand with this fairy tale of the OFK team going into Europe," Ostersund's mayor, Bosse Svensson, told The Associated Press, "this is just as bad."

Kindberg, who denies the charges, was arrested a year ago and has stood down from his role as Ostersund chairman.

The case has both shocked and polarized the natives of this remote city — located 300 miles (480 kilometers) northwest of Stockholm and with a population of around 50,000 — that is better known for its winter sports than its soccer.

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