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Germany’s top court has ruled that a decision five years ago to raise the upper limit for state financing of political parties by 25 million euros ($27.2 million) a year was illegal.

The country’s Constitutional Court said Tuesday that a 2018 law change backed by the left-right governing coalition under former Chancellor Angela Merkel to increase the annual limit for all parties to 190 million euros ($206.7 million) could make them too dependent on the state.

State funding in Germany matches the amount of money political parties receive from members or donations, up to a fixed limit.

Judges concluded that the arguments for raising that limit put forward by lawmakers at the time — such as the need to digitize their communication — weren’t sufficient to justify the increase. They had also failed to take into account savings resulting from switching to electronic communication.

Three smaller parties — the Greens, Free Democrats and Left party — had challenged the law. The Greens and Free Democrats are now in a coalition with the Social Democrats, who had backed the law. Merkel’s Union bloc has been in opposition since 2021.

It wasn’t immediately clear what impact the verdict will have for state funding already provided to parties.


The judge investigating Beirut’s massive 2020 port blast resumed work Monday after a nearly 13-month halt, ordering the release of some detainees and announcing plans to charge others, including two top generals, judicial officials said.

Judge Tarek Bitar’s work had been blocked since December 2021 pending a Court of Cassation ruling after three former Cabinet ministers filed legal challenges against him. The court is the highest in the land.

Despite there being no ruling by the court, Bitar resumed working on the case Monday based on legal justifications he gave, the judicial officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media. They did not elaborate.

Bitar did not respond to calls by The Associated Press for comment.

The Aug. 4, 2020 disaster happened when hundreds of tons of highly explosive ammonium nitrate, a material used in fertilizers, detonated at Beirut’s port killing more than 200, injuring over 6,000 and damaging large parts of Beirut. The explosion is considered one of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history.

It later emerged that the ammonium nitrate had been shipped to Lebanon in 2013 and stored improperly at a port warehouse ever since. Senior political and security officials knew of its presence but did nothing.

The judicial officials said Bitar decided to release five people who had been detained for more than two years. They include former customs chief Shafeek Merhi; Sami Hussein, the head of port’s operations at the time of the blast, and a Syrian worker. Twelve people will remain in custody, including the head of the port authority and the head of the Lebanese customs at the time of the blast.


Tens of thousands of Israelis gathered in central Tel Aviv on Saturday night to protest plans by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new government to overhaul the legal system and weaken the Supreme Court — a step that critics say will destroy the country’s democratic system of checks and balances.

The protest presented an early challenge to Netanyahu and his ultranationalist national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, who has ordered police to take tough action if protesters block roads or display Palestinian flags.

Israeli media, citing police, said the crowd at Tel Aviv’s Habima Square had swelled to 80,000 people by 9 p.m. despite cool, rainy weather. Protesters, many covered by umbrellas, held Israeli flags and signs saying “Criminal Government,” “The End of Democracy” and other slogans. There were no immediate reports of unrest.

Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption charges, has made overhauling the country’s legal system a centerpiece of his agenda.

In office for just over two weeks, his government has launched proposals to weaken the Supreme Court by giving parliament the power to overturn court decisions with a simple majority vote. It also wants to give parliament control over the appointment of judges and reduce the independence of legal advisers.


A magistrate in Zambia on Thursday granted bail to eight Croatian nationals charged with child trafficking.

Magistrate David Makalicha in Ndola, in the mineral-rich Copperbelt province, said the eight should each pay 20,000 Kwacha (about $1,000) bail and surrender their passports to the court.

The eight were named as Damir Magic, 44, Nadica Magic, 45, Zoran Subosic, 52, Azra Imamovic Subosic, 41, Ladislav Persic, 42, Aleksandra Persic, 40, Noah Kraljevic, 45, and Ivona Kraljevic, 46, when they first appeared in court on Tuesday and pleaded not guilty to charges of child trafficking.

They are defended by a legal aid lawyer, Kelvin Silwimba. In the charges brought before the court, the Croatians are accused of attempting to traffic four named children late last year into Zambia “for the purpose of exploitation.”

Media in Croatia had reported that the detained Croats were four couples and that they included Zoran Subosic, a guitarist for well-known band Hladno Pivo, or Cold Beer.

On Thursday, witnesses included an immigration officer and a guest house manager.

Mercy Phiri, an immigration officer at Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe International Airport, said she was tipped off that some Croatians were planning to leave the country through the airport with Black children.


The divisive social media personality Andrew Tate appeared in court in Romania’s capital Tuesday to appeal a judge’s decision to extend his arrest on charges of being part of an organized crime group, human trafficking and rape to 30 days.

Tate, 36, a British-U.S. citizen who has 4.4 million followers on Twitter, was initially detained on Dec. 29 for 24 hours along with his brother Tristan, who was charged in the same case. Two Romanian women also were taken into custody.

All four immediately challenged the arrest extension that a judge granted to prosecutors on Dec. 30. A document explaining the judge’s reasoning said “the possibility of them evading investigations cannot be ignored,” and that they could “leave Romania and settle in countries that do not allow extradition.”

Tate arrived at Bucharest’s Court of Appeal in handcuffs. Eugen Vidineac, a Romanian defense lawyer representing Tate, told journalists after a morning hearing that “all four of the accused have made statements” and that “the lawyers’ pleas were listened to entirely.

”Romania’s anti-organized crime agency DIICOT said after the late December raids that it had identified six victims in the case who were subjected by the group to “acts of physical violence and mental coercion” and were sexually exploited by group members.

“The court has to decide. We hope for a positive solution for our clients,” Vidineac said.


A court in Dubai on Thursday approved the extradition to Denmark of a British financier accused of orchestrating a $1.7 billion tax scheme.

Hedge fund trader Sanjay Shah is accused of masterminding a scheme that ran from 2012 to 2015 in which foreign businesses pretended to own shares in Danish companies and claimed tax refunds for which they were not eligible.

The Dubai government’s media office said documents show “his involvement in fraud and money laundering.” Shah was arrested in Dubai earlier this year following a request from Danish authorities. Dubai’s attorney general had appealed a ruling in September that rejected his extradition.

In a separate ruling that month, Shah was ordered to pay $1.25 billion to Denmark’s tax authority as part of a civil case in Dubai. His lawyers are appealing that judgment.

Shah’s attorney, Ali Al Zarooni, said he was “disappointed” with the latest extradition ruling and would lodge an appeal before the highest court in the United Arab Emirates, where Dubai is located. He said the defense team expects a final verdict from that court in the next two months.

The 52-year-old financier has maintained his innocence in interviews with journalists but never appeared in Denmark to answer accusations. His defense has argued in closed-door hearings that Denmark did not follow the procedures laid out in international extradition treaties.


A court in Maldives on Sunday found the former president guilty of money laundering and accepting a bribe and sentenced him to 11 years in prison.

The Criminal Court of Maldives also ordered Abdulla Yameen to pay a fine of $5 million.

The court found Yameen guilty of accepting money for leasing an island owned by the government. He ruled the Indian ocean archipelago nation, known as an exclusive tourist destination, from 2013 to 2018.

It gave him a seven-year sentence for money laundering and four years for accepting a bribe.

This was not the first time Yameen was found guilty. In a separate case in 2019, Yameen was found guilty of money laundering and sentenced to five years in prison.

But two years later, the Supreme Court overturned the verdict, saying that evidence at the initial trial contained discrepancies and did not conclusively prove that Yameen had laundered $1 million in state money for personal gain.

Yamen lost a reelection bid in 2018 to current President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.

During his time of office, he was accused of corruption, muzzling the media and persecuting political opponents.

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