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A British court ruled Thursday that the U.K. government acted unlawfully in selling weapons to Saudi Arabia that were used in the Yemen war, though it did not order a halt to the exports.

The Court of Appeal ruled in favor of anti-weapons campaigners, who argued that the sales should not have been allowed because there was a clear risk the weapons might be used in violation of international humanitarian law.

The British government plans to appeal the ruling, but while the case is ongoing, Trade Secretary Liam Fox said no new licenses for arms sales to Saudi Arabia would be granted.

Campaign Against Arms Trade argued that British bombs and fighter jets are fueling violence in Yemen, where a Saudi-led war against Iran-backed rebels has raged since 2015. The Gulf kingdom faces wide international criticism for indiscriminate airstrikes that have struck markets, hospitals and other civilian targets.

Three judges said the British government's decision-making "was wrong in law in one significant respect" — that they had "made no attempt" to find out whether the Saudi-led coalition had breached international law.


The Senate majority leader says if there’s a vacancy on the Supreme Court during next year’s election cycle, the Republican-controlled Senate would likely confirm a nominee selected by President Donald Trump.

In an appearance Tuesday in Paducah, Kentucky, Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told a questioner that if a Supreme Court justice died next year, creating a vacancy on the nine-member court, “Oh, we’d fill it.”

McConnell’s comments appeared to mark a reversal from his stance three years ago, during President Barack Obama’s final year in office, when he orchestrated a blockade of Obama’s choice of Merrick Garland to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia. McConnell blocked hearings for Garland, a federal appeals court judge, saying that the choice should be left to voters in an election year.

McConnell’s change of heart drew attacks from Democrats still smarting from his success in cementing the high court’s conservative majority. The vacancy created by Scalia’s death was filled by conservative Neil Gorsuch while swing vote Anthony Kennedy, who retired, was replaced by Justice Brett Kavanaugh after an acrimonious brawl last year.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York said McConnell was a “hypocrite” and tweeted that his colleague “lives for GOP judges because he knows the GOP agenda is so radical & unpopular they can only achieve it in courts.”


Spain is bracing for the nation's most sensitive trial in four decades of democracy this week, with a dozen Catalan separatists facing charges including rebellion over a failed secession bid in 2017.

The proceedings, which begin Tuesday, will be broadcast live on television and all eyes will be focused on the impartiality of the Spanish Supreme Court.

Catalonia's separatists have attacked the court's credibility in the run-up to the trial, saying it is a puppet of the Spanish government and any ruling will be a political one that has been decided in advance.

"In reality, it's democracy itself that will go on trial," Oriol Junqueras, one of the accused, wrote from jail in reply to questions sent by The Associated Press. "We are before a trial which, through a partial investigation full of falsities and irregularities, criminalizes a political option and an ideology."

But Supreme Court president Carlos Lesmes dismisses that notion, saying the trial is the most important since Spain's transition to democracy in 1977 after the death of dictator Gen. Francisco Franco.

"This is a trial following the highest standards set by the European Union," Lesmes recently told a group of journalists.



North Carolina's highest court will weigh in on whether money paid by the world's largest pork producer for environmental restoration projects should go to public schools instead.

The state Supreme Court announced Friday it would hear appeals in a lawsuit involving a 2000 agreement between Smithfield Foods and then-Attorney General Mike Easley. Smithfield has paid $2 million annually for 25 years. Easley's successors enforce the agreement and distribute funds.

A conservative activist and later the New Hanover County school board sued, contending Smithfield's payments are civil penalties for past environmental violations, so the state constitution requires they go to schools.

A trial judge dismissed the lawsuit, but the Court of Appeals resurrected it last September. Current Attorney General Josh Stein and other parties asked the justices to step in.


Kevin Spacey pleaded not guilty Monday to groping an 18-year-old busboy in 2016 in the first criminal case brought against the disgraced actor following a string of sexual misconduct allegations that crippled his career.

Spacey’s court appearance came more than a year after former Boston TV anchor Heather Unruh accused the former “House of Cards” star of sexually assaulting her son in a bar on the Massachusetts resort island of Nantucket.

Nantucket District Court Judge Thomas Barrett ordered Spacey to stay away from his accuser and the man’s family. Spacey will not have to appear at his next hearing on March 4, but he must be available by phone, Barrett said.

The judge also ordered Spacey’s accuser and the man’s then-girlfriend to preserve text messages and other data on their cellphones from the day of the alleged assault and six months after. Spacey’s attorney Alan Jackson told the judge they believe the cellphones contain information that is “likely exculpatory” for Spacey.

The actor and his lawyers declined to comment as they left the courthouse amid a crush of reporters. Spacey, wearing a gray suit, navy vest and polka dot tie, didn’t speak during the hearing and his lawyers entered the not-guilty plea on his behalf.


The Florida Supreme Court says it's OK for judges to be friends on Facebook with attorneys who have cases before them.

In a 4-3 decision, the justices ruled that a Facebook friend is more casual and not comparable to a "traditional" friendship in terms of a potential conflict of interest. The decision says that many Facebook friends are complete strangers.

The ruling settles a split between two Florida appeals courts on the question. The three dissenters argued that a judge having a Facebook friend as an attorney before him could undermine confidence in the neutrality of the courts.

And Justice Jorge LaBarga, while agreeing with the majority, said all judges should stay off Facebook, delete their account when becoming a judge or at least limit their social media friendships.



German authorities say a man who was supposed to appear as a witness at a trial in Germany failed to show up and was found dead in a court toilet three days later.

The news agency dpa reported Tuesday the 70-year-old was supposed to testify on Oct. 29 at Kiel district court. According to the Kieler Nachrichten newspaper, the session was called off and officials tried in vain to reach him by phone.

The man, who is suspected of having a heart attack, was found in a locked court toilet cubicle on Nov. 1. Court vice president Beate Flatow said court guards will from now on check all publicly accessible areas daily.

Flatow said cleaners apparently assumed that a pipe had burst and the cubicle had been locked as a precaution.

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