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Legal Insight     updated  2018/02/11 13:12


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Spain's top court said Saturday that Catalonia's fugitive ex-president must return to the country and be present in the regional parliament to receive the authority to form a new government.

The Constitutional Court ruled that a session of Catalonia's parliament scheduled for Tuesday would be suspended if former leader Carles Puigdemont tries to be re-elected without being physically present in the chamber.

The court also said that Puigdemont must seek judicial authorization to attend the session.

Catalonia's separatist lawmakers have been considering voting Puigdemont back in as regional chief without him returning from Belgium, weighing options that included another parliament member standing in for him or him addressing the lawmakers via video.

The separatist leader fled Spain after the regional parliament made an unsuccessful declaration of independence on Oct. 27 in violation of Spain's Constitution. He is wanted in Spain on possible rebellion and sedition charges and is likely to be arrested if he returns.

The court, in a unanimous decision of the 11 magistrates present, said that the investiture of Puigdemont would be suspended without the previous authorization of a judge, "even if he is physically in the chamber."

That specification comes amid speculation that Puigdemont could try to slip back into Spain and sneak past police into the Barcelona-based parliament to be re-elected. Spain's Interior Minister, Juan Ignacio Zoido, said this week that police were increasing surveillance to ensure that doesn't happen.

The court also ruled that neither Puigdemont nor the four other former members of his Cabinet who also fled to Belgium to avoid a judicial summons three months ago could delegate their vote for Tuesday's session in another candidate.



A judge dropped an arrest warrant Thursday for a University of Hawaii professor who refused to respond in court to English and spoke Hawaiian instead.

Samuel Kaleikoa Kaeo was in court Wednesday facing a trial for charges connected to his participation in a 2017 protest against the construction of a solar telescope on top of Haleakala, a volcano on Maui, Hawaii News Now reported .

When Judge Blaine Kobayashi asked Kaeo to confirm his identity, he repeatedly responded in Hawaiian instead of English.

Kobayashi said he couldn't understand Kaeo and issued a warrant for Kaeo's arrest, saying "the court is unable to get a definitive determination for the record that the defendant seated in court is Mr. Samuel Kaeo."

Kaeo, an associate professor of Hawaiian Studies at the University of Hawaii Maui College, said he has appeared before the judge before and complained that "it was about the fact that I was speaking Hawaiian that he didn't like."

Kobayashi recalled the bench warrant Thursday, the state Judiciary said in a statement. Judiciary spokesman Andrew Laurence declined to answer questions about the recall, including what prompted it.

Kaeo faces misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct and obstructing a sidewalk. Kaeo, who also speaks English, requested a Hawaiian interpreter in the courtroom but prosecutors had objected, saying it was an unnecessary expense that would have caused delays.


A court in Myanmar extended the detention of two Reuters journalists on Wednesday and set their trial for Jan. 10 on charges of violating state secrets.

Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were arrested Dec. 12 for acquiring "important secret papers" from two policemen. The police officers had worked in Rakhine state, where abuses widely blamed on the military have driven more than 630,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee into neighboring Bangladesh. The charges are are punishable by up to 14 years in prison.

"We are just working as journalists. ... We never violate journalism ethics," Wa Lone told reporters as he and his colleague were led out of a police van into the courtroom in Mingalardon, on the outskirts of Yangon.

Their families wept as they got a chance to see them for the first time since their arrests.

"I want my husband to be free soon. And I trust him that he would never violate the law," said Wa Lone's wife, Pan Ei Mon.

U.S., U.N. and European Union officials are among others calling for their release.

Dozens of Myanmar journalists appeared at the court wearing black shirts as part of a protest against the journalists' arrests.

"We are facing the same kind of harassment under the civilian government as we did under the military government," said Thar Lun Zaung Htet, head of a local pressure group for press freedom. "It is not fair for the two journalists to be charged under the official secrets act because they were doing their job as journalists who tried to get information."

On Tuesday, authorities said they would drop charges against two Singaporean reporters and their local staff working for the Turkish state broadcaster TRT. They were arrested on Oct. 27 for allegedly flying a drone over the parliament building without permission.

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