World Headlines

ABCBy KATIE KINDELAN, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- A new clip of Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, speaking out to Oprah Winfrey was released Wednesday night, just hours after Buckingham Palace announced it plans to open an investigation into allegations of bullying made against the duchess.

"I don't know how they could expect that after all of this time we should still just be silent if there's an active role that the firm is playing in perpetuating falsehoods about us," Meghan tells Winfrey in the promo for Winfrey's primetime interview with Meghan and Prince Harry. "If that comes with the risk of losing things, there's a lot that's been lost already."

Meghan's use of the words "the firm" in her conversation with Winfrey seems to show just how personal things have become one year after Harry and Meghan stepped away from their roles as senior, working members of the royal family. The firm is the term used to refer to the family, not the institution, of the monarchy.

Buckingham Palace, which represents Harry's grandmother, Queen Elizabeth, announced Wednesday it plans to open an investigation into allegations of bullying made against Duchess Meghan, a move that one royal expert called "incredibly unprecedented."

"It's a shocker, really," ABC News royal contributor Robert Jobson said Thursday on Good Morning America. "The fact that they’ve now opened this investigation is also a bit of a worry for the royal family going forward."

"It’s going to open a can of worms," he said. "If there are other people out there who want to complain, not only about Meghan but other members of the royal family, that’s something that could well unravel."

Buckingham Palace's announcement came one day after The Times of London reported Tuesday that Meghan faced a bullying complaint from a close adviser at Kensington Palace.

The Times reported the complaint was made in October 2018 by Jason Knauf, the Sussexes' communications secretary at the time, in a move that was reportedly intended to protect staffers after they allegedly became pressured by Meghan, who wed Prince Harry in May 2018.

According to the Times of London report, the complaint claimed that she "drove two personal assistants out of the household and was undermining the confidence of a third staff member."

In several alleged incidents after Prince Harry and Meghan's wedding, unnamed sources told the newspaper that staff members "would on occasion be reduced to tears." One aide allegedly told a colleague, "I can't stop shaking," while in anticipation of a confrontation with Meghan, according to the report.

According to the Times report, two unnamed senior staff members also claimed that they were allegedly bullied by the duchess and another aide claimed it felt "more like emotional cruelty and manipulation."

"I was shocked by what I heard," Valentine Low, the Times' royal correspondent who broke the story about the allegations, told GMA. "I knew that she was difficult. I didn't know how difficult. I didn't know how bad it was."

Low, who said his reporting uncovered an "intensely difficult working environment," said he was also surprised by the palace's decision to investigate the bullying accusations.

"To come out with a statement like that, less than 24 hours after The Times newspaper published these allegations, I mean, it's extraordinary," he said. "[I've] never known anything like it and it shows how concerned the palace is about its own reputation."

Buckingham Palace said in its statement Wednesday its human resources team will "look into the circumstances outlined in the article."

"We are clearly very concerned about allegations in The Times following claims made by former staff of The Duke and Duchess of Sussex," the palace said in the statement. "Accordingly our HR team will look into the circumstances outlined in the article. Members of staff involved at the time, including those who have left the Household, will be invited to participate to see if lessons can be learned."

"The Royal Household has had a Dignity at Work policy in place for a number of years and does not and will not tolerate bullying or harassment in the workplace," according to the statement.

In response to the allegations reported in the paper, a spokesperson for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex told ABC News on Tuesday that they've "addressed these defamatory claims in full" in a "detailed letter" to the Times, which has not been publicly released. The spokesperson also said Meghan is "saddened" by the news.

"We are disappointed to see this defamatory portrayal of The Duchess of Sussex given credibility by a media outlet," a Sussex spokesperson wrote in a statement. "It's no coincidence that distorted several-year-old accusations aimed at undermining The Duchess are being briefed to the British media shortly before she and The Duke are due to speak openly and honestly about their experience of recent years."

"The Duchess is saddened by this latest attack on her character, particularly as someone who has been the target of bullying herself and is deeply committed to supporting those who have experienced pain and trauma," the spokesperson added. "She is determined to continue her work building compassion around the world and will keep striving to set an example for doing what is right and doing what is good."

Duchess Meghan has not yet directly responded to the statement from Buckingham Palace announcing the investigation.

Harry described the environment that he and Meghan left in the U.K. as "toxic" in an interview with The Late Late Show host James Corden that aired last week.

"There was a really difficult environment, as I think a lot of people saw. We all know what the British press can be like, and it was destroying my mental health," said Harry, who has recently waged legal battles with some British tabloids. "I was like, 'This is toxic,' so I did what any husband and any father would do, which is like, I need to get my family out of here."

In a clip of Harry and Meghan's interview with Winfrey released on Monday, Winfrey, who lives near the couple in California, says to them, "You’ve said some pretty shocking things here."

In another clip, Winfrey says there was "no subject that was off limits" in the interview and asks Meghan if she was “silent or silenced." In the same clip, Winfrey later interjects to say, "Almost unsurvivable -- sounds like there was a breaking point."

The Winfrey interview, set to air as a two-hour primetime special, is Harry's and Meghan's first joint interview about their decision to transition out of their working roles in the royal family.

Buckingham Palace confirmed last month that Harry and Meghan will not return as working members of the royal family.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP via Getty ImagesBy CLARK BENTSON, ABC News

(VATICAN CITY) -- When the pontiff touches down in Baghdad on Friday, it will be the culmination of a Vatican trip decades in the planning.

Pope Francis will be the first pope to ever visit this area of great biblical importance -- home to ancient civilizations. His trip is happening despite escalating violence, rising COVID cases and international concerns.

Questions about the timing of trip were raised repeatedly at a recent Vatican press conference. But it was the pope himself who addressed these concerns on Wednesday before his departure.

"The Iraqi people are waiting for us," the pope said. "They awaited St. John Paul II who was not permitted to go. One cannot disappoint a people for a second time."

St. John Paul II had tried without success to undertake this same trip to only be blocked by concerns of safety and political instability.

A resurgence in violent attacks has again forced the Vatican to address whether the pope's visit is safe. Iran-backed militias have twice since the beginning of the year sent rockets into bases housing American and coalition forces. President Joe Biden ordered a retaliatory strike against a suspected insurgent bases in Syria after the first attack.

In a second assault, militants launched 10 rockets at the Al Asad airbase just days before the pope's departure. The U.S. has reserved the right to respond at a time of its own choosing.

A twin suicide attack at central Baghdad market in early January stunned Iraqis after months of calm. The bombs killed 32 civilians and injured over 100. Demonstrations against the November government killings of protesters continue almost daily across the country. The unrest forced the previous prime minister to step down.

Despite the uptick in violence, the Vatican is confident the trip can move forward. It has said that Iraqi forces will be responsible for the safety of the pontiff, not international forces.

The church says the visit, which will last from March 5 to March 8, is to show support to the people of Iraq after years of violence. When the Islamic State swept through the north of the country in 2014 promising to establish its caliphate in Mosul, it nearly decimated the small Christian community that had survived under the Saddam Hussein regime. ISIS destroyed most of the churches and other Christian symbols before it was forced out and all but destroyed by coalition forces. The pope will pray for peace at the ruins of these churches in Mosul and hold a mass in the restored cathedral in Qaraqosh.

The pope wants to use this trip not only to support the Christian Iraqis, but to reach out to all the religious communities in Iraq. In Ur, the birthplace of Abraham, who is a prophet important to Christians, Muslims and Jews, the pope will hold an interfaith meeting that will include readings from the Quran. Members of all the main religious segments have been invited.

One of his most important visits will be with the head of the Shia community in Iraq, the revered Grand Ayatollah Sayyid al-Sistani, at his home in the holy city of Najaf. The 90-year-old cleric is rarely seen in public but his influence was instrumental in overthrowing Saddam Hussein.

The pope and his entourage will not have the usual large crowds attending ceremonies; Iraqi television channels will be covering all papal events live. The Vatican says it is organizing the trip with COVID mitigation efforts in mind. Most events will be before a small number of people with masks and social distancing is required. Every journalist accompanying the pope was vaccinated. The only large event, a mass at the stadium in Erbil, will be invitation only using only a fraction of the available seats.

Despite the risks, Francis is determined to make the visit in person.

"They will see that the pope is there, in their country," he said.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



yorkfoto/iStockBy MORGAN WINSOR and KARSON YIU, ABC News

(LONDON) -- At least 38 protesters were killed by authorities in Myanmar on Wednesday, marking the bloodiest day since the military seized power in an apparent coup last month, according to the United Nations' special envoy for Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener.

Demonstrations have been taking place in cities across the Southeast Asian country since its de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, and other members of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party were detained by the military on Feb. 1. The protest movement has been growing and the military junta, which calls itself the State Administration Council, has become increasingly violent in its response as weeks of internet shutdowns, threats and mass arrests have not stopped thousands of people from voicing their opposition.

Schraner Burgener said she believes the junta is "very surprised" by the protests against the coup.

"Today, we have young people who lived in freedom for 10 years. They have social media and they are well organized and very determined," Schraner Burgener told reporters in New York City on Wednesday. "They don't want to go back in a dictatorship and in isolation."

Police and security forces in Myanmar are now using live ammunition on protesters. Since Feb. 1, more than 50 people have been killed there and over 1,200 others -- some of whom remain unaccounted for -- have been arbitrarily arrested and detained, mostly without any form of due process, according to Schraner Burgener.

Sunday was previously the deadliest day in Myanmar since the bloodless coup. Authorities confronted peaceful protesters in several locations across Myanmar and fired live rounds into the crowds, killing at least 18 people and wounding over 30 others, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, which cited "credible information" that it had received.

Despite the escalation, the United States did not announce any new actions against Myanmar's military on Wednesday.

"We are appalled and repulsed to see the horrific violence perpetrated against the people of Burma for their peaceful calls to restore civilian governance," U.S. Department of State spokesperson Ned Price said during a press briefing at the White House, using Myanmar's former name under British colonial rule. "We call on all countries to speak with one voice to condemn brutal violence by the Burmese military against its own people and to promote accountability for the military's actions that have led to the loss of life of so many people in Burma."

Price said U.S. sanctions against Myanmar's military have a "significant impact" on its "ability to wield power and influence," but that the junta has virtually ignored them as well as financial penalties from Canada and the United Kingdom. Other "policy measures" are being evaluated, both unilaterally from the U.S. and with allies and partners in the region, according to Price.

"We are not going to do anything that worsens the suffering, the humanitarian suffering of the Burmese people," he told reporters in Washington, D.C.

Schraner Burgener said she has had conversations in recent weeks with the deputy commander-in-chief of Myanmar’s armed forces, Vice-Senior Gen. Soe Win, to warn him that the military will likely face strong measures from some countries as well as isolation in retaliation for the coup.

"The answer was: 'We are used to sanctions, and we survived,'" she told reporters in New York City. "When I also warned they will go in an isolation, the answer was: 'We have to learn to walk with only few friends.'"

The military previously ruled Myanmar for nearly 50 years before appearing to slowly transition to democratic rule a decade ago and holding its first general elections in years in 2015, which was a landslide victory for the NLD. Suu Kyi had spent 15 years under house arrest while leading the struggle for democracy against the Burmese junta and was awarded the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize for her "nonviolent" efforts.

Suu Kyi is understood to have had a tentative shared power agreement with the military since she was named state counsellor in 2016, offering the government a veneer of democratic legitimacy as they embarked on a decade of reforms. The role of state counsellor, akin to a prime minister or a head of government, was created because Myanmar's 2008 constitution barred Suu Kyi from becoming president, since her late husband and children are foreign citizens.

The Nov. 8 general election was meant to be a referendum on Suu Kyi’s popular civilian government but her party expanded their seats in Parliament, securing a clear majority and threatening the military's tight hold on power. The constitution guarantees the military 25% of seats in Parliament and control of several key ministries.

The new civilian-led government was supposed to convene for the first time on Feb. 1 but power was instead handed over to Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, commander-in-chief of Myanmar's armed forces, who is already under U.S. sanctions for his role in the military's atrocities against the Rohingya Muslim minority. An order signed by the acting president granted full authority to Hlaing to run the country and declared a state of emergency that will last for at least one year, citing widespread voter fraud in the November election.

Hlaing’s office said in a statement that the military would hold a "free and fair general election" after the state of emergency ends. Voter rolls will be checked and the nation's election commission, which last week rejected the military's allegations of voter fraud, will be "re-established," according to the statement.

Suu Kyi is still revered in Myanmar despite losing some of her international luster for her refusal to condemn the human rights against the Rohingyas. She has not been seen in public since she was ousted and is believed to be under house arrest at her residence in Myanmar's capital, Naypyidaw.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Samir Hussein/ Samir Hussein/WireImageBy ROSA SANCHEZ and ZOE MAGEE, ABC News

(LONDON) -- Britain's Prince Philip had a "successful procedure" at a London hospital on Wednesday for a pre-existing heart condition, according to Buckingham Palace.

The 99-year-old Duke of Edinburgh "will remain in hospital for treatment, rest and recuperation for a number of days," the palace said in a statement Thursday.

Philip was transferred to St. Bartholomew's Hospital in east London on Monday from King Edward VII Hospital in central London, where he was admitted on Feb. 17 for treatment of an infection. Buckingham Palace had said that "doctors will continue to treat him for an infection, as well as undertake testing and observation for a pre-existing heart condition."

"The Duke remains comfortable and is responding to treatment but is expected to remain in hospital until at least the end of the week," the palace said in a statement Monday.

St. Bartholomew's Hospital is located further away from Windsor Castle, a royal residence in the English county of Berkshire where Philip had been staying with his wife, Queen Elizabeth II, but is a larger facility that specializes in cardiovascular treatment, according to the hospital's website.

While Philip is hospitalized in London, Queen Elizabeth remains at Windsor Castle, where the couple have been staying for most of the coronavirus pandemic. They celebrated their 73rd wedding anniversary in November.

Philip, who will turn 100 in June, was initially taken by car from Windsor to King Edward VII Hospital in London for what Buckingham Palace described as a "precautionary measure" after the duke reported feeling unwell. His illness is not COVID-19-related, a royal source told ABC News.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



plefevre/iStockBy CATHERINE THORBECKE, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- A Japanese billionaire is searching for eight members of the public to join him on a mission to orbit around the moon.

Yusaku Maezawa, who made headlines in 2018 when he was unveiled as SpaceX's first private passenger to commission a trip around the moon, released a new video Tuesday to share updates on his pending mission.

"I’m inviting you to join me on this mission, eight of you from all around the world," Maezawa said in the video.

He said the mission is now scheduled to take place in 2023 on a Starship spacecraft that is currently being developed by Elon Musk's private space-faring firm SpaceX.

"I will pay for the entire journey," Maezawa said. "Ten to 12 of us will be on board, and I hope that together we can make it a fun trip."

Maezawa initially said his plan was to bring artists from around the world into space with him, but said Tuesday that this plan has "evolved."

"I began to wonder ... what do I mean by artists?" he said. "The more I though about it, the more ambiguous it became."

"I began to think that maybe every single person who is doing something creative could be called an artist," he added.

Now, Maezawa said the mission is open to anyone who has the goal of going into space "to help other people and greater society in some way."

In addition, Maezawa said the crew members must be "willing and able to support other crew members who share similar aspirations."

"If that sounds like you, please join me," he said.

Musk also shared a message in the video, saying that the mission is significant because "it will be the first private spaceflight, first commercial spaceflight with humans beyond Earth orbit."

He went on, "This has never occurred before and we’re going to go past the moon, so it will actually end up being further. This mission, we expect people will go further than any human has ever gone from planet Earth. Maezawa is also providing places on the ship for artists and others to join, so he wants this to be something that is exciting and inspiring for the whole world."

Finally, Musk said he is "highly confident" that the Starship spacecraft will have reached orbit "many times" before 2023, and "that it will be safe enough for human transport by 2023."

Those who want to join the mission can pre-register for the application process on the dearMoon mission’s website. Pre-registration must be submitted by March 14. Then there is a screening, assignment and interview process -- though further details for how the crew will be selected were not disclosed.

The final interview round and medical checkup for the crew is expected to happen in late May 2021.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



ABC News/Frame Grab via Getty ImagesBy ANGELINE JANE BERNABE, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Just days ahead of their highly anticipated interview with Oprah Winfrey, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are firing back at a report in a U.K. newspaper that claims Meghan bullied royal staffers at Kensington palace before she and Prince Harry decided to step down from their royal roles last year.

"Let's just call this what it is -- a calculated smear campaign based on misleading and harmful misinformation," a Sussex spokesperson told ABC News in a statement.

On Tuesday, Meghan came under fire after a story published in The Times of London reported that she faced a bullying complaint from a close adviser at Kensington Palace.

The Times reported that the complaint was made in October 2018 by Jason Knauf, the Sussexes' communications secretary at the time, in a move that was intended to protect staffers after they allegedly became pressured by Meghan.

According to the Times of London report, the complaint claimed that she "drove two personal assistants out of the household and was undermining the confidence of a third staff member."

In several alleged incidents taking place after Prince Harry and Meghan's wedding, un-named sources told the newspaper that staff members "would on occasion be reduced to tears." One aide allegedly told a colleague, "I can't stop shaking," while in anticipation of a confrontation with Meghan, according to the report.

According to the Times report, two un-named senior staff members also claimed that they were allegedly bullied by the duchess and another aide claimed it felt "more like emotional cruelty and manipulation."

In response to the allegations reported in the paper, a spokesperson for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex told ABC News that they've "addressed these defamatory claims in full" in a "detailed letter" to the Times. The spokesperson also said Meghan is "saddened" by the news.

"We are disappointed to see this defamatory portrayal of The Duchess of Sussex given credibility by a media outlet," a Sussex spokesperson wrote in a statement. "It's no coincidence that distorted several-year-old accusations aimed at undermining The Duchess are being briefed to the British media shortly before she and The Duke are due to speak openly and honestly about their experience of recent years."

"The Duchess is saddened by this latest attack on her character, particularly as someone who has been the target of bullying herself and is deeply committed to supporting those who have experienced pain and trauma," the spokesperson added. "She is determined to continue her work building compassion around the world and will keep striving to set an example for doing what is right and doing what is good."

Harry and Meghan's interview with Winfrey is slated to air March 7 as a two-hour prime-time special.

In clips released earlier this week by CBS, the couple opens up to Winfrey about royal life before stepping down last year.

In one of the clips, Winfrey says there was "no subject that was off limits" and asks Meghan if she was "silent or silenced."

Meghan remains silent as Winfrey interjects, "Almost unsurvivable -- sounds like there was a breaking point."

Harry shared a similar sentiment in an interview that aired last week with The Late Late Show host James Corden, saying he and Meghan left a "toxic" media environment in the U.K.

"There was a really difficult environment, as I think a lot of people saw. We all know what the British press can be like, and it was destroying my mental health," said Harry, who has recently waged legal battles with some British tabloids. "I was like, 'This is toxic,' so I did what any husband and any father would do, which is like, I need to get my family out of here."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



macky_ch/iStockBy PATRICK REEVELL, ABC News

(MOSCOW) -- Russian opposition politician Alexey Navalny has been sent to a prison known as unusually harsh and feared as place where prisoners are subjected to intense psychological pressure, according to former inmates and prisoner rights campaigners.

Last month, Navalny was sentenced to serve over two and a half years in a penal colony for allegedly violating his parole for a 2014 fraud conviction that has been widely denounced internationally as politically motivated. He was arrested after he returned to Russia following his near fatal poisoning with a nerve agent.

Navalny was moved last week from a Moscow detention center to a prison colony, and officially, authorities have still not said where he is. However, Russian state media reported Monday that Navalny is now in a prison in the Vladimirskaya region, about 60 miles east of Moscow.

The United States and the European Union on Tuesday imposed new sanctions against several senior Russian officials, including the head of Russia's prison service and its prosecutor general, over Navalny’s poisoning and jailing. The Biden administration also said it was limiting some forms of cooperation with Russia's space industry.

The prison where Navalny has been sent, Penal Colony No. 2 in the village of Pokrov, is “a breaking camp,” Pyotr Kuryanov, a lawyer with the NGO Fund for the Defense of Prisoners’ Rights, told ABC News.

Former inmates at the prison said that while they do not expect Navalny would face beatings or physical torture at the prison, because he is a high-profile prisoner, they believe he will be subjected to pressure and isolation that would amount to “psychological torture."

“No one will beat or torture him,” said Vladimir Pereverzin, who spent two years in the prison 10 years ago. “But they will psychologically break him.”

Pereverzin was a former manager at the oil company Yukos, which was owned by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the oligarch who was jailed for more than a decade on fraud charges that most observers believe were retribution for trying to politically challenge President Vladimir Putin. Pereverzin was sentenced to seven years on embezzlement charges, as part of the case against Yukos and Khodorkovsky.

Russia’s penal colonies, though improved, are still set up along the lines of Gulag camps created in the 1930s. The prison consists of barracks that house several dozen inmates sleeping in rows of bunks together, and it is surrounded by high walls topped with razor-wire.

Prisoners work long labor shifts, often sewing clothes, and conditions are reportedly grim. But Penal Colony No. 2, former inmates and campaigners said, is distinguished by the exhausting level of control and discipline to which inmates are reportedly subjected.

From outside “it seems like all the rest of the camps,” Kuryanov said. “But inside this camp, there is an unbearable atmosphere created artificially by the administration staff, so that it has to be lived in day after day, month after month, year after year.”

In practice, former inmates alleged, that means inmates are subjected to near constant checks and forced to continually follow trivial rules invented by the administration, leaving them in continual fear of punishment. Infractions can include a missing button or failing to say hello.

Ordinary new inmates reportedly go through a grim induction, beaten by guards and inmates working for the administration, according to several accounts by former inmates published online. Almost every moment of a prisoner's time is accounted for, and guards allegedly often make them take part in repetitive pointless exercises intended to break them them down, such as being made to repeat their names and crimes over and over or being forced to stand for hours with their heads lowered, Dmitry Dyomushkin, a nationalist activist who spent time in the camp, told Russian media.

“There, even flies don’t fly without asking,” Dyomushkin told radio station Echo of Moscow.

In the penal colonies, discipline is usually maintained by prisoners themselves, either by inmates collaborating with the guards or by criminal gang leaders. Colonies that are run by prisoners working with the authorities are known as “Red Zones” in Russian criminal slang.

At Penal Colony. No. 2, there is a strong set-up between the administration and collaborating prisoners, those with experience there alleged, that allows the warden to dominate a prisoner entirely.

“It’s the reddest of the red,” Maria Eismont, a lawyer for an activist who was sentenced there in 2019, told Open Media, an opposition news site. “There, everything is done to isolate political prisoners,” she said, alleging that other inmates were forbidden from talking to her client.

Dyomoshkin said he faced similar tactics, spending months without speaking to anyone, despite being kept in the crowded barracks.

Guards would also often reportedly make life unbearable for inmates by turning other prisoners against them. Guards would tell some inmates that other inmates were responsible for collective privileges being taken away, former inmates said.

Pereverzin said that while he was in prison, the pressure became so bad, he used a razor to cut gashes on his stomach to force guards to move him to a different barracks.

"There's nothing good there," Pereverzin said. "You completely feel your helplessness."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Marilyn Nieves/iStockBy ZOE MAGEE and KATIE KINDELAN, ABC News

A U.K. judge on Tuesday denied a request by the publisher of the Mail on Sunday to appeal his ruling that the tabloid invaded the privacy of Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, by publishing portions of a letter she wrote to her father.

The judge, High Court Justice Mark Warby, did acknowledge though that Associated Newspapers' Ltd., the publisher of the Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday, could still attempt an appeal in the Court of Appeal, according to the U.K. Press Association (PA) reporter in court.

Warby ruled last month that the Mail on Sunday invaded Meghan's privacy by publishing large parts of the personal letter she sent to her now-estranged father Thomas Markle before her 2018 wedding to Prince Harry.

The judge also ordered Associated Newspapers' Ltd. on Tuesday to make an "interim payment" of nearly $630,000 of Meghan's legal costs within two weeks. Meghan's legal team claimed in court that her legal costs for the lawsuit, which she filed in fall of 2019, have exceeded $2 million, according to the PA reporter in court.

Another hearing will be held in late April or early May to consider possible further "financial remedies" and to consider Meghan's claim under the Data Protection Act.

Meghan's lawyers also sought an order requiring Associated Newspapers' Ltd. to publish a statement about the duchess' legal victory on the front page of The Mail On Sunday and the homepage of MailOnline "to act as a deterrent to future infringers," according to court documents.

Meghan's 2018 handwritten letter to her father, which addressed the breakdown in their relationship, was reproduced by Associated Newspapers in five articles in February 2019.

Meghan sued Associated Newspapers for alleged copyright infringement, misuse of private information and breach of the Data Protection Act.

Meghan, who now lives in California with Harry and their son Archie, did not issue a statement after today's ruling. The duchess, who is expecting her second child, said after the court's ruling last month that she hopes her case "creates legal precedent."

“After two long years of pursuing litigation, I am grateful to the courts for holding Associated Newspapers and The Mail on Sunday to account for their illegal and dehumanizing practices. These tactics (and those of their sister publications MailOnline and the Daily Mail) are not new; in fact, they’ve been going on for far too long without consequence. For these outlets, it’s a game. For me and so many others, it’s real life, real relationships, and very real sadness. The damage they have done and continue to do runs deep," Meghan said in her statement. “The world needs reliable, fact-checked, high-quality news. What The Mail on Sunday and its partner publications do is the opposite."

"We all lose when misinformation sells more than truth, when moral exploitation sells more than decency, and when companies create their business model to profit from people’s pain," she said. "But for today, with this comprehensive win on both privacy and copyright, we have all won. We now know, and hope it creates legal precedent, that you cannot take somebody’s privacy and exploit it in a privacy case, as the defendant has blatantly done over the past two years."

“I share this victory with each of you—because we all deserve justice and truth, and we all deserve better," Meghan concluded her statement. "I particularly want to thank my husband, mom, and legal team, and especially Jenny Afia for her unrelenting support throughout this process.”

Here is what to know about Meghan's nearly two-year legal battle with Associated Newspapers' Ltd.

Why is the Duchess of Sussex suing Associated Newspapers?


Meghan sued Associated Newspapers, the parent company of The Mail on Sunday and MailOnline, over five articles published in February 2019 that included excerpts from a private letter she sent to her now-estranged father, Thomas Markle. The duchess is seeking damages from the newspaper for alleged misuse of private information, copyright infringement and breach of the Data Protection Act.

The letter, which is the focal point of the court case, describes the break down in relations between father and daughter.

In the run-up to the 2018 royal wedding Thomas Markle had been the subject of immense tabloid interest, which reached a pinnacle when the Daily Mail revealed just days before the wedding that, in an attempt to revamp his image, Thomas Markle had staged paparazzi photos of himself preparing for his daughter's big day.

Thomas Markle was then hospitalized and had to undergo surgery, which prevented him from traveling to his daughter's wedding.

Relations between the two became strained and Thomas Markle gave several interviews to the media, which we now know greatly upset his daughter. The letter lays out Meghan's take on these events.

According to the duchess' legal team, the Mail on Sunday breached copyright by publishing the private letter as it legally belongs to the duchess, the author of the letter.

Her lawyers also argue that the Mail on Sunday breached privacy and data protection laws and that they cherry-picked portions of the letter to manipulate readers.

The letter was published by the Mail on Sunday in February 2019. In it, the duchess describes her sadness at the deterioration of her relationship with her father, asks why he spoke to the media and said he has broken her heart "into a million pieces."

Thomas Markle claims he agreed to the letter being published to set the record straight after a friend of the duchess mentioned the letter in an interview with People magazine.

Five friends, described as "an essential part of Meghan's inner circle," spoke anonymously to People, according to the magazine, saying they wanted to "stand up against the global bullying we are seeing and speak the truth about our friend."

They added, "Meg has silently sat back and endured the lies and untruths ... It's wrong to put anyone under this level of emotional trauma, let alone when they're pregnant."

One of these five friends referenced the letter Meghan had written to her father, saying, "After the wedding she wrote him a letter. She's like, 'Dad, I'm so heartbroken. I love you. I have one father. Please stop victimizing me through the media so we can repair our relationship.'"

Thomas Markle in turn said he felt compelled to publish the letter to defend his reputation -- asserting it was not the conciliatory missive described by this friend in People.

The upcoming trial must determine whether the Mail on Sunday infringed Duchess Meghan's rights when it published the letter.

Prince Harry announces lawsuit blasting 'disturbing pattern' by British tabloid media


Prince Harry announced the lawsuit in a statement criticizing the media during his tour of southern Africa in October 2019.

He wrote, "My wife has become one of the latest victims of a British tabloid press that wages campaigns against individuals with no thought to the consequences -- a ruthless campaign that has escalated over the past year, throughout her pregnancy and while raising our newborn son."

"This particular legal action hinges on one incident in a long and disturbing pattern of behavior by British tabloid media," he added. "The contents of a private letter were published unlawfully in an intentionally destructive manner to manipulate you, the reader, and further the divisive agenda of the media group in question. In addition to their unlawful publication of this private document, they purposely misled you by strategically omitting select paragraphs, specific sentences, and even singular words to mask the lies they had perpetuated for over a year."

I lost my mother and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces

"My deepest fear is history repeating itself. I've seen what happens when someone I love is commoditized to the point that they are no longer treated or seen as a real person," wrote Harry, whose mother, Princess Diana, died in a paparazzi-involved car crash in 1997. "I lost my mother and now I watch my wife falling victim to the same powerful forces."

After the statement was released to the public, his law firm, Schillings, laid out their case.

"We have initiated legal proceedings against the Mail on Sunday, and its parent company Associated Newspapers, over the intrusive and unlawful publication of a private letter written by the Duchess of Sussex, which is part of a campaign by this media group to publish false and deliberately derogatory stories about her, as well as her husband," the law firm wrote. "Given the refusal of Associated Newspapers to resolve this issue satisfactorily, we have issued proceedings to redress this breach of privacy, infringement of copyright and the aforementioned media agenda."

What has happened so far?


There have now been five pretrial hearings.

The first hearing, known as a strike-out hearing, was held in April to determine which of the duchess's claims could proceed to a trial against Associated Newspapers. In this hearing, lawyers for the Mail on Sunday successfully argued that certain parts of the duchess' claims should be removed.

Warby -- the judge who is presiding over the case -- agreed to take out complaints that the paper acted dishonestly, deliberately stirred up conflict between the duchess and her father, and pursued an agenda of publishing offensive or intrusive articles about the duchess.

"I do not consider the allegations in question go to the 'heart' of the case, which at its core concerns the publication of five articles disclosing the words of, and information drawn from, the letter written by the claimant to her father in August in 2018."

These five articles were published in the Mail on Sunday in February 2019 and reproduced parts of her handwritten letter she sent to her father.

Having lost on those claims, the duchess agreed to pay Associated Newspapers' legal fees of approximately $87,000.

Meghan wins right to protect identity of her friends


The second hearing was on July 29 and in it the duchess' legal team called for Warby to legally block Associated Newspapers from publishing the identity of the five friends who gave interviews to People magazine. Their names were revealed to the newspaper in a confidential court document attached to the first hearing and Meghan was worried the identity of her friends would be made public.

In a witness statement sent to the court before the hearing, the duchess argued, "Associated Newspapers, the owner of The Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday, is threatening to publish the names of five women -- five private citizens -- who made a choice on their own to speak anonymously with a U.S. media outlet more than a year ago, to defend me from the bullying behavior of Britain's tabloid media.

"These five women are not on trial, and nor am I. The publisher of the Mail on Sunday is the one on trial. It is this publisher that acted unlawfully and is attempting to evade accountability; to create a circus and distract from the point of this case --that the Mail on Sunday unlawfully published my private letter."

Her lawyers argued that the friends have a double right to anonymity, firstly as confidential journalistic sources and secondly under their own privacy rights.

Lawyers for Associated Newspapers argued that the identities should be made public, calling them "important potential witnesses on a key issue."

"Reporting these matters without referring to names would be a heavy curtailment of the media's and the defendant's entitlement to report this case and the public's right to know about it," said Antony White, the lawyer representing the paper. "No friend's oral evidence could be fully and properly reported because full reporting might identify her, especially as there has already been media speculation as to their identities."

Warby said in his ruling, "I have concluded that, for the time being at least, the court should grant the claimant the order that she seeks," protecting the anonymity of friends who defended Meghan in the pages of a U.S. magazine."

Warby also added though that concerns about confidentiality "may fade or even evaporate if and when there is a trial at which one or more of the sources gives evidence."

Meghan's legal team is treating the five women as potential witnesses, so they may be named at trial.

Associated Newspapers declined to comment on the judge's ruling.

Court battle over behind-the-scenes book


In the third hearing, held on Sept. 21, Associated Newspapers argued that they should be allowed to include "Finding Freedom" to support their argument that Meghan did not expect the contents of the letter to her father to remain private, even suggesting that she had mentioned it to the Kensington Palace communications team as part of a potential media strategy.

They also argued that Meghan was trying to manipulate the narrative around her to be more positive, and that she gave or enabled "them [the authors of Finding Freedom, Omid Scobie and Carolyn Durand] to be given a great deal of other information about her personal life, in order to set out her own version of events in a way that is favourable to her."

Meghan's lawyers categorically refute these claims, maintaining that neither the duke nor the duchess collaborated with the authors of the book.

Judge Francesca Kaye ruled in the High Court on Sept. 29th that Associated Newspapers could amend their argument against the duchess and include as evidence "Finding Freedom," a book about her and Prince Harry's departure from official royal duties co-authored by Carolyn Durand and Omid Scobie.

Durand is a former producer at ABC News, and Scobie is currently an ABC News royal contributor.

Responding to the ruling, the duchess's legal team issued a strongly worded statement saying they have "no doubt" the newspaper's new defense "will fail."

"We were prepared for this potential outcome given the low threshold to amend a pleading for a privacy and copyright case," the legal team said in the statement, adding that the publishers are using the court case to "exploit The duchess's privacy and the privacy of those around her for profit-motivated clickbait rather than journalism."

"As a reminder, it is The Mail on Sunday and Associated Newspapers who acted unlawfully and are the ones on trial, not The Duchess of Sussex, although they would like their readers to believe otherwise," they concluded in the statement.

Associated Newspapers did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Meghan's bid to avoid going to trial


In the fourth hearing, held on Oct. 29th, Warby agreed to Meghan's lawyers' request to postpone the trial.

Meghan's lawyers also laid out in the fourth hearing their application for a Summary Judgement, which is what Warby ruled on in his most recent decision.

In a new tactic for her legal team, Meghan’s lawyers argued that Associated Newspapers’ defense is so weak the case should not even go to trial.

Meghan wins on invasion of privacy


In a judgment released on Feb. 11, the judge ruled that the Mail on Sunday invaded Meghan's privacy by publishing large parts of the personal letter she sent to her father.

Representatives for the Mail on Sunday said in a statement at the time that they were considering appealing the decision.

"We are very surprised by today’s summary judgment and disappointed at being denied the chance to have all the evidence heard and tested in open court at a full trial," the statement read. "We are carefully considering the judgment’s contents and will decide in due course whether to lodge an appeal."

Judge denies bid to appeal

Judge Warby blocked an appeal on March 2 by the publisher of the Mail on Sunday to overturn a court ruling that the tabloid invaded the privacy of Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, by publishing portions of the letter she wrote to her father.

The judge also ordered Associated Newspapers' Ltd. on Tuesday to make an "interim payment" of nearly $630,000 of Meghan's legal costs within two weeks, according to the PA reporter in court.

What's next


Another hearing will be held in late April or early May to consider "financial remedies" that could be granted to Meghan and to consider Meghan's claim under the Data Protection Act.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Hasan Shaaban/Bloomberg via Getty ImagesBy CATHERINE THORBECKE, ABC News

(TOKYO) -- After a nine-month battle fighting extradition, the American father and son duo accused of aiding former Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn in his dramatic international escape have arrived in Japan.

Former Green Beret Michael Taylor and his adult son, Peter Taylor, arrived in Tokyo Tuesday morning, their lawyer Paul V. Kelly confirmed to ABC News.

"It is very disappointing that the U.S. has treated a distinguished veteran and his son in this manner," Kelly told ABC News. "This extradition should never have occurred. The hope now is that Japan acts in a reasonable and lawful manner, and that the Taylors are returned home to their family as soon as possible."

The father and son from Massachusetts face criminal charges in Japan, where they are accused of helping smuggle Ghosn out of the country in a box used for audio equipment while Ghosn was awaiting trial for financial crimes. Ghosn's dramatic escape from Japan to Lebanon via private jet made international headlines last year.

In late December 2019, according to court records, Michael Taylor arrived at the Grand Hyatt hotel in Tokyo, where his son had earlier checked into a room, with "large black audio equipment-style cases." Ghosn had separately arrived at the Grand Hyatt at about the same time.

Michael Taylor eventually loaded his luggage onto a private jet which departed for Turkey. On Dec. 31, 2019, Ghosn announced he was in Lebanon.

Court records indicate that the Taylors received more than $1.3 million from Ghosn and his family members.

"The Taylors’ alleged plot to smuggle Ghosn out of Japan was one of the most brazen and well-orchestrated escape acts in recent history, involving a dizzying array of luxury hotel meetups, fake personas, bullet train travel, and the chartering of a private jet," Assistant US Attorney Stephen Hassink said last year.

The former Nissan chairman has denied wrongdoing and said he fled to escape "political persecution," though he faces a litany of financial misconduct charges in Japan. Ghosn currently remains in Lebanon, which does not have an extradition agreement with Japan for its citizens.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Adam Smigielski/iStockBy MORGAN WINSOR and JAMES BWALA, ABC News

(LONDON) -- Hundreds of students who were abducted from an all-girls boarding school in northwestern Nigeria last week have been released, authorities said Tuesday.

Gunmen kidnapped 317 students from the Government Girls Junior Secondary School (GGSS) in the rural town of Jangebe in Zamfara state before dawn on Friday, according to a statement from Mohammed Shehu, spokesperson for the Nigeria Police Force's Zamfara State Police Command. The incident -- the latest in a recent string of mass abductions of students in the West African nation -- caused international outrage, with the United States condemning the attack.

Zamfara state police and the Nigerian military have conducted joint operations to rescue the schoolgirls.

The governor of Zamfara state, Bello Matawalle, announced early Tuesday that 279 schoolgirls have been freed. The terms of their release were not immediately known. It's also unclear whether others remain in captivity, as the discrepancy in the numbers was not explained.

"It gladdens my heart to announce the release of the abducted students of GGSS Jangebe from captivity," Matawalle said in a statement posted on Twitter, along with photos of some of the girls. "This follows the scaling of several hurdles laid against our efforts. I enjoin all well-meaning Nigerians to rejoice with us as our daughters are now safe."

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari took to Twitter to express his "overwhelming joy" over the release of the schoolgirls.

"I join the affected families and the people of Zamfara State in welcoming and celebrating the release of the abducted students of GGSS Jangebe," Buhari tweeted. "This news bring overwhelming joy. I am pleased that their ordeal has come to a happy end without any incident."

"We are working hard to bring an end to these grim and heartbreaking incidents of kidnapping," he added. "The Military and the Police will continue to go after kidnappers. They need the support of local communities in terms of human intelligence that can help nip criminal plans in the bud."

Last week, in the wake of the abduction, Buhari warned that policies of paying ransoms to bandits have "the potential to backfire with disastrous consequences."

"We will not succumb to blackmail by bandits and criminals who target innocent school students in the expectation of huge ransom payments," he tweeted Friday.

Schools in rural Nigeria have been targeted in attacks and kidnappings in recent years. On Saturday, 27 students, five staff members and nine family members of the staff were freed more than a week after being taken from an all-boys boarding school in the west-central town of Kagara in Niger state. In December, 344 students were released about a week after being kidnapped from another boys' boarding school in the northwestern town of Kankara in Katsina state. The Nigerian government has said no ransom was paid for their release and, in both cases, authorities blamed the attacks on armed groups, locally called bandits, who are known to abduct students for money in many Nigerian states.

One of the most well-known kidnappings was in April 2014, when members of the jihadist group Boko Haram snatched 276 students from their dormitory at an all-girls boarding school in the northeastern town of Chibok in Borno state. Some of the girls managed to escape on their own, while others were later rescued or freed following negotiations. But the fate of dozens remains unknown.

Boko Haram, whose name in the local Hausa language roughly translates to "Western education is forbidden," has waged an Islamist insurgency in northeastern Nigeria since 2009 and has been targeting schools for a number of years, with the Chibok attack being the most notorious and widely publicized. The group's uprising was fueled largely through the its systematic campaign of abducting children and forcing thousands of girls and boys into their ranks, according to a 2017 report by the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF). A faction of Boko Haram has been aligned with ISIS since 2015.

In a statement Saturday reacting to the news that the Kankara students were freed, UNICEF Nigeria representative Peter Hawkins lamented that children are victims of attacks on their schools "far too often in Nigeria."

"Such attacks not only negate the right of children to an education, they also make children fearful of going to school, and parents afraid to send their children to school," Hawkins said. "Schools must be safe places to study and develop, and learning should not become a perilous endeavour.”

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



JeanUrsula/iStockBy LUCIEN BRUGGEMAN, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- A lawsuit accusing the Saudi crown prince of overseeing an assassination attempt on a former Saudi spymaster similar to the one that sealed the gruesome fate of Jamal Khashoggi may hamper efforts to mend the already fraught U.S.-Saudi relationship, experts say.

The lawsuit, which was filed last summer against Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman by former Saudi intelligence official Saad Aljabri, claims that Aljabri was the target of a failed assassination attempt akin to the 2018 assassination of Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident and Washington Post columnist whose death sparked global backlash and complicated ties between Riyadh and Washington.

On Friday, the Biden administration released an intelligence report determining that MBS, as the crown prince is colloquially known, "approved" the plot to murder Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul -- a notable step toward holding the kingdom to account for the extrajudicial killing on foreign soil. The release of the report was immediately followed by a set of travel visa restrictions for Saudi government officials and sanctions against a key aide to MBS.

In a statement released Friday, the Saudi Foreign Ministry said it "completely rejects the negative, false and unacceptable assessment in the report pertaining to the Kingdom's leadership," claiming that the report contained inaccurate information and conclusions.

Aljabri, 62, has been locked in a heated and complex legal dispute with Saudi leadership since last August. His accusations contained in the lawsuit against MBS are lurid and specific -- and bear an eerie resemblance to the circumstances that led to Khashoggi's death, including the allegation that MBS authorized it. Most notably, Aljabri claims MBS sent a "hit squad" to murder him in Canada, where he has been in exile since fleeing the Saudi kingdom in 2017.

The alleged threats against Aljabri demonstrate "that Jamal Khashoggi was not a one-off," Bruce Riedel, a former CIA official and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told ABC News.

"It's part of a pattern of really horrific human rights abuses, up to and including murder, conducted by the crown prince against people he, for one reason or another, sees as political enemies or political threats," Riedel said.

Douglas London, a 34-year CIA veteran with expertise in the Middle East, said the threats facing Aljabri present President Joe Biden's administration an opportunity "to demonstrate its credibility as being an advocate for democratic institutions and human rights."

"We can't sit idly by and watch a country that we're pretending to be allies with go ahead and execute people abroad like this," said London, who is also the author of a forthcoming book, The Recruiter: Spying and the Lost Art of American Intelligence.

A veteran Saudi intelligence official, Aljabri once served as a key deputy to Mohammed bin Nayef, known as MBN, a member of the Saudi royal family and former head of the government's powerful interior ministry. MBN was detained last year as part of bin Salman's efforts to consolidate power in Riyadh.

London, who said he worked closely with Aljabri during the Obama administration on a range of strategic initiatives in the region, described Aljabri as "an excellent partner … very thoughtful, very patient, very considerate." Aljabri was MBN's "right-hand man," London said, with a portfolio of high-profile counterterrorism responsibilities, including acting as a liaison to U.S. intelligence.

Generations of U.S. spymasters considered MBN and Aljabri "crucial partners" in the fight against al Qaeda, Riedel said. In 2010, for example, on the eve of the U.S. midterm elections, bin Nayef and Aljabri helped American officials thwart a terrorist plot to bomb two airplanes over American cities.

"Mohammed bin Nayef and Aljabri provided us with the flight details of those aircrafts. You don't get better intelligence than that," Riedel told ABC News. "So, the two of them are not only heroes in their own country, they are people that we owe because they helped to save American lives."

In 2017, however, MBS ascended to the role of crown prince and took control of the kingdom's vast security and intelligence apparatus. Aljabri fell out of favor and, sensing a change in the government power structure, left Riyadh for Canada, where he remains in exile.

In Aljabri's lawsuit against MBS, which was filed in the U.S. last August, his lawyers wrote that MBS has "personally orchestrated an attempted extrajudicial killing of [Aljabri], an attempt that remains ongoing to this day."

The lawsuit includes several details about the alleged attempt on his life -- including the rationale, strategy and timing -- which appear to bear a striking resemblance to the circumstances surrounding Khashoggi's death.

Like Khashoggi, Aljabri claims to have "sensitive information" that could potentially expose "bin Salman's covert political scheming within the Royal Court, [and] corrupt business dealings," the lawsuit reads.

"That is why defendant bin Salman wants him dead -- and why defendant bin Salman has worked to achieve that objective over the last three years," claims the suit.

In the complaint, Aljabri alleges that MBS "dispatched a private hit squad to North America to kill [him]" less than two weeks after the assassination of Khashoggi in Istanbul, but that the team was turned away at a Canadian airport.

"Like the team that murdered Khashoggi, those sent to kill [Aljabri] … were also members of defendant bin Salman's personal mercenary group, the Tiger Squad," his lawsuit claims.

In February, Aljabri claimed in court documents that Saudi officials "repeatedly pressured" one of his daughters "to travel to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey" in September 2018, and that "only days later, the Tiger Squad successfully executed Jamal Khashoggi inside the same facility."

Two of Aljabri's other children have been detained in Saudi Arabia, Aljabri claimed.

The Saudis have denied the accusations leveled in Aljabri's U.S. lawsuit and recently filed a motion to dismiss the case. Meanwhile, in Canadian civil court, a coalition of Saudi government-controlled entities accused Aljabri in January of siphoning billions of dollars for himself and his family before fleeing to Toronto -- a claim Aljabri denies.

An Ontario-based judge has agreed to temporarily freeze Aljabri's assets. But as Riedel notes, the Canadian litigation may be more significant for what it reveals about the Saudis than its effect on Aljabri's pocketbook.

"What it shows to me is that [MBS] is nowhere near as firmly in control as he likes to portray," Riedel said.

Furthermore, the disclosures in court documents may serve to divulge sensitive information about the machinations of the Saudi elite -- and could further incriminate MBS and his circle of advisers.

According to records filed by Saudi companies as part of the Canadian case, for example, the Saudi sovereign wealth fund took control of a private aviation firm called Sky Prime Aviation Services in 2017, a year before Khashoggi's death.

In 2018, the Wall Street Journal reported that the two jets used to transport operatives who allegedly carried out the killing of Khashoggi in Istanbul belonged to Sky Prime, citing Turkish officials. The Canadian court documents were first reported by CNN.

Without a strong response from the U.S., bin Salman and his allies are unlikely to halt extrajudicial retaliation against dissidents like Khashoggi and Aljabri, Riedel said. But the stakes may be even higher than that.

"Saudi Arabia has been an incredibly stable country for more than 100 years, but it's not so stable anymore -- and the Biden administration ought to be thinking about that," Riedel said. "MBS is not just a threat to Khashoggi and Aljabri; he is a threat to the very survival and viability of the Saudi state. If he's now left in the line of succession and becomes king, we may find a Saudi Arabia that is very unstable and could become prey to very abrupt and unpredictable political change."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



SAI AUNG MAIN/AFP via Getty ImagesBy KARSON YIU and MORGAN WINSOR, ABC News

(HONG KONG and LONDON) -- Myanmar's ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi was seen Monday for the first time since she was detained in a military coup one month ago, appearing in a Naypyitaw court via videoconference.

The Nobel laureate, who leads the National League for Democracy (NLD) party, was initially charged with illegally importing six walkie-talkie radios. She was later charged with violating a natural disaster law by breaching COVID-19 protocols while campaigning during last year's elections.

Suu Kyi, 75, appeared in court after a weekend of the deadliest violence that the Southeast Asian country has seen since the army seized power on Feb. 1. Police and security forces confronted peaceful demonstrations in several locations across Myanmar on Sunday and fired live rounds into the crowds, killing at least 18 people and wounding over 30 others, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, which cited "credible information" that it had received. Tear gas and stun grenades were also reportedly used in various locations.

More than 1,000 people, some of whom remain unaccounted for, have been arbitrarily arrested and detained in Myanmar over the past month, mostly without any form of due process. On Sunday alone, at least 85 medical professionals and students as well as seven journalists who were present at the demonstrations were detained, according to the U.N. Human Rights Office.

"We strongly condemn the escalating violence against protests in Myanmar and call on the military to immediately halt the use of force against peaceful protestors," Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson for the U.N. Human Rights Office, said in a statement Sunday. "The people of Myanmar have the right to assemble peacefully and demand the restoration of democracy. These fundamental rights must be respected by the military and police, not met with violent and bloody repression. Use of lethal force against non-violent demonstrators is never justifiable under international human rights norms."

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken took to Twitter on Sunday night to condemn the "abhorrent violence against the people of Burma," using Myanmar's former name under British colonial rule. Blinken said the U.S. government "will continue to promote accountability for those responsible" and "stand[s] firmly with the courageous people of Burma."

Suu Kyi has not been seen in public since she was arrested along with other leaders of her NLD party on Feb. 1, signalling an end to Myanmar's already fragile experiment with democracy.

Suu Kyi, who is still revered in Myanmar despite losing some of her international luster for her refusal to condemn the army’s atrocities against the Rohingya Muslim minority, is understood to have had a tentative shared power agreement with the military since she was named state counsellor in 2016, offering the government a veneer of democratic legitimacy as they embarked on a decade of reforms. The role of state counsellor, akin to a prime minister or a head of government, was created because Myanmar's 2008 constitution barred Suu Kyi from becoming president, since her late husband and children are foreign citizens.

The Nov. 8 general election was meant to be a referendum on Suu Kyi’s popular civilian government but her party expanded their seats in Parliament, securing a clear majority and threatening the military's tight hold on power. The constitution guarantees the military 25% of seats in Parliament and control of several key ministries.

The new civilian-led government was supposed to convene for the first time on Feb. 1 but power was instead handed over to Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, commander-in-chief of Myanmar's armed forces, who is already under U.S. sanctions for his role in the human rights abuses against the Rohingyas. An order signed by the acting president granted full authority to Hlaing to run the country and declared a state of emergency that will last for at least one year, citing widespread voter fraud in the November election. Hlaing’s office said in a statement that the military would hold a "free and fair general election" after the state of emergency ends. Voter rolls will be checked and the country's election commission, which last week rejected the military's allegations of voter fraud, will be "re-established," according to the statement.

The military previously ruled Myanmar for nearly five decades before appearing to slowly transition to democratic rule a decade ago and holding its first general elections in years in 2015, which was also a landslide victory for the NLD. Suu Kyi had spent 15 years under house arrest while leading the struggle for democracy against the Burmese military junta and was awarded the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize for her "nonviolent" efforts.

Since the Feb. 1 takeover, a movement of protests across Myanmar has been growing -- and the junta, which calls itself the State Administration Council, has become more and more violent in its response. The initial restraint shown by authorities in the immediate aftermath of the bloodless coup has given way to an increased use of lethal force as weeks of internet shutdowns, threats and mass arrests have not deterred thousands of people from voicing their opposition.

During Suu Kyi's virtual court appearance in the capital on Monday, police and protesters faced off again some 200 miles south in Yangon, the country's largest city, with videos posted on social media showing clouds of tear gas as protesters clad with construction helmets ran for cover.

Suu Kyi is believed to be under house arrest at her residence in Naypyidaw. If she is found guilty of any of the charges launched against her, the resulting prison sentence will likely overlap with the election the junta has promised would take a place in a year.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



ABCBy KATIE KINDELAN, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- The world got its first look over the weekend at Prince Harry's and Meghan's sit-down interview with Oprah Winfrey, which is being billed as a bombshell interview in which Harry and Meghan give more insights as to why they stepped down from their royal roles.

“You’ve said some pretty shocking things here," Winfrey says to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in a pair of clips released Sunday by CBS.

In one of the clips, Winfrey says there was "no subject that was off limits" and asks Meghan if she was “silent or silenced."

Meghan remains silent as Winfrey interjects, "Almost survivable -- sounds like there was a breaking point."

The interview, which will air March 7 as a two-hour primetime special, is Harry's and Meghan's first joint interview about their decision to transition out of their working roles in the royal family. The couple, who now live near Winfrey in California, completed their last official royal engagement nearly one year ago.

Buckingham Palace confirmed last month that Harry and Meghan will not return as working members of the royal family.

In the interview with Winfrey, Harry -- whose mother, Princess Diana, died in 1997 after being injured in a Paris car crash while being pursued by paparazzi -- said his "biggest concern was history repeating itself."

"For me, I'm just really relieved and happy to be sitting here, talking to you with my wife by my side," he said.

As an image of a young Prince Harry with his late mother is shown, the prince is heard saying, "Because I can't begin to imagine what it must have been like for her going through this process by herself all those years ago because it has been unbelievably tough for the two of us but at least we had each other."

Princess Diana and Harry's father, Prince Charles, separated in 1992 and divorced in 1996, one year before Diana died.

Harry shared a similar sentiment in an interview with The Late Late Show host James Corden that aired last week, saying he and Meghan left a "toxic" media environment in the U.K.

"There was a really difficult environment, as I think a lot of people saw. We all know what the British press can be like, and it was destroying my mental health," said Harry, who has recently waged legal battles with some British tabloids. "I was like, 'This is toxic,' so I did what any husband and any father would do, which is like, I need to get my family out of here."

"But we never walked away. And as far as I'm concerned, whatever decisions are made on that side, I will never walk away," added Harry, who described his move as a royal as "stepping back rather than stepping down." "I will always be contributing ... my life is public service, so wherever I am in the world, it's going to be the same thing."

Harry's and Meghan's interview with Winfrey was announced last month, one day after Harry and Meghan revealed they are expecting their second child.

"Winfrey will speak with Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex, in a wide-ranging interview, covering everything from stepping into life as a Royal, marriage, motherhood, philanthropic work to how she is handling life under intense public pressure," Viacom, the parent company of CBS, said in a statement announcing the special. "Later, the two are joined by Prince Harry as they speak about their move to the United States and their future hopes and dreams for their expanding family."

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



ABC NewsBy BRITT CLENNETT, ABC News

(HONG KONG) -- Hong Kong is a step closer to being left without a democratic opposition camp as authorities brought charges against 47 activists for conspiracy to commit subversion under the national security law.

It’s the most wide-reaching use yet of the controversial legislation which was imposed by Beijing eight months ago and would leave the majority of Hong Kong's once-vocal opposition detained, in prison or in exile.

They are among 55 activists and politicians who were arrested in a sweeping police operation in January. Most of them were running in or organizing an unofficial primary in July last year to select candidates for September’s legislative election which the government later announced it would postpone by a year because of the pandemic.

The 47 detainees include some of Hong Kong’s most well-known activists, including veteran democrat Benny Tai, Claudia Mo and Leung Kwok-hung. Among the younger generation of activists, Lester Shum, Tiffany Yuen and Sam Cheung were also detained. Joshua Wong, who is already in prison, was also charged. John Clancey, the American lawyer previously arrested, was not among those who were charged on Sunday. The 79-year-old has been told to report to police again on May 4.

Under Hong Kong’s security law, they could all receive a maximum sentence of life in prison.

As the 47 appeared at West Kowloon Magistracy on Monday, prosecutors argued that the primary poll was part of a ploy to veto government budgets after gaining a majority in the legislature. Under Hong Kong's Basic Law, its mini-Constitution, if a government budget is vetoed twice, then the Hong Kong leader must step down.

Outside of the court, hundreds of their supporters queued up for one of the limited seats inside the courthouse to listen to proceedings and some had been there to save a spot since 5 a.m.

By 9 a.m., the four rows of people queuing extended around the side of the court building and grew into a lively gathering -- something not seen since COVID-19 restrictions and the security law were implemented.

The crowd chanted protest slogans and held up signs calling for the 47 defendants to be released.

Yellow umbrellas were raised and some people folded out copies of the pro-democracy Apple Daily as a symbol of resistance while others flashed the three-finger Hunger Games salute, used by protesters in Myanmar and Thailand.

One supporter, who did not want to divulge her name, told ABC News she was there to “stand up to Beijing’s bullying and fight for the remaining democracy in Hong Kong.” Like many of the other supporters outside of the court, the 25-year-old wore black, “to show unity”.

By the afternoon police had raised purple and blue flags several times, warning the crowd to leave the area as they were breaching the illegal assembly and national security laws, after some citizens chanted the banned slogan, “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times.”

Speaking with ABC News, veteran activist Lee Cheuk-yan said the subversion charge is a clear attempt to “wipe out the pro-democracy camp for future elections.”

“The absurdity of the charge also shows again that the National Security Law is an instrument of political suppression against dissent and to spread fear among the people,” said Lee.

Authorities say the primary poll was an attempt to overthrow the government.

Before reporting to a local police station on Sunday, Sam Cheung told reporters that he hopes he’s still young when he comes out of prison and that he’d planned on studying for a PhD.

“I hope everyone won’t give up on Hong Kong. Everyone fight on,” said the 27-year-old.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted that the United States condemns "the detention of and charges filed against pan-democratic candidates in Hong Kong's elections" and called for their immediate release. Blinken's tweet went on to say, "Political participation and freedom of expression should not be crimes. The U.S. stands with the people of Hong Kong."

Sunday’s events come just days before China’s annual parliament is set to meet later this week for the National People’s Congress. Beijing is expected to be announcing significant changes to Hong Kong’s electoral system, having said in recent weeks that only "Patriots" can run for office.

Beijing is also likely to tout the success of the security law as protests have died down since it came into effect.

Officials say the law is necessary to restore stability after mass protests gripped the semi-autonomous city for months in 2019, mounting one of the biggest challenges to China’s Communist Party rule in decades.

However, the legislation has come under intense criticism from the international community, with the U.S. and the European Union saying the law stifles freedoms meant to be guaranteed under the "one country, two systems" arrangement.

Prominent activists already in custody include media tycoon Jimmy Lai and 25-year-old Agnes Chow, while many others have fled the city.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Samir Hussein/ Samir Hussein/WireImageBy KATIE KINDELAN, ABC News

(LONDON) -- Prince Philip has been transferred to a second hospital as he continues to receive treatment for an infection, according to Buckingham Palace.

The Duke of Edinburgh, 99, was transferred Monday from King Edward VII Hospital in London, where he was admitted on Feb. 17, to St Bartholomew's Hospital, a teaching hospital also located in London.

In addition to receiving treatment for an infection, which the palace has not identified, Philip is also being tested and observed for a preexisting heart condition, according to Buckingham Palace.

"The Duke remains comfortable and is responding to treatment but is expected to remain in hospital until at least the end of the week," the palace said in a statement Monday.

The Duke of Edinburgh, who will turn 100 in June, was taken by car from Windsor, England, to the King Edward VII Hospital in London on Feb. 17 for what the palace initially described as a "precautionary measure" after Philip reported feeling unwell.

Philip's illness is not COVID-19-related, a royal source told ABC News.

Philip's oldest son, Prince Charles, visited his father at King Edward VII Hospital on Feb. 20 and stayed for around 30 minutes. Visitors are only allowed at the hospital in "exceptional circumstances" because of the coronavirus pandemic, according to the hospital's website.

Charles, who was photographed entering the hospital wearing a face mask, is believed to be the only family member so far to have visited Philip in the hospital.

The duke's youngest child, Prince Edward, told Sky News late last month that he had spoken with his father by phone.

"As far as I'm aware, well, I did speak to him the other day, so he's a lot better thank you very much indeed, and he's looking forward to getting out, which is the most positive thing," Edward said of Philip. "So we keep our fingers crossed."

Philip's grandson, Prince William, also spoke about his condition while visiting a vaccine center in Norfolk, telling longtime royal photographer Arthur Edwards that Philip is "OK," adding, "They're keeping an eye on him."

While Philip is hospitalized in London, Queen Elizabeth remains at Windsor Castle, where she has been staying with her husband for most of the coronavirus pandemic.

The queen and Philip celebrated their 73rd wedding anniversary in November.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

0
comments



Local News

WJTN Headlines for Thurs., Mar. 4, 2021

Local drug agents seize significant amount of drugs and cash during a raid in Jamestown Wednesday morning... A Jamestown man has been arrested following a drug raid on a home on the city's norths...

Read More