One by one, Epstein accusers pour out their anger in court

Lawyer David Boies arrives with his client Virginia Giuffre for hearing in the criminal case against Jeffrey Epstein, who died this month in what a New York City medical examiner ruled a suicide, at Federal Court in New York, US, August 27, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 27 August 2019

One by one, Epstein accusers pour out their anger in court

  • Epstein has been accused of sexually abusing dozens of teenage girls
  • The women lashed out at Epstein for his alleged crimes and his suicide in his cell Aug. 10

NEW YORK: One by one, more than a dozen of Jeffrey Epstein’s accusers stood before a judge and poured out their anger toward the financier Tuesday, taking advantage of an extraordinary opportunity to be heard in court after his jailhouse suicide denied them the chance to testify against him at his sex-trafficking trial.
“He robbed me of my dreams, of my chance to pursue a career I adored,” said Jennifer Araoz, who has accused Epstein of raping her in his New York mansion when she was 15.
“The fact I will never have a chance to face my predator in court eats away at me,” she added. “They let this man kill himself and kill the chance for justice for so many others.”
The hearing was convened by US District Judge Richard Berman, who presided over the case after federal prosecutors had Epstein arrested last month.
The question before the judge was whether to throw out the indictment because of the defendant’s death, a usually pro forma step. But the judge offered Epstein’s accusers an unusual opportunity to be heard in court.
Repeatedly, the women described themselves as survivors and said they hoped coming forward publicly would encourage other women to heal. They lashed out at Epstein for his alleged crimes and his suicide in his cell Aug. 10.
“He is a coward,” said Courtney Wild, who has said she was sexually abused by Epstein in Florida at 14. “Justice has never been served in this case.”
Virginia Roberts Giuffre, who has said she was a 15-year-old working at President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club when she was recruited to perform sex acts on Epstein, said: “My hopes were quickly dashed and my dreams were stolen.”
Sarah Ransome, who said Epstein pressured her into unwanted sex when she was in her early 20s, encouraged prosecutors in their efforts to bring others to justice, saying: “Finish what you started. ... We are survivors and the pursuit of justice should not abate.”
In addition to the women who spoke, statements from over a dozen others were read in court by their lawyers.
During the 2½-hour proceeding, the women sometimes clutched one another to lend support. Most remained composed, but several cried as they described falling into Epstein’s web. His suicide left some of them angry, others sad. One said she was relieved that he was gone and could abuse no others.
Some women described their shame and embarrassment, saying Epstein manipulated them, dangling his wealth and power and connection to celebrities and political figures, while seizing on their vulnerabilities.
One woman who remained anonymous said Epstein when she was 15 flew her to a ranch where she was sexually molested for many hours while he kept insisting he was helping her to grow. She said he abused her in a position where she would see his framed pictures of himself on a dresser, smiling with celebrities.
One woman, taking deep breaths to steady her voice, said she was 17 when she was victimized. She said she thought Epstein was the most powerful person in the world.
“But the end is here, and here I stand, feeling more powerful than he will ever be,” she said.
A New York City coroner ruled that Epstein hanged himself. But one of Epstein’s lawyers, Martin Weinberg, challenged that finding during Tuesday’s hearing, telling the judge that an expert hired by the defense determined that broken bones in his neck were “more consistent with pressure ... with homicide” than suicide.
“Find out what happened to our client,” the lawyer told the judge. “We’re quite angry.”
When a prosecutor said the manner of Epstein’s death was “completely irrelevant to the purpose of today’s proceeding,” the judge responded: “Well, I don’t know ... I think it’s fair game for defense counsel to raise its concerns.”
Opening the session, Berman called the 66-year-old Epstein’s suicide a “rather stunning turn of events.”
Before he allowed others to speak, Berman blasted a law journal article that both criticized the public hearing and noted that requests by prosecutors to drop charges are routinely handled without a hearing. The judge said the article suggested the hearing was introducing drama into the court process.
“What little drama might happen today, I don’t think, would be very significant,” Berman said. “Public hearings ... promote transparency and provide the court with insights and information that the court might otherwise not be aware of.”
At his death, Epstein was being held without bail, accused of sexually abusing dozens of teenage girls in the early 2000s at his mansions in New York and Palm Beach, Florida.
Attorney General William Barr has vowed that anyone who aided Epstein in sex trafficking will be pursued. He also removed the jail warden and the acting director of the Bureau of Prisons and placed two guards who were supposed to be watching Epstein the morning he died on leave.
Epstein’s lawyers contended he could not be prosecuted because he signed a non-prosecution deal with federal authorities over a decade ago in Florida that resulted in a 13-month stint in jail on state prostitution-related charges. Federal prosecutors in New York said that deal did not prevent the new charges.
The Associated Press does not identify alleged victims of sex crimes unless they give their consent, which several Epstein accusers case have done.
Dr. Michael Baden, the pathologist hired by Epstein’s representatives to observe the autopsy, said he is awaiting the report from the medical examiner’s office before offering his opinion.
Baden was the city’s chief medical examiner in the late 1970s and has been called as an expert witness in a number of big cases, including O.J. Simpson’s 1994 murder trial.


Long fuel queues persist in Sri Lanka despite scramble to deliver supplies

Updated 23 sec ago

Long fuel queues persist in Sri Lanka despite scramble to deliver supplies

  • Another 40,000 metric tons of petrol supplied by India reached Sri Lanka on Monday
  • New Delhi delivered 40,000 tons of diesel to its southern neighbor two days earlier
COLOMBO: Long queues snaked around gas stations in Sri Lanka’s commercial capital and its outskirts on Monday even though the island nation’s government was scrambling to deliver fuel supplies and douse any unrest as it battles a devastating economic crisis.
Kanchana Wijesekera, Sri Lanka’s minister for power and energy, said supplies of 95-octane gasoline, mostly used in cars, had been received and were being distributed across the country of 22 million people that has been struggling with fuel shortages for months.
“With the 2 cargo vessels unloaded, petrol stocks will be available for the next 6 weeks comfortably,” Wijesekera said in a tweet.
Another 40,000 metric tons of petrol supplied by India had also reached Sri Lanka on Monday, the Indian High Commission (Embassy) said, two days after New Delhi delivered 40,000 tons of diesel to its southern neighbor.
Sri Lanka is in the throes of its worst economic crisis since independence, as a dire shortage of foreign exchange has stalled imports and left the country short of fuel, medicines and hit by rolling power cuts.
The financial trouble has come from the confluence of the COVID-19 pandemic battering the tourism-reliant economy, rising oil prices and populist tax cuts by the government of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his brother, Mahinda, who resigned as prime minister this month.
M. Sudeera, an auto-rickshaw driver, was waiting in a two-kilometer (1.5-mile) -long queue at Kumbuke, on the outskirts of Colombo, to fill his vehicle, a popular form of public transport in the city and its suburbs.
“Last time, I spent two days in line for 3,000 rupees ($8.46) worth of fuel. With that I did a few hires but it’s barely enough to cover costs,” Sudeera said, standing beside parallel queues of auto-rickshaws, cars and motorcycles.
“Usually we run during the day and spent the night in line for fuel,” he said. “I’ve never seen anything like this.”
Veteran politician Ranil Wickremesinghe, who took over as prime minister earlier this month, has warned of hardship worsening over the coming months, including food shortages.
Protests against the government’s handling of the crisis have continued for weeks, and erupted into violence earlier this month in which nine people were killed and over 300 injured. But the protests have been peaceful since then, although anger against the government is high.
Inflation in the island nation rose to 33.8 percent in April, compared to 21.5 percent in March, according to government data released on Monday.
Wickremesinghe’s cabinet was expanded on Monday, with eight new ministers sworn in for portfolios including agriculture, fisheries, industries, transport and highways, water supply and irrigation.

Russian soldier sentenced to life at Kyiv war crimes trial

Updated 23 May 2022

Russian soldier sentenced to life at Kyiv war crimes trial

  • Sgt. Vadim Shishimarin pleads guilty, testifies that he shot the man after being ordered to do so

KYIV: A Ukrainian court sentenced a 21-year-old Russian soldier to life in prison on Monday for killing a Ukrainian civilian, in the first war crimes trial since Russia’s invasion.
Sgt. Vadim Shishimarin was accused of shooting a Ukrainian civilian in the head in a village in the northeastern Sumy region in the early days of the war.
He pleaded guilty and testified that he shot the man after being ordered to do so. He told the court that an officer insisted that the Ukrainian man, who was speaking on his cellphone, could pinpoint their location to the Ukrainian forces.
During the trial, Shishimarin asked the widow of the victim to forgive him.
Shishimarin’s defense attorney Victor Ovsyanikov argued that his client, a member of a Russian tank unit who was eventually captured, had been unprepared for the “violent military confrontation” and mass casualties that Russian troops encountered when they first invaded Ukraine.


Security guard killed in Qatar Embassy attack in Paris

Updated 57 min 38 sec ago

Security guard killed in Qatar Embassy attack in Paris

  • The Paris prosecutor’s office said it had opened a criminal investigation for manslaughter

PARIS: A person has been killed at the Qatar Embassy in Paris and one person has been arrested as part of the investigation, the Paris prosecutor’s office said on Monday, confirming earlier media reports.
A source close to the investigation said the person killed in the early hours of Monday was a security guard and that the death did not appear to have been a terrorism act.
“I can confirm that an investigation was opened today on the count of murder,” the prosecutor’s office said, adding that it was not clear yet if a weapon had been used.
“The circumstances of the death of the guard are yet to be determined precisely.”
Newspaper Le Parisien said earlier on Monday that one person had been killed within the embassy, citing police sources. 


Deluges of rain flood parts of India, Bangladesh

Updated 23 May 2022

Deluges of rain flood parts of India, Bangladesh

  • Both heavily populated nations in South Asia are prone to frequent floods and are considered major victims of climate change

DHAKA: Pre-monsoon deluges have flooded parts of India and Bangladesh, killing at least 24 people in recent weeks and sending 90,000 people into shelters, authorities said Monday.
Both heavily populated nations in South Asia are prone to frequent floods and are considered major victims of climate change.
The deaths have been reported since April 6 in India’s northeastern region with Assam state continuing to experience floods. Those who have left their homes due to the floods are staying in 269 camps set up by authorities.
The Indian army and air force have had to evacuate thousands of people in the last two weeks. Helicopters have been dropping essential items to people stuck in vulnerable spots in worst-hit Dima Hasao district. The Indian Space Research Organization is using satellites to assess the damage.
Flash flooding has been occurring in the Bangladeshi districts of Sylhet and Sunamganj, which border India’s northeast.
At least three rivers were flowing above the danger level Monday, said Arifuzzaman Bhuiyan, executive engineer of the Flood Forecasting and Warning Center in Dhaka, the nation’s capital.
Bangladeshi media said hundreds of villages have been marooned while crop fields have been damaged greatly. People also lack drinking water as wells have been under floodwaters or water supply system has been damaged.
No casualties have been reported in Bangladesh so far.
Jamuna TV station said while flood waters were receding from some areas, many new areas were affected by new flooding on Monday.
Authorities said hundreds of villages remained cut off from electricity supply while road infrastructure has been damaged extensively.


Philippines’ Marcos Jr says discussed defense agreements, climate funding with US envoy

Updated 23 May 2022

Philippines’ Marcos Jr says discussed defense agreements, climate funding with US envoy

  • Possible extension of a pact that allows US troops to conduct exchanges on Philippine soil

MANILA: Philippines president-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr said on Monday he discussed the extension of a joint military agreement with an envoy of defense ally the United States, after meetings with senior diplomats of four countries.

Ambassadors of Japan, India and South Korea and the US Chargé d’Affaires made courtesy calls on Monday to Marcos, the son and namesake of the notorious late dictator, following his landslide election victory this month.

Marcos, 64, who take office late in June, said he discussed with the US envoy the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and how it would be redefined amid a changing regional landscape, plus funding for climate change mitigation.

“We would welcome any assistance for the economy that we can get from the United States,” Marcos told a news conference. “Trade, not aid.”

The VFA, which provides a legal framework by which US troops can operate on Philippine soil, was a bone of contention for incumbent President Rodrigo Duterte, who repeatedly threatened to scrap it.

“Security concerns of course has always been a big part of our relationship with the United States,” Marcos said.

India’s envoy to the Philippines Shambhu Kumaran during a courtesy visit to president-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. (BBM Media Office)

Analysts expect Marcos to pursue close China ties, which could complicate relations with former colonial power Washington, his military, and the Philippine public, with which the United States is popular.

He last week spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping and said he wanted bilateral ties to “shift to a higher gear.”

Marcos said he discussed aid projects with Japan’s ambassador, microfinance with India and with South Korea, information technology, regional security and the possible reactivation of a disused nuclear plant.

South Korea ambassador Kim Inchul during a courtesy visit to president-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. (BBM Media Office)

The plant was intended by his late father to be part of his economic modernization legacy, but was mothballed after his overthrow in a 1986 “people power” uprising, two years after completion.

Marcos said he asked Arsenio Balisacan, the national anti-trust agency chief, to be economic planning minister, a role he held from 2012 to 2016 under an administration that was a rival to the influential Marcos family.