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SCOTUS ruling means torture could return: civil rights group

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The United States Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear an appeal by four former Guantanamo inmates who want to sue the US government for torture they say they endured during their stay at the prison camp, a move the inmates’ lawyers say could pave the way for future torture practices by the US military.

The four plaintiffs — Rhuhel Ahmed, Jamal al-Harith, Asif Iqbal and Shafiq Rasul — say they were subjected to numerous forms of physical abuse and religious humiliation, including having their beards shaved, being threatened with dogs and being placed in cells that were alternately very hot or very cold. The lawsuit also alleges that one of the guards at Guantanamo flushed a Koran down the toilet to anger and humiliate the prisoners. One of the inmates, Ahmed, has also alleged “sexual abuse.”

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Three of the detainees — Ahmed, Iqbal and Rasul — are British residents who say they were in Afghanistan in 2001 to provide humanitarian relief in the wake of the US invasion when they were kidnapped by Afghan warlord Rashid Dostum, a US ally, and accused of belonging to Al Qaeda.

The fourth inmate, Al-Harith, says he was in Pakistan on a religious retreat when he was kidnapped by the Taliban and taken to a prison in Afghanistan. When the Taliban fled and US forces seized the prison, Al-Harith was taken into US custody. All four were transferred to Guantanamo by the US military and spent more than two years there before being returned to the UK.

With the help of the Center for Constitutional Rights, the four men have been fighting to sue former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and 10 other military officials since 2004. After a federal appeals court in Washington, DC, rejected their lawsuit in 2008, the Supreme Court ordered the lower court to reconsider its ruling, in light of another Supreme Court ruling, earlier that year, that Guantanamo inmates had constitutional protection.

When the case returned to the lower court, the Obama administration argued against the plaintiffs, saying that former Guantanamo detainees don’t have any constitutional rights. And even if they did, the administration argued, the defendants should be immune from prosecution because the Supreme Court hadn’t yet ruled that detainees have rights at the time the alleged abuses took place.

The lower court accepted this argument and quashed the lawsuit yet again. On Monday, the Supreme Court effectively upheld that ruling by refusing to hear the appeal.

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“It is an awful day for the rule of law and common decency when the Supreme Court lets stand such an inhuman decision,” said Eric Lewis, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs, in a statement from the CCR. “The final word on whether these men had a right not to be tortured or a right to practice their religion free from abuse is that they did not. Future prospective torturers can now draw comfort from this decision.”

“Where can these men seek justice now for the terrible things that were done to them?” asked CCR attorney Shayana Kadidal. “The entire world recognizes that torture and religious humiliation are never permissible tools for a government, yet our highest court seems to think otherwise.”


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‘The president isn’t above the law’: Supreme Court expected to rule on two key Trump cases on Thursday

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Can Donald Trump refuse to hand over his financial records to Congress and New York prosecutors simply because he is president of the United States? The Supreme Court will rule Thursday on two related cases to answer this, with potentially widespread political implications.

The decision by the nine justices could lift the veil on Trump's finances ahead of the November 3 election.

Unlike all of his predecessors since Richard Nixon in the 1970s, New York real estate mogul Trump refused to release his tax returns, despite promising to do so during his 2016 White House campaign.

Trump made his fortune a key component of that campaign, and his lack of transparency raises questions about his true worth and possible conflicts of interest.

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Australia offers safe haven to Hong Kongers, sparking China fury

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Australia offered pathways to permanent residency for thousands of people from Hong Kong on Thursday in response to China's crackdown on dissent, drawing a furious reply from Beijing.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his government was suspending its extradition agreement with the city and, in addition to extending the visas of 10,000 Hong Kongers already in the country, threw open the door to thousands more wanting to start a new life Down Under.

Morrison said the decisions were taken in response to China's imposition last week of a tough new security law in Hong Kong, which he said "constitutes a fundamental change of circumstances" for the semi-autonomous territory.

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‘Glee’ star Naya Rivera missing, feared drowned

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"Glee" star Naya Rivera is missing and feared drowned at a California lake, local officials said, with rescuers to continue a search for her on Thursday.

The Ventura County Sheriff's office earlier tweeted it was looking for a "possible drowning victim" at the lake, and said a dive team was being deployed to the area.

Rivera, 33, is best known for her role as high school cheerleader Santana Lopez in "Glee", the TV series that she starred in for six seasons.

She rented a boat on Wednesday to take her four-year-old son onto Lake Piru, northwest of Los Angeles, local media cited the County Sheriff as saying.

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