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Vatican treasurer to face trial in Australia on historical sexual offense charges

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Vatican Treasurer George Pell must face trial on charges of historical sexual offences, an Australian court ruled on Tuesday, making him the most senior Catholic official to be tried on such allegations. He pleaded not guilty.

Magistrate Belinda Wallington handed down her decision that Pell’s case will proceed to trial in a Melbourne court, following a month-long pre-trial hearing.

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Pell did not comment when he left the court, surrounded by police and flanked by his legal team.

Pope Francis has said he would not comment on the case involving his economy minister until it was over.

 The Vatican said in a statement that it had “taken note” of the court’s decision and that the leave of absence the pope granted Pell last year so he can defend himself “is still in place”.
A statement issued by Pell’s lawyers and distributed by the Sydney Archdiocese, his last employer before his Vatican posting in 2014, said Pell had fully cooperated with police investigators and “always and steadfastly maintained his innocence”.

 “He would like to thank all those who have supported him from both here in Australia and overseas during this exacting time and is grateful for their continuing support and prayers,” the statement said.
In her ruling, Wallington dismissed what Pell’s lawyer has called “the worst of the charges” leveled against his client, but said allegations of offences at a pool and at a church in Victoria state will be heard.

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Pell was ordered to appear in the Melbourne County Court on Wednesday, when it will be decided how and when the case will proceed.

Some charges “are of such a vastly different nature” from the rest that he foresaw a separation of trials, Pell’s lawyer, Robert Richter, told the court at the end of the committal hearing.

Pell, 76, sat quietly behind his lawyer, wearing a black suit with a clergyman’s collar, as the magistrate’s decision was read out over 90 minutes.

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During the pre-trial hearing, Pell’s defense raised questions about police procedure, the reliability of witnesses’ memories and their psychological condition.

Prosecutor Mark Gibson had said none of the complainants had resiled from their allegations against Pell under cross-examination and Victoria Police Detective Sergeant Chris Reed rejected Richter’s suggestions of serious flaws in the police investigation.

Wallington said the biggest set of alleged offences that she had dismissed “could not have occurred in the time frame alleged”.

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On another charge that was dismissed, Wallington said Pell’s accuser was “so cavalier” with his evidence that a jury would not have been able to put any weight on it.

Pell was called back from Rome to his home country last year to face the charges. He has handed over his passports, Gibson told the court.

Reporting By Sonali Paul and Will Ziebell; Editing by Rob Birsel, Neil Fullick and Raissa Kasolowsky

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Report typos and corrections to: [email protected].
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NYT reporter explains how a Trump war with Iran could spiral out of control: ‘Playing with fire’

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As President Donald Trump pugnaciously warned on Twitter this weekend that the United States is “locked and loaded” to go after Iran following a recent attack on oil infrastructure in Saudi Arabia, foreign policy experts and observers with actual insight into the situation warned that a conflict in the region could spiral out of control.

New York Times reporter Michael Crowley, appearing on MSNBC’s “Deadline: White House” on Thursday, argued that a war with Iran could be much more disastrous and challenging than the devastating Iraq War was.

“It would be a huge, huge, mess,” Crowly said. “Iraq at least was country that we were able to militarily defeat and occupy pretty quickly, and then you had this horrible, long occupation with an insurgency that was disastrous. But in the case of Iran, it’s just a much more formidable military adversary with a lot more ways to counterattack and retaliate and escalate. Israel gets dragged in, the global economy could go up in flames. So you’re not just thinking about a theoretical political principle while Trump is betraying his base — it’s that Trump is inviting, if he were to risk a serious conflict with Iran, a potential debacle in so many ways.”

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Apple slams EU as epic court battle over tax bill begins

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Apple went on the offensive against Brussels in an EU court on Tuesday, fighting the European Commission's landmark order that the iPhone-maker reimburse Ireland 13 billion euros ($14 billion) in back taxes.

The EU's tax demand, delivered in 2016, "defies reality and common sense," Apple's lawyer Daniel Beard told the EU's lower General Court.

The commission's "conclusion... is wrong," he added.

The commission's historic decision was delivered in August 2016 by Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, a shock decision that put Europe at the forefront of an emerging effort to rein in the power of US big tech.

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Israel votes on Netanyahu’s political survival

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Israel votes Tuesday in its second election in five months, determining whether to extend Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's term as the country's longest-serving prime minister despite corruption allegations against him.

The stakes could not be much higher for the 69-year-old right-wing leader who, as in April polls, faces a strong challenge from ex-military chief Benny Gantz and his centrist Blue and White alliance.

Ex-defense minister Avigdor Lieberman, Netanyahu's former right-hand man turned rival, could play a kingmaker role with his campaign to "make Israel normal again."

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