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Former Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz found guilty of perjury

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Former Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz found guilty of perjury

Kurz receives eight month suspended sentence after being found guilty of lying to a parliamentary inquiry.

Austria’s former Chancellor Sebastian Kurz has received an eight-month suspended sentence after being found guilty of perjury by a Vienna court after a four-month trial.

The former leader, once hailed as a “wunderkind” of Europe’s conservatives, had denied downplaying his influence over the appointment of executives to the state-holding company OBAG when he was chancellor, and whose appointments were formally his finance minister’s responsibility.

But Kurz’s corruption case centred on his testimony to a parliamentary commission of inquiry that he was “involved in the sense of informed”, but did not play an active role in appointments.

The court, however, agreed with prosecutors that Kurz was actually the ultimate decision-maker, and produced evidence, including text messages and testimony from former loyalist Thomas Schmid, the first head of OBAG, who turned state witness.

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“I find this part of the ruling very unfair,” Kurz said after the ruling. “We have appealed and I am very optimistic that we will receive a ruling in our favour in the second instance.”

The trial and other ongoing corruption investigations have damaged the reputation of the charismatic hardliner, and damaged any chance he had of a political comeback.

In 2017, Kurz became one of the youngest leaders in the world at age 31 and formed a coalition with the far-right Freedom Party (FPO).

Amid a scandal in 2019 when the FPO’s leader was embroiled in a video sting, the coalition collapsed. Kurz then won a snap election and formed a coalition with the Greens, who later forced him from office in 2021 due to the corruption investigation.

But his Austrian People’s Party continues to lead the government under current Chancellor Karl Nehammer.

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Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz waves as he leaves a session of the Parliament in Vienna, Austria May 27, 2019 [File: Leonhard Foeger/Reuters]

Kurz has insisted he is innocent of having misled a parliamentary inquiry probing wide-ranging corruption scandals that brought down his first government with the far right in 2019.

Throughout the trial, he portrayed himself as the victim of selective prosecution and an opposition out to “destroy him”.

Kurz said that while he had been informed about Schmid’s appointment, he did not decide on it and dismissed suggestions that he had sought to control everything.

On the other hand, Schmid testified that Kurz had built up a “system” where he held the reins and could veto any appointment of personnel in critical companies.

Separately, prosecutors are still investigating Kurz on suspicion of having embezzled public money to fund polls skewed to boost his image and pay for the favourable coverage that allowed for his success in 2017.

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However, they have so far failed to obtain any convictions since a video emerged in 2019 showing Kurz’s then-vice chancellor of the FPO offering public contracts to a purported Russian investor for campaign help.

After leaving politics, the conservatives, who are in an election year, have slid to second or third in the polls, making it likely that they will lose seats in a parliamentary election this year, prompting speculation that Kurz could eventually return to lead the party and reverse its fortunes.

Polls, however, have shown that a clear majority of Austrians say they do not want to see his return to government, and Kurz has said that he is happy as a businessman and is now involved with numerous private international enterprises.

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Israel indicts sister of Hamas leader Haniyeh on terrorism incitement

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Israel indicts sister of Hamas leader Haniyeh on terrorism incitement
Israel’s State Attorney on Sunday indicted the sister of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh on charges of incitement and showing solidarity with a terror group, after she allegedly praised Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack that sparked the six-month old war in Gaza.
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Conservative Brazilians laud Elon Musk at rally in support of Bolsonaro

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Conservative Brazilians laud Elon Musk at rally in support of Bolsonaro

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Conservative Brazilians heaped praise Sunday on Elon Musk at a rally in support of former President Jair Bolsonaro, whose legal troubles are mounting in tandem with the billionaire entrepreneur’s feud with the South American nation’s Supreme Court.

“Brazil Thanks Elon Musk,” read one giant sign in English at the rally alongside Copacabana beach in the seaside city of Rio de Janeiro. Thousands of die-hard supporters of Bolsonaro attended.

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ELON MUSK TO FUND NEW FIRST AMENDMENT CAMPAIGN TO COMBAT ‘RELENTLESS ATTACKS ON FREE SPEECH’

Musk, a self-declared free speech absolutist, is a target in an ongoing investigation over the dissemination of fake news by supporters of Bolsonaro. Musk said the social platform X wouldn’t comply with a high court justice’s order to remove certain accounts accused of spreading disinformation.

Musk, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX who took over Twitter — now X — in late 2022, accused Justice Alexandre de Moraes of suppressing free speech and violating Brazil’s constitution. He noted on X that users could seek to bypass any shutdown of the social media platform by using VPNs, or virtual private networks.

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That prompted de Moraes to include Musk in an ongoing investigation into so-called digital militias and open a new investigation into obstruction, incitement and criminal conspiracy.

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Alexandre de Moraes, justice of Brazil's Supreme Federal Court

Alexandre de Moraes, justice of Brazil’s Supreme Federal Court, left, speaks during a session at the Supreme Court building in Brasilia, Brazil, on Wednesday, April 17, 2024. Elon Musk’s X social media platform will comply with all orders from Brazil’s Supreme Court, a week following top Justice Moraes’s decision to open an investigation into Musk and the billionaire saying he would defy the court. (Ton Molina/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Several speakers lauded Musk at Sunday’s rally.

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“What you see here are people who love liberty, who will not give up and will not kneel down to dictators, people who are willing to give their lives for freedom,” said Gustavo Gayer, a pro-Bolsonaro congressman.

Jair Bolsonaro

For his part, the former president lauded Musk for demonstrating “courage” in the face of what he called censorship by de Moraes.

“He is the man who really preserves true freedom for all of us,” said Bolsonaro, who is himself under investigation for a plethora of crimes ranging from aiding an effort to overturn the 2022 election results and plotting a coup against his leftist successor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

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Brazil is an important market for social media companies. About 40 million Brazilians, or about 18% of the population, access X at least once per month, according to the market research group Emarketer.

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Biden condemns ‘blatant’ anti-Semitism at Columbia pro-Palestine protests

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Biden condemns ‘blatant’ anti-Semitism at Columbia pro-Palestine protests

Biden’s remarks come after footage emerges appearing to show Jewish students being harassed and intimidated.

United States President Joe Biden has condemned pro-Palestinian activists for acts of “blatant” anti-Semitism during protests at Columbia University.

In a statement to commemorate the Jewish holiday of Passover on Sunday, Biden said it was necessary to speak out against “the alarming surge of antisemitism – in our schools, communities, and online”.

“Silence is complicity. Even in recent days, we’ve seen harassment and calls for violence against Jews,” Biden said.

“This blatant antisemitism is reprehensible and dangerous – and it has absolutely no place on college campuses, or anywhere in our country.”

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Biden’s comments came after reports emerged over the weekend of harassment and threats against Jewish students on the campus of Columbia University in New York.

Footage shared on social media appeared to show activists telling students to “go back to Poland” and that October 7 is “going to be every day for you” – referring to Hamas’s attacks on Israel in which 1,139 people were killed.

Chabad at Columbia University, a chapter of an international Orthodox Jewish movement, said in a statement that protesters had also told Jewish students, “You have no culture”, “All you do is colonise” and to “Go back to Europe”.

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In a statement on Sunday, a group of student activists representing the protesters distanced themselves from “inflammatory individuals” and said they reject “any form of hate or bigotry”.

“We are frustrated by media distractions focusing on inflammatory individuals who do not represent us. At universities across the nation, our movement is united in valuing every human life,” the statement said.

“Our members have been misidentified by a politically-motivated mob. We have been doxxed in the press, arrested by the NYPD [New York Police Department], and locked out of our homes by the university. We have knowingly put ourselves in danger because we can no longer be complicit in Columbia funnelling our tuition dollars and grant funding into companies that profit from death.”

Biden made his remarks hours after a statement by the White House calling out “physical intimidation targeting Jewish students and the Jewish community”.

“While every American has the right to peaceful protect, calls for violence and physical intimidation targeting Jewish students and the Jewish community are blatantly antisemitic, unconscionable, and dangerous – they have absolutely no place on any college campus, or anywhere in the United States of America,” White House Deputy Press Secretary Andrew Bates said.

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“And echoing the rhetoric of terrorist organisations, especially in the wake of the worst massacre committed against the Jewish people since the Holocaust, is despicable.”

New York City Mayor Eric Adams and New York State Governor Kathy Hochul have also condemned reports of harassment and intimidation at the protests.

Columbia, one of the most prestigious universities in the US, has emerged as a hotbed of student activism since the start of Israel’s war in Gaza following the October 7 attacks.

On Thursday, the New York Police Department arrested more than 100 pro-Palestinian protesters after its officers swarmed the campus and cleared an encampment set up by students.

Some students involved in the protests said they had been suspended from Columbia and its associate institution, Barnard College, including Isra Hirsi, the daughter of Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar.

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