What Mark Taylor could be prosecuted for

If Mark Taylor manages to get from captivity in Syria to Turkey, and then back to New Zealand – the Government nor anyone else seems to be rushing to help him come back here – he is likely to be taken into custody pending prosecutions. What he might face is yet to be determined, but there’s a variety of possibilities.

Stuff – Mark Taylor: The potential legal case facing the ‘Kiwi jihadi’ if he makes it home to New Zealand

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said “Kiwi jihadi” Mark Taylor would face the full force of the law if he returned to New Zealand, so what would that look like?

Ardern made clear “it is unlawful to join and fight with a terrorist organisation as Taylor has done”, so there would certainly be legal consequences.

Is it Ardern’s call to make? Prime Ministers wouldn’t usually get involved in prosecutions, politicians are supposed to get a separation between them and the administration of the law.

If Taylor manages to make his own way to consular assistance – the closest available is in Turkey – and return to New Zealand it’s likely he will be picked up at the airport by authorities and brought to prison awaiting criminal prosecution.

That seems like a given. It would be alarming if this didn’t happen.

In 2015, police took “further security measures” after Taylor posted a YouTube video urging Islamic State followers in New Zealand to launch attacks on Anzac Day.

This week police told Stuff if a New Zealand citizen suspected of associating with a terrorist group were to return, they would be investigated under New Zealand law.

Police were working closely with domestic and international partners as part of its efforts to ensure the safety and security of New Zealand and New Zealanders.

“The circumstances of these individuals is highly complex and any investigation or possible judicial proceedings would be considered on a case by case basis. Police does not discuss matters regarding specific individuals.”

So what is Ardern giving her opinion for then?

Legal experts say Taylor’s social media and video postings would like see him charged under the Crimes Act, Terrorism Suppression Act and possibly the International Crimes and International Criminal Court Act.

He would be refused bail but would avail the rights offered to every citizen in the criminal justice system and his case would likely be long and drawn out through the courts.

The prosecution would not necessarily be a slam dunk with much of the case dependent on proof.

It’s normal for just about any legal case to depend on proof.

Dr Bill Hodge from the University of Auckland law faculty…

“As I understand it, he wasn’t shooting but acting on guard duty but that in itself is routine military exercise. Even if he wasn’t shooting or beheading, he was enabling others to do those things.”

“I think he’d be faced with a maximum possible sentence of 14 years, on the outer limits.”

That must surely depend on what he is charge with.

Professor Alberto Costi​ from Victoria University, who specialises in armed conflicts and international criminal law, said it was not clear what Taylor really done but he had boasted about what he was involved in.

There were provisions in the Crimes Act for threatening to kill as well as the International Crimes and International Criminal Court Act, such as war crimes, crimes against humanity.

John Ip, senior law lecturer at the University of Auckland, said Taylor could be charged with several crimes.

War crimes were a possibility.

He cites a case from Sweden, where a former rebel was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for war crimes – more specifically, involvement in the execution of captured Syrian government soldiers.

However, it’s more likely Taylor would face prosecution under the Terrorism Suppression Act. It states any person who even joins a designated terrorist organisation, is liable on conviction to imprisonment for up to 14 years.

That’s where the 14 year maximum comes from, but that’s just one possible charge.

Another possibility under the same act, was to commit a terrorist act, punishable by up to life imprisonment, he says.

Ip and other legal experts agree, the most likely offence would likely be section 13 of the act; participating in a terrorist group, which would not require proof of specific wrongful conduct such as executing prisoners and killing civilians. The law describes the participation in a designated terrorist entity.

But Ip says there is no guiding case law on what terms like “participation” mean.

“The sections have never been used and sitting moribund since the aborted prosecution in relation to the Operation Eight raids in 2007.”

Whatever Taylor ends up being charged with it would be a test case and is likely to be challenging to both prosecute and defend.

Would it go before a jury? It could be hard to find 12 people in new Zealand who don’t think he’s an idiot who deserves to have the legal book thrown at him.

It’s possible that with untested law he gets off on a technicality.

Another possibility is some sort of charge and plea agreement. Taylor has already claimed or admitted quite a bit. He might find it simpler and less risky to cooperate and accept a moderate sentence.

Russian nationals charged over Skripal novichok attempted murder

British police have charged two Russian nationals in absentia over alleged attempts to kill former spy Sergei Skripal with the nerve agent Novichok.

BBC – Salisbury Novichok poisoning: Russian nationals named as suspects

Two Russian nationals have been named as suspects in the attempted murder of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.

The men, using the names Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, are thought to be officers from Russia’s military intelligence service, the PM said.

Scotland Yard and the CPS say there is enough evidence to charge the men.

Mr Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, were poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok in March.

Det Sgt Nick Bailey also fell ill after responding to the incident in Salisbury.

Police are linking the attack to a separate Novichok poisoning on 30 June, when Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley became unwell at a house in Amesbury, about eight miles from Salisbury.

Ms Sturgess died in hospital on 9 July. Mr Rowley was discharged from hospital on 20 July.

Speaking in the Commons, Prime Minister Theresa May said the government had concluded, from intelligence provided by UK agencies, that the men were part of the GRU intelligence service.

The poisoning was “not a rogue operation” and was “almost certainly” approved at a senior level of the Russian state, she said.

“We must now step up our collective efforts specifically against the GRU,” Mrs May added.

She condemned the “despicable attack” and promised “the full range of tools from across our national security apparatus” would be used to “counter the threat” caused by Russia.

Responding in a statement, Russia’s London embassy called on the British government to “give up politicised public accusations”.

This will further raise tension between the United Kingdom and Russia.

The CPS is not applying to Russia for the extradition of the two men, as Russia does not extradite its own nationals.

But a European Arrest Warrant has been obtained in case they travel to the EU.

So it seems it will be unlikely the named suspects will ever go to trial, but this is a very strong statement of condemnation based on claimed evidence of senior Russian involvement.

Michael Flynn pleads guilty for making false statements to FBI

Michael Flynn, who served for a short time as the Trump administration’s National Security Adviser before being fired, has pleaded guilty to a charge of lying “willfully and knowingly” making false statements to the FBI while serving in the Trump administration

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office announced the charge this morning.

Fox News: Michael Flynn charged in Russia investigation

Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn has been charged in the special counsel’s Russia investigation with making false statements to the FBI — and told a federal judge Friday he plans to plead guilty.

Flynn arrived at federal court in Washington, D.C., for the hearing Friday morning, shortly after Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office released a one-count charging document.

The false-statements charge pertains to Flynn’s interactions with the Russian ambassador in late December — specifically discussions about sanctions and other matters he apparently claimed never happened.

Updated:

Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty Friday to a single count of making false statements to the FBI, becoming the latest Trump associate ensnared by Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

Flynn is accused of “willfully and knowingly” making the false statements to the FBI while serving in the Trump administration.

The false statements were:

“On or about Dec 29, 2016, FLYNN did not ask the Government of Russia’s Ambassador to the United States (“Russian Ambassador”) to refrain from escalating situation in response to sanctions that the United States had imposed against Russia that same day; and FLYNN did not recall the Russian Ambassador subsequently telling him that Russia had chosen to moderate its response to those sanctions as a result of his request; and … On or about December 22, 2016, FLYNN did not ask the Russian Ambassador to delay the vote on or defeat a pending United Nations Security Council resolution; and  that the Russian Ambassador subsequently never described to FLYNN Russia’ response to his request.”

The single charge of lying to the FBI has raised speculation that Flynn has ‘flipped’ and is now helping the FBI with their inquiries. Earlier this had been seen as an aim of the Mueller investigation.

The fact that he’s facing just one count prompted immediate speculation Friday that Flynn could be cooperating and offering information to Mueller’s team.

“We simply don’t know” whether Flynn is giving “deliverables” to Mueller on other Trump associates, constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley said on Fox News’ “America’s Newsroom.”

A Flynn plea deal had been rumored ever since his attorneys informed President Trump’s legal team they could no longer discuss the investigation.

The move prompted speculation Flynn might be cooperating with Mueller’s investigators and discussing a deal.

Flynn, who was interviewed by the FBI just days after Trump’s inauguration, was forced to resign in February after White House officials said he had misled them about whether he had discussed sanctions with the ambassador, Sergey Kislyak.

A few days earlier from Fox: White House Should Be ‘Very Concerned’ About Flynn’s Lawyers Not Sharing Info

Judge Andrew Napolitano said he believes the White House should be “very concerned” about reports that lawyers for Gen. Michael Flynn, formerly President Trump’s national security adviser, are no longer sharing information with Trump’s attorneys.

Flynn’s lawyers, according to reports in recent days, told the president’s legal team that they can no longer discuss Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and potential collusion by the Trump campaign.

The reports have led to speculation that Flynn is cooperating with Mueller’s investigative team.

Judge Napolitano, who often features on Fox News, also said:

‘Monumental’ reduction of charges doesn’t come for free.

In other words, a deal has been done on charges to get Flynn to testify against the Trump campaign team.

This makes the Russian investigation more serious for Trump and his administration. If past behaviour is any guide it is likely to be strongly countered and criticised publicly.

White House Lawyer Ty Cobb:

“Nothing about the guilty plea or the charge implicates anyone other than Mr. Flynn.”

Cobb said that Flynn’s false statements to FBI ‘mirror the false statements to White House officials’ that led to his resignation

AN UPDATE ALREADY:

ABC News: Flynn has promised Special Counsel ‘full cooperation’ in Russia probe

Retired Lt. Gen Michael Flynn has promised “full cooperation” in the special counsel’s Russia investigation and, according to a confidant, and is prepared to testify that Donald Trump directed him to make contact with the Russians, initially as a way to work together to fight ISIS in Syria.

A close confidant told ABC News that Flynn felt abandoned by Trump in recent weeks, and told friends about the decision to make the plea deal within the last 24 hours as he grew increasingly concerned about crippling legal costs he would face if he continued to contest the charges.

A few furious tweets are unlikely to fix this.

 

 

Charged with possessing Isis propaganda, child sex abuse videos

This sounds like someone who may have some wide ranging problems.

NZH: NZ man charged with possessing Isis propaganda, ‘terrorist’s handbook’

A 19-year-old Dannevirke man appeared in the Palmerston North District Court yesterday after being charged with possessing terrorism propaganda.

Jordayne Evan Thomas Madams faces 10 charges of possessing objectionable material consisting of child sex abuse videos and images, and terrorism material.

He made no plea when he appeared in court and a police spokesperson said he was due to appear in court on December 7 – where he would be required to enter a plea.

According to court documents, that included a text file of The Terrorist’s Handbook, which gives instructions on how to assemble bombs and explosives, as well as Isis beheading videos.

It was also alleged Madams had videos showing Isis, a jihadist militant group predominantly operating in Syria, executing a captured soldier with a machinegun and carrying out a beheading.

The child sex abuse material involved photos and videos of preteen and teenage boys and girls in suggestive poses or taking part in sex acts, according to court documents.

No indication of whether he was a terrorism risk, or was just someone who, allegedly, was attracted to gross and illegal material.

Labour’s water policy

Jacinda Ardern announced Labour’s water policy yesterday, but many details have been left undecided, in particular who will be charged how much for water.

Clean rivers for future generations

Labour will lead a nationwide effort to restore our rivers and lakes to a clean, swimmable state, says Leader of the Opposition Jacinda Ardern.

“Clean water is the birth-right of all of us. I want future generations to be able to swim in the local river, just like I did. All our children deserve to inherit swimmable lakes and rivers – and they can, if we commit ourselves as a country to cleaning up our water.

“We can do this. We can restore our rivers and lakes to a truly swimmable standard. If we choose it, and if we all work together. It will mean using our water more carefully, and being smarter about how we manage our pollution.

“Labour will help with the task of protecting our waterways from agricultural pollution. Our Ready for Work programme will employ young people off the dole and give them work improving the environment – including fencing waterways, riparian planting, and other work to improve water quality.

“A royalty on the commercial consumption of water will assist with the cost of keeping our water clean. The royalty will be flexible to reflect the scarcity or abundance of water in different regions, the different quality of water, and its use. Royalty levels will be set following consultation and the revenue will largely be returned to regional councils.

“To help set the royalty, in my first hundred days, I’ll host a roundtable on water at Parliament, with all affected sectors. I will not set a rate until I have met with those who will be affected; this is an issue that we must tackle together.

“Labour believes when water is exported for profit, private companies should also pay a royalty.

“Labour will work with iwi to resolve Treaty water claims in a manner that respects iwi’s mana, and restores the mauri of our rivers and lakes.

“Our river and lakes are a taonga of huge significance to Māori, a favourite place of recreation for New Zealanders. It’s time to restore them for future generations. Let’s do this,” says Jacinda Ardern.

David Parker said all large users of water given permits through councils would pay for water, but wouldn’t define ‘large’.

Parker wouldn’t ‘pluck a figure out of the air’, so will go into the election promising water charges but deferring to an expert panel to decide how much, after the election of course.

 

Park charges?

A lot of National Park and other tourist facilities are provided free of charge to everyone in New Zealand.

Should tourists be charged?

Should there be more charges for locals? User pays?

https://initiativeblog.com/2016/12/12/private-walks/

No charges to be laid against Todd Barclay

After a 9 month investigation the police have announced that no charges will laid against Clutha-Southland MP Todd Barclay.

ODT reports:

Police will not lay any charges in relation to an allegation against Clutha-Southland MP Todd Barclay, it has been confirmed.

“After consideration of all relevant information and the Solicitor-general’s prosecution guidelines, police has determined that there is insufficient evidence to prosecute,” a statement from police said yesterday.

Witnesses were interviewed and the case was referred to the legal division of police.

“Police received a complaint in February 2016 regarding an allegation that private communications had been intercepted by an individual.

“This investigation examined all the available information, including interviews with key witnesses.

“All the relevant parties have been informed of this decision,” the police spokesman said.

Coincidentally (possibly) was news this week that Barclay is being challenged for the National Party nomination to stand for the seat next year. See MP challenged in Clutha-Southland.

Charges would have made it difficult for Barclay, especially because the allegations related to a staff dispute in his own office.

Those staff problems will still figure in the contest for the nomination. Barclay is getting some support from his electorate and from some Parliamentary colleagues – see National battles in Clutha-Southland – but Simon Flood must also believe he has support in the electorate and in the party to challenge an incumbent MP.

This should at least be another reality check for Barclay. Any thoughts he had an electorate and a job for as long as he liked should have been dispelled.

FBI recommends no charges against Clinton

Director James B Comey has indicated that the FBI will not recommend criminal charges against Hillary Clinton but says she and her staff were very careless.

Washington Post: FBI recommends no criminal charges in Clinton email probe

FBI Director James B. Comey said Tuesday that his agency will not recommend criminal charges against Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server as secretary of state, but called Clinton and her staff “extremely careless” in handling sensitive material.

The stunning announcement means that Clinton will not have to fear criminal, legal liability as her campaign moves forward, though Comey leveled sharp criticism at the past email practices of the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee and called into question many of the defenses she has raised in recent weeks.

The FBI director said those who acted as Clinton and her staffers did were “often subject to security or administrative sanctions,” though in comparing her case with similar investigations in the past, they could not find any of the aggravating factors that typically lead to the filing of criminal charges.

“Although there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case,” Comey said. He said while the ultimate decision would be left up to the Department of Justice, the FBI was expressing its view “that no charges are appropriate in this case.”

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of Virginia, whose prosecutors are involved in the case, declined to comment. A Justice Department spokeswoman said she was preparing a possible response.

So this looks like it may be clearing the way for Clinton to continue her campaign for the presidency without being charged, but this isn’t the end of it, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of Virginia declined to comment and a Justice Department spokeswoman said she was preparing a possible response.

And it is far from the end of the issue politically. After all, Clinton is in a major campaign for the top job in the country.

The announcement — which came only about 72 hours after FBI agents interviewed Clinton, and only about a week after former president Bill Clinton had an impromptu meeting with U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch aboard her plane — immediately sparked criticism that the outcome of the high-profile probe was a foregone conclusion, influenced heavily by political considerations.

It gives Donald Trump more ammunition to blast Clinton with, and it hasn’t taken him long to take advantage.

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump tweeted, “The system is rigged,” and asserted that former general and CIA director David Petraeus, who pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of mishandling classified information, “got in trouble for far less.”

Remember that neither Trump nor Clinton are confirmed as their party’s candidates yet.

But joining the Hillary bashing…

U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) said in a statement that Comey’s announcement “defies explanation.”

“No one should be above the law. But based upon the director’s own statement, it appears damage is being done to the rule of law,” Ryan said. “Declining to prosecute Secretary Clinton for recklessly mishandling and transmitting national security information will set a terrible precedent.”

And despite recommending no charges Comey seems fairly scathing:

Comey nevertheless systematically dismantled the public explanations Clinton has offered to reassure the public about her email system for the last 15 months.

When it was first revealed that Clinton used a personal email account during her years in office, Clinton first said that she had never sent or received classified material through the account. She later amended those statements to say that her emails contained no information that was clearly marked as classified.

Her supporters also insisted that a finding of sensitive material by the State Department and other government agencies was retroactive, a judgement by bureaucrats after the fact to “upgrade” material to a classified level.

Comey dismissed each of those explanations. He said that a careful analysis by officials from multiple agencies found there was classified material and that in 110 emails, the information was sensitive enough to be classified at the time it was sent, not just after the fact.

Seven email chains included information that was properly classified as “top secret” dealing with “special access programs,” the very highest level of classification. He confirmed that Clinton herself authored some of the most concerning emails and that the conversations were sufficiently sensitive that a person in her job should have known they contained classified material.

“There is evidence to support a conclusion that any reasonable person in Secretary Clinton’s position, or in the position of those with whom she was corresponding about these matters, should have known that an unclassified system was no place for that conversation,” Comey said.

He said that while only a very small number were properly marked as classified, “even if information is not marked classified in an email, participants who know or should know that the subject matter is classified are still obligated to protect it.”

This will stoke up the criticisms of Clinton over her laxity and for her perceived favoured status in the system and networks, the privileged political class, that Trump is campaigning against.

It is unclear who will make the ultimate decision not to charge Clinton. On Friday, Lynch announced that she would accept recommendations from career prosecutors and FBI agents leading the probe — a decision that she said had been made before her impromptu, social meeting with Bill Clinton, but one that was surely meant to quiet criticism about the independence of the probe.

If Clinton survives all this and gets elected President this may dog her throughout her tenure. Her husband Bill well knows when the Republicans are gunning for an opponent, trying to shorten his presidency via impeachment.

Politics can be very tough and dirty in the US.

Back to the email issue, I have no idea whether Clinton and her staff were unusually and unwisely lax or they just happened to have been found out.

Did Stuff stuff up?

The Sunday Star Times pushed suppression under injunction boundaries with their story that made it easy to the identify Cabinet Minister who’s brother was to appear in court today.

And it appears that today Stuff posted an article (about midday) on the court case today and then pulled it. Except that things don’t disappear that easily on the Internet. They don’t even disappear that easily on Stuff’s website.

Did Stuff stuff up? Were they told to remove the article? or did they (or their lawyers) think better of it?

This case is like a jigsaw with a few large pieces, and most of the pieces supplied by Stuff.

In contrast NZ Herald reports:

Blanket suppression over man facing sex charges

A man has appeared in a district court facing sex charges.

A blanket suppression order has been put in place and will be argued in three weeks time.

The order not only covers the accused and the charges, but even the court he appeared in.

And once again The Standard allows revealing comments to stand. Their double standard over allowing speculation and revealing suppressed information continues.

Sepuloni’s statement and Parliamentary questions

Carmel Sepuloni made a statement today:

Comment from Carmel Sepuloni
Thursday, 26 February 2015, 10:54 am
Press Release: New Zealand Labour Party

The first I knew of my mother’s charges was when I was called by a reporter yesterday.

I spoke to Andrew and we agreed there is a conflict of interest at the present time which means I will temporarily stand aside from the Social Development portfolio. It’s the right thing to do.

I look forward to resuming my duties when the matter is resolved.

This is a difficult time for my family and I ask the media to please respect their privacy.

I will not be doing any media on this topic.

In the meantime Andrea Vance has been investigating written Parliamentary questions from Sepuloni in Carmel Sepuloni’s questions on benefit fraud.

Labour’s Carmel Sepuloni…recently asked the Government a series of questions about welfare cheats.

The party insists she did not know Beverley Anne Sepuloni was facing charges until yesterday.

Two days earlier, the Kelston MP lodged a series of written parliamentary questions with Social Development Minister Anne Tolley. They centred on benefit fraud.

One question asked for details on the process the Ministry of Social Development used for “establishing whether suspected benefit fraud relating to a client having a partner despite saying they live alone”.

Sepuloni’s mother faces 19 charges of claiming benefits and subsidies she was not entitled to and failing to tell Ministry of Social Development officials she was living with a partner.

The MP’s questions also related to money spent by the ministry on investigating suspected cases of benefit fraud, and how many clients were convicted.

She also asked: “How many [reports] were proved to be correct and how many were found to be incorrect?”

Sepuloni was also interested in information on the Benefit Review Committee – the internal panel set up to review decisions. She wanted to know details about how they were appointed and how much they cost.

That’s amongst many questions.

A spokesperson for Little said: “Carmel was doing her job as Social Development spokesperson by getting as much information as possible on matters of public interest. These questions show she was completely ignorant of her mother’s charges. Written Parliamentary Questions need to be specific and detailed in order to get the answers required.

“This month alone Carmel has filed 112 questions on a wide range of Social Development issues.”

But the subject matter of some of the questions is very coincidental if Sepuloni is telling the truth about not finding out about her mother’s charges until yesterday.

And it has been reported that Sepuloni has been on five days leave due to a sick child – but she was still asking written questions in that time, which seems a bit odd.

Sepuloni’s mother did not enter a plea in her court appearance:

The mother of Labour MP Carmel Sepuloni appeared in court today on benefit fraud charges and was remanded to re-appear next week.

Beverley Anne Sepuloni is facing 19 charges of benefit fraud after being accused of claiming benefits and subsidies she was not entitled to, and failing to tell Ministry of Social Development officials she was living with a partner.

Michael Charles Rangi has been jointly charged with her and is facing four charges.

Both were remanded to re-appear in the New Plymouth District Court on March 5.

Neither entered a plea to the charges.

Mother of Labour MP Carmel Sepuloni remanded to face fraud charges