Two NSW men sentenced to 17 years jail for murder of QLD man Tyron Beauchamp


Two men who murdered a Queensland man and dumped his mutilated body in bushland on the NSW mid-north coast have been sentenced to 17 years in prison.

Tyron Beauchamp’s remains were found by a NSW Rural Fire Service crew that extinguished a small blaze in the Yarratt State Forest two days after Christmas in 2018.

The 41-year-old’s skull had been fractured during a beating before he was taken to a dirt cul-de-sac.

Darcy Dufty and Andrue Tisdell were among five men arrested across Taree over the murder last May and later pleaded guilty.

Justice Richard Cavanagh today sentenced both men to 17 years and three months in prison, with a non-parole period of 12 years.

The NSW Supreme Court heard Beauchamp had struggled with drug addiction and was staying in a shed after being released from prison in November 2018.

Dufty and Tisdell were affected by “a significant cocktail of drugs and alcohol” consumed on Christmas Eve — including ice and marijuana — when Dufty formed the view Beauchamp had been “disrespecting him”.

Justice Cavanagh said the two went to find Beauchamp on Christmas Day and were “pumping each other up” in the car, having agreed to “give him a hiding” before “moving him on”.

“In their drug-induced and alcoholic state, the offenders set upon Mr Beauchamp whilst he lay in a bed, unprotected and defenceless,” he said.

Beauchamp yelled “don’t” and “stop” as he was beaten to the head with a metal bar by Tisdell and punched and kicked by Dufty.

The judge found the two men did not intend to kill Tyron Beauchamp.(Facebook: Supplied)

The judge said the victim must have been terrified as he was wrapped in a doona, put in the boot of a car and driven to the forest.

The following day, Dufty and Tisdell returned to cut off Beauchamp’s hands and mutilate his body.

Justice Cavanagh found the pair did not intend to kill Beauchamp, but did intend to inflict grievous bodily harm which led to his death.

Their drug-induced state did not lessen the seriousness of the crime nor their moral culpability, Justice Cavanagh said.

But the judge also acknowledged both defendants came from a background of disadvantage, including drug use from an early age and exposure to domestic violence.

After the judge adjourned the court, Dufty and Tisdell gave each other a thumbs-up on their respective video links from jail.

In June, another man linked to Beauchamp’s death was sentenced to a minimum of 12 months in prison after admitting to hindering a police investigation.

The man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, burned a bag of clothes connected to the murder.

Dufty and Tisdell will both be eligible for parole in May 2031.



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Loujain al-Hathloul sentenced to 5 years jail.


Loujain al-Hathloul, one of Saudi Arabia’s most prominent women’s rights activists, has been sentenced to five years and eight months in prison by the kingdom’s special court for terrorism offenses, according to her family.

The sentence includes a two-year and 10-month suspension, in addition to time she has already served, paving the way for Ms Hathloul to be released in two months’ time, according to a statement released by her family on Monday.

A 2014 image made from a video released by Loujain al-Hathloul. (AP)

Ms Hathloul, 31, was detained in May 2018 in a sweep that targeted prominent opponents of the kingdom’s former law barring women from driving.

The crackdown happened just weeks before the ban was lifted, casting doubt on a series of reforms put forward by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, known as MBS.

Ms Hathloul’s trial had been scheduled to begin in criminal court last month, where she faced charges including activism against the kingdom’s restrictive male guardianship laws and contact with foreign journalists and diplomats – an application for a job with the UN was used as evidence against her.

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, also known as MBS. (AP)

Instead, her case was transferred to the Specialised Criminal Court for terrorism and national security (SCC).

She was accused of using her relations with foreign governments and rights groups to “pressure the Kingdom to change its laws and systems,” according to a charge sheet her family published earlier in December.

The SCC was described by Amnesty International in November as an “an institution used to silence dissent and notorious for issuing lengthy prison sentences following seriously flawed trials.”

In a statement on Monday, her sister Lina said Ms Hathloul had been charged, tried and convicted using counter-terrorism laws in a rushed trial that “failed to provide evidence beyond Loujain’s well noted activism and failed to properly investigate the torture Loujain endured in prison.”

Ms Hathloul has told her family that she was sexually assaulted and tortured while in detention, including waterboarding, flogging and electrocution, according to multiple statements released by her family and supporters.

The Saudi government has previously denied allegations of torture, saying it does not “condone, promote, or allow the use of torture”.

Jiddah, Saudi Arabia
Jiddah’s historical district, a UNESCO registered World Heritage site. (AP)

The SCC judge also denied the torture allegations in his final report, according to the Hathloul family statement.

CNN has reached out to the Saudi government for comment on the case.

Ms Hathloul has twice gone on hunger strike – in protest at her prison conditions, and because she was denied communication with her relatives – according to her family.

A 2019 American Bar Association Center for Human Rights report said the SCC was created in 2008 to prosecute terrorism detainees, but that the its “caseload was quickly expanded from alleged violent extremists to include political dissidents, religious minorities and human rights activists” and concluded that the “SCC routinely convicts individuals of terrorism charges without any meaningful evidence”.

A view of Shaybah oilfield in Rub Al-Khali, Saudi Arabia. The highly anticipated sale of a sliver of the company has been generating global buzz because it could clock in as the world's biggest initial public offering, surpassing record holder Alibaba whose IPO raised $21.8 billion on its first day of trading in 2014. Facebook raised $16 billion in its 2012 IPO.
A view of Shaybah oilfield in Rub Al-Khali, Saudi Arabia. (AP)

Activist Ms Hathloul will remain on probation for three years following her release, during which time she could be arrested for any perceived illegal activity, according to the family’s statement.

She will also be banned from travelling for five years, it said.

Ms Hathloul has 30 days to appeal the court’s verdict.

‘Activism is not a crime’

Three other women’s rights activists who were arrested alongside Ms Hathloul – Nassima al-Sada, Nouf Abdulaziz and Maya’a al-Zahrani – remain in detention, according to human rights group Amnesty International.

The case of another prominent activist, Samar Badawi, has now been referred to the special court.

Ms Badawi campaigned against the driving ban and against the imprisonment of her former husband, rights lawyer Waleed Abu al-Khair, as well as her brother, blogger Raif Badawi.

Last month, seven European human rights ambassadors criticised Saudi Arabia over the continued detention of these activists and called on the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Special Rapporteurs and Treaty Bodies in “reiterating our call for the release of all political detainees, including the women’s rights activists”.

Oil refinery and mosque in Saudi Arabia (Getty)
Oil refinery and mosque in Saudi Arabia. (Getty)

“Peaceful activism, and advocating for women’s rights is not a crime. Human rights defenders can be a strong partner for governments in addressing concerns within society,” the ambassadors said.

On Monday, Ms Hathloul’s sister Lina underlined that message, saying her sister is “not a terrorist, she is an activist”.

“To be sentenced for her activism for the very reforms that MBS and the Saudi Kingdom so proudly tout is the ultimate hypocrisy. My sister is the bravest person I know, and while we are devastated that she will have to spend even one more day in prison, our fight is far from over,” she said in a statement.

“We will not rest until Loujain is free.”



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Saudi women’s rights activist sentenced to nearly 6 years


One of Saudi Arabia’s most prominent women’s rights activists has been sentenced to nearly six years in prison under a vague and broadly-worded law aimed at combating terrorism

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — One of Saudi Arabia’s most prominent women’s rights activists was sentenced on Monday to nearly six years in prison under a vague and broadly-worded law aimed at combating terrorism, according to state-linked media.

Loujain al-Hathloul’s case, and her imprisonment for the past two and a half years, have drawn criticism from rights groups, members of the U.S. Congress and European Union lawmakers.

Al-Hathloul was among a handful of Saudi women who openly called for the right to drive before it was granted in 2018 and for the removal of male guardianship laws that had long stifled women’s freedom of movement and ability to travel abroad.

State-linked Saudi news outlet Sabq reported that al-Hathloul was found guilty by the kingdom’s anti-terrorism court on charges including agitating for change, pursuing a foreign agenda, using the internet to harm public order and and cooperating with individuals and entities that have committed crimes according to anti-terror laws. She has 30 days to appeal the verdict.

A rights group called “Prisoners of Conscience” that focuses on Saudi political detainees said that al-Hathloul could be released as early as the end of March 2021 based on time served. She has been imprisoned since May 2018 and 34 months of her sentencing will be suspended.

The judge ordered her to serve five years and eight months in prison for violating anti-terrorism laws, according to Sabq, which said its reporter was allowed inside the courtroom during Monday’s session.

Sabq reported that the judge said the defendant had confessed to committing the crimes and that her confessions were made voluntarily and without coercion. The judge said the verdict was issued in the presence of the prosecutor, the defendant, a representative from the government’s Human Rights Commission and a handful of select local media representatives.



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Man sentenced for using knife in North Coast street brawl



A simple request to keep the noise down as to not to wake a baby ended in a street brawl involving a butcher’s knife, a court heard.

Daniel Caine Holland appeared in Tweed Heads Court on Monday by videolink from custody in Clarence Correctional Centre.

He pleaded guilty to charges of affray, using an offensive weapon to commit an indictable offence, damaging property and failing to appear.

Court documents revealed the Tweed Heads South man had stayed the night at his partner-of-seven-months’ house when he woke up early on October 18.

When Holland’s partner asked him to keep the noise down because of her sleeping grandchild upstairs, he became argumentative and threw her phone at the wall, cracking it.

The 40-year-old walked outside and his partner locked him out.

In response, Holland punched the door and demanded to be let back in, calling the woman a “dumb mutt”.

He then picked up one of his metal butcher’s knife and hit the door with the blade.

About 6.47am, Holland was captured on security footage walking around to the front of the house still carrying the knife.

Another man, a co-accused for the affray charge, was also staying the night at the residence and came outside to speak to Holland.

The other man kicked Holland and Holland retaliated by chasing him down the driveway with the knife.

Holland lunged at the co-accused with the blade but the man kicked Holland in the chest causing him to fall on his back.

The other man repeatedly punched Holland in the face while sitting on his chest, while Holland’s partner’s daughter tried to kick the knife from his hand.

Eventually, the co-accused was able to pull the knife free and then continued to punch Holland in the head for about a minute.

A neighbour came out to assist the situation and Holland walked away down the street.

When police arrived, the co-accused denied seeing anything and officer’s were not aware of his involvement until viewing the CCTV footage.

Holland was found the next day about midday walking the street with his belongings in a shopping trolley.

During unpredictable fits of violence in police care, he told officer’s he had drunk alcohol and taken the drug ice.

Defence lawyer Cassandra Bennett said Holland had absconded from a bail-ordered residential rehabilitation just three days before completing the program.

“He says it was a really stupid move,” she said.

Ms Bennett said Holland had effectively completed all the requirements of the program that helped him address his offending behaviour.

Magistrate Geoff Dunlevy convicted and sentenced Holland to an aggregate sentence of 12 months imprisonment with a non parole of six months.

This meant his parole expired on Sunday night and he was eligible to be released immediately.





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Teenager who killed 82yo Canberra man Richard Cater in random attack sentenced to 15 years’ jail


A teenager who killed an 82-year-old Canberra man in a frenzied and unprovoked attack while high on LSD has been sentenced to 15 years in jail.

The young man apologised to victim Richard Cater’s family in court earlier this week, saying he was “experimenting” with drugs at the time of the assault.

Friends were dropping Mr Cater off at his north Canberra home after a night out at a restaurant in March 2019 when the teenager attacked.

The court previously heard he repeatedly made threats, making “monster prehistoric sounds”, as he assaulted the group.

“I’m going to kill you, I’m going to kill you,” he was alleged to have said.

Court documents said he tore at a friend of Mr Cater’s mouth, before snapping the neck of a woman who tried to help.

When Mr Cater also intervened, the teenager turned on him and stomped on his head.

Mr Cater later died in hospital from his injuries.

Justice Michael Elkaim said the teenager’s 15-year sentence would be suspended after eight-and-a-half years.

Teen had not shown ‘tendency to be violent’ before attack

In handing down his sentence, the judge said it had been difficult to weigh the horrific nature of the murder and assaults against the teenager’s evident remorse.

The youth had pleaded for forgiveness in his apology on Monday, saying he was “heartbroken” over the consequences of his actions.

“Every day I am reminded of the fear and heartache I have inflicted on you and your family and friends,” he said.

Justice Elkaim said he believed the teenager’s apology was genuine.

“This impression was confirmed by him not being cross-examined and the frank and fair concession by the Crown that it was accepted that his remorse was genuine and his prospects of rehabilitation were good,” Justice Elkaim said.

He said the teen was in high school at the time of the offence and had no criminal record, nor had there been any suggestion of violent behaviour in his past.

“His use of drugs such as cannabis and ecstasy was reasonably established. His use of LSD was limited,” Justice Elkaim said.

“In my view there is no basis upon which I could conclude that [the teenager] knew, or even had regarded as a possibility, that his use of LSD would induce the psychosis in which he descended into a raving and violent marauder.”

Court documents revealed the teenager had bought the LSD from a “random guy” and that he found it “distorted my vision and gave me a feeling of euphoria.”

But he had not experienced an feelings of anxiety of paranoia before the night of the attack.

‘There is no closure for our family’

Mark Cater said his family were disappointed with the sentence.(ABC News: Michael Inman)

Outside court, Mr Cater’s son Mark said his family were disappointed with the sentence.

“No family should ever have to go through the tragedy that we have lived through,” Mr Cater said.

“And to know that the offender will be able to walk down the street our mother lives in sooner than we would like gives us no relief.

On Monday, 16 victim impact statements were read out during the hearing, describing Mr Cater as a loving family man.

His family also spoke in court of how they had been planning a big celebration for the great-grandfather’s 60th wedding anniversary, but how they instead were forced to organise his funeral.

“The loneliness and fear just never goes away,” his widow said in court on Monday.

The court also heard from the two other victims of the attack, who described the treatment they required in its wake.

The woman described how she needed spinal surgery to fix her injuries, still suffered neck pain, and had nerve pain down her right side.

The man said he still suffered numbness in his jaw and needed dental work to fix a damaged tooth.

Justice Elkaim acknowledged some of the family might be disappointed with the 15-year sentence.

“Some of the persons who read out victim impact statements called for a life sentence or at least a very lengthy term of imprisonment,” he said.



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Former Finnish police officer sentenced to life in prison for murder


JARI AARNIO, a former leader of the drug enforcement unit at Helsinki Police Department, has been sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Volkan Ünsal, a Swedish-Turkish man who was killed in a private residence in Vuosaari, an eastern neighbourhood of the Finnish capital, in October 2003, reports Helsingin Sanomat.

The District Court of Helsinki on Tuesday ruled that Aarnio had knowledge of the murder conspiracy but neglected to take action to foil it.

The National Bureau of Investigation (KRP) re-opened the murder case in 2016, following the emergence of signs that it the original investigation had failed to consider all the relevant circumstances. Its investigation brought to light a wealth of information that the original investigators had failed to unearth.


Four people were sentenced to life in prison for the murder after the original investigation.

The District Court of Helsinki rejected the murder charge brought against former gang leader Keijo Vilhunen, ruling that he had not participated in the conspiracy even as an accessory. The alternative sequence of events he presented, the court ruled, was credible enough to leave reasonable doubt about his culpability.

Both Aarnio and Vilhunen denied the charges, contradicting each other in the course of the investigation. Vilhunen confirmed that he was aware of the murder conspiracy but added that, as a police informant, he conveyed all his information to Aarnio, thinking police would prevent the homicide.

Aarnio denied receiving any information about the conspiracy from Vilhunen, arguing that his knowledge of it was founded on rumours at best.

The court ruled, however, that he learnt about the threat against Ünsal in June 2003. He also knew that the victim came to visit a childhood friend in Finland at the end of September 2003, a couple of weeks before the homicide took place in mid-October.

“Aarnio’s information about the homicide conspiracy was clarified and he was aware of the suspected offenders,” the judges noted, highlighting that he had placed the conspirators under surveillance but neglected to notify the officers conducting the operation of the murder conspiracy.

The court pointed out that by taking action he essentially took it upon himself to prevent the killing and was responsible for protecting the life of Ünsal. “Aarnio thus had a special statutory obligation to prevent the homicide,” it said.

The fact that he did not take any action to prevent the homicide meant that he had to consider it fairly likely that the homicide will be carried out.

“Aarnio had information about the fact that it was a premeditated contract killing. His deliberate negligence also had a causal relationship with the death of Ünsal,” the ruling read according to Helsingin Sanomat.

Riitta Leppiniemi, the defence counsel of Aarnio, stated to the newspaper that it is obvious that the defence will appeal against the ruling to the Helsinki Court of Appeal. “The ruling was indeed a shock from the viewpoint of both the defence and client,” she commented.

Aarnio is already serving a 10-year prison sentence slapped on him in 2016 for his role in the distribution of narcotics imported to Finland from the Netherlands in 2011–2012.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT



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Man sentenced to life imprisonment in 2004 commits suicide, prison reviewing infrastructure design: Coroner


SINGAPORE: A man sentenced to life imprisonment in 2004 for abduction climbed up a railing in Changi Prison’s psychiatric housing unit during yard time and released his grip, falling one floor below and dying of a head injury.

The coroner ruled his death a deliberate act of suicide on Tuesday (Dec 22), noting that the prison has taken steps to prevent recurrences and is reviewing other possible safety measures including a sensor system to detect anyone near the railings.

An internal review by the Singapore Prison Service (SPS) found no negligence on the part of any prison officers, and SPS is reviewing its infrastructure design, the court heard.

Mr Chua Ser Lien was pronounced dead on the morning of Jul 8 this year after being seen climbing a set of railings from the second floor to the fourth floor.

He released his grip and fell backwards, hitting the back of his neck. He received immediate attention from officers at the scene and paramedics who arrived 20 minutes later, but he could not be resuscitated.

The court heard that Mr Chua, who has two children with his ex-wife, was imprisoned in Changi Prison’s Cluster A since 2004, where he was remanded after being charged with kidnapping for a ransom.

He was transferred to the psychiatric housing unit in 2018 after his pre-existing bipolar symptoms grew worse. 

Prison officers in this unit – the sole housing unit that deals with inmates with psychiatric issues or mental disorders – have attended courses to help them in dealing with the inmates.

Mr Chua was assessed to be non-suicidal. 

On the morning of his death, officers dispensed medication to the inmates through metal gates before allowing them out of their cells for the scheduled hour of television time in the TV room.

However, Mr Chua – who was noted to be reclusive – had never joined them for TV time and would be allowed out of his cell to roam the day room. He had done this for months without any issue.

Closed-circuit television footage showed Mr Chua walking up the stairs from the third floor to the fourth floor, where he began climbing up railings that had bars across them.

He climbed sideways from the bars, using them as steps, until he was on the fourth level. By this time, officers spotted him and rushed to the scene and called out to him, but Mr Chua released his grip and fell backwards.

He landed on the back of his head at the foot of the stairs on the third floor. Rescue efforts failed and he was declared dead at 10.15am that day.

HIS MENTAL HEALTH RECORDS

His only available medical record was from the Institute of Mental Health, where he was remanded in early 2004. He was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

Before this, he had been a managing director in a cleaning company, but his erratic behaviour began to manifest when he visited a university for a meeting and offered to donate a million dollars, before racking up S$600,000 of gambling debts.

He later reported being depressed and began drinking heavily. After his conviction and sentence, his wife filed for divorce in order to apply for a rental flat, but still considered him her husband and visited him with their two children.

She had been concerned that he had a mental illness since 2002, when he began to manifest hallucinations, telling her that the kitchen was hell and the living room was heaven.

She referred him to a private hospital for treatment and suspected he had schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression.

In the months before his death, his ex-wife noticed that Mr Chua had become more aggressive towards her during her visits and she felt his medication did little to help him. She last visited him in November 2019, before speaking to him over the phone in June this year.

However, she saw no signs of suicidal inclinations in her ex-husband. The other prison officers and Mr Chua’s cellmate also did not notice any such signs, the court heard.

POST-INCIDENT

After Mr Chua’s death, SPS instructed that no inmate would be allowed to remain alone outside their cells. High-risk inmates will now be warded in the complex’s medical centre.

The prison is also reviewing its infrastructure design and is considering a sensor system that would be triggered whenever anyone tries to move close to the railings.

SPS said it is also studying the feasibility of installing additional railings at the stairs to deter inmates from scaling from the stairs to the railings.

The coroner noted that the railings were originally meant to prevent prisoners from falling off the second floor, but unfortunately facilitated Mr Chua’s climb instead.

The railings are likely to be replaced with ones that cannot be gripped or held onto, the court heard.

The coroner noted that Mr Chua had been receiving appropriate medical treatment during his incarceration, and that the prison wardens and medical staff had responded promptly.

He conveyed his condolences to Mr Chua’s family.

In a statement on Tuesday night, SPS said it noted the findings of the coroner’s inquiry and that it is “committed to ensuring the safe and secure custody of inmates”.

“Mr Chua’s death, which has been ruled a deliberate act of suicide by the coroner, is an unfortunate incident,” said SPS.

It added that SPS officers reached out Mr Chua’s family after his death to extend assistance and extended their condolences to his family.

Where to get help: Samaritans of Singapore operates a 24-hour hotline at 1800 221 4444, or you can email pat@sos.org.sg. If someone you know is at immediate risk, call 24-hour emergency medical services.



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U.S. college student sentenced to 4 months in prison for breaking Cayman Islands’ COVID-19 protocol


An 18-year-old college student from Georgia has been sentenced to four months in prison in the Cayman Islands after breaking the British Caribbean territory’s COVID-19 protocol while visiting her boyfriend for a jet skiing competition, according to her family.

Skylar Mack, a pre-med student at Mercer University, left for the Islands November 27 after testing negative for Covid-19 at home, her grandmother, Jeanne Mack, told CNN.

When Mack landed, she was given another COVID-19 test, which came back negative and she was told to remain in isolation for two weeks. Instead, she decided to attend her boyfriend’s jet ski competition two days later.

“In her mind, as long as she stayed away from everybody, she would be OK to go watch her friend’s race, it was their big national finals race, the last race of the year, big deal,” her grandmother said.

Race attendees, who knew Mack, reported her breach of isolation and officials arrested her.

Her boyfriend, Vanjae Ramgeet, 24, is said to have “aided and abetted her in the breach,” the Cayman Compass newspaper reported. He was also charged with failing to comply with COVID-19 regulations, according to attorney Jonathon Hughes who represents the couple.

According to her grandmother, Mack acknowledged in court that she had “screwed up.” She was initially sentenced to 40 hours of community service and ordered to pay a fine to cover her mandatory quarantine accommodation.

According to the section about tourists’ isolating upon arrival in the Cayman Islands’ COVID-19 regulations, a “person who contravenes this regulation commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of ten thousand dollars and to imprisonment for two years.”

The Cayman Compass reported that the deputy director of public prosecutions of the Cayman Islands, Patrick Moran, then appealed the original sentence.

“These offences should have been met with far more stringent measures,” Moran reportedly told the judge. “When it comes to a matter of deterrence, the sentences imposed are likely to have little to no effect on other like-minded individuals.”

According to the Cayman Compass, Justice Roger Chapple heard the appeal in Grand Court on Monday and delivered the revised sentence Tuesday morning. He reportedly stated that he understood the need for a balancing act, but found that “the gravity of the breach was such that the only appropriate sentence would have been one of immediate imprisonment.”

Hughes, Cayman Islands attorney for Mack and Ramgeet, confirmed to CNN that the couple had both pleaded guilty to breaching quarantine rules and been given four-month custodial sentences. Hughes said he plans to argue for a less severe sentence next week.

“We expect the appeal to be heard by the Cayman Islands Court of Appeal on Tuesday morning,” he said.

Mack’s grandmother told CNN that officials called Mack’s actions premeditated, as she had called the public health department to have the location tracker bracelet loosened the day before her breach. But her family says Mack sent them pictures of the bracelet cutting into her skin.

“She did wrong. We’re not doubting what she did wrong. I just don’t think the punishment meets that,” Jeanne Mack said.

Mack was immediately taken to prison, where she is being held in the general population. According to her family, she is allowed to call them daily.

“She cries every time she calls home. She hasn’t been able to eat since they put her in prison,” her grandmother told CNN.

According to the family, the U.S. Embassy in the Cayman Islands told them Mack is being made an example of.

“I truly believe she needed to get in trouble, because she did something wrong. I don’t believe she needed to go to prison for four months for one breach,” Jeanne Mack said.

Martyn Roper, governor of the Cayman Islands issued a video statement Friday saying, “All of us have to show individual and collective responsibility if we’re going to effectively deal with this pandemic and I particularly appeal to all travelers coming back to the islands — please comply fully with the guidance and the advice that you’re getting.”



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Gunman Sentenced to Life in Prison for 2015 Attack on Paris-Bound Train


PARIS — Four men involved in a terrorist attack on a Paris-bound train in 2015 that was only foiled by the courageous action of other passengers were convicted of attempting murder, complicity and criminal terrorist association, and sentenced to prison terms ranging from seven years to life.

Ayoub El Khazzani, who is accused of being the main attacker on the train, was sentenced to life in prison. His presence in the courtroom provided a rare opportunity for prosecutors to delve into the operations of the Islamic State in Europe.

At the time of the attack, the European authorities were struggling to keep track of several thousand people in Europe who had circulated to and from Iraq and Syria, trying to join jihadist groups. Just a few months earlier, in January, terrorists killed 17 people, including 10 at the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, which had published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

The trial of 14 people accused of aiding the terrorists in that attack ended on Wednesday with all found guilty. But the actual assailants in that case were all dead.

The attack on the train took place on Aug. 21, 2015, and was thwarted by several passengers — including three Americans and a man with dual French and American citizenship — who tackled the assailant and overpowered him after an intense hand-to-hand fight. Only one person was wounded. Mr. El Khazzani was captured and arrested.

Just three months later, on Nov. 13, 2015, jihadists loyal to the Islamic State struck again in a series of coordinated assaults that resulted in the deadliest terrorist attack in modern French history. The siege left 130 people dead, including 90 who were killed when gunmen stormed the Bataclan nightclub in Paris.

The two trials have set the stage — both in terms of the investigation into the organization of the attack and the testimony of the victims — for the much-anticipated trial next September of 20 defendants accused of involvement in the November 2015 attacks on the Bataclan and elsewhere in a case that is being brought to the court by about 1,700 plaintiffs.

“When we look at the events of Aug. 21, 2015, we realized that we escaped the worst,” a Paris prosecutor told the judges on Tuesday in the train attack trial. “When we look at the whole case, we realize that it foreshadowed a terrible and disastrous November night.”

Along with Mr. El Khazzani, an Islamic State-trained fighter of Moroccan origin, three others — Bilal Chatra, Rédouane El Amrani Ezzerrifi and Mohamed Bakkali — were tried on charges of having helped the attacker travel from Syria to Belgium and of having aided the preparations for the assault.

On Thursday, Mr. El Khazzani was sentenced to life imprisonment for attempting murder and conspiracy to commit a terrorist act. Mr. Chatra, Mr. Bakkali and Mr. El Amrani Ezzerrifi were sentenced to respectively 27, 25 and 7 years in prison. The sentences almost perfectly match those requested by the public prosecutor.

Witnesses at the trial said that shortly after the high-speed train, which was packed with several hundred passengers, had crossed into France from Belgium, Mr. El Khazzani emerged from the bathroom, bare-chested and armed with an assault rifle. His arsenal included a bag stuffed with ammunition and other guns.

According to the testimony, a French citizen, who has been identified only by his first name, Damien, was the first to tackle the attacker, quickly followed by another passenger, Mark Moogalian, who has dual French and American citizenship. Mr. Moogalian struggled with Mr. El Khazzani and was wounded by a bullet fired by the assailant, the court heard.

The three other Americans — Anthony Sadler; Alek Skarlatos, a specialist in the National Guard from Oregon; and Airman First Class Spencer Stone of the U.S. Air Force, who were all friends on a vacation — then joined the fight and managed to subdue the assailant, according to prosecutors. Mr. El Khazzani’s guns malfunctioned, the court was told, hampering his attack.

Mr. Skarlatos told the Paris court that when he first saw the gunman appear in the train car, “It felt like time stopped.” As he joined other passengers in an attempt to overpower him, Mr. Skarlatos said that the assailant had fought back furiously. First, Mr. Skarlatos said, he brandished the assault rifle, then a pistol and, finally, a box cutter in the chaotic clash.

“In my mind, we were supposed to die that day,” Mr. Skarlatos said, noting that the attack had changed his life.

Mr. El Khazzani was eventually subdued on the floor of the train carriage and bound up with a tie, prosecutors said. The train rerouted to Arras, in northern France, where the police arrested him.

The heroism of the passengers later became the focus of a Clint Eastwood movie, “The 15:17 to Paris.” Mr. Moogalian, Mr. Sadler, Mr. Skarlatos and Mr. Stone were among eight people later awarded the Legion of Honor, France’s highest award, for their roles in thwarting the attack.

Central to the trial but absent from the dock was Abdelhamid Abaaoud, an Islamic State operative based in Belgium who is believed to have planned the train attack as well as the November attacks in Paris, which he took part in. Mr. Abaaoud is also believed to have helped prepare the March 2016 attack in Brussels that left 31 people dead.

Mr. Abaaoud, who was killed by the police a few days after the November attacks, “played a major role in Daesh’s external operations,” said Gilles Kepel, a French political scientist who is an expert on Islam and the Arab world, using an Arabic acronym for the Islamic State.

Mr. Kepel said that as a “planner” of attacks in Europe, Mr. Abaaoud “systematized” the use of migration routes to smuggle jihadists into European countries and made Belgium his rear base to set up clandestine cells ahead of future attacks.

Mr. El Khazzani told the court that he was under orders from Mr. Abaaoud and that the two had traveled together to Europe from Syria. He added that Mr. Abaaoud had asked him to target American passengers on the train.

Antoine Mégie, an expert on terrorism legislation who works at the University of Rouen in northern France, said that the presence of the main suspect made the trial one of the first in France to afford “a reconstruction of the mechanisms of the attack and of the organized structure behind it.”



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Japan ‘Twitter killer’ sentenced to death


Takahiro Shiraishi after his arrest in 2017

A man who murdered nine people after contacting them on Twitter has been sentenced to death, in a high-profile case that has shocked Japan.

Takahiro Shiraishi, dubbed the “Twitter killer”, was arrested in 2017 after body parts were found in his flat.

He had pleaded guilty to the murders in October, saying the allegations against him were “all correct”. Almost all of his victims were young women.

The case has triggered debate over how suicide is discussed online.

The 30-year-old had used Twitter to lure suicidal women to his home, saying he could help them die and in some cases claimed he would kill himself alongside them.

The serial killings first came to light on Halloween in 2017 when police found dismembered body parts in Shiraishi’s flat in the Japanese city of Zama, near Tokyo.

His lawyers had earlier argued that his charges should have been reduced, claiming his victims had given consent to be killed.

Shiraishi however later disputed his own defence team’s version of events, and said he killed without their consent.

On Tuesday, the judge who delivered the verdict said that “none of the victims agreed to be killed”.

“The defendant was found to be fully responsible,” said Naokuni Yano, reported The Straits Times newspaper.

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