The Guardian 2024-04-17 01:01:47


An Anglican priest has spoken out in support of an Iranian asylum seeker known as AZC20, one of the high court litigants challenging indefinite detention.

ASF17’s case is being heard in the high court today, and is being supported by an intervention from AZC20. You can read more about this earlier in the blog from Paul Karp, here and here.

Reverend Gemma Baseley of St Paul’s Anglican church in Beaconsfield said she met AZC20 four years ago while he was detained in Perth, and by that time he had already been held in detention for seven years.

He came to Australia in 2013 to seek safety from Iran, and our government held him for nearly eleven years while considering his claim for asylum. They just forgot about him in detention, because that is what our laws allowed.

Baseley said legal cases can often “confuse the reality of an issue through complicated language and arguments” and we can forget that, “at the end of the day, cases like this are about people”.

Baseley said in a statement:

We know what ten years of detention have taken away from our friend. He lost his ability to speak and his health. He lost the ability to see a future for himself in the world. He lost an entire era of his life that nobody can give him back.

This should not have happened to our friend, and it should not happen to anyone else. It should not be possible for any government to take away a decade of someone’s life. And it should not be necessary for us to say that here today.

Sydney church stabbing: Chris Minns considering tighter knife laws after Wakeley and Bondi stabbings

NSW premier says a ‘major and serious criminal investigation’ is under way after incident at Assyrian Christ the Good Shepherd church in Wakeley was deemed terrorism attack

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Political and religious leaders are pleading for calm amid a “combustible situation” set off by a stabbing at a western Sydney church and subsequent riot, as the state mulls tighter knife laws following two serious stabbing incidents in as many days.

The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, held a joint press conference with police and security chiefs in Canberra on Tuesday morning, hours after New South Wales declared as a terrorist attack the stabbing of Bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel at a service at the Assyrian Christ the Good Shepherd church in Wakeley just after 7pm on Monday.

Counter-terrorism investigators – a joint team comprising NSW and federal police as well as the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (Asio) – now have extraordinary powers under NSW laws to investigate the attack, as well as conduct searches to prevent any further suspected attacks.

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A live stream of the service on the church’s website showed a person approaching the altar who then appeared to stab toward the bishop’s head multiple times.

The congregation then swarmed forward, with a scuffle ensuing between the worshippers and the attacker. Police arrested a 16-year-old and were forced to hold him at the church for his own safety as a large crowd of several hundred people gathered outside the church. Riot police were called in to forcibly move the crowd on after police cars were smashed.

The NSW premier, Chris Minns, gathered leaders of the local Muslim, Assyrian and Melkite communities for an emergency meeting at 10.30pm on Monday, organising for them to put their names to a statement condemning the violence and calling for calm.

However, tensions remained fresh on the ground as Minns, local MPs and the Fairfield mayor visited near the site of the incident.

Meanwhile, leaders of the Lakemba mosque in Sydney’s west revealed they had received threats to firebomb the mosque on Monday night and would have heightened security over the next week.

“It’s a combustible situation and I’m not going to sugarcoat it,” Minns told 2GB on Tuesday afternoon. Communities in western Sydney were on high alert for the potential for “tit for tat” retaliations, he said.

Minns also confirmed the teenager had been found in possession of a flick knife at a train station in November last year and that a magistrate had placed him on a good behaviour bond over the incident earlier this year. Minns also said the boy had been found with a knife at school in 2020.

“Part of the reason the commissioner for police made a terrorism designation investigation at 1.30 this morning was because of the person of interest’s history,” Minns said.

Asked if knife laws should be strengthened in NSW following the incidents at the church and Bondi Junction in recent days, Minns noted rules had already been tightened following the murder of a paramedic in recent months, but said he was open to exploring reforms.

“I’m not prepared to rule anything out right now. Obviously when people are being killed and you’ve got a situation where a knife is being used, then it would be irresponsible not to look at,” Minns said.

Albanese on Tuesday expressed his sympathies to the Assyrian community in western Sydney. “This is a disturbing incident. There is no place for violence in our community.”

“There’s no place for violent extremism. We’re a peace-loving nation. This is a time to unite, not divide, as a community and as a country.”

Albanese declined to state the religion of the attacker, but the Asio chief, Mike Burgess, at the joint press conference with the prime minister said he was aware of video of the alleged offender speaking in Arabic.

“If he [the bishop] didn’t get himself involved in my religion, if he hadn’t spoken about my prophet, I wouldn’t have come here … if he just spoke about his own religion, I wouldn’t have come,” the alleged attacker can be heard saying in the video.

The video reportedly shows the mayhem that followed the attack, with people in bloodied clothes walking around as the alleged attacker is held against the ground.

Emmanuel, who has a popular online presence, has previously criticised Islam and the prophet Muhammad in public sermons.

On the declaration of the event as a terrorist attack, Burgess said: “To call it a terrorist act, you need indications of information or evidence that suggest actually the motivation was religiously motivated or ideologically motivated.

“In the case of Saturday [the stabbing at Bondi Junction], that was not the case. In this case, the information we have and the police have before us indicates that is strongly the case. That is why it was called an act of terrorism.”

By declaring the event a terrorist attack, police will have greater investigative powers under NSW’s terror laws. It includes powers to search properties and vehicles, among other methods, to examine a past attack or prevent a suspected one from occurring.

Burgess said that despite the declaration of a terrorist attack, the current terror level threat for Australia – “possible” – would not be raised: “One incident like this does not change the threat level but we keep it under review.”

He said that while there were no indications of others connected to the attacker, Asio was investigating to determine there were no further threats.

The Australian federal police commissioner, Reece Kershaw, also at the joint press conference, called the subsequent commotion “a disgraceful act from the community who attacked police at that scene”.

Minns said the decision to make the terror declaration was taken early on Tuesday morning and validated by the police minister.

The NSW police commissioner, Karen Webb, said a strike force had been established to investigate the incident.

“We’ll allege there’s a degree of premeditation on the basis this person has travelled to that location, which is not near his residential address, he has travelled with a knife and subsequently the bishop and the priest have been stabbed,” Webb said.

Webb said that after the stabbing a crowd of people then “converged on that area and began to turn on police”. Police estimate the crowd grew from 50 people to approximately 500.

The alleged attacker severed his own finger during the attack, Minns said, after earlier questions of whether his finger was cut in retaliation.

“People used what was available to them in the area, including bricks, concrete, palings, to assault police and throw missiles at police and police equipment and police vehicles.”

Some police officers were injured and taken to hospital overnight, while 20 police vehicles were damaged and 10 rendered unusable, Webb said.

The NSW ambulance commissioner, Dominic Morgan, said 30 patients had been assessed and treated overnight, with seven taken to hospital, about 20 of them having been affected by capsicum spray.

Paramedics had come “directly under threat” and had to retreat into the church during the riot, with six of them stuck in the church for three and a half hours, Morgan said.

The alleged offender had not previously been on any terror watch list.

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Parents fear children are being sent back to asbestos-riddled classrooms at Queensland school

Premier Steven Miles says experts advise all classrooms at Rochedale state school ‘are safe for staff and students to return’

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Parents are terrified their children are still being exposed to asbestos at a Queensland primary school, alleging a patch-up job has not made the classrooms safe.

They fear children may have been exposed to asbestos for months or even years at the school.

A teacher reported seeing dust falling from a ceiling at the Rochedale state school, south of Brisbane, on 8 March, leading to the evacuation of two classroom blocks housing year 1, 2 and 3 students.

The education department took 89 samples and four days later parents received confirmation 14 had tested positive for the banned building material.

Children were moved into libraries or unaffected classrooms while further testing and reports were done.

But parents allege students are returning to asbestos-affected classrooms with only sealant applied to the ceilings.

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The education department says asbestos removal from the classrooms has been scheduled for the Christmas holidays.

Concerned parents expressed their fears for their children outside the Queensland parliament on Tuesday, with some mothers breaking down as they spoke to reporters.

“[The school] told us they can’t give us 100% reassurance that exposure won’t occur from the same source,” parent Adam Littlefield said.

Some mothers, who did not wish to be identified, sobbed while sharing concerns their children may have long-term health effects from exposure to asbestos, which can cause lethal disease.

Littlefield said he was afraid all three of his children who go to the school have been affected.

“I can’t put my son back in that classroom because the risk is too high,” he said.

Parents have called for demountable classrooms to be provided while the asbestos is removed but claim their request is being ignored.

“It’s very frustrating. We are shocked at the way this has been handled,” Littlefield said.

The education department said it was confident every measure had been taken to ensure the classrooms were safe to reoccupy.

“Ongoing air monitoring in these classrooms and physical inspections of the ceilings will continue until the scheduled removal occurs in the Christmas holiday period in order to provide an additional level of assurance to the school community,” it said in a statement.

The premier, Steven Miles, was pressed on the issue during question time on Tuesday.

Miles said the health and wellbeing of the Rochedale students was a priority and testing was being done.

“Advice from experts is that all the classrooms are safe for staff and students to return,” he said in response to a question from the shadow education minister, Christian Rowan.

“I’m advised there have been three separate clearance certificates issued by independent occupational hygienists, with the most recent certificate issued last week.”

Rowan said the government could not give complete certainty to parents that there were no ongoing risks and exposure.

“I’m calling upon the government to be open and transparent in relation to this incident, to provide assurances to these parents and to communicate and work with the parent cohort to ensure that their children are safe,” he said.

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BoM declares the El Niño is over and another La Niña could be on the way

Seven months after an El Niño associated with hotter and drier weather got under way, conditions have returned to neutral

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The Bureau of Meteorology has declared the El Niño weather event of 2023-24 to be over, with odds increasing that its cooler counterpart, the La Niña, will return by the coming spring.

Conditions in the central equatorial Pacific have now returned to neutral conditions, about seven months after the El Niño had got under way, the bureau said on Tuesday.

For Australia, an El Niño typically delivers below-average rainfall for much of the country’s east, while La Niñas are associated with wetter than usual weather for northern and eastern parts during the winter-spring period, the bureau said. August to October was Australia’s driest three-month period ever recorded by the bureau.

The El Niño-Southern Oscillation – which gauges air pressure differences between Darwin and Tahiti – is one of the key drivers affecting global climate.

“International climate models suggest ENSO is likely to continue to remain neutral until at least July 2024,” the bureau said, adding the main climate models it uses are predicting a La Niña may form by spring if not before.

Should a La Niña get under way later this year it would be the fourth such event in the past five years. Such a sequence – of three La Niñas followed by an El Niño and La Niña – hasn’t been recorded previously, Cai Wenju, a former senior CSIRO researcher, told Guardian Australia earlier this year.

Other agencies have also been forecasting the possibility of a La Niña event later this year. The US’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, for instance, last week put the odds of a La Niña at about 85% although its thresholds are slightly lower than the bureau’s.

La Niñas typically see a strengthening of the easterly equatorial winds, shifting rainfall patterns towards Australia and south-east Asia. The number of cyclones affecting Australia are usually above average during La Niña years.

The Pacific tends to absorb more warmth than during El Niño years, exacerbating the background warming from climate change.

“Global sea surface temperatures (SSTs) have been the warmest on record for each month between April 2023 and March 2024,” the bureau said. “Month-to-date data for April 2024 indicates this month is tracking warmer than April 2023.”

The bureau noted that predictions made in mid-autumn “tend to have lower accuracy than predictions made at other times of the year. This means that current forecasts of the ENSO state beyond July should be used with caution”.

That run of record-breaking heat might also add to the uncertainty about how conditions evolve in the Pacific and the resulting weather impacts.

“The global pattern of warmth is affecting the typical historical global pattern of sea surface temperatures associated with ENSO variability,” it said. “As the current global ocean conditions have not been observed before, inferences of how ENSO may develop in 2024 that are based on past events may not be reliable.”

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Australians choose hybrids over EVs as sales of conventional cars decline

Hybrids outsold pure electrics in the past three quarters, according to new figures, while petrol and diesel sales fell 8%

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Australians are choosing hybrid over electric vehicles but sales of both continue to climb while internal combustion engines record a decline.

Hybrids outsold EVs in three consecutive quarters with 95,129 sales – overtaking 69,593 EVs sold, according to the Australian Automobile Association’s quarterly EV Index released on Tuesday night.

The data also reinforced a trend of declining sales of conventional cars, which have fallen by 8.03% in the fourth quarter of 2023 to the first quarter of 2024. Their market share also dropped to 78.18%, sinking below 80% for the first time.

EVs rose to 8.70% market share in this time, while hybrids jumped to 11.95% – up from 6.26% in the first quarter of 2023.

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“People are wanting to go into that lower cost, lower emissions motoring, but they just don’t think they are ready for the full EV experience,” said the Australian Automotive Dealer Association chief executive, James Voortman.

Premium prices amid a cost-of-living crisis, as well as a lack of recharging infrastructure, were the main concerns stopping consumers from making the transition to EVs, he said.

Three in five consumers are “less open to paying more money for an electric vehicle due to the current cost-of-living pressures,” Voortman said, pointing to AADA survey results released in February.

“During this time where everything is costing more” it could be more difficult for consumers to look beyond an EV’s upfront price premium and towards fuel savings, he said.

Charging infrastructure was “no doubt” another concern.

“There is a growing acceptance that you can do a lot of your charging at home, but not everyone has access to home charging,” Voortman said. “I think as the infrastructure rolls out, we will see more and more people willing to take up an electric vehicle.”

The specific types of vehicles available can also pose as a barrier for consumers in need of a larger vehicle, like a ute, van or SUV at an affordable price point.

“It is going to take time for those vehicles to arrive,” Voortman said.

In the meantime, “hybrid technology [is] a stepping stone,” Voortman said.

While “there is no doubt that driving a hybrid is a lot more friendly for the environment than a pure petrol or diesel vehicle”, it is also “a lot more affordable for those customers”.

“There are significant benefits for for both customers but also for the environment,” Voortman said. “There is no doubt the future is fully electric and zero emissions motoring, but there is going to be a bit of a journey to get there.

“Hybrids are a good stepping stone to that future.”

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300,000ha Queensland cattle station bought for conservation after $21m donation

State government and Nature Conservancy jointly purchase Vergemont station, which contains habitat for endangered night parrots

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A Queensland outback cattle station the size of Yosemite national park which includes key habitat for the elusive night parrot has been acquired for conservation after an anonymous donation of $21m.

Vergemont station, 110km west of Longreach, was acquired in a joint purchase by the Queensland government and the Nature Conservancy, which brokered the deal. The group said it is likely the single largest philanthropic contribution to land protection in Australia.

The 352,000ha property had been for sale since 2016. It is located at the headwaters of the Lake Eyre Basin and will join existing national parks to create a conservation corridor of roughly 1.4m hectares.

According to the Nature Conservancy’s senior adviser for global protection, Dr James Fitzsimons, the property contains 34 ecosystems and ranks higher than 90% of existing national parks in the state for habitat representation.

Fitzsimons said the purchase was critical to protect key habitat for threatened species, including the endangered night parrot and vulnerable yellow-footed rock-wallaby.

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“This is a really important way of showing philanthropic and government interest of meeting our national ambition of protecting 30% of the country by 2030,” he said.

“A key part of growing Australia’s [nature] reserve system is a focus of comprehensiveness and representatives, ensuring we are conserving samples of each type of ecosystem.”

There will be a two-year transition process to allow the current landowner to remove cattle from the property. Once it is converted to a national park, Queensland’s network of protected areas will surpass 15m hectares – an area more than twice the size of Tasmania.

The state government has also committed to engaging with the Maiawali traditional owners to undertake cultural heritage assessments on the property.

The Nature Conservancy’s interim managing director, Lara Gallagher, said the $21m donation “highlights the power of leveraged gifts, enabling philanthropists and governments alike to achieve outcomes far beyond what is possible alone”.

Last year the Nature Conservancy and other environmental groups recommended the federal government establish a $5bn land acquisition fund to permanently protect high-value conservation land.

“We really do hope this inspires other philanthropists to join with government … to protect more really important properties like this around the country,” Fitzsimons said.

The 2022 state of the environment report found climate change, habitat loss, invasive species, pollution and mining had caused significant and ongoing deterioration of the environment and the Albanese government has since committed to protecting 30% of land by 2030 in an attempt to halt species extinctions and environmental degradation.

An additional 60m hectares, an area three times the size of Victoria, will need to be protected by 2030 to reach the goal.

The Queensland environment minister, Leanne Linard, said the government would contribute to the Vergemont purchase out of a $262.5m state fund dedicated to expanding and managing protected areas.

Two neighbouring stations, Tonkoro station (138,200ha) and Melrose station (73,048ha), were bought by the state government this year to add to existing protected areas, chiefly the Diamantina, Goneaway and Bladensburg national parks.

Linard said the new national park at Vergemont would bring visitors and employment opportunities for locally based contractors and park rangers.

About 40,000ha of the 350,000ha property will remain as opal mining leases, with an additional 10,000ha slated as a “buffer” area.

“We will work to ensure an ecologically sustainable coexistence between the existing opal mining operations and conservation of the important natural and cultural values on the property,” Linard said.

“We will allow small-scale opal mining interests to continue their operations on suitable areas.”

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Trump rebuked as hush-money trial judge warns against juror intimidation

Juan Merchan admonishes ex-president for ‘gesturing and speaking in the direction of the juror’ as jury selection continues

Donald Trump met a stern rebuke on Tuesday from the jurist presiding over his criminal hush-money trial, with the judge warning: “I won’t have any jurors intimidated in this courtroom.”

Trump’s apparent misbehavior did not derail the trial’s progress; seven jurors were picked by day’s end.

Judge Juan Merchan’s comment came shortly after jury selection resumed after lunch. Trump’s team had found video on one possible juror’s social media that appeared to show a street celebration over his loss in the 2020 election.

She was called in to answer questions about it, and when she left, Merchan directly addressed Trump’s lawyers. “Your client was audible,” Merchan said, noting that she was just 12ft from him.

“It was audible. He was gesturing and he was speaking in the direction of the juror,” Merchan said, insisting he would not accept such behavior.

“I will not have any jurors intimidated in this courtroom,” Merchan admonished. “Take a minute to speak to your client.”

Merchan’s warning to Trump marked a sharp diversion from what was otherwise a relatively routine jury selection process.

Trump had arrived at the Manhattan courtroom on Tuesday morning for the second day of jury selection in his historical criminal trial involving hush-money payments to a porn star.

When Trump walked into court around 9.30am, the ex-president winked at a court security officer and took his seat at the defense table his longtime aide Jason Miller seated at the back of the courtroom, according to a pool report.

On Monday afternoon, of the 96 potential jurors who were asked if they would have trouble being impartial, 50 raised their hands and were excused – further evidence of the challenge facing the judge, Juan Merchan, of finding 12 jurors and six alternates who do not have strong biases either for or against Trump.

The Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, brought the case against the former president over payments purportedly aimed at keeping secret his alleged affairs with the adult film star Stormy Daniels and the Playboy model Karen McDougall. Prosecutors said Trump schemed to keep these alleged liaisons hidden from American voters so he would not suffer in the 2016 presidential election.

The trial is unfolding amid a presidential contest in which Trump is all but guaranteed to be the Republican nominee facing Joe Biden in November.

Bragg’s office contends that Trump, whom a grand jury indicted in spring 2023 on 34 counts of falsifying business records, was part of an alleged “catch-and-kill scheme” from August 2015 until December 2017, with his then attorney, Michael Cohen.

Trump’s criminal hush-money trial: what to know

  • A guide to Trump’s hush-money trial – so far

  • The key arguments prosecutors will use against Trump

  • How will Trump’s trial work?

  • From Michael Cohen to Stormy Daniels: the key players

Trump’s former consigliere, who in 2018 admitted to federal charges for his involvement in that particular hush-money scheme, wired $130,000 to Daniels’s then attorney less than two weeks before the election. Cohen funneled these funds via a shell company.

After Trump won the presidential election, he repaid Cohen with a smattering of monthly checks, initially from the Donald J Trump Revocable Trust, which was set up in New York to hold the president’s company’s assets during the 2016 presidency.

The company, however, framed the payments as legal expenses, which prosecutors say indicate that Trump was liable for making false business records “with intent to defraud and intent to commit another crime” – specifically, violating campaign finance laws in an effort to influence the outcome of the US election.

The papers in prosecutors’ contempt motion against Trump were publicly available on Tuesday. They argued on Monday in court that he violated Merchan’s gag order against attacking witnesses. Judge Merchan has convened a hearing on the motion for 23 April.

When selection resumed on Tuesday another prospective juror was excused after citing his Texas upbringing. While he said he did not lean in any particular political direction, “growing up, a bunch of family [and] friends [were] Republicans” meaning it was “probably going to be hard for me to be impartial”.

“I appreciate your candor,” Merchan replied. “I’m going to have to excuse you at this time.”

Another prospective juror said he had read three of Trump’s books, prompting a rare smile from Trump.

Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass later asked prospects who had yet to be dismissed about their impartiality.

“This case has nothing to do with your personal politics,” he said. “It’s not a referendum on the Trump presidency or a popularity contest or indication of who you’re going to vote for in November. We don’t care.

“This case is about whether this man broke the law.”

Directly after court, Trump visited a New York bodega in his first campaign appearance since his hush-money trial began, making the presumptive GOP nominee the first former president in US history to stand criminal trial.

Trump will be confined to the courtroom on most days, dramatically limiting his movements and his ability to campaign, fundraise and make calls. Aides have been planning rallies and other political events on weekends and Wednesdays, the one weekday when court is not supposed to be in session. Plans also include local appearances Trump can make after court recesses each day.

Trump stopped by the Sanaa Convenient Store, a tiny bodega that sells chips, soda and other snacks. Trump aides said the former president and presumptive GOP nominee chose the store because it has been the site of a violent attack on an employee although the case was resolved nearly two years ago when the charges were dismissed.

His local campaign stop in Harlem allows him to make a serious play at winning his native state despite its heavily Democratic lean.

“They want law and order … every week they’re being robbed,” Trump said of businesses in New York, as he tried to compare his prosecution with the state of New York streets. “You know where the crime is? It’s in the bodegas.”

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Trump rebuked as hush-money trial judge warns against juror intimidation

Juan Merchan admonishes ex-president for ‘gesturing and speaking in the direction of the juror’ as jury selection continues

Donald Trump met a stern rebuke on Tuesday from the jurist presiding over his criminal hush-money trial, with the judge warning: “I won’t have any jurors intimidated in this courtroom.”

Trump’s apparent misbehavior did not derail the trial’s progress; seven jurors were picked by day’s end.

Judge Juan Merchan’s comment came shortly after jury selection resumed after lunch. Trump’s team had found video on one possible juror’s social media that appeared to show a street celebration over his loss in the 2020 election.

She was called in to answer questions about it, and when she left, Merchan directly addressed Trump’s lawyers. “Your client was audible,” Merchan said, noting that she was just 12ft from him.

“It was audible. He was gesturing and he was speaking in the direction of the juror,” Merchan said, insisting he would not accept such behavior.

“I will not have any jurors intimidated in this courtroom,” Merchan admonished. “Take a minute to speak to your client.”

Merchan’s warning to Trump marked a sharp diversion from what was otherwise a relatively routine jury selection process.

Trump had arrived at the Manhattan courtroom on Tuesday morning for the second day of jury selection in his historical criminal trial involving hush-money payments to a porn star.

When Trump walked into court around 9.30am, the ex-president winked at a court security officer and took his seat at the defense table his longtime aide Jason Miller seated at the back of the courtroom, according to a pool report.

On Monday afternoon, of the 96 potential jurors who were asked if they would have trouble being impartial, 50 raised their hands and were excused – further evidence of the challenge facing the judge, Juan Merchan, of finding 12 jurors and six alternates who do not have strong biases either for or against Trump.

The Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, brought the case against the former president over payments purportedly aimed at keeping secret his alleged affairs with the adult film star Stormy Daniels and the Playboy model Karen McDougall. Prosecutors said Trump schemed to keep these alleged liaisons hidden from American voters so he would not suffer in the 2016 presidential election.

The trial is unfolding amid a presidential contest in which Trump is all but guaranteed to be the Republican nominee facing Joe Biden in November.

Bragg’s office contends that Trump, whom a grand jury indicted in spring 2023 on 34 counts of falsifying business records, was part of an alleged “catch-and-kill scheme” from August 2015 until December 2017, with his then attorney, Michael Cohen.

Trump’s criminal hush-money trial: what to know

  • A guide to Trump’s hush-money trial – so far

  • The key arguments prosecutors will use against Trump

  • How will Trump’s trial work?

  • From Michael Cohen to Stormy Daniels: the key players

Trump’s former consigliere, who in 2018 admitted to federal charges for his involvement in that particular hush-money scheme, wired $130,000 to Daniels’s then attorney less than two weeks before the election. Cohen funneled these funds via a shell company.

After Trump won the presidential election, he repaid Cohen with a smattering of monthly checks, initially from the Donald J Trump Revocable Trust, which was set up in New York to hold the president’s company’s assets during the 2016 presidency.

The company, however, framed the payments as legal expenses, which prosecutors say indicate that Trump was liable for making false business records “with intent to defraud and intent to commit another crime” – specifically, violating campaign finance laws in an effort to influence the outcome of the US election.

The papers in prosecutors’ contempt motion against Trump were publicly available on Tuesday. They argued on Monday in court that he violated Merchan’s gag order against attacking witnesses. Judge Merchan has convened a hearing on the motion for 23 April.

When selection resumed on Tuesday another prospective juror was excused after citing his Texas upbringing. While he said he did not lean in any particular political direction, “growing up, a bunch of family [and] friends [were] Republicans” meaning it was “probably going to be hard for me to be impartial”.

“I appreciate your candor,” Merchan replied. “I’m going to have to excuse you at this time.”

Another prospective juror said he had read three of Trump’s books, prompting a rare smile from Trump.

Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass later asked prospects who had yet to be dismissed about their impartiality.

“This case has nothing to do with your personal politics,” he said. “It’s not a referendum on the Trump presidency or a popularity contest or indication of who you’re going to vote for in November. We don’t care.

“This case is about whether this man broke the law.”

Directly after court, Trump visited a New York bodega in his first campaign appearance since his hush-money trial began, making the presumptive GOP nominee the first former president in US history to stand criminal trial.

Trump will be confined to the courtroom on most days, dramatically limiting his movements and his ability to campaign, fundraise and make calls. Aides have been planning rallies and other political events on weekends and Wednesdays, the one weekday when court is not supposed to be in session. Plans also include local appearances Trump can make after court recesses each day.

Trump stopped by the Sanaa Convenient Store, a tiny bodega that sells chips, soda and other snacks. Trump aides said the former president and presumptive GOP nominee chose the store because it has been the site of a violent attack on an employee although the case was resolved nearly two years ago when the charges were dismissed.

His local campaign stop in Harlem allows him to make a serious play at winning his native state despite its heavily Democratic lean.

“They want law and order … every week they’re being robbed,” Trump said of businesses in New York, as he tried to compare his prosecution with the state of New York streets. “You know where the crime is? It’s in the bodegas.”

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Trump faces contempt motion after social media posts about New York trial

Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg alleges former president violated gag order with Truth Social posts about witnesses in hush-money case

About an hour after day one of Donald Trump’s criminal trial in Manhattan closed, the former president published the first of what would be a series of posts on Truth Social about his disdain for the trial, specifically his required attendance.

The Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, filed a motion in papers made public on Tuesday to hold Trump in contempt of court for violating a partial gag order in the case.

Prosecutors said that Trump had already violated his gag order three times, posting about the witnesses Michael Cohen and Stormy Daniels on social media. They asked the judge to fine Trump $3,000 for the violation. Merchan said he will hold a hearing on the alleged violations on 23 April.

In his posts, Trump blasted Judge Juan Merchan for requiring Trump to attend the trial every day it is in session. The trial, centered on hush-money payments Trump funneled to the adult film star Stormy Daniels before the 2016 presidential election, is expected to last at least six weeks. Daniels said she and Trump had a brief affair in 2006.

Attending the trial, Trump said, would mean he will have to miss the high school graduation of his son, Barron Trump.

“Who will explain for me, to my wonderful son, Barron, who is a GREAT Student at a fantastic School, that his Dad will likely not be allowed to attend his Graduation Ceremony, something that we have been talking about for years,” Trump wrote on Monday afternoon after court ended for the day. Trump called Merchan a “Conflicted and Corrupt New York State Judge” overseeing “a bogus ‘Biden Case’”.

Trump said that he would also be unable to attend the US supreme court hearing arguments for his presidential immunity claims over the January 6 insurrection.

“This shows such great disdain and disrespect for our Nation’s Highest Court, especially for a topic so important as Presidential Immunity, without which our country would never be the same!” Trump wrote on Truth Social.

Though Merchan subjected Trump to a gag order before the trial began, it only extends to prosecutors other than Bragg, witnesses, court employees, jurors and their families. Trump is free to criticize Merchan himself, though it will probably not help Trump win the favor over the judge, who will decide on Trump’s sentence if the jury finds him guilty.

Before the trial, Merchan extended the gag order to cover his family and Bragg’s family after Trump posted about Merchan’s daughter, who worked for a company that helped Democratic candidates with digital campaigns. Trump and his lawyers have twice tried to get Merchan recused from the case, to no avail.

Trump’s lawyers in court argued that the posts were not covered by the gag order as Trump was responding to allegations the witnesses made. In another post on Tuesday morning, Trump called Merchan a “Trump Hating Judge” who “won’t let me respond to people that are on TV lying and spewing hate all day long.

“He is running rough shod over my lawyers and legal team,” Trump wrote. “I want to speak, or at least be able to respond. Election Interference! RIGGED, UNCONSTITUTIONAL TRIAL! Take off the Gag Order!!!”

Jury selection continues on Tuesday and could take up much of the trial’s first week.

Trump’s criminal hush money trial: what to know

  • A guide to Trump’s hush money trial – so far

  • The key arguments prosecutors will use against Trump

  • How will Trump’s trial work?

  • From Michael Cohen to Stormy Daniels: The key players

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German chancellor urges Xi Jinping to press Russia to end Ukraine war, saying ‘China’s word carries weight’

Olaf Scholz says Chinese president agreed to back June peace talks that Russia is not attending while Xi says efforts for a resolution must involve both sides

Germany’s chancellor, Olaf Scholz, says he has urged Xi Jinping to press Russia to end its “senseless” war in Ukraine and that the Chinese president has agreed to back a peace conference in Switzerland.

Scholz said after a meeting with Xi in Beijing on Tuesday that “China’s word carries weight in Russia”.

“I have therefore asked President Xi to influence Russia so that Putin finally calls off his senseless campaign, withdraw his troops and ends this terrible war,” he said on social media platform X.

Scholz said Xi had agreed to back a peace conference in Switzerland, which is due to take place in June without Russia in attendance.

The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, responded on X that China could help deliver a “just peace” for his country by playing an “active role” in the international conference.

Xi, however, appeared to dismiss the meeting in Switzerland, saying efforts towards a peaceful resolution should be recognised by both sides and include equal participation by all parties.

Russia has dismissed any such meeting as meaningless without Moscow’s participation.

China says it is a neutral party in the Ukraine conflict but has been criticised for refusing to condemn Moscow’s offensive.

China and Russia have ramped up economic cooperation and diplomatic contacts in recent years, with their strategic partnership only growing closer since the invasion of Ukraine.

Scholz said in Tuesday’s talks with Xi that “the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine and Russia’s arms build-up have a very significant negative impact on security in Europe”, according to a recording provided by the chancellor’s office.

“They directly affect our core interests,” he told Xi, adding they “damage the entire international order because they violate a principle of the United Nations charter”.

Scholz, whose country is Ukraine’s second-biggest military backer after the US, stressed at a news conference later that it was important to “advance the diplomatic efforts that Ukraine is also working very hard on”.

“I believe that this progress is necessary because, in addition to the military support for Ukraine from Germany and its allies, there is also a need for a dialogue between the two countries,” he said.

Chinese state media, in turn, said Xi had highlighted the importance of ties in the face of “increasing risks and challenges”.

State broadcaster CCTV said Xi laid out what state media described as “four principles to prevent the Ukraine crisis from spiralling out of control and to restore peace”.

Nations must focus on “the upholding of peace and stability and refrain from seeking selfish gains”, Xi said, as well as “cool down the situation and not add fuel to the fire”, while also aiming to “reduce the negative impact on the world economy”.

The “four principles” echoed a Beijing paper last year that called for a “political settlement” to the conflict, which western countries said could enable Russia to hold much of the territory it has seized in Ukraine.

CCTV also released footage, set to an uplifting classical tune, of the two leaders going for a walk in the picturesque garden of Beijing’s Diaoyutai state guesthouse for “in-depth exchanges” during the more than three hours the two leaders spent together.

The chancellor of the world’s third-largest economy landed in China – the second-largest – on Sunday, accompanied by an extensive delegation of ministers and business executives, for his second visit since taking office.

His whistlestop tour has taken him to the south-western megacity of Chongqing, economic powerhouse Shanghai and now Beijing, but he faces a tough balancing act as he aims to shore up economic ties with Berlin’s biggest trading partner.

The German government has faced pressure to loosen its close economic ties to China, particularly since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine exposed Europe’s dependence on Russian energy.

However, speaking after meeting the premier, Li Qiang, Scholz stressed that “we do not want to decouple from China – we want China to continue to be economically successful”.

“For us, in Germany and Europe, it is about reducing one-sided dependencies, diversifying supply chains and reducing economic risks – a goal that China itself has been pursuing for some time,” Scholz said.

His visit comes as a slew of investigations into state aid for Chinese solar panels, electric cars and wind turbines are under way in Brussels.

Li described the talks with Scholz as open and constructive, according to a statement released by Berlin.

But he stressed that countries should not be accused of having overcapacity and he pushed back against claims that China’s vast renewable energy industry was being helped by government subsidies.

Subsidies were a common practice around the world, he said, adding that the success of the Chinese renewable sector was due to its capabilities rather than state aid.

Reuters contributed to this report

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Three of Australia’s wealthiest private schools got double the federal funding they were entitled to last year

More than 1,000 private schools were overfunded by the commonwealth despite reforms

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Three of Sydney’s wealthiest private schools received double the federal funding they were entitled to last year under the official resource standard, new data shows, despite the introduction of reforms to tackle overfunding.

Under the school funding agreement, struck in 2019, the commonwealth is meant to contribute 80% of the schooling resource standard for private schools, while state and territory governments are responsible for the remaining 20%. The split is reversed for public schools.

Figures outlined in a Senate estimates briefing released under freedom of information legislation show four in 10 (1,150) private schools were overfunded by the commonwealth in excess of the agreed 80% level last year, to the tune of $2.5bn.

Northern Beaches Christian school, St Augustine’s College and MLC school, all in Sydney, were funded at 171%, 160% and 158% of the SRS respectively, about double the 80% they should have received from the commonwealth. That equated to about $13.6m of overfunding in a single year.

In total, almost 40 schools received more than $2m more than budgeted in their commonwealth share of funding, including prestigious institutions Loreto Kirribilli and Normanhurst, the Council of Newington College and St Aloysius’ College, also in Kirribilli.

Penleigh and Essendon Grammar school and Haileybury in Melbourne and St Augustine’s College in Sydney all received more than $5m in overfunding.

Separate figures show that public schools’ total funding – from the commonwealth and states and territories – averaged just 92% of the SRS.

The federal government has until the end of the decade to bring all nongovernment schools down to 100% of the total SRS, with funding to increase for public schools during the same period.

But despite historical funding inequities between the public and private sector, the total increase in commonwealth funding from 2023 to 2024 remained lower for public schools (4.1%) compared with Catholic schools (4.3%) and independent schools (5.8%).

The deputy president of the Australian Education Union, Meredith Peace, said if the federal government could afford to spend billions overfunding private schools for the next four years it could afford to lift its investment in public schools.

Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia and Queensland have been lobbying the commonwealth to increase its public school funding share from 20% to 25% to meet state shortfalls.

“Just 1.3% of public schools are fully funded right now and they must be properly resourced to be able to meet the significant challenges we face in education,” Peace said.

“We have a teacher shortage crisis, a serious decline in student wellbeing and widening achievement gaps between students from different backgrounds and locations.”

Because the freedom of information figures only include the funding private schools receive from the commonwealth, and do not capture state and territory money, they are likely to underestimate the true level of overfunding.

The latest data, provided by education departments to the National School Resourcing Board, showed all states and territories excluding the Northern Territory funded private schools in excess of 20% in 2022.

The education minister, Jason Clare, said he was working with his counterparts to prioritise getting all public schools to their “full and fair” funding level, noting the rate of commonwealth funding was linked to a surge in private school enrolments.

“Most nongovernment schools are at that level now,” he said. “Those schools that are above that 100% Gonski level are on a track to come down automatically.”

“The negotiations we’re having now are about how we fill the public school funding gap.”

But according to the Australia Institute, tax concessions provided to private schools to build expensive facilities were a large driver of continued overfunding.

The postdoctoral research manager at the institute, Dr Morgan Harrington, said the amount private schools were spending on luxurious amenities and high salaries was of “great concern”.

“The current system is unbalanced and unsustainable,” he said.

“Much of this spending is not part of core educational requirements. Removing tax concessions for private school building funds and requiring greater transparency in reporting will reduce inequities and make private schools more accountable for the public money they receive.”

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Solomon Islands election: voters head to polls that could decide future of China security ties

Election closely watched for any impact on Pacific country’s relationship with Beijing, while voters focus on struggling health and other services

Solomon Islanders have begun voting in a national election, the first since the prime minister, Manasseh Sogavare, struck a security pact with China in 2022 and drew the Pacific Islands nation closer to Beijing.

The election outcome will be closely watched by the US, China and Australia for its potential impact on regional security, although Solomon Islands voters will be focused on struggling health services, education and inadequate roads, opposition parties said.

Sogavare has pledged to further bolster relations with Beijing if he is re-elected, while his main challengers want to wind back China’s growing influence.

Swelling crowds gathered early outside guarded election booths in the capital, Honiara, pouring in to cast their ballots when voting opened at 7am local time.

Voting day is an immense logistical challenge in Solomon Islands, a nation of about 720,000 people spread across hundreds of volcanic islands and coral atolls.

Most of the 420,000 registered voters will have their say across 50 national seats. For the first time, the national vote also coincides with elections for eight of the 10 local governments.

Ballot boxes and voting papers have been despatched by boat, plane and helicopter to the many far-flung villages that make up the “Hapi Isles”.

Teams of international observers are on hand to watch over voting in a nation where elections can lead to unrest.

Police from Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea are on the ground to help the stretched local forces keep the peace.

Preparing for the prospect of violence after the vote, the Chinese embassy in central Honiara hastily erected a temporary steel fence out front this week.

It is the first election since Solomon Islands severed diplomatic ties with Taiwan in 2019, giving its backing to Beijing’s “One China” principle instead.

Solomon Islands has deepened ties with China under Sogavare. The final details of the security pact he signed with Beijing in 2022 are murky but the deal raised alarm in Australia and the US over China’s influence in the Pacific.

Sogavare’s main rivals include Peter Kenilorea, a former UN lawyer who wants to abolish the China pact.

Human rights campaigner Matthew Wale and economist Gordon Darcy Lilo – a former prime minister – are among other prominent opposition figures.

Government critic and opposition figurehead Daniel Suidani, a former provincial premier, labelled China’s actions “alarming” in the lead-up to election day.

“During these past five years, there have been so many things that China was involved in,” he told Agence France-Presse. “It’s really alarming at the moment.”

Sogavare’s embrace of Beijing in 2019 partly fuelled a wave of anti-government riots that tore through Honiara’s Chinatown district. Violence returned in 2021, when angry mobs tried to storm parliament, torched Chinatown and attempted to raze Sogavare’s home.

In Solomon Islands, voters do not choose their prime minister. Instead, they elect representatives who negotiate behind closed doors to form a ruling coalition and pick a leader.

The coalition process can sometimes run on for weeks before the nation is finally presented with a government and a prime minister.

Elections are always boisterous, often tumultuous and sometimes violent in Solomon Islands. In 2000, then-prime minister Bart Ulufa’alu was forced to resign after he was kidnapped by gunmen.

International peacekeepers were deployed to quell post-election violence in 2006, with premier Snyder Rini pushed out of office after eight days.

Honiara residents have frequently cited creeping poverty and the lack of jobs as their main issues in the lead-up to polling day.

Australian Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report

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Solomon Islands election: voters head to polls that could decide future of China security ties

Election closely watched for any impact on Pacific country’s relationship with Beijing, while voters focus on struggling health and other services

Solomon Islanders have begun voting in a national election, the first since the prime minister, Manasseh Sogavare, struck a security pact with China in 2022 and drew the Pacific Islands nation closer to Beijing.

The election outcome will be closely watched by the US, China and Australia for its potential impact on regional security, although Solomon Islands voters will be focused on struggling health services, education and inadequate roads, opposition parties said.

Sogavare has pledged to further bolster relations with Beijing if he is re-elected, while his main challengers want to wind back China’s growing influence.

Swelling crowds gathered early outside guarded election booths in the capital, Honiara, pouring in to cast their ballots when voting opened at 7am local time.

Voting day is an immense logistical challenge in Solomon Islands, a nation of about 720,000 people spread across hundreds of volcanic islands and coral atolls.

Most of the 420,000 registered voters will have their say across 50 national seats. For the first time, the national vote also coincides with elections for eight of the 10 local governments.

Ballot boxes and voting papers have been despatched by boat, plane and helicopter to the many far-flung villages that make up the “Hapi Isles”.

Teams of international observers are on hand to watch over voting in a nation where elections can lead to unrest.

Police from Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea are on the ground to help the stretched local forces keep the peace.

Preparing for the prospect of violence after the vote, the Chinese embassy in central Honiara hastily erected a temporary steel fence out front this week.

It is the first election since Solomon Islands severed diplomatic ties with Taiwan in 2019, giving its backing to Beijing’s “One China” principle instead.

Solomon Islands has deepened ties with China under Sogavare. The final details of the security pact he signed with Beijing in 2022 are murky but the deal raised alarm in Australia and the US over China’s influence in the Pacific.

Sogavare’s main rivals include Peter Kenilorea, a former UN lawyer who wants to abolish the China pact.

Human rights campaigner Matthew Wale and economist Gordon Darcy Lilo – a former prime minister – are among other prominent opposition figures.

Government critic and opposition figurehead Daniel Suidani, a former provincial premier, labelled China’s actions “alarming” in the lead-up to election day.

“During these past five years, there have been so many things that China was involved in,” he told Agence France-Presse. “It’s really alarming at the moment.”

Sogavare’s embrace of Beijing in 2019 partly fuelled a wave of anti-government riots that tore through Honiara’s Chinatown district. Violence returned in 2021, when angry mobs tried to storm parliament, torched Chinatown and attempted to raze Sogavare’s home.

In Solomon Islands, voters do not choose their prime minister. Instead, they elect representatives who negotiate behind closed doors to form a ruling coalition and pick a leader.

The coalition process can sometimes run on for weeks before the nation is finally presented with a government and a prime minister.

Elections are always boisterous, often tumultuous and sometimes violent in Solomon Islands. In 2000, then-prime minister Bart Ulufa’alu was forced to resign after he was kidnapped by gunmen.

International peacekeepers were deployed to quell post-election violence in 2006, with premier Snyder Rini pushed out of office after eight days.

Honiara residents have frequently cited creeping poverty and the lack of jobs as their main issues in the lead-up to polling day.

Australian Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report

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Sydney church stabbing: how an alleged attack on a firebrand preacher reignited tensions

As rumours spread after the incident, the streets around the Christ the Good Shepherd church in Wakeley descended into violent bedlam

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At around 7pm on Monday night, a teenager wearing a black hoodie walked up to a bishop conducting a service in an Orthodox church in western Sydney, took out a knife and allegedly stabbed him repeatedly.

Between that moment and 12:34am when police issued a statement saying they had concluded their operation, the suburb of Wakeley descended into violent bedlam.

In the intervening five and a half hours, hundreds of people came to the streets around the church and a riot ensued in which two police officers were hospitalised with serious injuries. Paramedics were trapped inside the church for more than three hours and some came under direct threat from the crowd. An emergency council of religious leaders was called by the state’s premier, with the group calling for calm and unity, and bystanders were left terrified.

The alleged attack on bishop Mar Mari Emmanuel came at a powder keg moment in Sydney, still reeling from a horrific mass stabbing attack at a shopping centre in Bondi Junction in the city’s east two days before.

The circumstances of the incident – the particular church that was targeted, the nature of the service, the bishop in question, the spread of videos of the attack and aftermath and the existing tensions between the Assyrian Christian and Muslim communities in the area – were an almost perfectly combustible combination.

‘Lucky to be alive’

The Assyrian Christ the Good Shepherd church was particularly full for a Monday night, witnesses say. It was holding a memorial service, marking the first anniversary of the death of a community member.

The church’s controversial but beloved bishop has a huge social media following and the service was being livestreamed on the church’s popular YouTube channel, which meant many people saw horrific video of the alleged attack, in real time or shared almost immediately.

The bishop and another clergyman were injured. Both were taken to hospital and were recovering well, though the New South Wales police commissioner, Karen Webb said, they were “lucky to be alive”.

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Members of the congregation rushed the alleged attacker and pinned him to the ground while they waited for police to arrive. The alleged attacker severed his own finger during the attack, NSW premier Chris Minns said.

In a video shared in private WhatsApp groups and seen by Guardian Australia, the teenager, held on the ground of the church by a group of men, calls out in Arabic: “If he didn’t get himself involved in my religion, if he hadn’t spoken about my prophet, I wouldn’t have come here. If he just spoke about his own religion, I wouldn’t have come.”

Emmanuel has previously criticised Islam and the prophet Muhammad in sermons shared widely online. Emmanuel has 154,000 followers on Instagram and more than 25m views to his videos on TikTok.

To the community, the video of the alleged attack was proof it had been religiously targeted, something that the director general of Australia’s spy agency Asio confirmed the next day, when he declared it to be a “terrorist incident” that was religiously motivated.

Within an hour of the alleged attack, hundreds of people had filled the streets around the church.

“People moved to come to the church within five minutes,” said one Assyrian community member who did not wish to be named. “The boys were nervous, they were on edge, they heard so many rumours and were here to see what happened.”

The alleged assailant’s identity and ideology behind the attack has not yet been made public by police.

Maria*, a member of Emmanuel’s church, acknowledged tensions between the two communities.

“There are a lot of old wounds between these communities,” she said. “We have always felt something would happen.”

Meanwhile, leaders of Lakemba mosque in Sydney’s west revealed they had received threats to firebomb the mosque on Monday night. They planned to have heightened security over the next week.

A bishop with ‘huge resonance’

Emmanuel was known for being outspoken, posting firebrand sermons to social media in which he decried same-sex marriage, Covid vaccine mandates, transgender rights, as well as criticising Islam and directly appealing to Muslims to convert to Christianity.

“He’s very outspoken, very controversial,” said Father Daniel Ghabrial, principal of Santa Athanasius College, the University of Divinity, in Melbourne.

“He’s very far right, ultra conservative in some of those views – his views on same-sex relationships are very outspoken, his views on Islam are very outspoken and I understand that might have contributed to this. He’s a huge Trump supporter, he’s anti-vaccination, [he preaches that] Covid is a conspiracy.”

Emmanuel had parted ways with the official Assyrian orthodox church in around 2014, said Chorbishop Joseph Joseph , a priest who has known Emmanuel for about 40 years. Joseph worked closely with Emmanuel in the Ancient Church of the East, before Emmanuel left the mother church to form his own.

Joseph did not wish to say why Emmanuel had left the church, but confirmed it was to do with doctrinal issues, and that there were no allegations of wrongdoing against him.

When he knew him, Joseph said Emmanuel was “very normal, very humble, very nice”.

“Over 10 years he changed,” Joseph said. “For me, his preaching, I don’t know what’s happened, why he’s using this language. When he was in our church, he was [doing] very normal Christian orthodox preaching: talk about Jesus, we don’t mention other religions because everyone is free, especially in Australia, to choose his faith.”

Joseph said there is no excuse for the attack on Emmanuel. “First, he’s a human being,” he said. “We left our countries to come to this country, asking for freedom, asking to respect other people, we are shocked.”

While controversial – and schismatic – Emmanuel was also hugely popular and beloved among his community.

“People love him,” said Christian, a local Assyrian man who attends Christ the Good Shepherd and did not wish to give his surname. “He has helped so many people in our community and in every community. You have to understand, he has brought young people to the church, he has addressed social issues, he is on top of everything.”

“Sure, he is passionate and has spoken about Muslims and Islam previously, but he is just explaining his beliefs. Nothing can justify such an attack.”

Emmanuel’s anti-Covid vaccine, anti-lockdown stance also resonated with people in Wakeley, in light of the disproportionately harsh conditions faced by western Sydney during the city’s 2021 Covid lockdown.

Tighter restrictions on gathering and travel were in place for suburbs in the city’s west, which had helicopters flying overhead and armed forced on the streets to enforce the lockdown conditions – something that was particularly traumatic for refugee and migrant communities – while the rest of the city enjoyed laxer restrictions.

“I’ve seen some of his clips,” said Ghabrial. “He’s found a huge resonance.”

Tension lingers in Wakeley

NSW police said they deployed more than 100 officers to the scene in Wakely overnight, including riot police who moved the crowd on after police cars were smashed.

Multiple police were attacked and injured, including one hospitalised with a twisted knee and chipped tooth after being hit with a metal object, and another who sustained a broken jaw after being hit with a brick and a fence paling.

Police commissioner Webb said 20 police vehicles were damaged and 10 rendered unusable.

According to multiple witnesses, the violence against police flared after an incident in which a man holding an illuminated cross above his head was caught in a scuffle, leading to the cross falling.

“As soon as the cross hit the ground, people got even angrier, feeling as though their religion had been insulted,” Maria said. “So now, our Bishop has been attacked and our religion insulted. People are going to react the way they’re going to react.”

In a statement released in the early hours of Tuesday morning, Christ the Good Shepherd church said police had taken “necessary steps to disperse groups” after “numerous attempts by police … to peacefully disband visitors”. The church called on the community to adopt the “spirit of humility, love and peace”.

On Tuesday, the streets of Wakeley were again quiet, but tension remained.

The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, said: “This is a disturbing incident. There is no place for violence in our community. We’re a peace-loving nation. This is a time to unite, not divide, as a community, and as a country.”

* Name has been changed

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Jeff Fenech unwittingly received packages containing drugs from alleged US trafficking group, court documents claim

Packages allegedly sent to former Australian boxer and others were intercepted by federal police, US affidavit says. Fenech has not been charged, and his lawyer says he is not a suspect for any criminal offences

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The Australian boxing champion Jeff Fenech was the unwitting recipient of packages containing narcotics as part of an alleged drug trafficking organisation that operated between Los Angeles and Australia, according to US court documents.

No charges have been laid against him and his lawyer maintained he was not a suspect for any criminal offence.

Fenech, a four-time world boxing champion, was named in an affidavit filed in the US district court of California in charges laid against a man named Moustapha Moustapha.

Moustapha, who has been charged with possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine and cocaine, and possession of firearms in furtherance of drug trafficking, is allegedly a member of what the US Drug Enforcement Agency calls the Moustapha DTO (drug trafficking organisation). He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

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The Moustapha DTO allegedly operated by coordinating the purchase of narcotics in the Los Angeles area and then shipping them to Australia to a number of people.

According to an affidavit filed in February by a special agent with the DEA, Fenech was allegedly an intended recipient for an unspecified number of deliveries among “24 packages containing 26kgs of suspected cocaine and methamphetamine”.

The affidavit did not allege that Fenech was part of the Moustapha DTO.

The packages allegedly sent to Fenech and others were intercepted by the Australian federal police in December, the affidavit says.

According to a US drug enforcement special agent based in Australia, after the interception, the AFP conducted an undercover package delivery at Fenech’s residence in the Sydney suburb of Five Dock on 20 December.

“After dropping the package off at the residence, AFP observed Fenech pick up the package. After witnessing Fenech pick up the package, AFP executed search warrants at the residence … and interviewed Fenech.”

The agent alleged that in the interview: “Fenech stated that he’d been collecting packages for an extended period of time … Fenech stated that he believed that the packages contained luxury watches and was unaware that the packages contained drugs.”

Fenech’s lawyer said Fenech was not a suspect for any criminal offence and no criminal charges had been laid or foreshadowed against him. He did not respond to a request for further comment.

The court documents allege the charges against Moustapha filed on 13 February came after an investigation in New South Wales targeting a “drug and money laundering syndicate with direct connections to the United States”.

Australian law enforcement provided the DEA with text messages allegedly from various members of the Moustapha DTO coordinating the shipment of narcotics using electronic devices, along with forensic reports, the documents allege.

The AFP declined to comment on the case.

Moustapha’s Malibu home was searched on 1 February, the affidavit said, which allegedly resulted in the DEA seizing 90kg of suspected methamphetamine, 1kg of cocaine, a large amount of US currency and six firearms.

At the time of the search Moustapha fled, the affidavit alleged. He was arrested at an Airbnb on 12 February but, according to the court complaint, he “violently resisted arrest and injured two federal agents, including biting one of the arresting agents”.

Moustapha remains in custody in the US, awaiting trial.

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State Labor MPs call on Albanese government to expand visa access for Palestinian refugees

Letter from 17 mostly NSW parliamentarians ays there must ‘never again’ be a repeat of people’s visas being cancelled while they are in transit

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Seventeen state Labor MPs have called on the Albanese government to expand visa access for Palestinian refugees escaping violence in Gaza, warning of “distressing reports” of practical difficulties coming to Australia.

The group, who wrote to the federal government on behalf of Labor Friends of Palestine, called for “a clear, consistent approach”, warning that there must “never again” be a repeat of people’s visas being cancelled while they are in transit or trapped in airports.

The letter is signed by mostly New South Wales MPs, including the parliamentary secretaries Anthony D’Adam, Mark Buttigieg and Julia Finn, the deputy speaker, Sonia Hornery, and the deputy government whip, Cameron Murphy, as well as the Tasmanian shadow attorney general, Ella Haddad.

Sent to the foreign affairs minister, Penny Wong, the home affairs minister, Clare O’Neil, and the immigration minister, Andrew Giles, the letter warns that “the catastrophic humanitarian crisis in Gaza deepens with each passing day”.

“With the intensification of violence, absence of a working health system and growing threat of mass starvation, Australian-Palestinians are more desperate than ever to bring their families to safety in Australia,” it said.

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“We continue to hear distressing reports from Labor Friends of Palestine members about the difficulties faced by those trying to flee Gaza and the challenges being experienced by those who have recently arrived in Australia from Gaza.

“We urgently need a clear, consistent approach to supporting people to escape from Gaza and reach Australia safely. We also need to provide comprehensive support services when they arrive.”

The group called for: eligibility for temporary humanitarian visas with “priority processing”, work rights and welfare; an extended definition of family beyond “nuclear families” to extended family; mental health services “in light of the trauma experienced by those fleeing Gaza”; consular support and advocacy; and “support and certainty for people during their journey to Australia”.

“This will require coordination with officials and agencies in transit countries. Never again should we have circumstances in which visas are cancelled while people are in transit or people are trapped in airports.”

In March charity groups said that at least 70 people who had to cancel or postpone flights due to cancellation of their visas were “collateral damage” for the federal government’s failures on visa processing.

Palestinian groups and refugee advocates said they were “relieved” when the government later reversed the cancellations.

The Labor Friends of Palestine letter concluded that “Australia has a proud history of providing refuge to victims of overseas conflict, most recently for those impacted by the war in Ukraine.

“We ask our government to offer the same level of support for those seeking to flee the worsening crisis in Gaza.”

In November the Albanese government explained Palestinians granted visas have undergone all standard security checks, rebuffing fears raised by the opposition that the cohort carried a terrorism risk.

On Tuesday Guardian Australia revealed about 160 Palestinians were refused visitor visas to come to Australia in the first three months of the Israel-Gaza conflict, mostly due to concerns they would not stay temporarily.

That justification was labelled “cold-blooded” and “cruel” by the Greens senator David Shoebridge and the independent senator Lidia Thorpe.

According to figures from the Department of Home Affairs, the Australian government granted 2,273 temporary (subclass 600) visas for Palestinians between 7 October and 6 February but only 330 people had arrived in Australia in that period.

In the answers to questions on notice, the department said although “additional resources are applied to assist with processing, in order to be granted a visa, whether in a conflict zone or not, every person must satisfy [requirements] … including health, security and character criteria”.

The department also noted those seeking to flee the conflict in Gaza, which it described as “grave and remains extremely fluid” are “not limited to one visa pathway”.

People coming from the occupied Palestinian territories can apply for a 12-month bridging visa E “as a safety net where they are unable to access standard visa pathways”. The visa grants access to Medicare and work rights.

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Whistleblower urges Boeing to ground all 787 Dreamliners after safety warning

Engineer Sam Salehpour calls on planemaker ahead of testimony before Senate homeland security committee

A whistleblower has urged Boeing to ground every 787 Dreamliner jet worldwide after warning they are at risk of premature failure ahead of a high-profile hearing on Capitol Hill.

The planemaker has been grappling with its latest crisis since a cabin panel blowout in January raised fresh questions about the production of its bestselling commercial jet, the 737 Max.

But the Federal Aviation Administration is now investigating allegations by the Boeing engineer Sam Salehpour that the manufacturing giant took shortcuts to reduce production bottlenecks while making the 787. He also raised issues about the production of the 777, another wide-body jet.

Salehpour, who has worked at Boeing for more than a decade, says he faced retaliation, including threats and exclusion from meetings, after raising concerns over issues including a gap between parts of the fuselage of the 787.

Asked if Boeing should ground 787 jets for inspection, he told NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt: “The entire fleet worldwide, as far as I’m concerned right now, needs attention. And the attention is, you need to check your gaps and make sure that you don’t have potential for premature failure.”

Boeing has insisted the 787 and 777 are safe, and that retaliation against whistleblowers is not tolerated inside the company. At a briefing earlier this week, executives described how a rigorous program of tests and inspections had left the firm confident of the jets’ durability.

In a statement on Monday, Boeing said: “We are fully confident in the 787 Dreamliner because of the comprehensive work done to ensure the quality and long-term safety of the aircraft. These claims about the structural integrity of the 787 are inaccurate.”

“I have come forward, and I have extended my neck,” Salehpour told NBC, “but you know, I’m at peace with myself. Because this is going to save a lot of people’s lives.”

Salehpour is due to testify on Wednesday before senators on the homeland security committee.

After scrambling to reassure regulators, airlines and passengers in the wake of January’s blowout, Dave Calhoun, Boeing’s chief executive, and Larry Kellner, chairman of its board, announced plans to resign last month.

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