Ashers Baking Company has won its Supreme Court case.
In a unanimous decision, five of the UK’s most senior judges upheld Ashers’ appeal against claims of discrimination.
The comprehensive ruling upholds free speech and prevents the law forcing businesses to express views with which they profoundly disagree.
Message, not messenger
Repeated throughout the judgment is the Court’s finding that the family’s objection “was to the message, not the messenger”.
Responding to the judges’ ruling this morning, Daniel McArthur, Ashers’ General Manager, expressed his delight outside the Court.
He said: “We’re delighted and relieved at today’s ruling. We always knew we hadn’t done anything wrong in turning down this order. After more than four years, the Supreme Court has now recognised that and we’re very grateful. Grateful to the judges and especially grateful to God.
“We’re particularly pleased the Supreme Court emphatically accepted what we’ve said all along – we did not turn down this order because of the person who made it, but because of the message itself.”
The ruling is significant not only for Northern Ireland but for the whole United Kingdom.
Senior judges accepted arguments put forward by The Christian Institute over the last four and a half years.
They agreed: “The objection was to being required to promote the message on the cake. The less favourable treatment was afforded to the message not to the man.”
“By being required to produce the cake they were being required to express a message with which they deeply disagreed.”
total vindication of Ashers Baking Company
Strongly underlining the law on compelled speech, the judges also quoted a previous case which said: “Nobody should be forced to have or express a political opinion in which he does not believe.”
Speaking on behalf of The Christian Institute, Deputy Director (Public Affairs) Simon Calvert called the ruling “a total vindication of Ashers Baking Company and the McArthur family.”
“The Court strongly agreed with Ashers’ lawyers that this case has always been about the message on the cake and not the customer; the message, not the messenger.
“Equality law was never intended to be used in the way the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland tried to use it in this case.”
Bert and Ernie
The case followed a decision in May 2014 by Ashers to decline an order placed at its Belfast store by a gay rights activist.
The Court strongly agreed with Ashers’ lawyers
He asked for a £36.50 cake featuring the Sesame Street puppets, Bert and Ernie, with the campaign slogan, ‘Support Gay Marriage’.
The customer also wanted the cake to feature the logo of a Belfast-based campaign group QueerSpace.
Ashers, owned by Daniel’s parents Colin and Karen McArthur, refused to make the cake because it carried a message contrary to the family’s firmly-held Christian beliefs.
But the taxpayer-funded Equality Commission for Northern Ireland launched a civil action against the family-run bakery, claiming its actions violated Northern Ireland’s equality laws.
A pro-Israeli Swedish flotilla packed with more than 50 evangelical Christians arrived on the shore of Gaza in Israel to counter pro-Palestinian Gaza-bound ships.
The fleet of ships symbolizes the Scandinavian country’s support of Israel in its ongoing conflict with the Islamic terrorist group-led Palestinian government and its people.
“A flotilla of Swedish ships arrived in the Herzliya Marina on Israel’s Mediterranean coast Thursday night – following a roughly month-and-a-half journey from Gothenburg, Sweden,” Israel National News (INN) reported. “Led by the ship ‘Elida’, the flotilla is part of an effort by pro-Israel Evangelical Christians in Sweden to improve their country’s image vis-à-vis the Jewish State.”
Anchoring down for Israel
Elida’s captain, Stefan Abrahamsson – the owner of the yacht and organizer of the trip – pitched his anchor to begin a show of support for Israel over a week and a half – a visit that also seeks to reach solidarity with Middle Eastern Christians.
“It’s great to be here at last,” Abrahamsson proclaimed after docking, according to the Israeli Yediot Ahronot, as reported by INN. “It was wonderful to see all the boats that accompanied us with the flags and music. We will be here for 11 days … we came here because Sweden’s image in Israel is very bad, and we are here to express our sorrow over this.”
He stated Israel’s case in the ongoing controversial Israeli-Palestinian conflict that is often misrepresented by the media, which portrays Palestinians as victims of Israeli oppression and “apartheid” – a message that is readily embraced by many Europeans.
“Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East that is built upon ideals which are central throughout the western world – such as equality; however, Israel is the only country which my country condemns,” Abrahamsson continued. “We are here to tell Israelis: ‘We love you,’ we are standing behind you and want to show our solidarity with you.”
Abrahamsson declared the intention of his voyage to help the persecuted Church in Gaza through a post on social media just before his flotilla embarked a month and a half ago.
“We want to break the silence of the severe persecution and cleansing of the Christian population that is taking place in this region,” the Swedish Christian captain announced on Facebook on August 25. “As the only democracy in the Middle East amid dictatorships, Israel welcomes us on this show of solidarity with human rights, freedom of expression, freedom of religion and fundamental democratic values. In turn, we are taking a stand for the values that Israel stands for.”
A tour of support for Israel
Abrahamsson’s itinerary was jam-packed from the moment his flotilla touched down on Israeli shores.
“The crew and passengers aboard the 131-foot yacht will host visitors every day during their stay,” CBN News reported. “They will also visit the Technion in Haifa – which some call Israel’s MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology).”
From Israel’s capital – where President Donald Trump recently moved the United States Embassy to from its previous location in Tel Aviv – to Ashdod, Abrahamsson’s crew will be busy supporting Israel’s government and persecuted Christian population within the Gaza Strip.
“The Israeli Foreign Ministry will host the delegation for lunch in Jerusalem on Sunday, JTA reported,” CBN News’ Tzippe Barrow informed. “For one day, Tuesday, October 16, the Elida will be docked at the Ashdod port.”
Another mission of the flotilla was to garner support from fellow Swedes, who have predominantly taken the pro-Palestinian stance in Israel’s conflict and supported Muslim immigration into Europe in the so-called “refugee crisis.”
“Former Israeli Ambassador to Sweden, Isaac Bachman, called the flotilla a ‘solidarity with Israel marine voyage’ that brought Swedish Christians who love Israel,” Barrow noted. “In Sweden’s political and social climate, he said, it’s uncommon to declare strong support for Israel out loud.”
Appreciation and a warm welcome were expressed for the Swedish Christians taking three-month-plus round trip to show solidarity with Israel.
The other side of Sweden
Another Swedish flotilla to Gaza set sail earlier this year on May 22, but those on board the ships had an anti-Semitic agenda, as it attempted to break through a blockade set by the Israeli Navy in order to support the Palestinians’ ongoing attack and rebellion against Israel.
During the pro-Palestinian demonstration – which reached Gaza in August – Israel took security precautions to make sure the demonstrators did not incite Palestinians to engage in more hostility and violence against the Jewish State.
“Seven Swedish activists detained by the Israeli Navy while attempting to breach its blockade of Gaza [were] deported to Sweden – the organizers of the Ship to Gaza activist flotilla said,” The Times of Israel reported in August. “Israel imposed the blockade following the rise to power in Gaza of Hamas – which is internationally recognized as a terrorist organization and whose charter speaks about killing Jews and destroying Israel.”
During the days surrounding the rebellious Swedish flotilla demonstration, Islamic Palestinian terrorists launched more than 150 rocket attacks at Israel from inside the border of the Gaza Strip.
One pro-Palestinian entertainer participating in the flotilla incited more anti-Semitism in Sweden and Gaza through her inflammatory rhetoric.
“Among the activists aboard the Gaza-bound ship was actress Oldoz Javidi, whose remarks about Israeli Jews during the sail to Swedish media caused an uproar,” The Times of Israel pointed out at the time. “She said that her ‘fantasy’ was to see Israeli Jews ‘transferred’ to the United States and the land being given to Palestinians – whom she said owned it.”
Javidi has a considerable amount of political sway in Sweden, where she is running for office as a leader for an ultra-leftist party.
In an attempt at damage control to stem public outrage over her racist remarks, Javidi tried to diffuse the controversy using evasive language.
“Amid accusations of anti-Semitism, Javidi – [who] is a candidate for the Feminist Perspective radical party – retracted the statement, explaining it ‘could be misinterpreted or misunderstood,’” the Israeli daily added.
Hebrews 11:1 1Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.2For by it the elders obtained a good report. 3Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.
Last weekend, Michael was a tropical storm in the Atlantic Ocean. It was barely a hurricane Tuesday morning, with winds of ninety miles per hour. As the Associated Press reports, “a little over a day later, it had transformed into a monster.” Its wind speed increased 72 percent in less than thirty-three hours.
“Storms are known to do this, but normally we see this happening when it’s away from land,” according to a University of Florida climatologist. “What’s unusual is that it’s happening so close to land.”
The Atlantic now ranks it as “among the most ferocious land-falling hurricanes in American history.” The Washington Post agreed, describing Michael as “one of the most intense hurricanes to ever hit the United States.” It moved toward Georgia and Alabama by evening, becoming the first Category 3 storm to hit Georgia since 1898.
We have developed the most advanced meteorological technology known to humanity. Hurricane experts use satellites, buoys, and aircraft flown into the developing storm. They combine data from various predictive models.
But our best scientific instruments are no match for nature. This week’s devastation is another reminder that our world is more unpredictable and ungovernable than we wish to admit.
It is human nature to believe in the permanence of the present and to assume an even better future. But there’s only one way to face tomorrow with guaranteed hope.
WHY DID THE RELIGIOUS AUTHORITIES REJECT JESUS?
Have you ever wondered how the religious authorities could reject the teachings of the Son of God? Or how such astute theological minds could miss the truth of his revelation, while Galilean fishermen and common crowds heard him with grateful appreciation?
The answer is that we cannot fully understand God’s word until we choose to obey it.
Psalm 112:1 assures us: “Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in his commandments!” “Greatly delights” translates Hebrew words that can be literally rendered, “takes the highest degree of pleasure.”
Hebrew parallelism uses the first line to explain the second. Thus, the person who fears and reverences God is the person who “greatly delights” in his will and word. Such a person is “blessed” by our Lord.
Obedience to God is the necessary precondition to understanding the ways of God. Oswald Chambers: “All God’s revelations are sealed until they are opened to us by obedience. You will never get them open by philosophy or thinking. Immediately you obey, a flash of light comes.”
Obedience does not earn God’s revelation–it positions us to receive it. That’s because faith in God, like any relationship, requires a commitment that transcends the evidence and becomes self-validating.
It is illogical to insist on proof for that which can only be experienced. You cannot prove you should attend a particular college or take a particular job until you do. You cannot prove you should get married until you get married. Some categories of truth are relational by definition. They cannot be understood until they are experienced.
If we view Scripture as advice we can accept or reject rather than divine commands we must follow, we will never comprehend its depths. But if we decide to obey God’s word, we will then understand his word.
DO YOU EXPECT TO MEET GOD TODAY?
Consider another factor: Perhaps the religious leaders failed to hear new revelation from God because they did not expect new revelation from God. It had been so long since they’d heard a true prophet that they limited God’s truth to what they already knew.
We can make the same mistake.
If we read the Bible but our lives are no different, we have not truly heard from God. If we pray and remain the same, we have not truly prayed. We cannot encounter the living Lord of the universe and be unchanged.
A young pastor once complained to Charles Spurgeon that few people were responding to his sermons.
The “Prince of Preachers” asked him, “You don’t expect people to respond every time you preach, do you?”
The young man assured him that he did not.
“That’s why they don’t,” Spurgeon replied.
Do you expect to meet God today in his word and worship? Do you expect him to answer your prayers and to move in power? Do you expect him to do in our world what he did in the biblical world?
“THE THREE MOST TERRIBLE TRUTHS OF OUR EXISTENCE”
Hurricane Michael shows us that we need more of God than most of us have experienced. To experience all of God there is, we must understand his ways and know his provision.
Here’s the good news: To the degree that we obey his word, we can fully understand his ways. To the degree that we expect him to provide, we can truly know his provision.
Last week, we had no idea the hurricane would be so devastating. What don’t we know about next week?
Anne Lamott: “If I were going to begin practicing the presence of God for the first time today, it would help to begin by admitting the three most terrible truths of our existence: that we are so ruined, and so loved, and in charge of so little.”
When we face circumstances beyond our control, we have three options: We can continue to fight as though we are in control, give up and accept what comes, or work alongside the One who is in control. Only one brings true peace.
Hurricane Michael has done extensive damage to a number of our churches, pastors homes, and members homes. The churches that we know have severe damage at this point are the following:
Blountstown (Pastor Ron Baker)
Panama City (Pastor Allen Crabtree)
Highland Park (Pastor Rodney Capps)
Port St. Joe (Pastor Chris Richardson)
Chattahoochee (Pastor George Black)
Hosford (Pastor Aaron Elkins)
Marianna (Pastor Allen Biggs)
If you would like to send an offering to help with this disaster, please send it to the Florida District UPCI and put Hurricane Relief in the memo. All funds will be used to help with the restoration of these churches.
Our Disaster Relief Director, Pastor Larry W. Sims is coordinating all efforts to help these churches and pastors. If you wish to send supplies or men to help with labor, we ask that you coordinate all this through Brother Sims. The entire area is severely damaged and we need to make sure our efforts are profitable and a blessing for all those in need.
Please consider sending an offering to help restore our churches.
It was around midnight on 4 October 2008 that Munda and Sanathan Badamajhi, and Durjo Sunamajhi, were arrested by dozens of police in their shanty homes in India’s eastern Odisha state.
Ten years on, these three illiterate Christians, from the remote Madaguda area of Kandhamal are yet to return home.
Four other Christians – Bhaskar Sunamajhi, Bijay Kumar Sanseth, Buddhadeb Nayak, Gornath Chalenthseth – also arrested by police in December 2008 – continue to languish in jail.
All seven were charged with the August, 2008 murder of Hindu leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati that triggered the worst orchestrated anti-Christian violence in modern India.
(Nearly 100 Christians were killed, 300 churches and 6,000 Christian houses plundered and torched, leaving over 56,000 homeless in Kandhamal after a Hindu nationalist group promptly claimed that the murder was a ‘Christian conspiracy’).
The seven were abruptly convicted to life imprisonment in October 2013 by a third judge after two trial court judges – who had openly indicated during the trial that the accused were innocent – were transferred one after another during the long four years of trial.
However, in June 2015, two top police officials – who had relied upon the same conspiracy theory to ensure the conviction of the innocent Christians – testified before the Kandhamal judicial inquiry commission that the allegations were false. Despite this, the appeal hearing has been constantly postponed.
“My husband had never gone to that place (the ashram where the Hindu leader was shot dead). He was with us at the time the Swami was killed. How could he be punished for that murder?” Pabitra Sanseth told the media in mid-September, tears pouring down her cheeks.
With three other wives, she had travelled to Bhubaneswar, 380 kms from home, for the dubbing into Odia of a documentary ‘‘Innocents Imprisoned’. (It was commissioned by journalist Anto Akkara, who has championed the men’s case for release).
“Since my husband was a firm believer and active Christian leader, they targeted him,” said Pabitra about her husband Bijay – the only one in the group to go to school in childhood.
Jeremiah Sunamajhi, nephew of Durjo, has a witness to his uncle being carried away by the police around midnight. But in fact, when the Swami was killed, Durjo had been out of Kandhamal with Jeremiah to board a train to southern Kerala to seek a job.
“It is a matter of shame and sorrow that the judicial system has let the innocents down,” Jeremiah told WWM. “Even Hindus around us ask why they are still in jail.
“We cannot understand why their appeal (in the Odisha High Court) is dragging on,” lamented Jeremiah who had met the Indian president in 2015 in a delegation seeking the release of all seven men.
“Our lives have been ruined by the illegal arrest and shocking conviction of my father,” Nithaniel Chalenseth, son of Gornat, told WWM October 5 from Kotagarh area of Kandhamal where his father was the Block Panchayath (Area Village Council) president before his arrest.
Nithaniel had to drop out of Engineering studies and seek a job to support his mother and younger siblings. A decade on, Nithaniel is still to settle down with a steady job as he often has to rush home for family concerns.
Here is a summary of the men’s cases:
1. Sanatan Badamajhi
Sanatan Badamajhi’s wife Badusi said that a few days before her husband’s arrest, on 4 October, 2008, some Hindu village leaders had warned him he would soon be arrested.
But on the day of the Swami’s murder, Badamajhi, 36, had been tending cattle and sheep, according to a Hindu neighbour, Nakula Mallick.
“Police never came to investigate or ask anything about him. If we had been called, we would have testified for him in the court,” said Mallick.
The judge said a gun was seized from Badamajhi’s house, but his wife says they never owned a gun.
Police also claimed to have seized an axe from the house, but his wife said the police brought the axe from the house of Mukantho Mallick, a Hindu neighbour, who had accompanied them to identify the house.
“Later, Mukantho has been repeatedly complaining that the police took away the axe. I had only one axe and it is still in my house,” she said. “Can anyone understand my pain and sorrows of the last 10 years without my innocent husband?”
2. Munda Badamajhi
Munda Badamajhi, 34, was arrested on the night of 4 October, 2008, at his home in the village of Duringpodi.
The prosecution said it recovered a gun from his home, but his wife, Bandigudali, said
“We never had a gun and my husband could not even use a gun,” she said. “This is shocking…
Did he commit any mistake? But still to spend 10 years in jail!”
3. Durjo Sunamajhi
Durjo Sunamajhi, 35, was woken up on the night of 4 October, 2008, when police barged into his house in Budapada village and took him away, as well as the barrel of a broken gun that they found in his house.
His wife Gumili said her husband was on a train towards Kerala on the day of the Swami’s murder and had never touched the gun, which she said was an old and broken hunting rifle last used by her husband’s grandfather.
“The government claim is that they recovered two guns [from the houses of these people], but actually only one barrel of a broken gun, which has not been used for years, had been picked up,” said journalist Anto Akkara. “[Gumili] says her husband never used it, her husband’s father never used it; only her husband’s grandfather used it. Imagine! And there was only a barrel of the hunting gun. Now, the government claims to have recovered two guns from two houses, but in the judgment the judge says he has got three guns, and he names the three! How is that possible?…”
Gumili told WWM in Oct 2018 “We lost our 10 years without committing any mistake! We want justice!”
4. Bijay Kumar Sanseth
Sanseth’s wife, Pabitra, said police phoned her on 12 December, 2008, and told him to report to the police station the next day. He did so, and has been detained ever since.
However, police recorded events differently, saying that on 12 December Sanseth met three of the other accused Christians at a Maoist meeting in a jungle near the village of Sartuli. They added that Sanseth, 42, had been overheard discussing plans to murder the Swami outside Kotagarh High School. This claim was attributed to a witness, Mahasingh Kanhar, who initially denied the claim, but eventually endorsed it during a retrial.
“Wherever I go, people tell me: ‘He was a good man. Why he is in jail?’” said Sanseth’s father, Salei. “The popularity of my son and his high contacts with government officials have led to this tragedy. Many were jealous of him.”
5. Bhaskar Sunamajhi
Bhaskar Sunamajhi, 32, was playing cards with his friends in the village of Kutiguda when police came to collect him on 13 December, 2008.
“You can return tomorrow,” his wife heard them say, when they took him away. But after more than seven years, Sunamajhi has not returned home.
The judge said Sunamajhi was “hand in gloves” with the Maoists and had undergone several weeks of training at a Maoist camp. However, his wife Debaki said he “never ventured [far] from home”.
Biracha Paraseth, a neighbour, added: “This is a total lie. He was with us on the day [the Swami was killed]”.
Pavitra Sanseth, another neighbour, added: “He is a good man. He will not do such a crime like killing of a Hindu leader. All of us feel very bad about this. Sir, if we all could have gone [to court] and explained his innocence, please tell us how we can help and ask for his release.”
6. Budhadeb Nayak
Before his arrest, one of the village elders urged Nayak, 42, to go into hiding, but he refused, saying he had done nothing wrong.
Police later came to his house, threatening his eldest son, 20-year-old Lingaraj, that they would soon arrest his father.
On the night of 13 December, 2008, they came back and Nayak was arrested.
“He was wearing only a [sarong]. They tied his hands to take him away. He asked for clothes and I gave him a shawl,” recalled his wife, Nilandri.
Three days later, the family visited him in Balliguda jail. The police said he had been with Maoists in the jungle on 12 December, alongside three of the others accused.
7. Gornath Chalanseth
Chalanseth, 41, was taken into police custody on 13 December 2008, but initially suspected nothing as he was active in politics.
His cousin, a pastor, accompanied him to the police station, and saw him taken away.
A couple of days later, after his cousin had not returned, he went back to the station and heard he had been charged with murder.
Editor George Duke’s comment (While Trump is in White House look what is happening? )
Ilhan Omar, a Somali-American Muslim running for a House seat in Minneapolis; Rashida Tlaib, a Palestinian-American Muslim running in Detroit; Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, running in the Bronx and Queens; and Leslie Cockburn, running in Virginia, are all part of a new fragment of the Democratic party which has “dared to breach what has been an almost inviolable orthodoxy in both political parties, strong support for Israel, raising the specter of a crack in the Democratic Party that Republicans could use to attract Jewish supporters,” according to Catie Edmondson, reporting on Sunday for the New York Times (A New Wave of Democrats Tests the Party’s Blanket Support for Israel).
But These candidates are not necessarily made from the same cloth. The realities of political life in America and whom you turn to for campaign support (nudge, nudge, wink, wink), as well as the fact that 18 leading members of the Democratic caucus in Congress once stood on Mount Sinai together (the one in the Wilderness, not on Fifth Ave.), have modified considerably the positions these new wave progressives are pushing regarding the Jewish State and its relationship with the US.
Ilhan Omar, who in 2012 tweeted that Israel had “hypnotized the world” to ignore its “evil doings,” and this year argued that condemning the “Israeli apartheid regime” was not a form of anti-Semitism, last summer told a candidates’ forum at a Synagogue that “It is going to be important for us to recognize Israel’s place in the Middle East and the Jewish people’s rightful place within that region,” and “I believe right now with the BDS movement, it’s not helpful in getting that two-state solution,” because “I think the particular purpose for [BDS] is to make sure that there is pressure, and I think that pressure really is counteractive. Because in order for us to have a process of getting to a two-state solution, people have to be willing to come to the table and have a conversation about how that is going to be possible and I think that stops the dialogue.”
Rashida Tlaib is a different story altogether. Having lost the support of J Street, last August she told In These Times she supported a one-state solution that would, in effect, end Israel’s unique status as a Jewish state. “It has to be one state,” she said. “Separate but equal does not work.”
According to Middle East Forum, Talib’s campaign funding—she raised more money by far than any other Democrat in the 2018 primaries, more than $1.3 million—come from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Emgage USA – Empowering Engaged Muslims, the Muslim-American Society (MAS), and the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC).
Last May, Talib said on Facebook: “It cannot be our foreign policy to tolerate the killing of Palestinians. Send me to Washington and I’ll use my unique lens on this issue to be a voice for peace.” No, it doesn’t look like she’ll be a voice for peace, but her voice would be plenty anti-Israeli.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez got herself into hot water in the spring, when a PBS interviewer asked her to defend her statement that condemned Israel for defending itself against rioting Arabs along the Gaza Strip border, calling it a massacre – until the candidate backed down sheepishly and admitted she was not an expert on foreign policy, and could somebody please educate her.
In August, it looked like somebody had gotten to her: Ocasio-Cortez was cheered by the crowd at an event hosted by the Immigrant Arts Coalition at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, where she spoke about every issue of concern to Democrats, without uttering the words “Jew” or “Israel.”
Leslie Cockburn, not an Arab, but the author of an anti-Israel, if not worse, recent book about Israel titled “Dangerous Liaison,” about the “secret ties” between the US and Israel. We didn’t read it, but the NY Times reviewer wrote that the book, “supposedly a history of the secret ties between Israel and the United States, is largely dedicated to Israel-bashing for its own sake. Its first message is that, win or lose, smart or dumb, right or wrong, suave or boorish, Israelis are a menace. The second is that the Israeli-American connection is somewhere behind just about everything that ails us.”
So now you know.
Ron Halber, the executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, told the Times he wasn’t worried: “We’re talking about a handful of people; they’re certainly not going to move Congress’s wall-to-wall support for Israel. Could it turn into a ripple? Perhaps. You have a unique combination of forces right now.”
Habler raised a different concern, namely that Donald Trump’s friendly relationship with Benjamin Netanyahu is getting Israel’s image “caught up in the anti-Trump fervor, which is not fair to Israel.”
Prime minister’s wife is accused of defrauding the state by misusing public funds to purchase catered meals for the Prime Minister’s Residence, despite employing a full-time cook • Judge urges sides to narrow their differences “or even resolve the case.”
Sara Netanyahu, the wife of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, appeared in court on Sunday on the first day of a fraud trial in which she will be fighting allegations that she misused public funds to order catered meals to the Prime Minister’s Residence.
According to the indictment, Sara Netanyahu fraudulently billed the state for hundreds of catered meals supplied by restaurants, bypassing regulations that prohibit the practice if a cook is employed at the residence.
She was charged in June with two counts: one of fraud and breach of trust and one of aggravated fraudulent receipt of goods. If convicted, Netanyahu could face up to five years in prison.
Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing.
Former Deputy Director General at the Prime Minister’s Office Ezra Saidoff has also been included in the indictment, with prosecutors saying that he played an active role in the alleged scheme and even tried to cover it up with forged documents.
Sunday’s court session dealt mainly with procedural matters. The judge set a meeting with the prosecutors and the defendants’ lawyers for Nov. 13 and said he hoped all sides could narrow their differences “or even resolve the case.”
However, at this stage, the chances of a settlement appear to be slim because the prosecutors are likely to demand a guilty plea, something Netanyahu’s lawyer has ruled out.
At Sunday’s hearing, she was not asked to enter a plea.
Netanyahu’s lawyers have argued that the indictment does not hold up because the regulations for ordering meals were legally invalid and a household employee had requisitioned the food despite Netanyahu’s protestations.
The prime minister, who himself is embroiled in a number of corruption investigations, has called the allegations against his wife absurd and unfounded.
In what may be a final opportunity to save her life, a Christian woman in Pakistan appealed her death sentence for blasphemy to the nation’s Supreme Court on Monday.
Members of a radical Muslim group in Pakistan are warning of “terrible consequences” for the nation if Asia Bibi is given any sort of leniency.
Pakistan’s Supreme Court held a hearing on the case but “reserved its judgment.”
Members of the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan political party, the TLP, “which makes punishing blasphemy its main campaign rallying cry,” according to Reuters, said, “If there is any attempt to hand her over to a foreign country, there will be terrible consequences.”
In 2011, the governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, was assassinated by his bodyguard for speaking up for Bibi.
No one ever has been executed in Pakistan for blasphemy, but dozens have been killed by mobs bent on their own justice.
Reuters reported the TLP has no parliamentarians in the National Assembly but “wields outsized influence due to street power of its die-yard supporters.”
The Family Research Council said Bibi’s case grew out “of an argument with several Muslim women who grew angry at her for drinking water from the same bowl as them, which they believed made the water ceremonially unclean.”
FRC said Monday there “appears to be a glimmer of hope that she could be acquitted by the high court and set free, with sources currently reporting the justices are set to reverse her conviction.”
As WND reported, a three-judge panel was assigned to hear her case.
Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar was to be joined by justices Asif Saeed Khosa and Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel.
The American Center for Law and Justice, which defended her, said Bibi was “convicted in 2010 under Pakistan’s medieval blasphemy laws and sentenced to death for blasphemy against the prophet Muhammad after she offered water to a Muslim co-worker who believed Asia had made the water ceremonially unclean by drinking from the same cup.”
“Since then the Christian mother of five has languished on death row, while her husband and children wait anxiously, praying for a miracle.
“This is a clear cut human rights violation,” ACLJ said.
If the court rejects her arguments, only the nation’s president could intervene.