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A Polish court on Monday ordered a record high compensation of nearly 13 million zlotys ($3.4 million) to a man who had spent 18 years in prison for a rape and murder of a teenager he didn’t commit.

Tomasz Komenda’s case has shocked Poland, and the right-wing government highlighted it as an example of why it says the justice system needs the deep changes it has been implementing.

Komenda, now in his mid-40s was arrested in 2000 over a 1997 rape and murder of a 15-year-old girl at a New Year’s village disco party. He was initially handed a 15-year prison term, which was later increased to 25 years, despite him protesting his innocence.

As a result of family efforts, the prosecutors reviewed the case and came to the conclusion that he couldn’t have committed the crime. Komenda was cleared after DNA tests, among other factors, showed that he wasn’t involved.

Komenda was acquitted of all charges and released in 2018, having wrongfully served 18 years of his term. He had been seeking 19 million zlotys ($5 million) in damages and in compensation.

A court in Opole ruled Monday that he should receive most of that amount — the highest ever compensation awarded in Poland. The verdict is subject to appeal.

Two other men have been convicted and handed 25-year prison terms in the 1997 case.  Komenda’s story was told in 2020 Polish movie “25 Years of Innocence. The Case of Tomek Komenda.”




The Supreme Court is telling California that it can’t bar indoor church services because of the coronavirus pandemic, but it can keep for now a ban on singing and chanting indoors.

The high court issued orders late Friday in two cases where churches had sued over coronavirus-related restrictions in the state. The high court said that for now, California can’t ban indoor worship as it had in almost all of the state because virus cases are high.

The justices said the state can cap indoor services at 25% of a building’s capacity. The justices also declined to stop California from enforcing a ban put in place last summer on indoor singing and chanting. California had put the restrictions in place because the virus is more easily transmitted indoors and singing releases tiny droplets that can carry the disease.

The justices were acting on emergency requests to halt the restrictions from South Bay United Pentecostal Church in Chula Vista and Pasadena-based Harvest Rock Church and Harvest International Ministry, which has more than 160 churches across the state.

Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that “federal courts owe significant deference to politically accountable officials” when it comes to public health restrictions, but he said deference “has its limits.”

Roberts wrote that California’s determination “that the maximum number of adherents who can safely worship in the most cavernous cathedral is zero?appears to reflect not expertise or discretion, but instead insufficient appreciation or consideration of the interests at stake.”

In addition to Roberts, Justice Neil Gorsuch and Justice Amy Coney Barrett also wrote to explain their views. Gorsuch and Justice Clarence Thomas would have kept California from enforcing its singing ban. Barrett, the court’s newest justice, disagreed. Writing for herself and Justice Brett Kavanaugh, she said it wasn’t clear at this point whether the singing ban was being applied “across the board.”

She wrote that “if a chorister can sing in a Hollywood studio but not in her church, California’s regulations cannot be viewed as neutral,” triggering a stricter review by courts. The justices said the churches who sued can submit new evidence to a lower court that the singing ban is not being applied generally.




A Paris court on Wednesday ruled that the French state failed to take sufficient action to fight climate change in a case brought by four nongovernmental organizations.

The NGOs cheered the decision as “historic” for their country and a boon to those elsewhere using the law to push their governments in the fight against global warming. The four organizations are Greenpeace France, Oxfam France, the Nicolas Hulot Foundation and Notre Affaire a Tous (Our Shared Responsibility).

In its ruling, the administrative court recognized ecological “deficiencies” linked to climate change and held the French state responsible for failing to fully meet its goals in reducing greenhouse gases.

The government said in a statement that it “took note” of the decision, and provided a list of actions in the pipeline to “allow France to respect in the future the objectives it set.”

Government spokesman Gabriel Attal went further, acknowledging at a regular briefing that the country has fallen behind on its goals.

“It’s perfectly fair to say that our country has been lagging behind these past years in the fight against climate change,” he responded to a question. But he added that “we are tackling these issues.” Among other things, he cited 30 billion euros earmarked for greener energy policies.

A bill is being introduced next week in the Cabinet that includes measures to support renovation of high energy-consuming buildings and encourage greener transport.

President Emmanuel Macron, who has been very vocal about his support for climate change action, pushed in December for beefing up the European Union’s 2030 targets to reduce greenhouse gases by at least 55% compared with 1990 levels ? up from the previous 40% target.

But Oxfam France, Greenpeace France and the two other organizations contended that Macron’s lobbying for global climate action is not backed up by sufficient domestic measures to curb emissions blamed for global warming.




Moscow braced for more protests seeking the release of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who faces a court hearing Tuesday after two weekends of nationwide rallies and thousands of arrests in the largest outpouring of discontent in Russia in years.

Tens of thousands filled the streets across the vast country Sunday, chanting slogans against President Vladimir Putin and demanding freedom for Navalny, who was jailed last month and faces years in prison. Over 5,400 protesters were detained by authorities, according to a human rights group.

One of those taken into custody for several hours was Navalny’s wife, Yulia, who was ordered Monday to pay a fine of about $265 for participating in an unauthorized rally.

While state-run media dismissed the demonstrations as small and claimed that they showed the failure of the opposition, Navalny’s team said the turnout demonstrated “overwhelming nationwide support” for the Kremlin’s fiercest critic. His allies called for protesters to come to the Moscow courthouse on Tuesday.

“Without your help, we won’t be able to resist the lawlessness of the authorities,” his politician’s team said in a social media post.

Mass protests engulfed dozens of Russian cities for the second weekend in a row despite efforts by authorities to stifle the unrest triggered by the jailing of 44-year-old Navalny.

He was arrested Jan. 17 upon returning from Germany, where he spent five months recovering from nerve-agent poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin. Russian authorities reject the accusation. He faces a prison term for alleged probation violations from a 2014 money-laundering conviction that is widely seen as politically motivated.

Last month, Russia’s prison service filed a motion to replace his 3 1/2-year suspended sentence from the conviction with one he must serve. The Prosecutor General’s office backed the motion Monday, alleging Navalny engaged in “unlawful conduct” during the probation period.



GameStop’s stock is back to the races Friday, and the overall U.S. market is down again, as the saga that’s captivated and confused Wall Street ramps up the drama.

GameStop shot up more than 70% in midday trading, clawing back most of its steep loss from the day before, after Robinhood said it will allow customers to start buying some of the stock again. GameStop has been on a stupefying 1,900% run over the last three weeks and has become the battleground where swarms of smaller investors see themselves making an epic stand against the 1%.

The assault is directed squarely at hedge funds and other Wall Street titans that had bet the struggling video game retailer’s stock would fall. A couple have already essentially admitted defeat, with one saying Friday it would stop publishing reports on stocks it expects to fall. The army of smaller and novice investors, meanwhile, is pledging to keep up the momentum for GameStop’s stock in hopes of inflicting more pain on the financial elite.

The moves are reverberating across Wall Street, as concerns rise about how much damage the frenzy could do as its effects spill out into the broader market. The big professional investors who had been banking on a drop for GameStop’s stock are taking sharp losses. Investors say that’s pushing them to sell other stocks they own to raise cash, and that is helping to pull down parts of the market completely unrelated to the revolt by Main Street investors.



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