‘How can this be?’ Victim’s father testifies in Dallas wrong-apartment murder trial

By Brad Brooks

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) – Texas prosecutors on Wednesday said a jury should sentence former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger to at least 28 years in prison for mistakenly entering a black neighbor’s apartment and shooting him to death as he ate ice cream.

The jury could sentence Guyger, 31, to life in prison or as little as five years behind bars for murdering 26-year-old Botham Jean on Sept. 6, 2018.

Jean’s father cried as he told the jury of his intense pain following the murder of his son, who he said brought joy to those around him.

“How could we lose Botham – such a sweet boy? He tried his best to live a good honest life. He loved God. He loved everyone,” Bertrum Jean said as he wept. “How can this be possible? I’ll never see him again. I want to see him!”

Jean’s slaying by a white police officer had provoked street protests, particularly after prosecutors initially opted to charge Guyger with manslaughter rather than murder.

Lawyers for the victim’s family said they believed the verdict was the first time a white female police officer had been found guilty of first-degree murder in the killing of an unarmed black man.

“This is a historic case and history provides us with a teachable moment,” said civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, who also represented the family of Trayvon Martin, the Florida teenager shot and killed in 2012 by a civilian neighborhood watchman who was later cleared in court.

This case was unlike other recent high-profile killings, such as those of Michael Brown in Missouri and Philando Castile in Minnesota, since Guyger was not on duty or responding to a reported crime when she fired.

State prosecutors hammered at racist and violent text messages and social media posts that Guyger made in the months leading up to Jean’s killing.

One text Guyger wrote in January 2018 stated how she would like to use pepper spray on the crowd at a Martin Luther King Jr. parade in Dallas. In another she wrote that her black police colleagues “just have a different way of working and it shows.”

Prosecutor LaQuita Long told the jury that this past weekend marked the second birthday Jean’s family had mourned him since his death.

“I’m going to encourage you that the number you return with should be no lower than 28 years,” Long said. “That is what Botham would have celebrated on Sunday.”

Lawyers for Guyger called her mother, sister, a few fellow police officers and several acquaintances to the stand. They all said the former police officer had a caring personality.

LaWanda Clark, a longtime drug addict, told jurors how Guyger had ticketed her during a bust at a drug den a few years ago, but told the woman that she could “continue on the road that you’re on – or this can be your ticket out.”

Clark said she went through a rehab program, is now sober and employed, and credits Guyger with turning her life around.

“She let me know that I mattered,” Clark said. “That she didn’t just see me as an addict.”

Defense lawyer Toby Shook asked the jury to consider the unusual circumstances of this case, noting that Guyger “was not on duty. She just wanted to go home.”

(Reporting by Brad Brooks; Editing by Scott Malone, Bernadette Baum and David Gregorio)

Saudi rights official dismisses Khashoggi inquiry as foreign interference

FILE PHOTO: Turkish police forensic experts and plainclothes police officers stand at the entrance of a villa in the Samanli village of the Termal district in the northwestern province of Yalova, Turkey, November 26, 2018, as police search inside in relation to the investigation into the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. REUTERS/Osman Orsal/File Photo

GENEVA (Reuters) – The head of the state-backed Saudi human rights commission dismissed an international investigation into the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi as interference on Thursday, and said everyone accused was already facing justice in the kingdom.

Bandar bin Mohammed al-Aiban made the comments as Turkey’s Justice Ministry said Interpol had issued red notices – asking police worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest a person pending extradition – for 20 people regarding Khashoggi’s death.

Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, provoking an international outcry.

In his remarks, the first substantive comments on the case by Saudi Arabia at a meeting of the U.N. Human Rights Council, Aiban said those on trial for what he described both as an “unfortunate accident” and a “heinous crime” had attended three hearings so far with their lawyers present. He gave no names or other details.

Three dozen Western countries, including all 28 European Union members, called on the kingdom last week to cooperate with a U.N.-led investigation.

But Aiban said Saudi Arabia would not accept what he termed as foreign interference in its domestic affairs and judicial system.

“Justice in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia operates pursuant to international law and it does so in all transparency,” Aiban told the Geneva forum during a review of Saudi Arabia’s rights record.

“We are indeed horrified by what has happened pursuant to this unfortunate accident and we have taken those measures required for us to resolve this heinous crime,” added Aiban, who headed the official Saudi delegation at the hearing.

The Turkish Justice Ministry said it had requested Interpol red notices for 18 people on Nov. 15 and for two more on Dec. 21 without identifying the individuals. The notices were issued on March 1, it said.

Interpol declined to comment.

Ankara has repeatedly pressed Riyadh to reveal more details of the killing. It said earlier on Thursday that Saudi authorities should disclose the names of defendants and the charges they face if it wanted to avoid questions over the “sincerity of judicial proceedings in the kingdom”.

It also criticized Aiban’s rejection of any foreign investigation. “We find it difficult to understand why an official working in the area of human rights would possibly be unsettled by efforts to shed light on all aspects of the Khashoggi murder,” the Turkish presidency said.

Riyadh has rejected accusations by the CIA and some Western countries that the crown prince ordered the killing.

After making numerous contradictory statements, it said Khashoggi was killed after negotiations to persuade him to return to Saudi Arabia failed – and later that 11 Saudis had been indicted and referred for trial over the case, without identifying them.

The public prosecutor is seeking the death penalty for five of them.

The killing has severely strained ties between Turkey and Saudi Arabia, although Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has good ties with the Saudi monarch, King Salman.

(Reporting by Tom Miles, Stephanie Nebehay and Orhan Coskun, Ece Toksabay in Ankara; Writing by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky, Andrew Heavens and Frances Kerry)

Houthi drones kill several at Yemeni military parade

Soldiers inspect the scene of a Houthi drone attack at Yemeni government military parade in al-Anad air base, Lahaj province, Yemen January 10, 2019. REUTERS/Stringer

ADEN (Reuters) – Drones belonging to the Iranian-aligned Houthi movement on Thursday attacked a Yemeni government military parade in the southern province of Lahaj, killing several people, Saudi and Houthi media reported.

The attack comes as the United Nations tries to get peace talks going between the Houthis who control northern Yemen and the Saudi-backed government of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi by overseeing a limited ceasefire in the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah.

The parade was taking place inside a military base in al-Anad district when an explosion rocked the area, eyewitnesses said. They said high-ranking officers including Yemen’s deputy chief of staff had been wounded.

Saudi-owned Al Arabiya TV said five people had been killed and several injured. Houthi Al-Masirah TV said the attack had been aimed at “the leadership of the invaders”.

A military source said the focus of the attack had been the podium where senior officers were sitting.

It was unclear if officers were present from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, leaders of a Sunni Muslim Arab coalition that intervened in Yemen in 2015 to try to restore Hadi’s government, which had been ousted from the capital Sanaa in 2014.

The Houthis said in November they were halting drone and missile attacks on Saudi Arabia, the UAE and their Yemeni allies, but tensions have risen recently over how to implement the U.N.-sponsored deal in Hodeidah.

The Houthis and the Saudi-backed government agreed to stop fighting and withdraw forces at peace talks in Sweden in December following months of diplomacy and Western pressure.

The ceasefire only applies to Hodeidah province but the British ambassador to Yemen, Michael Aron, tweeted on Thursday that an escalation anywhere in Yemen “goes against the spirit of the Stockholm agreement”.

Implementation of the deal, the first breakthrough in peace efforts in five years, has stalled as the sides disagree on who will control the city of Hodeidah after the withdrawal.

Yemen descended into war after pro-democracy unrest forced late former president Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down. Hadi was elected to head a transitional government but after the Houthis took Sanaa he went into exile in Saudi Arabia.

The Houthis deny getting any help from Iran and say they are waging a revolution against corruption.

(Reporting By Mohammed Ghobari and Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

‘I can’t breathe’: Saudi journalist Khashoggi’s last words – CNN

FILE PHOTO: Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi speaks at an event hosted by Middle East Monitor in London, Britain, Sept. 29, 2018. Picture taken September 29, 2018. Middle East Monitor/Handout via REUTERS

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Journalist Jamal Khashoggi repeatedly told his killers “I can’t breathe” during his final moments in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, CNN reported on Monday.

Quoting a source who said they had read the full translated transcript of an audio recording, CNN said that Khashoggi recognized one of the men, General Maher Mutreb, who told him: “You are coming back”.

Khashoggi replied: “You can’t do that…people are waiting outside.”

His Turkish fiancee Hatice Cengiz waited for hours outside the consulate on Oct. 2 and, when he did not return, contacted Turkish authorities about his disappearance.

There was no further dialogue in the relatively short transcript, prepared by Turkish authorities, CNN’s source said.

As people set upon Khashoggi, he started fighting for air, repeating, “I can’t breathe” at least three times. The transcript then used singular words to describe the noises, including “scream”, “gasping”, “saw”, and “cutting”.

Turkish sources told Reuters a bone saw was used to dismember the journalist.

The transcript included no further mention of returning Khashoggi to Saudi Arabia and no indication that he had been drugged – as Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor said in November.

One of the voices was identified in the transcript by Turkish authorities as Dr. Salah al-Tubaigy, a forensic expert specialized in autopsies attached to the Saudi Ministry of Interior, CNN reported.

Tubaigy tells others to put in earphones or listen to music like him, the CNN source said.

Mutreb, a senior intelligence officer who is part of the security team of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, called officials and gave step-by-step details of the operation, CNN reported, finally saying: “Tell yours, the thing is done, it’s done”.

Turkish officials said last week that the Istanbul prosecutor’s office had concluded there was “strong suspicion” that Saud al-Qahtani, a top aide to Prince Mohammed, and General Ahmed al-Asiri, who served as deputy head of foreign intelligence, were among the planners of Khashoggi’s killing.

Saudi Arabia has said the prince had no prior knowledge of the murder. After offering numerous contradictory explanations, Riyadh later said Khashoggi had been killed and his body dismembered when negotiations to persuade him to return to Saudi Arabia failed.

The kingdom has come under scrutiny as details of his killing came to light. Making some of their strongest accusations so far, both U.S. Republicans and Democrats said last week they want to pass legislation to send a message to Saudi Arabia that the United States condemns the death of Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist.

A Turkish official said that by extraditing all suspects to Turkey, the Saudi authorities can address the international community’s concerns.

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir on Sunday ruled out their extradition. “We don’t extradite our citizens,” he said at a Gulf Arab summit in Riyadh.

Last month, Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor’s office said is seeking the death penalty for five individuals, and that 11 of 21 suspects have been indicted and will be referred to court in Saudi Arabia.

(Reporting by Sarah Dadouch; Editing by Dominic Evans and Angus MacSwan)

Berlin imposes entry ban, arms freeze over Khashoggi killing

FILE PHOTO: A demonstrator holds a poster with a picture of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi outside the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul, Turkey October 25, 2018. REUTERS/Osman Orsal/File Photo

BERLIN (Reuters) – Germany banned Saudi citizens suspected of involvement in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi from much of Europe on Monday and moved to halt all arms sales to the kingdom in a firming of its stance towards Riyadh.

The entry bans, targeting 18 Saudis suspected of playing a role in the killing of Khashoggi in Riyadh’s Istanbul consulate, bind all members of the European Union’s passport-free Schengen zone, suggesting that Germany is willing to use its influence as the EU’s largest country to push for a tougher line.

“We have coordinated closely with our French and British friends and decided, as Germany, to put an entry ban beside their names in the Schengen system database,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Christofer Burger told a regular news conference.

A spokesman later added that the government would further cut down on arms exports by pressuring arms manufacturers with valid export licenses to stop shipments that had already been authorized.

The moves represent a sharpening of the position of Germany, which last month imposed a ban on the issuing of future export weapons export licenses to Saudi Arabia until the circumstances of Khashoggi’s killing have been fully cleared up.

Any member of the 26-country Schengen area can unilaterally impose a binding entry ban on anyone it deems a security risk, although it unusual for a country to impose such a large number of bans at once in such a politically sensitive case.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters in Brussels the decision was closely coordinated with France, which is part of the Schengen zone, and Britain, which is not. He said EU states expressed “great support” for the decision when he briefed them in Brussels on Monday.

“We also had a joint statement on the issue this weekend, which indicates we are not satisfied with the results of the investigation thus far … and that we retain the right to take further steps,” he said.

Burger said the members of the 15-strong squad accused of carrying out the killing of the critic of Saudi policy, and a further three who are suspected of organizing it, had been given entry bans. He declined to name the individuals.

Asked if Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, seen by U.S. intelligence as having ordered the killing, was among their number, Burger declined to comment.

Saudi prosecutors said last week that the crown prince, Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, knew nothing of the operation, in which Khashoggi’s body was dismembered, removed from the building and handed over to an unidentified “local cooperator”.

An Interior Ministry spokeswoman said the ban would apply even if any of those sanctioned held diplomatic passports, which normally offer immunity to members of the Saudi royal family and key diplomats.

(Reporting by Thomas Escritt, Riham Alkousaa and Andrea Shalal, Editing by Michelle Martin and Alison Williams, William Maclean)

Congo bars tourists from national park after kidnapping

Britons Robert Jesty and Bethan Davies are seen in this undated photograph received via the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, in London, Britain May 14, 2018. Foreign and Commonwealth Office/Handout via Reuters

ABIDJAN (Reuters) – Rangers said on Tuesday they had stopped tourists entering Democratic Republic of Congo’s Virunga National Park during investigations into the kidnapping of two Britons there last week.

Gunmen ambushed Robert Jesty, Bethan Davies and their driver in Congo’s volatile eastern borderlands on Friday and released them three days later.

Park ranger Rachel Makissa Baraka, 25, was killed trying to defend them.

“The suspension of tourism is being undertaken as an additional precautionary measure whilst an investigation is undertaken surrounding the recent events,” the park said in a statement.

It said the suspension would remain in place until June 4.

Eastern Congo has seen successive waves of violence over the past quarter century and was at the epicentre of two wars between 1996 and 2003 that killed millions, mainly through hunger and disease.

Rebel groups and militias still control large swathes of the territory. More than 175 rangers have died protecting the park, which is in the rugged mountains and volcanic plains adjacent to Rwanda and Uganda.

FILE PHOTO: A mountain gorilla looks out of a clearing in Virunga national park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, near the border town of Bunagana October 21, 2012. REUTERS/James Akena/File Photo

FILE PHOTO: A mountain gorilla looks out of a clearing in Virunga national park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, near the border town of Bunagana October 21, 2012. REUTERS/James Akena/File Photo

Since tourism was relaunched in 2014, Virunga National Park – Africa’s oldest national park – has received more than 17,000 visitors, keen to see its rare mountain gorillas or climb the active Nyiragongo volcano.

(Reporting by Joe Bavier; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

Fifth package bomb strikes Texas, at FedEx facility near San Antonio

Schertz Police block off Doerr Lane near the scene of a blast at a FedEx facility in Schertz, Texas, U.S., March 20, 2018. REUTERS/Sergio Flore

By Jon Herskovitz and Jim Forsyth

AUSTIN/SCHERTZ, Texas (Reuters) – A package bomb blew up at a FedEx Corp distribution center near San Antonio on Tuesday, officials said, and the FBI was investigating whether it was linked to a series of four homemade bombs that hit the Texas capital of Austin this month.

Officials did not say if the latest incident was the work of what Austin police believe could be a serial bomber responsible for the four earlier devices that killed two people and injured four others.

The blast at the FedEx facility in Schertz, northeast of San Antonio, was the fifth in the state in the last 18 days. If it is linked to the others, it would be the first outside the Austin area and the first that involves a commercial parcel service.

“We are investigating it as being possibly related to our open investigation,” FBI spokeswoman Michelle Lee told the Austin American-Statesman newspaper. “We can’t know for sure until we have an opportunity to look at the evidence itself.”

The package, filled with nails and metal shrapnel, exploded shortly after midnight local time at the facility, about 65 miles south of Austin, the San Antonio Fire Department said on Twitter.

The company described it as a FedEx Ground sorting facility. About 75 people were working at the facility at the time, fire officials said.

The individual or people behind the bombings are likely to be highly skilled and methodical, said Fred Burton, chief security officer for Stratfor, a private intelligence and security consulting firm based in Austin.

“This is a race against time to find him before he bombs again,” Burton said.

More than 500 federal agents were involved in the investigation.

Austin Mayor Steve Adler on Tuesday sought to reassure citizens. “While the concern is real and the anxiety is real … it can’t immobilize us. It has to make us more determined. It has to make us more vigilant,” he told a local television station.

The White House is monitoring the situation, spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told Fox News on Tuesday.

Further stoking fears, Austin police investigated a possible hazardous materials incident at a FedEx facility in Austin on Tuesday morning. There was no indication it was related to the bombings.

The first three devices were parcel bombs dropped off in front of homes on in three eastern Austin neighborhoods. The fourth went off on Sunday night on the west side of the city and was described by police as a more sophisticated device detonated through a trip wire mechanism.

The four devices were similar in construction, suggesting they were the work of the same bomb maker, officials said.

The first two bombs killed Anthony Stephan House, a 39-year-old black man on March 2 and Draylen Mason, a 17-year-old African-American teenager on March 12. The third, also on March 12, severely injured a 75-year-old Hispanic woman. Police said they are investigating whether the bombings were hate crimes.

Sunday’s trip wire bomb, which injured two white men, went off shortly after police made a rare public call to the suspect to explain his motives.

Austin, with a population of nearly 1 million people, is home to the University of Texas and a plethora of technology companies and has been one of the fastest growing major U.S. cities.

(Additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee and Lisa Lambert in Washington; Writing by Scott Malone; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Jeffrey Benkoe)

Self-driving Uber car kills Arizona woman crossing street

Traffic passes an intersection just north of the location where a woman pedestrian was struck and killed by an Uber self-driving sport utility vehicle in Tempe, Arizona, U.S., March 19, 2018. REUTERS/Rick Scuteri

By Sydney Maki and Alexandria Sage

TEMPE, Ariz./SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – An Uber self-driving car hit and killed a woman crossing the street in Arizona, police said on Monday, marking the first fatality involving an autonomous vehicle and a potential blow to the technology expected to transform transportation.

The ride services company said it was suspending North American tests of its self-driving vehicles, which are currently going on in Arizona, Pittsburgh and Toronto.

So-called robot cars, when fully developed by companies including Uber, Alphabet Inc and General Motors Co, are expected to drastically cut down on motor vehicle fatalities and create billion-dollar businesses. But Monday’s accident underscored the possible challenges ahead for the promising technology as the cars confront real-world situations involving real people.

U.S. lawmakers have been debating legislation that would speed introduction of self-driving cars.

“This tragic accident underscores why we need to be exceptionally cautious when testing and deploying autonomous vehicle technologies on public roads,” said Democratic Senator Edward Markey, a member of the transportation committee, in a statement.

Elaine Herzberg, 49, was walking her bicycle outside the crosswalk on a four-lane road in the Phoenix suburb of Tempe about 10 p.m. MST Sunday (0400 GMT Monday) when she was struck by the Uber vehicle traveling at about 40 miles per hour (65 km per hour), police said. The Volvo XC90 SUV was in autonomous mode with an operator behind the wheel.

Herzberg later died from her injuries in a hospital, police said.

“The pedestrian was outside of the crosswalk. As soon as she walked into the lane of traffic she was struck,” Tempe Police Sergeant Ronald Elcock told reporters at a news conference. He said he did not yet know how close Herzberg was to the vehicle when she stepped into the lane.

Elcock said he believed Herzberg may have been homeless.

The San Francisco Chronicle late Monday reported that Tempe Police Chief Sylvia Moir said that from viewing videos taken from the vehicle “it’s very clear it would have been difficult to avoid this collision in any kind of mode (autonomous or human-driven) based on how she came from the shadows right into the roadway.”

Moir told the Chronicle, “I suspect preliminarily it appears that the Uber would likely not be at fault in this accident,” but she did not rule out that charges could be filed against the operator in the Uber vehicle, the paper reported.

The “Tempe Police Department does not determine fault in vehicular collisions,” the department said in a statement late Monday, in reply to questions from Reuters about the chief’s comments. “Ultimately the investigation will be submitted to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office for review and any potential charges.”

Tempe authorities and federal officials are still investigating the incident. Canada’s transportation ministry in Ontario, where Uber conducts testing, also said it was reviewing the accident.

Volvo, the Swedish car brand owned by China’s Geely, said the software controlling the car in the crash was not its own.

Video footage will aid the ongoing investigation, and the case would be submitted to the district attorney, Elcock said.

“Our investigators have that information, and they will be using that in their investigation as well as the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office as part of their investigation,” said Elcock. “They are going to attempt to try to find who was possibly at fault and how we can better be safe, whether it’s pedestrians or whether it’s the vehicle itself.”

WILD WEST

Uber and Waymo on Friday urged Congress to pass sweeping legislation to speed the introduction of self-driving cars into the United States. Some congressional Democrats have blocked the legislation over safety concerns, and Monday’s fatality could hamper passage of the bill, congressional aides said Monday.

Safety advocates called for a national moratorium on all robot car testing on public roads.

“Arizona has been the wild west of robot car testing with virtually no regulations in place,” said Consumer Watchdog, a non-profit consumer advocacy group, in a statement. “That’s why Uber and Waymo test there. When there’s no sheriff in town, people get killed.”

Arizona has opened its arms to companies testing self-driving vehicles as a means to economic growth and jobs. Republican Governor Doug Ducey reached out to Uber in 2016 after California regulators cracked down on the company over its failure to obtain testing permits.

Self-driving cars being tested routinely get into fender-benders with other vehicles. Last week, a self-driving Uber crashed with another vehicle in Pittsburgh, local news reported. There were no injuries.

A year ago, Uber temporarily grounded its self-driving cars for a few days following a crash with another car in Tempe. The company has been the subject of a number of complaints about its autonomous vehicles, but the company has said the cars were being driven by a human driver at the time of the incidents.

ESSENTIAL TO UBER’S SUCCESS

Uber has said its ability to build autonomous cars is essential to its success in the rapidly changing transportation industry. The company envisions a network of autonomous cars that would be summoned through the Uber app that would supplement – and eventually replace – human-driven cars.

Uber has logged 2 million self-driving miles (3.2 million km) through December. The company has more than 100 autonomous cars testing on the roads of the greater Phoenix area, the company’s prime testing ground due to the state’s loose regulations and hospitable weather. Rain, snow and ice are particularly challenging for autonomous cars. The company also tests in Pittsburgh and Toronto.

Concerns over the safety of autonomous vehicles flared after a July 2016 fatality involving a Tesla Inc automobile with a partially autonomous system that required human supervision. Safety regulators later determined Tesla was not at fault.

(Reporting by Sydney Maki and Alexandria Sage; Additional reporting by Dave Shepardson in Washington, Tina Bellon in New York, Heather Somerville in San Francisco, David Schwartz and Andres Guerra Luz in Phoenix, and Allison Lampert in Montreal; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Lisa Shumaker)

Head bowed, Florida shooting suspect returns to court for hearing

Nikolas Cruz, facing 17 charges of premeditated murder in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, appears in court for a status hearing before Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, U.S. February 19, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Stocker/Pool

By Katanga Johnson

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (Reuters) – A former student accused of last week’s deadly shooting at a Florida high school returned to court for a hearing on Monday in a case that has galvanized advocates of stricter gun control, including many of the rampage survivors.

Nikolas Cruz, his head bowed, hands shackled at his waist and wearing a red, jail-issued jumpsuit, showed no emotion during the procedural session in Fort Lauderdale.

The hearing ended with Broward Circuit Court Judge Elizabeth Scherer ruling that a defense motion filed last week remain sealed from public view. The content of the motion, sealed by another judge, was not described in the hearing.

A man mourns next to the crosses and Stars of David placed in front of the fence of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School to commemorate the victims of the mass shooting, in Parkland, Florida, U.S., February 19, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

A man mourns next to the crosses and Stars of David placed in front of the fence of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School to commemorate the victims of the mass shooting, in Parkland, Florida, U.S., February 19, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

In a second hearing, Broward Circuit Court Judge Charles Greene ordered the release of parts of a mental health assessment of Cruz by the Florida Department of Children and Families in November 2016. The report has already been leaked to South Florida’s Sun Sentinel newspaper.

Cruz, who did not attend the second hearing, is facing 17 counts of premeditated murder after the attack on Wednesday at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, near Fort Lauderdale. It is the deadliest shooting ever at a U.S. high school.

The suspect, whose mother died in November, was investigated by authorities after videos surfaced on the social media platform Snapchat showing him cutting himself, the assessment by the Department of Children and Families said.

“Mr. Cruz has fresh cuts on both his arms. Mr. Cruz stated he plans to go out and buy a gun. It is unknown what he is buying the gun for,” the released report said.

In a statement, department secretary Mike Carroll said the records showed Cruz was getting mental health services before, during and after the assessment. Cruz was living with his mother and attending school when it concluded, he said.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has acknowledged it failed to act on a tip called in last month warning that Cruz possessed a gun and the desire to kill.

Greene agreed to the request by Cruz’s team of public defenders to release the assessment. But he stopped short of allowing the release of details of Cruz’s mental health history and child abuse records.

Student survivors gathered with teachers and gun safety advocates to plan a visit to the state capital of Tallahassee on Wednesday. They will demand state lawmakers enact a ban on the sale of assault weapons in Florida.

The White House said on Monday that President Donald Trump supports efforts to improve federal background checks for gun purchases. Trump angered some students by suggesting in a tweet on Saturday that the FBI had missed signs that the shooter was troubled because it was distracted by its investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.

(Additional reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York; Writing by Frank McGurty and Ian Simpson; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Leslie Adler)

Kuwait condemns Philippine president’s call to evacuate workers

Kuwait's Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Sabah al Khalid Al Sabah attends the Kuwait International Conference for Reconstruction of Iraq, in Bayan, Kuwait February 13, 2018. REUTERS/Stephanie McGehee

KUWAIT (Reuters) – A top Kuwaiti official condemned on Tuesday a call by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to evacuate his country’s workers from Kuwait, suggesting Duterte could damage ties between the two countries.

Duterte said last week that his government would ask private airlines to evacuate Filipino nationals from Kuwait within 72 hours, after the discovery of the dead body of a Filipino migrant worker in a freezer.

Two planes full of workers arrived in Manila from Kuwait on Monday on flights provided for free by commercial airlines at the president’s request. On Sunday, the Philippine labor minister said more than 2,200 Filipinos were ready to take up Duterte’s offer.

“We are surprised and we condemn statements from the Philippine president, especially as we are in contact with the Philippines on a high level to explain the workers’ conditions in Kuwait,” said Kuwait’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Sabah al-Khalid al-Sabah.

He was speaking at a joint news conference with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson during a meeting in Kuwait of the global coalition against Islamic State.

“Escalation does not serve the ties between Kuwait and the Philippines,” Sheikh Sabah said, adding that 170,000 Filipinos “live a decent life in Kuwait … but separate accidents unfortunately happen, and we are providing our Filipino counterparts with the results of the investigations.”

The Philippines suspended sending workers to Kuwait in January after reports that abuse by employers had driven several to suicide.

(Reporting by Ahmed Hagagy; Additional reporting by Martin Petty; Writing by Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by Andrew Torchia, William Maclean)