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Spain’s prosecutors drop all probes against ex-King Juan Carlos | News

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The public prosecutors clear the way for the 84-year-old to return to Spain from exile, listing various reasons.

The Spanish public prosecutor’s office has dropped all investigations into former King Juan Carlos, clearing the way for the 84-year-old to return to the country from exile.

The judiciary found numerous “irregularities” in the former king’s financial conduct but did not bring them to trial because of the statute of limitations, his immunity before his abdication in 2014 and taxes paid in arrears, El Pais newspaper reported on Thursday.

Since 2020, the Spanish authorities have launched three investigations into the father of King Felipe VI.

In addition to accounts in Jersey, they focused on alleged bribes paid during the construction of a high-speed railway line in Saudi Arabia and allegedly undeclared donations.

A Mexican businessman allegedly provided Juan Carlos with credit cards that he used to buy a jumping horse worth more than $11,000 for his granddaughter.

To avoid criminal proceedings for tax fraud, Juan Carlos paid more than $5.5m in back taxes about a year ago, as his lawyer confirmed at the time.

Spain's King Juan Carlos and his son Crown Prince Felipe (R) hug each other
Spain’s King Juan Carlos and his son Crown Prince Felipe, right, hug at the signature ceremony of the act of abdication at the Royal Palace in Madrid [File: Juan Medina/Reuters]

Juan Carlos has been living in exile in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi for about 18 months, far from his 83-year-old wife and the rest of the family.

The man who was Spain’s head of state between 1975 and 2014 secretly left his home country on August 3, 2020, in order to “facilitate” Felipe’s work as accusations mounted against him, as a letter published later put it.

Since then, Juan Carlos has hardly shown himself in public. The royal family does not comment on the former monarch’s situation in Abu Dhabi.



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Erdogan speaks to Stoltenberg over Finland, Sweden NATO bid | NATO News

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Turkey’s President tells NATO chief Sweden and Finland must address Ankara’s concerns before it could support their membership bid.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday said Ankara would not look “positively” on Sweden and Finland’s NATO bids unless its concerns were addressed, despite broad support from other allies, including the United States.

Turkey has long accused Nordic countries, in particular Sweden which has a strong Turkish immigrant community, of harbouring outlawed Kurdish rebels as well as supporters of Fethullah Gulen, the US-based preacher wanted over the failed 2016 coup.

Erdogan’s opposition has thrown a major potential obstacle in the way of the likely membership bids from the hitherto militarily non-aligned Nordic nations since a consensus is required in NATO decisions.

“Unless Sweden and Finland clearly show that they will stand in solidarity with Turkey on fundamental issues, especially in the fight against terrorism, we will not approach these countries’ NATO membership positively,” Erdogan told NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg in a phone call, according to the presidency.

On Twitter, Stoltenberg said he spoke with Erdogan “of our valued ally” on the importance of “NATO’s Open Door”.

“We agree that the security concerns of all Allies must be taken into account and talks need to continue to find a solution,” he said.

On Thursday, Stoltenberg said Turkey’s “concerns” were being addressed to find “an agreement on how to move forward”.

Erdogan speaks to leaders of Sweden and Finland

Erdogan, who refused to host delegations from Sweden and Finland in Turkey, held separate phone calls with the two countries’ leaders – Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson – on Saturday, urging them to abandon financial and political support for “terrorist” groups threatening his country’s national security.

Erdogan called upon Sweden to lift defensive weapons export restrictions it imposed on Turkey over Turkey’s 2019 incursion into northern Syria, a Turkish presidential statement said.

The Turkish leader also said he expected Stockholm to take “concrete and serious steps” against the Kurdish Workers’ Party, or PKK, and other groups which Ankara views as “terrorists”.

Andersson tweeted that Sweden looked “forward to strengthening our bilateral relations, including on peace, security, and the fight against terrorism”.

The PKK has waged a rebellion against the Turkish state since 1984 and is blacklisted as a “terrorist organisation” by Turkey and Western allies like the European Union – which includes Finland and Sweden.

Erdogan told Finish President Sauli Niinisto “that an understanding that ignores terrorist organisations that pose a threat to an ally within NATO is incompatible with the spirit of friendship and alliance”, the statement added.

In return, Niinisto praised “an open and direct phone call” with Erdogan.

“I stated that as NATO allies Finland and Turkey will commit to each other’s security and our relationship will thus grow stronger,” he tweeted.

“Finland condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. Close dialogue continues.”

Sweden and Finland, while solidly Western, have historically kept a distance from NATO as part of longstanding policies aimed at avoiding angering Russia.

But the two nations moved ahead with their membership bid in shock over their giant neighbour’s invasion of Ukraine, which had unsuccessfully sought to join NATO.

On Thursday, Niinisto and Andersson visited Washington, where they spoke with US President Joe Biden about their bids to join NATO in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Biden said “Finland and Sweden make NATO stronger”, and offered the “full, total, complete backing of the United States of America”.



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Wimbledon: How Russia’s war on Ukraine will affect world tennis | News

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The usual trophies and prize money will be on the line for Novak Djokovic, Iga Swiatek and other top tennis players at Wimbledon, but there is a significant change there this year: No one will earn ranking points, a valuable currency in tennis, when play begins on June 27.

The women’s and men’s professional tours announced on Friday that they will not award ranking points to players at Wimbledon’s grass-court Grand Slam tournament because of the All England Club’s decision to bar players from Russia and Belarus over the war on Ukraine.

Both the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) and Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) said they were reacting to what they called “discrimination” against tennis players.

Here is a look at how this unprecedented move came about and what it means for Wimbledon and the world’s top tennis players:

Why did Wimbledon bar Russians and Belarusians?

The All England Club, which runs the oldest Grand Slam tournament  – Wimbledon was first held in 1877 – announced in April it would not allow players from Russia or Belarus to enter the event in 2022 because of the war in Ukraine.

Chief Executive Sally Bolton defended the club’s move as following a directive from the British government, and she cited a “responsibility to play our part in limiting the possibility of Wimbledon being used to justify the harm being done to others by the Russian regime”.

Have other sports banned Russian athletes?

Yes, including in football, where the Russian men’s team was kicked out of qualifying matches for this year’s World Cup. Figure skating and track and field are among the other sports to have taken action against Russian and Belarusian athletes.

In tennis, players from those countries have been allowed to compete – including at the French Open, the year’s second Grand Slam tournament, which begins on Sunday in Paris – but as “neutral” athletes who are not being identified by their nationalities.

Who can’t play at Wimbledon?

The most prominent Russian tennis player at the moment is Daniil Medvedev, who won the US Open last September and briefly reached number one in the men’s rankings this year. Andrey Rublev, who is ranked number seven in the ATP, is another top male player.

The WTA’s number seven, Aryna Sabalenka, who was a semi-finalist at Wimbledon a year ago, and former number one Victoria Azarenka, a two-time Australian Open champion, are from Belarus.

Tennis players from Russia and Belarus will not be allowed to play at Wimbledon this year because of the war in Ukraine, the All England Club announced Wednesday, April 20, 2022.
A spectator holding a Russian flag during the men’s singles match between Russia’s Daniil Medvedev and Croatia’s Marin Cilic at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships in 2021 [File photo Alberto Pezzali/AP]

Why cancel ranking points?

The WTA and ATP condemned the invasion of Ukraine, but said it was not fair for the All England Club to prevent certain players from playing because of the actions of their countries’ governments.

“Our rules and agreements exist in order to protect the rights of players as a whole,” the ATP said. “Unilateral decisions of this nature, if unaddressed, set a damaging precedent for the rest of the tour.”

The International Tennis Federation also withdrew its ranking points from the junior and wheelchair events at Wimbledon.

How do ranking points work? Why do they matter?

The WTA and ATP official rankings date to the early 1970s and currently are based on each player’s best results over the preceding 52 weeks; women count their top 16 tournaments, men their top 19.

Swiatek is the 28th woman to sit atop the WTA; Djokovic is one of 27 men to lead the ATP and has spent more weeks in that spot than anyone else.

Wimbledon and the three other Grand Slam tournaments award 2,000 points apiece to the women’s and men’s singles champions, more than any other events. In addition to other measures such as trophies or prize money, rankings are a way for fans, sponsors and others – including the players themselves – to understand where athletes stand in the sport’s hierarchy.

Technically, any tennis event that does not award ranking points is considered an exhibition.

Has this happened before?

Representatives of the ATP, WTA and ITF said they were unaware of any previous instances of rankings points being withheld from a tournament.

Will any players skip Wimbledon because there are no ranking points?

It is too soon to know, but even without ranking points, Wimbledon still offers plenty of prestige and millions of dollars in payouts.

“If you win it, I think you’d still be pretty happy,” said Jessica Pegula, an American seeded 11th at Roland Garros.

“But I think it’s just up to each individual person – how they’re feeling, their motivation.”

What will happen at the US open?

It is not yet known whether players from Russia or Belarus will be able to enter the US Open, the year’s last Grand Slam tournament, which begins in New York on August 29.

“We continue to monitor events”, US Tennis Association spokesman Chris Widmaier wrote in an email, “and are in active dialogue with the Ukraine and Russian/Belarusian players, the tours, the other Grand Slams, and other relevant parties”.



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Israel, Switzerland report first monkeypox cases as virus spreads | News

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The outbreak of monkeypox in countries where the virus is not endemic is highly unusual, according to scientists.

Israel and Switzerland have confirmed their first cases of monkeypox, joining several European and North American countries in detecting a disease that is endemic to parts of Africa.

In recent weeks, more than 100 confirmed or suspected cases of monkeypox have been detected in the UK, France, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Sweden as well as in the US, Canada and Australia, raising fears the virus may be spreading.

The outbreak in countries where the virus is not endemic is highly unusual, according to scientists.

A spokesman for Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital told AFP on Saturday that a 30-year-old man, who recently returned from western Europe with monkeypox symptoms, had tested positive for the virus.

The Israeli health ministry said on Friday that the man had been exposed to a person with monkeypox abroad and that he remained in isolation at Ichilov Hospital in mild condition.

Switzerland also confirmed its first detected case of monkeypox on Saturday, a person in the canton of Bern who contracted the virus through “close physical contact abroad”, the canton said in a statement.

The person consulted a doctor because they had a fever and a rash and felt poorly, the canton said, adding that the person was in isolation at home and the illness was developing in a “benign” way. A person they had been in contact with has been informed, the canton added

The virus, which causes distinctive pustules but is rarely fatal, is endemic to parts of central and west Africa. Symptoms include fever, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, chills, exhaustion and a chickenpox-like rash on the hands and face.

The virus can be transmitted through contact with skin lesions or droplets from a contaminated person, as well as through shared items such as bedding or towels.

Monkeypox usually clears up after two to four weeks, according to the World Health Organization, which is currently working on further guidance for countries on how to mitigate the spread of the disease.

David Heymann, chair of the WHO’s Strategic and Technical Advisory Group on Infectious Hazards with Pandemic and Epidemic Potential, said experts were likely to give more guidance to countries in the coming days in how to deal with monkeypox.

“What seems to be happening now is that it has got into the population as a sexual form, as a genital form, and is being spread as are sexually transmitted infections, which has amplified its transmission around the world,” Heymann told Reuters.

He said a WHO meeting on the issued was convened on Friday “because of the urgency of the situation”.

Health officials in several countries have warned that cases could rise further in Europe as major summer gatherings and festivals take place in the coming months.



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