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Three Georgians accused of trying to stage prison videos

TBILISI, Georgia — Georgian officials tried Monday to take control of a week-old prison abuse scandal, arresting three activists from an opposition party, Georgian Dream, and releasing video clips that purported to show them offering the police money to stage scenes of horrific abuse.

The clips, which were broadcast Monday on all of Georgia’s main television channels, was an attempt to discredit graphic videos released on opposition television last week that showed inmates being beaten and sodomized by guards.

In one clip released Monday, a man identified as an opposition activist is seen providing a police officer with a cellphone to use as a recording device, offering him $30,000 for “a video of an officer beating fresh recruits in the army.”

Georgian Dream released a statement denying accusations of fraud.

The scandal has hit just ahead of parliamentary elections next Monday in which Georgian Dream, a new political force financed by the billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, hopes to make substantial gains.

Students have been gathering since last Tuesday, when two opposition television stations broadcast the abuse videos. Thousands marched from Tbilisi’s largest university to a judicial building Monday.

Tamar Lisiaki, 21, said the students had initially organized in the hope of forcing the dismissal of ministers, but were increasingly calling for fundamental changes to the state.

She said she had been particularly angered to hear counteraccusations from President Mikheil Saakashvili. “It took him one week to create a tale about what happened and to blame opposition in this,” she said. The authorities did not initially suggest the prison abuse videos were fabricated. On Wednesday, the senior official in charge of prisons in Georgia resigned, and Saakashvili was shown on television calling the abuse “a horrific affront to human rights and human dignity.”

—Olesya Vartanyan, The New York Times

Iran’s president spreads
the outrage

UNITED NATIONS — President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran stoked the anger of Israel, the United States, Syrian insurgents and gay-rights advocates Monday, using the first full day of his final visit to the United Nations as Iran’s leader to assert that he has no fear of an Israeli attack on its nuclear facilities, regards the Israelis as fleeting aberrations in Middle East history, is neutral in the Syria conflict and considers homosexuality an ugly crime.

In a series of public appearances that included a breakfast meeting with selected members of the press, a speech on the rule of law at a U.N. conference and a CNN interview broadcast Monday evening, Ahmadinejad sought to portray Iran as a principled and upstanding member of the global community.

But the Iranian leader, known for his denials of the Holocaust and other inflammatory language, ignored a warning by the secretary-general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, against making provocative statements. Instead, he offended a wide range of targets and prompted the Israeli delegation to walk out of the U.N. conference in protest.

Ahmadinejad, 55, is in the final nine months of his last term as president of Iran, and his annual visits to the United Nations for its General Assembly meetings have become something of a media event. Iran attached particular importance to his appearance this year because Iran is the rotating president of the Nonaligned Movement, which represents the largest bloc of members in the 193-nation General Assembly. Ahmadinejad will deliver his General Assembly address Wednesday.

In what may have been his most incendiary remarks Monday, Ahmadinejad belittled what he characterized as the insignificant history of Israel, compared with the long history of Iran. He told reporters and editors at the breakfast meeting that the Israelis had been around the region for only 60 or 70 years, in contrast to the Iranians, whose civilization has existed for thousands of years.

—Rick Gladstone and Neil Macfarquhar, The New York Times

Wall Street scandals fill
lawyers’ pockets

As Wall Street has faced a string of scandals, bank executives, investors and customers have suffered. But one group is thriving: lawyers.

Called upon to navigate crisis after crisis, the white-collar bar is having a banner year with cases like the collapse of the futures brokerage firm MF Global, a multibillion-dollar trading blunder at JPMorgan Chase and suspicions of money laundering at HSBC.

The global investigation into the manipulation of a crucial benchmark interest rate known as the London interbank offered rate has emerged as the most profitable for the legal profession.

While many of the recent scandals have been relatively isolated, the scope of the rate-rigging scandal has been vast, encompassing 16 banks. More than 10 government authorities around the world are looking into whether the banks conspired to fix crucial interest rates, potentially affecting trillions of dollars of financial products like mortgages and student loans.

The investigation is still in its early days, but experts say it is likely to drag on for years. Authorities could arrest traders this year, and more cases against big banks are expected. Earlier this year, Barclays agreed to pay $450 million to settle accusations that it had reported false rates.

Every major bank under investigation has hired a major law firm to represent it. An army of white-collar defense lawyers has been assembled to defend individuals. Plaintiffs’ lawyers have filed more than a dozen lawsuits against the big banks, claiming damages on behalf of institutions, pensions and municipalities like the city of Baltimore.

“This is looking like a full employment act for the corporate bar,” said Samuel W. Buell, a professor at Duke Law School. “It’s very hard to see how you draw a tight circle around this issue.”

—Azam Ahmed, The New York Times