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Disturbing allegations emerge in NRL rape case against Jack de Belin, & more in News in 5.

-With AAP.

1. Disturbing allegations emerge in NRL rape case against Jack de Belin.


Warning: This article deals with an account of rape/sexual assault and may be triggering for survivors of abuse.

NSW State of Origin player Jack de Belin has pleaded not guilty to raping a woman in company with his friend.

The 27-year-old – whose partner is pregnant with their first child – was charged with aggravated sexual assault after the alleged attack on a 19-year-old woman in a Wollongong unit in the early hours of December 9.

Police allege he had sexual intercourse with the woman without her consent, in circumstances of aggravation, and in the company of his friend Callan Sinclair.

He is alleged to have raped the women repeatedly, grabbing her around the throat and leaving visible injuries.

De Belin is alleged to have at one point urged his friend Sinclair to “come have a go”, according to the Daily Telegraph.

After meeting in a nightclub, the men are alleged to have told the woman they needed to charge their phones before heading out again, so they went to the nearby apartment of de Belin’s cousin who was not home at the time.

The woman said she used the bathroom and a naked de Belin barged in to take a shower.

Police said the woman then left the bathroom, but after his shower, de Belin came out naked and forcibly undressed her. He then allegedly pinned the woman down and sexually assaulted her, with his hand around her throat.

Following the alleged assault, the trio booked an Uber back to the nightclub. The woman, with injuries to her legs, neck, lower abdomen and shoulder, fled to Wollongong Hospital where doctors performed a rape test.

De Belin entered his not guilty plea at Wollongong Local Court on Tuesday before the matter was adjourned to April 17.

The St George Illawarra Dragons lock successfully had his bail varied so he doesn’t need to report to police every Monday and Friday.

Magistrate Roger Clisdell added an additional condition that De Belin does not enter any international point of departure aside from travelling on an airport train line.

De Belin has also surrendered his passport.

Police prosecutor Sean Thackray had opposed the bail variation due to the “nature and seriousness of the offence” and the custodial sentence it carries.

Mr Clisdell said there appeared to be “a reasonably strong case” against de Belin.

But the magistrate agreed to delete his reporting conditions because the 27-year-old was “a high-profile sportsperson” with professional rugby league obligations and was therefore unlikely to flee.

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De Belin’s barrister, David Robert Campbell SC, told the court de Belin had a heavily pregnant wife and owned property in the area.

“The proceedings have to take their course in the usual way and there’s really nothing more he can say,” Mr Campbell told reporters outside court.

“Obviously, it was an essential (bail) variation because he wouldn’t be able to continue playing football with the team, pursuant to his contract, if we didn’t get it.”

Sinclair, 21, has indicated he will be pleading not guilty to the same charge.

Neither man commented as they left court on Tuesday.

The sexual assault offence carries a maximum penalty of 20 years behind bars.

The Dragons on Tuesday noted de Belin was now able “to fulfil his training and playing commitments”.

“The club will make no further comment as this matter remains before the courts,” the club said in a statement.

If this story brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. It doesn’t matter where you live, they will take your call and, if need be, refer you to a service closer to home.

2. One dead, 10 sick from Qld flood disease.

One person is dead and another 10 are sick from flood-related illnesses in Townsville following a once-in-a-century monsoonal deluge.

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The cause is melioidosis, which stems from floodwaters that are heavily contaminated with dirt and bacteria, Queensland Health’s Julie Mudd says in a statement on Tuesday.

“Given the scale of the flooding we are expecting to see increasing numbers of a range of infections, not just melioidosis,” Dr Mudd said.

Melioidosis and many infections that stem from flooding can more severely affect people who are unwell or elderly or have existing chronic conditions, she warned.

Floodwater is heavily contaminated with dirt and bacteria so people are being warned to ensure it doesn’t get into the body through cuts and scratches.

Two men drowned at the peak of the floods in Townsville and police are still searching for a 35-year-old man who disappeared in floodwaters at Groper Creek on Friday.

3. Clooney: Meghan vilified like Princess Di.

George Clooney is frustrated by the way Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, is treated in the media, comparing it to the coverage of Princess Diana.

Clooney has told reporters Meghan is “a woman who is seven months pregnant and she has been pursued and vilified and chased in the same way that Diana was, and it’s history repeating itself”.

Diana died in a car crash while being pursued by paparazzi in 1997.

Clooney and his wife attended the former Meghan Markle’s wedding to Diana’s son, Prince Harry, last year.

Clooney made the comments at the Television Critics Association conference in Pasadena, California. He is promoting his upcoming Hulu series Catch-22.

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4. Jury finds El Chapo guilty on drug charges.

The world’s most infamous cartel boss Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman has been found guilty in a US court of drug trafficking.

Jurors in a federal court in Brooklyn have found Guzman, 61, guilty on all 10 counts. He now faces a possible sentence of life in prison.

Guzman, one of the major figures in Mexican drug wars that have roiled the country since 2006, was extradited to the US for trial in 2017 after he was arrested in Mexico the year before.

The trial, which featured testimony from more than 50 witnesses, offered the public an unprecedented look at the inner workings of the Sinaloa Cartel, named for the state in northwestern Mexico where Guzman was born in a poor mountain village.

The legend of Guzman was burnished by two dramatic escapes he made from Mexican prisons and by a “Robin Hood” image he cultivated among Sinaloa’s poor.

US prosecutors said he trafficked tonnes of cocaine, heroin, marijuana and methamphetamine into the US over more than two decades, consolidating his power in Mexico through murders and wars with rival cartels.

Small in stature, Guzman’s nickname means “Shorty”.

The most detailed evidence against Guzman came from more than a dozen former associates who struck deals to co-operate with US prosecutors.

Through evidence from more than a dozen former associates, jurors heard how the Sinaloa Cartel gained power amid the shifting allegiances of the Mexican drug trade in the 1990s, eventually coming to control almost the entire Pacific coast of Mexico.

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They heard how Guzman made a name for himself in the 1980s as “El Rapido”, the speedy one, by building cross-border tunnels that allowed him to move cocaine from Mexico into the United States faster than anyone else.

The witnesses described how he built a sophisticated organisation reminiscent of a multinational corporation, with fleets of planes and boats, detailed accounting ledgers and an encrypted electronic communication system run through secret computer servers in Canada.

A former bodyguard testified that he watched Guzman kill three rival drug cartel members, including one victim who he shot and then ordered to be buried even as he was still gasping for air.

The US Justice Department said in 2017 it sought forfeiture of more than $US14b ($A20b) in drug proceeds and illicit profits from Guzman.

The trial also featured extensive testimony about corruption in Mexico, most of it involving bribes to law enforcement, military and local government officials, so the cartel could carry out its day-to-day drug shipping operations undisturbed.

The most shocking allegation came from Guzman’s former top aide Alex Cifuentes, who accused former Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto of taking a $US100m ($A141m) bribe from Guzman. A spokesman for the ex-president has denied the claim.

In one of the trial’s final days, Guzman told the judge he would not testify in his own defence.

The same day, he grinned broadly at audience member Alejandro Edda, the Mexican actor who plays Guzman in the Netflix drama Narcos.

5. Labor wins historic refugee transfer vote.

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Scott Morrison pulled out every trick to avoid a historic loss and in the end he was defeated when Labor decided not to pay some doctors.

Tuesday started with Labor searching for support on its amendments on an asylum seeker medical transfer bill, with the Greens “frustrated” at the last minute changes.

The bill had been amended in the Senate in December, but Labor only decided it needed to make more changes on Monday night, the day before it was due to be voted on.

The proposal called for a specially appointed panel to review medical transfer requests on Manus Island and Nauru, making it harder for the Home Affairs Minister to reject them.

Labor wanted to extend the time frame for the minister to make a decision on a medical transfer from 24 hours to “as soon as practicable”.

The party also wanted to expand the grounds the minister can reject a transfer, from national security to include a broader character test.

Greens leader Richard Di Natale went on TV to say his party couldn’t support a bill without a clear timeline and he wanted a narrower character test.

Shortly afterwards Labor came back with a 72-hour limit, and a character test that gave the minister tighter powers on who they could reject.

The independents were on board – but then Speaker Tony Smith dropped a bombshell.

He had been given confidential advice from the solicitor-general that the bill was unconstitutional, and also said he had been asked to keep it secret.

Mr Smith tabled it anyway. The advice said the amendment could be unconstitutional because it required public money to pay doctors on the medical panel.

The coalition thought it had a win – until Labor simply decided the doctors would be unpaid.

With the constitutional issue sorted, Labor and the crossbenchers teamed up for a series of 75-74 wins over the coalition.

The amendments passed the lower house on Tuesday evening, and will go to the Senate for approval on Wednesday.

The prime minister confirmed the laws will be given royal assent in the normal way, but he had some parting words for the opposition leader after his government lost a vote on legislation.

“The Australian people have looked at Bill Shorten today and they have found him weak, and he is,” Mr Morrison told reporters.

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