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US judge orders removal of Huawei lawyer in sanctions case

A US federal judge has granted the government’s request to remove James Cole, a lawyer for China’s Huawei, from defending the telecommunications equipment maker against charges of bank fraud and violating sanction on Iran.

According to Press TV, Judge Ann Donnelly of US District Court in Brooklyn, New York, issued her order on Tuesday after federal prosecutors argued that Cole’s prior work at the US Justice Department created conflicts of interest.

Cole, 67, served as the deputy attorney general at the Justice Department between 2011 and 2015. He was appointed by then President Barack Obama.

US prosecutors said in a court filing in May that when Cole was deputy attorney general, he “personally supervised and participated in aspects of” a related investigation, but said the details were classified.

The prosecutors said Cole could use confidential information he obtained from the Justice Department to advance Huawei’s current defense strategy.

“There is a ‘substantial risk’ that Cole could use confidential information obtained while serving as DAG to ‘materially advance’ Huawei’s current defense strategy,” the US prosecutors said in a court filing in May.

Cole, a lawyer at the law firm Sidley Austin, said he had no recollection of matters referenced as the basis for his disqualification.

“We are disappointed in the court’s decision, which we believe violates Huawei’s Sixth Amendment right to counsel of its choice,” Huawei Spokesman Joe Kelly said in a statement. “We reserve our right to appeal this decision when appropriate.”

The US government accuses Huawei of defrauding banks to get around US economic sanctions on Iran. The company has consistently denied wrongdoing.

Huawei is the world’s biggest manufacturer of telecommunications equipment.

The company’s Chief Financial Officer, Meng Wanzhou, daughter of Huawei’s founder, was arrested in Canada on 1 December following a request by the US, which is seeking to extradite her.

Meng, 46, has said she is innocent.

The US and China have been engaged in a trade conflict for 18 months and have imposed billions of dollars of tariffs on each other’s goods.

The administration of US President Donald Trump has pursued a deliberate policy of attempting to hurt China’s economy in response to concerns about the shifting balance of economic power and unfair trade practices.

The US and China are also engaged in a number of other disputes, including US naval operations in the South China Sea, and the US relationship with Taiwan, and US Congress support for protesters in Hong Kong.