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The case of Amanda Knox - CodaGuadalupe del OlmoGuadalupe del Olmo

Posted 29/03/2015

By Guadalupe del Olmo

Perhaps one of the most compelling cases in recent European legal history has come to closure.

The story, although certainly not unique in nature, grabbed attention in 2007. It soon became an intriguing drama for the Italian public, for rather than being a ‘typical’ local murder investigation, there were all the ingredients to draw in an otherwise indifferent international audience.

Amanda KnoxAmanda KnoxThe age and mixed nationalities of those involved, was it a kinky sex game that went badly wrong, or cold-blooded murder? That was the burning question of the time.

The level of human collateral damage for friends and families was enormous. But that was then…

Italy's top court yesterday annulled the conviction of Amanda Knox and fully acquitted her in a surprise verdict capping nearly a decade of courtroom drama.

One of Amanda Knox's defence lawyers, Carlo Dalla Vedova told the press she was very happy and had cried with happiness. Lawyers for the pair had argued that the prosecution had made colossal errors.


The brutal stabbing of 21-year-old Meredith Kercher, alleged sex games and multiple trials provided fodder for tabloids on both sides of the Atlantic and inspired books and films.

The Court of Cassation threw out the second guilty verdict against Knox and her Italian former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, 31, for the murder, saying there was insufficient evidence to convict either of them.

Meredith KercherMeredith Kercher

Ms Kercher, who was from London, was found stabbed to death in a house she shared with Ms Knox in the medieval hill town of Perugia in 2007. Knox said 'I am grateful to have my life back' after acquittal by the Italian court.

Amanda Knox speaks to the media during a brief press conference in front of her parents' home with her fiance Colin Sutherland.

"I'm still absorbing the present moment, which is full of joy," an emotional Knox told reporters at a news conference, flanked by her family outside her mother’s home in Seattle.

Rudy Guede, originally from the Ivory Coast, is serving a 16-year sentence for the crime, but judges in the previous trials ruled he did not act alone.



It had been widely expected that, even if the court overturned the previous convictions, it would order a retrial.

Instead, both Ms Knox and Mr Sollecito are now definitively cleared.

"Meredith was my friend," Ms Knox said. "She deserved so much in this life. I'm the lucky one."

Ms Knox and Mr Sollecito, who faced some 28 years and 24 years in jail, respectively, have both already served four years in jail after an original conviction in 2009.

The roundabout acquittals almost eight years after the murder are sure to stoke further controversy and questions about the Italian justice system, which had by now twice overturned guilty verdicts in the case.


By Guadalupe del Olmo for EU Spectator



FACE FOR CHILDREN IN NEEDRandall CalvinRandall Calvin

Posted 25/03/2015

By Randall Calvin

FACE  is a Belgian association founded in 2003 by Flavia Shaw Jackson that operates in Cairo in Egypt to give support to abandoned children, orphans and street children, their families and local communities regardless of race, culture and religion. FACE’s projects materialize in orphanages, centres for street children, the development and enforcement of its own training program for the staff in the centres as well as in-depth research on “Kafala” (host families).

They do this by working at a grassroots level to identify the needs on the ground. FACE creates practical, innovative projects with children, to provide long-term sustainable solutions to lay the foundations for a brighter future.

FACE creates practical, innovative projects with children, to provide long-term sustainable solutions to lay the foundations for a brighter future.

I heard about this organisation after reading an article in December 2009, and what attracts me to FACE is that it endeavours to equip these children for a better life, to instil them with self-esteem and hope by providing them with the means to become strong adults in society.

FACE collects funds and material, organizes missions in Egypt entirely carried out by the founder and volunteers which accompany. FACE also brings international expertise to ensure a transfer of competence towards the local teams.

FACE currently supports seven projects which seek to respond to both children and society needs: satisfy their basic needs (food, health, security), provide a warm and caring environment, a medical and psychological support, a listening body for children to voice their needs and goals, access to education and skills, encourage creativity through many art and theatrical based projects. Those projects are run by local staff (100% Egyptian employees).

Orphanages and centre for street children: Since its inception, FACE has intervened on renovation of four orphanages for 290 children (0-6 years), one emergency child & mother support centre in Ghoussous (large slum of two million people) one centre for street children (900 children/month aged 5-20 years). In 2011, they fitted out a new orphanage in Benha for children aged six years and above (60 beds).                The buildings have been placed at the disposal of FACE by the Egyptian ministry.

Training programmes: As a result of its experiment on the field of orphanages, the organisation is able to confirm that there is a serious problem regarding the level of care given to children due to under qualified, underpaid and consequently, demotivated carers. As a consequence, FACE has developed its own training programme for the Egyptian employees that work on FACE projects: paediatric nurses, social assistants, trainers, directors, supervisors, and many employees of the Ministry of Health.

Advanced research on Kafala (arabic for foster families), Egyptian law strictly forbids adoption in the Western understanding of the word i.e. giving the adopted child the name of its adoptive parents. The Kafala system is authorized in Egypt. However, this system is complex and flawed, not providing a very viable alternative to institutionalisation. FACE has recently embarked on a detailed investigation of the system of Kafala in Egypt with the approval of the Ministry of Social Solidarity to identify incompatibilities between the law and working practice, in order to propose practical solutions.

 Where are they based?

The different projects of FACE are based around Cairo:

·   Four orphanages (Hegazy, Benha, Maadi and Zeitoun);

·   A centre for street children in El Salam;

·   A clinic in the slum of Ghoussous (project on hold due to lack of funding).

 Street Children

·  In April 2007, FACE was approached by the National Council of Childhood and Motherhood (NCCM) to set up a project for the street children of Cairo. The NCCM provided a building in the El Salam area, which was to become a drop-in centre (DIC) and will become a residential shelter.

·   FACE spent one year renovating the building and above all developing strategies by assessing the situation and needs of the street children, by recruiting and training staff and thus assessing the equipment needs and any possible partnerships.

 · Outreach is the starting point of the project and comprises an important element which remains constant throughout the project.  This is a trained team of social workers and doctors who go out onto the streets to meet the children and to establish the first contact with them, in order to develop, little by little, a relationship of trust, using non-intrusive methods. This method establishes the foundations by developing the relationship with the children necessary for the remainder of the project.


FACE for Children in Need is a Registered Charity

Licence Number 40 (Egypt)

862.061.170 (Belgium) 1129032 (United Kingdom)



Reminiscent of Paris - Tunis Museum Massacre

Posted 18/03/2015

Seventeen foreign tourists, including Polish, Italian, German and Spanish citizens, are among 19 people confirmed dead in a gun attack at Tunisia's national museum.

Gunmen opened fire on tourists getting off buses outside Tunisia's national museum today, killing at least 19 people and taking a number of people hostage.

Tunisian Prime Minister Habib Essid said 17 foreign tourists, including Polish, Italian, German and Spanish citizens, are among the dead.
A Tunisian citizen and a policeman also died in the attack, Mr Essid said.

Security forces stormed the Bardo museum in central Tunis around two hours after the attack began and killed two militants, freeing all the captives, a government spokesman said. One policeman was killed in the rescue operation.


Polish and Italian tourists were also among the wounded, officials added. Television footage showed dozens of people, including elderly foreigners and one man carrying a child, running for shelter in the compound next to the parliament, covered by security forces aiming rifles into the air. The attack on such a high-profile target is a blow for the small North African country that relies heavily on European tourism and has avoided major militant violence since its 2011 uprising to oust autocrat Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali.

Police could not immediately say who the gunmen were.

But several Islamist militant groups have emerged in Tunisia since the uprising and authorities estimate about 3,000 Tunisians have also joined fighters in Iraq and Syria, raising fears they could return and mount attacks at home.

"Two militants opened fire on the tourists as they were getting off the buses before fleeing into the museum," one Bardo employee told Reuters at the scene.

An official at the Italian foreign ministry in Rome said two Italians had been wounded in the attack.

About another 100 Italians were in the area and had been taken to safety by Tunisian police, authorities added.

The museum is known for its collection of ancient Tunisian artefacts and mosaics and other treasures from classical Rome and Greece.

Tunisia has struggled with Islamist extremism, including militants linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State, after its authoritarian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was overthrown in January 2011.

Dozens of police officers and military personnel have been killed or wounded in attacks blamed on Islamist militants.

Authorities have said as many as 3,000 Tunisians have travelled to Iraq and Syria to fight with jihadist groups, including IS.

There were no immediate reports the attackers had copied Islamic State militants in Iraq by targeting exhibits seen by hardliners as idolatrous.
Tunisia's uprising inspired "Arab Spring" revolts in neighbouring Libya and in Egypt, Syria and Yemen.

But its adoption of a new constitution and staging of largely peaceful elections has won widespread praise and stood in stark contrast to the chaos that has plagued those countries.

Islamic State affiliates are gaining a foothold in neighbouring Libya where two rival governments are battling for control.

A senior Tunisian militant was killed while fighting for Islamic State in the Libyan city of Sirte over the past week, authorities said.

Today’s assault was the worst attack involving foreigners in Tunisia since an al-Qaeda suicide bombing on a synagogue killed 21 people on the tourist island of Djerba in 2002.



Juncker calls for EU army in wake of tensions with Russia

Posted 09/03/2015

European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker has called for the creation of an EU army in the wake of rising tensions with Russia.

Mr Juncker said the force could help counter new threats beyond the bloc's borders and defend European "values."

In an interview with Germany's Welt am Sonntag newspaper, he said: "You would not create a European army to use it immediately."

"But a common army among the Europeans would convey to Russia that we are serious about defending the values of the European Union."

He said a joint EU force would also lead to more efficient spending on military equipment and drive further integration of the bloc's 28 member states.

"Such an army would help us design a common foreign and security policy," the former prime minister of Luxembourg said, but added that the force should not challenge NATO's defence role.


"Europe's image has suffered dramatically and also in terms of foreign policy, we don't seem to be taken entirely seriously."

The proposal is likely to rile opponents of deeper EU integration such as Britain but won some support from Germany.

Welt am Sonntag quoted the head of the German parliament's foreign policy committee, Norbert Roettgen, as saying that an EU army                 "is a European vision whose time has come".

Germany's Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement that "our future as Europeans will one day be a European army," although she added "not in the short term."

She said such a move would "strengthen Europe's security" and "strengthen a European pillar in the transatlantic alliance."

The newspaper said that former NATO secretary general Javier Solana would present a report tomorrow in Brussels entitled "More Union in European Defence."

It will call for a new European security strategy, including military capability to intervene beyond EU borders.



Irish company refuses to print gay wedding invitations


Posted 06/03/2015

The Thirty-fourth Amendment of the Constitution (Marriage Equality) Bill 2015 (bill no.5 of 2015) is a proposed amendment to the constitution of Ireland to mandate provision for same-sex marriage. The bill was introduced to the Oireachtas (Irish Parliament) in January 2015 by the Fine Gael–Labour government, both houses of the Oireachtas passed the bill in time for a referendum to be held on 22nd of May 2015; all constitutional amendments must be put to a referendum in the Republic of Ireland.

The bill as introduced proposes to insert a new subsection 4 to Article 41 of the Constitution. The text will read: Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.


A very clear and simple sentence one would say, and polls over recent years have consistently shown a wide margin in favour of the amendment, reaching figures of up to 80% in favour of the proposal. The amendment enjoys cross-party support from all groups in the Irish Parliament with few dissenters. However, the coalition government, who have brought forward the amendment, have been cautioned not to be too complacent -as history has shown (despite the polls) how the electorate can deliver some unpleasant surprises on election day.

Against that background, as a singular example, not everybody is singing from the same hymn sheet. A printing company in Co. Louth in Ireland, has defended its decision not to print wedding invitations for a gay couple.

A spokesperson for Beulah Print said "we are not against homosexuals however we do not support same sex marriage, which printing wedding invitations would do".

Jonathon Brennan, who had asked the company to print the invitations for him and his partner John Kierans, said: "I am a Catholic man, I have faith and the decision by Beulah Print has hurt me".

The couple have been together for eight years and are marrying in a civil ceremony on the 3rd of August in Celbridge, Co. Kildare.
Mr Brennan is the proprietor of Avenue hairdressers in Drogheda, and has used the services of Beulah Print for posters and flyers related to his work.

He asked the company to print the wedding invitations.
He believed that when Noel Tuite, co-owner of the printing company, called to him at work about it yesterday it was to look at samples.
Instead, he was told the company did not agree with homosexuality and "there is a conflict of interest here and we refuse to do business with you. I was baffled," Mr Brennan said.

He said Mr Tuite told him that if the company was given an image of a naked woman and asked to print it on a poster, that they would refuse to do that as well.

"How offensive that they are linking a wedding invitation to a pornographic image. I couldn't get over it.”

"I said I really wish I had of been fully aware of your conflict of interest four years ago before I started doing business with you."

In a statement the company said: "We, at Beulah Print, are Bible-believing Christians who are committed to standing by our conscience and God's Word.

"We have been in business for 12 years during which time we have held to our convictions and have at times declined a variety of work which we felt was clearly contrary to our beliefs.”
"We have never hidden our faith from our customers and represent the gospel at every opportunity. We are not against homosexuals however, we do not support same sex marriage, which printing wedding invitations would do."
"We believe the love of God is extended to all people and that he has called us all to walk in the light of his word, for he is the way, the truth and the life."
Mr Brennan said: "I am a Catholic man I have faith, I go to mass, I say prayers and I light candles."

"For me God teaches us to love one another and to love thy neighbour and not to hurt anybody and I am shocked that as Christians that they don't love one another, they hurt me, they caused that, they caused this hurt."

Mr Brennan said he was aware of the company's statement. "I can't help but feel they are on the wrong path. I'd love to give them a shake and say wake up, you are doing yourselves terrible damage here. I am feeling sorry for them," he added.

The couple has offers from other companies to print their invitations.

Currently 24 of the 50 countries and four of the six dependent territories in Europe recognize some type of same-sex unions, among them a majority of members of the European Union. Eleven European countries legally recognize same-sex marriage, namely Belgium, Denmark, France, Iceland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

An additional twelve countries have a form of civil union or unregistered cohabitation, as do four dependent territories. San Marino only allows immigration and cohabitation of a citizen's partner. Several countries are currently considering same-sex union recognition.

The constitutions of Belarus, Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Montenegro, Poland, Serbia, Slovakia and Ukraine define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, banning same-sex marriage.