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National News

Lawyers to wrap up cases in Alabama speaker’s ethics trial

KIM CHANDLER, Associated Press

 

OPELIKA, Ala. (AP) — Prosecutors and defense lawyers in the ethics trial of Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard will make their final attempt to sway jurors Friday morning before the panel begins deliberating the fate of the Deep South Republican.

The lawyers, in the conclusion of closing arguments that began Thursday, are expected to offer dueling views of the 54-year-old Republican, portraying him as either: A greedy man who used the power of his office, sometimes ignoring the warnings of friends, in order to bring $2.3 million in business to his companies or a citizen legislator trying to earn a living and targeted by overzealous state prosecutors with a strident interpretation of the state ethics law.

Jurors are expected to begin deliberations sometime Friday.

“Look at your notes and figure out, did at any point in time, did Mike Hubbard intentionally violate the law?” defense lawyer Lance Bell told jurors Thursday, adding that the answer was “no.”

A state prosecutor argued that Hubbard effectively put a “for sale” sign on his public office as he obtained consulting contracts for tens of thousands of dollars each month.

“He was selling his office. He just put a ‘for sale’ sign in front of the speaker’s office. That’s what he did,” Deputy Attorney General Michael Duffy told jurors Thursday. “He has diminished the integrity of our government … because he wanted to make some money.”

Hubbard pleaded not guilty to 23 felony ethics charges. Prosecutors accused him of steering GOP campaign work to his printing company; breaking a prohibition on soliciting “a thing of value” by taking consulting contracts or asking political allies, who were also lobbyists, for help finding a job; using the power of his office to benefit those clients; and asking lobbyists and company heads for $150,000 investments in his printing company.

Jurors will weigh whether the transactions violated state law or, as the defense claims, fell within exemptions for longstanding friendships and normal business dealings.

Duffy argued to jurors Thursday that it wasn’t friendship that motivated lobbyists and company heads to invest $150,000 in Hubbard’s debt-ridden printing company.

“They wanted things from him and he wanted things from them,” Duffy said.

Defense lawyer Bell lampooned what he called the prosecution’s “nothing” case, at one point sitting in the witness box as he argued no prosecution witnesses ever said they gave Hubbard jobs and money because of his position as speaker.

“Tell me one person who sat right here,” Bell said as patted the podium, “and said the reason I made that investment is because he is speaker of the House.”

Prosecutors and defense lawyers agree that the business came to Hubbard’s companies, but have offered jurors different interpretations of why and of Hubbard’s actions.

Hubbard was the architect of Alabama Republicans’ 2010 offensive to win control of the Alabama Legislature for the first time since Reconstruction. After the victory, Hubbard was elected speaker and the new GOP-controlled legislature approved revisions to the state’s ethics law in a special session called by then Gov. Bob Riley, a man Hubbard has described as a political mentor and father figure.

Hubbard’s own words played a starring role for both the prosecution and the defense during the three weeks of testimony. Prosecutors projected multiple emails Hubbard sent apparently seeking help finding a job, including many to Riley, who became a lobbyist with a blue chip roster of clients after leaving office. Hubbard in the emails lamented his financial situation after losing a $130,000-a-year job.

“I need to be a salesman for (Riley’s lobbying firm). Except for those ethics laws. Who proposed those things?! What were we thinking?” Hubbard wrote to Riley in 2011.

The Republican speaker took the witness stand in his own defense. In six hours of testimony, Hubbard said he took precautions to stay within bounds of the ethics law.

“Never,” he replied when his defense lawyer asked if he had used his office for personal gain.

In a contentious cross-examination, Hubbard repeatedly referred to Riley as “my friend Bob Riley” as he tried to emphasize the defense argument that these were conversations among friends.

“Your friend, the lobbyist,” prosecutor Matt Hart countered.

Hubbard will automatically be removed from office if convicted. Each ethics charge is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

 

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National Sports Pennsylvania Sports

Sharks stave off elimination, top Penguins 4-2 in Game 5

WILL GRAVES, AP Sports Writer

 

PITTSBURGH (AP) — There’s very little flash to Martin Jones. The San Jose Sharks goaltender speaks in a polite monotone, only too eager to deflect attention elsewhere. Call it a reflex action honed from years spent wearing a mask while intentionally standing in the way of a puck often fired at high speed.

Only this time he couldn’t get out of the spotlight. Not after spoiling Pittsburgh’s long-awaited house party with 60 minutes of the best hockey of his life.

The Sharks and the understated guy in net are heading back west for Game 6. So are the Penguins. The Stanley Cup, too. Blame Jones, who turned aside 44 shots in a 4-2 victory in Game 5 on Thursday night.

Outplayed but not outscored, San Jose heads home with a chance to even the best-of-seven series at 3-3 on Sunday.

“Joner bailed us out tonight,” said San Jose defenseman Justin Braun.

Repeatedly. Their breakthrough season on the line after spending the better part of four games chasing — but not quite catching — the relentless Penguins, the Sharks responded by jumping on Pittsburgh rookie goaltender Matt Murray early then relying on Jones late.

Not that he wanted to talk about it, not even after becoming the first goaltender in the expansion era to win two games in the final while making at least 40 saves.

“I don’t know, I felt good tonight,” Jones said. “I thought our (defense) did a good job in front of the net and we got a few bounces tonight.”

His teammates knew better. San Jose still has a chance to become the second team in NHL history to claw out of a 3-1 deficit in the final because Jones refused to serve as doorman for a coronation for Sidney Crosby and company.

“He was unbelievable,” Braun said. “He was calm. He doesn’t flinch. He doesn’t go after guys. He doesn’t lose his cool. He’s tapping us on the pads saying we did a good job and usually he bails us out. We need to give him a little more help.”

The Sharks, particularly their stars, gave him enough in the first period and Jones had all the wiggle room he would need.

Logan Couture had a goal and two assists while Brent Burns, Melker Karlsson and captain Joe Pavelski also scored for San Jose, which was outshot 46-22 but held firm after surviving a chaotic opening five minutes and playing capably after getting the lead in regulation for the first time in the series.

“We know we haven’t scored many goals or any in this series and it’s one of the reasons we’re down 3-1,” Couture said, “(but) we didn’t want our season to end.”

Evgeni Malkin and Carl Hagelin scored for Pittsburgh but the 22-year-old Murray, whose postseason play helped fuel Pittsburgh’s return to the final after a seven-year break, faltered early and his high-profile teammates struggled to the puck by Jones.

“We were right there,” Crosby said. “We hit a few posts. We were in around the net. Guys were working hard.”

Just not enough to finish off the Sharks.

San Jose coach Peter DeBoer preached patience with his team in a hole only one club in NHL history has climbed out of to raise the Cup. He pointed to the Sharks’ own first-round collapse two years ago against Los Angeles — when a three-game lead became a 4-3 loss that took an entire season to get over — as proof of how quickly the tenor of a series can change.

The Penguins stressed the final step in the long slog from the tumult of December — when Mike Johnston was fired and replaced with Mike Sullivan with the team languishing on the fringe of the playoff picture — would be the most difficult. Yet the prospect of celebrating the first title captured within the city limits in 56 years sent thousands into the streets around Consol Energy Center and ticket were going for well over $1,000.

Things were no different inside, with the largest crowd in the arena’s brief history — a group that included Pirates Hall of Famer Bill Mazeroski, whose epic ninth-inning blast in Game 7 of the 1960 World Series at Forbes Field a couple miles up the street marked the last time a championship season ended in Pittsburgh — in a frenzy from the opening faceoff.

It took all of 64 seconds for the Sharks to quiet them and 2:53 to leave them stunned. Burns’ first goal of the final, a wrist shot from the circle that didn’t look unlike Joonas Donskoi’s overtime winner in Game 3, put San Jose in front in regulation for the first time in the series. Couture doubled San Jose’s advantage less than two minutes later with a redirect in front of the net.

The momentum evaporated quickly. Malkin scored on the power play 4:44 into the first and Hagelin followed 22 seconds later to tie it, the fastest opening four-goal sequence in the history of the final.

Things settled down — at least a little — until Karlsson’s shot from in front with just under five minutes left in the first, set up by a pretty backhand feed from Couture.

The advantage set the stage for Jones, who spent a large portion of the second period fending off one odd-man rush after another as Pittsburgh’s frenetic speed pinned the Sharks in their end for long stretches. Yet the goalie who watched as a backup behind Los Angeles star Jonathan Quick two years ago as the Kings roared back to stun San Jose on their way to a title gave the Sharks the spark they needed to extend their season for at least three more days and keeping their slim hopes of raising the Cup themselves alive.

“We played the way we needed to win the game,” Murray said. “But their goalie stood on his head.”

 

Categories
National Sports West Virginia Sports

Moniak goes No. 1 to Phillies, buddy loses tattoo bet

DENNIS WASZAK Jr., AP Sports Writer

 

SECAUCUS, N.J. (AP) — Mickey Moniak made his mark in the Major League Baseball draft — and his buddy could soon be getting a permanent reminder.

Moniak, a high school outfielder from California, was selected first overall by the Philadelphia Phillies on Thursday night. Long before the draft, he bet La Costa Canyon High School teammate Ethan Abrams that he’d go in the top 10.

At stake: Moniak’s signature tattooed on Abrams’ rear end.

Just a few minutes after Commissioner Rob Manfred announced at MLB Network studios that the Phillies were on the clock, Moniak didn’t have to wait long for his friend’s fresh-ink fate to be sealed.

“That is very true,” a smiling Moniak said in an interview on MLB Network. “I’m holding him to that, too.”

Abrams, a freshman pitcher at Columbia this season, can return the favor by getting picked in the first 20 rounds someday, Moniak said.

Moniak became the first prep outfielder chosen No. 1 since Tampa Bay drafted Delmon Young in 2003. The selection marked the first time the Phillies led off the draft since they took Miami slugger Pat Burrell in 1998.

“I definitely wouldn’t say there’s pressure,” the 6-foot-2, 190-pound Moniak said. “I’m excited to hopefully prove the Phillies right.”

With no consensus No. 1 talent this year, there was plenty of suspense right up until the pick was announced. At least five players were considered in the mix for the top spot.

“Collectively, we believe Mickey was the best player available in the draft,” Phillies scouting director Johnny Almaraz said in a statement. “He’s a true center fielder with incredible offensive ability and the potential to be a perennial All-Star.”

Tennessee third baseman Nick Senzel went second to Cincinnati, giving the Reds a slugger who might someday provide pop in the middle of their lineup.

“This is the guy we wanted,” scouting director Chris Buckley said. “He’s a very polished player, one of the better hitters, if not the best hitter, in the draft.”

With the third pick, Atlanta took high school right-hander Ian Anderson. At No. 4, Colorado went with fireballing Kansas high school righty Riley Pint. Milwaukee selected Louisville outfielder Corey Ray to cap the first five picks.

Here are some other things to know about the first day of the draft:

SHOWING UP

Two prospects were in attendance at the draft site: Anderson and Georgia high school outfielder Will Benson, who went 14th to Cleveland.

Anderson, from Shenendehowa High School in upstate New York, slipped on a Braves home jersey and cap, and his mother, sitting with his father in a makeshift dugout in the studio, wiped away tears as her son shook hands with Manfred and placed his own name on the draft board.

“You never know going into the draft where you’re going to go, and going into the season you don’t know what’s going to happen,” said Anderson, who was projected to be picked later in the opening round. “I’m happy with the way it played out.”

The 6-6, 220-pound Benson, who was also with his parents, was a standout in both baseball and basketball at The Westminster Schools in Georgia.

“I love basketball, but baseball is my calling. It’s my future,” Benson said. “So I think I’m obligated to the Cleveland Indians to kind of just put my full focus on being great at baseball.”

He added that he will “definitely” sign with the Indians rather than go to Duke.

SLIPPING

Two players who were mentioned as possibilities for the No. 1 pick dropped out of the top 10.

Mercer outfielder Kyle Lewis went to Seattle with the 11th overall pick, and New Jersey high school left-hander Jason Groome was selected by Boston, his favorite team growing up, at No. 12.

Lewis is a two-time Southern Conference player of the year.

“We thought he was going to be picked before us,” Mariners scouting director Tom McNamara said. “We’re very excited that he made it to us.”

Groome, from Barnegat High School, fell over some concerns about his makeup despite a low-to-mid-90s (mph) fastball, nasty curve and solid changeup. He threw a no-hitter with 19 strikeouts early in the spring, but was suspended three weeks by the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association over transfer rules after spending his junior season at IMG Academy in Florida.

Delvin Perez, a shortstop from the International Baseball Academy in Puerto Rico, also dropped after being mentioned as a possible top-5 pick. He went 23rd to St. Louis after reports surfaced a few days before the draft that he tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs.

FAMILIAR NAMES

Stanford right-hander Cal Quantrill, the son of former big league pitcher Paul Quantrill, was taken at No. 8 by San Diego despite missing this season after having Tommy John surgery last year. He still easily got family bragging rights: his father was a sixth-rounder by Boston in 1989.

Detroit also picked a player with pro bloodlines, selecting California high school righty Matt Manning, the son of former NBA forward Rich Manning.

At 20th overall, the Los Angeles Dodgers selected Wisconsin high school shortstop Gavin Lux, the nephew of Augie Schmidt — the No. 2 pick in 1982 by Toronto.

CALLING AN AUDIBLE

Miami took Alabama high school left-hander Braxton Garrett with the seventh overall pick. He played quarterback and wide receiver before quitting football after his sophomore year to focus on baseball.

So, how did that decision go down in SEC country?

“Oh, goodness,” he said. “I was pretty good, so it was a pretty big deal. But it was a decision I had to make, and it was the right one.”

ON DECK

After the first two rounds and compensatory picks were made Thursday night, the draft continues with rounds 3-10 on Friday and 11-40 on Saturday — all via conference calls with teams.

 

Categories
National Sports

England fans clash with locals in Marseille at Euro 2016

MIKE CORDER, Associated Press
STEVE DOUGLAS, Associated Press

 

MARSEILLE, France (AP) — As cleaners hosed down sidewalks and swept up broken glass early Friday, the manager of an Irish bar near where soccer supporters from England fought overnight with locals in Marseille’s historic center said youths from the city’s gritty suburbs provoked the clashes.

The brief clashes late Thursday revived bitter memories of days of bloody fighting in this Mediterranean port city between England hooligans, Tunisia fans and locals of North African origin during the World Cup in 1998, and raised fears of more violence ahead of Saturday’s European Championship match between England and Russia at the Stade Velodrome.

Now, law enforcement authorities are bracing for two days during which tens of thousands of England and Russia fans are expected to descend on the city for the match.

French Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said four police officers were lightly hurt in Thursday’s violence and police detained two people, one French and one English.

“UEFA regrets the skirmishes that occurred in Marseille yesterday,” the governing body of European soccer said Friday in a statement. “We are confident that the safety of travelling fans will be ensured by the local authorities which are responsible for order in the city. We make an appeal to all fans to behave respectfully throughout the tournament.”

Following deadly attacks in Paris by Islamic extremists and fears Euro 2016 is also a target, security already is at an unprecedented high for the month-long tournament that kicks off Friday in Paris when host France takes on Romania.

Anthony Heraud, the 34-year-old manager of Irish pub O’Malley’s, told The Associated Press that local youths started the trouble in the Old Port.

“There were some small exchanges but nothing too nasty,” Heraud said. “Englishmen are cool. They were just partying, singing a lot. But no problem.”

An Associated Press reporter saw fans throwing bottles and plastic chairs at one another. Riot police with shields separated the two groups and fired tear gas to disperse them.

Mark Roberts, head of soccer policing in Britain, said England fans had been in the city “without issue” until locals arrived.

“At around midnight, there was a short confrontation where a group of approximately 70 local youths approached a pub where England fans had congregated,” Roberts said. “This was quickly dealt with by French police and one English supporter was arrested. We are aware of no further incidents overnight.”

At about noon on Friday, several white minibuses full of police were seen heading toward the Old Port.

Heraud said he hoped that beefed-up security would rein in potential violence in the coming 48 hours and prevent a repeat of the ugly scenes of the 1998 World Cup.

Then, hundreds of England fans were involved in violent beach-front clashes with locals in Marseille over two days around England’s match against Tunisia match, prompting a headline in a local paper: “Go home hooligans!”

One fan had his throat slashed, cafe windows were smashed, and bottles, glasses and chairs were thrown. The scenes further marred the reputation of England’s soccer fans following the dark days of hooliganism in the 1970s and ’80s.

English soccer fans have been largely praised for their behavior during recent tournaments.

Peter McKinley-Smith, a 52-year-old England supporter from Chesterfield, said Friday that it was only a tiny minority of hooligans among the thousands of true fans.

“It is a really, really small element who are here for that,” he said of the violence as he strolled around the Old Port looking for a French cafe that would serve an English breakfast. “Everybody else is here to enjoy the football and the French atmosphere.”

 

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National Sports West Virginia Sports

Curry says he needs to play better, and Warriors say he will

TIM REYNOLDS, AP Basketball Writer

 

CLEVELAND (AP) — Turns out, Stephen Curry has not entered some level of basketball infallibility.

His unanimous MVP selection, the record 3-point total, the league scoring title, all those accolades while he was leading the Golden State Warriors to an NBA-record 73 regular-season wins may have made it seem like he was in some sort of permanent video-game mode.

And then came the NBA Finals.

The MVP is struggling, and what once looked like a Golden State stranglehold on a repeat title no longer does. Curry has been held to 16 points per game in the first three matchups in this series against Cleveland, which resumes when the Cavaliers play host to Game 4 on Friday night.

“We can definitely help Steph out and we will,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Thursday. “We can put him in better position. … The coaching staff has to figure out the best lineups and the best looks. Players have to perform. It’s on all of us to be better.”

Curry averaged 30 points per game in the regular season, but it’s been a perfect storm in the finals for struggle: He missed shots he ordinarily makes in Game 1, got himself into foul trouble in Game 2, and endured a combination of more foul trouble and smothering, grabby, invasive Cleveland defense in Game 3.

Golden State leads the series 2-1, so it’s not exactly a dire situation the Warriors are facing. But if the Warriors are going to repeat, Curry probably needs to get somewhere closer to normal soon.

“Last night was a struggle,” Curry said. “Just, again, foul trouble and kind of dealing with that, but also not being as aggressive as I needed to be. I don’t know what the reason was for that, and it won’t be that in Game 4.”

The Cavaliers made sure Curry felt them everywhere he went in Game 3. When he tried to get into the lane, there would be someone waiting to bump him. Baseline cut, someone would make sure to impede his path. Flash toward the ball, and Kyrie Irving or another Cavalier was often there to take a little swipe at him — not enough for a foul, but more than enough to pester.

“That’s for all of their guys, not just Steph,” Cavaliers forward LeBron James said. “They do a great job of the ball moving, and when you allow those guys to move with freedom of space, they’re very dangerous. They’re already dangerous enough. So when you allow them to run around and not feel any pressure or any physicality or anything, you know, they’re able to just be even more comfortable.”

The 30-point romp in Game 3 might make it seem like the Cavaliers control the series, but they still need to win three of the next four games against a team that isn’t prone to slides of any significant length. Kevin Love appeared to be making strides Thursday toward a return from his concussion, but if he plays on Friday— and in what role — remain unanswered questions.

Down 0-2, the Cavs had no choice but to be desperate. After a 30-point win, James wants to see that same desperation.

“We can’t afford to go down 3-1 and go into their building and give them confidence going back,” James said. “So it’s a do-or-die game for us still.”

To knot the series, it almost certainly means the Cavaliers can’t let Curry or his backcourt mate Klay Thompson — and definitely not the both of them — have big games. Draymond Green leads the Warriors in scoring through three games of this series, which is probably more than Cleveland could have hoped for coming into the matchup.

“You’ve got to be so locked in where you’re almost in a matrix, locked in a zone,” Cleveland forward Tristan Thompson said when asked about how the Cavaliers guard Curry. “Because, really, if you relax for one second, Steph’s on the other side of the court and he’s getting the open 3 in the corner.”

Kerr played alongside Michael Jordan in the 1990s, so he’s seen what players who are the faces of the league — like Curry basically is now — endure when they struggle. Kerr said he rarely even has to give Curry advice on such matters, and poked fun at the notion that the Warriors suddenly went from strutting to sputtering.

“All we have to do is take stock,” Kerr said. “We’re up 2-1. We’re in pretty good shape. We haven’t played that well. Let’s play better.”

Curry offered similar sentiments.

“I like our chances,” Curry said, “of being able to figure it out.”

 

Categories
National Sports

Ali to return to his old Kentucky neighborhood 1 last time

BRUCE SCHREINER, Associated Press
CLAIRE GALOFARO, Associated Press

 

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Muhammad Ali will return to his old Kentucky neighborhood one last time.

Ali’s body will ride in a miles-long procession spanning his life — from his boyhood home where he shadowboxed and dreamed of greatness to the boulevard that bears his name and the museum that stands as a lasting tribute to his boxing triumphs and his humanitarian causes outside the ring.

Louisville is accustomed to being in the limelight each May when the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs captures the world’s attention. But the send-off for the three-time heavyweight champion and global advocate for social justice looms as one of the city’s most historic events.

“We’ve all been dreading the passing of The Champ, but at the same time we knew ultimately it would come,” Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said. “It was selfish for us to think that we could hold on to him forever. Our job now, as a city, is to send him off with the class and dignity and respect that he deserves.”

Ali died last Friday at 74 after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. The procession and memorial service follow a traditional Muslim funeral service held Thursday afternoon. The faithful traveled from all over the world to pay their respects.

Thousands more are expected to line the procession route Friday to wave a final goodbye to the city’s favorite son. The motorcade will begin at the funeral home and head north onto the interstate. It will pause briefly as it overlooks the Muhammad Ali Center in the heart of downtown.

The cars will head west onto Muhammad Ali Boulevard, pass the Kentucky Center for African-American Heritage and visit his childhood home on Grand Avenue. Then it will turn toward his final resting place. Officials predict a 90-minute tour.

The procession ends at Cave Hill Cemetery where his family and closest friends will gather for a private burial.

At 2 p.m., thousands will gather at the KFC Yum Center a final send-off befitting The Greatest.

The service will feature a eulogy by former President Bill Clinton, a longtime friend, and remarks by comedian Billy Crystal, television journalist Bryant Gumbel and the champ’s wife, Lonnie. The king of Jordan and president of Turkey will attend.

President Barack Obama was unable to make the trip because his daughter, Malia, is graduating from high school. Valerie Jarrett, a senior White House adviser, will read a letter Obama wrote to Ali’s family at the service.

The memorial is expected to draw 15,000 people and will bookend a weeklong series of planned services and spontaneous celebrations.

The Ali Center stopped charging people for admission. A tour company began impromptu tours of Ali’s path through the city. Businesses printed his quotes across their billboards. City buses flashed “Ali – The Greatest” in orange lights across their marquees. A downtown bridge said it would be lit the rest of the week in red and gold: red for his gloves and gold for his medal.

How can the storied life of a man revered by fans worldwide be encapsulated in a two-hour service? As it turns out, Ali called the shots.

Years ago, the champ signed off on how he wished to say goodbye to the world. One of his mandates was that ordinary fans attend, not just VIPs. Thousands of free tickets were snatched up within an hour, many fans waiting hours for the chance to witness history.

“Everybody feels a sense of loss with Ali’s passing,” said Mustafa Abdush-Shakur, who traveled from Connecticut to pay tribute to him. “But there’s no need to be sad for him. We’re all going to make that trip.”

 

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International Headlines

Eritrean extradited to Italy says he’s not smuggling kingpin

PATRICIA THOMAS, Associated Press
COLLEEN BARRY, Associated Press

 

ROME (AP) — The Eritrean man extradited to Italy under great fanfare as an alleged kingpin of a migrant smuggling ring told authorities on Friday that his arrest in Sudan was a case of mistaken identity, his lawyer said.

“It is clear for him he is not the man who is smuggling or trafficking humans,” Michele Calantropo said outside the Rome prison where the suspect was questioned by prosecutors from Sicily leading Italy’s anti-smuggling investigations in the presence of a judge.

Prosecutors identified the suspect as Medhane Yehdego Mered, an alleged mastermind of a migrant smuggling ring that has brought thousands of migrants from the Horn of Africa to Italy via lawless Libya. Within hours of the announcement, however, the Eritrean diaspora in Europe starting buzzing with reports that the man escorted off the plane was not Mered, but an Eritrean refugee with a similar first name who had been living in Sudan.

He has been identified by a Swedish-based Eritrean broadcaster as Medhanie Tesfamariam Berhe. The broadcaster has interviewed Mered, the smuggling suspect, in the past, and knew immediately that it was the wrong person.

Calantropo said that British authorities and the Sudanese police who arrested the suspect two weeks ago maintained they had the right man and that Italian authorities were now taking steps to verify his identity. Calantropo said he is requesting documents from relatives in Norway and Sudan.

He said no requests for DNA samples or fingerprint verifications have been made so far.

The lawyer made a request to release him from jail, arguing that he is not a danger. He expects a ruling next week. Calantropo said that a request for an indictment has already been made, and that he expects the case to proceed to a preliminary hearing.

Calantropo said his client says he does not speak Arabic, as Mered is known to do, and has never been to Libya. Mered is 35, while Berhe is 27, the Eritrean broadcaster said.

 

Categories
International Headlines

EU leader to meet with Putin in St. Petersburg next week

 

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Commission’s president will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin next week.

Jean-Claude Juncker will be the most high-profile EU official to go to Russia since it annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in 2014. He will address a Russian economic conference in St. Petersburg on Thursday and his office said he would also meet with Putin, who is attending the conference.

Both sides have already warned against any optimism of a sudden warming in relations and Juncker said last week there would be no letup of sanctions against Russia.

“I am sure they will discuss EU Russia relations,” said EU spokeswoman Mina Andreeva on Friday. She also referred to quotes from Juncker last week, when the Commission President said that EU sanctions would be extended by EU member states in the near future.

Like the U.S., the 28-nation EU has effectively frozen ties with Russia and imposed sanctions following the 2014 seizure of Crimea.

In Moscow, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the meeting would assess “what opportunities we have for maintaining and developing our dialogue despite the existing differences.”

 

Categories
International Headlines

Israel sets 3 day West Bank closure after Palestinian attack

 

JERUSALEM (AP) — The Israeli military said Friday the West Bank will be closed off until the end of the Jewish holiday of Shavuot on Sunday, due to security concerns following a Palestinian shooting attack this week that killed four civilians.

It said that crossings will be open for “humanitarian and medical” cases and for Palestinians to worship at al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.

Police said tens of thousands of Palestinians attended prayers at the mosque on Friday, the first of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. It said police were on high alert in Jerusalem and prayers passed peacefully.

Much of the past months of violence stems from tensions at the hilltop compound.

Muslims refer to it as the Noble Sanctuary, and it is their third holiest site, after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia.

It is the holiest site for Jews, who call it the Temple Mount because of the revered Jewish temples that stood there in biblical times.

West bank closures are often imposed ahead of holidays in Israel when there are security fears of Palestinian attacks. Tensions are especially high now after Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded five others in a popular and crowded area of Tel Aviv on Wednesday night.

The military said it arrested several people in connection to that attack in the West Bank overnight.

Over the last eight months, Palestinians have carried out dozens of attacks on civilians and security forces, mostly stabbings, shootings and car ramming assaults that have killed 32 Israelis and two Americans. About 200 Palestinians have been killed during that time, most identified as attackers by Israel. The assaults were once near-daily incidents but they have become less frequent in recent weeks.

The office of the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, on Friday condemned the Tel Aviv shooting. Spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said that Israel had an “obligation” to bring those responsible to account, but said some measures punish “thousands of innocent Palestinians” and could constitute “collective punishment.”

The military says the closure will end Sunday night after the Shavuot holiday.

 

Categories
International Headlines

Peru’s presidential election wait enters 4th day

JOSHUA GOODMAN, Associated Press
FRANKLIN BRICENO, Associated Press

LIMA, Peru (AP) — Peru’s presidential election went down to the wire, with the final ballots trickling in from abroad and frayed nerves reaching the breaking point as the wait entered its fourth day on Thursday.

With 99.5 percent of the polling stations counted, front-runner Pedro Pablo Kuczynski was topping rival Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of imprisoned ex-President Alberto Fujimori, by a 50.1 to 49.9 margin.

While most experts said it’s already mathematically impossible for Fujimori to make up the roughly 40,000-vote difference separating her from Kuczynski, she hasn’t conceded and her supporters are holding out hope for a turnaround.

“She’s worked so hard crisscrossing the country,” said Lusa Maria Cuculiza, a congresswoman for Fujimori’s Popular Force party. “It would be unfair if she doesn’t win.”

Dozens of supporters of Fujimori have held demonstrations outside the electoral board to denounce what they said was fraud, even though neither the candidate nor her campaign have presented any evidence to back up their supporters’ claims.

Kuczynski, a former World Bank economist, has urged patience from his supporters while talking as if he were already the winner.

Still being counted are the last ballots cast by an estimated 885,000 Peruvians eligible to vote abroad. Peruvians living outside the South American country, most of them in the United States, turned out massively for Fujimori in the 2011 election but with 90 percent of their vote already counted they appear to have favored Kuczynski this time around.

Another potential spoiler is the thousands of handwritten tallies that were being disputed and evaluated by a special electoral board. Currently 677 such tallies representing up to 200,000 votes remain to be computed. Disputes are common in Peru, where voting is mandatory and any observer can lodge a complaint, but they’ve never proven decisive in past elections and almost always a losing candidate ends up conceding defeat before they are resolved.

Both candidates have remained largely silent while awaiting final results of Peru’s tightest presidential race since 1962, a contest that ended in a military coup. While Fujimori has traveled every day to her campaign headquarters, Kuczynski has remained mostly holed-up in his mansion with his family and aides.

President Ollanta Humala on Wednesday urged Peruvians to avoid jumping to conclusions and said the police would remain on alert until results were known.

“We exhort the authorities to deliver the results the quickest and most-responsible manner,” he said.

Regardless of who wins, half of voters are bound to be disappointed, making it harder for the next president to govern. Aides in both campaigns were jockeying for positions in an eventual alliance in congress, where Fujimori’s party won a solid majority of 73 of 130 seats. Kuczynski’s fledgling movement will have just 18, fewer than the country’s main leftist alliance.

The 77-year-old Kuczynski was once far behind, but rose by reminding voters of Alberto Fujimori’s ties to the corruption, organized crime and death squads for which he’s serving a 25-year prison sentence.

Kuczynski also benefited from a last-minute endorsement by the third-place finisher in the first round of voting, leftist congresswoman Veronika Mendoza.