Sudan coup: Military warns against disturbances

Sudan’s military coup leaders have warned protesters still on the streets that there will be “zero tolerance” for disturbances.

A spokesman insisted the army did not seek power and Sudan’s future would be decided by the protesters – but said the army would maintain public order.

Protesters are still out in Khartoum, fearing the coup leaders are too close to ousted ruler Omar al-Bashir.

The military says it will not extradite Mr Bashir on war crimes charges.

Mr Bashir is the subject of two international arrest warrants issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC). He is accused of organising war crimes and crimes against humanity in Sudan’s Darfur region between 2003 and 2008, allegations he denies.

However, he may be put on trial inside Sudan, according to the military council set up after the coup.

Mr Bashir, one of the world’s longest-serving leaders until he was ousted on Thursday, is now in custody.

His downfall followed months of unrest that began in December over rising prices. At least 38 people have died in the protests.

What are the military offering the protesters?

The army has said it will oversee a transitional period followed by elections. As part of this, it is imposing a three-month state of emergency, with the constitution suspended.

The military council will be in place for a maximum of two years, it says, but could last only a month if the transition to civilian rule is managed smoothly.

Lt-Gen Omar Zain al-Abidin, who heads the military council’s political committee, said on Friday: “The solutions will be devised by those in protest.

“You, the people, will provide the solutions for all economic and political issues. We have come with no ideology, we have come here to maintain order and security to provide the opportunity for the people of Sudan to achieve the change they aspire to.

“We have no ambition to hold the reins of power. We are here to provide an all-inclusive umbrella.

“Our key responsibility is to maintain public order,” he added. “We will have zero tolerance for any misdeed in any corner of the country.”

Later on Friday state media said the military had asked political parties to name representatives for a meeting with coup leaders at a later date.

Why are protesters so wary?

Thousands remained camped out near military headquarters in the capital on Friday, ignoring a curfew declared by the military.

They are demanding a transition to civilian rule before they return home.

The new military council is headed by Defence Minister Awad Ibn Auf, who was previously regarded as being well placed to succeed Mr Bashir.

Thursday’s coup announcement was made by the defence minister Awad Ibn Auf

During the Darfur conflict, he was head of military intelligence. The US imposed sanctions on him in 2007 in relation to his alleged support for militia blamed for atrocities in Darfur.

On Thursday Sara Abdeljalil, a member of the Sudanese Professionals’ Association (SPA) which has spearheaded the protests, called the new military council a “continuation of the same regime”.

“So what we need to do is to continue the fight and the peaceful resistance,” she said.

Anti-Bashir protesters celebrate

Reacting to the military’s statement on Friday, Khartoum resident Tagreed Abdin told the BBC: “We don’t know who’s behind the military council.

“We are used to hearing government double-speak but we need to see if they’re really interested in dialogue and listening to the voices of the people.”

The army said it had ruled out a violent response to the protests before Mr Bashir was overthrown because they didn’t want the loss of life. It will be difficult (of course not impossible) to walk back on that.

There is then the question of the dynamics within the army. Younger officers and rank and file will have been emboldened by their role and public reception during the protests. Will they be content to allow the Mr Bashir generation monopolise military power?

And there’s the economic crisis brought about by misrule, corruption and loss of oil revenues. Even the regime’s friends in the Middle East and Asia will think twice about rescue packages if it looks like a new version of the old venality and brutality. That’s an important pressure.

This is an exciting moment. Just think about the role of women in all of this, of social media and civil society. It’s happening in Sudan but the significance of these forces working peaceful for change is universal. Yes it’s very precarious, but also full of possibility.

Presentational grey line

What is the reaction abroad?

UN Secretary-General António Guterres appealed for “calm and utmost restraint by all” and urged a transition that would meet the “democratic aspirations” of the people. The UN Security Council is to discuss the situation in a closed-door meeting on Friday.

UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said that a two-year military council was “not the answer” and called for a “swift move to an inclusive, representative, civilian leadership”.

Sudan protests: So what’s going on?

The African Union condemned the military takeover, saying it was not an appropriate response to the challenges facing Sudan and the aspirations of its people.

Russia, which twice hosted Mr Bashir despite the international travel ban he faced, called for calm.

Internet Archive denies hosting ‘terrorist’ content

The Internet Archive has been hit with 550 “false” demands to remove “terrorist propaganda” from its servers in less than a week.

The demands came via the Europol net monitoring unit and gave the site only one hour to comply.

The Internet Archive said the demands wrongly accused it of hosting terror-related material.

The website said the requests set a poor precedent ahead of new European rules governing removal of content.

If the Archive does not comply with the notices, it risks its site getting added to lists which ISPs are required to block.

Automatic removal

The Internet Archive, which uses the archive.org web address, is a non-profit organisation that lets people save and visit pages that might otherwise have been lost from the net.

In a blog, the website’s Chris Butler said that it had received notices identifying hundreds of web addresses stored on archive.org as leading people to banned material.

However, Mr Butler said, the reports were wrong about the content they pointed to, or were too broad for the organisation to comply with.

Some of the requests referred to material that had “high scholarly and research value” and were not produced by terror groups, he said.

Others called for the delisting of massively popular links that led people to “millions” of items.

Article 13

As well as listing vast amounts of non-contentious data, Mr Butler said, the demands to remove material were issued during the night when the Archive was unstaffed. This made it impossible to react within the one-hour window demanded by the notices, he said.

“It is not possible for us to process these reports using human review within a very limited timeframe like one hour,” he said.

He asked: “Are we to simply take what’s reported as ‘terrorism’ at face value and risk the automatic removal of things like the primary collection page for all books on archive.org?”

Initially the website believed that the notices came from a unit within the Europol European policing group, known as the Internet Referral Unit (IRU). It is tasked with seeking out terror-related materials and making net firms remove them.

However, Europol said the requests actually came from the French IRU which routed its requests through Europol.

The French IRU has not yet responded to a BBC request for comment on why it issued so many reports to the site.

Mr Butler said the Archive had not complied with the requests and was still receiving lots of takedown notices from the French IRU.

He said the Archive’s experience did not bode well for impending European rules governing the use of copyrighted material.

The Article 13 provision of European laws asks sites to get content checked before it is uploaded.

Dutch fertility doctor used own sperm to father 49 children, DNA tests show

A Dutch fertility doctor accused of using his own sperm to inseminate patients without their consent has been confirmed as the father of 49 children.

DNA tests revealed that Jan Karbaat, who died two years ago, impregnated their mothers at his clinic in Bijdorp, near Rotterdam.

The results were confirmed on Friday after judges allowed their release.

One of the children, named Joey, said he could “finally close the chapter” now he knew Mr Karbaat was his father.

“After a search of 11 years I can continue my life. I am glad that I finally have clarity,” he told Dutch broadcaster NOS.

Tim Bueters, a lawyer who represented the 49 children, said he was pleased about the outcome of the case after years of uncertainty.

“It means that there is finally clarity for the children who are matched,” he told NOS.

Mr Karbaat was first taken to court in 2017 by a group of donor children and their parents over suspicions they were related.

Dutch fertility doctor used own sperm to father 49 children, DNA tests show
Most of the children were born in the 1980s

One of the cases involved a donor child who physically resembled the doctor, the court heard.

Items were seized from his home after his death in April 2017 at the age of 89.

‘Serious suspicions’

Judges ruled in 2017 that DNA tests could be carried out but said the results must be sealed pending the outcome of further court cases, Dutch media reported.

In February this year, Rotterdam District Court ruled that the results of the tests could be finally be revealed.

They substantiate “serious suspicions that Mr Karbaat used his own sperm in the clinic”, a statement on the website of legal firm Rex Advocate says.

Mr Karbaat called himself “a pioneer in the field of fertilisation”.

His clinic was closed in 2009 amid allegations that he had falsified data, analyses and donor descriptions and exceeded the permitted number of six children per donor.

Swedish police charged over fatal shooting of man with Down’s syndrome

Three Swedish police officers have been charged in connection with the fatal shooting of a man who had Down’s syndrome and autism.

Police opened fire on Eric Torell, 20, in response to what they described as a “threatening situation” in August 2018.

His mother said at the time he had been carrying a toy that was “like a submachine gun”.

Two officers have been charged with official misconduct and one with causing the man’s death.

Mr Torell had been reported missing from his home in the capital Stockholm hours before police received reports of a man in possession of a gun.

His mother, Katarina Söderberg, said the toy was a gift.

Three officers found Mr Torell in a residential courtyard in the Vasastan district and ordered him to discard what they believed was a dangerous weapon.

Flowers, candles and cards placed at the scene of the shooting for Eric Torell's memorial
Flowers were left at the scene of the shooting amid a public outcry

“I have decided that the police who have been charged for the shooting did not follow the procedures they should have done and had they done so, they would have realised that Eric – the victim – was not a threat,” prosecutor Martin Tiden told reporters.

He said the officers were justified in opening fire but said they should have stopped when he turned away from them.

Mr Torell was taken to hospital and later confirmed dead.

“This can’t be allowed to happen again,” said Mr Tiden.

Ms Söderberg said she was relieved there would now be justice. “We will know everything that happened. No stone will be left unturned,” she said.

She described her son as “the world’s kindest man” and said: “It’s impossible to understand. He wouldn’t hurt a fly.”

Sweden’s National Police Commissioner Anders Thornberg has asked for a government review of the rules surrounding the use of firearms following an increase in the number of people shot and killed.

In a country of 10 million, on average one person per year has been shot to death in Sweden over the past 20 years. In 2018 six people were shot and killed.

This compares to four in the UK in 2017-18, where the population is six times that of Sweden. In the US, 992 people were shot and killed by police in 2018.

Hammond: Brexit deadlock leaves little room for key issues

It is time to get Brexit “off the table” so that Britain can focus on other issues, the chancellor has said.

Philip Hammond told the BBC that getting a deal done soon would release the “bandwidth” needed to take key economic decisions facing the country.

He called the UK’s involvement in May’s European elections “pointless” and hoped a deal would be done before then.

Mr Hammond was speaking in Washington, where he is attending World Bank and IMF meetings.

The chancellor said talking to the Labour Party about finding a way forward to resolve the Parliamentary impasse was not his “preferred route”.

But it offered a new way forward to achieve a Brexit deal, after which he could concentrate on issues such spending and “where our economy is going over the next few years”.

“I would like us to spend more of our bandwidth focused on growing our economy,” he told the BBC’s economics correspondent Don silas. “Until a deal is done we cannot make decisions about the spending review.”

All will be forgotten’

If a deal on leaving the EU cannot be agreed by the end of May, the UK is committed to fighting the European elections.

“Clearly nobody wants to fight the European elections. It feels like a pointless exercise, and the only way we can avoid that is by getting a deal agreed and done quickly.

“If we can do that by 22 May, we can avoid fighting the European parliamentary elections.

“In any case, we want to ensure any British MEPs that are elected never have to take their seats in the European Parliament by ensuring this is all done well before the new European Parliament convenes,” he said.

The chancellor is in Washington at the World Bank and IMF spring meetings.

He rejected suggestions that the handling of Brexit negotiations was being seen overseas as a national humiliation.

“Britain is known as a bastion of democracy, and how we manage a challenging and complex issue like this is of huge interest,” he said.

“In a year’s time, when this is behind us and people are focussed on other things, all this will be forgotten.”

Brexit: Boris Johnson ‘wrong on no-deal polling claim’

Boris Johnson was wrong to claim there was polling evidence that a no-deal Brexit was the public’s preferred option, the press regulator has ruled.

Ipso ordered the Daily Telegraph to print a correction after finding the MP’s column was inaccurate.

The claim was made in a piece headlined “The British people won’t be scared into backing a woeful Brexit deal nobody voted for” in January.

The Telegraph had argued it was “clearly comically polemical”.

The column appeared a week before MPs rejected Theresa May’s Brexit deal for the first time, by a historic margin. The Commons went on to reject the withdrawal agreement in a further two votes.

In his piece, prominent Brexiteer Mr Johnson, who quit as foreign secretary over Mrs May’s Brexit strategy last July, wrote: “Of all the options suggested by pollsters – staying in the EU, coming out on Theresa May’s terms, or coming out on World Trade terms – it is the last, the so-called no-deal option, that is gaining in popularity.

“In spite of – or perhaps because of – everything they have been told, it is this future that is by some margin preferred by the British public.”

According to Ipso, the newspaper argued that it was clearly an opinion piece and readers would understand that it was not invoking specific polling – and that the Conservative MP’s column was “clearly comically polemical” and would not be read as a “serious, empirical, in-depth analysis of hard factual matters”.

‘Hyperbole and melodrama’

And it argued that various combinations of results in four polls reflected support for a no-deal scenario over Theresa May’s deal or remaining in the EU.

But following a complaint that it was inaccurate, Ipso said the article, published on 7 January, failed to provide accurate information with “a basis in fact” and ordered a correction to be printed.

In its ruling, Ipso said that while columnists were free to use “hyperbole, melodrama and humour”, they must take care “over the accuracy of any claims of fact”.

It said the Telegraph had not provided data to back up the claims and had “construed the polls as signalling support for a no deal, when in fact, this was the result of the publication either amalgamating several findings together or interpreting an option beyond what was set out by the poll, as being a finding in support of a no-deal Brexit”.

It found it was a “significant inaccuracy, because it misrepresented polling information” and upheld a complaint that it had breached clause 1 of the Editors’ Code of Practice.

Brexi: How the new delay has hit four businesses

It was an early-hour announcement that allowed many of the UK’s business owners to finally get a few hours of restful sleep.

In Brussels on Thursday, the EU granted the UK a six-month extension, thus eliminating the immediate threat of a no-deal Brexit.

But for companies that have been preparing for a sudden exit, it was no more than a temporary reprieve.

“It’s a bit of uncertainty that isn’t helpful,” says Andrew Graham. His 70-year-old company, Graham and Brown Wallpaper, has been stockpiling raw materials for months at its factory in Blackburn.

“Quite frankly, we could do with knowing where we’re going,” he told the BBC.

Andrew Graham
Andrew Graham’s wallpaper company had been stockpiling supplies

“An extension is better than a no deal, but actually we could do with getting the withdrawal deal through so that business can then plan for what it needs to do.”

‘Not insurmountable’

Joy Parkinson, who runs a Bury-based company selling natural beauty products, is more sanguine.

The Faith in Nature boss says Brexit is a hurdle, “but not insurmountable”.

“We’ve been buying additional stock of the lovely fragrances we buy in from Europe, to make sure we were covered if there were issues around ports and blockages,” she says.

We were anticipating that some of our partners in European markets might have wanted to buy extra stock,” Ms Parkinson explains, but that scenario never materialised.

“We’ve not overbought, so we’ve been fairly sensible and fairly pragmatic, we’ve not bought six months, 12 months of additional material, so we’ve managed the cash flow fairly pragmatically.”

Sloane's
Waitrose supplier Sloane’s had to absorb a rise in the cost of chocolate

Nottingham florist and former Apprentice contestant Elizabeth McKenna has felt the impact of Brexit uncertainty much more strongly.

Her business, and her industry, are part of a finely tuned supply chain.

“We order and buy our flowers from Holland online,” she explains. Orders need to be confirmed by 10:00 so as to meet auction deadlines in the Netherlands.

The flowers are then transported overnight via rail and ferries, and any delay could mean they arrive wilted or dead.

The initial Brexit date of 29 March, Ms McKenna explains, was just two days before her company’s busiest day of the year – Mother’s Day.

Brexi: How the new delay has hit four businesses
Cosmetics firm Faith In Nature expected its European customers to stock up in advance of Brexit

“That actually created an increase in commodity prices, because of the uncertainty with the exchange rate during that week which has directly affected profits within my industry.

“As far as trying to plan for what is going to happen with Brexit, we are a small industry… and we haven’t had enough information to plan.”

“Literally all that florists and people working at my level can do, as small independent businesses with 10 people, is wait and see what the government tells us.”

Ms McKenna says small business have only received one or two Brexit-related letters from the likes of HMRC,

“We’re essentially just saving money, cutting our costs where we can and are waiting to weather whatever is to come.”

Other business have already had to absorb large additional costs.

Sloane’s Hot Chocolate is made in a studio in Surrey – but sold in Waitrose, Harrods, and overseas to the US, Canada, Singapore, Dubai and Ireland.

It’s one of many small businesses for which a further Brexit extension isn’t merely a waiting period, but comes at a significant price.

Founder Brian Watt says the company’s suffering began the day after the referendum in 2016, when the pound dropped sharply against the dollar.

This led to a 20% increase in the cost of its main ingredient – chocolate. The company chose not to pass that on to customers, instead eating into its profit margins.

Then, with a no-deal looming, Sloane’s was told by one supplier that the price of their product would go up by 20% or 30%, forcing Mr Watt to stockpile.

“Whereas we would normally hold maybe one to two weeks supply of those items, we are now holding one to two months,” he told the BBC, “because we would find it very difficult to pass on 20 to 30% price increases to our customers.”

To help with the upfront costs of buying up supplies such as packaging, Sloane’s had to secure a large overdraft from a bank.

But Mr Watt is stoic in the face of many more months of uncertainty.

“We basically made the decision that we are just going to get on with running our business,” he says.

Julian Assange: Man ‘close’ to Wikileaks co-founder arrested in Ecuador

A man with close ties to Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange has been arrested while trying to leave Ecuador, the country’s interior ministry says.

Interior Minister María Paula Romo did not name the man but said he had been arrested for “investigative purposes”.

An unnamed government official told the Associated Press that the man is Ola Bini, a Swedish software developer.

It comes just hours after Assange was himself arrested at the Ecuadorean embassy in London.

“A person close to Wikileaks, who has been residing in Ecuador, was arrested this afternoon when he was preparing to travel to Japan,” Ecuador’s interior ministry tweeted late on Thursday.

The man has lived in Ecuador for several years and has frequently travelled to the country’s London embassy where Assange had been staying, Ms Romo told CNN’s Spanish language service.

“He has been detained simply for investigation purposes,” she said.

An Ecuadorean official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the Associated Press that Mr Bini had been arrested at Quito Airport.

As news of the arrest broke, friends and colleagues of Mr Bini expressed their concern on social media.

“I’m very concerned to hear that [he] has been arrested,” Martin Fowler, a US-based computer programmer, tweeted. “He is a strong advocate and developer supporting privacy and has not been able to speak to any lawyers.”

Earlier on Thursday, Ms Romo held a press conference and said a person with close links to Wikileaks was living in Ecuador.

In response, Mr Bini said on Twitter that her comments showed a “witch hunt” was under way.

What happened on Thursday?

footage shows Julian Assange being dragged from the Ecuadorian embassy in London

Ecuador withdrew Assange’s asylum on Thursday and the Metropolitan Police say they were then invited into the embassy to arrest him.

He took refuge in the embassy in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden over a sexual assault case that has since been dropped.

Ecuadorean President Lenin Moreno said the country had “reached its limit on the behaviour of Mr Assange”.

There has been a long-running dispute between the Ecuadorian authorities and Assange about what he was and was not allowed to do in the embassy.

After his arrest, Assange was taken to a central London court and found guilty of failing to surrender to the court in 2012.

As well as that charge, he now faces US federal conspiracy charges related to one of the largest ever leaks of government secrets.

The UK will decide whether to extradite him to the US. His lawyer said they would fight the extradition request because it set a “dangerous precedent for journalists, whistleblowers, and other journalistic sources that the US may wish to pursue in the future.”


Timeline: Julian Assange saga

  • August 2010 – The Swedish Prosecutor’s Office first issues an arrest warrant for Assange. It says there are two separate allegations – one of rape and one of molestation. Assange says the claims are “without basis”
  • December 2010 – Assange is arrested in London and bailed at the second attempt
  • May 2012 – The UK’s Supreme Court rules he should be extradited to Sweden to face questioning over the allegations
  • June 2012 – Assange enters the Ecuadorean embassy in London
  • August 2012 – Ecuador grants asylum to Assange, saying there are fears his human rights might be violated if he is extradited
  • August 2015 – Swedish prosecutors drop their investigation into two allegations – one of sexual molestation and one of unlawful coercion because they have run out of time to question him. But he still faces the more serious accusation of rape.
  • October 2015 – Metropolitan Police announces that officers will no longer be stationed outside the Ecuadorean embassy
  • February 2016 – A UN panel rules that Assange has been “arbitrarily detained” by UK and Swedish authorities since 2010
  • May 2017 – Sweden’s director of public prosecutions announces that the rape investigation into Assange is being dropped
  • July 2018 – The UK and Ecuador confirm they are holding ongoing talks over the fate of Assange
  • October 2018 – Assange is given a set of house rules at the Ecuadorean embassy in London. He then launches legal action against the government of Ecuador
  • December 2018 – Assange’s lawyer rejects an agreement announced by Ecuador’s president to see him leave the Ecuadorean embassy
  • February 2019 – Australia grants Assange a new passport amid fears Ecuador may bring his asylum to an end
  • April 2019 – The Metropolitan Police arrests him for “failing to surrender to the court” over a warrant issued in 2012. He is found guilty and faces up to 12 months in prison, as well as extradition over US charges of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion.

French couple forced to halt online contest to sell villa

For just €13 (£11; $14), you too could have entered an online quiz to win a sprawling guest house set in the idyllic Dordogne in south-west France.

The contest was the idea of Brigitte and Christophe Demassougne, who had initially put their property on sale with local estate agents.

But the competition has fallen foul of French online gaming regulator Arjel.

The couple have been given eight days to prove the quiz does not breach a ban on games of chance based on knowledge.

Why did they start the quiz?

The couple have run the 450 sq m guest house on a seven-acre site at Cénac-et-Saint-Julien for the past 20 years. It includes an 18th Century villa, exterior buildings, tennis court and pool. Its value was estimated at around €1.5m.

Along with eight bedrooms in the house itself, there are two bed and breakfast gîtes and horse boxes.

The guest house with swimming pool
The regulator has given the owners eight days to prove their quiz is legitimate

As they neared retirement the couple decided to put the property on the market and had the idea of launching an online contest.

“I decided that the day I wanted to sell my house, I would do it in this way. Legal fees are really expensive and people can’t afford to buy these properties,” Brigitte Demassougne told France Bleu radio as the contest began.

Their hope was for 150,000 people to play the quiz by 1 December, so they could raise €2m. They were counting on French interest, but also potential buyers from abroad. Local reports said there had been entries from the UK, Canada, Belgium and Australia.

The lush Dordogne valley has long been loved by UK tourists and thousands of British expatriates have moved there.

Since the start on 1 April, 20,000 people have taken part in the €13 contest, AFP reports.

To enter, you had to answer two easy multiple-choice questions correctly, based on local geography, as well as guess the value of three objects, including an 18 carat gold 1kg bracelet.

What did they do wrong?

The quiz, which was widely publicised in the local area, soon came to the notice of the online gaming regulator. According to a notice on the couple’s site, the quiz has been suspended for eight days to allow them to prove their game “is not a game of chance and expertise”.

Under a 2014 law, games of chance based on a player’s expertise are banned. It says the sale of property is considered a lottery if an element of chance is involved and a participant has paid money to take part.

The couple have said they will pay everyone back if the regulator decides against them. Ms Demassougne said they would challenge the regulator in good faith, but she was “pessimistic” about their chances of success, she told AFP.

Holding competitions to sell your home is nothing new. Earlier this year a Canadian woman held a letter-writing contest for her home near Calgary.

A man in the Netherlands won a raffle last year when a book shop owner in Wales decided to give his customers the chance to win his store.

Institutional abuse: SoS ‘no obligation’ to grant compensation

Survivors of historical institutional abuse have failed in a legal High Court bid to have the Northern Ireland secretary ordered to introduce compensation payments.

Their lawyers argued that Karen Bradley has the authority and a legal duty to implement a recommended redress scheme.

The judge ruled there was no unlawful failure to act by either Mrs Bradley or Stormont’s Executive Office.

Outside court, survivors said it was another devastating setback.

In January 2017, the Historical Institutional Abuse (HIA) Inquiry, published a report recommending compensation, ranging from £7,500 to £100,000 to those who suffered neglect and assaults.

The failure to enact the recommendations in the report has been repeatedly criticised.

Lord Chief Justice Declan Morgan said last year the failure to implement the HIA recommendations was “indicative of the real impact a lack of government in Northern Ireland has on the lives of local people”

With no functioning Northern Ireland Assembly since devolution collapsed, the challenge was aimed at having the Northern Ireland Secretary and the Executive Office compelled to take immediate steps on the payouts.

‘One final chapter’

The judge said: “The governance vacuum in Northern Ireland does not infringe any principle of constitutional law.”

The verdict is a blow for those fighting to secure the compensation envisaged in the major report into the abuse at children’s homes run by religious orders and the state between 1922 and 1995.

However, it may not be the end of the case.

With the head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service set to ask Mrs Bradley to put draft legislation dealing with the redress proposals before Parliament, the judge signalled there could be “one final chapter” based on her response to that request.

Proceedings were brought by a man in his 70s, identified only as JR80, on behalf of other survivors of sexual, physical and psychological abuse and neglect.

The court heard that up to 30 people who suffered abuse have died since the report was issued.

‘Dystopian nightmare’

Counsel for JR80 argued that the deaths were continuing amid a complete loss of democratic accountability and branches of government were “passing the parcel” over responsibility for implementing the redress scheme.

He told the court the survivors are enduring a “dystopian nightmare”.

Details of the beatings and molestation suffered by JR80 were disclosed during the hearing.

HIA sign
The Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry was set up to examine allegations of child abuse in children’s homes and other institutions

In a statement he recalled being taken to a home when he was aged about seven.

“I was too young to know what was happening or why,” he said.

“I simply remember being out with my two brothers picking blackberries, being put in a car and taken to the home.”

He was separated from his siblings and did not see them again during his time there, the court heard.

Repeated abuse

“Every day there felt like a year,” JR80 stated.

He suffered repeated abuse, involving frequent assaults and witnessing even worse violence being inflicted on others.

Beatings were meted out for wetting the bed, according to his account, leaving him frightened to go to sleep every night.

He also described being sexual abused by a man who came to the home.

“I found separation from my brothers unbearable, I didn’t know where they were and missed them terribly,” he added.

When he finally left the home and was reunited with his brothers they never discussed what had happened to them.

Vacuum in governance

JR80’s barrister insisted that countless other children were allowed by the state to suffer a similar fate.

Lawyers representing the Secretary of State and the Executive Office argued that they had no power or legal obligation to intervene.

Dismissing the challenge, Mr Justice McCloskey described the protracted vacuum in governance in Northern Ireland as a disadvantage to the population rather than an infringement of any constitutional principle.

He added: “Absent legislative intervention by the United Kingdom Government, by appropriate amendments to the Northern Ireland Act 1998 or revocation or suspension of devolved powers, the prevailing constitutional arrangements in Northern Ireland, however defective or inadequate they may be viewed in some quarters, permit the moratorium which has afflicted this State for some two years.

“The plight of the victims and survivors of historical institutional abuse in Northern Ireland illustrates graphically just how damaging this is for certain sections of society.”

Baby boy ‘critical’ after dog attack in Hawick

A baby boy is in a critical condition in hospital after reports that he was attacked by a dog in the Borders.

Emergency services were called to an address in Burns Road, Hawick, at about 16:35 on Thursday.

The boy was taken to the Borders General Hospital before being airlifted by a trauma team to the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Glasgow.

Police said officers remained in attendance and a spokesman said inquiries were ongoing.

Hawick house
Police in the Scottish Borders said inquiries were ongoing

Hawick councillor Davie Paterson said he believed the child was only weeks old and it “could be a matter of life and death”.

He said: “It’s an absolute tragedy and it’s going to hit the town hard.

“I don’t know the full circumstances of what happened but from what I’m hearing the child could be scarred for life.

“I was told about it with the council yesterday and I was absolutely horrified.”

#European elections: Nigel Farage launches Brexit Party

Ex-UKIP leader Nigel Farage has launched his new Brexit Party, saying he wants a “democratic revolution” in UK politics.

Speaking in Coventry, he said May’s expected European elections were the party’s “first step” but its “first task” was to “change politics”.

“I said that if I did come back into the political fray it would be no more Mr Nice Guy and I mean it,” he said.

But UKIP dismissed the Brexit Party as a “vehicle” for Mr Farage.

The launch comes after Prime Minister Theresa May agreed a Brexit delay to 31 October with the EU, with the option of leaving earlier if her withdrawal agreement is approved by Parliament.

This means the UK is likely to have to hold European Parliament elections on 23 May.

Mr Farage said the Brexit Party had an “impressive list” of 70 candidates for the elections. Among those revealed at the launch was Annunziata Rees-Mogg, sister of leading Conservative Brexiteer MP Jacob Rees-Mogg.

Mr Farage said: “This party is not here just to fight the European elections… this party is not just to express our anger – 23 May is the first step of the Brexit Party. We will change politics for good.”

He said he was “angry, but this is not a negative emotion, this is a positive emotion”.

The party had already received £750,000 online over 10 days, he said, made up of small donations of up to £500.

Annunziata Rees-Mogg
Annunziata Rees-Mogg, sister of leading Conservative Brexiteer MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, was revealed as a Brexit Party candidate

Ms Rees-Mogg said she had stuck with the Conservatives “through thick and thin”, but added: “We’ve got to rescue our democracy, we have got to show that the people of this country have a say in how we are run.”

Earlier, Mr Farage told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “In terms of policy, there’s no difference (to UKIP), but in terms of personnel there is a vast difference.

“UKIP did struggle to get enough good people into it but unfortunately what it’s chosen to do is allow the far right to join it and take it over and I’m afraid the brand is now tarnished.”

He promised the Brexit Party would be “deeply intolerant of all intolerance” and would represent a cross-section of society.

When asked about former Brexit Party leader Catherine Blaiklock, who quit over what he said were “horrible and intolerant” comments on Twitter about Islam, he said she was “an administrator”.

He said: “I set the party up. She was the administrator that got it set up.”

UKIP leader Gerard Batten
UKIP leader Gerard Batten said the Brexit Party was “just a vehicle” for Nigel Farage

At the time, Ms Blaiklock apologised for her “out-of-character comments” which she said “fell well short of what is expected in any walk of life”.

UKIP leader Gerard Batten tweeted that Mr Farage’s suggestion that there was no difference in policy between UKIP and the Brexit Party was “a lie”.

He said: “UKIP has a manifesto and policies. Farage’s party is just a vehicle for him.”

He said the Brexit Party’s “only purpose is to re-elect him (Mr Farage)” and was a “Tory/Establishment safety valve”.

The Electoral Commission has issued European Parliamentary elections guidance for returning officers to advise them “on the rules should the elections go ahead” and to ensure they “have as much certainty as possible in developing contingency plans”.

Categories Uncategorized

The government and Labour are continuing talks aimed at breaking the deadlock in Parliament over Brexit.

Brexit: Conservatives and Labour continue talks

Cabinet ministers David Lidington and Michael Gove are in discussions with shadow chancellor John McDonnell.

EU leaders have agreed to delay the UK’s departure date from 12 April to 31 October, to avoid a no-deal Brexit.

Theresa May has said the UK can still leave before 22 May, if a deal is agreed, to avoid having to take part in elections to the European Parliament.

The UK was originally due to leave the EU on 29 March, but its departure date has been delayed twice because UK MPs have rejected the withdrawal agreement negotiated between the UK and the EU three times.

Under EU rules, the UK will have to hold European Parliament elections in May, or face leaving on 1 June without a deal.

Confused by Brexit jargon? Reality Check unpacks the basics.

Conservative Mrs May and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn had a “short meeting” on Thursday, Labour said.

Arriving at the Cabinet Office for talks on Friday morning, Mr McDonnell, accompanied by members of Mr Corbyn’s staff, was asked if he was expecting progress today.

“I hope so,” he replied.

BBC political correspondent Emmanuel, has been told that the Conservative and Labour delegations have discussed some of the fine detail of the potential changes to the “political declaration” – the non-legally binding part of the Brexit deal, which sets out a blueprint for future relations between the EU and UK.

But he said the two sides were still some way apart on customs arrangements – Labour wants a new permanent customs arrangement with the EU which would allow tariff-free trade in goods.

The government has repeatedly ruled out remaining in the EU’s customs union, arguing it would prevent the UK from setting its own trade policy.

Mrs May told MPs on Thursday that cross-party talks were “not the normal way of British politics and it is uncomfortable for many in both government and opposition parties”.

She said: “I hope that we can reach an agreement on a single unified approach that we can put to the House for approval, but if we cannot do so soon, we will seek to agree a small number of options for the future relationship that we will put to the House in a series of votes to determine which course to pursue.”

She said the government was ready to “abide by the decision of the House” if Labour agreed to do so too.

Decisions would have to be made “swiftly” on MPs’ return after the Easter recess, if the UK was to leave the European Union with a deal “as soon as possible” and avoid having to hold European parliamentary elections.

‘Compromise’

Mr Corbyn has described the talks as “serious, detailed and ongoing”. On Thursday he welcomed “the constructive engagement that we have had” and “indications from the government that they may be willing to move in the key areas” that had stopped Labour voting for the withdrawal agreement.

But he warned: “If these talks are to be a success, resulting in an agreement that can bring our country back together, the government will have to compromise.”

Meanwhile the government says it will “continue to make all necessary preparations” for a no-deal Brexit.

A government source said “plans will evolve and adapt” but would not stop while the chance of leaving the EU without an agreement remained.

It follows reports that government departments had stood down their planning. The source said that a leaked message referring to the “winding down” of no-deal preparation related only to Operation Yellowhammer, the contingency planning operation based on worst-case scenarios – and not no-deal planning in general.

But the government has confirmed it is stopping Operation Brock – the contraflow put on the London-bound carriageway of the M20 in Kent – “in light of the reduced threat of disruption to services across the English Channel in the coming weeks”.

Nipsey Hussle memorial: One person killed at procession

A person has been killed during a memorial procession for rapper Nipsey Hussle, with three others injured.

Shots were fired as the crowd walked through Los Angeles in commemoration of the 33-year-old, who was killed in LA last month.

“We must stop this senseless violence,” LAPD Chief Michael Moore said.

Thousands of fans came out to celebrate the life of the Grammy-nominated musician, with Barack Obama among the people who wrote letters in tribute.

The suspects fired from a grey Hyundai as the four victims paid tribute to the musician, according to police.

The victims are described as three black men and one black woman between the ages of 30 and 50.

Jay Z, who Nipsey worked with through his Roc Nation label, attended the memorial service at the Staples Center along with Beyonce.

Snoop Dogg, Meek Mill and Diddy were also there to pay respect.

Photos shown at Nipsey Hussle's memorial service
Pictures from Nipsey Hussle’s life were shown at the service

A letter from former President Barack Obama, addressed to Nipsey’s friends and family, was read out at the service.

He praised Nipsey for his community work.

“His choice to invest in that community rather than ignore it – to build a skills training centre and a co-working space in Crenshaw; to lift up the Eritrean-American community; to set an example for young people to follow – is a legacy worth celebration,” he wrote.

Fellow West Coast rapper and collaborator Kendrick Lamar also penned an emotional letter calling him a “true king”.

“His charisma and way with words was powerful,” he wrote. “But his integrity as a person made me even more enthused.”

Nipsey’s girlfriend Lauren London was joined at the service by the couple’s two-year-old son Kross and her older son Kameron, whose dad is Lil Wayne.

“I’d like to say something to my city Los Angeles. This pain is ours – we know what Nip meant to us.

“We lost an incredible soul to us and we lost someone very rare.

“We lost a real one.”

Nipsey Hussle memorial: One person killed at procession
Nipsey Hussle’s girlfriend Lauren London speaks at a memorial service for the rapper

Julian Assange should not be extradited to US – Jeremy Corbyn

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said the UK government should not extradite Julian Assange to the US, where he faces a computer hacking charge.

The Wikileaks co-founder was arrested for a separate charge at Ecuador’s London embassy on Thursday, where he had been granted asylum since 2012.

Mr Corbyn said Assange should not be extradited “for exposing evidence of atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan”.

Meanwhile, Ecuador’s leader expressed anger at how Assange had behaved.

Australian-born Assange, 47, sought refuge in the Knightsbridge embassy seven years ago, to avoid extradition to Sweden over a sexual assault case that has since been dropped. But Ecuador abruptly withdrew its asylum and invited the police to arrest Assange on Thursday.

After his dramatic arrest, he was taken to Westminster Magistrates’ Court and found guilty of a British charge of breaching bail. He spent Thursday night in custody and is facing up to 12 months in prison for that conviction.

The Swedish authorities are now considering whether to reopen an investigation into the allegations of sexual assault, which Assange denies.

The US government has also charged him with allegations of conspiracy to break into a computer, relating to a massive leak of classified US government documents. The UK will decide whether to extradite Assange, and if he was convicted, he could face up to five years in jail.

Assange battle ‘now political’

In a tweet, Mr Corbyn shared a video said to be of Pentagon footage – which had been released by Wikileaks – of a 2007 air strike which implicated US military in the killing of civilians and two journalists.

Earlier in the House of Commons, Labour’s shadow home secretary Diane Abbott questioned the US government’s motivation for charging Assange. She said: “Julian Assange is not being pursued to protect US national security. He is being pursued because he has exposed wrongdoing by US administrations.”

The BBC’s diplomatic correspondent Emmanuel, said backing Assange is not without political risk and will not find universal favour among Labour MPs – but Mr Corbyn’s intervention “means the battle over Assange’s future will now be as much political as it is legal”.

Sketch of Julia Assange at Westminster Magistrates' Court on 11 April 2019
Australian-born Assange at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Thursday

The editor of Wikileaks, Kristinn Hrafnsson, has expressed fears that the US could file more serious charges against Assange, and that if he was convicted he could be behind bars for “decades”.

Mr Hrafnsson added that Assange had been thrown “overboard” by Ecuador – and the country was “horrible” to treat him like that.

‘He was a problem’

Meanwhile in Ecuador, President Lenin Moreno criticised Assange, claiming that after spending seven years in the country’s embassy he had dismissed Ecuador by describing it as an insignificant country.

“We had treated him as a guest,” he said. “But not anymore.”

Ecuador’s ambassador to the UK, Jaime Marchan, also previously said Assange had been “continually a problem” while he was living in the embassy.

Meanwhile, a man who is alleged to have links with Assange has been arrested while trying to leave Ecuador, the country’s officials said.

The man – who has been identified by supporters as a Swedish software developer called Ola Bini – had been trying to board a flight to Japan.

He’s been in Ecuador’s embassy for seven years – but why was Julian Assange there in the first place?

Assange is due to face a hearing over his possible extradition to the US on 2 May.

During a briefing at the White House following Assange’s arrest, US President Donald Trump was asked by reporters if he stood by remarks that he made during his election campaign when he said he loved Wikileaks.

“I know nothing about Wikileaks,” said Mr Trump. “It’s not my thing.”

What Trump’s said about Wikileaks

He added: “I’ve been seeing what happened with Assange and that will be a determination, I would imagine, mostly by the attorney general, who’s doing an excellent job.”

Assange’s lawyer, Jennifer Robinson, said they would be fighting the extradition request. She said it set a “dangerous precedent” where any journalist could face US charges for “publishing truthful information about the United States”.

She said she had visited Assange in the police cells where he thanked supporters and said: “I told you so.”

Assange had predicted that he would face extradition to the US if he left the embassy.

Meanwhile, Australia said it had received a request for consular assistance after Assange was taken from the embassy.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Assange will not get “special treatment” and will have to “make his way through whatever comes his way in terms of the justice system”.

Assange's lawyer Jennifer Robinson and Wikileaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson
Assange’s lawyer Jennifer Robinson and Wikileaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson say the arrest sets a dangerous precedent

The arrest was welcomed by the government on Thursday. Prime Minister Theresa May told the House of Commons: “This goes to show that in the UK, no-one is above the law.”

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the arrest was the result of “years of careful diplomacy” and that it was “not acceptable” for someone to “escape facing justice”.

Assange set up Wikileaks in 2006 with the aim of obtaining and publishing confidential documents and images.

The organisation hit the headlines four years later when it released footage of US soldiers killing civilians from a helicopter in Iraq.

Former US intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning was arrested in 2010 for disclosing more than 700,000 confidential documents, videos and diplomatic cables to the anti-secrecy website. She said she only did so to spark debates about foreign policy, but US officials said the leak put lives at risk.

She was found guilty by a court martial in 2013 of charges including espionage. However, her jail sentence was later commuted.

Manning was recently jailed for refusing to testify, before an investigation into Wikileaks’ role in revealing the secret files.

Weary frustration and cynicism take hold in UK’s Brexit heartland

Leave-voting Sunderland is ‘sick’ of delays with many preferring any form of exit to current limbo

Like many of Sunderland’s older inhabitants, William Hughes worked for most of his life down the coal pits.

But he was in the minority when the city on England’s north-east coast voted to leave the EU in 2016 and describes himself as “frightened” by the turmoil that Brexit has unleashed.

For Mr Hughes, whose life was upended when the coal mines were closed in the 1990s and who is anxious that jobs will go again, this week’s decision to put Britain’s departure on ice is a relief.

“They said how much money we would save [by leaving the EU] but they didn’t say how much we would lose,” he said.

The former miner may still be outnumbered by Leave supporters in the city, whose 62 per cent vote for Brexit early on the night of the referendum heralded Britain’s decision to leave the EU.

William Hughes: ‘They said how much money we would save [by leaving the EU] but they didn’t say how much we would lose’

But, although the UK’s departure is now not scheduled until October 31, people on the streets of Sunderland have not responded to the delay with an outpouring of fury.

Instead, sentiment in the bellwether city is a mixture of weary frustration and cynicism. While there is little enthusiasm for the compromise exit deal that prime minister THERESA MAY, has struck with Brussels, some Sunderland inhabitants seemed to prefer any form of Brexit to the current limbo.

“We are sick of it,” said Christine, from nearby Gateshead, a retiree shopping in Sunderland’s central precinct. “This means that we are going to have to listen to it all over again.”

In fact, the debate is only likely to intensify. Because of the delay, Britain is set to hold elections to the European Parliament next month — almost three years after its vote to leave. Pro- and anti-Brexit parties are already mobilising.

“People voted to come out and we should be out by now,” said Christine’s friend Karen, who compared the prime minister’s management of Brexit to selecting a footballer from Sunderland to play for the city’s bitter nearby rivals, Newcastle. During the referendum campaign, Mrs May was a lukewarm supporter of Remain.

“Theresa May needs a bomb up her backside,” said Karen, comparing the prime minister with one of her most celebrated Conservative predecessors. “At least Margaret Thatcher stuck by what she said.”

Sunderland has been hit hard by industrial decline in the past 40 years
Shoppers Christine and Karen are increasingly frustrated over the delays to Brexit

Sunderland is one of many traditional Labour strongholds where working class disaffection helped swing the referendum towards Brexit.

The area has been abandoned by successive governments “like a rotten tangerine”, said Adam Perkin, who repainted lines on roads travelled by the Olympic torch when Britain hosted the games in 2012. He now works in security in Sunderland’s shopping precinct.

He strongly backs EU membership — but is aghast at MPs’ three rejections of Mrs May’s exit deal — which forced the prime minister to ask the bloc for the Brexit delay.

“The last person who went to parliament with the right intentions was Guy Fawkes,” Mr Perkin joked, referring to the Catholic conspirator who tried to blow up Westminster in 1605.

Sunderland hosts the largest Nissan factory in Europe — one reason why its vote to leave caused so much attention.

A good number of workers at the facility, which employs 6,000 people from across the north-east, celebrated the referendum victory in 2016. But several leaving the plant on Thursday said there was real anxiety now about potential job losses. Nissan has already announced it will not produce a promised new sport utility vehicle at Sunderland, partly because of concerns about future ties with the EU.

“Brexit needs to be sorted out properly. It is causing a lot of division and unrest,” said one Nissan employee smoking outside the plant, who declined to give his name. “The problem is that nobody seems to know what sorting it out means.”

Sunderland hosts the largest Nissan factory in Europe © EPA
Labour MP Bridget Phillipson: ‘For all the frustration that Brexit has not happened yet, there is also frustration that there is no time to talk about tackling poverty, about creating jobs’

Some recent polls have indicated that, because of the travails of Mrs May’s deal, opinion is hardening across the UK on both sides of the Brexit debate — between those who want to stay in the EU and proponents of leaving without an agreement.

In such a climate, Bridget Phillipson, the Labour MP for Houghton and Sunderland South, has been criticised by some constituents for promoting a second referendum to break the deadlock.

Ms Phillipson expressed great relief at the decision to delay Brexit — and to avoid a no-deal exit this weekend — an outcome she says would have had a “devastating and irreparable impact” on the north-east’s economy.

“I am so glad we have avoided that but we still haven’t resolved anything,” she added. “For all the frustration that Brexit has not happened yet, there is also frustration that there is no time to talk about tackling poverty, about creating jobs,” she said.

Labour, which has called for a relatively soft Brexit and suggested a second referendum, is leading in the initial polls for the European Parliament elections. But Ms Phillipson conceded that voters might balk at the prospect of the contest.

She argued it was an opportunity for Labour to make a “patriotic” case for maintaining close ties to its neighbours. That will be a tough sell to some of her constituents.

Weary frustration and cynicism take hold in UK’s Brexit heartland
Sunderland has a relatively small immigrant population © Mark Pinder/FT
Paul Ellis: ‘We have got an extension till Halloween. It’s a joke — no English person likes all this waiting around’ © Mark Pinder/FT

Paul Ellis, an unemployed construction worker who spent years on sites in Poland, Germany and the Czech Republic, said the delay to Brexit was like going back to square one three years later.

“We have got an extension till Halloween. It’s a joke — no English person likes all this waiting around,” he said, before pointing to two seagulls perched stationary on a nearby parked car:

“That’s Brexit,” he said. “Going nowhere.”

‘I’m full of fear’: Italian woman’s story exposes rape law

It was early evening on 5 March when a 24-year-old woman ran into three men at a train station in Naples.

The three men, whom she knew slightly, got into a lift with her. What happened during the next 12 minutes is now the subject of intense dispute.

The men say they had consensual sex with the woman, but she says they raped her. A court is investigating.

‘I’m scared and hurt’

A colleague and I arranged to meet the young woman in a square in Rome.

We did not know how we might recognise her. We came across a young, shockingly thin woman. She offered a timid handshake.

Her lawyer, standing next to her, said that she was ready to talk and I asked several questions:

Why have you decided to speak out?

“Speaking out is the only way to express my pain. Communicating is the best way of obtaining justice.”

You refer to your pain. How are you?

“I’m a bit hurt. I’m full of fears. I’m scared and hurt.”She fiddled with her handbag and tried to find a packet of tissues.

When you reported what happened to you, what was the process like?

“Initially they believed me – the lawyers, and the psychologists at the Naples hospital. The violence was also obvious in the medical test. Also the policemen believed and the prosecutors’ office. But the appeals court has decided to free two of these guys.”

Is that something that concerns you?

“It’s not that it concerns me. It terrifies me. They know the place where I live, because on a previous occasion they had followed me to my house. I’m scared, I think they may want a vendetta.”

What court says about Naples case

A court has ordered the release of all three defendants pending a full trial. The BBC obtained a copy of the tribunal’s 24-page ruling.

The document goes into great detail about the woman’s medical history of eating disorders, depression, and alleged abuse at the hands of her father.

A candle-lit vigil was held on 6 March, the night after the 24 year old was allegedly attacked in the lift at the station
A candle-lit vigil was held the night after the woman was allegedly attacked

The court says: “The combination of the victim’s conditions leads us to judge that she is untrustworthy – and hence her version of events cannot be relied upon – on its own.”

It adds that she has a “histrionic personality”. But her defenders argue that her medical history cannot be used to say that she makes things up.

The tribunal also says that CCTV footage of the alleged attack, which has not been played in public, shows that she neither resisted nor showed any visual signs of trauma after the encounter with the three men.

In Italy, the argument “she didn’t resist, she didn’t stagger afterwards, therefore she wanted it” is often extremely powerful.

But one Italian judge is disgusted by this logic.

“If a woman doesn’t rebel, it means the woman wants it,” says Judge Paola di Nicola, who has written a book on gender bias in the Italian judicial system. “This is unacceptable. It often finishes with the acquittal of the men.”

 Judge Paola di Nicola

HarperCollins ItaliaThrough questions they ask victims and defendants in male or sexual violence cases, (lawyers and judges) risk repeating stereotypes… that contain moral and value judgements.”Judge Paola di Nicola

TV programmes and newspapers have covered this case at length. “She was promiscuous and she had a tendency to lie,” writes one publication.

Public opinion has begun to doubt the woman’s story.

It is hard not to contrast this with recent events in Spain. In 2018, women’s movements demonstrated after a court imposed lenient sentences on a group of men accused of raping a woman – the so-called “wolf-pack” case.

Activists say rage over Spain’s “wolf pack” case has ignited a feminist revolution

In Italy, as in Spain, there is currently no clear definition of consent when it comes to rape cases. Use of force, threat or abuse of authority has to be proven for a case to be considered sexual violence under Italian law.

Acid attack survivor who turned to politics

It may be that, in Italy, it is much easier for a victim to be believed when the physical results of an assault are visible and beyond dispute.

In 2013, Lucia Annibali’s former partner organised an acid attack against her. Her face was severely disfigured.

He is now in prison. She won election to parliament in 2018.

Italian lawyer and Democratic Party (PD) member Lucia Annibali casts her vote in the Chamber of Deputies in Rome on March 23, 2018
Lucia Annibali entered the Italian parliament in 2018, five years after the acid attack

Were you lucky to survive? I asked her.

“Yes, definitely,” she said. “Seeing how it could have gone. In part, I died a bit. An acid attack takes away a part of you. Your face, your looks are gone. So part of me died on the landing where the attack happened.”

Does the law need to change or the culture?

“Both,” she replied, “A proper culture can help build the law. The instruments are there and what we’re lacking is proper use of those instruments.”

Lucia Annibalia (file pic 2018)

Getty ImagesWe can get angry as much as we want as a society, but until women are not considered equal, it will never be enough.”Lucia Annibali
Italian MP and acid attack survivor

Lucia Annibali’s disfigurement is clear. But the scars of forced sexual encounters are not always so easy to see.

I asked a final question of the young woman at the heart of the Naples case:

In the future, what do you envisage for your life?

“I’d like to launch an association that protects women at risk.”

After this, her lawyer gently approached. He worried that she was too exhausted to speak any further. They left to prepare for the trial.

Downpatrick dig: Medieval child’s remains found in grave

The remains of a young child and a teenager are among 14 skeletons uncovered in an ancient burial ground within metres of St Patrick’s grave.

The medieval skeletons were found beside Down Cathedral in Downpatrick, County Down, in August 2018.

Archaeologists first thought they had found the lost cemetery of 13th Century Benedictine monks.

But they have said the oldest skeleton is that of a five or six-year-old child who died almost 1,000 years ago.

Archaeologist Brian Sloan at the excavation site at Down Cathedral
Archaeologist Brian Sloan believes there is “more to be found” in Downpatrick

The most recent skeleton is that of a young woman, believed to be a late adolescent, buried between 1317 and 1429.

Experts said she was suffering from severe tooth abscesses at the time of her death and believe she may have travelled to the on-site monastery in search of medicine or prayer.

A community dig was led by archaeologists from Queen’s University in Belfast, working with volunteers to prepare the ground for the erection of a replica high cross.

Visitors from around the world flocked to the area as the dig unfolded.

‘Rich picture of medieval life’

Ancient pottery and animal bones were also recovered in the buried kitchen of a 13th Century Benedictine Abbey as well as a flint tool dating to about 7,000 BC.

Blackberry seeds, sloe pips, fish bones and charred wheat grains from bread-making were also found.

Medieval jugs
Medieval jugs found during the dig have been carefully pieced together

Excavation director Brian Sloan said subsequent analysis, including radiocarbon dating of three of the skeletons, had uncovered a “rich picture of medieval life”.

Although analysis of the skeletons is ongoing, he said evidence showed the young child had lived and died before the Anglo-Norman invasion of 1177 AD.

He said the young woman had lived sometime between 1317-1429 AD when the site was occupied by the Benedictine Abbey.

Mr Sloan said the other archaeological finds had offered an insight into life in the abbey and a glimpse into an 8th Century Christian monastic site.

“We can use this evidence to build up a picture of the diet and everyday activities of the monks who lived and prayed here,” he added.

An arrow head from the 12th or 13th Centuries
An arrow head from 12th or 13th Centuries is among other items found during the excavation

“The large pottery shards have been painstakingly pieced together at Queen’s University Belfast giving an idea of the shape, size and decoration of the vessels.

“A rich environmental picture is being established through the processing of the soil samples taken during the excavation.”

Metalwork recovered from an ancient pit has also been analysed and include fine copper alloy dress pins, a socketed arrowhead, a horseshoe, a pair of iron shears and a length of chain with a suspension hook still attached.

A number of items are now on display in the High Cross Gallery at Down County Museum in Downpatrick, in two new cases funded by the British Museum Trust, while research work continues on the collection of artefacts, dating from the Mesolithic (c. 7000 BC) period.

Mr Sloan added: “This is fantastic as Downpatrick has almost been ignored from an archaeological and historical point of view.

“It has got my blood flowing. I believe there is more to be found.”

Brunei says controversial Sharia law aimed at ‘prevention’

Brunei’s foreign ministry has said implementing Sharia law is about prevention rather than punishment, after intense criticism of its decision to implement the strict Islamic code.

Under the new laws, adultery and sex between men is punishable by stoning to death.

Brunei said there would be a high threshold for evidence in those cases, suggesting punishment would be rare.

It comes after the UN called the punishments “cruel and inhuman”.

What did Brunei say?

Brunei has sent a response from Erywan Yusof, the minister of foreign affairs, to the United Nation’s (UN) criticism saying Sharia law “focuses more on prevention than punishment. Its aim is to educate, deter, rehabilitate and nurture rather than to punish”.

It also said Sharia does not criminalise based on sexual orientation or belief, including same-sex relations.

The criminalisation of “adultery and sodomy is to safeguard the sanctity of family lineage and marriage of individual Muslims, particularly women”, according to the statement.

Sultan Hassanal, 2013
Brunei is ruled by Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah

The statement also clarified that for the maximum punishments of amputation or death to be carried out in the case of certain crimes, at least two men of “high moral standing and piety” would have to bear witness.

It added that these men would have to live up to “extremely high” standards, making it “[extremely] difficult to find one in this day and age”.

UK Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt also said on Thursday he had spoken to the Bruneian foreign minister who had suggested that Sharia prosecutions were, in practice, unlikely.

What was it in response to?

The statement from Brunei’s foreign ministry comes in response to the UN’s criticism of the country’s decision to implement the second phase of Sharia law on 3 April.

The first phase of Sharia law, which covered crimes punishable by prison sentences and fines, was implemented in 2014.

The UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights sent a letter on 1 April to the Brunei mission in Geneva warning that the planned implementation of the new laws contravened international human rights standards set out in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights – which was ratified by Brunei in 2006.

Regardless, Brunei went ahead with the implementation of the new laws, under the continued phasing in of Sharia alongside common law.

What is punishable under Sharia law?

Under the new laws, individuals accused of certain acts will be convicted if they confess or if there were witnesses present.

Offences such as rape, adultery, sodomy, robbery and insult or defamation of the Prophet Muhammad will carry the maximum penalty of death.

Lesbian sex carries a different penalty of 40 strokes of the cane and/or a maximum of 10 years in jail. The maximum punishment for theft is amputation.

The decision to implement the strict Islamic laws sparked global condemnation, with celebrities including George Clooney, Elton John and others calling for a boycott of the Dorchester Collection group of hotels owned by Brunei’s investment agency.

The decision threw the tiny oil-rich South East Asian nation into the global spotlight and sparked international outrage.

Dalai Lama discharged from Delhi hospital

The Dalai Lama has been discharged from a Delhi hospital, three days after being admitted with a chest infection.

The Tibetan spiritual leader said he felt, “normal, almost normal,” the Associated Press reports.

His spokesman Tenzin Taklha said the 83-year-old had suffered from a “light cough” but was “doing very well”.

The Dalai Lama, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, fled to India 60 years ago after a failed uprising against Chinese rule.

He now lives in exile in the Indian city of Dharamsala.

“He was discharged from the hospital at eight o’clock in the morning (02:30 GMT),” Mr Taklha told AFP news agency on Friday.

A day earlier, Mr Taklha said the Dalai Lama had already resumed his “normal routine” and was doing some exercise.

He is expected to spend several days resting in Delhi before returning to Dharamsala.

China took control of Tibet in 1950 and sees the Dalai Lama as a dangerous separatist. The question of who will succeed him when he dies is highly contentious.

China says its leaders have the right to choose a successor. But last month, the Dalai Lama reiterated that any leader named by China would not be accepted by Tibetans.

In Tibetan Buddhist belief, the soul of its most senior lama is reincarnated into the body of a child.