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Connecticut home invasion: second man sentenced to death December 10, 2011

A jury condemned a man to death Friday for raping and strangling a woman and killing her two daughters in an attack that led to the defeat of a bill to abolish the death penalty in Connecticut and was compared to Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood.

Joshua Komisarjevsky will join his accomplice Steven Hayes on Connecticut’s death row. The jury rejected defence attorneys’ request to spare his life in light of the sexual abuse he suffered as a boy.

The two paroled burglars tormented a family of four before killing Jennifer Hawke-Petit and leaving her daughters, 17-year-old Hayley and 11-year-old Michaela, to die. The girls died of smoke inhalation after they were tied to their beds and doused in gasoline before the house was set ablaze.

In closing arguments, a prosecutor said the two men created “the ultimate house of horrors” by inflicting extreme psychological and physical pain.

“It was shockingly brutal. It was evil. It was vicious,” prosecutor Gary Nicholson said.

The only survivor, Dr William Petit, was beaten with a baseball bat and tied up but managed to escape. He appeared calm as the verdict was pronounced, his eyes blinking rapidly.

The crime in the affluent suburb in 2007 led to tougher state laws for repeat offenders and home invasions.

Before the verdict was announced, defence attorney Walter Bansley said his client was prepared for a death sentence.

“He’s very accepting,” Bansley said. “He’s been realistic from the beginning and he understood that public sentiment is very much against him.”

Komisarjevsky will join 10 other men on Connecticut’s death row. The state has executed only one man since 1960, and the 31-year-old Komisarjevsky will likely spend years, if not decades, in prison.

In arguing for a life sentence, his lawyers said his ultra-religious family never got Komisarjevsky proper psychological help after he was repeatedly sexually abused as a child by his foster brother.

“The only option he ever had was to go through life damaged,” Bansley said in his closing argument.

Hayes was convicted last year of raping and strangling Hawke-Petit and killing the girls. Komisarjevsky was convicted on 13 October of the killings and of sexually assaulting Michaela.

Komisarjevsky admitted in an audiotaped confession played for the jury that he spotted Hawke-Petit and Michaela at a supermarket and followed them home. After putting his daughter to bed, he and Hayes returned to the Petit house in the middle of the night to rob it.

The men blamed each other for escalating the crime.

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ICC Requests Arrest Warrant for Sudanese Defense Minister December 3, 2011

The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor has requested an arrest warrant for Sudan’s defense minister, who allegedly helped to plan atrocities in the Darfur region.

Abdelrahim Mohamed Hussein is accused of coordinating attacks against villages in Darfur between August 2003 and March 2004.

The prosecutor’s office says the attacks followed a pattern in which the villages were surrounded, bombed by the Sudanese air force, and then attacked by troops and “Janjaweed” militia, who killed and raped villagers.

Sudan’s foreign ministry dismissed the move as politically motivated.  It says prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo timed the request to coincide with what it called victories by Sudanese government forces against rebels in the states of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile.

A panel of judges at the Hague-based court must now review the evidence and decide whether to issue a warrant for Hussein’s arrest.

At the time of the attacks, Hussein was Sudan’s interior minister and President Omar al-Bashir’s special representative in Darfur.

The ICC has already indicted President Bashir and another top official on charges of masterminding a campaign of murder, rape, and other crimes in Darfur.

Bashir has so far avoided arrest by traveling only to countries that will not hand him to the ICC.

Rebels in Darfur took up arms against the Bashir government in 2003, accusing the government of neglecting their region. The U.N. says more than 300,000 people have been killed in the conflict, and 2.7 million others displaced.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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US students arrested in Tahrir Square November 22, 2011

Violence continues in Tahrir Square Link to this video

The US embassy in Cairo is investigating the detention of three US students accused of throwing petrol bombs at security forces in Tahrir Square.

The three, all students at the American University in Cairo, were arrested during clashes outside the interior ministry on Monday, authorities said.

They were identified as Luke Gates, a 21-year-old exchange student from Bloomington, Indiana, who attends Indiana University, 19-year-old Gregory Porter, of Drexel University, and Derrik Sweeney, a Georgetown University student from Jefferson City, Missouri.

Adel Saeed, a spokesman for the Egyptian general prosecutor’s office, told CNN: “The three boys were throwing Molotov cocktails, and had no passports on them when they were picked up. They have been questioned by the police and will be further investigated by the Cairo prosecutor.”

Egyptian state television showed footage of the three men standing against a wall, with pictures of their driving licences and ID cards spread out next to what it said were petrol bombs.

Further footage, allegedly taken in Tahrir Square, showed demonstrators – at least one of whom was wearing a mask – with Caucasian features, including a young man with blond hair.

Sweeney’s sister Nicole told the Guardian via email that her brother was being held at a courthouse rather than a prison.

She said: “The response from the state department has largely been one of ‘we’ll let you know when we know more’, but the only contact has been that initiated by my parents.

“They do know that he’s being detained at a courthouse, rather than a prison, which we assume is a good thing.”

Sweeney was an intern for the Republican congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer from February to May 2011, working in his Washington office. Luetkemeyer’s spokesman, Paul Sloca, said he had been in contact with the state department.

“Our primary concern is that he is safe and being treated fairly,” he said.

Sloco said Sweeney, who answered phone and attended meetings for Leutkemeyer, had come highly recommended and was “very outgoing, a good intern”.

Egypt‘s generals have claimed foreign intervention is behind some of the violence in Cairo. Since the Egyptian revolution began at the start of the year, thousands of foreign activists have flocked to Cairo in solidarity with the aims of the Arab Spring.

Occupy Wall Street and other Occupy movements, including in the UK, have issued statements of solidarity with Tahrir Square protesters. Occupy Wall Street voted at a general assembly to send 20 election observers to Egypt at a cost of $29,000 (£18,000).

The arrest of the three students was announced as Egyptians began flowing to Tahrir Square for a fourth day of protests, despite a crackdown by police in which at least 29 people have been killed.

Activists hoped to increase the number of protesters in the square, which was the epicentre of the revolt that ousted Hosni Mubarak in February.

The violence continued, with security forces, backed by military troops, firing volleys of teargas and rubber bullets to block protesters, who responded by hurling stones and firebombs. The two sides have been engaged in intense clashes since the unrest began on Saturday.

State TV reported that three people were killed in the Suez canal city of Ismailia, east of Cairo, overnight.

Hundreds of protesters arrived early on Tuesday to join several thousand who have been camping on Tahrir Square. The crowds hoisted a giant Egyptian flag and chanted slogans demanding that the generals immediately step down in favour of a civilian presidential council.

One man held a sign reading “ministry of thuggery” with photos of Mubarak, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, the senior military ruler, the prime minister, Essam Sharaf, and others.

A few hundred young men nearby chanted “say it, don’t fear, the council must go” and “the people want to execute the field marshal”.

On Monday, the civilian cabinet of Sharaf submitted its resignation to the military council, a move that had been widely expected given the government’s perceived inefficiency and its almost complete subordination to the generals.

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ICC Prosecutor: Libya May Try Gadhafi’s Son

The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor says the captured son of Moammar Gadhafi may be tried in Libya rather than in The Hague, as long as the trial meets ICC standards.

ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo met officials in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, Tuesday, as the country’s National Transitional Council prepared to name a new Cabinet that will govern until the country holds its first elections since the ouster of its dictator.


International Criminal Court (ICC) Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo (C) visits Tripoli November 22, 2011

The ICC has indicted Gadhafi’s son, Seif al-Islam, and Gadhafi’s former intelligence chief, Abdullah al-Senoussi, for crimes against humanity. Libyan transitional fighters recently captured the men in separate raids in the country’s southern desert.

International rights groups say the two men will not get fair trials in Libya. The country lacks an established judicial system after 42 years of rule by Gadhafi, who deliberately kept state institutions weak.

Libya’s transitional Prime Minister Abdurrahim el-Keib is expected to name the ministers of his government on Tuesday. Speaking Monday, he said he tried to pick people who are competent and representative of all Libyan regions. The prime minister made the comments in Tripoli at a joint news conference with visiting U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice.

Rice told the Tripoli news conference that Libya’s friends and neighbors must respect the country’s sovereignty when considering the issue of where to hold the trials of Gadhafi’s son and intelligence chief.

The U.N. Security Council authorized the ICC to investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity in Libya earlier this year, but the tribunal can only prosecute alleged perpetrators if a country itself is unwilling or unable to do so.

“Neither we nor anyone else near or far can impose our will or our interests on the government of Libya, but rather we will be partners that respond first and foremost to your interests and your needs,” said Rice.

U.S. State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland called on Libyan authorities to deal with all prisoners humanely.

“We have in general terms and now in very specific terms with regard to Seif appealed to all parties in Libya to ensure the humane treatment of prisoners in their custody and to ensure that independent monitors have access to him and to prepare a judicial process that meets international standards,” said Nuland.

Gadhafi was killed in October as transitional forces took control of his hometown of Sirte.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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ICC Trying to Secure Surrender of Gadhafi Son, Spy Chief November 3, 2011

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) says his office has been “galvanizing efforts” to bring a son of Moammar Gadhafi to justice as well as the former Libyan leader’s spy chief.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo says efforts are underway to secure the surrender of Gadhafi’s son, Seif al-Islam, as part of a broader probe into alleged war crimes committed by pro-Gadhafi forces, revolutionary fighters and NATO.

He says his office is also examining whether former spy chief Abdullah al-Senussi ordered mass rapes to persecute those considered Libyan dissidents or rebels. The exact whereabouts of both men are unknown.

The ICC prosecutor commented on Wednesday in remarks to the United Nations Security Council.  

He said a probe has been launched concerning alleged crimes committed by Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC), including the detentions of civilians suspected of being mercenaries and the killing of detained combatants.  

Rights groups have said NTC fighters singled out sub-Saharan African migrant workers for arbitrary arrest due to assumptions they supported Gadhafi.

Moreno-Ocampo did not provide details of possible crimes by NATO forces.  However, western allies, have denied allegations they deliberately targeted civilians during NATO’s seven-month bombing campaign against pro-Gadhafi forces, which ended Monday.

The ICC prosecutor said his office has been informed that Libya’s new leaders will look into the circumstances surrounding Gadhafi’s death.  Libyan Deputy U.N. Ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi told the council Tripoli would ensure all those involved in crimes not covered by ICC jurisdiction receive “transparent investigations and fair and just trials in Libyan courts.”

Earlier Wednesday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon used a visit to Libya to urge the country’s new leaders to secure weapons stockpiled by the former government.

Ban said it is particularly important to secure stocks of shoulder-fired missiles and chemical and biological weapons. Some of those arsenals were left unguarded during the chaotic outcome of Libya’s popular uprising this year.

The U.N. Security Council warned in a resolution Monday of the risk that terrorists and other armed groups in the region could gain access to the Gadhafi government’s weapons.

Ban, visiting Libya for the first time since the uprising began in March, told NTC chairman Mustafa Abdel Jalil the United Nations will support the Libyan people in their transition to democracy.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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