In brief | Nation & World, January 31, 2014


Italy appeals court upholds Amanda Knox murder conviction

FLORENCE, Italy — An appeals court in Florence on Thursday upheld the guilty verdict against U.S. student Amanda Knox and her ex-boyfriend for the 2007 murder of her British roommate. Knox was sentenced to 28 1/2 years in prison, raising the specter of a long legal battle over her extradition if the conviction is confirmed.

Lawyers for Knox and her co-defendant, Raphael Sollecito, vowed to appeal to Italy’s highest court, a process that will take at least another year and drag out a legal saga that has divided court watchers in three nations.

In a statement from Seattle, where she had awaited the verdict at her mother’s home, Knox said she was “frightened and saddened” by the decision. She said it was “unjust” and the result of an overzealous prosecution and narrow-minded investigation that worked to “pervert the court of justice.”

“This has gotten out of hand,” she said. “Having been found innocent before, I expected better from the Italian justice system.”

After nearly 12 hours of deliberations, the court reinstated the guilty verdicts first handed down against Knox and Sollecito in 2009 for the death of Meredith Kercher. Those verdicts had been overturned in 2011 and the pair freed from prison, but Italy’s supreme court vacated that decision and sent the case back for a third trial in Florence.

US expresses concern over delays in mission to rid Syria of weapons

BEIRUT — The United States accused the Syrian government Thursday of using stalling tactics to delay efforts to remove and destroy chemical agents, an indication that the international community’s patience is wearing thin over the slow pace of the operation.

The comments, delivered by the U.S. representative to the international chemical weapons watchdog, marked some of the strongest public criticism of Syria’s commitment to relinquish its chemical stockpile.

Syria agreed to surrender its arsenal after a deadly chemical attack in August on a rebel-held suburb of Damascus raised the threat of punitive U.S. missile strikes. President Barack Obama has touted the agreement as a victory and a major policy achievement for his administration on Syria’s intractable civil war.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons is leading the mission to eliminate Syria’s 1,300-metric ton stockpile by a June 30 deadline.

Under the OPCW’s tight timeline, the most toxic chemicals in Syria’s arsenal were to have been removed from the country by Dec. 31, but that deadline was missed because of poor security amid Syria’s raging civil war as well as other factors. So far, just two small consignments of chemicals have been shipped out.

Bieber rivaling Toronto Mayor Ford as Canada’s favorite bad boy?

TORONTO — Pop star Justin Bieber is giving Toronto Mayor Rob Ford a brief respite as Canada’s favorite bad boy and butt of all jokes.

Ford has admitted smoking crack while in a drunken stupor and is being sued for supposedly orchestrating the jailhouse beating of his sister’s ex-boyfriend. The 19-year-old teen idol is facing the equivalent of a misdemeanor assault charge.

“It’s a change from the Rob Ford show,” said 14-year-old Jon Bullock, who braved glacial temperatures to catch a glimpse of the star as he turned himself in at a Toronto police station Wednesday evening to face charges over an altercation with a limousine driver in late December.

The incident, which comes on the heels of Bieber’s Miami arrest while apparently drag racing and driving under the influence of alcohol, marijuana and prescription drugs, is the latest to sully the image of the singer who has been drawing more attention for his brushes with the law than for his music.

For now at least, Bieber has eclipsed Ford as fodder for late-night comedy talk-shows on both sides of the border.

By wire sources