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Monday, April 20, 2015

Prosecutors: Capsized boat captain and crew member arrested


Raw: Bodies of Boat Disaster Arrive in Malta
AP
 
 
** ALTERNATE CROP OF ALT101 ** A rescuer cradles a child in the Sicilian harbor of Pozzallo,... Read more
CATANIA, Sicily (AP) — Prosecutors said Tuesday that they arrested the captain and a crew member of the boat in which as many as 900 people are feared to have drowned in the unremitting waves of migrants seeking to escape from war-torn Libya.
Even as the search continued for victims of the weekend disaster, coast guard ships rushed to respond to new distress calls on the high seas — two off Libya and a third boat that ran aground near Greece.
Assistant Prosecutor Rocco Liguori said the Tunisian captain and Syrian crew member were arrested aboard the rescue boat that brought 27 survivors from the deadly shipwreck to Sicily. The two were charged with favoring illegal immigration and the captain was also charged with reckless multiple homicide in relation to the sinking.
Decrying what he called an "escalation in these death voyages," Italian Premier Matteo Renzi urged Europe to put the focus on preventing more boats from leaving Libya, the source of 90 percent of migrant traffic to Italy.
"We are facing an organized criminal activity that is making lots of money, but above all ruining many lives," Renzi said at a joint news conference with Malta's prime minister, Joseph Muscat. He compared their activity to that of slave traders of centuries past, "unscrupulous men who traded human lives."
The European Union foreign affairs chief, Federica Mogherini, said this weekend's appalling human toll — which, if verified, would be the deadliest migrant tragedy ever — had "finally" fully awakened the European Union to the evils of human trafficking.
The EU has been under increasing criticism for lagging in its response to the crisis, with two shipwrecks believed to have taken the lives of as many as 1,300 migrants in the past week. Some 400 people are believed to have drowned in another capsizing on April 13.
Stopping the traffickers will be a key item on the agenda when EU leaders meet in an emergency summit Thursday in Brussels, along with a proposal to double spending on sea patrols off Europe's southern border. The 10-point plan includes a proposal to take "civil-military" action modeled on Europe's anti-piracy operation off the coast of Somalia, to capture and destroy boats used by traffickers.
Meanwhile, new details emerged about the weekend disaster, with Italian prosecutors saying hundreds of migrants were locked below deck unable to escape when the rickety boat capsized off the coast of Libya.
Speaking at a news conference in Catania, Sicily, prosecutor Giovanni Salvi said "a few hundred were forced into the hold and they were locked in and prevented from coming out." He said hundreds more were locked on a second level of the boat, which also had hundreds of migrants squeezed into its upper deck.
Salvi said the migrants rushed to one side of the boat as they saw a Portuguese-flagged container vessel approach, with the promise of rescue contributing to the disaster.
"Merchant ships don't have adequate training for rescues in the seas," Salvi warned. "The fact is, sea rescues are difficult and require professionalism. "
As with most such high seas sinkings, a precise death toll will likely never be known. Only 24 bodies have been recovered so far and only 27 survivors were rescued. One survivor, identified as a 32-year-old Bangladeshi, has put the number of people on board at as many as 950, though Salvi said the survivor had no means to verify numbers. He said the coast guard estimated more than 700 people were on board, based on its observations at the scene.
Muscat, the Maltese prime minister, called the latest tragedy "a game-changer," and said that "if Europe doesn't work together, history will judge it very badly."
Renzi said that recent events had proven that providing rescue wasn't always possible, given the conditions of the smugglers' boats and the delicacy of such operations, and that the focus needs to be on preventing the boats from leaving Libya. "Continuing to think that allowing them to depart and then chasing after them means putting at risk human lives," he said.
Even as European leaders grappled with how to respond to the crisis, more unseaworthy boats were setting off Monday on the perilous journey. Renzi said Italian ships were rushing to respond to distress calls from an inflatable life raft near the Libyan coast with 100 to 150 migrants on board and to another boat carrying about 300 people.
The International Organization for Migration earlier said its Rome office had received a distress call from three boats in need of help. The group says the caller reported 300 people on his sinking boat, with about 20 fatalities. No details were available about the other boats or their location, and it was not clear if they were the same rescues to which Renzi referred.
In a separate incident, at least three people, including a child, were killed and 93 others were rescued when a wooden boat carrying dozens of migrants who had departed from Turkey ran aground off the Greek island of Rhodes.
Dramatic video showed migrants clinging to pieces of wreckage and rescuers helping them ashore.
Prosecutors in Palermo, meanwhile, said a trafficking ring they had cracked had generated transactions worth hundreds of thousands of euros crisscrossing Europe as migrants paid not only to cross the Mediterranean but also to join relatives in northern Europe.
Prosecutor Maurizio Scalia said based on telephone intercepts, the average cost to smuggle a migrant from Eritrea or Ethiopia to Libya ran $4,000 to $5,000 (euros), while the crossing to Italy cost an additional $1,000 to $1,500 (euros). Migrants pay hundreds of dollars more to get out of holding centers and at least another $1,000 to travel to northern Europe.
Payments for each leg are made up front, often using the Islamic hawala banking system which is based on an informal honor code in which a relative in northern Europe pays a local broker and the payment information is transmitted to the actual traffickers on the ground advising them that the leg has been paid for.
Authorities identified the trafficking ring's mastermind as Ermias Ghermay, an Ethiopian who has been sought since the October 2013 shipwreck off Lampedusa that left 366 people dead. He is believed to be in Libya. Authorities issued arrest warrants for 24 people, including 14 in Italy.
Renzi said the instability in Libya was giving free reign to the traffickers, as evidenced by the escalating migrant flows, but he ruled out sending ground troops to Libya or a naval blockade of migrants, saying that would only provide a corridor for them.
Libya is a transit point for migrants fleeing conflict, repression and poverty in countries such as Eritrea, Niger, Syria, Iraq and Somalia, with increased instability there and improving weather prompting more people to attempt the dangerous crossing.
Fighting in Libya has escalated to its worst levels since the 2011 civil war that ended with the overthrow and killing of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi.
Malta and Italy are closest to the Libyan coast, and have received the brunt of a migrant tide that carried 219,000 people from Africa to Europe last year. Some 3,500 died or went missing along the way, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said in a statement Sunday.
___
Nicole Winfield in Rome, Elena Becatoros in Athens, Stephen Calleja in Malta, Lorne Cooke in Brussels and Raf Casert in Luxembourg contributed.

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Egypt: 22 Get Death Sentences


An Egyptian criminal court sentenced 22 people to death on Monday after convicting them of storming a police station outside Cairo and killing an officer on July 3, 2013 — the day the military overthrew Mohamed Morsi, the Islamist president. The Giza court said eight of the defendants were sentenced in absentia on charges that included murder, attempted murder, possession of unlicensed firearms, destruction of property and vandalism. The ruling, which can be appealed, also sentenced a minor to 10 years. Mr. Morsi himself faces a verdict on Tuesday over accusations that he was responsible for the killing of protesters while president. The ruling will be the first in several trials against him.

Child migrants among victims of human smugglers sailing the Mediterranean Sea


thestar.com

Save the Children estimates that close to 1,300 of the 22,507 migrants who have arrived in Italy this year are unaccompanied minors.

A rescuer cradles a child in the Sicilian harbour of Pozzallo, Italy, early Monday. About 100 migrants, including 28 children, were rescued on Sunday by a merchant vessel in the Sicilian Strait while they were trying to cross.
Alessandra Tarantino / The Associated Press
A rescuer cradles a child in the Sicilian harbour of Pozzallo, Italy, early Monday. About 100 migrants, including 28 children, were rescued on Sunday by a merchant vessel in the Sicilian Strait while they were trying to cross.
Berhane was beaten, starved, locked up and forced to witness horrific atrocities in his desperate journey across Libya to the Mediterranean Sea and Italy with some of the world’s most brutal smugglers.
But the 17-year-old Eritrean youth was one of the lucky ones — he made it. Unlike the hundreds of would-be migrants who have perished in the past month, and the thousands who have died in recent years, he reached the Italian shore alive.
“We don’t know how many children have died in these attempts,” said Sarah Tyler of Save the Children, in an interview from the port of Catania in Sicily, where a handful of survivors were taken after the capsizing of a boat carrying up to 900 people.
“I’ve been doing emergencies for about nine years now,” she said, “and these are some of the worst stories I’ve ever heard.”
Save the Children estimates that close to 1,300 of the 22,507 migrants who have arrived in Italy this year are unaccompanied minors, many of them from Eritrea, Somalia and Gambia, as well as strife-torn Nigeria, Mali, Sudan, Afghanistan and the Palestinian Territories.
The sheer horror of Berhane’s plight took hold when the unaccompanied teen travelled through the Libyan desert with about 30 others on a pickup truck driven by cocaine-fuelled smugglers.
“When the truck stopped for a break, if you did something they didn’t like, you paid dearly,” he told Save the Children workers in Italy. “I saw them spray people with petrol and set fire to them until they died.”
In Libya he was starved and beaten with iron bars on a month-long stopover near Benghazi. On the road to Tripoli, where Islamists had seized territory, he saw bodies of up to 63 people, 25 of them beheaded.
A migrant is helped disembark in the Sicilian harbour of Pozzallo, Italy, early Monday.
Alessandra Tarantino/The Associated Press

A migrant is helped disembark in the Sicilian harbour of Pozzallo, Italy, early Monday.
To extort more money the smugglers forced the migrants to phone their homes, beating them so their relatives could hear them scream.
“It’s a very organized network,” said Tyler. “People are passed from one group to another. When they get to Libya they’re sometimes kidnapped by other smugglers and have to pay more.”
The stories of violence in Libya are some of the worst, she added. “Children told us they were put in cells, raped and tortured. One young boy from Somalia who was 15 saw someone raped, and then she committed suicide because of the shame.”
Even babies have suffered and died. They were among 23 burn victims taken to Lampedusa in life-threatening condition after rescue at sea on Friday. They were in a cooking gas explosion in Libya before the voyage, and forced into a boat without treatment.
“There was a mother of a 15-month-old baby whose (head) was completely bandaged, her arm was bandaged and she could barely eat. She tried to cry, but couldn’t make a sound,” said Tyler.
Her mother had gone without treatment for four days, she added, and without water for two days. “It was basically a death sentence. The smugglers treat them as cargo. It doesn’t matter if they live or die.”
Another woman gravely injured in the same explosion gave birth to a premature baby who died, before being loaded into the dilapidated boat.
Berhane is hoping his luck will hold. Taken to Palermo after an earlier rescue at sea, he is being transferred to a facility for minors in Sicily. “He hopes to go on to a new life in northern Europe (and) leave behind him all the viciousness and inhumanity he has witnessed,” said Save the Children.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Reunited After 49 Years

How Thatcher’s Government Covered Up a VIP Pedophile Ring

The Daily Beast

Now that most of the major figures are dead, the truth is emerging about the systematic sexual abuse of children by members of the British government.
 
Now that most of the major figures are dead, the truth is emerging about the systematic sexual abuse of children by members of the British government.
LONDON — A newspaper editor was handed startling evidence that Britain’s top law enforcement official knew there was a VIP pedophile network in Westminster, at the heart of the British government. What happened next in the summer of 1984 helps to explain how shocking allegations of rape and murder against some of the country’s most powerful men went unchecked for decades.
Less than 24 hours after starting to inquire about the dossier presented to him by a senior Labour Party politician, the editor was confronted in his office by a furious member of parliament who threatened him and demanded the documents. “He was frothing at the mouth and really shouting and spitting in my face,” Don Hale told The Daily Beast. “He was straight at me like a raging lion; he was ready to knock me through the wall.”
Despite the MP’s explosive intervention, Hale refused to hand over the papers which appeared to show that Leon Brittan, Margaret Thatcher’s Home Secretary, was fully aware of a pedophile network that included top politicians.
The editor’s resistance was futile; the following morning, police officers from the counter-terror and intelligence unit known as Special Branch burst into the newspaper office, seized the material and threatened to have Hale arrested if he ever reported what had been found.
More than 30 years later, an inquiry into allegations of child sex abuse rings, murder, and cover-ups has been launched by the British government after Scotland Yard detectives said they believed statements by victims who claimed they were systematically abused as young boys at sex abuse parties attended by judges, politicians, intelligence officers, and staff at the royal palaces.
In 1983, a controversial MP, Geoffrey Dickens, had made a series of incendiary claims about active pedophiles in the corridors of power. He handed a file containing the names of alleged perpetrators to Leon Brittan; publicly the authorities shrugged off the claims and no trial or prosecution would follow. The dossier mysteriously disappeared.
More than 30 years later, an inquiry into allegations of child sex abuse rings, murder, and cover-ups has been launched by the British government.
Decades later, Brittan claimed he had simply handed the papers to his subordinates to investigate and heard no more about it. Last year, he was forced to clarify his statement when it emerged that he had later written to Dickens to say the initial investigation had been deemed “worth pursuing” by investigators.
It is now claimed that confidential Home Office papers collated by Baroness Castle of Blackburn and passed to Don Hale, editor of her local newspaper, the Bury Messenger, claimed that Brittan had played an active role in overseeing the investigation into the pedophile network. “Leon Brittan was mentioned in everything you picked up, his fingerprints were over everything, he was the instigator,” Hale said. “He really had his finger on the pulse, he wanted to know everything about it; all the documents were cc’d back to Leon Brittan or it was an instruction directly from Leon Brittan.”
Brittan, a protégé of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, had been promoted to Home Secretary at the age of 43, making him the youngest person to preside over Britain’s domestic law enforcement and national security apparatus since Winston Churchill before the First World War.
Brittan, who died in January, has been accused of raping a woman and sexually abusing boys. He denied the allegations and was never charged, although police investigations have continued after his death.
Baroness Castle, then Barbara Castle, a Labour member of the European parliament, told Hale she did not trust Brittan to investigate the allegations thoroughly. “Barbara never said he was a pedophile, she was just very, very hostile about him. ‘He’s the last person you want this to go to,’ she said, which inferred that he was somehow involved,” Hale explained.
Worried about the integrity of the Home Office investigation, Castle had tried to interest the major newspapers in the classified documents but she turned to Hale when they rejected her overtures. “She was saying, ‘I’ve been everywhere else, I’ve been to the nationals, nobody would touch it with a barge pole, but what do you think?’” Hale recalled. “As a journalist of course I was interested.”
Great Britain’s notoriously tough libel laws insured that obviously he couldn’t repeat the allegations included in the Home Office papers that about 16 MPs and members of the House of Lords, and 30 high-profile figures from the Church of England, private schools, and big business, were members of, and advocates for, the Paedophile Information Exchange. The shadowy group, which operated partly in the open, campaigned for the age of consent to be abolished and incest to be legalized. It also allowed pedophiles to send each other secure mail and to meet in person.
Instead, Hale planned to run a story explaining that the Home Office was actively investigating these men and repeat some of the concerns voiced to him by Castle, who died in 2002. He set about contacting some of the men named in the papers, and the Home Office, for their response. The very next morning he was surprised to see the 400-pound figure of Cyril Smith, the Liberal Party MP for nearby Rochdale, arrive at the office. “I’d interviewed him probably four times, and when he came in I was like, ‘Oh, hello, Cyril.’ And he was, ‘Never mind all that.’ And he was straight at me,” Hale said.
“He said to me quite clearly, ‘I know who’s given you this, it’s Barbara Castle.’ I wouldn’t say who it was, but it was pretty obvious he knew. He’s a hell of a sized guy, he’s over six feet tall and he’s huge; took up three seats. He’s not a guy you could deal with easily, he was a horror.”
Hale managed to stonewall Smith but the following morning, he had more visitors. “That’s when Special Branch turned up,” he said.
Three vehicles pulled up to the newspaper offices and about 15 men barged inside. Two pushed him up against a wall and brandished a search warrant and something they described as a “D-notice.” The D-notice system was established in 1912 and was supposed to be used on very rare occasions when national security could be threatened by a news story.
The rest of the men were searching for the files, which they described as stolen, confidential Home Office papers. “These bully boys come storming in, they said, ‘We’re not here to negotiate. Hand them over or we’ll arrest you now.’ I couldn’t argue, because as soon as you opened the files it had got ‘Not to be removed’, ‘Confidential’ and ‘For your eyes only’—all these sort of things on them. I wouldn’t have had a hope in hell legally. I would have ended up in prison and the story would have gone nowhere,” he said.
The story went nowhere for a generation.
A new breed of backbench politician began to reopen these issues in the last couple of years. Simon Danczuk, MP for Rochdale since 2010, focused on one of his parliamentary predecessors. In a book published last year, he revealed that Sir Cyril Smith, the man who “had steam coming out of his ears” as he remonstrated with Don Hale, was himself allegedly a predatory pedophile with more than 140 complaints filed against him. Throughout his life he had been protected from prosecution.
Among the retired police officers Danczuk interviewed, one recalled the time Special Branch officers forbade them from asking a victim about Smith. Others remembered the day Smith was allowed to walk out of a police station without charge despite indecent images being found in his car after an unexplained telephone call from London.
It wasn’t just Special Branch that seemed keen to keep MPs out of the clutches of the law. In a candid interview for the BBC in 1995, Tim Fortescue, a former Conservative Party chief whip, described the grubby calculations routinely applied within elite political circles:
“Anyone with any sense who was in trouble would come to the whips and tell them the truth, and say now, ‘I’m in a jam, can you help?’ It might be debt, it might be a scandal involving small boys, or any kind of scandal which a member seemed likely to be mixed up in, they’d come and ask if we could help. And if we could, we did. We would do everything we can because we would store up brownie points. That sounds a pretty nasty reason but one of the reasons is, if we can get a chap out of trouble, he’ll do as we ask forever more.”
Fortescue’s callous words could have come directly from the script of House of Cards, the original British version of which was first broadcast in 1990.

There is growing evidence that MI5 and MI6, Britain’s security services, took a similar view. MI5 is alleged to have repeatedly blocked investigations into a sex abuse ring at the Kincora children’s home in Northern Ireland in order to protect its intelligence-gathering operation.
The longtime deputy director of MI6, and former High Commissioner in Canada, Peter Hayman was himself allegedly a pedophile, and was ultimately named as such in parliament by Geoffrey Dickens. Hayman had been caught with explicit material in 1978 but no charge was brought. Secret files discovered at the National Archives this year revealed that the attorney general at the time believed it wasn’t in the public interest for Hayman to be prosecuted. Prime Minister Thatcher ordered his depravity to be concealed from the public.
Thatcher must also have known about the allegations against her Home Secretary, Leon Brittan, because 1984’s most explosive gossip had appeared on the pages of the scurrilous Private Eye newspaper. Her bodyguard Barry Strevens now says he personally warned her that another of her most trusted lieutenants, Sir Peter Morrison, had also abused underage boys. She appointed Morrison to run her 1990 re-election campaign regardless.
Time and again crimes were reported but voices from above silenced the complaints before they came to court. Carl, who does not wish to give his second name, told The Daily Beast that this culture of secrecy, which had apparently paralyzed the British legal system, helped to scare off victims who wanted to report their powerful abusers.
Carl was abused by a pedophile ring from the age of 7, and the emotional and physical torture went on for nine years. Some of his attackers, he says, were men with influence and authority. “The authority is not what stops people from speaking out, it’s the fear that is instilled by these people,” he said. “It appears the cover-ups did happen and it makes survivors very wary because you don’t know who you can have confidence in to report.”
One of the people who dedicated their lives to amplifying the voices of the victims, trying to ensure the powerful would be held to account, was Liz Davies. In the late ’80s and early ’90s, she was a social worker in Islington, North London, with an unusual problem: Teenage boys, usually so reluctant to seek help, would line up outside her office on Hornsey Road waiting to come inside.
She would later discover that the international office of the Paedophile Information Exchange was just a few hundred yards from her desk, and her patch was home to a host of prolific child attackers linked into a network of powerful abuse rings that stretched from Westminster to Northern Ireland, Wales, and the island of Jersey in the Channel.
In 1990, she raised concerns at a local council meeting that a large number of boys in the area were showing signs of abuse. She claimed that Margaret Hodge, then leader of Islington council and later the Minister for Children under Tony Blair, ignored her warnings. It was 2014 before Hodge would apologize for her “shameful naivety” in failing to properly investigate the claims of abuse. She is now chair of the Public Accounts Committee, which is responsible for oversight of all government spending.
Determined to continue her own investigation into the abuse, Davies began working with a colleague in the police force to gather more evidence. “We started interviewing a lot of the boys. With this being a small area, I knew them, I knew their families, I’d helped their parents, so I wasn’t seen as a bad person,” she told The Daily Beast. “They didn’t like the police because they were always nicking them for things but I would get them to speak to the police officer.”
They started putting maps up around the office, linking the boys, listing those affected and those suspected of abusing them. “We were breaking a lot of ground,” she said.
Then came a call from the regional headquarters. Davies and her boss, and her police counterpart and his boss were summoned for a meeting. “We were both told to drop all our investigations, that we had no evidence and we had no right to be interviewing the boys,” she said.
It was a heartbreaking moment, but this mini-abuse fighting team vowed to continue their work. “We made an agreement that we would carry on under the radar and that’s what we did,” she said.
In 1991, their investigations led to the conviction of a fire official called Roy Caterer. When police officers raided his home they found exactly what her boys had described, along with albums and albums of indecent photos.
Davies thought her work would finally be taken seriously by the authorities; she was wrong.
She had amassed evidence of abuse perpetrated against 61 victims, but she claims council officials continued to tell her to stop causing trouble. A year later she finally quit social services when she says she discovered that the boys she had been trying to save were being sent back into the Islington care home system only to suffer yet more sexual abuse. “I was networking these children into another network which was running within the care homes. I was handing over the most vulnerable, sexually exploited children to more pedophiles,” she said. “I have to live with that.”
Davies took a suitcase stuffed with evidence, including graphic photographs, to the Metropolitan Police. She said the well-intentioned superintendent looked at her haul and mournfully confessed that powerful figures still controlled what might be exposed. “I won’t be able to investigate here at Scotland Yard,” he said.
http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/03/06/britain-s-horrific-vip-pedophile-cover-up.html

This Judge Sold Children To Private Prisons For Cash, He’s Going Down For 28 Years


Addicting Info

Author: September 24, 2014 3:53 am
Judge Mark Ciavarella Jr shouted down by angry citizen
Judge Mark Ciavarella Jr shouted down by angry citizen
Judge Mark Ciavarella Jr has been sentenced to 28 years behind bars for literally selling kids to prisons for profit.
As Blue Nation Review reports:
A Pennsylvania judge has been convicted of selling children into prison for cash. The former judge, 61-year old Mark Ciavarella Jr, was sentenced to 30 years for taking money under the table from a developer and jailing thousands of adults and juveniles, some as young as ten. Ciavarella made more than a million dollars selling people into incarceration.
Around 4,000 convictions issued by Ciavarella between 2003 and 2008 were overturned by The Pennsylvania Supreme Court, due to his violations of the juveniles’ constitutional rights – including the right to legal counsel and the right to intelligently enter a plea.
The Tallahassee O gives some background to the victims of the scheme:
Among the young people exploited by Ciavarella were 15-year-old Hillary Transue, who was sentenced to three months at a juvenile detention center for mocking an assistant principal on a MySpace page; and 13-year-old Shane Bly, who was sent to a boot camp for two weekends after being accused of trespassing in a vacant building.
Another judge, Michael T. Conahan, used his position to shut down the county-run juvenile detention center and redirect juvenile detainees to the private prisons. He pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy.
So who was paying cash for these kids? Robert Mericle, builder of the PA and Western PA Child Care juvenile detention centers.

Mericle was handed a one year prison sentence and fines of $2m for his part in the scheme.

http://www.addictinginfo.org/2014/09/24/this-judge-sold-children-to-private-prisons-for-cash-hes-going-down-for-28-years/