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A court in Palermo, Sicily, ruled on Friday that the wrong Eritrean man was arrested and tried as a migrant smuggling kingpin and ordered him released from jail, to the jubilation of international supporters who had championed for years the defendant's claim of mistaken identity.

Defense lawyer Michele Calantropo told The Associated Press that his client, Medhanie Tesfamariam Behre, "cried for joy" when he heard the court order him released from jail, three years after he had been extradited to Italy from Sudan on a charge of human trafficking.

But while the court exonerated him of the trafficking charge, it convicted him of a lesser charge - aiding illegal immigration - for helping two cousins reach Italy, based on investigations conducted after Behre was extradited to Italy, Calantropo said.

The court sentenced him on that charge to five years in prison. But since Behre already spent three years behind bars under a warrant for the wrong man, it was likely under Italy's justice system, that, as a first offender, he won't have to do any more time in jail.

Prosecutors had argued the defendant was Medhane Yehdego Mered, an alleged human trafficking kingpin who profited as thousands of migrants were smuggled to Italy on unseaworthy boats launched from Libyan shores. They had asked the court to convict him and give a 14-year prison term.

They didn't immediately react to the ruling.

Even as the suspect set foot in Italy in 2016, escorted by Italian police, a chorus of doubts rose up about whether prosecutors actually had the man they claimed.

One of the defendant's sisters, who lives in Norway, said her brother was living a "normal" life in Sudan and had nothing to do with human smuggling. She said she recognized her brother in the images of the man being extradited to Italy.




A federal attorney in South Texas said in court this week that during the ongoing partial government shutdown, he only has been allowed to work on cases related to President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall.

The Texas Civil Rights Project on Thursday released a transcript of a Tuesday hearing in a case where the U.S. government has sued a local landowner for her property along the U.S.-Mexico border. Many other civil cases have been delayed during the shutdown, which was triggered by Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion to build a wall.

According to the transcript, U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez noted that government attorneys working on border wall cases have not been furloughed despite the shutdown.

The prosecutor, Eric Paxton Warner, responded, “This is all I’m allowed to work on, Your Honor.”

Warner and a spokeswoman for the local U.S. attorney’s office did not return messages. A spokesman for the Department of Justice says each U.S. attorney had the authority to determine which civil cases should move forward or be delayed, but that civil cases would be delayed “to the extent this can be done without compromising to a significant degree the safety of human life or the protection of property.”

U.S. Customs and Border Protection said last year that it planned to start building in February. But unlike on other parts of the border, most border land in South Texas is owned privately. That requires the government to seize it through eminent domain, suing private landowners in cases that can take months or years. Some landowners who would be affected have already vowed to fight the government in court.



A new legislative audit report says West Virginia's Supreme Court skirted state law concerning pay for senior status judges.

News outlets report the audit released last week found 10 senior-status judges were authorized overpayments. State law prohibits them from making more than active circuit judges. The audit said that to circumvent the law, Supreme Court officials began converting senior status judges from employees to independent contractors.

The audit by the Legislative Auditor's Office Post Audit Division also pegged renovations for Supreme Court offices between 2012 and 2016 at $3.4 million, including $1.9 million for the five justices' chambers. Auditors say invoices for renovations to the court's law library and administrative offices were not made available.

Four justices who were impeached by the House of Delegates are due to go before the state Senate on Tuesday.



A South Korean high court has extended the lengthy prison sentence of former President Park Geun-hye for corruption in office.

In April, a district court sentenced Park to 24 years in jail over bribery, extortion, abuse of power and other charges. She was removed from office last year following months of street rallies over the corruption scandal.

The Seoul High Court on Friday handed out a 25-year prison sentence after concluding Park took more money in bribes than initially believed.

Park, daughter of late dictator Park Chung-hee, was South Korea's first female president. She has called herself a victim of political revenge.



Longtime British rock icon Cliff Richard's case against the BBC's coverage of a police raid at his home has begun in a London court.

Richard is suing the broadcaster for its coverage of the 2014 raid, when police were investigating an alleged sex assault.

The 77-year-old singer was never charged with any crime. His lawsuit claims he suffered "profound" damage to his reputation as a result of the BBC's coverage of the police activity at his home.

BBC says it will "vigorously" rebut Richard's case. Richard's lawyer Justin Rushbrooke told the court BBC used its cameras to "spy" into Richard's home.

He said it was hard to describe "the sense of panic and powerlessness" Richard experienced when he realized the BBC was broadcasting images of the raid based on allegations he knew were false.


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