‘Save the Children’ suspends rescue operations in Mediterranean

Migrants, in this file photo, are rescued during an operation off the coast of Libya. (Reuters)
Updated 23 October 2017
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‘Save the Children’ suspends rescue operations in Mediterranean

ROME: International humanitarian group Save the Children said on Monday it had suspended migrant rescues in the Mediterranean Sea as departures from Libya slow and security conditions worsen.
Save the Children has operated a ship, the Vos Hestia, since September last year, rescuing more than 10,000 migrants from dangerous and overcrowded boats launched by people smugglers.
“For too long, we have been the substitution for the inexistent and inadequate European policies for search and rescue and for hosting migrants,” Save the Children Director-General Valerio Neri said in a statement.
Italian police searched the Vos Hestia on Monday as part of a wider investigation into the role non-government organizations (NGOs) are playing in picking up migrants off the Libya coast and bringing them to Italy.
Save the Children said its decision to halt rescues was already planned before the police search.
Earlier this year, the government asked humanitarian groups to sign a “code of conduct.” The government said the rescuers were providing an incentive for smugglers to put migrants to sea.
Police in August seized a migrant rescue boat operated by a German aid group Jugend Rettet. The chief prosecutor in the Sicilian city of Trapani said he had evidence of encounters between traffickers, who escorted illegal immigrants to the NGO boat, and members of its crew.
Jugend Rettet denied any wrongdoing.
Save the Children said in a statement it was not under investigation and was cooperating with authorities. The documents seized by police on Monday concerned “presumed illegal actions committed by third persons,” it said.
Several months ago, some 10 rescue ships took turns patrolling the North African coast, picking up migrants who reached international waters and bringing them to Italy.
Now only one large ship and a few small ones remain, with many organizations — including Doctors Without Borders — pulling out for various reasons, including security concerns and unhappiness with the attitude of the Italian authorities.
The Libyan Coast Guard, funded and trained by Italy, has taken a hostile stance toward the humanitarian boats in a series of incidents on the high seas.
In August, a Libyan vessel intercepted a charity ship and ordered it to sail to Tripoli or risk being fired on.
Departures from Libya have fallen dramatically since July, when an armed group that had been deeply involved in smuggling from the city of Sabratha began blocking departures.
So far in October sea arrivals to Italy are down more than 75 percent compared with the same month last year.


Man who killed newlywed during robbery executed in Texas

Alvin Braziel appears in a booking photo provided by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in Austin, Texas, US, December 10, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 12 December 2018
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Man who killed newlywed during robbery executed in Texas

  • The Whites, who had only been married 10 days, didn’t have any money on them but told Braziel they could get him some and they started walking back to their truck

HUNTSVILLE, Texas: A Texas inmate was executed Tuesday evening for fatally shooting a newlywed during a robbery more than 25 years ago.
Alvin Braziel Jr., 43, received lethal injection at the state penitentiary in Huntsville for the 1993 slaying of 27-year-old Douglas White, who was attacked as he and his wife walked on a jogging trail.
Braziel became the 24th inmate put to death this year in the US and the 13th executed in Texas, the nation’s busiest capital punishment state. He will be the last Texas inmate executed this year.
The execution was delayed about 90 minutes after the six-hour window defined by the warrant began at 6 p.m. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals rejected a last-minute appeal from Braziel’s attorneys.
As Douglas and Lora White walked along a community college jogging trail in the Dallas suburb of Mesquite, Braziel jumped out from behind some bushes with a pistol in his hand and demanded money.
The Whites, who had only been married 10 days, didn’t have any money on them but told Braziel they could get him some and they started walking back to their truck. But Braziel became angry with the couple and ordered them to the ground.
“Doug ... was praying, asked God to forgive him and Lora their sins because they both knew that this was it,” said Michael Bradshaw, the lead detective on the case for Mesquite police. “The last thing Doug said before Braziel fired the first round, he said, ‘Please God, don’t let him hurt Lora.’“
Braziel shot White once in the head and once in his heart.
Bradshaw said he believes Braziel would have also shot then-24-year-old Lora White but his gun malfunctioned. Braziel instead took her to bushy area near the trail and sexually assaulted her.
Douglas White’s murder was featured on the television show “America’s Most Wanted” and a $20,000 reward was raised by the chiropractic college he had worked for as an electrician. Bradshaw said more than 40 potential suspects were interrogated and had their blood drawn for testing.
But White’s murder remained unsolved for over seven years.
“I really didn’t know that I would ever be able to solve it. But I really did not give up hope,” said Bradshaw, 63, who retired from Mesquite police in 2012.
Braziel was eventually tied to the killing in 2001 after he was imprisoned for sexual assault in an unrelated case and his DNA matched evidence from Lora White’s assault.
At his trial, Braziel said he wasn’t near the college during the killing.
Braziel’s attorneys didn’t immediately reply to emails and calls seeking comment on Tuesday.
Last week, his lawyers asked the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to stop his execution, arguing in part he should not receive lethal injection because he is intellectually disabled.
The Supreme Court held in 2002 that people convicted of murder who are intellectually disabled cannot be executed.
Braziel’s attorneys later withdrew their request.
Courts had previously turned down Braziel’s appeals that have focused on claims of mental illness and that he had suffered a childhood brain injury, saying Braziel refused to be examined by a mental health expert during his trial and that his family declined to help his defense attorneys obtain evidence of any mental health problems in Braziel’s family.
His attorneys also filed a last-minute appeal Tuesday, arguing that an emotional outburst at the 2001 murder trial from Lora White was unfairly elicited by prosecutors when she was shown on the witness stand a photo of her husband’s autopsied body.
Bradshaw said he still keeps in contact with Lora White and that she started a new life and is doing well.
“Lora wants it known that she’s prayed for Alvin Braziel and his family,” Bradshaw said.