Lucia Annibali: From acid attack victim to Italy Parliament candidate

In 2013, a hooded man sprayed Lucia Annibali with sulphonic acid, severely disfiguring her face and almost blinding her. (AFP)
Updated 28 February 2018
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Lucia Annibali: From acid attack victim to Italy Parliament candidate

PARMA: After overcoming a brutal acid attack organized by an ex-lover, Lucia Annibali is using her power as a symbol of the battle against gender-based violence to take that fight to Italy’s Parliament.
A lawyer, Annibali has bounced back from almost losing her sight and a raft of facial reconstructive surgery to become a major voice drawing attention to violence against women.
Now she is running in the March 4 election for the center-left Democratic Party (PD) in the northeast city of Parma.
“After being attacked I thought about how I could best start again,” she told AFP.
“I had to find the best way to make the most of my work as a lawyer and realized that politics could be the right way.”
Parma is in a left-wing stronghold — famous for Parmesan cheese — and the locals seem well disposed toward the 40-year-old candidate.
It is the city of her renaissance where she went under the knife around 20 times to reconstruct her face and where she was made an honorary citizen in 2015.
“We hope that a woman who has shown such an ability to get her life back on track will make the most of her potential in public life,” said Enrico Bruschi, a pharmacist in center city Parma.
Annibali’s life changed forever on April 6, 2013, when returning from work to her home in Pesaro in eastern Italy, a hooded man appeared and sprayed her with sulphonic acid, severely disfiguring her face and almost blinding her.
“My face was cooking, I was screaming so much, there were little bubbles moving on my cheeks,” she said later describing the horrendous assault.
As she was rushed to the burns unit of a hospital in Parma, some two-and-half-hours away, Annibali named her former fiance, also a lawyer, who in 2016 would be sentenced to 20 years in prison for hiring two Albanian men to carry out the attack.
Later that year, then-head of the Department of Equal Opportunities Maria Elena Boschi invited Annibali to become an adviser, a role she still carries out today. “The attack changed my life for the better,” she now says.
“Regaining my sight and relearning to eat are all battles that make you truly appreciate the value of life.”
Italy’s domestic violence figures are below the European average of 33 percent, with 27 percent of Italian women over the age of 15 saying that they have suffered physical or sexual violence.
Italy is also lower than Denmark (52 percent), Finland (47 percent), France and the United Kingdom (44 percent), according to the first European-wide study published in 2014 by the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency.
However, the authors of the report note that women in southern European countries also often keep silent about some forms of violence.
Figures published by Italy’s national statistics body Istat show that just 11 percent of Italian women who have been victims of gender-based violence press charges, while over 80 percent of women who are sexually blackmailed at work speak to no one about the incident.
But the worldwide #MeToo movement against sexual assault and harassment is having an impact in Italy where actress Asia Argento’s prominent role in the campaign has brought violence against women to the forefront of public debate.
“If we’ve been talking a lot about these cases in Italy in recent years, it’s because women have armed themselves with the courage to speak out.”


Top Indian court says it will not probe French fighter jet deal

Updated 14 December 2018
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Top Indian court says it will not probe French fighter jet deal

  • Congress party accused Narendra Modi’s administration of graft following a deal to buy 36 Rafale planes and the decision to pick Reliance Defense as a domestic partner
  • India’s Supreme Court ruled there was no evidence of commercial favoritism

DELHI: India’s Supreme Court said Friday it would not probe the government’s multi-billion dollar decision to buy French fighter jets.
The opposition Congress party accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration of graft following a deal to buy 36 Rafale planes and the decision to pick Reliance Defense, owned by billionaire Anil Ambani, as a domestic partner.
Reliance has no aeronautical expertise and was chosen ahead of state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), which does, triggering allegations of a scam.
But the court said there was no evidence of commercial favoritism.
“Having heard the matter in detail, we find no reason for any intervention by this court on the sensitive issue. Perception of individuals cannot be the basis of fishing and roving enquiry by this court, especially in such matters,” the 32-page verdict said.
“We can’t compel the government to purchase 126 aircraft and it’s not proper for the court to examine each aspect of this case. It isn’t a job of the court to compare pricing details. The country cannot afford to be unprepared or underprepared in a situation where our adversaries are stated to have acquired not only fourth generation, but even fifth generation aircrafts, of which we have none,” the court added.
Indian defense procurement rules state that a foreign firm must invest at least 30 percent of the contract in India to help to build up its manufacturing base and wean it off imports.
HAL was the sole contender for being the local partner of Dassault Aviation, which makes the Rafale jets, but when the deal was sealed in 2015 during Modi’s Paris trip it was Reliance Defense that got the contract.
“In our opinion, the Supreme Court judgment is totally wrong. The campaign will certainly not drop and we will decide if we will file a review petition,” one of the main petitioners Prashant Bhushan said after the verdict.
“This isn’t the first time when the Apex court has failed us in ordering a probe in cases of high-level corruption,” he told reporters.
Congress said the Supreme Court was not the forum to rule on such a sensitive defense contract.
“The verdict of the Supreme Court is a validation of what the Congress party has stated months ago. Only forum is a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) which can probe the entire corruption in Rafale deal,” said the party’s chief spokesman Randeep Surjewala.
Ambani denied there had been a scam, saying the allegations were politically motivated, while the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) demanded an apology from Congress leader Rahul Gandhi.
“Truth always triumphs. Court’s judgment on the Rafale deal exposes the campaign of misinformation spearheaded by Congress president for political gains,” president of the BJP Amit Shah said.
Dr. Satish Mishra, from the Observer Research Foundation think-tank, said that the court verdict did not mean that the Rafale deal was beyond reproach.
“It only means that the court does not have enough evidence to order a probe into the deal,” he told Arab News. “If the government does not have anything to hide then it should order an independent inquiry or set up a joint parliamentary team to clear the doubts raised by the opposition, otherwise the charges will remain in the public domain. The BJP is in a defensive mode after the defeat in the regional elections. Allegations of corruptions have sullied the image of Modi, the only asset that the party has. I don’t think the verdict in any way vindicates the PM or the BJP.”