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Italy: Close associate of ex-PM Silvio Berlusconi cleared of negotiating with mafia after bombings | World News

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A close associate of ex-Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi and three former police investigators have had their convictions overturned, in a case where the state was accused of colluding with the mafia during its 1990s bombing campaign.

Former senator Marcello Dell’Utri, along with Mario Mori, Antonio Subranni and Giuseppe De Donno, have now been acquitted by a judge at an appeals court in Palermo. They had all maintained their innocence.

Dell’Utri was accused of brokering a deal to stop the attacks, in return for scaling back crackdowns by authorities and loosening strict conditions for top bosses behind bars.

Marcello Dell'Utri is a former senator
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Marcello Dell’Utri is a former Italian senator

Dell’Utri, who had been a politician for Berlusconi’s right-wing Forza Italia party, was convicted in 2018 of acting as a liaison between state institutions and Cosa Nostra bosses in Sicily.

He had been sentenced to 12 years behind bars for undermining the state, as were former generals Mori and Subranni, while ex-colonel De Donno received an eight-year jail term.

But the judge in Palermo, Angelo Pellino, has ruled the charges did not constitute a crime, suggesting state officials could contact mobsters if deemed necessary.

However, he upheld guilty verdicts against two mobsters, including Leoluca Bagarella, a convicted killer for the Corleone mafia family.

Dell’Utri told Italy’s Adnkronos news agency: “This acquittal is a turning point, not only for me but for Italian justice. This trial was monstrous.”

The prosecution case claimed state representatives had negotiated with the mob following a string of mafia bombings that killed 23 people, including prominent anti-mafia magistrates Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino.

Silvio Berlusconi casts his ballot at the 2000 elections. Pic: AP
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Silvio Berlusconi pictured in 2000. Pic: AP

According to prosecutors, talks between the mafia and the Italian state began after judge Falcone, his wife and three bodyguards were killed by a device under a motorway in May 1992.

The state’s willingness to enter negotiations after Falcone’s murder encouraged further bombings, it was alleged.

The prosecution said those attacks included the one that killed Mr Borsellino two months later because he had opposed the negotiations.

Judge Giovanni Falcone was killed in a bomb blast in May 1992. Pic: AP
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Judge Giovanni Falcone was killed in a bomb blast in May 1992. Pic: AP

The following year, Cosa Nostra carried out unprecedented mainland attacks on cultural and church targets, including Florence’s Uffizi Gallery.

Ten people were killed in Milan and Florence. After 1993, the attacks abruptly stopped.

The prosecutors said they would review Thursday’s ruling to decide if they would appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.

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Colin Powell: Former US Secretary of State dies following COVID complications, says family | US News

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Former US Secretary of State Colin Powell has died following coronavirus complications, his family has said.

A statement on his Facebook page posted by his family said the 84-year-old “passed away this morning due to complications from COVID-19”.

“He was fully vaccinated,” they said.

“We have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather and a great American.”

NBC News cited his spokesperson Peggy Cifrino and a family member as saying he was at Walter Reed National Medical Centre in Maryland at the time he died, where he had been suffering from multiple myeloma.

Mr Powell was the first African American secretary of state and the first black chairman of the joint chiefs of staff.

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Myanmar junta chief says military government committed to restoring peace | World News

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Myanmar’s junta leader has said his military government is committed to restoring peace and democracy. 

In a televised address on Monday, Min Aung Hlaing, dressed in civilian attire, reiterated the junta’s five-step plan toward restoring order.

His comments came in response to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ (ASEAN) decision to sideline him from an upcoming leaders’ summit over a lack of progress on a peace roadmap.

Since the military took control of Myanmar, people have protested its rule
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Since the military took control of Myanmar, people have protested its rule

The group of southeast Asian countries said they would invite a non-political representative to the summit – an unprecedented snub to the military leader, who led the coup against the elected civilian government led by Aung Sung Suu Kyi in February.

Brunei, ASEAN’s current chair, issued a statement citing a lack of progress made on a peace roadmap that the junta had agreed to with the body in April to restore peace in Myanmar.

But Min Aung Hlaing said on Monday that ASEAN should take note of his government’s plans – and the provocations and violence he said were being carried out by its opponents.

“More violence happened due to provocations of terrorist groups,” Min Aung Hlaing said. “No one cares about their violence, and is only demanding we solve the issue. ASEAN should work on that.”

Minutes after his speech, state television announced more than 5,600 people arrested or subject to arrest warrants over their roles in anti-coup protests would be freed in an amnesty for “humanitarian reasons”.

Singapore’s foreign ministry said at the weekend that the move to exclude Min Aung Hlaing was a “difficult, but necessary, decision to uphold ASEAN’s credibility”.

A spokesman for Myanmar’s military government blamed “foreign intervention” for the decision.

Junta spokesman Zaw Min Tun accused the United States and representatives of the European Union of pressuring ASEAN member states.

“The foreign interventions can also be seen here,” he said. “We learned that some envoys from some countries met with US foreign affairs and received pressure from EU,” he told the BBC Burmese news service.

More than 1,000 civilians have been killed by Myanmar security forces with thousands of others arrested amid a crackdown on strikes and protests that has derailed the country’s delicate democracy and prompted international condemnation, according to the United Nations.

The junta says those estimates of the death toll are exaggerated.

ASEAN has faced increasing international pressure to take a tougher stand against Myanmar, having been criticised in the past for its ineffectiveness in dealing with leaders accused of rights abuses, subverting democracy and intimidating political opponents.

A US State Department official told reporters on Friday that it was “perfectly appropriate and in fact completely justified” for ASEAN to downgrade Myanmar’s participation at the coming summit.

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Kerala floods: At least 22 people killed in flash flooding and landslides in south Indian state | World News

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At least 22 people have been killed in flash floods and landslides caused by heavy rain in the southern Indian state of Kerala over the weekend.

The National Disaster Response Force, the Indian army and navy were called out to rescue people after several areas were hit.

According to a government official, 13 people were killed in a landslide in the village of Kuttikkal, Kottayam district, with six of the casualties coming from one family.

A landslide triggered by heavy rains in the mountains at Koottickal in Kottayam district, southern Kerala, India. Pic: AP
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A landslide triggered by heavy rains in the mountains in Kottayam district, Kerala. Pic: AP
This photograph provided by the Indian Navy shows a navy person looking from their helicopter on a mission to distribute relief material to flood affected people at Koottickal in Kottayam district, southern Kerala state
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The navy has been distributing relief material to flood affected people. Pic: Indian Navy via AP

Officials said the intense rainfall had subsided, but feared the number of deaths could rise as relief and rescue operations continued.

On Sunday, rescuers recovered bodies in two of the worst-hit districts, Kottayam and Idukki.

Rescue workers carry the body of a victim after recovering it from the debris of a residential house following a landslide caused by heavy rainfall at Kokkayar village in Idukki district in the southern state of Kerala
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Rescue workers search for victims in the debris of a house in Kokkayar, Idukki district

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Kerala floods kill at least 22

Those two districts and four others were reported to have been put on red alert after at least one of them saw more than 12cm of rain by 8.30pm local time on Saturday, when the heavy rains began.

Then, television reports showed people wading through chest-deep waters to rescue passengers from a bus that was nearly submerged by the torrents flooding the roads.

The state chief minister, Pinarayi Vijayan, urged residents to exercise extreme caution even though the intense rainfall had subsided.

A Shiva temple on the banks of the Periyar River is surrounded by flood water following heavy rains in Kochi, Kerala. Pic: AP
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A Shiva temple on the banks of the Periyar River is surrounded by flood water. Pic: AP

More than 100 relief camps have been set up, he added.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he spoke to the chief minister and added that authorities were working to rescue those affected. “I pray for everyone’s safety and well-being,” he said in a tweet.

In 2018, Kerala suffered catastrophic floods when heavy downpours during the monsoon season killed at least 400 people and displaced around 200,000.

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