- - Sunday, August 8, 2010

BRITAIN

Report: BP audit noted rig’s flaws before spill

LONDON | A newspaper says it has obtained an internal audit conducted by BP PLC on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that details severe safety flaws months before the Gulf of Mexico spill.

The Sunday Times said in its report that the audit details how the drilling rig, owned by contractor Transocean, did not fully comply with BP’s standards.

The report says that seven months ahead of the April explosion, auditors found 390 maintenance tasks that were more than a month overdue on the rig. These included maintenance work on parts of the blowout preventer, the safety device atop the well that failed to trigger on the day of the accident.

BP and Transocean, which could both face heavy penalties, have disagreed on who should take responsibility for the spill.

NORWAY

Stoning-case lawyer seeks asylum

OSLO | The lawyer defending a woman sentenced to death by stoning in Iran said on Sunday that he has applied for asylum in Norway, but hopes Iranian authorities will allow him eventually to return to his practice.

Mohammad Mostafaei told reporters he chose to flee to Norway after obtaining a one-year Norwegian travel visa. He also cited the Nordic country’s prominent human rights profile.

The 31-year-old said he fled to Turkey last week after learning that Iranian officials intended to arrest him. He flew to Norway on Saturday after being detained briefly in Turkey over an undisclosed passport issue.

Mr. Mostafaei maintained a blog that sparked a worldwide campaign to free his client, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, who was convicted of adultery.

In July, Iranian authorities said they would not carry out the stoning sentence for the time being, but the mother of two could still face execution by hanging for her conviction of adultery and other offenses.

While Mr. Mostafaei is applying for asylum, it’s unclear whether he will stay in Norway. He said he hopes international pressure will force Tehran to let him return to his practice.

FRANCE

Prosecutor charges Muslim with rape

NANTES | French police brought rape charges Sunday against a Muslim man targeted by the government in an earlier case of alleged polygamy, a state prosecutor said.

Lies Hebbadj, 35, an Algerian-born shopkeeper from the western city of Nantes, “has been charged with aggravated rapes,” public prosecutor Xavier Ronsin told a news conference.

Police had detained Mr. Hebbadj on Friday on the latest charges after a former partner accused him of rape and violence against her, and formally placed him under investigation for the alleged offenses on Sunday.

Mr. Hebbadj came into the public eye in April, when his wife publicly contested the police’s decision to fine her for driving a car while wearing a face-covering Islamic veil.

That case came at a sensitive time as President Nicolas Sarkozy’s right-wing government prepared a law to ban the wearing of the full-face veil in public. The police claimed the veil dangerously obscured her view.

The government responded to the driver’s complaint by going after Mr. Hebbadj, charging him with welfare fraud.

Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux also accused Mr. Hebbadj of polygamy, which is illegal in France, and threatened to strip him of his French passport.

ITALY

Fini denies wrongdoing in real-estate deal

ROME | Gianfranco Fini, the lower house speaker who acrimoniously split from Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi last month, denied on Sunday any wrongdoing in a real-estate deal that critics say has tainted his credibility.

The affair centers around a flat in Monte Carlo willed to Mr. Fini’s old National Alliance (AN) party by a wealthy supporter and later sold by the party to an offshore company.

An investigation has been opened into the sale at the request of former AN members after Il Giornale, a newspaper owned by Mr. Berlusconi’s brother, said the flat was sold below market prices and now rented to the brother of Mr. Fini’s partner.

The probe has political repercussions because Mr. Fini has hammered away at the themes of legality and morality at a time when Mr. Berlusconi is fighting corruption and influence-peddling allegations against some of his closest allies.

NETHERLANDS

Actress, agent to rebut Campbell’s testimony

THE HAGUE | Supermodel Naomi Campbell’s testimony at Charles Taylor’s war-crimes trial is likely to be challenged on Monday, when a Hollywood film star and a modeling agent take the stand.

Both Mia Farrow and Carole White are liable to contradict Miss Campbell when they take the stand at the “blood diamonds” trial of the former Liberian president at the Special Court for Sierra Leone in The Hague.

Court documents suggest that Miss White will testify that Miss Campbell knew in advance she would get diamonds from Mr. Taylor after a dinner in South Africa in 1997 — and that she seemed disappointed with the “pebbles” she had received.

She also will also testify that Miss Campbell and Mr. Taylor were “mildly flirtatious” at the dinner — an impression that Miss Campbell denies — and that she heard Mr. Taylor tell the 40-year-old supermodel that he was going to give her some diamonds.

Miss Farrow, who also attended the dinner, has told prosecutors that Miss Campbell had told her and other guests an “unforgettable story” the day after the event.

“She told us that she had been awakened in the night by knocking at her door, she opened the door to find two or three men, I do not recall how many, who presented her with a large diamond which they said was from Charles Taylor,” says Miss Farrow’s statement.

Mr. Taylor, 62, is accused of receiving blood diamonds in return for arming rebels in Sierra Leone who murdered, raped and maimed civilians during a 1991-2001 civil war in the west African nation in which 120,000 died.

He denies the charges.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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