- - Sunday, February 12, 2012


Thousands rally to support disbarred Spanish judge

MADRID — Thousands of people took to the Spanish capital’s streets in support of a judge who won global fame for taking on international human rights cases but now has been barred from the bench for ordering jailhouse wiretaps.

Baltasar Garzon, 56, was convicted Thursday by the Supreme Court of ordering the wiretaps, marking a spectacular fall from grace for the nation’s most prominent jurist.

The case was just one of three against the judge, who is still awaiting verdict in another trial on charges of initiating a probe in 2008 of right-wing atrocities committed during and after the Spanish civil war of from 1936 to 1939, even though the crimes were covered by a 1977 amnesty.

About 10,000 people attended the march in Madrid on Sunday, many carrying banners calling for justice for the judge.


Official: Press must face tougher penalties

LONDON — The British Cabinet minister responsible for the media says the press must face tougher penalties for breaches of standards in the wake of the tabloid phone-hacking scandal.

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt told the BBC on Sunday newspapers must change their system of self-regulation but insisted the government should not have any role.

He said the written media need a tougher system of industry-led regulation, with the capacity to hand out “credible punishment” for transgressions.

The Press Complaints Commission - the current watchdog - can demand a newspaper to publish an apology but has no power to issue fines. Broadcasters have a separate regulatory system.

Britain’s media ethics inquiry led by Judge Brian Leveson is expected to recommend major changes to press regulation.


Government ignored air force over jets

GENEVA — A Swiss newspaper has published what it says is a confidential report in which the Swiss air force recommended buying French or European fighter jets to replace its aging fleet - not the Swedish fighters later chosen by politicians.

The report posted online Sunday by the Zurich weekly newspaper SonntagsZeitung said air force tests in 2008 showed that Rafale fighters, made by French company Dassault Aviation, or Eurofighters built by a European consortium, were the best overall performers.

The Swiss Cabinet acknowledged cost was a factor in its November decision to order 22 Gripen fighters from Sweden’s Saab AB to replace the air force’s Northrop F-5 Tigers.

There was no immediate government comment Sunday.

Swiss lawmakers have yet to approve the deal.


Statue of Carla Bruni as a worker angers French

PARIS — A French mayor’s plan to erect a statue of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s ex-supermodel wife Carla Bruni in worker’s attire has angered the opposition and embarrassed the first lady.

Jacques Martin, mayor of Nogent-sur-Marne and a member of Mr. Sarkozy’s UMP party, commissioned the statue to honor the mostly Italian immigrant women who used to work at a feather factory in the town.

But when French daily Le Parisien on Sunday revealed the plan for the statue more than 6 1/2 feet tall, at a cost of $108,000, the opposition and even the first lady’s friends were up in arms.

A source close to Mrs. Bruni-Sarkozy said she agreed to model for sculptor Elisabeth Cibot as she admires her work, but that “it was never suggested that her name would appear.”

Modelling “is her former job, she no longer does it commercially, but she’s often asked to do it, and she often agrees, and always without being paid,” the source said.

The swiftly gathering scandal “is using something that has nothing to do with politics to political ends,” one of her friends said, requesting anonymity.

William Geib of the Socialist opposition said the idea of dressing up a likeness of the Italian heiress and pop singer as a worker is “grotesque.”

“It’s an insult to the Italian feather workers, to give them the face of an extremely rich person. I have nothing against Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, but she does not represent the workers’ world.”

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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