Wedding mistaken for sham
Immigration officials admitted on Friday that they mistakenly raided the wedding of an Italian man and his Chinese bride because they believed the marriage was a sham. Massimo Ciabattini and his bride, Miao Guo, had their big day ruined when border police stormed into their wedding ceremony at a London town hall last week and hauled them out for questioning. The couple had attracted a registrar’s suspicion because Guo’s visa was due to expire soon and they appeared to have difficulty spelling each other’s names. Border officials realized their mistake after questioning the couple and their bridesmaids. The marriage ceremony resumed afterward, the town hall confirmed. To compound officials’ embarrassment, they had invited a journalist from a local newspaper along to witness the raid as an example of their work combating bogus marriages between strangers trying to gain British residency.
German cleared of murder
A court has acquitted a German man who was arrested while sleeping with the decomposing body of his Kenyan wife and charged with her murder, court officials said on Friday. The court in the coastal city of Mombasa ruled on Thursday that there was insufficient evidence to convict the man, identified in court documents as Michael Bibcke Robel, 43, from the city of Hamburg, of murdering Esther Elsi Igoki Munyi in December 2009. The court heard how the accused was found sleeping next to his dead, decomposing wife at their home near Mombasa after police were alerted by the smell. The accused had also stabbed himself in the chest in an apparent failed suicide attempt. “It is pertinent that under cross-examination by the defence counsel, the doctor did concede that no obvious injuries were seen on the neck. There was no strangulation,” Judge Maureen Odero said in her ruling. She also ruled that there were no eyewitnesses to the events, and that an autopsy failed to establish the precise cause of death beyond that of asphyxia.
Squatting for metro tickets
Passengers on the Moscow metro puffed and sweated for a free ride on Friday after Olympic officials unveiled a machine that issues a free ticket as a reward for performing 30 squats. By setting the somewhat embarrassing challenge with a time limit of two minutes, the organizers said they were encouraging people to incorporate “Olympic values” into their commute. It is part of a campaign by the nation’s Olympic Committee that picks projects proposed by the public to “add elements of sport into daily life.” The campaign aims to make Russians healthier so that they do not simply curl up on a couch to watch the events in the Winter Olympics in Sochi in February next year.
Six found guilty of slaying
A jury has found six men accused of the brutal slaying of a farming family guilty on all counts. The 2010 killing of 12 people, including four children, in the village of Kushchevskaya in the southern Krasnodar region shocked the nation. Several assailants burst into the home of a farmer, killing him, his entire family and their guests. Most of the victims were stabbed to death. The alleged leader of the gang that committed the killings, Sergey Tsapok, was arrested shortly after along with several suspected accomplices. Their trial in the Krasnodar Regional Court began a year ago, and the jury delivered the verdict on Friday. A sentence is expected next week.
Sixty-one kidnapped, freed
Federal forces have freed 61 kidnap victims in the northern border city of Reynosa, including 53 Central Americans, seven Mexicans and one US citizen, federal security spokesman Eduardo Sanchez said on Friday. Federal police captured four suspected kidnappers in the raids on various houses on Thursday in Reynosa, across the border from McAllen, Texas. Sanchez said the victims freed in the raids included 27 people from Honduras, 20 from El Salvador and three people apiece from Guatemala and Nicaragua. Three of the kidnap victims were children. He said a drug cartel was apparently involved in the abductions, but did not specify which one. In the past, drug cartels have frequently kidnapped Central American migrants seeking to reach the US. Often, the kidnappers call the victims’ relatives in the US to demand ransom payments in exchange for their release. However, it is relatively rare for them to also kidnap Americans.
Fake bus tickets fund parties
The mayor of Rome has described the city’s bus and underground managers as “worse than the mafia,” after they were accused of selling 70 million euros worth of fake tickets a year to bankroll the political parties that appointed them. The city’s transit system — which carries 1 billion passengers a year — officially earns 249 million euros (US$332 million) from fares a year, but makes a 150 million euro loss. An internal report obtained by the Italian newspaper La Repubblica makes claims that staff operated a secret center where tickets were cloned for sale with the proceeds kept off the books. The alleged scam was underway under Rome’s former center-left city government and continued when the center-right mayor Gianni Alemann took over in 2008, with proceeds going into the coffers of functionaries from both the People of Freedom and Democratic parties, La Repubblica said.
Reporter jailed in Venezuela
A Miami Herald journalist was arrested in Venezuela for unknown reasons while reporting on the country’s chronic shortages and forthcoming municipal elections, the newspaper said on Friday. The Herald cited local sources saying reporter Jim Wyss was first detained by the National Guard on Thursday, before being transferred to Venezuela’s Military Intelligence Directorate in the western city of San Cristobal. “We are very concerned. There doesn’t seem to be any basis for his detention and we’re trying to figure out what’s going on,” the newspaper’s executive editor and vice president Aminda Marques Gonzalez said in a statement. “We are asking that Jim Wyss be released immediately.” Herald editors said they were speaking with various Venezuelan government officials to secure his freedom.
President Cristina Fernandez’s doctors are expected to give her medical clearance to return to work one month after a blood clot was removed from her brain. The doctors expect the 60-year-old will slowly begin resuming some duties after her recuperation period at the presidential residence outside Buenos Aires. She is scheduled to get some tests on her heart and nervous system at the Fundacion Favaloro hospital late on Friday. She underwent surgery on Oct. 8 to remove the clot pressuring her brain. Fernandez has been in total repose and has not appeared in public since. The presidency still has not explained the Aug. 12 head trauma they said created the condition.