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    Local authorities declared a 24-hour strike on two eastern Greek islands Wednesday to protest government plans to build new migrant detention camps there. The strike shut down services on the islands of Lesbos and Chios, which have been the main points of arrival for tens of thousands of people fleeing war or poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa. The strike comes after protesters clashed with riot police on the two islands during efforts to prevent the arrival of excavating machines from the mainland to start construction of the new detention centers. Greece is the main entry point for asylum seekers attempting to enter the European Union, with most arriving on the eastern Greek islands from the nearby Turkish coast. Under a 2016 deal between the European Union and Turkey, new arrivals must remain on those islands until their asylum claims are processed. But a massive backlog in the asylum system coupled with continued arrivals have led to severe overcrowding in existing facilities, which are several times over capacity. Nearly 60,000 migrants and refugees arrived on Greek islands last year, almost double the number recorded in 2018, according to the U.N. refugee agency. The government has vowed to move ahead with plans to build the new facilities and has promised to replace the existing overcrowded camps. But many island residents and local authorities argue the asylum seekers and migrants should be moved to the Greek mainland.
  • Spain’s prime minister and the leader of Catalonia will open formal talks Wednesday in hopes of resolving the festering political crisis provoked by the region’s separatist movement. Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and members of his government will host Catalan regional chief Quim Torra and his delegation in Madrid’s Moncloa Palace, the seat of Spain’s Government, at 1530 GMT (10:30 a.m. EST). No major breakthrough is expected from the meeting given the political abyss separating the two sides. “Today we will initiate our talks, and the way forward is going to be difficult, complex, and long,” Sánchez said. Torra has insisted that he will repeat his demands for Catalonia to be allowed to hold a referendum on independence and for the release of nine separatist leaders who are serving prison sentences for their role in an illegal 2017 secession attempt. Sánchez has promised that his government won't consider an independence vote for the region. He has said instead he will focus on improving the relations between Spain and the restive region, while also decreasing tensions in Catalonia caused by the divisive issue. Polls and the most recent election results indicate that roughly 50% of the 7.5 million residents of northeastern Catalonia are in favor of secession.
  • Former Gov. Pat Quinn and more than 80 other top Illinois Democrats are endorsing Joe Biden for president, as the former vice president looks ahead to a state that votes weeks after Super Tuesday's contests. Biden's campaign released the list of endorsements on Wednesday. Besides Quinn, who served as governor from 2009 to 2015, the list includes former Chicago Deputy Mayor Andrea Zopp, state Sen. and Assistant Majority Leader Iris Martinez and Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering. Rotering previously endorsed California Sen. Kamala Harris, who dropped out of the Democratic presidential race last year. Zopp, who previously led the Chicago Urban League, said Biden knows first-hand the struggle working people go through to get out of poverty because of his own family's experience. “He's never forgotten where he comes from,' she said. Biden is hoping to notch his first victory of the Democratic primary on Saturday in South Carolina and take that momentum into next week's Super Tuesday contests, when about one-third of all delegates will be awarded. Illinois holds its primary two weeks later, on March 17. Biden's campaign says the endorsers, who include Democrats from the party stronghold of Chicago and across the state, will help ramp up the campaign in Illinois. Biden was in South Carolina on Tuesday night for Democrats' 10th debate of the 2020 presidential primary season. ___ Catch up on the 2020 election campaign with AP experts on our weekly politics podcast, “Ground Game.”
  • Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about today: 1. BERNIE SANDERS TAKES HITS AS FRONT-RUNNER Democrats unleash a roaring assault against the Vermont senator, but moderates did little to draw separation among themselves, a dynamic that has so far only benefited Sanders. 2. SOUTH KOREAN VIRUS CASES JUMP AGAIN The majority of the nearly 300 new cases, including a 23-year-old American soldier who was based in Camp Carroll, are in the hard-hit Daegu area. 3. WHAT EXPERTS EXPECT WITH VIRUS OUTBREAK Scientists can't tell yet just how deadly the new respiratory virus that's spreading the globe really is, but they do expect a steep learning curve for countries not already hit. 4. WHO IS MORE CULPABLE IN OPIOID EPIDEMIC The maker of OxyContin is often seen as the key villain in the deadly opioid crisis, but makers of generic drugs shipped far more of the powerful prescription painkillers. 5. DEATH TOLL RISES FROM NEW DELHI RIOTS At least 20 people were killed in three days of clashes in the Indian capital, apparently sparked by Trump's state visit, a number that is expected to rise. 6. GLOBAL SHARES CONTINUE SLIDE World markets fall on growing fears that a new virus' spread may be unstoppable, hurting global growth considerably. 7. WHERE MEXICO’S DRUG WAR HAS SPREAD Gangland killings have shifted to the conservative industrial heartland state of Guanajuato, where booming foreign investment continues even as the area becomes Mexico’s most violent. 8. MUBARAK TO BE LAID TO REST Egypt is holding a full-honors military funeral for the country's former autocratic president, who was ousted from power in the 2011 Arab Spring uprising that swept much of the region. 9. ‘I FELT LIKE WE HAVE CONQUERED GOLIATH’ Soprano Luz del Alba Rubio says she was in shock after seeing opera legend Placido Domingo’s apology for sexual harassment and felt emboldened to speak up about her experiences with him. 10. THE GAMES WILL GO ON A day after a former IOC executive asserted that the Tokyo Olympics could be imperiled by a viral outbreak, a Japanese government spokesman says planning will continue for the Summer Games.
  • The Vatican was going ahead with plans for Pope Francis to celebrate the Ash Wednesday ritual kicking off the Catholic Church's Lenten season, but elsewhere in Italy Masses were canceled over fears of the new coronavirus and other Catholic countries took precautions. In the Philippines — Asia's only majority Roman Catholic country — priests sprinkled ashes on the heads of the faithful rather than making the mark of the cross on their foreheads to avoid physical contact. “Wherever the ash is placed, on the forehead or on the head, the feeling is the same, it’s uplifting,” Editha Lorenzo, a 49-year-old mother of two wearing a face mask, told The Associated Press in Manila. At the Vatican, Francis held his general audience as usual in St. Peter’s Square and sent his prayers to victims of the virus and the medical personnel treating them. A handful of the thousands of people gathered wore face masks to protect against the virus, which originated in China and has infected thousands globally including more than 300 people in Italy. Francis kissed at least one child as he looped through the square in his popemobile and made a point to shake hands with the faithful sitting in the front row. Usually, he only waves. He also greeted prelates with a handshake at the beginning and end of the gathering, but it appeared most clergy were refraining from kissing Francis' ring or embracing him, as they normally would do. 'I want to again express my closeness to those suffering from the coronavirus and the health care workers who are treating them, as well as the civil authorities and all those who are working to help patients and stop the contagion,' Francis said. Later in the day Francis is to celebrate an Ash Wednesday Mass at a Rome church, a procession and ritual that begins the 40-day Lenten period of fasting and penance in the run-up to Holy Week and Easter. Already the patriarchate of Venice canceled the Ash Wednesday Mass scheduled for St. Mark’s Basilica, after a handful of elderly people in the lagoon city tested positive for the virus. The surrounding Veneto region is home to the second main cluster of cases in Italy. In the Philippines, the Rev. Victorino Cueto, rector of the popular National Shrine of our Mother of Perpetual Help in the Manila metropolis, said the practice of sprinkling ash on heads of devotees was a precaution to prevent the spread of infections but actually is an old tradition based on the Old Testament. “It’s better to be cautious,” said churchgoer Evet Accion. On Good Friday, which marks Christ's death on the cross, bishops in the Philippines strongly suggested that churchgoers refrain from kissing or touching the cross, a common practice among Catholics. “Instead, the faithful are requested to genuflect or make a profound bow as they venerate the cross,” said Archbishop Romulo Valles, who heads the bishops’ conference. Last month, the bishops recommended that Catholics receive the Eucharistic host by the hand instead of the mouth and avoid holding hands in prayer during Masses as precautions amid the viral scare. ___ Gomez reported from Manila, Philippines. _
  • Egypt held a full-honors military funeral Wednesday for the country's former autocratic President Hosni Mubarak, who held power for decades before he was ousted in the 2011 Arab Spring uprising that swept much of the region. The funeral, replete with cannon fire and a horse-drawn carriage carrying his coffin, highlighted the wartime achievements of Mubarak. It comes as part of a government effort to make Mubarak's military career his legacy, rather than his time in office. Egypt's current President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, attended briefly, offering condolences and shaking hands with Mubarak's two sons, Alaa and Gamal, and his wife Suzanne. The country's state television channel, meanwhile, played footage of Mubarak in his younger, pre-office days, and lauded him for his role as a fighter pilot in the country's 1973 war with Israel. As president, Mubarak would later solidify peace with their onetime enemy. Mubarak, who held on to the presidency for more than 30 years, carried out a brutal campaign against Islamist militants, but also allowed for minimal political dissent from his opponents. Under his rule, Egypt's security branches grew into formidable forces with little civilian oversight, known for their human rights violations. And although he oversaw an opening of the country's economy, much of the country's population slid further into poverty during his time in office. Nonetheless, the former president still enjoys a degree popularity among many Egyptians, who have painted him as a paternal figure. At the height of the 2011 uprising, his supporters would sometimes violently clash with pro-democracy protesters. On Wednesday, a few dozen Mubarak supporters, clad in black and carrying posters of the former president, had gathered since morning hours at a mosque complex in an eastern New Cairo neighborhood, where Mubarak's body was brought for the funeral service. A horse carriage carrying Mubarak's casket, wrapped in the Egyptian flag, left the mosque after afternoon prayers, to a slow military march. His sons, wealthy businessman Alaa and Mubarak's one-time heir apparent Gamal, stood in the front row with several Mubarak-era ministers. The 91-year-old Mubarak died on Tuesday at a Cairo military hospital from heart and kidney complications, according to medical documents obtained by The Associated Press. He was admitted to hospital on Jan. 21 with intestinal obstruction and underwent surgery, after which he was treated in intensive care. To the outside world, Mubarak the strongman symbolized so much of Egypt's modern history but his rule of nearly 30 years ended after hundreds of thousands of young Egyptians rallied for 18 days of unprecedented street protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and elsewhere in 2011, forcing him to step down. Mubarak's funeral service was held at a military mosque in eastern Cairo, named for now retired Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, who headed the military council that ran Egypt following Mubarak's ouster and until the election of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in 2012. State media reported that Mubarak's body would be buried later in the day at his family's cemetery in Heliopolis, an upscale Cairo district that was Mubarak's home for most of his rule and where he lived until his death. A crowd of Mubarak supporters gathered in anticipation at the cemetery, holding photos of the deposed president and chanting, “Gamal, tell your father, 100 million say goodbye!” Police officers were out in force, a sign that the government regarded his death as a potential security risk. Under el-Sissi, Mubarak and his family were cleared of wrongdoing but also kept far from the limelight. In a statement Tuesday, el-Sissi praised Mubarak's service during the 1973 war with Israel but made no mention of his rule as president of the most populous Arab state. Pro-government media also paid tribute to Mubarak, a pilot by training, for his command of Egypt’s air force. “Through his military and political career, Mubarak made undeniable achievements and sacrifices,” the state-run al-Aharm newspaper eulogized Mubarak in its editorial Wednesday. Born in May 1928, Mubarak was vice president on Oct. 6, 1981, when his mentor, President Anwar Sadat, was assassinated by Islamic extremists while reviewing a military parade. Seated next to Sadat, Mubarak escaped with a minor hand injury as gunmen sprayed the reviewing stand with bullets. Eight days later, the brawny former air force commander was sworn in as president, promising continuity and order. He continued Sadat's legacy of maintaining peace with neighboring Israel. Mubarak's rule was marked by a close alliance with the U.S. in the fight against Islamic militancy and assisting regional peace efforts. Many older Egyptians, who had long considered him invincible, were stunned by the images of Mubarak on a gurney bed being taken to court for sessions of his trial in Cairo following his ouster. Mubarak's overthrow plunged Egypt into years of chaos and uncertainty, and set up a power struggle between the military and the Muslim Brotherhood group that he had long outlawed. Some two and a half years after Mubarak's ouster, el-Sissi led the military overthrow of Egypt's first freely elected president, Morsi, and rolled back freedoms gained in the 2011 uprising. In June 2012, Mubarak and his security chief were sentenced to life in prison for failing to prevent the killing of some 900 protesters during the 18-day uprising. Both appealed the verdict and a higher court later cleared them in 2014. The following year, Mubarak and his sons were sentenced to three years in prison on corruption charges during a retrial. The sons were released in 2015 for time served, while Mubarak walked free in 2017. ___ Associated Press photojournalist Maya Alleruzzo contributed to this report.
  • The U.S. and South Korean militaries, used to being on guard for threats from North Korea, face a new and formidable enemy that could hurt battle readiness: a virus spreading around the world that has infected more than 1,200 people in South Korea. As the new coronavirus, which was first found in China, has begun to sweep through South Korea, soldiers stationed in close quarters on bases throughout the country are at particular risk. Already 20 South Korean soldiers and one American have tested positive. In response the allies are taking aggressive measures to guard against a viral outbreak and are even considering curtailing a key joint military exercise, something experts say is inevitable because if the virus were to spread through the ranks it could significantly weaken their ability to fight if necessary. “In the military, soldiers are living as a group. So even if just one person contracts the virus at his base, its aftermath would be really tremendous,” said Kim Dae-young, an analyst at the Korea Research Institute for National Strategy. “This year, no military training can be the best option.” The virus has infected more than 80,000 people worldwide, mostly in China, though over the past week South Korea has become the second-worst affected country after an outbreak centered in the southeast around its fourth-largest city, Daegu. South Korea boasts a 600,000-strong military, while the U.S. stations 28,500 troops in the country largely as a deterrent to possible North Korean aggression. Daegu, with a population of about 2.5 million people, is near four American bases. The United States Forces Korea on Monday said that a USFK widowed dependent tested positive for the virus. On Wednesday the U.S. reported that a 23-year-old soldierhad tested positiveand would be treated at Camp Humphreys near Seoul. It said the soldier was originally based at Camp Carroll near Daegu. South Korea has suspended some unilateral field training, placed 9,570 troops under quarantine and banned most of its enlisted soldiers from leaving their bases. The U.S. military is also urging its personnel to avoid handshakes and large gatherings if possible. At Camp Walker in Daegu, the U.S. has prohibited active-duty soldiers there from visiting public gatherings and places off-base, such as grocery stores, bars and restaurants, without permission. The infected U.S. soldier at Camp Carroll visited Camp Walker earlier this week. Col. Edward Ballanco, commander of the U.S. Army Garrison Daegu, said bowling alleys, movie theaters and a golf course at the four U.S. bases in the Daegu region were closed after the soldier's case was confirmed, and that all restaurants there were only serving take-out meals. Restaurants, bars and stores near U.S. bases in South Korea have been hit hard by the outbreak. “The number of customers has been declining outrageously,” said Song Doo Hak, owner of a hamburger restaurant near a U.S. air base near Seoul. “I’ve never experienced this kind of situation.” Song said he used to receive about 200 customers, about 40% of them U.S. service members, each day. He said he now receives about 15 customers a day. He said four U.S. soldiers visited his restaurant on Tuesday but none on Wednesday. “Primero,” a Mexican restaurant near Camp Walker in Daegu, has seen its customers evaporate over the past week. The restaurant’s owner, who asked to be named only by her surname Ji citing privacy concerns, said revenue was down by at least 90%. Concerned about the possibility that her restaurant becomes linked to a future infection, Ji has closed the dining room and is now serving only take-out meals. “There’s nothing I can do until the outbreak comes under control,” she said. After a meeting in Washington on Monday, the U.S and South Korean defense chiefs told reporters that the virus threatens their military exercise schedules. U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said both countries “are looking at scaling back” some training because of worries about the coronavirus. He added that he is confident that the allies will find a way to protect troops while also making sure that both countries “remain fully ready to deal with any threats that we might face together.” South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo separately ordered officials to take all necessary steps to prevent quarantine measures from hurting South Korea's military readiness. The U.S. and South Korean militaries have regularly held drills since the 1950-53 Korean War and they have become a major source of animosity with North Korea, which views them as rehearsals for an invasion. North Korea hasn’t officially reported a single case of the new virus. But experts say an epidemic in North Korea could be dire because of its chronic lack of medical supplies and poor health care infrastructure. Pyongyang’s state media has called anti-virus quarantine efforts “a matter of national existence.” In response to the virus, the North has likely drastically reduced its military activities as well, said Moon Seong Mook, a retired South Korean army brigadier general who participated in inter-Korean military talks. “The North likely reduced training and any other movement of military units as it intensifies national efforts to stem the spread of the virus,” Moon said. The U.S. military is also taking precautions for its some 50,000 personnel in Japan, which has seen more than 800 people infected by the virus, most of them linked to a cruise ship. U.S. Forces Japan said Wednesday that it was elevating the health precautions, requiring units to consider limiting or cancelling meetings, training events and large social gatherings as they monitor developments in areas close to American bases. U.S. Forces in Japan also restricted non-essential travel to South Korea, while leisure or non-essential travel is now prohibited for American personnel and their families. “The overall risk to individual USFJ members in Japan remains low,' said USFJ spokesman Capt. Tyler Hopkins. 'The command encourages strict hygiene measures to reduce the risk of transmission.” The outbreak comes at a delicate time in the decades-long alliance between Washington and Seoul. President Donald Trump has openly demanded a big increase in South Korea’s financial contribution to U.S. troop deployment in the country. Kim Hyo-eun, whose 22-year-old son is performing his mandatory military service at a South Korean army base near Seoul, is watching the situation with increased unease. “While I am relieved that the infections announced by the military so far haven’t been about my son’s unit, I am still worried because the illness is spreading so rapidly,' she said. “If the virus continues to spread,' she said, “I think I will have to talk to my son again and ask what I can do to help keep him safe.” ___ Associated Press writer Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo contributed to this report.
  • A former senior aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned that Ukraine will never be able to regain control over the separatist-controlled east. Vladislav Surkov, who lost his job as Putin's adviser on Ukraine earlier this month, said in remarks published Wednesday that he stepped down because of a shift in the Kremlin course on the Ukrainian conflict. He didn't spell out specific reasons for his departure, saying only that it was due to a “change in context” on Ukraine. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has made settling the conflict in eastern Ukraine his top priority. December's summit of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany failed to achieve a breakthrough, but the four leaders made a deal on a prisoner exchange and agreed on further moves toward settling the conflict in the east. Observers in Moscow attributed Surkov's dismissal to the Kremlin's intention to take a less hawkish line on Ukraine, taking advantage of Zelenskiy's intention to move toward a settlement. Surkov was succeeded as the Kremlin's point man on Ukraine by another longtime Putin aide, Dmitry Kozak. Asked Wednesday if the Russian policy on Ukraine has shifted, Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov shrugged off Surkov's claim, saying that the Kremlin adheres to a 2015 peace agreement brokered by France and Germany as the basis for political settlement. The conflict in Ukraine'smostly Russian-speaking industrial east, called Donbass, erupted in April 2014 — weeks after Russia's annexation of the Crimean Peninsula. More than 14,000 have been killed in fighting between Ukrainian forces and Russia-backed separatists. Surkov hailed leaders of separatists in eastern Ukraine as “true warriors” and “real heroes.” He charged that Ukraine will never be able to restore its control over the rebel-controlled territories. “Donbass doesn't deserve such humiliation,” he said. “Ukraine doesn't deserve such honor.” Surkov's harsh statement contrasted sharply with the usual rhetoric from the Kremlin, which has urged Ukrainian authorities to engage in dialogue with the rebels and work out a political settlement that would offer broad autonomy to the rebel regions in line with the 2015 peace deal. Such autonomous status was seen by the Kremlin as a key lever to hold off Ukraine's aspiration to join NATO. During their talks in December, the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany scheduled their next meeting for April in Berlin. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned, however, that calling the next four-way summit will be contingent on observing previous agreements. “We will only discuss the timing of the next summit only after the implementation of what we talked about in Paris, including normalization on the ground, clearing mines and political issues linked ... to codifying a special status” of Donbass, Lavrov said Wednesday. He pointed out that during December's summit, the Ukrainian president backed off from a preliminary deal to disengage Ukrainian and separatist forces along the entire line of contact in the east. “So our second demand is that we will only discuss the timing for the summit after we prepare and sign a draft final document, so that there is no derailing of preliminary agreements,” Lavrov said.
  • Manchester City has filed an expected appeal at the Court of Arbitration for Sport against a two-year ban from European soccer competition. The club met its late-Monday deadline to challenge UEFA, CAS said Wednesday. “It is not possible to indicate at this time when a final award in this matter will be issued,” the court said in a statement. It is unclear if City will seek UEFA’s consent for a public hearing. They could try to reach an out-of-court settlement to resolve the dispute. UEFA found City guilty of “serious breaches” of financial monitoring rules and failing to cooperate with an investigation opened almost one year ago. Leaked internal club documents published in German magazine Der Spiegel in November 2018 showed City deceived UEFA by overstating sponsorship deals from 2012-16 and hiding the source of revenue tied to its owners in Abu Dhabi. One internal email said City officials preferred to spend tens of millions on “the 50 best lawyers in the world” to sue UEFA rather than accept punishment. City never disputed the authenticity of documents, which it said were illegally obtained. The club is currently excluded from playing in the Champions League, Europa League or Super Cup in the next two seasons. UEFA also fined City 30 million euros ($32.5 million). The punishment does not affect City's current Champions League campaign. The team plays at Real Madrid on Wednesday in the first leg of the round of 16. City CEO Ferran Soriano hopes to resolve the case by the end of the season. CAS verdicts typically take about a year to reach unless both parties agree to a fast-track process. Previous appeals to CAS involving clubs who broke UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules were dealt with after a few months in June or July to avoid harming the next season’s competitions. Clubs have typically been banned for one European season for breaking finance rules, but that is without bad faith and deception as part of the case. The latest Man City battle against UEFA follows a CAS ruling in November which dismissed the club’s attempt to end the investigation on procedural grounds. ___ More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
  • After months in a Rome jail, a pair of boyhood pals from California went on trial Wednesday, accused of murdering an Italian policeman during a summer vacation in Italy. The Carabinieri paramilitary officer, Deputy Brigadier Mario Cerciello Rega, was unarmed and on plainclothes assignment with his police partner when he was stabbed 11 times and left bleeding on a street near the Americans’ hotel in the early hours of July 26, 2019. Prosecutors have alleged that Finnegan Lee Elder, now 20, thrust an 18-centimeter (7-inch) attack-style knife repeatedly into the stocky police officer, while Gabriel Natale-Hjorth, now 19, scuffled nearby with the partner, Andrea Varriale, who was slightly injured. Under Italian law, accomplices to an alleged murderer can also be charged with the murder itself. In addition to the murder charge, both defendants are also charged with attempted extortion related to a a drug deal gone bad, and resisting public officials. Both young men were in court on Wednesday, sitting near their lawyers with a pair of penitentiary police officers standing behind them. Elder's parents sat in the back row; the slain officer's widow sat in the second row. The first hearing was dealing largely with procedural matters. Both defendants have said they thought they were being attacked and acted in self-defense. Elder’s lawyers and family members have quoted the young man as saying that he had mistaken the two officers for a pair of common criminals out to assault the Americans and that he was fighting for his life. According to judicial documents from early in the case, Natale-Hjorth claimed he didn’t know his friend had the knife. Prosecutors contend that after the stabbing, Natale-Hjorth hid the knife behind a panel in the ceiling of the hotel room the young men were sharing. The fatal encounter between the American tourists and the police on a nearly deserted Rome street had its genesis a handful of kilometers (couple of miles) away, in the nightlife district of Trastevere. The neighborhood's quaint alleys and piazzas teem with young people attracted by street musicians, pub crawls and easy-to-find drug dealers hustling hashish, cocaine and pills. Both defendants have told Italian investigators they were swindled while trying to buy cocaine in Trastevere. Police and prosecutors have said after they handed over money, they grabbed the knapsack of the drug dealer’s intermediary. The go-between, apparently a Carabinieri informant, later called police to report that his bag with his cell phone was snatched. Prosecutors alleged that the intermediary called his own cell phone and set up a meeting near the Americans’ hotel to return the knapsack and complete the sale of a gram of cocaine. One apparent line of defense has been that the Americans believed that drug dealers had come to the rendezvous instead of the go-between, and didn’t realize that police had shown up to handle the matter. Italy held a hero’s funeral for the slain officer, who had returned to duty only a few days earlier after his honeymoon. The arrest of the Americans, in their hotel room, hours after the murder, sparked comparisons to that of another high-profile murder probe, which saw Amanda Knox, a U.S. university student living in Umbria, put on trial along with her then-boyfriend for the stabbing death of her British housemate, Meredith Kercher. After various trials, including several appeals, Knox was ultimately acquitted. Knox has claimed Italian police mistreated and intimidated her. In the first hours after the Americans were arrested for Cerciello Rega’s slaying and taken to a police station for questioning, Natale-Hjorth was photographed blindfolded with a scarf as he sat handcuffed with his head bowed. Investigated as a violation of defendant’s rights in Italy, the blindfolding led to a criminal investigation of the Carabinieri officer allegedly involved as well as internal disciplinary procedures. Conviction for murder in Italy can bring a sentence as high as a life sentence. The country doesn’t have the death penalty.