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Italian fishermen return home after being held in Libya for three months

Eighteen Italian fishermen have been released after being held prisoner in Libya for more than three months, ending a tense political standoff.

Italian fishermen return home after being held in Libya for three months
Fishing boats in the port at Mazara del Vallo, Sicily. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP
The fishermen are returning home to their families following the ordeal, Italy's prime minister and foreign minister said on Thursday after visiting Benghazi to secure their release.
 
“Our fishermen are free,” Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio posted on Facebook, alongside a picture of the men, who were held for 108 days by militiawho accused them of fishing in Libyan territorial waters.
 
“In a few hours they will be able to hug their families and loved ones.”
 
Conte tweeted a picture of the men with the comment “Have a good trip home”.
 

 
In the Italians' hometown of Mazara del Vallo in Sicily, there were cheers, hugs and tears of joy among relatives and friends who gathered in the local council chamber to hear the news.
 
“The fishermen have already spoken with their families and are on board their two fishing boats, Antartide and Medinea,” which had also been seized,
local mayor Salvatore Quinci said.
 
He reported one of the fishermen telling his wife: “I have to leave you now and end the phone call, because I have to start the boat's engine.”
 
Relatives of the fishermen waiting for news in Mazara del Vallo, Sicily, on Thursday. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP
 
 
The plight of the fishermen has gripped Italy since they were seized on September 1st by the forces of strongman Khalifa Haftar, who controls Benghazi, amid a long-running dispute over fishing grounds between Sicily and Libya.
 
Di Maio said he and Conte had met with Haftar, who is waging war against the UN-recognised government of Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj in the west.
 
“The government continues to firmly support the stabilisation process in Libya,” he said.
 
The fishermen of Mazara del Vallo have for generations relied on Mediterranean waters north of Libya for their livelihoods but see their futures increasingly threatened.
 
Mazara del Vallo, part of the province of Trapani in Sicily, is less than 200 km from the Tunisian coast of North Africa.
 
A fisherman displays the prized red prawns in Mazara del Vallo, Sicily, on Thursday. Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP
 
The area is a prime fishing ground for the gambero rosso, or red prawn, a crustacean prized by gourmet chefs which can sell for up to 70 euros a kilo.
 
As fish stocks have dwindled and trawler capabilities improved, their boats have sailed further from port and into waters over which Libya has claimed
sovereignty.
 
Seizues of Italian fishing boats became more frequent in 2005 when Libya's then leader Moamer Kadhafi proclaimed that he was extending its fishing zone from 12 to 74 nautical miles from the coast, in defiance of international standards.
 
 
 

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POLITICS

Italy plans to stop ‘revolving door’ between judges and politicians

Italian lawmakers on Tuesday advanced a planned reform aimed at stopping the 'revolving door' between justice and government, as part of wider changes to the country's creaking judicial system.

Italy plans to stop 'revolving door' between judges and politicians

The proposed reform, which still has to be approved by the Italian Senate in the coming weeks, imposes significant limitations on the number of magistrates, prosecutors and judges looking to go into politics – a frequent move in Italy.

Under the submitted changes, a magistrate wishing to stand for election, whether national, regional or local, will not be able to do so in the region where they have worked over the previous three years.

At the end of their mandate, magistrates who have held elective positions will not be able to return to the judiciary – they will be moved to non-jurisdictional posts at, for example, the Court of Auditors or the Supreme Court of Cassation, according to local media reports.

Furthermore, magistrates who have applied for elective positions but have not been successful for at least three years will no longer be able to work in the region where they ran for office. 

The reform is part of a wider programme of changes to Italy’s tortuous judicial system. This is required by the European Commission to unlock billions of euros in the form of post-pandemic recovery funds.

Public perception of the independence of Italian courts and judges is among the worst in Europe, according to the EU’s justice scoreboard.

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