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BBC - Illinois Public Media News - May 21, 2013

Guatemala Annuls Ex-President’s Genocide Conviction

By The British Broadcasting Corporation

Rios Montt

Guatemala's top court has thrown out the conviction for genocide and crimes against humanity of former military leader Efrain Rios Montt.

The constitutional court ruled that the trial should restart from the point where it stood on 19 April.

On 10 May, Gen Rios Montt was convicted of ordering the deaths of 1,771 people of the Ixil Maya ethnic group during his time in office in 1982-83.

The 86-year-old was sentenced to 80 years in prison. He denies the charges.

'Illegal proceedings'

Monday's ruling throws into disarray the historic trial of Gen Rios Montt, the first former head of state to face genocide charges in a court within his own country.

The three-to-two ruling by a panel of constitutional judges annuls everything that has happened in the trial since 19 April, when Gen Rios Montt was briefly left without a defence lawyer.

The defence team had walked out of the court on the previous day in protest at what they called "illegal proceedings".

The court ordered that he be represented by a public defence lawyer, which Gen Rios Montt rejected.

The general instead insisted on being represented by lawyer Francisco Garcia, who had been expelled earlier on in the proceedings for trying to have the judges dismissed "for bias".

Mr Garcia was again expelled on 19 April as he accused the presiding judge of failing to hear his legal challenges.

Monday's ruling said the trial should have been halted at this point while the challenges filed by Mr Garcia were being resolved.

According to the constitutional court ruling, the guilty verdict and the 80-year sentence handed down by Judge Jazmin Barrios on 10 May are therefore now void.

Human rights group Amnesty International said it was a "devastating blow for the victims of the serious human rights violations committed during the conflict".

Harrowing testimony

The constitutional court said that statements delivered in court before 19 April would stand, but that closing arguments would have to be given again.

During the hearings, dozens of victims gave harrowing testimony about atrocities committed by soldiers.

An estimated 200,000 people were killed in Guatemala's 1960-1996 civil war, the vast majority of them indigenous Mayans.

Gen Rios Montt's 17 months in power are believed to have been one of the most violent periods of the war.

The BBC's Will Grant in Guatemala City says Monday's low-key press conference contrasted sharply with the day the verdict was announced, when indigenous campaigners and relatives of victims hugged and cried with relief in the packed courtroom.

But he adds that the decision to annul the sentence does not signal the end of the legal battle, as both sides will now start preparing to return to court to replay the final weeks of the trial.

The general's lawyer said he would now demand his release from the military hospital where he was taken from prison after allegedly fainting.




NPR - Illinois Public Media News - May 21, 2013

Global Afterlife of Your Donated Clothes

By Jackie Northam

Listen

(Duration: 4:22)

Recycling center

On a bright and warm Saturday morning, there's a steady flow of people dropping off donations at Martha's Table, a charity in downtown Washington, D.C. A mountain of plastic and paper bags stuffed with used dresses, scarves, skirts and footwear expands in one corner of the room. Volunteers sort and put clothes on hangers. They'll go on sale next door, the proceeds of which will help the needy in the area.

It's a scene played out across the U.S.: people donating their old clothes, whether through collection bins or through large charities, to help others.

Melissa Vanouse donates clothes a couple times a year.

"I think it all pretty much stays local, that's kind of the idea," she says.

But it doesn't. Martha's Table, like other charities, only has so much room and can only keep clothes for so long. At some point, charities call in a textile recycling company.

Varied Uses

About 80 percent of the donations are carted away by textile recyclers, says Jackie King, the executive director of Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles, a trade association for textile recyclers. She says that means about 3.8 billion pounds of clothing that is donated each year is recycled.

"Thirty percent of the materials are made into wiping cloths that are used in commercial and industrial use," she says.

About 20 percent of the donated clothes and textiles are converted into fibers that are then made into a variety of other products, including carpet padding, insulation for autos as well as homes, and pillow stuffing.

King says nearly half the donated clothes - about 45 percent - is exported.

A forklift shuttles large pallets stacked with bins of donated clothes at Mac Recycling on the outskirts of Baltimore. A large section of the warehouse is packed with colorful 800-pound bales of clothing ready to ship out.

Robert Goode, the owner of Mac Recycling, says textile recycling is a huge international industry. He says his small warehouse alone ships about 80 tons of clothes each week to buyers throughout the world, including Central America, South America, Asia, Africa and Europe.

"Pretty much you can pick any country and there's a market for these items," he says.

'Competitive Business'

Goode says when the shipment arrives overseas, a wholesaler will break down the bales and send the clothes into different markets. At each step along the way in this process, someone makes money from the donated clothes.

"It is an extremely competitive business ... items are bought and sold by the pound and you can literally make or lose a deal over half a cent a pound, quarter of a cent a pound," Goode says.

He says the business has changed dramatically over the years. Customers in foreign markets are now setting up their own operations in the U.S., cutting out a middleman. King, SMART's executive director, says textile recyclers are still finding strong demand for used clothing. But she says selling cheap garments, like those made in Bangladesh, is becoming increasingly difficult.

"I think one of the problems when they're trying to sell the clothing abroad is the distinction between what's good quality used clothing versus clothing that has maybe not been manufactured to the highest standards," she says.

King says ultimately she hopes that more clothes — of good quality — are donated every year. Her organization, SMART, says 85 percent of all the clothing sold each year ends up in landfill.


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