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Lawyers’ strike delays Costa Concordia hearing

An Italian court on Monday postponed to July 20th a hearing on the Costa Concordia cruise ship disaster to rule on plea bargains requested by four crew members and one manager from the ship's operator.

Lawyers' strike delays Costa Concordia hearing
A hearing to rule on plea bargains requested by five Costa Concordia staff has been delayed until July 20th. Photo: AFP

The delay was due to an eight-day national strike by lawyers, the ANSA news agency reported.

It comes a day before the separate trial of the ship's captain, Francesco Schettino, which is due to start in the Tuscan city of Grosseto. That trial is also likely to be delayed just after its start on Tuesday to another hearing on July 17th.

The Costa Concordia crashed into the Tuscan island of Giglio last year with 4,229 people from 70 countries on board on the first day of a Mediterranean cruise in a disaster in which 32 people lost their lives.

Schettino has been charged with multiple manslaughter, abandoning the ship before all the people on board were evacuated and for causing environmental
damage.

Four crew members including the ship's Indonesian helmsman, as well as the head of ship owner Costa Crociere's crisis unit, have agreed plea bargains with the prosecution for short prison sentences. The plea bargains now have to be ruled on by a court.

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It’s Ok for Rastafarians to smoke weed to meditate: Italian court

An Italian court acquitted a man found with 58 grams of cannabis in his possession because, as a Rastafarian, he was using the ‘sacred herb’ to meditate.

It’s Ok for Rastafarians to smoke weed to meditate: Italian court
Photo: Robyn Beck/AFP

Explaining the reasons behind the April acquittal, the court in Bari said that “Rastafarians are followers of a religion whose believers use marijuana for meditation”, adding that the drug was just for personal use.

The 30-year-old was arrested in May 2016 after police found eight grams of cannabis in his pocket and a further 50 grams during a search of his home.

The man said that he had set up a meditation room at home, where he listened to Rasta music on a record player while smoking weed.

A prosecutor had called for up to four months in prison but his lawyer, Luca Bruno, argued that marijuana is regarded as a sacred herb within the Rastafari ‘religion’.

Indeed, Rastafarians believe that the marijuana plant has holy powers, and use it during meditation sessions to enhance a sense of unity and spirituality. A short prayer is usually recited before it is smoked.

Although it lacks legal recognition, Rastafari, which originated in Jamaica in the 1930s, is classified as both a new religious movement and a social movement.

Despite cannabis use being illegal in Italy, some three million kilos of the drug are consumed in the country each year.