E.U., IOC question jailing of activist

European Union officials and the International Olympic Committee pressed Russia on Thursday to explain why a local activist who has been investigating the environmental impact of the Winter Games has been sent to prison for three years.

Yevgeny Vitishko and a fellow activist were convicted in 2012 of damaging a fence near the regional capital of Krasnodar. Both denied the charges — they said they were investigating the construction of a house for the governor of Krasnodar that was damaging a protected forest. They were given suspended sentences of three years in a labor camp.

But on Wednesday, a judge ordered Vitishko to serve his sentence, upholding an earlier decision that he had violated the terms of his parole.

The decision came as Vitishko and his organization, Environmental Watch of the North Caucasus, were planning to issue a report on the effects of Olympic construction in Sochi.

The Delegation of the European Union to Russia said in a statement Thursday that it was concerned by the development, adding that it seemed “aimed at preventing Mr. Vitishko from presenting his report on the environmental impact of the Olympic Games.”

In Sochi, IOC spokesman Mark Adams said the body had asked Sochi’s Olympic Organizing Committee to raise the issue with Russian officials and report back with an explanation of the decision.

— Kathy Lally

Letta forced out as prime minister

Italian center-left leader Matteo Renzi forced party rival Enrico Letta to resign as prime minister Thursday after criticizing his government’s failure to pass major reforms, opening the way for Italy’s third administration
in a year.

Letta’s decision to quit came after the Democratic Party, the largest party in the ruling coalition, supported a call by its 39-year-old leader, Renzi, for a more ambitious government to pull Italy out of its economic slump.

Letta plans to tender his resignation to President Giorgio Napolitano on Friday. Napolitano is then expected to call on Renzi to form a new administration.

— Reuters

Euthanasia legalized for ailing children

Belgium became the first country to allow euthanasia for terminally ill children of any age Thursday when the lower house of Parliament passed new legislation by a large majority.

The law goes beyond Dutch legislation that set a minimum age of 12 for children judged mature enough to decide to end their lives. It has popular support in Belgium, where adult euthanasia became legal in 2002, but Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders denounced the measure ahead of the vote in a rare joint declaration, and Catholic bishops have led days of prayer and fasting against it..

In the Chamber of Deputies, 86 lawmakers voted in favor, 44 against and 12 abstained. Most opposition parties supported the measure, as did the governing socialists and liberals.

— Reuters

Militants raid Yemen prison, free 29 inmates: Heavily armed militants attacked Yemen’s main prison in central Sanaa on Thursday, killing seven people and helping 29 inmates escape, many of them convicted on terrorism-related counts, the state-run Saba news agency reported.

Mexico City lawmakers propose legalizing marijuana: Leftist lawmakers in Mexico City have introduced a bill to legalize the sale of marijuana in the nation’s capital. The initiative proposed by members of the Democratic Revolutionary Party seeks to supply marijuana to users and regulate the amount they can buy. It would create a health program to monitor consumption and sale.

— From news services