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News Wrap: Former Liberian President Taylor Gets 50-Year Sentence

May 30, 2012 at 12:00 AM EST
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KWAME HOLMAN: Stock markets on both sides of the Atlantic took a beating today, as Europe’s financial situation worsened. Borrowing rates rose sharply for Spain and Italy, and Spanish banks faced growing pressure from real estate losses.

On Wall Street, fears of fallout for the U.S. economy sparked a sell-off. The Dow Jones industrial average lost nearly 161 points to close under 12,420. The Nasdaq fell 33 points to close at 2,837.

Meanwhile, the European Union’s Executive Office called for a banking union to contain the damage of possible bank failures. The agency said a banking union would allow all countries to share the cost of bailing out individual banking sectors.

Former Liberian President Charles Taylor was sentenced to 50 years in prison today, for fomenting civil war in neighboring Sierra Leone. The decade-long conflict ended in 2002 with 50,000 dead. An international war crimes court handed down the sentence in the Netherlands. The panel convicted Taylor last month of murder, rape, torture and the use of child soldiers.

The chief prosecutor had sought an even longer sentence. She spoke after today’s court session.

BRENDA HOLLIS, chief prosecutor, U.N. Special Court for Sierra Leone: I think any time a person who commits these very, very serious crimes, and it’s proven beyond a reasonable doubt they commit them, any time such a person is convicted and sentenced, it’s a good day.

KWAME HOLMAN: The prosecution left open the possibility of appealing for an 80-year prison term for the 64-year-old Taylor. Meanwhile, Taylor’s lawyers already have signaled they plan to appeal his convictions.

Britain’s highest court has upheld an order to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to Sweden. The anti-secrecy activist is wanted for questioning there on allegations of rape and sexual assault. Assange has denied any wrongdoing. His legal team now is weighing whether to try to reopen the extradition case.

A Pakistani doctor, Shakil Afridi, was jailed for conspiring with militants and not for helping the CIA track Osama bin Laden. That’s according to a Pakistani court documents — document released today. It showed that Afridi was convicted and sentenced to 33 years in prison for giving money to a militant group and treating its leaders at a hospital.

Pakistani officials initially said Afridi was convicted of treason for aiding in the bin Laden hunt.

Pope Benedict XVI broke his silence today on a scandal involving leaked documents. The pontiff’s butler, Paolo Gabriele, was arrested last week after Vatican investigators discovered papal documents in his apartment. Today, Benedict directly addressed the issue for the first time. He spoke during his weekly audience with the faithful in Saint Peter’s Square.

POPE BENEDICT XVI, leader of Catholic Church (through translator): The events of the past few days involving a few of my aides have brought sadness to my heart, but it has never obscured the firm certainty that, despite the weakness of men, the difficulties and the tests, the church is guided by the Holy Spirit, and God will never deny his help to sustain it on its journey.

KWAME HOLMAN: The leaks have become one of the worst breaches of security for the Holy See in recent memory. But the pope complained that some of the reporting on the scandal amounts to exaggerated and gratuitous rumors.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.