Saturday, December 5, 2009

Amanda Knox conviction: travelers, when abroad, be careful: the justice system of the country you visit applies

The conviction of Amanda Know in Perugia, Italy, for the murder of a British roommate, brings up the issue that Americans must bear in mind when they travel, even in western countries: they are bound by the laws and legal procedures of the countries they visit.

It does seem at first glance that Italian criminal justice may have fewer protections, in shielding jurors from global (including Internet) publicity and in presuming innocence, than does the American system. Nevertheless, Knox will spend 25 years in prison unless her conviction is overturned. And it seems as if the DNA and other physical evidence could be questioned more. If she returns to the US, she would have to serve the full sentence here.

There are other issues. People sued in Britain under “libel tourism” practices can never visit the UK.

Can gay people active on the Web safely visit many Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia (or worse, Iran), when their postings can be found by authorities? Could they be arrested and held forever? What about people who have criticized China online (written about Tibet) who then travel to China?

Any ideas? I don’t recall the State Department’s comments on this matter.

Attribution link for map of Italy on Wikipedia.

In Italy a criminal jury has 8 people, with 2 judges and 6 ordinary people. There is a presumption of innocence, but not the same concept of reasonable doubt. Even in a jury trial, the judge(s) have to write an opinion in Italy.

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Update: December 10. Stephanie Gosk reports about the conditions of Italian women's prison for Amanda Knox.

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