(213) 978-0390 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Police Chief William Bratton will join the mayor for a meeting with Salvadoran officials to discuss criminal activity by international gangs. Villaraigosa and Salvadoran President Antonio Saca are slated to discuss business opportunities between the two countries. In Mexico, Villaraigosa is scheduled to visit Mexico City, Guadalajara, Jalisco, Leon and Guanajuato. He is to meet with Mexican President Felipe Calderon to promote investment and long-term business opportunities and discuss issues such as joint environmental and clean-air initiatives. Los Angeles has more than $293 billion in international trade, making it the 17th largest in commerce in the world. Last year, Villaraigosa traveled for two weeks to Asia and he has said he hopes to visit Europe this year on a similar trade mission. [email protected] Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa plans to meet this week with the U.S. Olympic Committee, which is set to announce Saturday whether it will nominate Los Angeles or Chicago to host the 2016 Olympic Games. Villaraigosa’s office announced on Saturday that the mayor is scheduled to meet with USOC officials the day before their official announcement in Washington, D.C. The mayor has been actively involved with the Southern California Committee for the Olympic Games, trying to win the designation for a third time. The Mayor’s Office also announced that Villaraigosa will leave May 1 for a nine-day trade mission to El Salvador and Mexico.
TORONTO – A Canadian man who languished in an Ethiopian prison for more than 11 years returned home to Toronto on Saturday after being freed earlier this weekBashir Makhtal was sentenced to life in prison for terrorism-related charges after a trial that Amnesty International and Makhtal’s lawyer called unfair.He was greeted by friends, family and supporters at Toronto’s Pearson airport on Saturday after flying in from the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.Canadian officials had been working for years to secure his release, but Gloria Nafziger, a campaigner with Amnesty, said the changing political situation in Ethiopia has led to the release of thousands of political prisoners in recent months.“It’s an optimistic time in Ethiopia for people who have been detained for political reasons,” said Nafziger, adding that the changing tides in Ethiopian politics and the country’s new prime minister were likely major reasons for Makhtal’s release.The releases started this year under former prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn, who announced in January that he would drop charges against political prisoners and close a notorious prison camp in an effort to foster political dialogue. They have continued under the new prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, who was sworn in on April 2nd.Makhtal was born in Ethiopia and settled in Canada after moving here as a refugee, and later moved to Kenya where he operated a used-clothing business.He was working in Somalia in 2006, but fled back to the Kenyan border when Ethiopian troops invaded. He was detained at the border and summarily deported to Ethiopia, a move that Amnesty International called unlawful.In 2009, Makhtal was convicted of terrorism-related crimes and was handed a life sentence without the ability to communicate with anyone outside of prison.Amnesty International said Makhtal reported multiple cases of torture and ill-treatment during his imprisonment, including a lack of prompt care for his medical needs.Nafziger said the Canadian government was working for years to try and negotiate Makhtal’s release. An access to information request by The Canadian Press in 2009 found hundreds of pages of records revealing the government’s frustrated efforts to assist him.“There were constant efforts being made,” said Nafziger. “They would raise it in diplomatic meetings with the Ethiopian government constantly… There’s been, in the last few years, a really high-profile attention being paid.”At one point, Nafziger said that Ethiopian and Canadian officials had agreed on a prisoner transfer, but Makhtal refused, saying he was not guilty and would not come back to Canada just to be put behind bars again.Makhtal’s cousin, Said Maktal, said in an Amnesty International statement that his cousin’s release has been a long time coming.“We hardly are able to believe it is true,” said Said Maktal, who was involved in campaigning for Makhtal’s release. “We send our thanks to everyone who signed a petition, wrote a letter or came to a public event about Bashir’s case.”