The Week Ahead: Adoption couple in court

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The Independent Online
IN ROMANIA, the trial resumes on Wednesday, after a two-week delay, of Adrian and Bernadette Mooney, the British couple arrested in July and charged with trying to smuggle a baby out of the country. The Mooneys paid dollars 6,000 ( pounds 3,900) in July to gypsy teenagers for baby Monika, now aged eight months. Her natural father is mentally retarded and her mother is physically handicapped.

Adrian, 42, and Bernadette, 39, planned to rescue Monika from a potential life of poverty and transplant her to suburban Berkshire, where they already have one legally adopted Romanian daughter, Grace. The dream dissolved when guards on the frontier with Hungary discovered Monika hidden in a box in the Mooney's car.

The Mooneys face up to five years in prison, although their lawyers believe a fine and suspended sentence are more likely. As for Monika, she has been placed in an orphanage, from where she has little chance of being adopted. Prejudice in Romania against gypsies is notoriously strong. As the trial restarts, Romanian students in Bucharest have vowed to chain themselves to railway tracks - not out of sympathy with the Mooneys, but in a desperate-sounding attempt to draw attention to what they insist are appalling educational conditions.

Across the border in former Yugoslavia, the United Nations war crimes prosecutor, Richard Goldstone, is completing an investigation on serious human rights abuses. On Tuesday the findings will be announced.

He is likely to face stiff questions about whether the UN is making a serious effort to pursue those responsible for killing an estimated 200,000 civilians in the two-year war in Bosnia, plus tens of thousands more in Croatia, in its desperation to reach a peace settlement with the warring parties.

As the Serbs celebrate the UN decision to allow the reopening of Belgrade airport to international traffic - the first sign of the lifting of sanctions on rump Yugoslavia - their southern neighbours in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on Sunday go to the polls in presidential and parliamentary elections.

The President, Kiro Gligorov, a wily septuagenarian political survivor, who has been in most Yugoslav cabinets since the 1940s, is expected to remain head of state with a comfortable majority. This result would be a reward for having kept his impoverished, ethnically mixed state of 2 million Slavs and Albanians out of the wars raging elsewhere in former Yugoslavia.

Finns also go to the polls on Sunday, in a referendum on membership of the European Union. The result may have a knock-on effect on voters' opinions in two other Nordic states, Sweden and Norway, where referendums on membership of the EU are to take place this autumn. The latest opinion polls show a big majority of Finns favour joining the EU.

Two troubled leaders will have a chance to discuss their ungrateful respective electorates on Friday, when Italy's embattled Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, flies to Moscow to meet the Russian President, Boris Yeltsin - the latter is under fire from opposition deputies for alleged extravagant drinking binges.

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