Top Turkish civil society figure held at Istanbul airport: reports

Turkish businessman Osman Kavala. (Photo courtesy: social media)
Updated 19 October 2017
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Top Turkish civil society figure held at Istanbul airport: reports

ISTANBUL: Turkish police on Thursday detained a businessman who is one of the country’s leading civil society figures, reports said, raising fresh alarm over freedom of expression under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Osman Kavala was detained at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport after flying in from the southern city of Gaziantep, the Dogan news agency said.
Kavala is the chairman of the Anadolu Kultur (Anatolian Culture) NGO which aims to overcome differences within Turkish society especially through culture and the arts.
The organization has also sought to reach out to Armenia, with whom Turkey has no relations partly due to the dispute over the mass killings of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire which Yerevan regards as genocide.
Dogan news agency said Kavala had been in Gaziantep to discuss a project with Germany’s cultural outreach organization the Goethe Institut.
It said he was detained in line with an investigation by Istanbul prosecutors, without giving further details.
The arrest comes as concern intensifies over the fate of Turkish civil society under the state of emergency imposed after last year’s failed coup that aimed to oust Erdogan.
Eleven human rights activists, including the two top figures from Amnesty International’s Turkey branch, will go on trial in Istanbul next week on hugely-controversial terror charges.
Meanwhile, 156 journalists, most detained under the state of emergency, are currently behind bars, according to the P24 activist group.
Amnesty’s Turkey researcher Andrew Gardner said on Twitter the arrest of Kavala was the “latest attack on civil society in Turkey.”
“Osman Kavala has worked tirelessly to build reconciliation, dialogue and support the rule of law in Turkey,” added Emma Sinclair-Webb of Human Rights Watch.
Reports said Kavala was born in Paris but took over the family business when his father died. He is also the co-founder of the Iletisim publishing house.


Israel quiet on US claims it hit Iraq militia in Syria

Updated 19 June 2018
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Israel quiet on US claims it hit Iraq militia in Syria

  • The Sunday evening strike against the Al-Hari base on the Syrian side of the border with Iraq came less than 24 hours after Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would strike Iran’s “proxies” anywhere in Syria
  • Syrian authorities and the Iraqi paramilitaries both blamed Washington for the strike, which killed at least 52 fighters, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights

JERUSALEM: Israel declined to comment on Tuesday on a weekend air strike against an Iraqi paramilitary base in eastern Syria after its US ally implicated it in the attack.
The Sunday evening strike against the Al-Hari base on the Syrian side of the border with Iraq came less than 24 hours after Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would strike Iran’s “proxies” anywhere in Syria.
Fighters of Iraq’s Hashed Al-Shaabi paramilitary force, mainly composed of Iran-trained Shiite militia, have played a major role in the war against the Sunni extremists of the Daesh group in Syria as well as Iraq.
But their presence has sparked confrontations with both Washington, which has been supporting a Kurdish-led alliance that controls other parts of eastern Syria, and Israel, which fears Iranian-inspired attacks on its forces in the occupied Golan Heights.
Syrian authorities and the Iraqi paramilitaries both blamed Washington for the strike, which killed at least 52 fighters, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
But US officials denied any involvement and instead pointed the finger at Israel.
“We have reasons to believe that it was an Israeli strike,” one US official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
The Israeli military declined to be drawn on the US claims. “We are not commenting on foreign reports,” a spokeswoman said.
The military has carried out previous strikes against Iranian targets in Syria, but most have been significantly closer to Israel or the Israeli-occupied Golan.
Last month, Israel launched a large-scale attack on what it said were Iranian targets in Syria, raising fears of a major confrontation.
Those strikes followed a barrage of rockets that Israel said was fired toward its forces in the occupied Golan by Iran from Syria.
Even before that, Israel had been blamed for a series of recent strikes inside Syria that killed Iranians, though it has not acknowledged them.
Speaking at a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on Sunday morning, Netanyahu reiterated his position that “Iran needs to withdraw from all of Syria.”
“We will take action — and are already taking action — against efforts to establish a military presence by Iran and its proxies in Syria both close to the border and deep inside Syria,” the prime minister said.
“We will act against these efforts anywhere in Syria.”
Israeli seized a large swathe of the Golan Heights from Syria in the Six-Day War of 1967 and later annexed it in a move never recognized by the international community.
Iran has been a close ally of the Syrian regime for some four decades and, with Russia, has been a key supporter in the civil war that broke out in 2011.