US pastor on trial for alleged terror ties

Andrew Brunson, a Christian pastor from North Carolina, US who has been in jail in Turkey since December 2016, is seen in this undated photo taken in Izmir, Turkey. (REUTERS)
Updated 16 April 2018
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US pastor on trial for alleged terror ties

  • Pastor accused of trying to convert Turks to Christianity
  • He is accused of supporting Fethullah Gulen

LONDON: Andrew Brunson, a US pastor held for more than a year in Turkey, goes on trial on Monday on charges of aiding terror groups in a case that has raised tensions between Washington and Ankara.
Washington has stepped up efforts recently to secure the release of Brunson, who faces 35 years in prison and is also accused of trying to convert Turks to Christianity. His case has become a cause celebre for Christian activists, the Wall Street Journal reported.
US lawmakers have been considering measures to bar Turkish officials linked to Brunson’s detention from entering the US. However, Donald Trump, US president, has raised the issue directly with Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkish president.
Also, Rex Tillerson, former secretary of state, told Erdogan in February that US prosecutors had dropped charges against most members of his security detail who had been accused on playing a role in beating protesters last year, the Wall Street Journal said.
Brunson, 60, spent more than two decades running a small church in Turkey before he was detained in October 2016 and accused of supporting Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric based in the US.


Hundreds of jobs axed in PLO cutback

Updated 31 min 15 sec ago
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Hundreds of jobs axed in PLO cutback

  • Among the departments to be axed from the PLO are social affairs, military, Jerusalem, sports, youth and the diaspora
  • Most of the PNC’s budget goes to pay salaries to staff who have little work to do

AMMAN: Hundreds of staff who are paid salaries but do little work will lose their jobs in a major downsizing of the Palestine Liberation Organization. 

The restructuring is aimed at ending the duplication of tasks by the PLO and the Palestinian government, and reducing the size of the 700-member Palestine National Council, which is expected to lose half its staff and half its budget. 

Among the departments to be axed from the PLO are social affairs, military, Jerusalem, sports, youth and the diaspora. Those that deal with refugees, planning, culture, media and the national fund will remain.

“Why do we need staff and offices in the PLO for such areas as social affairs and education, when we have major ministries in the government that are focusing on these areas?” Hanna Amireh, a member of the PLO’s executive committee, told Arab News. 

“When the PLO was responsible for all Palestinian affairs, this made sense, but now we have a government with relevant ministries and it doesn’t make sense to have such duplication.”

Most PLO staff belong to the various factions that make up the organization, and have been on the payroll for many years. This arrangement allowed these factions to provide jobs for their members. 

PLO sources told Arab News that the restructuring would also affect the Palestine National Council. The PNC holds occasional extraordinary meetings, but its full regular session scheduled for April 30 will be the first for 22 years.

Most of the PNC’s budget goes to pay salaries to staff who have little work to do. “The membership of the PNC will have to be cut in half, as will its budget,” a PLO source said. 

Najeeb Qaddoumi, a PNC member and senior Fatah activist in Jordan, confirmed that a restructuring would take place on April 30 but denied that it would be downsizing. “Some departments might be eliminated and others might be boosted,” he said.

Ali Qleibo, an artist, author and lecturer at Al Quds University, said the PLO had “exhausted its role since Lebanon and has caused chaos in the land.”

The downsizing will surprise analysts who had expected the Palestinians to revitalize the PLO after the failure of the peace process and the lack of trust in the Palestinian Authority.