Turkey acquits top journalist in ‘espionage’ case

Erdem Gul, the Ankara bureau chief of the opposition Cumhuriyet daily, was acquitted by the Istanbul criminal court, the state-run Anadolu news agency said. (AFP)
Updated 16 July 2018
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Turkey acquits top journalist in ‘espionage’ case

ISTANBUL: An Istanbul court on Monday acquitted one of Turkey’s most prominent political journalists in a long-running case on espionage charges dating back to an arms interception on the Syrian border in 2014.
Erdem Gul, the Ankara bureau chief of the opposition Cumhuriyet daily, was acquitted by the Istanbul criminal court, the state-run Anadolu news agency said.
Gul had in May 2016 been sentenced to five years in jail and his then editor-in-chief Can Dundar to five years and 10 months for revealing state secrets over their front-page story which alleged Turkish secret services sought to deliver arms to Syria rebels.
Despite spending time in pre-trial detention, neither was sent to jail immediately and both walked free pending appeal.
But in a hugely complex process, Turkey’s top appeals court in March quashed both convictions, saying that Gul should be acquitted but Dundar given a stiffer sentence of up to 20 years. A retrial then commenced.
The cases of Gul and Dundar have now been separated and Dundar remains on trial.
Gul is still working in his job for Cumhuriyet but Dundar left Turkey for Germany shortly after the initial verdict, saying he refused to put his head “under the guillotine.”
Cumhuriyet’s report on a shipment of arms intercepted at the Syrian border in January 2014 sparked a furor when it was published, fueling speculation about Turkey’s role in the Syrian conflict and its alleged ties to Islamist groups.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had reacted furiously to the allegations, personally warning Dundar he would “pay a heavy price.”
He has accused Fethullah Gulen, the US-based preacher blamed by Turkey for the 2016 failed coup, of instigating the scandal to discredit his government.
It was the first in a number of high profile criminal cases against journalists which multiplied after the failed July 2016 coup against Erdogan and amplified concerns over press freedoms in the country.
In a separate case, 13 journalists and staff from Cumhuriyet were given jail sentences of up to seven-and-a-half years in late April on terror-linked charges, which critics said was punishment for the paper’s anti-Erdogan stance.
They are all however still free pending appeal. Gul remains on trial in another separate case.


Facebook, Twitter remove pages promoting Russian and Iranian propaganda

A woman displays photos of US President Donald Trump as she follows the news on her mobile phone in Tehran, Iran, in this October 13, 2017 file photo. (Reuters)
Updated 22 August 2018
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Facebook, Twitter remove pages promoting Russian and Iranian propaganda

  • The account removals comes weeks after Facebook took down accounts originating in Russia for engaging in deceiving behavior
  • Twitter called the effort “coordinated manipulation”

SAN FRANCISCO: Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc. said on Tuesday that they each removed about 300 accounts, mostly originating in Iran, that were found to be engaged in coordinated “inauthentic behavior.”
The social media companies acted on a tip from cybersecurity firm FireEye Inc, which said on Tuesday that the accounts were promoting Iranian propaganda, including discussion of “anti-Saudi, anti-Israeli and pro-Palestinian themes.”
“We’ve removed 652 Pages, groups and accounts for coordinated inauthentic behavior that originated in Iran and targeted people across multiple Internet services in the Middle East, Latin America, UK and US,” Nathaniel Gleicher, head of cybersecurity policy at Facebook, said in a blog post.
Twitter called the effort “coordinated manipulation.”
The influence effort, as FireEye described it, began last year and continued through this month, the company said in a blog post.
“However, it is important to note that the activity does not appear to have been specifically designed to influence the 2018 US midterm elections, as it extends well beyond US audiences and US politics,” FireEye said.
The account removals comes weeks after Facebook took down accounts originating in Russia for engaging in deceiving behavior. The company said on Tuesday that it found additional inauthentic behavior tied to Russia, but that the activity does not appear linked to the campaign tied to Iran.