Turkey lira slumps to record lows over US sanctions in pastor case, Ankara vows to respond

Sanctions have been imposed on Turkey by US in the case of Pastor Brunson, who had been jailed in Turkey for more than one and a half years on terror and espionage charges. (AP/Emre Tazegul)
Updated 01 August 2018
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Turkey lira slumps to record lows over US sanctions in pastor case, Ankara vows to respond

  • The lira lost over 1.6 percent of its value against the dollar following Washington’s move
  • US hit Turkey’s justice and interior ministers with sanctions over the case of an American pastor on trial for terror-related charges

ANKARA: The Turkish lira on Wednesday slumped to record lows of 5.0 against the dollar as the US hit Turkey’s justice and interior ministers with sanctions over the case of an American pastor on trial for terror-related charges.
The lira lost over 1.6 percent of its value against the dollar following Washington’s move in response to Turkey keeping Pastor Andrew Brunson under house arrest.
Before his move home last week, Brunson, who led a Protestant church in the Aegean city of Izmir, had spent nearly two years in jail.
After reports that the US would sanction individuals over the case, the lira hit a record low of 5.01 against the dollar, before rallying slightly to 4.9.
It then hit 5.0 again after the official announcement from the White House.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said that Brunson was a “victim of unfair and unjust attention by the government of Turkey” as she announced sanctions.
“At the president’s direction, the Department of the Treasury is sanctioning Turkey’s minister of justice and minister of interior, both of whom played leading roles in the arrest and detention of Pastor Brunson,” she told journalists.
The sanctions freeze any property or assets on US soil held by the two ministers, and bar US citizens from doing business with them.
US President Donald Trump and his Vice President Mike Pence had threatened Turkey with “large sanctions” last week if Brunson was not immediately released.
His lawyer’s appeal for his release was rejected this week.
Brunson faces up to 35 years in jail on charges of carrying out activities on behalf of two terror organizations — the group led by US-based Fethullah Gulen blamed for the July 2016 failed coup and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
The pastor denies the charges while US officials have publicly insisted that Brunson is innocent and should be freed.
Ankara said late on Wednesday night that Turkey would respond to Washington's "hostile" action to impose sanctions on its ministers. It also said that the sanctions would inflict "great damage" on efforts to restore Turkish-American relations.


Vulture with GPS tracker held in Yemen on suspicion it was used for spying

Updated 25 April 2019
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Vulture with GPS tracker held in Yemen on suspicion it was used for spying

  • The bird migrated from Bulgaria, to Turkey, to Jordan, Saudi Arabia and then Yemen
  • Govt forces detained the bird on suspicion that the attached GPS tracker was a spy device for Houthi militants

SANAA: Griffon vulture Nelson crossed into war-torn Yemen in search of food but ended up in the hands of Yemeni fighters — and temporarily in jail for suspected espionage.
The sand-colored bird came down in the country’s third city of Taiz, an unusual move for a young vulture that can soar for long distances across continents in search of food and moderate weather.
Nelson, approximately two years old, embarked on his journey in September 2018 from Bulgaria, where his wing was tagged and equipped with a satellite transmitter by the Fund for Wild Fauna and Flora (FWFF).
But he seems to have lost his way, eventually coming down into Taiz — under siege by Houthi rebels but controlled by pro-government forces, who mistook Nelson’s satellite transmitter for an espionage device and detained the bird.
Forces loyal to the government believed that the GPS tracker attached to the bird may have been a spy device for the rebels.
Hisham Al-Hoot, who represents the FWFF in Yemen, traveled from the rebel-held capital Sanaa to Taiz to plead with local officials to release the helpless animal.
“It took about 12 days to get the bird,” he told AFP.
“The Bulgarian foreign ministry reached out to the Yemeni ambassador, who in turn contacted local officials (in Taiz) and told them to immediately give the organization the vulture.”
Hoot said that the bird migrated from Bulgaria, to Turkey, to Jordan, Saudi Arabia and then Yemen — where the FWFF lost track of the bird.
Nelson was MIA until April 5, when the conservation group received hundreds of messages from Yemenis concerned about the creatures’ welfare.
Today, the locally-famous vulture is being properly fed and getting stronger every day.
“When we first took him, he was in very bad condition,” said Hoot, adding that the bird was underweight.
Smiling, he puts on gloves and carefully handles the majestic creature — blowing it a kiss.
Hoot said the bird will be released in two months when he believed Nelson will have regained his full strength and his wing — broken somewhere during his journey — will have healed.
“We thought at first it would take six months for him to heal, but now we don’t think it will be more than two months,” he said.
Hoot said that Nelson was not able to find any source of sustenance in Yemen.
“They can eat carcasses of dead animals, but now there is no more with the current situation of war.
“This is what forced him to come down and stopped him from completing his journey.”
The four-year conflict in Yemen has unleashed the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, according to the United Nations, with millions facing famine.
The war escalated in March 2015 when a coalition, led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, intervened to bolster the efforts of Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi.
Since then, at least 10,000 people — most of them civilians — have been killed and more than 60,000 wounded, according to the World Health Organization. Other rights groups estimate the toll could be much higher.