Turkish court hands sentences to journalist for criticizing Erdogan

Husnu Mahalli was handed a suspended sentence of two years and five months in prison for insulting Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan, above. (Reuters)
Updated 08 November 2018
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Turkish court hands sentences to journalist for criticizing Erdogan

  • Husnu Mahalli will not be sent to jail due to time already served and as the ruling is up for appeal
  • Turkish authorities have detained tens of thousands of civil servants, journalists, soldiers and others following a failed military coup in July 2016

ISTANBUL: A Turkish journalist was handed a suspended sentence of two years and five months in prison on Thursday for insulting Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan, a court ruling seen by Reuters showed.
Husnu Mahalli, a prominent journalist who also writes columns in the opposition newspaper Sozcu, will not be sent to jail due to time already served and as the ruling is up for appeal.
The Turkish court also handed Mahalli a suspended sentence of one year and eight months for insulting public officials.
Mahalli will only serve the lesser sentence if he commits a crime that requires a prison sentence in the next five years, during which he will be on probation.
“My client has been sentenced due to the expressions he used in his columns, tweets. These should be regarded within the freedom of criticism. We will appeal the sentence,” Mahalli’s lawyer Ertugrul Aydogan said.
Mahalli was detained in December 2016 after he accused Turkey of assisting terrorist groups in Syria and called Erdogan a dictator. He was released in January in 2017 pending trial.
Mahalli defended himself in court, saying he was doing his journalistic duty, private Demiroren news agency (DHA) reported.
“I have not insulted the president. I have always addressed him as Mr. President. The word ‘dictator’ is not an insulting word. I demand my acquittal,” he said during his defense, DHA said.
Turkish authorities have detained tens of thousands of civil servants, journalists, soldiers and others following a failed military coup in July 2016. They have also shut down about 130 media outlets.
Erdogan has said some journalists helped nurture terrorists through their writing, and says the crackdown is needed to ensure stability in Turkey, a NATO member that borders Syria, Iraq and Iran.
Critics say Erdogan is using the post-coup crackdown to muzzle dissent and tighten his grip on power, charges he denies. The European Union, which Turkey aspires to join, has also criticized the crackdown.


UK’s Hunt lands in Iran to discuss nuclear deal, bilateral issues

Updated 1 min 40 sec ago
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UK’s Hunt lands in Iran to discuss nuclear deal, bilateral issues

  • Iran said its still hopeful that Europe can salvage the nuclear deal, which the US withdrew from in May
  • Other signatories of the deal, including France, Germany, Britain, Russia and China, have been searching for ways to save deal

DUBAI/LONDON: British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt arrived in Tehran on Monday for the first time since taking office to hold talks with Iranian authorities on issues including the future of the 2015 nuclear deal, Iranian media reported.

In May, US President Donald Trump abandoned the deal, negotiated with five other world powers during Democratic President Barack Obama’s administration. The United States also restored sanctions targeting Iran’s oil, banking and transportation sectors earlier this month.

“He will meet (Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad) Zarif today and the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani,” state TV reported.

Shamkhani is an ally of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the last say on all state matters, including nuclear issues.

Hunt’s office said in a statement that, during his meeting with Zarif, he would stress that the UK is committed to the nuclear deal as long as Iran sticks to its terms. He will also discuss European efforts to maintain nuclear-related sanctions relief.

Other signatories of the deal, the European Union, France, Germany, Britain, Russia and China, have been searching for ways to salvage the pact.

“The Iran nuclear deal remains a vital component of stability in the Middle East by eliminating the threat of a nuclearized Iran. It needs 100 percent compliance though to survive,” Hunt said in a statement ahead of the visit.

“We will stick to our side of the bargain as long as Iran does. But we also need to see an end to destabilizing activity by Iran in the rest of the region if we are going to tackle the root causes of the challenges the region faces,” Hunt added.

Under the deal, Iran restricted its disputed nuclear program, widely seen in the West as a disguised effort to develop the means to make atomic bombs, in exchange for an end to international sanctions.

Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi said Iran is still hopeful that Europe can save the nuclear deal, which it previously warned of scrapping if the EU fails to preserve its economic benefits against US pressure.

“There are some ambiguities on implementation of EU’s mechanism to protect trade with Iran from America’s sanctions ... But we remain hopeful that the Europeans can save the deal,” Qasemi said at a news conference on the day of Hunt’s arrival in Iran.

The European Union has been trying to establish a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) for non-dollar trade with Iran to save the deal.

The SPV was conceived as a clearing house that could be used to help match Iranian oil and gas exports against purchases of EU goods, circumventing US sanctions based on the global use of the dollar for oil sales.

The EU has tried to have the SPV set up by this month, but no country has offered to host it, six diplomats told Reuters last week.

“We expect EU to implement the SPV as soon as possible,” Qasemi said. “Iran adheres to its commitments as long as other signatories honor theirs.”

Hunt will also discuss Iran’s role in the conflicts in Syria and Yemen, his office said, and press Iran on its human rights record, calling for the immediate release of detained British-Iranian dual nationals where there are humanitarian grounds to do so.

“I arrive in Iran with a clear message for the country’s leaders: putting innocent people in prison cannot and must not be used as a tool of diplomatic leverage,” he said.