Turkish police detain 12 academics, activists in raids

Those arrested were being questioned over their links to the Anatolia Culture Association founded by Osman Kavala, a philanthropist businessman, who himself had been jailed a year ago. (AFP)
Updated 16 November 2018
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Turkish police detain 12 academics, activists in raids

  • They are being questioned over their links to the Anatolia Culture Association founded by Osman Kavala
  • Police are searching for eight other people linked to the association

ANKARA: Police in Istanbul detained 12 academics, businesspeople and journalists as part of an investigation into an association that was headed by a jailed prominent businessman and activist, Turkey’s state-run news agency reported Friday.
Anadolu Agency said professors Betul Tanbay and Turgut Tarhanli of Istanbul’s Bosphorus and Bilgi universities and journalist Cigdem Mater were among those detained in simultaneous police operations in the city.
They are being questioned over their links to the Anatolia Culture Association founded by Osman Kavala, a philanthropist businessman who was arrested a year ago pending trial, accused of alleged attempts to “abolish” the constitutional order and the government. No indictment has been issued against him.
Anadolu said police were searching for eight other people linked to the association which says it aims to promote peace and minority rights through culture.
Since an attempted coup in 2016, Turkey’s government has been accused of stifling freedom of expression for arresting thousands of people for alleged connections to US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkey blames for the failed attempt, or links to terror groups. It has purged many more people from state institutions and jailed dozens of journalists.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called Kavala “Turkey’s Soros,” a reference to American billionaire George Soros, whose Open Society Foundations have funded education, health, justice and media projects around the world. Pro-government media in Turkey accuse Kavala of engaging in anti-government conspiracies.
Eleven prominent activists, including Amnesty International’s former Turkey chairman, were arrested last year at their hotel on an island off of Istanbul while training. They were eventually released from jail pending the outcome of their trial for supporting terror groups.
Separately on Friday, police detained 86 people, most of them former Air Force personnel, in operations across Turkey and were looking for 100 others for alleged links to Gulen’s movement, Anadolu reported.
More than 15,000 people have been purged from the military since the coup, Turkey’s defense minister has said.
The cleric denies involvement in the coup.


Palestine, Egypt offer air support as Israel battles wildfires

A firefighting aircraft flies over a forest near Kibbutz Harel, which was damaged by wildfires during a record heatwave, in Israel May 24, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 25 May 2019
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Palestine, Egypt offer air support as Israel battles wildfires

  • Thousands of people were evacuated from their homes on Thursday as fires raged
  • The fires were fueled by high temperatures and dry condition

JERUSALEM: Egypt and four European countries sent aircraft to help Israel battle wildfires that have forced the evacuation of some small towns, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Friday, as a record heatwave looked set to worsen conditions.
At an emergency briefing, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel had appealed for international help to combat the fires, and that firefighting planes were coming in from Greece, Croatia, Italy and Cyprus.
Egypt, on the orders of President Abdel-Fatah El-Sisi, had also sent two helicopters to assist Israel, Netanyahu told reporters.
The Palestinian Authority and Russia had also offered help, Netanyahu said.
Israel braced for wildfires on Friday amid a major heat wave that shows no signs of abating.
Israel “really appreciates” the help, Netanyahu said, singling out El-Sisi for sending aid.
“I am deeply thankful for the readiness of neighbors to help us in a time of crisis, just as we help them,” Netanyahu said.
Israel’s Fire and Rescue Service said blazes in a key corridor between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv were mostly under control but difficult weather remained a conflagration risk.
“As of this moment, this (containment) is being done in the best possible way, but the challenge is yet ahead of us given the weather conditions, the winds and the extreme heat,” Netanyahu said.
Some 3,500 residents of small towns in the path of the fires were evacuated on Thursday, officials said. Dozens of homes have burned down.

Evacuations
Thousands of people were evacuated from towns and dozens of homes were burned on Thursday as fires raged, fueled by high temperatures and dry conditions. Over 500 acres of woodland have burned, said Nitai Zecharya, an Israeli official from the Jewish National Fund, known for planting forests in the country.
Zecharya said that while firefighters had brought most of the blaze under control, officials remained “very stressed” about strong winds fanning flames and “spreading fires to other fronts.”
The cause of the fires remains unclear, but they erupted following the Jewish festival of Lag Ba’Omer, which observers mark with bonfires.
A sweltering heat wave is pushing temperatures in parts of the country up to 110 degrees Fahrenheit, or 43 Celsius.