Serbia extradites Kurdish activist to Turkey despite UN warning

A Serbian police officer guards in Belgrade, Serbia, in this Dec. 13, 2017 photo. (AP)
Updated 27 December 2017

Serbia extradites Kurdish activist to Turkey despite UN warning

BELGRADE: Serbia has extradited to Turkey a Kurdish political activist who had been seeking asylum, a police official said on Tuesday, defying a recommendation by the UN’s Committee against Torture.
Cevdet Ayaz requested asylum in Serbia earlier this year after fleeing Turkey, where he had been sentenced to 15 years in prison over alleged activities against the constitution, the Belgrade-based N1 TV quoted his lawyer Ana Trkulja as saying.
It also quoted her as saying that Ayaz had been extradited to Turkey on Monday and that his brother had been asked to contact a police station in Istanbul where he was being held.
The UN Committee against Torture (UNCAT) issued a recommendation on Dec. 18 urging Belgrade to refrain from extraditing Ayaz.
The Serbian police official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Serbian courts had ruled that all preconditions for the extradition had been met and that Justice Minister Nela Kuburovic had acted accordingly.
“The motion by the UN came after that (decision) ... The police only performed the extradition procedure,” the official said.
Officials at Serbia’s Justice Ministry, which approved Ayaz’s extradition, were not immediately available for comment on the case.
On Monday UNCAT Chairman Jens Modvig warned Serbia, a candidate for EU membership, to adhere to its international obligations.
“Serbia is in the process of extraditing Mr. Ayaz to Turkey ... Serbia, please be aware of your UNCAT obligations,” Modvig wrote on his Twitter account.
Rights groups accuse Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of using a state of emergency declared after the 2016 coup attempt to quash decades-long Kurdish dissent and political opposition.
Turkey, which is also a candidate for EU membership, denies using torture.
Serbia, the legal successor to the now-defunct Yugoslavia, has ratified the UN convention against torture, which came into force in 1987.
Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic has sought to boost trade ties with Turkey, and Erdogan visited Belgrade in October.


US officials: Iran sent emails intimidating American voters

Updated 55 min 51 sec ago

US officials: Iran sent emails intimidating American voters

  • Intelligence director: “These actions are desperate attempts by desperate adversaries”

WASHINGTON: US officials accused Iran on Wednesday of being behind a flurry of emails sent to Democratic voters in multiple battleground states that appeared to be aimed at intimidating them into voting for President Donald Trump.
The announcement at a rare, hastily called news conference just two weeks before the election underscored the concern within the US government about efforts by foreign countries to spread false information meant to suppress voter turnout and undermine American confidence in the vote.
The activities attributed to Iran would mark a significant escalation for a nation that some cybersecurity experts regard as a second-rate player in online espionage, with the announcement coming as most public discussion surrounding election interference has centered on Russia, which hacked Democratic emails during the 2016 election, and China, a Trump administration adversary.
“These actions are desperate attempts by desperate adversaries,” said John Ratcliffe, the government’s top intelligence official, who, along with FBI Director Chris Wray, insisted the US would impose costs on any foreign countries that interfere in the 2020 US election and that the integrity of the election is still sound.
“You should be confident that your vote counts,” Wray said. “Early, unverified claims to the contrary should be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism.”
Wray and Ratcliffe did not describe the emails linked to Iran, but officials familiar with the matter said the US has linked Tehran to messages sent to Democratic voters in at least four battleground states that falsely purported to be from the neo-fascist group Proud Boys and that warned “we will come after you” if the recipients didn’t vote for Trump.
The officials also said Iran and Russia had obtained voter registration data, though such data is considered easily, publicly accessible. Tehran used the information to send out the spoofed emails, which were sent to voters in states including Pennsylvania and Florida.
Ratcliffe said the spoofed emails were intended to hurt Trump, though he did not elaborate on how. An intelligence assessment released in August said: “Iran seeks to undermine US democratic institutions, President Trump, and to divide the country in advance of the 2020 elections. Iran’s efforts along these lines probably will focus on online influence, such as spreading disinformation on social media and recirculating anti-US content.”
Trump, speaking at a rally in North Carolina, made no reference to the press conference but repeated a familiar campaign assertion that Iran is opposed to his reelection. He promised that if he wins another term he will swiftly reach a new accord with Iran over its nuclear program.
“Iran doesn’t want to let me win. China doesn’t want to let me win,” Trump said. “The first call I’ll get after we win, the first call I’ll get will be from Iran saying let’s make a deal.”
Both Russia and Iran also obtained voter registration information, though such data is considered easily, publicly accessible. Tehran used the information to send out the spoofed emails, which were sent to voters in states including Pennsylvania and Florida.
Asked about the emails during an online forum Wednesday, Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar said she lacked specific information. “I am aware that they were sent to voters in multiple swing states and we are working closely with the attorney general on these types of things and others,” she said.
While state-backed Russian hackers are known to have infiltrated US election infrastructure in 2016, there is no evidence that Iran has ever done so.
The voter intimidation operation apparently used email addresses obtained from state voter registration lists, which include party affiliation and home addresses and can include email addresses and phone numbers. Those addresses were then used in an apparently widespread targeted spamming operation. The senders claimed they would know which candidate the recipient was voting for in the Nov. 3 election, for which early voting is ongoing.
Federal officials have long warned about the possibility of this type of operation, as such registration lists are not difficult to obtain.
“These emails are meant to intimidate and undermine American voters’ confidence in our elections,” Christopher Krebs, the top election security official at the Department of Homeland Security, tweeted Tuesday night after reports of the emails first surfaced.