Iran accused of hypocrisy over ‘absurd’ terror financing vote

Members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard listen to a speech in parliament in Tehran over the a bill to counter terrorist financing. (AFP)
Updated 08 October 2018

Iran accused of hypocrisy over ‘absurd’ terror financing vote

  • 'Top state sponsor of terrorism' joins global pact to curb it
  • Vote in the Iranian parliament is thought to be an effort to avoid further international sanctions

JEDDAH: Iran was accused of hypocrisy on Sunday after its parliament voted to join a global convention to cut off terror financing.

The regime in Tehran is routinely accused of being the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, and boasts of its support for groups such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, which are widely viewed as terrorist organizations.

“This is an absurd and preposterous move by the Iranian leaders,” the Iranian-American Harvard scholar Dr Majid Rafizadeh told Arab News.

“Economic sanctions have put significant pressure on the regime. This is a cosmetic and superficial move to declare that Tehran combats terrorism in the hope that the international community will help the ruling mullahs financially. It is also a tactic to deflect attention from the regime’s activities in promoting terrorism.

“The undeniable fact is that the Islamic Republic remains the top state sponsor of terrorism in the world. Based on my research at Harvard, the Iranian regime supports — financially, militarily or politically — roughly 40 percent of militias and terror groups in the world. 

“Iran’s move also highlights the regime’s hypocrisy and double standards as it continues to support designated terrorist groups across the globe.” 

Sunday’s vote in the Iranian parliament is thought to be an effort to avoid further international sanctions as the 2015 deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program  unravels.
Parliament speaker Ali Larijani said 143 out of 268 members of parliament voted to join the Combating the Financing of Terrorism agreement, or CFT. The bill must be ratified by the Guardian Council to become a law.
President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the nuclear deal with world powers in May and has vowed to ramp up sanctions unless Iran dramatically changes its policies, including halting its support for regional militant groups.
By joining the CFT, Iran would be required to comply with some ideas offered by the Financial Action Task Force, an intergovernmental organization that targets money laundering around the world.
Hardliners opposed the bill and said it would erode Iran’s sovereignty, and hundreds of hard-line students protested outside parliament on Sunday. 
But Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said it was a “historic decision” that would make it easier for Russia and China to continue doing business with Iran. 

Prison becomes ‘second home’ for Turkish cartoonist

Updated 14 min 43 sec ago

Prison becomes ‘second home’ for Turkish cartoonist

  • Unfailingly optimistic and modest, Kart refuses to be run down by his ordeals

ISTANBUL: Renowned Turkish cartoonist Musa Kart says he has spent as much time in prison and courthouses as he has at work since President Recep Tayyip Erdogan came to power.

His latest stint in jail started in April, after an appeals court upheld his sentence of three years and nine months for “helping terrorist organizations.”

Released last week pending another appeal, Kart told AFP: “For 15 years, prisons and courthouses have become a second home to me.”

Kart, who was recognized last year by the Swiss Foundation Cartooning for Peace, was among 14 journalists and staff from the renowned opposition paper Cumhuriyet convicted in the case.

He was initially arrested in 2016 after Erdogan launched a major crackdown on opponents in the wake of a failed coup.

“I have spent almost the same amount of time in court corridors as I spent in the paper. It is very unfortunate,” he told AFP.

Unfailingly optimistic and modest, Kart refuses to be run down by his ordeals, and says he always made an effort to look his best for prison visitors.

“I never welcomed my visitors in a hopeless state,” he said. “I would shave, pick my cleanest shirt from my modest wardrobe and welcome them with open arms. We would spend our time telling jokes.” His morale was boosted by the knowledge he had done nothing wrong.

“If you believe that your position is right, if you have an inner peace about your past actions, then it is not that difficult to stand prison conditions,” he said. Kart has been in and out of trouble since Erdogan took power in 2003.

His first lawsuit came in 2005 over a cartoon portraying Erdogan, then prime minister, as a cat entangled in a ball of wool.

“I have drawn cartoons for over 40 years ... I did it in the past with other political leaders, but I was never the subject of a court case,” Kart said. 

“The frame of tolerance has seriously narrowed today.”

The current case against him claims he contacted members of the Gulen movement accused of orchestrating the failed coup in 2016. 

It also says the 14 Cumhuriyet staffers had conspired to change the paper’s editorial policy to support the Gulenists, as well as Kurdish rebels and the ultra-left Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front.

“Today the accusations of terrorism have gone well beyond a realistic point,” Kart said.

“When you take a look at my cartoons, you see how much I am against any kind of terrorist organization and how seriously and strongly I criticize them.”

Rights advocates including the Reporters Without Borders have called on Turkey to revise its anti-terrorism and defamation laws, which they claim are abused to silence opponents.

Cumhuriyet — Turkey’s oldest daily founded in 1924 — is not owned by a business tycoon but by an independent foundation, making it an easier target for authorities.

The paper’s former editor-in-chief Can Dundar fled to Germany after being convicted in 2016 over an article alleging that Turkey had supplied weapons to Islamist groups in Syria.

It has its own internal problems, too — Kart and some of the others actually quit the paper last year over disagreements with the new management.

But the case has added to the chilling effect that has infected the whole of the media in Turkey, which has the highest number of imprisoned journalists in the world.

No date has been set for the next appeal, and Kart has no idea how the saga will end.

“Everyone knows that there has been a political shadow hanging over our case,” he said.

Whatever happens, he said his focus would remain on drawing.

“Cartoons are really a very strong language because you can find a way to express yourself under any circumstances, even under pressure.”