Turkey tries to shed light on White Helmets founder’s death

People leave the Forensic Medicine Institute where an autopsy and other procedures were underway for British army officer James Le Mesurier who helped found the "White Helmets" volunteer organization in Syria, in Istanbul, Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019. (AP)
Updated 12 November 2019

Turkey tries to shed light on White Helmets founder’s death

  • James Le Mesurier’s body was found near his home in Istanbul early Monday
  • Turkish police believe he fell to his death from his home and are investigating the circumstances

ANKARA: Turkish officials were performing an autopsy and other procedures Tuesday as they tried to understand how a former British officer who helped found the White Helmets volunteer aid group in Syria died.
James Le Mesurier’s body was found near his home in Istanbul early Monday by worshippers on their way to morning prayers. Turkish police believe he fell to his death from his home and are investigating the circumstances. Last week a top Russian official had claimed he was a spy, something Britain strongly denies.
The Istanbul chief prosecutor’s office said an autopsy and other procedures were underway at Istanbul’s Forensic Medicine Institute to determine “the exact cause” of his death. It also said police were still in the process of gathering security camera recordings near the scene and assessing them.
Earlier, Istanbul governor Ali Yerlikaya told reporters: “Our chief prosecutor’s office, our police are engaged in multifaceted efforts to shed light on the incident.”
Le Mesurier was the founder and CEO of May Day Rescue, which established and trained the White Helmets, also known as the Syria Civil Defense, a group of local humanitarian volunteers.
The group, which has had more than 3,000 volunteers in opposition-held areas, says it has saved thousands of lives since 2013 and documented Syrian government attacks on civilians and other infrastructure. The group has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, but has not won.
Last week, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova accused Le Mesurier of being a former British agent working in the Balkans and the Middle East. She alleged he had “been spotted all around the world, including in the Balkans and the Middle East.”
Karen Pierce, Britain’s ambassador to the United Nations, denied those allegations Monday, saying “the Russian charges against him, that came out of Foreign Ministry that he was a spy, are categorically untrue.”
She also said Britain would be “looking very closely” at the Turkish authorities’ investigation into Le Mesurier’s death.
Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency reported that he was 48 and had moved to Turkey with his wife four years ago.


Five dead in protests against Indian citizenship law

Updated 14 min 12 sec ago

Five dead in protests against Indian citizenship law

  • In Assam, three people died in hospital after being shot
  • Train services were also suspended in some parts of the east on Sunday after violence in eastern West Bengal state
GUWAHATI: Five people died, including three after being shot by police, following violent protests in northeast India over a contentious citizenship law, with authorities maintaining Internet bans and curfews in some regions.

Tension remained high at the epicenter of the unrest in Assam state’s biggest city, Guwahati, with a fresh demonstration expected Sunday over the legislation even as some shops opened amid an easing of the curfew during the day.

The legislation, passed by the national parliament on Wednesday, allows New Delhi to grant citizenship to millions of illegal immigrants who entered India from three neighboring countries on or before December 31, 2014 — but not if they are Muslim.

In Assam, three people died in hospital after being shot, while another died when a shop he was sleeping in was set on fire and a fifth after he was beaten up during a protest, officials said.

Train services were also suspended in some parts of the east on Sunday after violence in eastern West Bengal state, with demonstrators torching trains and buses.

Home Minister Amit Shah on Sunday called again for calm, saying local cultures in northeastern states were not under threat, amid fears the new law will grant citizenship to large numbers of immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh.

“Culture, language, social identity and political rights of our brothers and sisters from northeast will remain intact,” Shah told a rally in eastern Jharkhand state, News18 television network reported him as saying.

For Islamic groups, the opposition, rights activists and others in India, the new law is seen as part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu-nationalist agenda to marginalize India’s 200 million Muslims. He denies the allegation.

Rights groups and a Muslim political party are challenging the law in the Supreme Court, arguing that it is against the constitution and India’s secular traditions.