Europe’s top human rights court orders immediate Turkish release of jailed Kurdish leader Demirtas

Europe’s top human rights court on Dec. 22, 2020 called on Turkey to release prominent co-leader of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Selahattin Demirtas imprisoned four years ago, citing infringements on his freedom of expression and the right to free elections. (File/AFP)
Europe’s top human rights court on Dec. 22, 2020 called on Turkey to release prominent co-leader of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Selahattin Demirtas imprisoned four years ago, citing infringements on his freedom of expression and the right to free elections. (File/AFP)
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Updated 22 December 2020

Europe’s top human rights court orders immediate Turkish release of jailed Kurdish leader Demirtas

Europe’s top human rights court orders immediate Turkish release of jailed Kurdish leader Demirtas
  • The court found that Turkey had interfered with the freedom of expression of the former leader

ANKARA: The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on Tuesday ordered Turkey to immediately release jailed Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtas.
In their ruling, the chamber’s judges said the 47-year-old’s human rights had been violated and his pre-trial detention for years served as a cover for narrowing pluralism in the country.
The court found that Turkey had interfered with the freedom of expression of the former leader of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) by lifting his parliamentary immunity and violated his right to be elected for parliament.
Demirtas, who has been in prison on terror-related charges since November 2016, was a two-time presidential candidate against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and co-chaired the HDP between 2014 and 2018.
He faces 142 years of imprisonment over his political actions during 2014 protests in southeastern provinces of Turkey where he is accused of inciting street demonstrations against the siege of the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobani by Daesh militants. The protests led to the deaths of 37 civilians.
Europe’s top human rights court also ordered Turkey to pay Demirtas 60,400 euros ($73,540) in damages, costs, and expenses.
“Turkey as a contracting party to the European Convention has undertaken the obligation to implement all rulings of the European Court,” Massimo Frigo, senior international lawyer at the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), told Arab News.
“The Demirtas ruling by the court is final and should be executed immediately, including his release as requested by the court,” he said.
According to Frigo, lack of implementation would constitute a fundamental disregard of Turkey’s obligations under the convention and as a member of the Council of Europe.
“The court thus concluded that the reasons put forward by the authorities for the applicant’s pre-trial detention had merely been a cover for an ulterior political purpose, which was a matter of indisputable gravity for democracy,” the chamber said, adding that there was no evidence in the charges for his detention that linked the offenses and his political actions.
When a chamber of the ECHR ruled that Demirtas’ right to a swift trial had been violated, Erdogan committed to making a counter-move against the ruling and an appeals court quickly approved a jail sentence against him over charges of disseminating terror propaganda in 2013 to finalize his conviction.
In several speeches he made recently, Erdogan still referred to Demirtas as “a terrorist having the blood on his hands.”
Since November 2016, Demirtas has been detained at a prison in Edirne, a city bordering Bulgaria and Greece, thousands of miles away from the southeastern Turkish province of Diyarbakir where his family lives.
“Enough lives ruined. Enough pain inflicted. Enough injustice. Release Selahattin,” former European Parliament Turkey rapporteur, Kati Piri tweeted just after the announcement of the ruling.
Nacho Sanchez Amor, the current Turkey rapporteur of the European Parliament, said: “No more excuses for Turkey’s authorities: Respecting rule of law means freeing Demirtas.”
However, human rights lawyer, Erdal Dogan, was pessimistic about any positive move from the Turkish judiciary in that regard.
“I don’t expect any decision to release him. They already opened another trial against him for a second arrest for not being obliged to free Demirtas. However, this ECHR ruling is the utmost confirmation at the international scale that he is imprisoned over baseless charges,” he told Arab News.
In June, Turkey’s Constitutional Court concluded that the right to his personal liberty and security had been violated as his period of arrest exceeded the reasonable duration.
In detention, Demirtas has written three books containing short stories.


Ramadan in Lebanon limited due to high inflation, virus restrictions

Ramadan in Lebanon limited due to high inflation, virus restrictions
A woman checks Ramadan decorations at a shop ahead of the holy fasting month of Ramadan, in Sidon, Lebanon, April 10, 2021. (REUTERS)
Updated 1 min 50 sec ago

Ramadan in Lebanon limited due to high inflation, virus restrictions

Ramadan in Lebanon limited due to high inflation, virus restrictions
  • Iftar events banned as new curfew goes into effect and donations are fleeting during the holy month

BEIRUT: The social events, traditions and gatherings usually celebrated during Ramadan will be very different this year in Lebanon as the country continues to grapple with unprecedented economic collapse and a coronavirus (COVID-19) surge.

Leading up to the holy month, preparations for Ramadan were slight in Beirut as only a few signs reminding people to donate could be seen in the city’s main streets. Charity foundations usually rely on the month of Ramadan every year to collect donations but the country’s ability to give is fleeting.

“More than 50 percent of the Lebanese now live under the poverty line,” World Bank Group Vice President for Middle East and North Africa Farid Belhaj said on April 4.

In an attempt to combat the spread of the virus, the National Disaster Management Operations Room imposed a new curfew that applies during Ramadan from 9 p.m. until 5 a.m. It has also banned all iftar events.

Charitable organizations can distribute food to houses, but only after obtaining a permit from the electronic platform. The capacity of worshippers at mosques will be limited to 30 percent while restaurants and cafes, which have already endured several months of lockdown, will be closed again during the holy month.

The price inflation has become a daily nightmare for the Lebanese, and with the arrival of Ramadan, the prices of essential goods, like vegetables and fruits, have increased even further due to the high demand.

“The price of one kilo of beef has increased to between 60 and 70,000 pounds and a kilo of taouk chicken was sold at 50,000 pounds on the first day of Ramadan,” Abbas Ali Salim, a butcher shop owner in Beirut’s southern suburbs, told Arab News.

“People ask me about the prices, and when I answer, they seem very unhappy. Some even beg me to give them lower prices. But the truth is, I am one of these people. I am suffering just like them. The black market is trading the state-subsidized meat, monopolized by traders who are controlling the prices.”

Due to inflation, the cost of a typical iftar meal — lentil soup, fattoush salad, a main dish of chicken and rice, a half a cup of yogurt and a single date — has reached more than 60,000 Lebanese pounds, according to the crisis observatory at the American University of Beirut.

By those estimates, a full month of iftar meals for a family of five would cost 1.8 million pounds, which is much higher than the Lebanese minimum wage of 675,000 pounds. This cost does not even cover the juices, desserts, gas, electricity or cleaning material used for cooking.

Researchers at the observatory said a fattoush salad for a small family that cost 6,000 pounds during Ramadan last year, now costs 18,500 pounds. This means that the cost of a daily salad during this year’s Ramadan would be about 82 percent of the minimum wage.

The observatory feared that families might cope with the inflation by “cutting quantities or opting for cheaper alternatives to replace vegetables and meat, which would result in malnutrition.”

Mohammad Chamseddine, a researcher from the independent studies and statistics company Information International, said: “The prices of basic goods in Ramadan have increased by between 25 and 100 percent, with a significant reduction in sales, as the purchasing power of the Lebanese, especially those getting paid in Lebanese pounds, has eroded.”

Ramadan has also been affected by the country’s slow COVID-19 vaccination plan, which started in February. Lebanon's Health Minister Hamad Hassan said on Tuesday that “over 20 percent of the Lebanese people have developed immunity, either through infection or vaccination.”

 


Russia backs Egypt on Nile water rights

Russia backs Egypt on Nile water rights
Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi and Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attend a meeting in Cairo, Egypt April 12, 2021. (REUTERS)
Updated 33 min 26 sec ago

Russia backs Egypt on Nile water rights

Russia backs Egypt on Nile water rights
  • Sergey Lavrov: Russia is looking forward to reaching a solution for all parties, Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia, on the filling and operation of the dam through negotiations

CAIRO: Visiting Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has told Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi that Moscow will oppose any interference in Egypt’s historical water rights in the Nile.

Ethiopia is building the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Nile River’s main tributary, which Egypt and Sudan deem a major threat if it is filled and operated without a legally binding agreement.

In a meeting with the Egyptian leader on Monday, Lavrov highlighted Russia’s firm position rejecting any interference in Egypt’s historical water rights in the Nile, and rejected unilateral actions in this regard.

He also voiced appreciation for Egypt’s efforts to resolve the issue.

Lavrov said that Russia is looking forward to reaching a solution for all parties, Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia, on the filling and operation of the dam through negotiations.

El-Sisi said the lack of resolution of this issue would affect the security and stability of the region.

El-Sisi also discussed the Egyptian efforts to support the new interim government in Libya at various bilateral, regional and international forums, stressing the need to clear Libya of mercenaries.

Illegal foreign interference in Libyan affairs is fueling the crisis, he said.

Lavrov underlined Cairo’s role, especially the president’s personal efforts, to prepare a political pathway in Libya.

He said that this underlined Egypt’s role in regional security and stability, adding that Russia seeks to continue cooperation and coordination with Cairo on the issue.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry briefed Lavrov on the recent consultations over the dam held in Kinshasa in the presence of the foreign ministers of Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia.

He said that communication will continue with Russia over the issue as it is an active member of the UN Security Council, and because of its diplomatic capabilities and its impact in the international arena.

 


Italian politicians slam Libyan release of alleged human trafficker

Italian politicians slam Libyan release of alleged human trafficker
Updated 13 April 2021

Italian politicians slam Libyan release of alleged human trafficker

Italian politicians slam Libyan release of alleged human trafficker
  • UN considers Abd Al-Rahman Milad one of Libya’s most wanted human traffickers
  • His release is ‘disturbing news,’ says head of Sinistra Italiana party

ROME: Members of left-wing political party Sinistra Italiana expressed their dismay at Libyan authorities’ decision to release a man considered by the UN to be one of the country’s most wanted human traffickers.

Abd Al-Rahman Milad, known as Bija, was arrested on suspicion of being part of a criminal network operating in northwest Libya.

He was released less than four months after his arrest in Tripoli. The city’s military attorney general dropped the charges against him “for lack of evidence.”

Italian newspaper Avvenire reported that Bija and five other Libyans were placed under sanctions in 2018 by the UN Security Council for being directly involved in the sinking of migrant boats.

The newspaper reported that Bija had attended official meetings in Rome with Italian authorities during negotiations over illegal migrants. He was introduced there as “a commander of the Libyan coastguard.”

Bija’s release “is disturbing news,” Sinistra Italiana leader Nicola Fratoianni said in Italy’s Chamber of Deputies, asking the government to “clarify this obscure situation.”

He added: “This man is accused of torture and other cruel criminal acts on human beings. The relationship between Italian institutions and this man, who was freed only a few days after the visit to Tripoli of Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, must be fully clarified.” 

Fratoianni told Arab News: “In Libya, migrants live in inhumane and atrocious conditions, as confirmed by all international organizations. The Italian government must do something.”

Marco Minniti, Italy’s interior minister at the time of the meetings attended by Bija, has denied any wrongdoing, saying Rome was unaware of the allegations against the Libyan.

Nello Scavo, the Italian journalist who first reported for Avvenire on Bija’s presence in Italy, and Nancy Porsia, the freelance reporter who first wrote about the Libyan’s suspected criminal activities in 2016, were given police protection after receiving threats.

In recent years, the EU has partnered with Libya’s coastguard and local groups to try to halt the dangerous sea crossings via the Mediterranean to reach Italian shores.

Several NGOs, however, say those policies leave migrants at the mercy of armed groups or confined in squalid detention centers rife with abuse.

An Associated Press investigation in 2019 revealed that militias tortured, extorted and abused migrants for ransom in detention centers under the nose of UN officials, often in compounds that receive millions in European money, paid to Libya’s government to slow the tide of migrants crossing the Mediterranean.


Israeli media report Israeli-owned ship attacked off UAE coast

Israeli media report Israeli-owned ship attacked off UAE coast
Updated 13 April 2021

Israeli media report Israeli-owned ship attacked off UAE coast

Israeli media report Israeli-owned ship attacked off UAE coast

An Israeli-owned ship was attacked off the coast of the UAE, Israel's Channel 12 TV reported.

Unnamed Israeli officials told the channel that they blamed Iran for the attack. There were no casualties in the attack, the report said.

Ship tracking websites showed the Hyperion Ray was on its ways to Fujairah, on the UAE's Arabian Sea coast.

More to follow ...  


Iran to enrich uranium to 60%, highest level ever

Iran to enrich uranium to 60%, highest level ever
Updated 13 April 2021

Iran to enrich uranium to 60%, highest level ever

Iran to enrich uranium to 60%, highest level ever
  • Nuclear negotiator Abbas Araghchi's comments come after attack on Natanz nuclear facility, blamed on Israel
  • Iran had been enriching up to 20% – a short technical step to weapons-grade levels

DUBAI: Iran will begin enriching uranium to 60 percent purity, higher than the program ever has before though still short of weapons grade, after an attack on its Natanz nuclear facility, an Iranian negotiator said Tuesday.
The announcement marks a significant escalation after the sabotage, suspected to have been carried out by Israel. It could result in further action by Israel, whose Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed never to allow Tehran to obtain a nuclear weapon, and further raise tensions across the Mideast.
Nuclear negotiator Abbas Araghchi’s comment, quoted by the state-run IRNA news agency, came after Iran’s foreign minister warned that the weekend assault could hurt ongoing negotiations over its tattered atomic deal with world powers. Those talks are aimed at finding a way for the United States to re-enter the agreement, the goal of which is to limit Iran’s enrichment of uranium in exchange relief on sanctions.
Iran had been enriching up to 20 percent. That is a short technical step to weapons-grade levels of 90 percent.
The International Atomic Energy Agency said it was aware of the media reports but had no comment at the time.
Press TV, the Iranian state television’s English-language arm, separately said that the IAEA had been informed of the move. It said the enrichment would begin as of Wednesday.

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The broadcaster also quoted the negotiator as saying Iran would introduce another 1,000 centrifuges at Natanz, without elaborating.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had threatened to go to 60 percent enrichment in February if the country needed.
“We are determined to develop our nuclear capabilities in line with the needs of the country,” Khamenei said then, according to a transcript of his speech published by his website. “For this reason, Iran’s enrichment will not be limited to 20 percent, and we will take whatever action is necessary for the country.”
Iran previously had said it could use uranium enriched up to 60 percent for nuclear-powered ships. The Islamic Republic currently has no such ships in its navy.
Details remained scarce about the weekend attack at Natanz. The event was initially described only as a blackout in the electrical grid feeding above-ground workshops and underground enrichment halls — but later Iranian officials began referring to it as an attack.
The US has insisted it had nothing to do with Sunday’s sabotage. Instead, Israel is widely believed to have carried out the assault that damaged centrifuges, though it has not claimed it.
But earlier Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif still issued a warning to Washington.
“Americans should know that neither sanctions nor sabotage actions would provide them with an instrument for talks,” Zarif said in Tehran alongside visiting Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. “They should know that these actions would only make the situation difficult for them.”
Zarif separately renewed his earlier warning to Israel over the sabotage, saying that if Iran determines its archenemy was behind it, “then Israel will get its response and will see what a stupid thing it has done.”
Kayhan, the hard-line Tehran newspaper, urged Iran to “walk out of the Vienna talks, suspend all nuclear commitments, retaliate against Israel and identify and dismantle the domestic infiltration network behind the sabotage.”
“Despite evidence that shows the role of the US as main instigator of nuclear sabotage against Iran, unfortunately some statesmen, by purging the US of responsibility, (aid) Washington’s crimes against the people of Iran,” the paper said in Tuesday’s editions.
While Kayhan is a small-circulation newspaper, its editor-in-chief, Hossein Shariatmadari, was appointed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and has been described as an adviser to him in the past.
Such a walkout remains unlikely as the administration of President Hassan Rouhani, whose main diplomatic achievement was the 2015 accord, hopes to get the US to rejoin it and provide desperately needed sanctions relief. However, pressure does appear to be growing within Iran’s theocracy over how to respond to the attack.
The talks in Vienna — among Iran, world powers still in the deal and the US — are aimed at reviving America’s role in the agreement that former President Donald Trump abandoned and lifting the sanctions he imposed. Iran, in turn, would return to the limits set by the deal and dilute its growing stockpile of uranium — some of which has been enriched up to a short step away from weapons-grade levels.
Iran insists its nuclear program is peaceful, though the West and the International Atomic Energy Agency say Tehran had an organized military nuclear program up until the end of 2003. However, the deal prevents it from having enough of a uranium stockpile to be able to pursue a nuclear weapon.
Rouhani met later Tuesday with Lavrov and stressed the importance of all parties returning to the deal. Russia is a member of the nuclear deal.
“We are neither ready to accept less than that, nor are we after achieving more than that,” he said.