Turkish anger at US demands to free philanthropist Osman Kavala

Turkish anger at US demands to free philanthropist Osman Kavala
Turkish businessman and philanthropist Osman Kavala has been in detention since October 2017 on charges related to the 2016 failed coup and 2013 anti-government protests. (AFP file photo)
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Updated 11 February 2021

Turkish anger at US demands to free philanthropist Osman Kavala

Turkish anger at US demands to free philanthropist Osman Kavala
  • US State Department: The specious charges against Kavala and the continuing delays in the conclusion of his trial undermine respect for the rule of law and democracy
  • Turkey hit back at “foreign meddling” in domestic affairs, with Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hami Aksoy calling the State Department’s comments “unprincipled and inconsistent”

ANKARA: Turkey has hit back at US demands to release jailed activist and philanthropist Osman Kavala, who has been behind bars for more than three years without being convicted.  

He was found innocent on charges related to 2013 anti-government protests and released, but was rearrested on espionage charges related to the 2016 failed coup attempt. An appeals court subsequently overturned his acquittal on the protest charges.

The US State Department said on Wednesday: “The specious charges against Kavala, his ongoing detention, and the continuing delays in the conclusion of his trial, including through the merger of cases against him, undermine respect for the rule of law and democracy.”

Turkey hit back at “foreign meddling” in domestic affairs, with Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Hami Aksoy, on Thursday calling the State Department’s comments “unprincipled and inconsistent.”

He said no state could dictate judicial processes that were being conducted “independently” by Turkish courts.

There have not yet been any phone calls between President Joe Biden and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, or between US State Secretary Antony Blinken and his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu.

The State Department’s remarks followed a letter from 50 senators to Biden demanding more focus on human rights issues in Turkey, hinting at a wider problem looming on the horizon between the two countries under the new US administration.

On the 1000th day of his imprisonment, July 27, the US “called upon Turkey to comply with its own commitment to justice and rule of law and release Osman Kavala from detention.”

Kavala is also accused of cooperating with Henri Barkey, a US national and academic, to overthrow the constitutional order in Turkey. Both men deny the charges.

“We also note with concern US citizen Dr. Henri Barkey’s inclusion in these unwarranted court proceedings,” the State Department said. “We believe the charges against Dr. Barkey to be baseless.”

Kavala’s request to be released was rejected last Friday by a Turkish court, a day after Erdogan had blamed the activist’s wife for provoking student protests at a prestigious university in Istanbul.

“The Biden administration is expected to put democracy and human rights at the forefront of its diplomacy, as was demonstrated by the sanctions imposed on Myanmar in response to the recent coup,” Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, Ankara office director of the German Marshall Fund of the United States, told Arab News.

He said it was no surprise, then, that the Biden administration was much more vocal about prolonged court cases in Turkey.

He drew comparisons between the current US administration’s warnings over Kavala’s detention and the handling of Pastor Andrew Brunson's imprisonment while President Donald Trump was in office.

“The Trump administration was very vocal on Pastor Brunson, not because human rights were high on their agenda, but because Brunson’s detention was an issue that agitated the evangelical base of the Republican Party and his release was seen as a success of the Trump administration by the same base. 

“As neither Osman Kavala nor Henri Barkey has similar potential in the US, the Trump administration turned a blind eye to those cases. There is now a new administration in Washington which will not ignore such issues.”

Unluhisarcikli said that Turkey’s argument about foreign governments not interfering with its judicial processes would have been more credible if the country’s judiciary had not been politicized and its rule of law had not been badly eroded.

According to the Dimensions of Polarization in Turkey 2020 Survey, 41.5 of Turks said they trusted the country’s judicial system.

“This raises the question why others should trust the judicial system in Turkey if Turks themselves don’t,” added Unluhisarcikli. “While I don’t expect the Biden administration to show a harsh reaction such as Trump did back in 2018, these court cases will remain a thorn in Turkey’s relations with Europe and the US unless resolved very quickly in line with human rights and the rule of law.”

Max Hoffman, a Turkey analyst from the Washington-based Center for American Progress, said the State Department’s comments were another sign that the Biden administration would press issues of democracy and the rule of law in Turkey.

“And it would be an important political signal, were the Turkish government to heed the call, though of course the cases of imprisoned Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtas and other political prisoners would continue to be an important issue,” Hoffman told Arab News.


Iran uses death penalty to target protesters, human rights expert tells UN

The report highlighted a number of other key human rights concerns in Iran. (Reuters/File Photo)
The report highlighted a number of other key human rights concerns in Iran. (Reuters/File Photo)
Updated 59 min 16 sec ago

Iran uses death penalty to target protesters, human rights expert tells UN

The report highlighted a number of other key human rights concerns in Iran. (Reuters/File Photo)
  • Javaid Rehman said he is particularly disturbed that authorities continue to sentence children to death, in violation of international law
  • The UN’s special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, he was briefing the General Assembly on the latest annual report on the issue

NEW YORK: A human rights expert described executions carried out in Iran as “an arbitrary deprivation of life,” as he called on Tehran to reform its laws and abolish the death penalty. He said the punishment is often used as a political tool.

Javaid Rehman, the UN’s special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, told the General Assembly on Monday that the death sentence in the country is often imposed on “vague and arbitrary grounds.” He highlighted in particular three criminal charges used to target peaceful demonstrators and political opponents: waging war against God, corruption on earth, and armed rebellion.

“The entrenched flaws in law and in the administration of the death penalty in Iran mean that most, if not all, executions are an arbitrary deprivation of life,” Rehman said.

“The structural flaws of the justice system are so deep and at odds with the notion of rule of law that one can barely speak of a justice system.”

As he briefed the assembly on the fourth annual report on human rights in Iran, the independent expert said that in particular he was “extremely disturbed” by the practice in Iran of sentencing children to death.

“Iran remains one of very countries that continues this practice despite the absolute prohibition under international law,” he said.

The report highlighted a number of other key human rights concerns in Iran, including the repression of civic space, discrimination against religious, ethnic and sexual minorities, and the dire conditions inside prisons.


EU says to hold nuclear talks with Iran in Brussels ‘this week’

EU says to hold nuclear talks with Iran in Brussels ‘this week’
Updated 25 October 2021

EU says to hold nuclear talks with Iran in Brussels ‘this week’

EU says to hold nuclear talks with Iran in Brussels ‘this week’
  • Iran’s chief negotiator on the deal says he would be in Brussels on Wednesday ‘to continue our talks on result-oriented negotiations’

BRUSSELS: The EU’s top negotiator will meet his counterpart from Tehran this week in Brussels for talks on restarting negotiations over Iran’s nuclear deal, a spokesman for the bloc said on Monday.
The EU and world powers are scrambling to try to get negotiations in Vienna aimed at reviving the 2015 accord back on track after the election of a hard-liner in Tehran.
Iran’s chief negotiator on the deal, Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri, wrote on Twitter that he would be in Brussels on Wednesday “to continue our talks on result-oriented negotiations.”
EU spokesman Peter Stano said the meeting would involve the bloc’s lead negotiator Enrique Mora, who visited Tehran earlier this month to push Iran to restart full negotiations.
Stano said the EU’s diplomatic service was “sparing no efforts to resume talks of all parties in Vienna.”
The agreement between Iran and world powers to find a long-term solution to the now two-decade-old crisis over its controversial nuclear program has been moribund since former US president Donald Trump walked out of the deal in May 2018.
His successor Joe Biden has said he is ready to re-enter the agreement, so long as Iran meets key preconditions including full compliance with the deal whose terms it has repeatedly violated by ramping up nuclear activities since the US left the pact.
But the Vienna-based talks through intermediaries made little headway, before being interrupted by the election of hard-liner Ebrahim Raisi as Iran’s president and suspended for the last four months.
The EU acts as coordinator for the deal that also involves Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia.


Houthis abduct dozens of civilians in wake of deadly Marib siege

Houthis abduct dozens of civilians in wake of deadly Marib siege
Updated 25 October 2021

Houthis abduct dozens of civilians in wake of deadly Marib siege

Houthis abduct dozens of civilians in wake of deadly Marib siege
  • Militia abducted and questioned relatives of fighters, including some children, and intimidated them into revealing information about the whereabouts of their relatives
  • Local activists believe that the Houthis have abducted and forcibly disappeared more than 100 people in Abedia, blown up houses of government officials and looted property

AL-MUKALLA: The Iran-backed Houthis have raided homes in Abedia district, south of Marib district, abducting dozens of civilians and transporting them to undisclosed locations, a Yemeni rights group said.

The Mothers of Abductees Association, an umbrella organization for thousands of female relatives of war prisoners, documented the abduction of 47 civilians in Abedia as the Houthis broke into the houses of residents, searching for Yemeni army soldiers and tribesmen who resisted their occupation of the district.

The militia abducted and questioned relatives of the fighters, including some children, and intimidated them into revealing information about the whereabouts of their relatives.

They also abducted wounded civilians and turned public facilities such as schools into detention centers, the organization said.

“We hold the Houthi armed group fully responsible for the lives and safety of all its captives, and demand that they immediately stop all abduction operations, and release all captives,” the organization said in the statement, urging international rights groups to exercise pressure on the militia.

“We call upon the UN and its special envoy for Yemen, the Office of the High Commissioner Office for Human Rights and the international community to mount the needed pressure upon the Houthi armed group in order to release all captives and forcibly disappeared persons from Abedia.”

Last week, the Houthis seized control of most of Abedia after laying siege on more than 35,000 civilians and government troops who took up arms and fought off incursions into the district.

The Houthi siege of Abedia pushed trapped civilians into starvation as the rebels obstructed the distribution of humanitarian aid and banned people from entering or leaving the district.

The siege sparked outrage inside and outside Yemen as activists and international bodies, including the UN Security Council, demanded that the Houthis allow aid workers and humanitarian assistance to reach trapped citizens.

However, the militia ignored the appeals and intensified missile and ground attacks until they forced a breakthrough last week and managed to storm the district’s center.

Local activists believe that the Houthis have abducted and forcibly disappeared more than 100 people in Abedia, blown up houses of government officials and looted property.

“The Houthi militia has committed brutal crimes in Abedia, far from the eyes of the media and local and international human rights organizations,” Mohammed Al-Salehi, editor of news website Marib Press, told Arab News on Monday.

In Sanaa, meanwhile, local and international rights groups and government officials said that the Houthis have expelled the families of two dozen dead academics at Sanaa University from their homes.

Ordered by the Houthi-allied president of Sanaa University Al-Qassem Abbas, armed militia members on Sunday stormed the houses of the families in Sanaa and asked them to leave voluntarily, threatening eviction by force.

In the past, the Houthis asked families of dead and pensioned professors to leave homes and flats given to them by Sanaa University as the movement sought to replace them with new academics.

The families said that they would be forced to sleep in the streets if they left the rent-free homes as the Houthis have not paid the salaries of their dead relatives and other public servants since late 2016.

The Geneva-based SAM Organization for Rights and Liberties warned that the Houthis prevented some families of dead professors from entering homes and looted furniture and valuables, demanding the group stop raids on the houses of Sanaa academics.

Yemeni Information Minister Muammar Al-Eryani condemned the raids and urged the international community and rights groups to pressure the Houthis into ending evictions.

“This terrorist crime is part of a series of abuses by Houthi militia against the elite of society, including academics, scholars and intellectuals, restricting them in their livelihoods and pushing them to emigrate,” he said on Twitter.


Egypt, Greek air forces complete training exercise

Egypt, Greek air forces complete training exercise
Updated 25 October 2021

Egypt, Greek air forces complete training exercise

Egypt, Greek air forces complete training exercise
  • Training included a number of joint flights, training on long-range air operations, experience exchanges and training in managing air operations
  • Egyptian paratroopers and Russian air landing forces also carried out a number of activities and events as part of joint military training

The Egyptian and Greek air forces completed a training exercise using combat aircraft at a Greek air base.

According to a statement by Egypt’s military spokesman, the training included a number of joint flights, training on long-range air operations, experience exchanges and training in managing air operations.

It came as part of large-scale joint exercises between the armed forces of both countries and efforts to improve military cooperation.

Egyptian paratroopers and Russian air landing forces also carried out a number of activities and events as part of joint military training, which will continue until Oct. 29.

Weapons and jump training took place during the exercise, which comes within the framework of joint cooperation between the Egyptian and Russian armed forces.

Egyptian border guards and Sudanese infantry elements are also taking part in training, which will continue until Oct. 29 at the Mohamed Naguib Military Base.

The commander of the Egyptian border guards said that the exercise represented “a rich environment for exchanging experiences” in border security. He also conveyed the greetings of Lt. Gen. Mohammad Zaki, commander-in-chief of the Egyptian armed forces, minister of defense and military production, and Lt. Gen. Mohammad Farid, chief of staff of the Sudanese armed forces.

The training activities included lectures and practical exercises that are aimed at enhancing border protection and the combating of smuggling, infiltration and illegal immigration.


Arab coalition says more than 105 Houthis killed near Yemen’s Marib

Arab coalition says more than 105 Houthis killed near Yemen’s Marib
Updated 25 October 2021

Arab coalition says more than 105 Houthis killed near Yemen’s Marib

Arab coalition says more than 105 Houthis killed near Yemen’s Marib
  • Arab coalition says airstrikes hit 29 Houthi targets, also destroying 13 military vehicles

RIYADH: The Arab coalition in Yemen said on Monday it carried out 29 attacks targeting “mechanisms and elements” of the Houthi militia in two districts near the strategic city of Marib in the last 24 hours.
The coalition said more than 105 Houthi militants have been killed and 13 military vehicles were destroyed in the military operations in Al-Jawba and Al-Kassara.
The coalition added in a statement that it will continue to provide support to the Yemeni National Army to protect civilians from Houthi violations.
This is the tenth consecutive day that the coalition has announced strikes 
The coalition has reported heavy strikes around Marib in recent weeks.
Al-Jawba lies about 50 kilometers south of the city and Al-Kassara is about 30 kilometers northwest.
According to a government military official on Wednesday, the Houthis have made “small advances” in Al-Jawba amid clashes with loyalist troops.
The Houthis began a major push to seize Marib in February and have renewed their offensive since September after a lull.
(With AFP)