Turkey targets jailed activist’s cultural organization 

Turkey targets jailed activist’s cultural organization 
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)
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Updated 17 February 2021

Turkey targets jailed activist’s cultural organization 

Turkey targets jailed activist’s cultural organization 
  • The Trade Ministry filed a lawsuit demanding the dissolution of Anadolu Kultur, an Istanbul-based organization set up by Osman Kavala in 2002 for cross-cultural understanding
  • US President Joe Biden’s administration has urged Turkey to release Kavala without delay and to respect a 2019 ruling from the European Court of Human Rights

ANKARA: Turkey is targeting a cultural organization founded by the jailed activist and philanthropist Osman Kavala, who has been behind bars for more than three years without a conviction.

The Trade Ministry filed a lawsuit demanding the dissolution of Anadolu Kultur, an Istanbul-based organization set up by Kavala in 2002 for cross-cultural understanding, claiming that it was originally registered as a commercial enterprise but was operating as a non-profit organization.

Anadolu Kultur is charged with violating Article 210 of the Turkish Commercial Code regarding corporations and ministry personnel may audit the relevant company accordingly.

US President Joe Biden’s administration has urged Turkey to release Kavala without delay and to respect a 2019 ruling from the European Court of Human Rights.

The ministry's action is seen as the “continuation of unlawfulness” against Kavala because it is the first of its kind in Turkey's history.  

“Our company has carried out all its operations legally and transparently since its establishment in 2002,” Anadolu Kultur said in an official statement. “No crime was detected by Turkey’s Financial Crimes Investigation Unit and the ministry’s investigations.”

Anadolu Kultur has undertaken projects in the arts, democracy, civil society and culture to strengthen Turkey’s minority groups and help marginalized segments of Turkish society, making the organization a target in pro-government circles.

Pro-government newspapers accuse Kavala of using his foundation to evade monitoring by authorities and channeling foreign donations from entities linked to billionaire philanthropist George Soros. Soros’ Open Society Foundation ceased its Turkish operations in late 2018.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called Kavala “a representative of Soros” – an accusation used to demonize members of civil society in Turkey.

Asena Gunal, general director of Anadolu Kultur, said the lawsuit had been ongoing since last year and explained why the organization had not previously publicized it.

“Following the latest attacks by pro-government newspapers that tried to demonize Anadolu Kultur, we wanted to inform the public about the process,” she told Arab News. “There are plenty of companies in Turkey that do not get profits from their business activities. They can even lose money, but they are not obliged to close down. We examined the whole history of business activities and closure requests in Turkey. This one is unprecedented. It is so sad that the law is being instrumentalized in such a way for a politically motivated agenda.”

The first trial was held on Dec. 3, 2020, without any media coverage. The next trial will be held on April 15, while the closure process can take years if the government does not appoint a trustee immediately or decide on the company’s closure quickly.

Kavala, who is a respected figure in Turkish and European civil society circles, was arrested at Istanbul’s Atatürk airport on Oct. 19, 2017, after returning from a meeting with the Goethe Institut in the southeastern city of Gaziantep.

Earlier this month a Turkish court rejected his request for release on espionage charges.


Oman imposes Ramadan night-time ban on commercial activities, movement of people

Oman imposes Ramadan night-time ban on commercial activities, movement of people
Updated 14 April 2021

Oman imposes Ramadan night-time ban on commercial activities, movement of people

Oman imposes Ramadan night-time ban on commercial activities, movement of people
  • The decisions can either be relaxed or toughened, depending on the pandemic situation

DUBAI: Oman has imposed a night-time ban on all commercial activities and movement of people throughout the holy month of Ramadan.

All types of gatherings, including iftars in mosques, tents or public places typical during Ramadan are affected by the prohibition against mass assembly, which starts from 9 p.m. until 4 a.m.

Oman’s Supreme Committee, which was created to deal with all coronavirus pandemic related developments, also imposed a ban on all social, sports and cultural activities and any other group activities throughout the holy month of Ramadan.

Key sectoral workers such as in oil, healthcare, utilities, food supply and media were however exempted from the movement ban, provided they have permissions, as well as three-ton trucks. Pharmacies were also allowed to operate during the night-time commercial ban.

The decisions can either be relaxed or toughened, depending on the pandemic situation, according to Dr. Abdullah Nasser Al-Harrasi, the minister of Information and a member of the COVID-19 Supreme Committee.


UAE administers 118,805 doses of COVID-19 vaccines overnight

UAE administers 118,805 doses of COVID-19 vaccines overnight
Updated 14 April 2021

UAE administers 118,805 doses of COVID-19 vaccines overnight

UAE administers 118,805 doses of COVID-19 vaccines overnight
  • UAE health officials reported 2,022 new coronavirus cases overnight

DUBAI: The UAE administered 1118,805 more doses of COVID-19 vaccines overnight, bringing total jabs given to residents and citizens to 9,156,728 or about 92.58 doses per 100 individuals.

The nationwide inoculation program aims to give the population immunity from coronavirus that will help curb its spread as well as bring down infection cases.

UAE health officials reported 2,022 new coronavirus cases overnight, bringing the country’s caseload to 487,697 since the pandemic began. Four deaths were also confirmed due to COVID-19 complications, bringing the total number of deaths in the country to 1,537.

Meanwhile, an additional 1,731 individuals had fully recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries to 471,906.


Biden administration proceeding with $23 billion weapon sales to UAE

Biden administration proceeding with $23 billion weapon sales to UAE
Updated 14 April 2021

Biden administration proceeding with $23 billion weapon sales to UAE

Biden administration proceeding with $23 billion weapon sales to UAE

WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden’s administration has told Congress it is proceeding with more than $23 billion in weapons sales to the United Arab Emirates, including advanced F-35 aircraft, armed drones and other equipment, congressional aides said on Tuesday.
A State Department spokesperson said the administration would move forward with the proposed sales to the UAE, “even as we continue reviewing details and consulting with Emirati officials” related to the use of the weapons.
The Democratic president’s administration had paused the deals agreed to by former Republican President Donald Trump in order to review them.


Israel shocked by self-immolation of traumatized ex-soldier

Israel shocked by self-immolation of traumatized ex-soldier
An honour guard of Israeli soldiers with their rifles stands to attention during a one minute siren, as they partake in a state ceremony for Memorial Day in Jerusalem on April 13, 2021. (AFP)
Updated 14 April 2021

Israel shocked by self-immolation of traumatized ex-soldier

Israel shocked by self-immolation of traumatized ex-soldier
  • ‘He saw horrible things and nobody took care of him,’ his tearful brother Avi Saidian told journalists at the hospital

JERUSALEM: Israel was shaken Tuesday after a 26-year-old former soldier suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder since the 2014 Gaza war set himself on fire, suffering severe injuries.
Itzik Saidian went to a support service for wounded soldiers near Tel Aviv on Monday, doused himself with a flammable liquid and lit it, “due to significant psychological distress,” the army said.
He was rushed to the intensive care unit of Tel Hashomer Hospital near Tel Aviv and was in “critical condition” with “deep burns all over his body,” the hospital said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was “very shocked” and “determined to undertake a complete reform of the way we take care of our disabled and wounded veterans.”
The young man had been recognized as partially disabled because he suffered from PTSD related to his service during the 2014 war between Israel and the armed Islamist movement Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Around 2,250 Palestinians were killed in the war, mostly civilians, and 74 Israelis, mostly soldiers.
Saidian’s self-immolation came on the eve of Israel’s Remembrance Day for fallen soldiers and attack victims.
It sparked controversy over the support system for wounded or psychologically ill soldiers, which is often deemed inefficient and bureaucratic.
“He saw horrible things and nobody took care of him,” his tearful brother Avi Saidian told journalists at the hospital.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz announced a “thorough investigation to find the reasons for this tragic event.” His ministry pledged to “substantially improve the treatment of post-traumatic soldiers.”
Military service is mandatory in Israel for 18-year-olds. Women serve two years and men two years and six months.


Lebanon’s president says new maritime claim needs government approval

Lebanon’s president says new maritime claim needs government approval
Updated 13 April 2021

Lebanon’s president says new maritime claim needs government approval

Lebanon’s president says new maritime claim needs government approval
  • Aoun's decision could significantly delay the process
  • Israeli Energy Minister said Monday Lebanon's expanded claim would derail talks

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s president said on Tuesday a draft decree expanding its maritime claims in a dispute with Israel must be approved by the caretaker government, rejecting a request to grant it swift presidential approval.
The dispute with Israel over the maritime boundary has held up hydrocarbon exploration in a potentially gas-rich area of the eastern Mediterranean.
The decree, approved by Lebanon’s caretaker prime minister, defense minister and minister of public work on Monday, would add around 1,400 square km (540 square miles) to an exclusive economic zone in the eastern Mediterranean claimed by Lebanon.
Caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s office said the decree should be approved by President Michel Aoun so that the new maritime coordinates setting out Lebanon’s claim could be submitted to the United Nations.
But the presidency said it should be approved by Diab’s full cabinet, even though the government resigned eight months ago following a devastating explosion in Beirut, because of the gravity of the issue.
The draft decree “needs a collective decision from the council of ministers..., even under a caretaker government, due to its importance and the consequences,” a statement from Aoun’s office said.
Aoun’s decision could significantly delay the process. Since the government resigned in August it has referred all issues for exceptional approval by the president, leaving them to get formal endorsement when a new government is finally agreed.
Negotiations were launched in October to try to resolve the dispute with Israel yet the talks, a culmination of three years of diplomacy by the United States, have since stalled.
Israel already pumps gas from offshore fields but Lebanon has yet to find commercial gas reserves in its own waters.
Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said on Monday Lebanon’s expanded claim would derail the talks rather than help work toward a common solution, warning that Israel would implement “parallel measures.”
Lebanon, in the throes of a deep financial meltdown that is threatening its stability, is desperate for cash as it faces the worst economic crisis since its 1975-1990 civil war. But political leaders have failed to bridge their differences and form a new government.