Turkish court rules to keep philanthropist Kavala in prison

Turkish court rules to keep philanthropist Kavala in prison
Ayse Bugra, an emeritus professor at Bogazici University and wife of imprisoned Turkish philanthropist and human rights defender Osman Kavala, talks to media, Istanbul, Turkey, Feb. 5, 2021. (AP Photo)
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Updated 17 January 2022

Turkish court rules to keep philanthropist Kavala in prison

Turkish court rules to keep philanthropist Kavala in prison
  • The European Court of Human Rights ruled in 2019 that Kavala’s rights had been violated and ordered his release — but Turkey has repeatedly refused to do so
  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan openly disdains Kavala, accusing him of being the ‘Turkish leg’ of billionaire US philanthropist George Soros

ISTANBUL: A Turkish court ruled Monday that prominent Turkish civil rights activist and philanthropist Osman Kavala should stay in prison, despite his more than four years in pre-trial detention.
The hearing took place as a Council of Europe deadline that could trigger infringement procedures looms. The European Court of Human Rights ruled in 2019 that Kavala’s rights had been violated and ordered his release. But Turkey has repeatedly refused to do so.
Kavala, who is in Silivri prison on the outskirts of Istanbul, did not participate in the hearing in line with an October statement that he would no longer attend trials via video conference because he didn’t have faith the court would deliver a fair trial.

Kavala, 64, is accused of financing nationwide anti-government protests in 2013, attempting to overthrow the government by helping orchestrate a coup attempt three years later and espionage. He denies the charges, which carry a life sentence without parole.
He was acquitted in February 2020 of charges in connection with the 2013 Gezi Park protests. As supporters awaited his release, Kavala was rearrested on new charges. The acquittal was later overturned and linked to charges relating to the 2016 coup attempt, which the Turkish government blames on the network of US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who denies any ties to the coup.
That trial is now part of a merged case involving 51 other defendants, including fans of the Besiktas soccer club who were acquitted six years ago of charges related to the Gezi protests before that decision also was overturned. Kavala is the only jailed defendant.
Kavala’s lawyer, Koksal Bayraktar, had demanded his release.
“His continued imprisonment for 1,539 days is the continuation of lawlessness identified by the European Court of Human Rights,” Bayraktar said. “End this lawlessness today so our client gets his freedom.”
Taksim Solidarity, a group defending the small Gezi Park in central Istanbul, said before the third hearing that the peaceful 2013 protests, which were based on constitutional rights allowing citizens to demand democracy, couldn’t be tarnished through the judiciary.
In October, Kavala’s case also caused a diplomatic crisis between Turkey and 10 Western countries, including the United States, France and Germany, after they called for his release on the fourth anniversary of his imprisonment.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan openly disdains Kavala, accusing him of being the “Turkish leg” of billionaire US philanthropist George Soros, whom Erdogan alleges has been behind insurrections in many countries. He threatened to expel Western envoys for meddling in Turkey’s internal affairs.
The European Court of Human Rights’ 2019 decision said Kavala’s imprisonment aimed to silence him and other human rights defenders and wasn’t supported by evidence of an offense.
The Council of Europe, a 47-member bloc that upholds human rights, notified Turkey in December that it intended to refer the case to the court to determine whether Turkey refused to abide by final judgments, which are binding. It called on Turkey to release Kavala immediately and conclude the criminal procedures without delay. It asked Turkey to submit its views by Jan. 19 before a Feb. 2 session of the council.
Kavala is the founder of a nonprofit organization, Anadolu Kultur, which focuses on cultural and artistic projects promoting peace and dialogue.
The next hearing is scheduled for Feb. 21.


Jordan king places half-brother Prince Hamzah under house arrest

Jordan king places half-brother Prince Hamzah under house arrest
Updated 13 sec ago

Jordan king places half-brother Prince Hamzah under house arrest

Jordan king places half-brother Prince Hamzah under house arrest

LONDON: Jordan’s King Abdullah has placed his half-brother Prince Hamzah under house arrest, restricting his communications and movements.

In a letter published on Thursday, the king said that he would not allow anyone “to put their interests above the nation’s interest, and I will not allow even my brother to disturb the peace of our proud nation.”

Authorities in Jordan announced in April last year that they had foiled a bid to destabilise the country.

Two former officials were sentenced to 15 years in jail in July after they were found guilty of conspiring to topple the king in favour of Prince Hamzah.

The former crown prince announced last month that he was “renouncing the title of prince,” a month after a royal court statement said he had apologised to the king for the attempted coup.

“We do not have the luxury of time to deal with Hamzah’s erratic behavior and aspirations. We have many challenges and difficulties before us, and we must all work to overcome them and meet the aspirations of our people and their right to a dignified, stable life,” the king said.

The king said his recent action, taken on the advice of a council formed in accordance with the Royal Family Law, aims to turn a page on the “dark chapter in the history” of Jordan and his family.

He said that he has come to the conclusion that Prince Hamzah will not change after more than a year during which “he exhausted all opportunities to restore himself on the right path, in line with the legacy of our family.”

The king said that “Hamzah continues to ignore all facts and undisputable evidence, manipulating events to bolster his false narrative.”

“Unfortunately, my brother truly believes what he claims. The delusion he lives in is not new; other members of our Hashemite family and I have long realised that he reneges on his pledges and is persistent in his irresponsible actions that seek to sow unrest, unconcerned with the ramifications of his conduct on our country and our family,” the king wrote.

The king accused Prince Hamzah of putting his interests before the nation and living “within the confines of his own reality rather than recognising the great stature, respect, love, and care we have given him.”

“He presented a false narrative of his role in the sedition case, disregarding facts that the public became aware of regarding his suspicious relationship and communications with the traitor Bassem Awadallah, and Hassan bin Zeid, whom my brother knew had approached two foreign embassies to ask about the possibility of their countries supporting what he had described as regime change,” the king added.


North Africa and Middle East hit 10-year low in refugees as conflicts deescalate 

North Africa and Middle East hit 10-year low in refugees as conflicts deescalate 
Updated 19 May 2022

North Africa and Middle East hit 10-year low in refugees as conflicts deescalate 

North Africa and Middle East hit 10-year low in refugees as conflicts deescalate 
  • IDMC report noted the numbers of internally displaced people in the region remained ‘concerningly high’
  • IDMC Director Alexandra Bilak: ‘Peacebuilding and development initiatives are needed to resolve the underlying challenges that hold displaced peoples’ lives in limbo’

LONDON: North Africa and the Middle East have hit a 10-year low in refugees as conflicts in Libya, Iraq and Syria deescalated, according to the International Displacement Monitoring Centre. 

Nonetheless, the IDMC report noted the numbers of internally displaced people in the region remained “concerningly high,” warning the trend toward long-term displacement would “never be reversed” without safe and sustainable conditions for IDP returnees. 

IDMC Director Alexandra Bilak said: “Peacebuilding and development initiatives are needed to resolve the underlying challenges that hold displaced peoples’ lives in limbo.”

Furthermore, the report pointed to “unprecedented numbers” of people being displaced by violence in Afghanistan and Myanmar over the course of 2021, with similarly high numbers for Somalia and South Sudan. 

Globally, the number of displaced people reached 38 million, 94 percent of whom were forced to flee from weather-related disasters, with more than 25 million under the age of 18. 

While contending more data was needed to assess longer-term impacts, Bilak said it was clear protecting and supporting displaced children and young people was crucial for the future, noting that “a healthy happy child” would be more likely to contribute to an “equitable society and functioning economy.”

She added: “Children and young people are agents of change. Recognising them as such is vital to protect development gains and reduce the risk of future crises. Preparing the world of tomorrow must start with their active participation and leadership.”


Vessel attacked off Yemen; security firm reports attempted boarding

Vessel attacked off Yemen; security firm reports attempted boarding
A US Navy’s Fifth Fleet spokesperson told Reuters the navy is aware of an incident in the Red Sea. (File/AFP)
Updated 19 May 2022

Vessel attacked off Yemen; security firm reports attempted boarding

Vessel attacked off Yemen; security firm reports attempted boarding
  • A vessel has been attacked 34 nautical miles (63 km) south west of Yemen’s Hodeidah, the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Organization (UKMTO) reports

A vessel has been attacked 34 nautical miles (63 km) south west of Yemen’s Hodeidah, the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Organization (UKMTO) reported on its website on Thursday, adding an investigation is underway.
British maritime security company Ambrey Intelligence said the incident involved a sailing vessel that managed to escape an attempted boarding from occupants of skiffs, and that the crew have been reported safe.
It said the vessel was “likely Hong Kong-flagged,” but did not give further details.
A US Navy’s Fifth Fleet spokesperson told Reuters the navy is aware of an incident in the Red Sea. 


‘Elections did not undermine Hezbollah but gives Lebanon chance to reorganize’ says spokesman for the American Task Force on Lebanon

‘Elections did not undermine Hezbollah but gives Lebanon chance to reorganize’ says spokesman for the American Task Force on Lebanon
Updated 19 May 2022

‘Elections did not undermine Hezbollah but gives Lebanon chance to reorganize’ says spokesman for the American Task Force on Lebanon

‘Elections did not undermine Hezbollah but gives Lebanon chance to reorganize’ says spokesman for the American Task Force on Lebanon

CHICAGO: The result of Lebanon’s elections should not lead people to believe that Hezbollah has been undermined but should be seen as an opportunity to restructure the country’s political dynamics, a spokesman for the American Task Force on Lebanon said on Wednesday.
Jean AbiNader, ATFL vice president for policy, explained that Hezbollah coalition partners such as the conservative Christian Free Patriotic Movement, headed by President Aoun’s son-in-law Gibran Bassile, lost seats, weakening the Hezbollah-led group.
AbiNader said that America needs to “de-couple” US policies toward Lebanon from US policies toward Iran. He said that Hezbollah, which is considered a terrorist organization by the US, must decide, too, if it is Lebanese or an arm of Iranian regional influence. But Hezbollah did not lose influence in the election, he said, only its coalition partnership.

“That’s really critical for people to understand. Hezbollah hasn’t lost. Its coalition lost. One is the Free Patriotic Movement, which is President Michel Aoun’s party now run by Gebran Bassile,” AbiNader said during an interview on The Ray Hanania Radio show broadcast on the US Arab Radio Network and sponsored by Arab News.
“They lost seats. The biggest losers, of course, are the Sunnis because they didn’t contest the election. A number of Sunni candidates won. That’s great. Some pro-Syrian candidates lost. Some outliers who are not members of any coalition also lost. What you have here is Amal, Hezbollah, the kernel of their 27 seats is intact. They will look to Marada and other organizations to join with them in a coalition. But regardless of what happens, if — and this is a big if — if Lebanese forces can pull together with the Druze, and can pick up with the independents and the anti-traditional leaders, they will have a slim majority in parliament.”
He said that the political balance will “shift all the time,” but conceded, “it is definitely a time of uncertainty.”
AbiNader said that the election has created an opportunity for the Lebanese people to form a new coalition that will focus on confronting the corruption that has blocked a full investigation of the Aug. 4, 2020 explosion that killed more than 218 people, injured 7,000 and made more than 300,000 people homeless.
“The explosion “has never really been investigated,” AbiNader said. Questions still remain about how much of the ammonium nitrate that exploded still remains and where it is. He said that the explosion was estimated to reflect the power of about 500 tons of ammonium nitrate. But, he said, there was more than 2,700 tons at the port and the whereabouts of the 2,200 tons remains a dangerous mystery.
“If we get a new government in Lebanon, the investigation will go forward,” AbiNader predicted, noting that two of the government ministers who have called for an investigation were re-elected.
“There is no full investigation in Lebanon of that bombing, so far,” AbiNader said.
He said that the Lebanese continue to live under the fear that more violence could take place.

“There is that fear and the fear is how do we set up a government that can function that isn’t a provocation to Hezbollah. And that is a real challenge because the Lebanese forces, the largest Christian party, that will form an anti-Hezbollah coalition has to do it more than on anti-grounds,” AbiNader said.
“They have to be pro-something. That’s my concern — that Lebanese forces will see their votes as a mandate to be aggressive and antagonistic to Hezbollah. That shouldn’t be the target. The target should be an independent judiciary, complete the investigations, fix the economy, put money back in people’s pockets, and diminish corruption. That’s what the challenges should be because that is what people are tired of. Hezbollah will gradually lose its attraction as it loses its raison d’etre, which is to protect Lebanon against Israel.”
AbiNader argued that Hezbollah, which is a political force and a powerful militia, must decide whether it is Lebanese or is a force for Iran.
America, he added, must see past Hezbollah in helping Lebanon to recover and rebuild. The Biden administration, AbiNader said, has been very supportive of Lebanon, but America needs to do more.

“Let’s be frank. The United States has not really been very smart about the Middle East in terms of their politics. They have been trying to pivot out of the region since Obama,” AbiNader said.
“The relationships with the Lebanese and other groups have been hard won. And they have usually seen Lebanon through an Iranian lens or an Israeli lens and not Lebanon for itself. And that’s really what we have been fighting to get over the past 20 years is a Lebanese policy that is built on US-Lebanon interests and not a Lebanon being seen as something affected by the Iran negotiations or by Israel’s security.”
The challenge, he said, remains in Congress, where some members continue to believe that Lebanon is “run by Hezbollah and Iran.”
“We had to show them time and time again that Lebanon has been a good partner with the United States,” AbiNader said.
“The Congress has increased the amount of humanitarian assistance to Lebanon. It has increased the amount of assistance to the LAF (Lebanese Armed Forces),” AbiNader said.
“It has made very strong indications of what the US would like Lebanon to do, for example, vis a vis the elections in terms of being free, fair and on time, which helped a lot. It has helped Lebanon with the World Bank, in terms of Lebanon receiving certain loans, for example, to subsidize wheat. So, I think the United States is doing a lot. But can it do more? We always think it should.”
AbiNader acknowledged that a stronger case must be made to the Lebanese people explaining what the US is doing for Lebanon, given the pressures of the Russian war in Ukraine, economic issues with China, and immigration challenges on America’s southern border.
AbiNader said that Lebanon is grateful that US President Joseph Biden has restored the financial support that was stripped by his predecessor, Donald Trump.

  • The Ray Hanania Radio Show is broadcast on the US Arab Radio Network and sponsored by Arab News live every Wednesday at 5 p.m. EST in Detroit on WNZK AM 690 and in Washington D.C. on WDMV AM 700. It is rebroadcast on Thursdays at 7 a.m. EST in Detroit on WNZK AM 690 radio and in Chicago at 12 noon on WNWI AM 1080.

 For the podcast and more information on the radio show visit: www.arabnews.com/rayradioshow  

Yemeni FM meets with Japanese State Minister for Foreign Affairs, urges to put pressure on Houthis

Yemeni FM meets with Japanese State Minister for Foreign Affairs, urges to put pressure on Houthis
Updated 19 May 2022

Yemeni FM meets with Japanese State Minister for Foreign Affairs, urges to put pressure on Houthis

Yemeni FM meets with Japanese State Minister for Foreign Affairs, urges to put pressure on Houthis

Japanese State Minister for Foreign Affairs ODAWARA Kiyoshi met with the Yemeni Foreign Minister Ahmed bin Mubarak on Wednesday to discuss ways to enhance bilateral ties between the two countries.

During their meeting, Mubarak praised the “distinguished and historical” bilateral relations between Japan and Yemen, which extend to several fields including political, economic and developmental.

He also expressed the Yemeni government’s appreciation of Japan’s long-term support to the humanitarian response in Yemen, as well as efforts aimed at supporting the peace process.

Mubarak praised the strength of bilateral relations, and Japan’s support for the Presidential Leadership Council, stressing that the Council is strenuously working to reach a comprehensive political solution to the Yemeni crisis and bring Peace to the county through carrying out its role in fulfilling the peace process led by the United Nations, in reference to the concessions made by the government for the success of the armistice agreement.

The minister reiterated his government’s pledges under the truce to stop hostilities and facilitate the attainment of a political solution to the Yemeni crisis that meets the aspirations of the country’s people, urging Japan and the international community to apply pressure on the Houthi militia to complete the implementation of the truce agreement by lifting the seven-year siege of Taiz, Yemen’s third-largest city. Mubarak also called for the need to use the revenues from oil shipments coming from the port of Hodeidah to pay public sector salaries.

Mubarak added that the food crisis that the world is witnessing has exacerbated the existing food-security issues in Yemen and that the country has become “more threatened than ever before to reach the brink of famine.” He called on Japan to provide assistance through the provision of food commodities, especially imports of wheat, in order to enhance food security.

This article was originally published on Arab News Japan