Court delays trial of Istanbul mayor who upstaged Erdogan

Update Court delays trial of Istanbul mayor who upstaged Erdogan
Istanbul mayor Ekrem Imamoglu was stripped of his narrow March 2019 win over the ruling party’s candidate after Recep Tayyip Erdogan refused to recognize the result. (AFP)
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Updated 21 September 2022

Court delays trial of Istanbul mayor who upstaged Erdogan

Court delays trial of Istanbul mayor who upstaged Erdogan
  • Ekrem Imamoglu’s fate is being watched closely for signs of judicial independence
  • Istanbul mayor is the most internationally recognized of the opposition leaders who might run against Erdogan

ISTANBUL: A Turkish court on Wednesday delayed until November a highly controversial trial that could see Istanbul’s popular mayor banned from politics over a remark he made after beating President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ally in 2019 polls.

Ekrem Imamoglu’s fate is being watched closely for signs of judicial independence nine months before a general election in which Erdogan will struggle to extend his two-decade rule.

The 52-year-old mayor is the most internationally recognized of the opposition leaders who might run against Erdogan.

But a court could keep him from seeking higher office — and possibly force him to give up his post — as punishment for an offhand remark he made about Erdogan’s ruling party in the aftermath of the heated mayoral race.

Imamoglu’s office accuses the ruling party of trying to “eliminate him from the upcoming elections.”

Imamoglu’s office said the trial was adjourned until November 11 moments after it started on Wednesday.

The hearing itself was closed to reporters — an unusual step in Turkey.

The police also sealed off the roads leading to the courthouse with metal fences to keep away protesters in the highly anticipated trial.

Imamoglu was stripped of his narrow March 2019 win over the ruling party’s candidate after Erdogan — who launched his own career as Istanbul mayor and views the city as his second home — refused to recognize the result.

Election officials reported discovering hundreds of thousands of “suspicious votes” after Imamoglu had already been sworn into office.

Their decision to call a re-run election for that June sparked global condemnation and mobilized a groundswell of support for Imamoglu that included former ruling party voters.

Imamoglu won the second election by more than 800,000 votes.

But the usually soft-spoken mayor let his lingering bitterness at the ruling party spill over in November 2019.

“Those who canceled the March 31 election are idiots,” he told reporters at the time.

Erdogan’s ruling party seized on the remark and sued the mayor for “insulting” public officials.

Prosecutors have asked for Imamoglu to be banned from politics and jailed for 15 months — a relatively light sentence that almost never sees people put behind bars.

Defense lawyer Kemal Polat said the mayor would immediately appeal against any ban and keep his job while the case wound its way through the courts.

“Imamoglu can remain in his current position as mayor until the end of the appeals process. He would not have to resign,” Polat said.

Turkey’s Western allies accuse Erdogan of stacking the courts with allies and using them to jail his rivals in the aftermath of a failed military putsch in 2016.

Erdogan responded to the coup attempt with sweeping purges that saw thousands jailed on “terrorism” and other charges.

Everyone from human rights leaders and civil servants to opposition politicians — many of them from the main pro-Kurdish party — were jailed in mass trials that instilled fear across swathes of Turkish society.

Turkey’s status as a strategic member of NATO and a Muslim-majority democracy in a volatile part of the world has helped to preserve Erdogan’s ties with the West.

But the saga over the 2019 vote turned Imamoglu into a global figure whose sentencing could raise the diplomatic stakes ahead of next year’s vote.

The court case comes with Turkey’s fractured opposition parties still arguing over which candidate to field against Erdogan next June.

Imamoglu and Mansur Yavas — elected mayor of Ankara in 2019 — have emerged as two of the more popular opposition options because of their success at the ballot box.

The mayor himself appeared to the bracing for legal battles in the months ahead that ruled him out of next year’s elections.

He threw his support on Tuesday behind the candidacy of the main opposition CHP party’s leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu.

“Today you are the main opposition leader, tomorrow you will be in charge of the country,” he told Kilicdaroglu.


Syria Kurds halt joint operations with US-led coalition after Turkish attacks

Syria Kurds halt joint operations with US-led coalition after Turkish attacks
Updated 56 min 23 sec ago

Syria Kurds halt joint operations with US-led coalition after Turkish attacks

Syria Kurds halt joint operations with US-led coalition after Turkish attacks
  • Turkiye is preparing a ground invasion against Syrian Kurdish fighters
  • Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder earlier said operations against Daesh had not stopped

QAMISHLI: The Syrian Democratic Forces, a US-backed group that helped defeat Daesh terrorists in Syria, has stopped all joint counter-terrorism operations as a result of Turkish bombardment on its area of control, a spokesman said Friday.
Turkiye has ramped up its shelling and air strikes on northern Syria in recent weeks and is preparing a ground invasion against Syrian Kurdish fighters that it dubs terrorists but which make up the bulk of the US-supported SDF.
The SDF has long warned that fighting off a new Turkish incursion would divert resources away from protecting a prison holding Daesh fighters or targeting Daesh sleeper cells still waging hit-and-run attacks in Syria.
Aram Henna told Reuters that “all coordination and joint counter-terrorism operations with the coalition” as well as “all the joint special operations we were carrying out regularly” had had been halted.
Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder earlier told reporters that operations against Daesh had not stopped.
SDF head Mazloum Abdi earlier this week told Reuters he wanted a “stronger” message from Washington after seeing unprecedented Turkish deployments along the border.
“We are still nervous. We need stronger, more solid statements to stop Turkiye,” he said. “Turkiye has announced its intent and is now feeling things out. The beginning of an invasion will depend on how it analyzes the positions of other countries.”


UAE President Mohamed bin Zayed orders $817 million housing support for citizens

UAE President Mohamed bin Zayed orders $817 million housing support for citizens
Updated 02 December 2022

UAE President Mohamed bin Zayed orders $817 million housing support for citizens

UAE President Mohamed bin Zayed orders $817 million housing support for citizens
  • The third housing package of 2022 coincided with the UAE’s 51st National Day celebrations
  • UAE president earlier waived off over $146 million of debts for 1,214 Emirati citizens

DUBAI: UAE President Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan has ordered disbursement of housing loans worth $817 million for 1,900 Abu Dhabi citizens.

The third housing package of 2022 coincided with the UAE’s 51st National Day celebrations, marked on Dec.2, bringing the total value of housing support this year to almost $2 billion that benefitted over 4,000 citizens.

“It reflects the leadership’s commitment to ensuring social stability, enhancing living standards and enabling citizens to raise strong and stable families that will benefit the future of the UAE,” said a statement on Emirates News Agency (WAM).

The package includes housing loans, and the exemption of the retired and families of deceased borrowers in Abu Dhabi from loan repayments.

Ahead of the National Day, the UAE president earlier waived off over $146 million of debts for 1,214 Emirati citizens.

The Non-performing Debt Relief Fund said it would settle money owed by Emiratis in 17 banks, WAM earlier reported.


OIC welcomes UN resolutions on Palestinian cause

OIC welcomes UN resolutions on Palestinian cause
Updated 02 December 2022

OIC welcomes UN resolutions on Palestinian cause

OIC welcomes UN resolutions on Palestinian cause

JEDDAH: The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) welcomed the UN General Assembly’s adoption of five crucial resolutions on Palestine and the Middle East, including a text that calls on Israel to cease all actions aimed at ‘altering the demographic composition, character and status of the Occupied Palestinian Territory.‘
The Assembly adopted resolutions related to the mandate and work of the Committee on the “Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, the Division of Palestinian Rights in the United Nations Secretariat,” the media program on the Palestinian cause and the basic principles of a “peaceful solution” to the Palestinian cause.
It also adopted a resolution to commemorate Nakba Day, when Palestinians were driven from their homes in 1948 following the foundation of Israel.
The Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine said, during the debate that Israeli exceptionalism has only emboldened Israel’s worst instincts, a UN Assembly noted.
“Today the Assembly will finally acknowledge the historical injustice that befell the Palestinian people, adopting a resolution that decides to commemorate in the Assembly Hall the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Nakba,” it added.
The OIC praised the positions of the countries that contributed to sponsoring and supporting these resolutions, affirming their commitment to international law and in line with their historical positions based on the principles of truth, justice and peace, state news agency SPA meanwhile reported.


Unified strategy needed to resolve water shortage in Arab world, Egypt conference hears

Unified strategy needed to resolve water shortage in Arab world, Egypt conference hears
Updated 02 December 2022

Unified strategy needed to resolve water shortage in Arab world, Egypt conference hears

Unified strategy needed to resolve water shortage in Arab world, Egypt conference hears

CAIRO: The fourth Arab Water Conference titled “Arab Water Security for Life, Development and Peace,” organized by Palestine, the Arab League and the Arab Water Experts Network in Cairo, kicked off on Nov. 30.

The two-day conference was held under the auspices of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, with the participation of ministers of water resources as well as delegations from Arab countries and concerned regional organizations.

The conference on Wednesday and Thursday included working sessions and presentations of scientific papers dealing with issues related to water scarcity, drought and climate change.

Among the topics addressed were challenges posed by water scarcity and solutions to these, water demand and drought management, climate change, shared water resources and water diplomacy.

The conference also covered water desalination technology, the management of groundwater resources, the financing of and investment in the water sector, and challenges related to water in the Arab region.

Abbas, in a speech delivered on his behalf by Deputy Prime Minister Ziad Abu Amr, stressed that resolving the issue of water shortage in the Arab world requires developing a unified and comprehensive strategy that defends the right to water in the face of occupation, exploitation, or encroachment. It also entails the development of plans to confront water and food deficits due to existing challenges.

Abbas said: “Arab water security poses a major challenge to nearly 453 million Arab citizens, and it is an issue that captures the attention of Arab countries, as represented by the Arab League’s decision to establish the Council of Arab Water Ministers.”

He added that the transnational waters of the Arab world are a matter of security.

“We stand with our brothers in Egypt and Sudan in their demands on everything related to the issue of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and in ensuring that their water, agricultural or energy-related security is not compromised,” Abbas said.

He called for reaching a binding legal agreement between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia, in line with the statement issued by the UN Security Council in September 2021, in a manner that perpetuates cooperation and consolidates common interests among the peoples of the region.

He also called for joint Arab cooperation to find alternative sources of water for major projects that benefit everyone in light of the severe water shortage in Arab countries.

Hani Sweilem, Egyptian minister of water resources and irrigation, affirmed that the water issue in Egypt is one of the most important pillars of Egyptian national security and a major axis in achieving sustainable development. 

He said Egypt is one of the driest countries in the world, as rainfall in the country is estimated to be 1.3 billion cubic meters annually.

He said 97 percent of Egypt’s water depends on the Nile, which comes from outside its borders.

Over the years, the per capita share of water in Egypt decreased to about 560 cubic meters annually, compared to the global water poverty line, which determines the per capita share at 1,000 cubic meters annually, Sweilem said.


Egypt, Greece carry out joint air exercise MENA-II

Egypt, Greece carry out joint air exercise MENA-II
Updated 02 December 2022

Egypt, Greece carry out joint air exercise MENA-II

Egypt, Greece carry out joint air exercise MENA-II

CAIRO: The Egyptian and Greek air forces carried out the joint air exercise MENA-II with the participation of multirole combat aircraft.

The exercise comes within the framework of supporting and strengthening military cooperation relations with friendly and brotherly countries, said Egyptian military spokesman Gharib Abdel-Hafez.

The training included the implementation of a number of theoretical lectures to unify concepts, refine skills, and coordinate the management of joint operations in various methods of modern air combat.

Multirole fighters from both sides carried out joint sorties to train in attacking hostile targets and defending vital assets efficiently.

The training showed the extent to which the participating personnel have reached a high level of professionalism in carrying out all tasks, Abdel-Hafez said. 

The training “reflects the extent to which the air forces of both countries possess advanced human and technical capabilities that qualify them for joint action under various circumstances,” he added.

According to the Egyptian military, the training is an extension of a series of joint exercises being conducted in light of the Egyptian and Greek armed forces’ growing partnership and military cooperation in a variety of fields.

The MEDUSA-12 drills lasted several days in the Mediterranean Sea last month, and forces from Cyprus, Saudi Arabia, and the US took part.

Observers from the UAE, Bahrain, Jordan, Germany, France, Romania, Congo, and Morocco were also present.

In August, Egyptian and Greek naval forces engaged in a joint exercise in the Mediterranean, within the range of the Egyptian Northern Fleet.

According to the Egyptian military, the drills contributed to exchanging joint experiences with Greek naval forces, and helped both sides achieve common aims and maintain maritime security and stability in the region.