Archive for December 24, 2014


2014-12-19

ANKARA – A Turkish court on Friday acquitted Turkish dissident sociologist Pinar Selek, who has taken refuge in France, over a 1998 explosion that killed seven people, the official Anatolia news agency reported.

The ruling — delivered by a high criminal court in Istanbul — came at a hearing on Selek’s retrial, after a life sentence for her alleged involvement in the deadly explosion was overturned this year, according to Anatolia.

The 43-year-old Selek, known for her critical studies of the Kurdish conflict in Turkey and her work with street children, was accused of bombing a spice market popular among tourists in Istanbul.

Selek, then 27, was arrested and jailed on charges of involvement in the explosion after she refused to give police the names of rebels she had met during her research.

“After 16 years of judicial obstinacy, today’s trial allowed Pinar Selek’s lawyers to emphasize all day the absurdity and arbitrariness of the procedure,” her supporters said in a statement from France.

“One by one, they pointed out the false evidence that allowed the creation of a fictitious history of the blast to silence Pinar Selek and prevent her from continuing her sociological work among oppressed social groups,” they added.

Selek was freed in 2000 after the publication of a report blaming the explosion on a gas leak.

The latest verdict marked her fourth acquittal by Turkish courts. The previous acquittals were based on the primary witness’s retraction of his testimony and a lack of evidence that the blast was a bomb attack.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=69353.

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December 19, 2014

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — A Turkish court has ordered an arrest warrant for U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen — a former ally-turned-foe of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s state-run media reported Friday.

A court in Istanbul ruled there was “sufficient tangible evidence” against Gulen and agreed to issue the warrant, the Anadolu Agency said. The move could be a prelude to a formal request for Gulen’s extradition from the United States, where he is living in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania.

Erdogan’s government has accused Gulen’s movement of orchestrating a plot to try to bring it down. It says Gulen’s followers in the police and judiciary are behind corruption allegations that forced four ministers to resign and targeted Erdogan’s family.

The U.S. and Turkey do have an extradition treaty and Erdogan has said he wants Gulen extradited, but it was not clear if the evidence would meet U.S. criteria for his extradition. Earlier Friday, the court ordered the arrest of four people and released eight others detained in raids on a newspaper and television station affiliated with Gulen’s movement, state-run media said. Those released included Ekrem Dumanli, editor-in-chief of one of the country’s biggest newspapers, Zaman. The court banned Dumanli and the others from traveling abroad, pending possible charges.

The suspects were among more than two dozen people detained in raids this month that targeted Zaman and its sister television station, Samanyolu TV. “I reject the accusations that I am a member of a terror organization and return the accusations to those who have made them,” Dumanli told supporters Friday outside the Istanbul courthouse. “The media cannot be silenced, the media cannot be intimated. Zaman is not afraid.”

The investigation has been condemned worldwide as a blow against Turkey’s free press. Erdogan has rejected the criticism, saying the investigation is a national security issue.  Authorities say those detained in the raids were suspected of making false accusations and of fabricating evidence that led to a police crackdown on a rival Islamic group on charges of links to al-Qaida in 2010. The Gulen movement has denied the claims.

20 December 2014 Saturday

Four Afghans held for over a decade at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have been sent home to Afghanistan, the Pentagon said on Saturday, the latest step in a slow-moving push by the Obama administration to close the facility.

The men were flown to Kabul overnight aboard a U.S. military plane and released to Afghan authorities, the first such transfer of its kind to the war-torn country since 2009, according to a U.S. official.

With the repatriation of the four Afghans, Guantanamo’s detainee population has been whittled down to 132. Several more prisoners of “various nationalities” are expected to be transferred before the end of the year and a further unspecified number in succeeding weeks, according to a senior U.S. official.

Obama promised to shut the internationally condemned prison when he took office nearly six years ago, citing the damage it inflicted on America’s image around the world. But he has been unable to do so, partly because of obstacles posed by Congress.

The repatriation of the four Afghans, identified as “low-level detainees” who were cleared for transfer long ago and are not considered security risks in their homeland, had been in the pipeline for months.

But in what one senior U.S. official described as an expression of growing confidence in the new Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, who took over from Hamid Karzai in September, Washington pressed ahead with the transfer after he formally requested it.

The continued detention of Afghans at Guantanamo — eight remain there — has long been deeply unpopular across the ideological spectrum in Afghanistan.

All four men – identified as Shawali Khan, Khi Ali Gul, Abdul Ghani and Mohammed Zahir – were originally detained on suspicion of being members of the Taliban or affiliated groups.

But a second U.S. official said: “Most if not all of these accusations have been discarded and each of these individuals at worst could be described as low-level, if even that.”

The Afghan government gave the United States “security assurances” for the treatment of the former prisoners and was expected to reunite them with their families, the official said.

CLOSING PRISON WON’T BE EASY

Guantanamo was opened by Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, to house “suspects” rounded up overseas, with Afghans originally the largest group. Most of the detainees have been held for a decade or more without being charged or tried.

Two weeks ago a U.S. Senate report delivered a scathing indictment of the harsh Bush-era interrogation program used on suspects. Obama banned the techniques when he took office in 2009.

Thirteen other prisoners of various nationalities have been transferred from Guantanamo since early November, including six who were sent to Uruguay for resettlement earlier this month.

But emptying the prison will not be easy.

In a statement issued on Friday, Obama renewed his complaints about restrictions on Guantanamo transfers that Congress kept in place in a recent defense spending bill. “The Guantanamo detention facility’s continued operation undermines our national security,” he said. “We must close it.”

Among the detainees released this weekend, Khan, 51, was sent to Guantanamo 11 years ago “on the flimsiest of allegations”, according to the Center for Constitutional Rights. His lawyers said he had been a driver for the Karzai government.

According to a Guantanamo database compiled by the New York Times and National Public Radio, Gul, 51, was arrested in 2002 and accused of being a Taliban intelligence officer. He insisted he never worked for the group and that two of his “enemies” had turned him over to U.S. troops.

Ghani, 42, was captured in 2002 as a suspected member of a Taliban-linked faction and was originally accused of “war crimes”. He said someone falsely accused him of carrying out a rocket attack, the documents show, and was cleared by an inter-agency review.

Zahir, 61, was arrested in 2003 and accused of links to Taliban weapons caches, but he denied any connection and was also cleared for transfer.

Source: World Bulletin.

Link: http://www.worldbulletin.net/headlines/151287/us-sends-four-guantanamo-prisoners-home-to-afghanistan-updated.

December 20, 2014

BEIRUT (AP) — Kurdish fighters advanced on the Islamic State extremist group in Iraq and Syria on Saturday, pushing into the contested, refugee-packed Sinjar mountains and gaining ground in the embattled Syrian border town of Kobani after heavy clashes, Kurdish officials and an activist group said.

In Syria, Kurdish Democratic Union Party spokesman Nawaf Khalil said Kurdish fighters advanced in six neighborhoods and have besieged the IS-held cultural center east of Kobani. He added that Kurdish fighters captured the Yarmouk school, southeast of Kobani where eight bodies of IS fighters were found.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the main Syrian Kurdish force known as the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, killed 10 IS fighters. The IS group began its Kobani offensive in mid-September, capturing parts of the town as well as dozens of nearby villages. Hundreds of fighters on both sides have been killed since. Kurdish forces have gradually pushed the extremist group back in recent weeks with the help of U.S.-led coalition airstrikes.

The push in Kobani came a day after YPG fighters opened a corridor between their positions in northeastern Syria and Mount Sinjar in neighboring Iraq where Iraqi peshmerga fighters have been on the offensive as well. Earlier this week, Iraqi peshmerga fighters were also able to open another corridor to Mount Sinjar.

Iraq’s Kurdistan Region Security Council said peshmerga fighters launched a new offensive on Saturday toward Mount Sinjar and were able to capture the nearby area of Mushrefa. The statement said that early Saturday, 32 truckloads of food, water and other aid departed from the northern Iraqi city of Erbil to Mount Sinjar through the “corridor established by the courageous Peshmerga forces.”

Warplanes from the U.S.-led coalition circled overhead as peshmerga troops returning from the front said the city was full of roadside bombs and snipers. The peshmerga had set up a base overlooking the city on the summit of Mount Sinjar, which included a makeshift hospital, they added.

Spokesman Jabbar Yawar said Peshmerga fighters were fighting their way into Sinjar and nearby areas in coordination with allied air support. The Islamic State group captured almost a third of Iraq and Syria earlier this year, plunging the region into deep crisis.

In early August, the militants captured Iraqi towns of Sinjar and Zumar, prompting tens of thousands of people from the Yazidi minority to flee to the mountain, where they became trapped. Many were eventually airlifted by a passageway through Syria back into Iraq, where they found refuge in Iraq’s northern Kurdish semi-autonomous region.

With reporting by Dalton Bennett in Sinjar.

Fri Oct 7, 2011

The humanitarian aid convoy called the “Miles of Smiles 6” entered Gaza on late Wednesday with about 100 tons of urgently needed medicines, a Press TV correspondent reported from Gaza.

The activists accompanying the convoy are mostly from European, African and Asian countries.

The “Miles of Smiles 6” aims at providing medical supplies that are not available because of the ongoing Israeli siege on the Gaza Strip. The convoy wants to raise awareness about the life in Gaza.

A convoy member from South Africa, Ibrahim Ismael told Press TV “Obviously we are well aware of the siege and we want to make our presence felt in regard to the unethical nature of the siege as well as assist the people of Gaza in the times of need.”

A Kuwaiti member of the “Miles of Smiles 6” said, we have come to support Palestinian people in Gaza as much as we can.

Earlier on Wednesday, separate delegations from Germany and Tunisia representing civil organizations concluded their visits to Gaza by holding press conferences in Gaza City.

German activist of Pax Christy Society, Wiltrud Rosch Metzler told reporters that “It’s important for us to continue our work against the siege.”

She added, “We also supported the Free Gaza Movement last year. It is important to work against the siege of Gaza and for the end of (Israeli) occupation. ”

Tunisian Dignity Convoy activist, Sabrin Al-Areebi, stated that we are here to show solidarity with our Palestinian brothers and sisters as people in Gaza also want a decent and dignified life.

Source: PressTV.

Link: http://www.presstv.com/detail/203197.html.

21 December 2014 Sunday

King Abdullah II of Jordan on Saturday arrived in the Bahraini capital Manama for talks with the Gulf state’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.

King Abdullah’s visit to Bahrain comes only one week after he paid a visit to Saudi Arabia where he met with King Abdullah bin Abdel-Aziz.

At Bahrain International Airport, the Jordanian King was received by King Al Khalifa, the official Bahraini news agency said.

It added that the two leaders held “cordial talks” later about cooperation between their respective states.

Earlier in the day, Jordan’s official news agency said the King would head to Bahrain for talks with King Hamad on means of bolstering bilateral ties.

The Jordanian King’s visit to Saudi Arabia last week came only three days after Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi paid a visit to Amman and held talks with King Abdullah II.

Talks between the Egyptian President and the Jordanian monarch reportedly focused on the Middle East peace process and the situation in both Syria and Iraq.

Source: World Bulletin.

Link: http://www.worldbulletin.net/todays-news/151306/jordanian-king-arrives-in-bahrain.

December 23, 2014

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — The defeated candidate in Tunisia’s presidential run-off announced Tuesday a new movement to “prevent the return of despotism.”

Moncef Marzouki told thousands of supporters at his campaign headquarters in a Tunisia suburb that he will create a movement of the people in all the cities of the country to “preserve the future of Tunisia.”

Tunisians elected veteran politician Beji Caid Essebsi as the new president on Sunday after a series of elections that completed the country’s democratic transition following the 2011 revolution. Essebsi served with Tunisia’s previous presidents and his party includes many old regime officials, prompting fears by some of a return to the country’s more authoritarian past.

Marzouki called on his supporters to organize in a “peaceful and democratic” manner. Soon after election results were announced Monday, riots erupted in several southern cities, which voted overwhelmingly for Marzouki in a vote that divided on geographic lines.

Interior Ministry spokesman Mohammed Ali Aroui said the situation was stable by Tuesday after policemen used teargas to disperse angry protesters. Demonstrations erupted in the cities of Gabes, Tataouine, Douz and the Tunis suburb of Kram. Police stations and the headquarters for Essebsi’s party were attacked.