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Turkish candidate could offer hope for Brunson

International | Presidential hopeful references jailed American pastor’s case
by Julia A. Seymour
Posted 6/12/18, 01:07 pm

A presidential candidate in Turkey referred to the case of Andrew Brunson, the American pastor imprisoned there, as an example of why the country needs to change.

Muharrem Ince told Al-Jazeera this week that if he won the presidential election, Turkey would “work to create a basin of friendship” in the Middle East. Referring to Brunson’s imprisonment, Ince said, “Above all, Turkey will become firstly a state of law.” Presidential and parliamentary elections are June 24 with a presidential runoff July 8, if necessary.

Since President Recep Tayyip Erdogan assumed emergency powers following a failed 2016 coup against him, his government has trampled rule of law. In October 2016, officials arrested Brunson on suspicion of collaborating with terrorists and jailed him for 1.5 years without charges. He learned of the government’s accusations of espionage and criminal acts for terrorist groups only weeks before his April trial began. Prosecutors are seeking a life sentence, but Brunson maintains his innocence. He is one of many victims of the lawless regime.

Since the coup, authorities detained more than 100,000 people and jailed at least 30 Westerners, at least nine of whom remain prisoners, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) reported. The FDD said it believed Turkey had more than a dozen Americans jailed “based on private discussions with U.S. officials.” The report also noted that under a state of emergency, pre-trial detentions could last up to seven years without giving prisoners access to case files or attorneys.

Turkish-American dual citizen Serkan Golge was detained in 2016 and accused of ties to the Gulenist movement and espionage, according to the FDD report. In February, he was sentenced to more than seven years in prison. “The only evidence the court produced against him was a $1 bill found in Golge’s parents’ house,” according to FDD.

“When you look at the details of these cases you see that there is not a shred of evidence even though they are waiting for months to see their indictments,” FDD senior fellow Aykan Erdemir told Ahval News. “They often have to defend themselves against secret witnesses who cannot be effectively cross-examined or are not at all credible. All of these developments have led to increased calls for a range of sanctions on Turkey.”

Brunson’s next trial date is July 18, but Erdemir predicted a potential shift in Turkish politics before then. “We might all be surprised on the night of July 8” once the elections are over, he said.

Associated Press/Photo by Abdoo Alkarim Alayashy Associated Press/Photo by Abdoo Alkarim Alayashy The aftermath of an October 2016 airstrike in Hodeida, Yemen

Aid groups in Yemen prepare for attacks

Several aid groups in the Yemeni city of Hodeida helped evacuate the major port town ahead of a government offensive.

The civil war in Yemen that began March 2015 between Shiite Houthi rebels and Saudi-backed government troops has killed more than 10,000 people and displaced more than 3 million others. Security officials on Monday said heightened fighting killed more than 600 people in recent days as government forces closed in on Hodeida.

Oxfam International in a statement confirmed nonprofits and the UN received warnings over the weekend to evacuate Hodeida by Tuesday.

“It’s hard to imagine how life for the people of Yemen could get any more difficult, but an attack on Hodeida will bring more death, destruction, and push vital resources like food, fuel, and medicine even further out of reach,” said Muhsin Siddiquey, Oxfam’s Yemen country director.

Mark Lowcock, UN humanitarian chief, said 90 percent of food, fuel, and medicine in Yemen are imported, with 70 percent coming through Hodeida. The United Nations warned that as many as 250,000 civilians could die in the city if the Yemeni forces staged an attack or siege.

Last week, the International Committee for the Red Cross said it pulled out 71 of its staff members from Yemen following persisting direct attacks. The aid group said its “current activities have been blocked, threatened, and directly targeted in recent weeks, and we see a vigorous attempt to instrumentalize our organization as a pawn in the conflict.” Doctors Without Borders also temporarily suspended its activities in the northern Hajja province after an attack on a cholera treatment center. —Onize Ohikere

Associated Press/Photo by Mulugeta Ayene Associated Press/Photo by Mulugeta Ayene Eritrean refugees protest in June 2016 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Ethiopia finally accepts Eritrea peace deal

Ethiopia last week announced it would fully accept a peace deal with neighboring Eritrea, potentially calming a deadly rivalry that lasted decades. The move is the latest reform by the country’s new prime minister.

The two nations signed a peace agreement in 2000 after a border dispute killed at least 80,000 people in a war two years earlier. But Ethiopia refused to accept the deal’s division of some land, including assigning the town of Badme to Eritrea. The disagreement continues to trigger clashes between the countries.

State-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corp. said the Ethiopian ruling party accepted the deal without conditions. “The suffering on both sides is unspeakable because the peace process is deadlocked,” Fitsum Arega, chief of staff for the prime minister, said in a Twitter post.

Ethiopia in April swore in Oromo native Abiy Ahmed as prime minister. The appointment signaled the ruling party’s bid to calm various tensions in the country. Since taking office, Abiy has released thousands of political prisoners arrested during two-year deadly protests over marginalization in the Oromo and Amhara regions. On Thursday the government lifted a state of emergency imposed during the unrest. —O.O.

Libyan smugglers added to UN sanctions list

The United Nations Security Council for the first time imposed sanctions on six leaders of Libyan smuggling networks. The Netherlands led the move with the United States, France, Britain, and Germany. Human trafficking in Libya, which serves as the departure point for thousands of African migrants illegally heading to Europe, drew more international attention after a CNN video in December showed Libyan smugglers auctioning off migrants. The council imposed a travel ban and asset freeze on members of a Libyan militia and a local coast guard after Russia lifted a hold it placed on the decision. U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said the sanctions are “part of a larger international effort to seek accountability for those involved in migrant smuggling and trafficking that threatens the peace, security, or stability of Libya.” —O.O.

Hong Kong sentences activists over rioting

A Hong Kong court sentenced three protesters to up to seven years in prison for participating in 2016 demonstrations. The court gave pro-independence activist Edward Leung six years in prison, while Lo Kin-man and Wong Ka-Kui received seven and 3.5 years, respectively. The group took part in February 2016 protests of a government crackdown on street food hawkers in the city’s Mong Kok district. About 130 people, the majority of them police officials, sustained injuries during the protest. Fellow pro-independence activist Joshua Wong in a Twitter post condemned the sentence, which he called the harshest since 1997. “The verdict implies that one can be charged with ‘rioting’ merely for being present in an incident defined as a ‘riot,’” he said. —O.O.

Julia A. Seymour

Julia is a correspondent for WORLD Digital. She is a World Journalism Institute graduate and worked in communications in the Washington, D.C., area from 2005 to 2019. Julia resides in Denver, Colo. Follow her on Twitter @SteakandaBible.


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