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EU calls on Turkey to release 13 people arrested for links to Gezi Park protests

The 13 people arrested were reportedly accused of trying to create "chaos and mayhem" and overthrow the government. More than 50,000 people have been arrested in Turkey since a failed coup attempt in 2016. The European Union has called for the immediate release of 13 people arrested by Turkish police for alleged links to the businessman and activist, Osman Kavala, during early morning raids on Friday. "Repeated detentions of critical voices and the continued widespread pressure on civil society representatives run counter to the Turkish government's declared commitment to human rights," the EU statement said. Police had issued arrest warrants for 20 people associated with Kavala's Anatolia Culture Association prior to the raids, according to Turkey's DHA news agency. They are suspected of "creating chaos and mayhem" and "seeking to overthrow the government," state-owned Anadolu Agency reported. The Cumhuriyet newspaper said they were also accused of trying to bring in foreign "activists" to support anti-government protests. The dean of the law school at Istanbul Bilgi University and mathematics professor Betul Tanbay, who also serves as the vice president of the European Mathematical Society, were among those arrested. 'Brutal assault on Turkish civil society' Kavala, Anatolia Culture Association's chairman, was arrested more than a year ago but has not yet been charged with any crime. He is accused of working with foreigners in a 2016 failed coup attempt against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and supporting anti-government protesters who rallied in Gezi Park in 2013. The European Parliament's Turkey rapporteur, Kati Piri, also denounced Friday's arrests, writing in a tweet that they were "another brutal assault on Turkish civil society." Opposition lawmaker Sezgin Tanrikulu wrote in a tweet that "those who expect normalization from this regime should continue to dream." Gulen connection Separate raids in the capital Istanbul ended with the arrest of 14 people accused of financing "terrorism" in connection with Fethullah Gulen, according to DHA. Erdogan accuses the exiled Islamic cleric of orchestrating the 2016 coup. Other anti-Gulen operations on Friday saw police arrest 17 people in the city of Izmir and another 86 people, most of them military personnel, across the country, Anadolu and DHA reported. Turkish authorities have arrested more than 50,000 people working in academia, journalism, the military, the civil service and human rights organizations as part of a broad crackdown following the 2016 coup.

The 13 people arrested were reportedly accused of trying to create “chaos and mayhem” and overthrow the government. More than 50,000 people have been arrested in Turkey since a failed coup attempt in 2016. The European Union has called for the immediate release of 13 people arrested by Turkish police for alleged links to the businessman and activist, Osman Kavala, ... Read More »

Khashoggi killing: Saudi prosecutor seeks death penalty for five suspects

Saudi Arabia's top prosecutor has recommended the death penalty for five of the suspects charged in the murder case of dissident writer Jamal Khashoggi. However, he denied Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's involvement. Saud al-Mojeb, the kingdom's top prosecutor, announced on Thursday that he was recommending the death penalty for five of the 11 suspects who have been charged with ordering and carrying out the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. He did not name the suspects. In total, 21 people have been arrested in connection with the case. Crown Prince bin Salman exonerated Khashoggi, a regular contributor to US newspaper The Washington Post, was a staunch critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. His murder caused international outrage, and many believe it could not have been carried out without bin Salman's knowledge. The prosecutor, however, claimed the crown prince was not involved in the killing. He said the highest-ranking member of the Saudi leadership implicated in the operation was former deputy intelligence chief Ahmad al-Assiri, who has since been fired for ordering Khashoggi's forced return. A spokesman for the prosecution told reporters that plans to assassinate Khashoggi were set in motion on September 29. "The crime included a fight and injecting the citizen Khashoggi with a drug overdose that led to his death," the official said. The body was dismembered and handed over to a local collaborator, he added. He did not give any details on the location of the body. Khashoggi entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on October 2 to get paperwork for his upcoming wedding. His fiancée raised the alarm when he did not return. After weeks of denials and under growing international pressure, Riyadh finally admittedthat Khashoggi was killed in the consulate in a "rogue" operation. US issues sanctions On Thursday, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced that the US was placing harsh economic sanctions on 17 Saudis for their alleged involvement in the Khashoggi murder. In a statement, Mnuchin said: "The Saudi officials we are sanctioning were involved in the abhorrent killing of Jamal Khashoggi. These individuals who targeted and brutally killed a journalist who resided and worked in the United States must face consequences for their actions." Three of the individuals targeted in Thursday's sanctions were Saud Al-Qahtani and Maher Mutreb, both of whom are top aides to Salman, and Mohammed Alotaibi, consul general at the Istanbul consulate at the time Khashoggi was murdered. The US treasury secretary said Qahtani "was part of the planning and execution of the operation" to kill Khashoggi. The secretary stopped short of accusing the crown prince of involvement. The sanctions fall under the Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and were issued as part of the US Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act. Such sanctions freeze targets' assets if they fall under US jurisdiction. The sanctions also forbid Americans and US companies from conducting business with them. Mnuchin's statement also said: "The Government of Saudi Arabia must take appropriate steps to end any targeting of political dissidents or journalists." Trouble with the Turks The case has caused a row between the kingdom and Turkey, whose government insists the suspects should be tried in Turkey. Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu called the Saudi prosecutor's statement "positive but insufficient," insisting that Khashoggi's murder was "premeditated." Cavusoglu said the Thursday announcement by Saudi Arabia's top prosecutor fell short of his own country's expectations: "I want to say that we did not find some of his explanations to be satisfactory" and that "those who gave the order, the real perpetrators, need to be revealed. This process cannot be closed down in this way." Cavusoglu also questioned why Saudi Arabia had only indicted 11 of the 18 suspects detained. He pointed out that the Saudi prosecutor made no mention of where Khashoggi's remains were taken: "There is a question that has not been answered yet. Where is Khashoggi's body? Where was he disposed of, where was he buried, where was he burned? There is still not an answer on this issue."

Saudi Arabia’s top prosecutor has recommended the death penalty for five of the suspects charged in the murder case of dissident writer Jamal Khashoggi. However, he denied Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s involvement. Saud al-Mojeb, the kingdom’s top prosecutor, announced on Thursday that he was recommending the death penalty for five of the 11 suspects who have been charged with ... Read More »

US sanctions on Iran raise concern in Turkey

Turkey has been exempt from oil sector sanctions imposed by Washington on the regime in Tehran. But Turkish businesses fear the possible consequences of a likely shift in Donald Trump's mood toward Turkey. The Trump administration announced sanctions against Iran earlier this week, with a strong focus on hitting the country's oil and petrochemical sectors especially hard. So far, however, Turkey and seven other nations have been spared the US president's wrath as they were allowed to continue importing Iranian oil. But the six-month exemption from the ban granted to Turkey seems only cold comfort for the country's companies and businesses, which have enjoyed booming trade with Tehran in recent years. They fear a massive slump in their business with the neighboring Mullah regime. Umer Kiler, head of the Committee for Turkish-Iranian Trade Relations within the Council for Foreign Trade (DEIK) considers the American sanctions as the "lesser evil." What worries Turkish business leaders more, he says, is the temporary nature of the exemptions to Turkey because they had hoped for complete sanctions relief. "Turkey is the country which stands to be the most affected by the sanctions. That is why we'd initially thought the US administration would adopt a more considerate approach," Kiler told DW. After the new sanctions regime has come into effect on Monday, all the Turkish trade official is now hoping for is a partial relief for some sectors of the economy. "What we are demanding is improvements for trade in the oil and gas sectors. No matter how long the sanctions will remain in place, it's impossible for us to completely shutter trade in those sectors because of our common border with Iran. The traders will always find a loophole." What gives Kiler hope in this respect is the recent rapprochement between Washington and Istanbul that he hopes will have a positive effect on Trump's willingness to exempt Turkey from the trade embargo for a longer period of time. Whipsaw trade Over the past three decades, trade between Turkey and Iran has seen ups and downs. From a meager $1 billion (€880 million) in 1996, goods exchanges grew significantly during the presidency of current Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with a peak reached in 2012 when $22 billion worth of goods and services were traded. However, bilateral trade has fallen substantially over the past five years, slumping from $21 billion to $10 billion in the period. While Tehran in the past exported primarily oil, Turkish cross-border shipments were mainly gold to pay for it. As a result, the trade balance between the two countries used to be skewed in Iran's favor up until 2016, when Turkey's exports grew to $5 billion overtaking $4.7 billion worth of imports from its neighbor for the first time ever. Volumes changed back in Iran's favor in 2017, with Istanbul suffering a trade deficit that year of $4 billion. While Iran has continued to ship primarily oil, Turkish exports now include a range of manufactured goods such as automobiles, machinery, textile and food products. The latest trend of falling bilateral trade was manifested in data released recently by the Council of Turkish Exporters (TIM), showing that cross-border shipments reached only a volume of $1.8 billion in the first nine months of 2018. The main reasons for the downturn given by the industry group was US pressure exerted on those countries doing business with Iran, and secondly, higher taxes on Turkish exports imposed by Tehran. Mixed picture Bulent Aymen, deputy chairman of the Union of Mediterranean Exporters (AKIB) says Iran is traditionally a major competitor of Turkey in a number of markets and sectors in the region. Nevertheless, a weakening Iranian economy will have "consequences for Turkish companies doing trade with Iran," he told DW. Other experts are not convinced of the negative scenarios for Turkey. Eyup Ersoy, Middle East expert at Bilkent University, says he thinks US sanctions are mainly targeted at Iran's energy and financial sectors and won't impede trade in goods. "Sectors outside oil will only be indirectly affected by the sanctions," he told DW. Ersoy is also convinced that a further thaw in US-Turkish relations will lead to more sanctions relief for Ankara, substantially benefitting the oil trade between the two countries. Nevertheless, he thinks that if Washington won't prolong the exemptions, Turkey will find ways to secure supply and limit the effects of an oil embargo. "For Turkey to find alternative solutions doesn't mean a lot of risk and higher costs," he told DW.

Turkey has been exempt from oil sector sanctions imposed by Washington on the regime in Tehran. But Turkish businesses fear the possible consequences of a likely shift in Donald Trump’s mood toward Turkey. The Trump administration announced sanctions against Iran earlier this week, with a strong focus on hitting the country’s oil and petrochemical sectors especially hard. So far, however, ... Read More »

Germany warns citizens to be careful on social media when in Turkey

Travelers to Turkey might get arrested if they criticize the Erdogan regime on social media, Germany's foreign ministry said in its official guidelines. Even "liking" an anti-government post could cause serious trouble. People who criticize the Turkish government online are risking jail in Turkey, Germany's foreign ministry said in its new travel advisory, warning that visitors from Germany have also been "arbitrarily imprisoned" in recent years. "Arrests and prosecution of German nationals have been repeatedly linked with anti-government criticism on social media," the ministry said. "In some cases, it is enough to share or 'like' a post with such content." Even private messages could be passed on to the Turkish authorities via anonymous informants, according to German officials. Expressing support for the Gulen movement or the Kurdish militias, both classified as terror organizations in Turkey, could also be cause for arrest. If a person is found guilty of "insulting the president" or "propaganda for a terrorist organization," they could face years in prison. Germany also urges its citizens to stay away from political events and "from big crowds in general." Cell phones confiscated The ministry also said that many German citizens have been denied entry to Turkey without explanation since the beginning of 2017. A large percentage of these people have close family and personal links with Turkey, as well as Kurd or Alevi backgrounds. "The affected individuals were forced to travel back to Germany after waiting in custody between several hours to several days," according to German officials. "In such cases, their cell phones were confiscated and searched for saved content and contacts." Over 20 German citizens have been arrested in Turkey since the failed military coup in July 2016. While some of them have been freed, tensions between Berlin and Ankara remain high. Turkey-based activists also reported arrests of people who criticized Ankara's military intervention in Syria, the anti-Kurd military campaign, or Turkey's poor economic performance this year.

Travelers to Turkey might get arrested if they criticize the Erdogan regime on social media, Germany’s foreign ministry said in its official guidelines. Even “liking” an anti-government post could cause serious trouble. People who criticize the Turkish government online are risking jail in Turkey, Germany’s foreign ministry said in its new travel advisory, warning that visitors from Germany have also ... Read More »

Turkey using Jamal Khashoggi’s killing as political leverage

Turkey using Jamal Khashoggi's killing as political leverage The killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Saudi Arabia's Istanbul consulate has put a strain on Turkey's relationship with the Gulf monarchy. Until recently, Turkey had been at pains to maintain good ties with the Saudis, while also keeping friendly relations with the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood — an organization Khashoggi supported, incidentally. Now, it seems, Turkey's political balancing act has come to an end; the gloves are coming off and Ankara wants Saudi Arabia to come clean about the killing. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed that Khashoggi's murder will be fully investigated. Former Turkish Foreign Minister Yasar Yakis believes Erdogan's tough new stance vis-a-vis Riyadh is not only a result of Khashoggi's death, but part of his broader political agenda. Turkey's ties to the Muslim Brotherhood Turkey's relationship to the Muslim Brotherhood — one of the most important political movements in the Arab world, which has its roots in Egypt — always played an important role in ties between Ankara and Riyadh. Indeed, it is well-known that the Saudis disapproved of Turkey's relationship with the Brotherhood. Even so, and despite the complicated state of Middle Eastern politics, Turkey is trying to uphold its ties to the organization, along with Iran, according to Yakis. In response to Turkey's Brotherhood relationship, Saudi Arabia has sought closer ties with Israel, he said. And the Gulf monarchy is also cooperating with the Kurds, a group long at odds with Erdogan's government — especially in Syria. "The Kurds are America's closest ally in the fight against [Islamic State] in Syria," said Yakis, noting that they recently received arms worth $200 million (€174 million). "The weapons were provided by the US, the Saudi kingdom footed the bill." What's more, Turkey was rather irritated that the Kurds received such support, he added. In light of the complicated Saudi-Turkish ties, Erdogan is using Khashoggi's murder as leverage against Riyadh, Yakis said. Erdogan has signaled that he has information which he could use against them, without revealing everything he knows, he explained, which will keep the Saudis and Turks busy in talks. Deeply at odds These talks could indicate that Turkey wishes to play a greater role in the Arab world. Indeed, during a visit to Egypt in early 2018, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman accused Turkey of supporting Iran and Islamist organizations, and blamed the country for working towards building an Arab caliphate. Burak Bilgehan Ozpek, a political researcher at Ankara's TOBB University of Economics and Technology, said that Turkey has by and large ignored these accusations. Turkey did, however, severely criticize Saudi Arabia when it, together with several other Arab states, imposed an economic embargo on Qatar in 2017. So while Turkey was helping Qatar fight the embargo, it was simultaneously trying to keep tensions with the Saudi kingdom to a minimum. Ozpek believes Khashoggi's murder has pushed Erdogan to pressure the Saudis. If Saudi Arabia reconsiders its stance in the region and with regard to Turkey, tensions may be reduced, he said, but noted he is nonetheless skeptical about whether the Khashoggi affair will be fully resolved. "Turkey is acting as if it were in control of the case, and is feeding expectations of a transparent investigation," Ozpek said. Only time will tell if these expectation are met, he added, explaining that until that happens, there is no certainty over what really happened to Khashoggi.

Turkey using Jamal Khashoggi’s killing as political leverage The killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Saudi Arabia’s Istanbul consulate has put a strain on Turkey’s relationship with the Gulf monarchy. Until recently, Turkey had been at pains to maintain good ties with the Saudis, while also keeping friendly relations with the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood — an organization Khashoggi supported, ... Read More »

Saudi Arabia: Powerful, but not omnipotent after Khashoggi affair

Saudi Arabia's reputation has suffered massively as a result of Jamal Khashoggi's suspected murder. World leaders are keeping their distance. The country could be hostile in the face of criticism, or enact reforms. Christine Lagarde will no longer attend the upcoming investors' conference in Riyadh. In the initial wake of the disappearance and suspected murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the International Monetary Fund chief confirmed that she would still participate in the meeting. Finally, she has pulled out. Lagarde's spokesperson declined to give a reason for the decision. The cancellation, however, is in line with the announcements of several leading Western politicians who also do not want to be seen in the Saudi capital. Global business leaders have changed their plans as well. The CEOs of major banks including HSBC, Standard Chartered and Credit Suisse do not want to travel to Ryiadh. Others attendees have left their participation open. The CEO of German manufacturer Siemens, Joe Kaeser, said he would reach a decision in the coming days. While Kaeser views the disappearance of Khashoggi as a serious matter, he does not necessarily see boycotts as the solution. "If we stop conversing with countries where people have gone missing then we might as well stay home because we couldn't converse with anyone," he said. 'We cannot mold Saudi Arabia and the royal house' "We cannot mold Saudi Arabia and the royal house the way we want, but we have to deal with the situations as they arise," said Jürgen Hardt, a lawmaker from Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Party, during a recent radio interview. Hardt, a foreign policy expert in Germany's parliament, the Bundestag, added that politicians must maintain dialogue with each other, even when their attitudes do not align or when they completely reject their decisions. Read more: Could the Khashoggi case spell the end for Saudi Crown Prince bin Salman? Hardt pointed out that Saudi Arabia is an active player in the Middle East peace process trying to bring Israelis and Palestinians closer together. At the same time, however, the country is waging a brutal war in Yemen that has resulted in one of the world's worst humanitarian catastrophes. "That's why we have a highly ambivalent view of Saudi Arabia," Hardt said. "With what has unfolded in recent days in the Khashoggi case, and what may be revealed in the coming few days, we will further sharpen our view. And then, if necessary, Europe will adjust its policy on Saudi Arabia." A political heavyweight Any change in European Union policy towards Saudi Arabia would be a decision of enormous significance. For years, the kingdom has been trying to present itself as a reliable political partner to the West. Riyadh has not only declared its intention to mediate in Middle East conflicts; it also claims it wants to play an active role in the fight against terrorism. The country plays an important role in the war in Syria, as well. It sees itself as an important counterweight to Middle East rival Iran, which has massively expanded its presence and influence in the region. In this context, Saudi Arabia has huge political and strategic value for the West. Saudi Prince Khalid bin Farhan al-Saud, who currently lives in exile in Germany, said that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is facing increasing pressure to answer to the suspected murder of Khashoggi, is a particularly important partner for the United States. "The American government could hardly afford to be without a man like Mohammed bin Salman who is easy to influence and control," bin Farhan told DW. The exiled prince also believes that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's recent trip to Saudi Arabia had an ulterior motive: "To keep the crown prince in power so that [the US] can pursue its own plans." Middle East expert Thomas Richter from the German Institute of Global and Area Studies told DW that if the suspicions about Khashoggi's violent death continue to intensify, the kingdom, in particular the crown prince, might be viewed by German politicians in a new light. Richter believes if this happens, a "serious reflection" would begin. "One could reach the conclusion that Saudi Arabia is an authoritarian monarchy ruled by a few people and apparently led by a young prince who does not shy away from anything," he said. Petrodollars and investments However, the economic might of Saudi Arabia could limit the extent of any diplomatic reorientation towards the country, and perhaps, even a direct response to the Khashoggi affair. Saudi Arabia's massive oil reserves give the ruling family substantial leverage. Every day, the world's largest oil exporter sells 10 million barrels. Global demand for oil already exceeds supply in OPEC states. Additionally, due to the imminent sanctions against Iran, around 1.7 million fewer barrels are expected to become available on the market. Should the relationship between the West and Riyadh deteriorate in the aftermath of the Khashoggi affair, Saudi Arabia could retaliate by reducing its exports. The result would be an increase in oil prices. Such a scenario would be reminiscent of the so-called oil crisis of 1973, when OPEC states reduced their production volumes as a result of the Yom Kippur War. Within a few days, the price rose from around $3 to more than $12 per barrel. The result was a worldwide recession. Read more: Donald Trump vs. OPEC: What can he do to bring down oil prices? And Saudi Arabia is not only important as an oil exporter, but also as an investor. In the US alone, it holds bonds worth almost $170 billion (€148 billion). Should it sell them, interest rates on the bond markets would increase sharply. Such a rise would massively upset the monetary policy of the Trump administration, which is financing its latest tax cuts through further bond issues. Hope for a new political culture? Saudi Arabia remains a highly significant international player, both politically and economically. Thus, its reputation as a soon-to-be rogue state in the wake the Khashoggi affair is not entirely accurate. For the time being, Riyadh is responding with threats against its partners. But Saudi Arabia will now have to face the music: Very few international players want to come to the table publicly now. If the outrage over the Khashoggi affair does not subside shortly, the presumed crime could prompt the kingdom to reconsider its political culture.

Saudi Arabia’s reputation has suffered massively as a result of Jamal Khashoggi’s suspected murder. World leaders are keeping their distance. The country could be hostile in the face of criticism, or enact reforms. Christine Lagarde will no longer attend the upcoming investors’ conference in Riyadh. In the initial wake of the disappearance and suspected murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, ... Read More »

Donald Trump says Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi likely dead, vows ‘severe’ consequences

While US officials said Saudi Arabia needs more time to probe the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi, Trump said the journalist is likely dead. As tensions mount, the guest list for Riyadh's investment summit is dwindling. US President Donald Trump told reporters on Thursday it "certainly looks" as though Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi is dead. Trump said consequences "will have to be very severe" if the Saudis were found to be responsible for his death, but he also added that it was still "a little bit early" to draw a conclusion about who may have been behind Khashoggi's suspected murder. The president's remarks came shortly after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington would wait for the Saudis to complete an investigation into what happened to Khashoggi before deciding how to respond. Ministers dropping Saudi conference US Treasury Secretary Seven Mnuchin announced that he would not be attending an investment conference in Saudi Arabia. Earlier on Thursday, French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire and British International Trade Secretary Liam Fox both said they would not be attending the October 23-25 conference. On Wednesday, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said he was postponing a planned trip to Saudi Arabia pending the outcome of the investigation into Khashoggi's disappearance, calling the case "extremely worrying ... and disturbing." Business leaders, media giants boycott summit Saudi Arabia's Future Investment Initiative, dubbed "Davos in the Desert," will be missing numerous major players after several world leaders and top business executives have decided not to attend. Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, as well as World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, will not be attending. The heads of JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, Ford and other multinational companies have also pulled out, while several media companies have pulled their sponsorship, including CNN, The New York Times, CNBC, The Economist and Financial Times. Investigation ongoing Khashoggi disappeared on October 2 after entering Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul, sparking international outcry and concern. Numerous media reports citing Turkish officials state that Khashoggi was killed by Saudi agents in the consulate and that his body was dismembered. Saudi officials deny any involvement in his disappearance. Turkish officials have yet to release any evidence in the case, although forensic teams have searched both the consulate and the Saudi consul general's residence. Khashoggi, a US resident and columnist for the Washington Post, was a strong critic of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

While US officials said Saudi Arabia needs more time to probe the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi, Trump said the journalist is likely dead. As tensions mount, the guest list for Riyadh’s investment summit is dwindling. US President Donald Trump told reporters on Thursday it “certainly looks” as though Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi is dead. Trump said consequences “will have to ... Read More »

US calls on Turkey to release Jamal Khashoggi murder proof

US President Trump has said he asked Ankara to release evidence it claims proves the reporter was slain by Saudi agents. The US has also denied helping Riyadh cover up the suspected murder. The United States denied on Wednesday that it was helping ally Saudi Arabia cover up the suspected murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and asked Turkey to provide the audio and video evidence it has claimed to have showing that the veteran reporter was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. "We have asked for it, if it exists," US President Donald Trump said. Khashoggi, a onetime ally of the Saudi royal family turned critic, disappeared on October 2 after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to procure documents he needed to marry his Turkish fiancée. He has not been seen since. Trump denied trying to assist Riyadh in denying their involvement in Khashoggi's death, saying "I just want to find out what's happening." He said he was waiting for a report from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is meeting this week with both Turkish and Saudi leaders. Turkey claims proof Khashoggi was tortured The Turkish government has said it possesses audio and video proof Khashoggi was murdered shortly after entering the consulate. Pro-government Turkish daily Yeni Safak reported it had audio recordings of the reporter being tortured, first having his fingers cut off and being decapitated. An official close to the investigation told DW's Julia Hahn that there was proof the journalist "was killed" and that findings "match the evidence at the Saudi consulate" which was searched by investigators earlier this week. However, Turkish media reported that it appeared as though the consulate had been swept by Saudi agents before the search. US media and officials have called on Ankara to release the evidence, but the Turkish investigators have not done so yet. Those suspicious of Riyadh's involvement have pointed to the strange travel plans of several Saudi nationals, who arrived on a private jet in Istanbul in the middle of the night on October 2 and left later that same day. One of the suspects identified by Turkey is a close associate of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Since becoming the heir apparent, Salman has tried to position himself as a reformer, allowing women to drive in the extremely patriarchal kingdom and bringing back cinemas. However, he has also overseen a crushing bombing campaign in Yemen and escalated a diplomatic crisis in Qatar. Trump has tried to defend Riyadh, whose trade relationship with Washington is key for both countries. However, the president has appeared to be increasingly ill at ease as it looks more likely that Khashoggi was murdered by Saudi officials upset with his increasingly anti-Riyadh stance as a writer for the Washington Post. Khashoggi's final words On Wednesday, the Washington Post published Khashoggi's last column, in which be bemoaned the terrible state of press freedom in the Arab world. "A state-run narrative dominates the public psyche, and while many do not believe it, a large majority of the population falls victim to this false narrative," Khashoggi wrote of northern African and Arab nations, also criticizing the West for not taking clearer measures to stand up for a free press. "Arab governments have been given free rein to continue silencing the media at an increasing rate. There was a time when journalists believed the Internet would liberate information from the censorship and control associated with print media. But these governments, whose very existence relies on the control of information, have aggressively blocked the Internet. They have also arrested local reporters and pressured advertisers to harm the revenue of specific publications"

US President Trump has said he asked Ankara to release evidence it claims proves the reporter was slain by Saudi agents. The US has also denied helping Riyadh cover up the suspected murder. The United States denied on Wednesday that it was helping ally Saudi Arabia cover up the suspected murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and asked Turkey to provide ... Read More »

Czech court releases Syrian Kurdish leader wanted on Turkish warrant

A Czech court has released Syrian Kurdish leader Salih Muslim, who is wanted by Turkey. Turkey's ambassador said the decision may impact relations with a NATO ally. A Czech court on Tuesday released Syrian Kurdish leader Salih Muslim, who Turkey wanted extradited on terrorism charges. The founder and former co-chair of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the dominant Kurdish political party in Syria, Muslim was detained in Prague on Saturday while attending a conference on the Middle East. "The court accepted a promise by Mr. Muslim that he will remain on EU territory and will be attending court hearings," a court spokesperson said. The decision means that Turkey's extradition request can proceed and will be considered by Czech state prosecutors and courts, if the state attorney decides to go ahead. The PYD is the political wing of the People's Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara considers to be a "terrorist group" with ties to the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) fighting a three-decade-long insurgency against the Turkish state. The YPG is the main force in the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighting against the "Islamic State" (IS). Turkey wants Muslim extradited on charges of being behind a February 2016 bombing in Ankara that killed 30 people. He denies any connection to the attack, which was claimed by a hard-line PKK splinter group. Before the court ruling, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told ruling party MPs it would be a "day of reckoning for our NATO ally the Czech Republic." "We hope our ally will show the necessary solidarity and extradite this terrorist," he said. "Whatever happens, one thing is certain. Terror chiefs can no longer wander about as they wish." Turkey's ambassador in Prague, Ahmet Necati Bigali, told HaberTurk television that the Czech court decision to release a "terrorist" may negatively impact bilateral relations. Questionable detention It was unclear why Czech authorities acted on the Turkish request to detain the popular Kurdish politician in the first place. Muslim regularly travels around the EU. While the EU considers the PKK a terrorist organization, it does not recognize its Syrian affiliate, the PYD, as a terrorist organization. The PYD says it is independent from the PKK. Press in the Czech Republic and Turkey had speculated over a possible swap of Muslim for two Czech nationals sentenced to more than six years in prison in Turkey last year on charges of fighting alongside the YPG in Syria. Kurds across Europe had vowed to march on Prague by the thousands in the event he was further detained or extradited. Since stepping down as the head of the PYD last year, Muslim has been a foreign representative of TEV-DEM, the governing political coalition in the autonomous Kurdish region set up in Syria during the civil war there. Each evening at 1830 UTC, DW's editors send out a selection of the day's hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.

A Czech court has released Syrian Kurdish leader Salih Muslim, who is wanted by Turkey. Turkey’s ambassador said the decision may impact relations with a NATO ally. A Czech court on Tuesday released Syrian Kurdish leader Salih Muslim, who Turkey wanted extradited on terrorism charges. The founder and former co-chair of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the dominant Kurdish political ... Read More »

Syrian army to help Kurdish forces repel Turkish offensive in Afrin: reports

The Damascus government and Kurdish forces have reportedly agreed to join forces in Afrin to counter an ongoing Turkish offensive. Syrian state media report that the deployment of pro-regime troops is imminent. Damascus will deploy its militia fighters to Afrin "within the next few hours" to reinforce Kurds against the Turkish offensive, Syrian state agency SANA reported on Monday morning. The move aims to "support the steadfastness of its people in confronting the aggression which Turkish regime forces have launched on the region," SANA said, citing its correspondent in Aleppo. Syrian state television also announced that the deployment was imminent, without providing details. Read more: German Kurds protest Turkey's Afrin assault in Cologne Turkey's foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu reacted by saying any Syrian fighters deployed to "cleanse" the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and its Syrian offshoot the Democratic Union Party (PYD) would have "no problems," but if they enter to defend the Kurdish militia known as the People's Protection Units (YPG), which Turkey considers a terrorist organization linked to the PKK, then "nothing and nobody can stop us or Turkish soldiers. "This is true for Afrin, Manbij and the east of the Euphrates River," Cavusoglu added. Manbij is a second Kurdish-controlled enclave in Syria close to the Turkish border. Last month, Ankara launched an operation against the YPG which controls Afrin. Read more: Turkey's military offensive against Kurdish-held Afrin: What you need to know Erdogan and Putin to 'cooperate in fight against terrorism' The Turkish and Russian presidents discussed the latest developments in Syria and agreed to cooperate in the fight against terrorism, according to Turkish broadcaster Haberturk. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on the phone on Monday, with the Syrian regions of Afrin and Idlib the main topic of conversation. Monday's developments come a day after a senior Kurdish official told Reuters that the Kurds had reached a deal with Damascus. The agreement, supposedly brokered by Russia, further complicates the conflict in Northern Syria as rivalries and alliances among Kurdish forces, the Syrian government, rebel factions, Turkey, the United States and Russia become more entangled. What the Kurds said The agreement allows paramilitaries allied with the Syrian government to enter Afrin to support the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) in fending off Turkish forces, the DPA news agency reported, citing an anonymous source. Badran Jia Kurd, an adviser to the Kurdish-led administration in northern Syria, told Reuters that Syrian army troops would deploy along some border positions in the Afrin region. Jia Kurd said the agreement with Damascus on Afrin was strictly military with no wider political arrangements, but added: "We can cooperate with any side that lends us a helping hand in light of barbaric crimes and the international silence." Jia Kurd said there is opposition to the deal that could prevent it from being implemented. Read more: Are Turkey and Russia at odds in northern Syria? What does this mean? The Damascus government and Kurdish forces each hold more territory than any other side in the Syrian civil war. Their cooperation could be pivotal as to how the conflict unfolds. What is the Afrin conflict? Ankara launched an air and ground offensive on the Afrin region in January against the YPG militia. It views the YPG as terrorists with links to an armed insurrection in Turkey. For the Turkish government, attacking Afrin is about assuring geopolitical interests and domestic security. Are Kurdish goals compatible with Syria's? President Bashar al-Assad's government and the YPG have mostly avoided direct conflict. However, they have occasionally clashed and have very different visions for Syria's future. Both believe in a possibility for a long-term agreement, but Assad has said he wants to take back the whole country. How powerful are the Kurds? Since the onset of Syria's conflict in 2011, the YPG and its allies have established three autonomous cantons in the north, including Afrin near the Turkish border. Their sphere of influence has expanded as they seized territory from the "Islamic State" group with the help of the US. However, Washington opposes the Kurds' political ambitions, as does the Syrian government. What happens next? Jia Kurd has said forces are to arrive in two days, but the deal has not been confirmed. Read more: Who are the Kurds? Why do the Kurds want help from the Syrian government? "Over the years of the conflict, the Kurds have managed to manoeuvre about, sometimes with the rebels, sometimes with the regime," said Bente Scheller from the Heinrich Böll Foundation. "We also saw a long time back that not only the United States wanted to support them as a large international power, but Russia did too. So the Kurds looked for states and powers that support them because they have a lot at stake." Is the Kurdish-Syrian alliance a beneficial one? "I think in the case of Afrin at any rate," said Scheller, "because there it is very clear that Turkey has decided it has to carry through with an offensive, and the Kurds are in a very difficult position here. Of course, they have support from the other Kurdish-dominated parts of Syria, but obviously they feel this is not enough. There have also been air raids by Turkey and I think this has resulted in their turning to the regime for help." How does the future look? "As the Syrian conflict escalates and becomes more complex, more individual states consider it necessary to intervene," said Scheller. "Turkey claims it needs to clear all terrorist activity from the other side of its border, but this does not justify crossing the border with its own military." "We are not likely to see peace for a long time." Each evening at 1830 UTC, DW's editors send out a selection of the day's hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.

The Damascus government and Kurdish forces have reportedly agreed to join forces in Afrin to counter an ongoing Turkish offensive. Syrian state media report that the deployment of pro-regime troops is imminent. Damascus will deploy its militia fighters to Afrin “within the next few hours” to reinforce Kurds against the Turkish offensive, Syrian state agency SANA reported on Monday morning. ... Read More »

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