Posts Tagged ‘state of emergency’

French MPs to vote on tough anti-terror law

October 2, 2017


© AFP/File / by Loïc VENNIN | French soldiers stand guard outside the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris

PARIS (AFP) – French lawmakers will vote Tuesday on a tough new counter-terrorism law designed to end the country’s two-year state of emergency which critics say expands police powers at a cost to civil liberties.

The vote comes following a string of attacks in France since 2015 and just two days after more bloodshed in the southern port city of Marseille when a suspected Islamist knifeman killed two women.

While Interior Minister Gerard Collomb defends the bill as a “lasting response to a lasting threat”, it has come under fire from the French left and human rights groups.

“What makes us angry is that it’s a state of emergency that would become permanent and roll back our freedoms,” said Christine Lazerges, the head of the National Consultative Committee on Human Rights, a state body.

The law, designed to replace the state of emergency that France has been under since the November 2015 Paris attacks, would come into force on November 1 if approved by both houses of parliament.

The lower house will vote Tuesday on the bill which will give authorities the power to place people under house arrest, order house searches and ban public gatherings without the prior approval of a judge.

– Marseille attack –

The state of emergency was meant to be temporary but was extended six times for various reasons, such as the need to protect major sporting and cultural events, as well as presidential and parliamentary elections earlier this year.

The vote comes after a knifeman stabbed two women to death on Sunday at the main train station in Marseille shouting “Allahu Akbar” (“God is greatest”). He was shot dead by soldiers.

The Islamic State claimed the attacker was one of its “soldiers”, though a source close to the investigation told AFP no solid evidence linked him to the group.

The stabbings bring to 241 the number of people killed in jihadist attacks in France since January 2015, while Collomb said last month that 12 planned attacks have been foiled since the start of the year.

In an environment of widespread fear about Islamist violence, extensions of the state of emergency have met with little public opposition, with critics of the new law limited to the hard left and human rights groups.

“Gradually our public freedoms… are being eroded,” said lawmaker Alexis Corbiere of the hard-left France Unbowed party.

Last week two UN experts raised fears that the bill could see security forces discriminate against Muslims and undermine France’s standing as a beacon for human rights.

“The normalisation of emergency powers has grave consequences for the integrity of rights protection in France, both within and beyond the context of counter-terrorism,” UN human rights expert Fionnuala Ni Aolain warned.

– Too harsh or too ‘soft’? –

Under international human rights standards, “the duration of the state of emergency must be time-bound, revised regularly, and meet the criteria of necessity and proportionality,” she wrote in a letter co-signed by Michel Forst, the UN’s special rapporteur on human rights defenders.

In their letter, addressed to the French authorities, they said the bill’s “vague definition of terrorism” deepened fears that “emergency powers could be used in an arbitrary way”.

Some lawmakers from the French right-wing Republicans party as well as the leader of the far-right National Front have criticised the bill for not going far enough.

Far-right leader Marine Le Pen, calling the proposed legislation “soft”, said it could not be considered “the great law to eradicate Islamist terrorism”.

Interior Minister Collomb said last week the bill “aims to guarantee the fullness of our individual and collective freedoms but promises that all measures will be taken to ensure the security of the French people.”

Macron, whose centrist party has a comfortable parliamentary majority, has promised that the legislation, which was approved by the Senate in July, would be reviewed in 2020.


by Loïc VENNIN

Turkish foreign minister defiant over arrested Germans

September 2, 2017


© AFP/File | Turkey has arrested more than 50,000 people including journalists under the state of emergency imposed in a crackdown after the failed July 2016 coup.

ANKARA (AFP) – Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Saturday dismissed Berlin’s angry reaction to the arrest of German citizens in Turkey, local media reported, a row which is worsening the nations’ already fraying ties.

“When we arrest (a coup plotter) Germany starts to get upset. But what are we supposed to do?” Cavusoglu was quoted as saying by the Anadolu news agency.

“This is also a Turkish citizen but it (Germany) asks why are you arresting my citizen?”.

Turkey has made a wave of arrests since a failed coup in July 2016.

Turkey has arrested more than 50,000 people including journalists under the state of emergency imposed in a crackdown after the failed July 2016 coup.

Berlin said Friday that two more German nationals had been held in Turkey “for political reasons”, as Chancellor Angela Merkel warned Ankara that Germany could re-examine its policies following the latest Turkish action.

The latest arrests brings to 12 the total number of Germans in Turkish custody that Berlin considers them political prisoners.

There is “no legal basis” for detention in most of these cases, Merkel said, according to remarks carried by Germany’s DPA news agency.

According to the Dogan news agency, the two German nationals most recently arrested are of Turkish origin and were detained at Antalya airport in southeastern Turkey over suspected links with the failed coup.

“If it’s someone connected to the failed coup, if they supported it, then why are you protecting them?” asked Cavusoglu, speaking in southern Turkey at celebrations for the major Muslim festival of Eid-ul-Adha.

– Frayed ties –

Relations between the two NATO allies have deteriorated sharply since Berlin sharply criticised Ankara over the crackdown that followed last year’s failed coup.

The arrest of several German nationals, including the Turkish-German journalist Deniz Yucel, the Istanbul correspondent for Die Welt daily, further frayed ties.

Yucel has now spent some 200 days in Turkish custody ahead of a trial on terror charges.

German journalist Mesale Tolu has been held on similar charges since May, while human rights activist Peter Steudtner was arrested in a July raid.

Following Steudtner’s arrest, Germany vowed stinging measures impacting tourism and investment in Turkey and a full “overhaul” of their troubled relations.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for his part, has also sparked outrage after charging that Germany is sheltering plotters of last year’s coup, as well as Kurdish militants and terrorists, and demanded their extradition.

Erdogan added to the tensions this month when he urged ethnic Turks in Germany to vote against Merkel’s conservatives and their coalition partners, the Social Democrats, in September 24 elections.

On Friday, Merkel hit out against Erdogan’s call, saying Germany’s election “will be decided only by the people in our country, who have German citizenship”.

The escalating tensions have split the three-million-strong Turkish community in Europe’s top economy, the largest diaspora abroad, which is a legacy of Germany’s “guest worker” programme of the 1960s and 70s.


Turkey and Germany:

Trump blames “many sides” for the violent clashes between protesters and white supremacists in Virginia

August 13, 2017


The Associated Press

BEDMINSTER, N.J. (AP) — President Donald Trump on Saturday blamed “many sides” for the violent clashes between protesters and white supremacists in Virginia and contended that the “hatred and bigotry” broadcast across the country had taken root long before his political ascendancy.

That was not how the Charlottesville mayor assessed the chaos that led the governor to declare a state of emergency, contending that Trump’s campaign fed the flames of prejudice.

Trump, on a working vacation at his New Jersey golf club, had intended to speak briefly at a ceremony marking the signing of bipartisan legislation to aid veterans, but he quickly found that those plans were overtaken by the escalating violence in the Virginia college town. One person died and at least 26 others were sent to the hospital after a car plowed into a group of peaceful anti-racist counterprotesters amid days of race-fueled marches and violent clashes.

And officials later linked the deaths of two people aboard a crashed helicopter to the protests, though they did not say how they were linked.


Speaking slowly from a podium set up in the golf clubhouse, Trump said that he had just spoken to Gov. Terry McAuliffe, D-Va. “We agreed that the hate and the division must stop, and must stop right now. We have to come together as Americans with love for our nation and … true affection for each other,” he said.

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides,” said Trump. “It’s been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump. Not Barack Obama. It’s been going on for a long, long time.”

The president said that “what is vital now is a swift restoration of law and order and the protection of innocent lives.”

After completing his statement and the bill signing, Trump then walked out of the room. He ignored reporters’ shouted questions, including whether he wanted the support of white nationals who have said they backed him or if the car crash in Virginia were deemed intentional, would it be declared to be terrorism.

The previous two days, Trump took more than 50 questions from a small group of reporters. A White House spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for an explanation as to what Trump mean by “many sides.”

Following Trump’s comment, several Republicans pushed for a more explicit denunciation of white supremacists.

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner tweeted “Mr. President – we must call evil by its name. These were white supremacists and this was domestic terrorism.”

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio wrote “Nothing patriotic about #Nazis,the #KKK or #WhiteSupremacists It’s the direct opposite of what #America seeks to be.”

And even New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a staunch Trump supporter, wrote: “We reject the racism and violence of white nationalists like the ones acting out in Charlottesville. Everyone in leadership must speak out.”

White nationalists had assembled in Charlottesville to vent their frustration against the city’s plans to take down a statue of Confederal Gen. Robert E. Lee. Counter-protesters massed in opposition. A few hours after violent encounters between the two groups, a car drove into a crowd of people peacefully protesting the rally. The driver was later taken into custody.

Alt-right leader Richard Spencer and former Ku Klux Klan member David Duke attended the demonstrations. Duke told reporters that the white nationalists were working to “fulfill the promises of Donald Trump.”

Trump’s speech also drew praise from the neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer, which wrote: “Trump comments were good. He didn’t attack us. He just said the nation should come together. Nothing specific against us. … No condemnation at all.”

The website had been promoting the Charlottesville demonstration as part of its “Summer of Hate” edition.

Mayor Michael Signer said he was disgusted that the white nationalists had come to his town and blamed Trump for inflaming racial prejudices with his campaign last year.

“I’m not going to make any bones about it. I place the blame for a lot of what you’re seeing in American today right at the doorstep of the White House and the people around the president,” he said.

Disturbances began Friday night during a torch-lit march through the University of Virginia before escalating Saturday.

The White House was silent for hours except for a tweet from first lady Melania Trump: “Our country encourages freedom of speech, but let’s communicate w/o hate in our hearts.”

Trump later tweeted: “We ALL must be united & condemn all that hate stands for.” He also said “there is no place for this kind of violence in America. Lets come together as one!” Trump tweeted condolences about the woman killed the protests Saturday evening, more than five hours after the crash.

Trump, as a candidate, frequently came under scrutiny for being slow to offer his condemnation of white supremacists. His strongest denunciation of the movement has not come voluntarily, only when asked, and he occasionally trafficked in retweets of racist social media posts during his campaign. His chief strategist, Steve Bannon, once declared that his former news site, Breitbart, was “the platform for the alt-right.”

The president’s reluctance to condemn white bigots also stood in stark contrast by his insistence of calling out “radical Islamic terrorism” by name.

“Now, to solve a problem, you have to be able to state what the problem is or at least say the name,” Trump said in a general election debate.

In his remarks Saturday, Trump mentioned the strong economy and “the many incredible things in our country, so when I watch Charlottesville, to me it’s very, very sad.”


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Turkey extends detention of activists, Amnesty International says — Swedish lawmakers file ‘genocide’ complaint against Turkey’s Erdogan

July 11, 2017


© AFP/File | There are fears of declining freedom of expression under Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

ANKARA (AFP) – Turkey has extended for up to a week the detention of the country director of Amnesty International and nine other people held in a controversial police raid, the UK-based rights group said Tuesday.

Idil Eser, director of Amnesty International Turkey, was detained on July 5 along with seven other activists and two foreign trainers during a digital security and information management workshop on Buyukada, an island south of Istanbul.

Their detention caused international alarm and amplified fears of declining freedom of expression under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The police detention will now last until July 19, Amnesty’s Turkey researcher Andrew Gardner told AFP.

They then must appear before a judge who rules whether they should be formally charged and placed under arrest ahead of trial.

Eight of those detained are Turkish human rights defenders, including Ilknur Ustun of the Women’s Coalition and Veli Acu of the Human Rights Agenda Association.

Two are foreign trainers — a German and a Swedish national — who were leading the digital information workshop.

They are accused of membership of an “armed terrorist organisation”, an allegation Amnesty said was “unfounded”.

But it is not clear which organisation they are accused of belonging to, Gardner said.

The extension is allowed under the state of emergency imposed after last year’s failed coup.

A prosecutor can extend the detention of an individual held on terror-related charges for up to seven days. Previously, the maximum number of days of pre-charge detention was four.

Gardner argued the first part of their detention was illegal because they were denied access to lawyers for 24 hours, could not contact family members where they were and authorities refused to give their location.

“For them to be entering a second week in police cells is a shocking indictment of the ruthless treatment of those who attempt to stand up for human rights in Turkey,” Amnesty’s Europe director John Dalhuisen said.

Erdogan compared the activists to coup plotters, saying they were trying to fulfil the aims of those involved in the July 15 coup bid.

“They gathered for a meeting which was a continuation of July 15,” he said on Saturday.

Last month, Amnesty International’s Turkey chair Taner Kilic was arrested, accused of links to US-based Fethullah Gulen, who is accused of ordering last year’s failed coup.

Amnesty also dismissed those charges as “baseless”.


Swedish lawmakers file ‘genocide’ complaint against Turkey’s Erdogan

Posted on July 11, 2017

STOCKHOLM,— A group of Swedish lawmakers said Monday they have filed a legal complaint accusing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in the Kurdish southeast of his country.

The complaint signed by five lawmakers from the Left and Green parties is the first of its kind in Sweden against a head of state.

The suit relates to the conflict in Turkey’s Kurdish region in the country’s southeast [Turkish Kurdistan], which has been battered by renewed fighting between Kurdish rebels and Turkish security forces since a fragile truce collapsed in 2015.

“We are five lawmakers handing in a complaint… (requesting) punishment for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes,” Annika Lillemets, a MP for the Left party, told a news conference in Stockholm.

The complaint, filed to the Swedish International Public Prosecution Offices, names Erdogan and several ministers including Prime Minister Binali Yildirim.

A Swedish law adopted in 2014 allows the country’s courts to judge cases of alleged crimes against humanity regardless of where they have been committed or by whom.

The law stipulates that “anyone, who in order to completely or partially destroy a national or ethnic group of people” kills, causes serious pain or injury is “guilty of genocide”.

The Public Prosecution Offices said it would now decide whether to initiate a preliminary investigation, adding that “it may take a while”.

If prosecutors decide to launch an investigation, Erdogan could risk an arrest warrant in Sweden, the lawmakers said.

Carl Schlyter, an MP for the Greens, said he hoped other lawmakers in European countries would follow their move.

“If (Erdogan) is hindered from roaming around in Europe and influencing European countries the way he wants, then I hope that this will affect his politics,” he said.

Since July 2015, Turkey initiated a controversial military campaign against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party PKK in the country’s southeastern Kurdish region after Ankara ended a two-year ceasefire agreement. Since the beginning of the campaign, Ankara has imposed several round-the-clock curfews, preventing civilians from fleeing regions where the military operations are being conducted.

Activists have accused the Turkish security forces of causing huge destruction to urban centres and killing Kurdish civilians.

Observers say the crackdown has taken a heavy toll on the Kurdish civilian population and accuse Turkey of using collective punishment against the minority. Activists have accused the security forces of causing huge destruction to urban centres and killing Kurdish civilians.

In March 2017, the Turkish security forces accused by UN of committing serious abuses during operations against Kurdish militants in the nation’s southeast.

The UN Human Rights Office in March released a report on allegations of “massive destruction, killings and numerous other serious human rights violations committed” between July 2015 and December 2016 in Turkey’s southeast.

The PKK took up arms in 1984 against the Turkish state, which still denies the constitutional existence of Kurds, to push for greater autonomy for the Kurdish minority who make up around 22.5 million of the country’s 79-million population.

More than 40,000 Turkish soldiers and Kurdish rebels, have been killed in the conflict.

A large Kurdish community in Turkey and worldwide openly sympathise with PKK rebels and Abdullah Ocalan, who founded the PKK group in 1974, and has a high symbolic value for most Kurds in Turkey and worldwide according to observers.

Turkey is sliding into dictatorship

April 16, 2017

 Image may contain: 1 person, standing
Recep Tayyip Erdogan is carrying out the harshest crackdown in decades. The West must not abandon Turkey

Apr 15th 2017

TURKEY matters not just for its size, but also as a bellwether of the political forces shaping the world. For centuries it was the seat of a great empire. Today, as a frontier state, it must cope with the violence spewing out of war-ravaged Syria; it is atest case of whether democracy can be reconciled with political Islam; and it must navigate between Western liberalism and the authoritarian nationalism epitomised by Russia. In recent years under Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey has gone backwards. This weekend it can begin to put that right.

On April 16th Turks will vote in a referendum over whether to abandon their parliamentary system for an executive presidency. A Yes is likely, but far from certain. There is nothing wrong with a strong president, but Turkey’s new constitution goes too far. The country would end up with a 21st-century sultan minimally curbed by parliament (see Briefing). A Yes would condemn Turkey to the elected dictatorship of President Erdogan. A No might just let Turks constrain him.

Authority figure

After Mr Erdogan came to power in 2003, he and his AK party did a lot that was good. Encouraged by the IMF, he tamed inflation and ushered in economic growth. Encouraged by the EU, he tackled the cabal of military officers and bureaucrats in the “deep state”, strengthened civil liberties and talked peace with the Kurds. He also spoke up for working-class religious conservatives, who had been locked out of power for decades.

But today Turkey is beset by problems. In the shadow of the Syrian civil war, jihadists and Kurdish militants are waging campaigns against the state. Last summer the army attempted a coup—probably organised by supporters of an American-based cleric, Fethullah Gulen, who had penetrated the bureaucracy, judiciary and army in their tens of thousands. The economy, once a strength, is growing slowly, plagued by cronyism, poor management and a collapse in tourism.

Mr Erdogan argues that, to put this right, Turkey needs a new constitution that will generate political stability. He says that only a strong president can galvanise the state and see off its enemies. Naturally, he is talking about himself.

The new constitution embodies the “illiberal democracy” of nationalists such as Viktor Orban of Hungary and Vladimir Putin of Russia, to whom Mr Erdogan is increasingly compared. On this view, election winners take all, constraints are obstacles to strong government and the ruling party has a right to subvert institutions, such as the judiciary and the press.

Yet this kind of stability is hollow. The most successful democracies make a point of separating powers and slowing governments down. The guiding idea of the American constitution is to stop presidents from acting as if they were monarchs, by building in checks and balances. Even the British prime minister, untrammelled by a written constitution, has to submit herself to the courts, a merciless press and a weekly grilling in Parliament, broadcast live.

Turkey is especially ill-suited to winner-takes-all government. It is divided between secular, religious and nationalist citizens, as well as Turks, Kurds, Alevis and a few remaining Greeks, Armenians and Jews. If the religious-conservative near-majority try to shut out everyone else, just as they were once shut out, Turkey will never be stable.

But the most important argument against majoritarian politics is Mr Erdogan himself. Since the failed coup, he has been governing under a state of emergency that demonstrates how cruelly power can be abused.

The state is entitled to protect its citizens, especially in the face of political violence. But Mr Erdogan has gone far beyond what is reasonable. Roughly 50,000 people have been arrested; 100,000 more have been sacked. Only a fraction of them were involved in the coup. Anyone Mr Erdogan sees as a threat is vulnerable: ordinary folk who went to a Gulenist school or saved with a Gulenist bank; academics, journalists and politicians who betray any sympathy for the Kurdish cause; anybody, including children, who mocks the president on social media. Whatever the result on April 16th, Mr Erdogan will remain in charge, free to use—and abuse—his emergency powers.

During the campaign he accused the Germans and Dutch of “Nazi practices” for stopping his ministers from pitching for expatriate votes. EU voices want to suspend accession talks—which, in any case, are moribund. Before long, the talk may even turn to sanctions. Some in the West will point to Turkey’s experience to claim that Islam and democracy cannot coexist. But to give up on that idea would be to give up on Turkey itself.

The fault is not so much with political Islam—many AK members and voters are uneasy with the new constitution. It is with Mr Erdogan and his inner circle. Although he is a religious man, he is better seen as an old-fashioned authoritarian than as a new-fangled Islamist. The distinction matters because AK, or an Islamist party like it, is bound to feature in Turkey’s democracy. Mr Erdogan, however, will one day leave the stage, taking his authoritarian instincts with him.

Hold him close

Hence the outside world should not give up on Turkey, but be patient. Partly, this is self-interest. As a NATO member and a regional power, Turkey is too important to cut adrift. It will play a vital part in any peace in Syria. Driving it into Russia’s arms makes no sense. Turkey has also been a conduit for refugees into the EU as well as vital in controlling their inflow. The refugee situation is in flux: the EU will need to keep talking to Turkey about how to cope with the resulting instability.

Engagement is also in Turkey’s interests. The EU is its biggest trading partner. Contact with it bolsters the Western-leaning Turks who are likely to be Mr Erdogan’s most potent opposition. NATO membership can moderate the next generation of officers in its armed forces. Although Turkey will not join the EU for many years, if ever, a looser EU, with several classes of member or associate country, might one day find room for it.

Turkey will remain pivotal after April 16th. If Mr Erdogan loses, Turkey will be a difficult ally with a difficult future. But if he wins, he will be able to govern as an elected dictator.

This article appeared in the Leaders section of the print edition under the headline “The slide into dictatorship”

Egypt’s Coptic Christians to celebrate Easter Mass amid heavy security after twin bombings last week — Christians in Koum el-Loufy were attacked by Muslims on Friday

April 15, 2017


© MOHAMED EL-SHAHED / AFP | A general view shows the Monastery of Marmina in the city of Borg El-Arab, east of Alexandria on April 10, 2017.

Egyptian Copts will celebrate Easter mass on Saturday, marking one of Christianity’s most joyous occasions just days after the deadliest attacks in living memory against the country’s religious minority.

The faithful will spend a large part of Easter eve going through arduous security checks outside places of worship, after twin Palm Sunday bombings killed 45 people in two cities north of Cairo.

The government has declared a state of emergency and called in the army to protect “vital” installations following the suicide bombings in Tanta and Alexandria, which were claimed by the Islamic State group.

“Security has indeed improved so much as it seems the situation needed to be tightened up a lot,” said Coptic Church spokesman Boulos Halim.

Coptic Pope Tawadros II will lead Easter mass in Cairo’s Saint Mark’s Cathedral, while the church said celebrations this year would be scaled back.

“Tanta and Alexandria created a big shock, for all of Egypt,” Halim said.

Easter, which along with Christmas is one of Christianity’s most important events, marks the resurrection of Christ three days after followers believe he was crucified.

In Egypt, Copts break a 55-day fast abstaining from all animal products following Saturday’s mass.

The Sunday bombings were the latest in a series of attacks against Egypt’s Copts, which make up around 10 percent of the population.

In December, an IS suicide bomber struck a Cairo church, killing 29 people.

Halim said the church will forgo Sunday morning’s traditional celebrations, and instead members will visit the families of “martyrs” as well as those wounded in the blasts, including police officers.

“Even if we are in pain over them parting their bodies… the happiness of resurrection helps us overcome feelings of pain,” said Halim.

Further attacks feared

IS, which has waged an insurgency in the north of the Sinai Peninsula that has seen scores of attacks on security forces, has issued repeated calls for atrocities against Copts.

One Copt who gave his name only as John said he will attend Easter mass despite the heightened security risk.

He plans to go to a church in the relative safety of the capital, but admitted “if I were somewhere else outside of Cairo, like a village, I would not want my relatives to go and I would be worried about attending”.

In a village south of Cairo, some Christians were reportedly prevented from holding Good Friday prayers, and police deployed to prevent further unrest.

Christians in Koum el-Loufy were attacked by Muslims after they tried to pray in an abandoned home on Thursday, after which a mob set fire to four homes nearby, according to police officials.

While the village boasts several mosques, Christians there have been prevented from building a church, Ishak Ibrahim, a researcher at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights told AFP.

“Probably they won’t be able to pray on Saturday either,” said Ibrahim.

“There is a general climate where Copts are being persecuted and unfortunately the state just tries to stop violence from spreading, they don’t solve the root cause of the problem.”


Date created : 2017-04-15


© AFP / by Tony Gamal-Gabriel | Mourners pray next to coffins of the victims of the blast at the Coptic Christian Saint Mark’s church the previous day during a funeral procession east of Alexandria on April 10, 2017

© Mohamed El-Shahed / AFP (file photo) | Members of the Egyptian police special forces stand guard on Cairo’s landmark Tahrir Square on January 25, 2016.

Relatives of a Christian woman who was killed in the bombing of Cairo's main Coptic cathedral carry her casked in Cairo on Monday.
Relatives of a Christian woman who was killed in the bombing of Cairo’s main Coptic cathedral carry her casked in Cairo on December 14, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS
 (December 2016)

Members of the special police forces stand guard to secure the area around St. Mark"s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral after an explosion inside the cathedral in Cairo

The building bombed in December 2016 is next to St Mark’s Coptic Cathedral, seat of the church’s pope. Reuters Photo

A Christian employee at Cairo's Coptic Cathedral checks for damage from the blast after an explosion inside the cathedral in Cairo

The interior of the church, where Christians had gathered, was also hit in the explosion. AP photo

Image result for Reina nightclub attack, photos

Islamist gunman Abdulgadir Masharipov killed 39 people  in the Reina nightclub shooting on January 1, 2017, in Istanbul. © Dogan News Agency/AFP/File

 (December 11, 2016)

David Dosha, the priest of the Church of Mart Shmoni, located in the Christian Iraqi town of Bartella. (Safin Hamed/Agence France-Presse via Getty Images)

An Iraqi Christian forces member lights a candle at the Church of the Immaculate Conception on October 30, 2016 in the town of Qaraqosh (also known as Hamdaniya), 30 kms east of Mosul, after Iraqi forces recaptured it from Islamic State (IS) group jihadists. (AFP/ SAFIN HAMED)
An Iraqi Christian forces member lights a candle at the Church of the Immaculate Conception on October 30, 2016 in the town of Qaraqosh (also known as Hamdaniya), 30 kms east of Mosul, after Iraqi forces recaptured it from Islamic State (IS) group jihadists. (AFP/ SAFIN HAMED)
26 July 2016
A photo of Priest Jacques Hamel taken from the website of Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray parish84 year-old Father Jacques Hamel was giving morning Mass when the Islamist attackers stormed his church. AFP



The Isis jihadist group

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi juggles insurgency, economy — Christians under attack

April 13, 2017

The Egyptian leader needs to manage these tasks while fending off criticism of human rights violations and growing authoritarianism — all with an eye to presidential elections due in 14 months.

One thing he has going for el-Sissi — he hopes — is strong support from U.S. President Donald Trump. He received a warm welcome from Trump in Washington last week.

One thing he has going for el-Sissi — he hopes — is strong support from U.S. President Donald Trump. He received a warm welcome from Trump in Washington last week. (NARIMAN EL-MOFTY / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

CAIRO—The deadly bombings of two churches have left Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi grappling with the question of how to defeat a tenacious Daesh insurgency that three years of warfare have failed to crush.

He’s also trying to repair a broken economy, carrying out tough austerity measures that have won praise from economists but have sent prices soaring.

El-Sissi must juggle these tasks while fending off criticism of human rights violations and growing authoritarianism — all with an eye to presidential elections due in 14 months.

One thing he has going for him — he hopes — is strong support from U.S. President Donald Trump.

El-Sissi received a warm welcome and praise from Trump in Washington last week after being shunned by the Obama administration. The Egyptian leader is believed to have brought a wish list for weapons and hardware for the fight against the militants, including drones and helicopter gunships.

But so far, it is hard to tell if el-Sissi has new answers on fighting the militants after the attacks, in which suicide bombers hit churches in Tanta and Alexandria during Palm Sunday services, killing 45 and wounding dozens. In Tanta, the bomber managed to inside the church before blowing himself up, despite promises of increased security after an IS church bombing in Cairo in December that killed dozens.

There was one new response: The security chief in the Nile Delta province where Tanta is located was fired, an unusually swift and rare show of accountability.

Read more:

Egypt’s Christians bury dead after church bombings

Church bombings in Egypt kill 44, wound 126

Pope Francis denounces deadly Egypt attack in Palm Sunday address

El-Sissi also declared a three-month state of emergency and created a new state council to fight terror and extremism. Army troops were ordered to help police protect vital installations.

But it is unclear how effective these will be. Northern Sinai, where the Daesh, also known as ISIS and ISIL, militants are centred, has already been under a state of emergency for several years. In the rest of Egypt, security forces already informally wield broad powers of arrest — the new status enshrines those powers and is likely to fuel human rights criticism.

The state council will be made up of Cabinet ministers, heads of state institutions, experts and public figures — a body that could bring new ideas to the fight or could prove an unwieldy talk shop that becomes irrelevant.

Visibly angry, El-Sissi said in televised comments that Egyptians must stay united. He also renewed familiar pleas: Religious discourse must be moderated and the media must safeguard the nation’s interests.

An adapting insurgency

The security forces have largely succeeded in keeping the insurgency contained in northern Sinai, away from the heavily populated Nile Valley. Thousands of troops backed by tanks, fighter jets and helicopter gunships have been deployed in the area bordering Israel and Gaza.

But the militants are adapting and finding new ways of hitting back, shattering frequent claims in the pro-government media that the insurgency is on its last legs.

Though the militants have been unable to control territory, they carry out sudden attacks in north Sinai towns to show they can operate with relative impunity. They have shifted from suicide car bombings against security forces and instead have grown more effective at planting roadside bombs.

The security forces meanwhile are left with little or no actionable intelligence from informers, a vital component of counterterrorism. That is in part because they are believed to have lost much of the goodwill of the local population because of tactics like collective punishment, indiscriminate shelling and random arrests.

Also, the militants have succeeded in instilling fear among residents, sending the message that any person, tribe or clan that works with the security forces faces death. In the main northern Sinai city of el-Arish, Daesh fighters have brought suspected informers into the streets and killed them. They have assassinated critical Muslim clerics.

Attacks on Christians

Daesh has made clear Christians are now a target. A series of killings of Christians in north Sinai sent members of the minority community fleeing across the Suez Canal to the city of Ismailia for refuge.

The aim appears to be in part to embarrass el-Sissi by exposing holes in security. The church bombings show that Daesh has been able to plant small cells of fighters in Egypt’s heartland, a scenario that could prove disastrous for the country’s stability and economic prospects.

They also stoke political tensions. Christians have been strong backers of el-Sissi since, as army chief, he ousted Islamist President Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013. The attacks push the community more toward the president but also stoke anger among Christians that the government is not doing enough to protect them.

The economy

The bombings and the ensuing state of emergency only further undermine efforts to revive Egypt’s tourism industry — an engine of economic growth that has been severely damaged by the turmoil of recent years.

El-Sissi has sought to dismantle a decades-old contract that allowed Egyptians to buy cheap food items, fuel and a range of services in return for their loyalty. He knew the serious risks, particularly the potential for popular unrest, but still went ahead — a show of courage that his predecessors always balked at.

Fuel subsidies have been partially lifted and charges were hiked on electricity and water. Late last year, he took the boldest step, launching harsh austerity measures in return for a vital $12 billion (U.S.) loan from the IMF. The Egyptian pound was floated, sending its value tumbling.

Prices skyrocketed, with inflation leaping to around 30 per cent in February and March. Millions of Egyptians have seen their household budgets strained to the breaking point.

There was no street unrest, either out of fear of a brutal police response, public fatigue or a wish to give the still-popular president the benefit of the doubt. There have been improvements in some economic indicators, particularly a growth in vital foreign currency reserves.

But the benefits largely have not reached the public, and further austerity measures are expected, including reported hikes in electricity prices in the summer.


What changes under Turkey’s new constitution plan

April 12, 2017



© AFP/File | Turkey is to vote on granting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expanded powers in a landmark referendum on a new constitution

ISTANBUL (AFP) – Turkey on Sunday votes in a landmark referendum on a new constitution that would grant President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expanded powers.While critics say the move is part of a grab by Erdogan for one-man rule, supporters say it will simply put Turkey in line with France and the United States and is needed for efficient government.

The current constitution was adopted in 1982 after the 1980 military coup.

Erdogan has denounced as “lies” claims by opponents that parliament would be neutralised and the judiciary would come under his political authority.

What would change under the proposed 18-article constitution for the nation of 79 million people?

– More powers for Erdogan –

Under the new constitution, the president would have strengthened executive powers to directly appoint top public officials including ministers.

The president would also be able to assign one or several vice presidents. The office and position of prime minister, currently held by Binali Yildirim, would be scrapped.

The changes would implement a shake-up in the judiciary, which Erdogan has accused of being influenced by supporters of his ally-turned-foe, the Pennsylvania-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen.

Gulen is blamed for the July failed coup but denies the government’s accusations.

The president and parliament would together be able to choose four members of the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK), a key judicial council that appoints and removes personnel in the judiciary.

Parliament would choose seven members on its own in what would be renamed the Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK).

Military courts, which have convicted officers and even sentenced former prime minister Adnan Menderes to death following the 1960 coup, would in the future not be allowed.

– Longer state of emergency –

Under the proposed constitution, a state of emergency would be imposed in the event of an “uprising against the homeland” or “acts of violence which put the nation in… danger of being divided”.

The president would decide whether or not to impose a state of emergency and then present it to the parliament.

Initially the emergency would last six months — as opposed to three now — then it can be extended by parliament after a presidential request for four months each time.

Turkey has twice extended the current state of emergency imposed after the failed July 15 coup.

– Erdogan can rejoin AKP –

The number of members of the Turkish parliament would rise from 550 to 600. The minimum age limit for MPs would also be lowered from 25 to 18.

Legislative elections would take place once every five years — instead of four — and on the same day as the presidential elections.

The parliament would still have power to enact, modify and remove legislation. If the president were accused or suspected of a crime, then parliament could request an investigation.

The president will also have to be a Turkish citizen at least 40 years old, and can be a member of a political party.

Currently the president must be impartial and without party favour, although opponents have accused Erdogan of blatantly flouting this.

The change would again allow Erdogan to become leader of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) that he co-founded.

– Erdogan in power to 2029? –

The proposed constitution states that the next presidential and parliamentary elections are to be held simultaneously on November 3, 2019.

The president would have a five-year term with a maximum of two mandates.

Erdogan was elected president in August 2014 after over a decade as prime minister, in the first ever direct elections for a Turkish head of state.

But with the clock wound back under the new system, the changes would mean that Erdogan could stay in power for another two terms until 2029.

Orly airport attacker ‘had been drinking, taking drugs’, autopsy reveals — “He never prayed, and he drank.”

March 20, 2017


© THOMAS SAMSON / AFP | Police officers investigate at the house of the suspect of an attack at the Paris Orly’s airport, on March 18, 2017, in Garges-les-Gonesse.


Latest update : 2017-03-20

The man shot dead at Paris’s Orly airport after attacking a soldier was under the influence of drugs and alcohol at the time, a judicial source said Sunday.

Investigators are still trying to understand what motivated Saturday’s assault by 39-year-old Ziyed Ben Belgacem, which led to a major security scare and the temporary closure of the capital’s second-busiest airport.

“Toxicology tests carried out on Sunday showed an alcohol level of 0.93 grams per litre in his blood, and the presence of cannabis and cocaine,” the source said.

Ben Belgacem’s father had insisted earlier Sunday that his son was “not a terrorist” and that his actions were caused by drink and drugs.

Ben Belgacem, who was born in France to Tunisian parents, grabbed a soldier on patrol at Orly’s southern terminal on Saturday morning. He put a gun to her head and seized her rifle, saying he wanted to “die for Allah”.

The attacker, who had also fired at police in a northern Paris suburb earlier that morning, was shot dead by two other soldiers after a scuffle.

Ben Belgacem’s father insisted his son — who had spent time in prison for armed robbery and drug-dealing — was not a extremist.

“My son was not a terrorist. He never prayed, and he drank,” the father, who was in shock and whose first name was not given, told Europe 1 radio.

Investigators were examining his telephone.

The attack at Orly comes with France still on high alert following a wave of jihadist attacks that have claimed more than 230 lives in two years.

The violence has made security a key issue in France’s two-round presidential election on April 23 and May 7.

Not on terror watchlist

Ben Belgacem’s brother and cousin were released Sunday after they, like the attacker’s father, were held for questioning. All three had approached police themselves on Saturday after the attack.

After spending Friday night in a bar with his cousin, Ben Belgacem was pulled over by police for speeding in the gritty northern Paris suburb of Garges-les-Gonesse, where he lived, just before 7:00 am.

He drew a gun and fired, slightly injuring one officer. Shortly after, he contacted his relatives to tell them he had “done something stupid”, they told police.

Ben Belgacem later appeared at the bar where he had been the previous night, firing more shots and stealing another car before continuing on to the airport.

He had been investigated in 2015 over suspicions he had radicalised while serving jail time, but his name did not feature on the list of those thought to pose a high risk.

Paris prosecutor Francois Molins said Ben Belgacem appeared to have become caught up in a “sort of headlong flight that became more and more destructive”.

Dozens of flights to and from Orly were cancelled during an hours-long shutdown after the incident, but by Sunday afternoon air traffic had returned to normal, a spokeswoman for the Paris airports authority said.

The shooting took place on the second day of a visit to Paris by Britain’s Prince William and his wife Kate, which was unaffected.

‘I’ve screwed up’

Ben Belgacem’s father told Europe 1 his son had called him after the first police shooting “in a state of extreme agitation”.

“He said to me: ‘Daddy, please forgive me. I’ve screwed up with a police officer’.”

At the time of his death, Ben Belgacem was carrying a petrol can in his backpack, as well as 750 euros ($805) in cash, a copy of the Koran, a packet of cigarettes and a lighter.

A small amount of cocaine and a machete were found during a search of his home on Saturday.

Soldiers guarding key sites have been targeted in four attacks in the past two years but escaped with only minor injuries.

In mid-February, a machete-wielding Egyptian man attacked a soldier outside Paris’s Louvre museum, injuring him slightly, before being shot and wounded.

President Francois Hollande said Saturday his government was “determined to fight relentlessly against terrorism”.



Paris Attacker Shot At Police on Saturday Morning in Paris, Died In Orly Airport Shooting Hours Later — Radicalized Muslim known to intelligence services

March 18, 2017

PARIS — The man who was shot dead by soldiers at Orly airport on Saturday was the same individual who had shot at security services earlier in the morning in northern Paris and was a radicalized Muslim known to authorities, a police source said.

“A police road check took place in Stains (northern Paris) this morning at 0700. It turned bad and the individual shot at the officers before fleeing,” one police source said.

“This same man – a radicalized Muslim known to intelligence services and the justice system – then took a Famas (assault weapon) from a soldier at Orly’s southern terminal … before being shot dead by a soldier.”

A second police source said the two incidents were linked.

(Reporting by Emmanuel Jarry; Writing by John Irish; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

Armed: Three gunmen who attacked the offices of controversial magazine Charlie Hebdo this morning remain on the run this afternoon, causing authorities to heighten security


Lockdown: The streets of Paris are being patrolled by soldiers dressed in combat fatigues and carrying Famas assault rifles this afternoon after a terror attack killed 12 people earlier in the day