Posts Tagged ‘state of emergency’

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

March 20, 2017

AFP

© 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.

Text by NEWS WIRES

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”.

(AFP)

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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

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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

Orly shooting: ‘radicalised Muslim’ killed at Paris airport had shot police officer

March 18, 2017

The Guardian

Police sources say man killed by soldier was earlier involved in incident north of French capital in which policeman was shot and injured

A man said to be a radicalised Muslim known to security services shot a police officer north of Paris before going to Orly airport, where he was shot and killed on Saturday morning.

The man was shot after he tried to grab a soldier’s weapon at the airport, interior ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said.

“A man took a weapon from a soldier then hid in a shop in the airport before being shot dead by security forces,” he said.

The soldier was part of the Sentinel special force installed around France to protect sensitive sites after a string of deadly Islamic extremist attacks.

Police sources said the same man was also involved in the incident at Stains, north of the French capital, in which a policeman was shot and injured during a road check.

No explosive devices were found on the dead man’s body, Brandet said.

© AFP | French special forces secure the area after a man was shot dead at Paris’ Orly airport, on March 18, 2017

Police evacuated both terminals at Orly and all flights have been suspended, with some diverted to Charles de Gaulle airport. Travellers have been told to avoid the airport while the security operation was under way. Some passengers whose flights had already landed were being held on board.

A witness, Franck Lecam, said: “We had queued up to check in for the Tel Aviv flight when we heard three or four shots nearby. We are all outside the airport, about 200 metres from the entrance.

“There are policemen, emergency workers and soldiers everywhere in all directions. A security official told us that it happened near gates 37-38 where Turkish Airlines flights were scheduled.”

No one else was injured in the Orly incident.

The French interior minister, Bruno Le Roux, is due to visit the airport, south of Paris, later.

The aiport shooting follows after a similar incident last month at the Louvre museum in central Paris.

France remains under a state of emergency in the wake of the attack on the Bataclan music venue in November 2015 in which 90 people were killed by jihadi gunmen, and the Nice truck attack last July that claimed the lives of 84 people and injured hundreds more.

Read the rest:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/18/man-shot-dead-at-paris-airport-after-trying-to-grab-gun-reports-say

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Man shot dead at Paris Orly airport after taking soldier’s gun: official

March 18, 2017

AFP

© AFP | French special forces secure the area after a man was shot dead at Paris’ Orly airport, on March 18, 2017

PARIS (AFP) – Security forces at Paris’ Orly airport on Saturday shot dead a man who took a weapon from a soldier, the interior ministry said, adding that nobody else was hurt in the incident.Witnesses said the airport was evacuated following the shooting at around 8:30am (0730GMT).

“A man took a weapon from a soldier then hid in a shop in the airport before being shot dead by security forces,” an interior ministry spokesman told AFP.

He said no one was wounded in the incident.

Interior Minister Bruno Le Roux is due to visit the facility, which is in Paris’ southern outskirts, the spokesman added.

“We had queued up to check in for the Tel Aviv flight when we heard three or four shots nearby,” witness Franck Lecam said.

“The whole airport has been evacuated,” the 54-year-old said, confirming what an airport worker, speaking on condition of anonymity, had said earlier.

“We are all outside the airport, about 200 metres from the entrance,” Lecam said.

“There are policemen, emergency workers and soldiers everywhere in all directions. A security official told us that it happened near gates 37-38 where Turkish Airlines flights were scheduled.”

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A picture taken on February 7, 2017 shows the wreckage of a burnt car in one of the main streets of the Cite des 3000 in Aulnay-sous-Bois

The wreckage of a burnt car in Aulnay-sous-Bois after angry French youths clashed with police over the alleged rape of a local man during his arrest. CREDIT:GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT /AFP/GETTY IMAGES 

The area around the Louvre museum in Paris has been evacuated after a huge security operation was launched this morning

The area around the Louvre museum in Paris was evacuated after a huge security operation was launched

ATTACK AT THE LOUVRE: Machete-wielding man shouting ‘Allahu akbar’ stopped by soldier, police say
http://www.foxnews.com/world/2017/02/03/shooting-at-louvre-french-soldier-reportedly-opens-fire-during-security-scare.html

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing, crowd and outdoor

 Paris — April 2016 — A protestor kicks a tear gas cannister as demonstrators clash with anti-riot police. Photograph by Joel Saget, AFP, Getty Images
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Image may contain: one or more people, sunglasses and outdoor
Soldiers protecting Notre Dame in Paris

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FRANCE COULD BE READY TO LIFT STATE OF EMERGENCY, SAYS JUSTICE MINISTER

France may be ready to drop its state of emergency, which has been in place since the deadly extremist attacks on Paris in November 2015.

In a speech Wednesday, Minister of Justice Jean-Jacques Urvoas said: “We have created the conditions that make it possible to exit the state of emergency, without weakening ourselves or remaining helpless in the face of the threat of terrorism,” French daily newspaper Le Figaroreports.

The state of emergency has dramatically increased the number and visibility of armed law enforcement officials on patrol across the country and tightened the laws on public assembly.

Image may contain: one or more people, people sitting, flower, plant, shoes, table and child

Its implementation proved controversial, with increased raids on Muslim communities in the immediate aftermath of the attacks attracting particular criticism from human rights groups.

Urvoas did not give any final date for returning to a lower state of alert, however it has to be approved on a bi-annual basis. The current extension ends in July – two months after France’s upcoming presidential election.

Paris Orly airport: Man killed after attempt to seize soldier’s gun — Hours after Minister of Justice proposes lifting “State of Emergency”

March 18, 2017

A man has been shot dead after trying to seize a gun from a soldier at Orly airport, French police say. Security officials have evacuated the building and urged visitors to avoid the area.

Image may contain: outdoor

French Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said the man ran into a shop inside the airport before he was shot dead on Saturday morning.

A bomb sweep was underway at the site to make sure the individual was not wearing an explosive belt, Brandet added.

The ministry also reported that a police officer was shot and injured in a separate incident north of Paris.

Emergency vehicles surrounded Orly airport as the elite RAID special police force secured the area.

Security officials evacuated part of the building and urged the public to keep clear while the police operation was underway.

[] On going police operation. Please respect the safety perimeter and avoid the airport area.

“We were waiting in line to board the flight to Tel Aviv when we heard three or four gunshots nearby,” witness Franck Lecam told AFP. “The whole airport was evacuated.”

A national police official said the soldier accosted by the slain man was part of the Sentinel special force installed around France to protect sensitive sites after a series of deadly terror attacks.

The man’s motive wasn’t immediately clear. No one else was reported to have been harmed in the incident.

Minister of the Interior Bruno Le Roux was on his way to the airport, his office reported.

France remains under a state of emergency after several recent terror attacks. In November 2015 multiple terrorists killed 130 people in simultaneous attacks in Paris. In July 2016, an attacker drove a truck through crowds in Nice celebrating Bastille Day, killing 86 people.

Orly airport is south of Paris and is the French capital’s second-largest airport after Charles de Gaulle.

nm/rc (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

http://www.dw.com/en/paris-orly-airport-man-killed-after-attempt-to-seize-soldiers-gun/a-38006216

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A picture taken on February 7, 2017 shows the wreckage of a burnt car in one of the main streets of the Cite des 3000 in Aulnay-sous-Bois

The wreckage of a burnt car in Aulnay-sous-Bois after angry French youths clashed with police over the alleged rape of a local man during his arrest. CREDIT:GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT /AFP/GETTY IMAGES 

The area around the Louvre museum in Paris has been evacuated after a huge security operation was launched this morning

The area around the Louvre museum in Paris was evacuated after a huge security operation was launched

ATTACK AT THE LOUVRE: Machete-wielding man shouting ‘Allahu akbar’ stopped by soldier, police say
http://www.foxnews.com/world/2017/02/03/shooting-at-louvre-french-soldier-reportedly-opens-fire-during-security-scare.html

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing, crowd and outdoor

 Paris — April 2016 — A protestor kicks a tear gas cannister as demonstrators clash with anti-riot police. Photograph by Joel Saget, AFP, Getty Images
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Image may contain: one or more people, sunglasses and outdoor
Soldiers protecting Notre Dame in Paris

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FRANCE COULD BE READY TO LIFT STATE OF EMERGENCY, SAYS JUSTICE MINISTER

France may be ready to drop its state of emergency, which has been in place since the deadly extremist attacks on Paris in November 2015.

In a speech Wednesday, Minister of Justice Jean-Jacques Urvoas said: “We have created the conditions that make it possible to exit the state of emergency, without weakening ourselves or remaining helpless in the face of the threat of terrorism,” French daily newspaper Le Figaroreports.

The state of emergency has dramatically increased the number and visibility of armed law enforcement officials on patrol across the country and tightened the laws on public assembly.

Image may contain: one or more people, people sitting, flower, plant, shoes, table and child

Its implementation proved controversial, with increased raids on Muslim communities in the immediate aftermath of the attacks attracting particular criticism from human rights groups.

Urvoas did not give any final date for returning to a lower state of alert, however it has to be approved on a bi-annual basis. The current extension ends in July – two months after France’s upcoming presidential election.

Thousand fired in new wave of Turkey coup purges

January 7, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | In the latest Turkish government decree over 6,000 people have been dismissed under emergency powers imposed after a failed coup, including 2,687 police

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ISTANBUL (AFP) – Turkey has dismissed over 6,000 people and ordered the closure of dozens of associations under the state of emergency imposed after the July failed coup, in a purge that shows no sign of slowing.

More than 100,000 people have already been suspended or sacked so far in a crackdown on those alleged to have links to coup-plotters while dozens of media outlets have been shut down.

In the latest government decrees published late Friday, 2,687 police officers were dismissed.

Meanwhile, 1,699 civil servants were removed from the ministry of justice, plus 838 health officials and hundreds of employees from other ministries.

Another 631 academics and eight members of the Council of State were also dismissed.

The dismissals are permitted under the state of emergency, which was extended by another three months in October, and was originally imposed in the wake of the coup.

But its scope has been vehemently criticised by the European Union and human rights activists.

The three decrees also ordered the closure of more than 80 associations accused of “activities affecting the security of the state”.

Critics have claimed that the crackdown goes well beyond the suspected coup plotters and targets anyone who has dared show opposition to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Ankara blames the coup plot on US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen and says an unrelenting campaign is needed to root out his influence from public life. Gulen denies the allegations.

Turkey also argues the exceptional security measures are necessary in the face of rising threats from the Islamic State group and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

The country has been hit by two attacks this week, one claimed by the Islamic State group against a high-end Turkish nightclub, and the other which authorities blamed on the PKK in the western city of Izmir.

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Erdoğan could be losing his grip on a dangerous, divided Turkey

January 5, 2017
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January 4, 2017 6.21pm EST
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By  and Bahar Baser

Coventry University

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Turkey’s New Year was marred by a terrorist attack, claimed by the so-called Islamic State (IS), that killed 39 people and injured many more at a famous nightclub in Istanbul. After nearly two years of deadly incidents and alarming political instability, Turks were once again left counting the dead – and wondering how much more their country can take.

In the last 18 months, Turkey has seen 33 bomb attacks that have claimed 446 lives, 363 of them civilians. Some commentators even claim that low-level terror is now almost the norm in Turkey.

To make things more complicated still, the latest attack comes only six months after a bizarre failed coup, undoubtedly one of the most significant events in Turkey’s modern history.

The coup’s planners had little public support, and opposition leaders have also constantly underlined that it would have been a tragedy if it had succeeded. So, the aftermath was a huge opportunity for Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the Turkish president, and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to correct the country’s disturbing course: to restore trust between various ethnic and religious communities, to start a new peace process with the Kurds after the last one failed in 2015, and to bring greater democracy to the country.

But instead of trying to put Turkey back on the right track, the AKP government has done quite the opposite.

Divide and rule

The post-putsch period has brought chaos and enmity as well as a total crackdown on groups and individuals, including academics, journalists, teachers, lawyers and judges. Some of them were supposedly linked to the followers of exiled religious leader Fethullah Gülen, while others support different opposition groups.

This sort of authoritarianism has been brewing in Turkey for some time, especially since the elections of June 2015 failed to hand the AKP a ruling parliamentary majority. There followed an increased level of political violence and terrorism for a period of four months, enough to convince Turkish voters that without an AKP majority, there would be no end to the bloodshed the country was witnessing. After campaigning on that basis for a re-run of the June elections, Erdoğan won the majority he so badly wanted – but the result did nothing for peace and security.

The coup attempt was the next critical turning point. Erdoğan himself called it “a gift from God” that enabled the rulers of “New Turkey” to shore up their power with ever harsher policies. Only five days after the attempted coup, the AKP government declared a state of emergency; it was originally scheduled to last three months, but was then extended until mid-April 2017. It has become a useful tool for the government, which is still using the failed putsch as an pretext to crack down on opposition.

A tank taken over by civilians in Istanbul, July 15 2016. EPA

Rather than downplaying the divisions among different ethnic and religious groups in Turkey in the post-putsch period, the ruling party and the president are deepening the country’s many divisions, all the while assisted by the mainstream media. They are creating a fractured political environment which will enable them to promote constitutional amendments, in the long run presenting Erdoğan’s long-held dream of an executive presidential system as the only thing that can bring Turkey back from the brink.

But the strategy may yet backfire.

On the brink

In the broadest sense, the country’s social and political order has proven remarkably resilient in the face of terrorism, disasters and civil unrest, but it is now under more pressure than ever. Despite the strictures of the state of emergency, Turkey clearly remains vulnerable to terrorist attacks.

The violence of the last few years has so far boosted Erdoğan’s already strong public support, with many Turks trusting him to keep them safe – but with fear and uncertainty is on the rise.

Erdoğan is feeling pressure on various fronts. For example, IS recently released a video in December purporting to show two Turkish soldiers being burned alive in Syria; the authorities could not give a satisfactory answer on whether the claim was actually true. Then the Russian ambassador was assassinated by a Turkish policeman in the capital city, sending a message that no-one in Turkey is really safe. The continuing insecurity is already devouring the tourism sector, tanking the Lira, and undercutting the economy in general (with exports in particular on the wane).

All this will make it increasingly hard for the AKP to consolidate its voter base. The government seems incapable of safeguarding the basic conditions of security and stability, and if IS and other groups mount further attacks like the one on New Year’s Eve, indecisive voters might actually start to move towards other political parties. The very insecurity that helped Erdoğan strengthen his power base could yet be his downfall.

http://theconversation.com/erdogan-could-be-losing-his-grip-on-a-dangerous-divided-turkey-70856

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Turkey Arrest 5 In Connection with Nightclub Attack — Extends state of emergency started after July 15 failed coup

January 4, 2017

The operation was launched in the Aegean port city of Izmir and was ongoing, Anadolu Agency said.

The gunman, who killed 39 people during New Year’s celebrations, hasn’t been publicly named and is still at large. But Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said authorities had identified the man, without providing details.

IS has claimed responsibility for the attack, which also wounded nearly 70 people. Most of those killed were foreigners from the Middle East.

The private Dogan news agency said the police operation targeted three families who had arrived in Izmir about 20 days ago from Konya — a city in central Turkey where the gunman is thought to have been based before carrying out the nightclub attack. It said 27 people, including women and children, were taken into custody.

At least 14 people were previously detained in connection with the attack, including two foreigners stopped Tuesday at the international terminal of Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport after police checked their cellphones and luggage, according to Anadolu.

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Ankara is contending with aftermath of New Year’s assault in Istanbul

People waved Turkish flags on Tuesday as they marched to protest against the New Year’s attack in Istanbul.

People waved Turkish flags on Tuesday as they marched to protest against the New Year’s attack in Istanbul. PHOTO: EMRAH GUREL/ASSOCIATED PRESS

ISTANBUL—Turkey’s parliament voted to extend the government’s state-of-emergency powers following the deadly New Year’s attack claimed by Islamic State, as the country struggles to contain rising terrorist threats and law enforcement contends with depleted ranks in the wake of last year’s failed coup.

The gunman remained at large after the assault that killed at least 39 people, and there is little information about his identity beyond photographs of a suspect released by authorities. Police widened nationwide raids Tuesday, doubling the number of detainees to at least 16 people, including two foreign nationals who were entering the international terminal at Istanbul’s Atatürk airport, authorities said.

The slow progress in Turkey’s nationwide manhunt raises questions about the government’s ability to maintain security despite the extraordinary powers security forces have under the state of emergency enacted after the failed July 15 coup.

A picture released by Turkish police shows the main suspect in the New Year’s attack at an Istanbul nightclub.

A picture released by Turkish police shows the main suspect in the New Year’s attack at an Istanbul nightclub.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

The government has jailed almost 14,000 policemen and soldiers, including almost half of its generals, on allegations of supporting the coup attempt, according to Justice Ministry statistics published by Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency. More than 2,200 judges and prosecutors—some with counterterrorism experience—have also been imprisoned on related charges.

“It’s clear that the counterterrorism ecosystem is not fulfilling its duties as desired in Turkey, which is facing grave terrorist threats at the moment,” said Doruk Ergun, a foreign-policy and security analyst at Istanbul-based think tank EDAM. “The greater the purges, the greater the vulnerabilities as it becomes harder to replace officials removed from their posts.”

Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu defended the government’s record on Tuesday, telling parliament that forces coordinating global terrorism are attacking Turkey to damage its economy and sow social unrest.

“We’re getting hit by many attacks, of course the responsibility rests with us,” Mr. Soylu said. “We are doing everything we can to purge terror from our nation’s agenda.”

Turkey is facing multiple national security threats, including from alleged coup plotters, Islamic State militants and a long-running domestic Kurdish insurgency.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim’s cabinet introduced in parliament a three-month extension to the state of emergency. The measure was later approved by lawmakers and will go into effect at 1 a.m. on Jan. 19.

Under the state of emergency, the government can rule by decree and fire public employees with little recourse, while security officials can detain terrorism suspects and other alleged enemies of the state for up to 30 days without charges.

In the last three years, and increasingly after the failed putsch, Turkey has deployed significant resources to ousting from the bureaucracy and the security forces suspected followers of U.S.-based Turkish imam Fethullah Gulen, whom President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accuses of masterminding the coup attempt. The cleric, who has been charged in absentia by Turkish courts, denies the allegations.

A Turkish official dismissed the notion that the post-coup ouster of Mr. Gulen’s followers from the security forces had weakened their effectiveness, arguing that it has instead strengthened cooperation among various agencies.

Because of spillovers from the conflict in neighboring Syria and cross-border Turkish operations there against Kurdish militants and Islamic State, terrorism threats to Turkey remain “very intense,” the official said.

“There’s always a risk against soft targets, but there wasn’t a specific intelligence warning against this one,” the Turkish official said of the New Year’s attack, which targeted an Istanbul nightclub. “It is very difficult to prevent such attacks.”

A wave of terrorist attacks has killed almost 100 civilians, policemen and soldiers since mid-December. On Dec. 19 the Russian ambassador to Turkey was assassinated by an off-duty Turkish police officer.

The main-opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP, started campaigning Monday in parliament for an investigation into security vulnerabilities. Since June 2015, 423 people have been killed and almost 3,000 wounded in terror attacks, according to CHP figures.

“Despite all the safety measures that were put in place, the treacherous terrorist attack in what can be called the heart of Istanbul couldn’t be prevented,” CHP lawmakers Sezgin Tanrikulu and Baris Yarkadas said in a motion seeking a parliamentary inquiry into security shortcomings.

Turkey prevented 339 significant terrorism plots in 2016, said Mr. Soylu, the interior minister, including dozens of potential car bombs and suicide bombers, mostly from Kurdish insurgents but also from Islamic State and leftist radicals. Turkish authorities said they have placed 260 suspected Islamic State militants under watch, imprisoning 59 of them, in nationwide raids throughout December.

In the lead up to New Year’s, security officials took all precautions possible in light of domestic and foreign intelligence warnings, Mr. Soylu previously said.

Days before Christmas, the U.S. diplomatic mission in Turkey issued a reminder, warning American citizens that extremist groups may target expatriates.

“The authorities are taking the threat situation extremely seriously and acting accordingly,” a Western diplomat in Ankara said of Turkey’s counterterrorism efforts. “But the international community feels vulnerable and nervous.”

Write to Emre Peker at emre.peker@wsj.com

http://www.wsj.com/articles/turkey-seeks-to-extend-state-of-emergency-1483475370

Turkey has “all but silenced independent media” since coup attempt in July, Human Rights Watch says

December 15, 2016

ISTANBUL — An international rights group says Turkey has “all but silenced independent media” in an accelerating crackdown on journalists who are being detained on “bogus charges” including terrorism.

Human Rights Watch said in a new report released Thursday that the media crackdown sharpened in the wake the failed July 15 coup.

HRW’s Europe and Central Asia director, Hugh Williamson, said that “the Turkish government and president’s systematic effort to silence media in the country is all about preventing public scrutiny.”

He said 148 journalist and media workers have been detained under the state of emergency.

Turkish officials didn’t immediately comment on the report.

The government says it is fighting a multi-prong war on “terrorists,” a term used in reference to coup backers, Kurdish militants and the Islamic State group.

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From Human Rights Watch

Turkey: Silencing the Media

Ruthless Assault on Press Freedom Shields State from Scrutiny

(Istanbul) – Turkey’s government has all but silenced independent media in an effort to prevent scrutiny or criticism of its ruthless crackdown on perceived enemies, Human Rights Watch said today. The assault on critical journalism sharpened in 2014 but accelerated after the failed coup attempt in July 2016, denying Turkey’s population access to a regular flow of independent information from domestic newspapers, radio, and television stations about developments in the country.
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Journalists targeted in Turkey’s media crackdown. From top left: Aslı Erdoğan, Ahmet Altan, Kadri Gürsel, Necmiye Alpay; Erdem Gül, Ceyda Karan, Can Dündar, Hatice Kamer; Refik Tekin, Hanım Büşra Erdal, Nedim Oruç, Nazlı Ilıcak

Journalists targeted in Turkey’s media crackdown. From top left: Aslı Erdoğan, Ahmet Altan, Kadri Gürsel, Necmiye Alpay; Erdem Gül, Ceyda Karan, Can Dündar, Hatice Kamer; Refik Tekin, Hanım Büşra Erdal, Nedim Oruç, Nazlı Ilıcak

The 69-page report, “Silencing Turkey’s Media: The Government’s Deepening Assault on Critical Media,” documents five important components of the crackdown on independent domestic media in Turkey, including the use of the criminal justice system to prosecute and jail journalists on bogus charges of terrorism, insulting public officials, or crimes against the state. Human Rights Watch also documented threats and physical attacks on journalists and media organizations; government interference with editorial independence and pressure on media organizations to fire critical journalists; the government’s takeover or closure of private media companies; and restrictions on access to the airwaves, fines, and closure of critical television stations.
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“The Turkish government and president’s systematic effort to silence media in the country is all about preventing public scrutiny,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Keeping 148 journalists and media workers in jail and closing down 169 media and publishing outlets under the state of emergency shows how Turkey is deliberately flouting basic principles of human rights and rule of law central to democracy.”
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Human Rights Watch found that the crackdown has not only targeted media and journalists associated with the Gülen movement, which the government alleges is a terrorist organization responsible for the July coup attempt, but also pro-Kurdish media and independent voices critical of the government such as the newspaper Cumhuriyet and its journalists. Human Rights Watch looked at the use of emergency powers, and at Turkey’s overbroad terrorism laws and pliant justice system as means of repression.
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The report is based on 61 in-depth interviews with journalists, editors, lawyers, and press freedom activists, and a review of court documents relating to the prosecution and jailing of journalists and media workers.

Those interviewed described a stifling atmosphere for their work and rapidly shrinking space for reporting on issues the government does not want covered. Several of those interviewed were later arrested and are in prison pending trial or had to flee Turkey to avoid being detained.
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They include the Cumhuriyet newspaper columnist Kadri Gürsel and a former reporter for Zaman newspaper, Hanım Büşra Erdal, who are in prison, and a former reporter for Radikalnewspaper, Fatih Yağmur, who left Turkey. Others whose cases are discussed in the report – like Aslı Erdoğan, Necmiye Alpay, and Ahmet Altan – were jailed during its preparation, Erdoğan and Alpay were indicted for terrorism crimes and will stand trial in Istanbul this month.
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“In the past journalists were killed in Turkey,” one journalist told Human Rights Watch. “This government is killing journalism in its entirety.”

The Turkish government and president’s systematic effort to silence media in the country is all about preventing public scrutiny.

Hugh Williamson

Europe and Central Asia director

Journalists described limited access to the predominantly Kurdish southeast, where conflict has escalated since a ceasefire between the government in Ankara and the armed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) broke down in July 2015, leaving a tentative two-and-a-half-year peace process in tatters. Journalists working in the southeast face serious risks and have been threatened, arrested, and ill-treated by members of the security forces and police, and even the public, in the course of reporting.

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However, over the past year physical attacks on journalists have not been confined to the southeast, as demonstrated by the shooting of the former Cumhuriyet editor Can Dündar, the assault on the CNNTürk journalist Ahmet Hakan outside his home, and the attacks on the Hürriyet newspaper. Journalists interviewed were sceptical of whether the authorities were willing to investigate threats and physical attacks thoroughly, or of whether trials against suspects would deliver justice.
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Over the past year, the government has engineered the takeover of privately-owned media and other organizations by appointing government-approved trustees to run them. This is a serious misuse of the law on trusteeship, a violation of the right to private property, and, in the case of the media, a policy of deliberate censorship aimed at suppressing critical and dissenting voices, Human Rights Watch said. In the period following the failed military coup, the government opted for full closure of newspapers, news agencies, radio, and television stations using state of emergency powers.
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In light of the findings, the Turkish government should end detention and prosecution of journalists based on their journalism or alleged affiliations; ensure that any closures of media during the state of emergency are only as a last resort following due process; condemn and ensure prompt and effective investigations of attacks on journalists; stop misusing the Penal Code to put media under trusteeship; and bring the Penal Code and Anti-Terror Law into compliance with Turkey’s international human rights obligations.
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The US and European Union member state governments, the Council of Europe, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and United Nations Human Rights Council should use their leverage to press the Turkish government to respect media freedom, Human Rights Watch said.
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“Free and independent media help promote the free flow of ideas, opinions, and information necessary for political processes to function, and serve as a critical check on executive authorities and powerful actors linked to them,” Williamson said. “The Turkish government’s erosion of media freedom harms Turkey and its democracy as well its international reputation.”
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In Turkey, Erdogan Seems To Be Destroying Turkish Democracy

November 21, 2016
By SUZAN FRASER
The Associated Press

November 21, 2016
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FILE - In this Oct. 29, 2016 file photo, Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses his supporters during a ceremony for a new train station building on the Republic Day in Ankara, Turkey. Since quashing a July coup attempt, Turkey’s president has used extraordinary powers from a state of emergency to arrest and purge thousands of opponents. Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also vowed to back public demands to reinstate the death penalty and suggested submitting Turkey's long-sought goal of European Union membership to a referendum. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici, File)

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Since quashing a July coup attempt, Turkey’s president has used extraordinary powers from a state of emergency to arrest and purge thousands of opponents. Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also vowed to back public demands to reinstate the death penalty and suggested submitting Turkey’s long-sought goal of European Union membership to a referendum.

With little leverage over Erdogan, the European Union and the U.S. have been watching a NATO ally that was long held up as a model democracy in the Muslim world slide deeper toward autocracy and move further away from the EU.

The Turkish strongman is unlikely to relent on his hard-line policies as he courts a nationalist party for its support in parliament for constitutional changes that would give his presidency — a largely ceremonial post under the current constitution — full executive powers. Critics fear the changes will concentrate too many powers in Erdogan’s hands and allow him to rule with few checks.

Fatih Aslan, a shopkeeper in Ankara, says he doesn’t agree with the government’s clampdown on the media, but says he supports tough measures to fight the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, and the arrests of pro-Kurdish members of parliament.

“I am behind them 100 percent on the issue in the fight against terrorism,” Aslan said. “They should lock up all of the (pro-Kurdish) legislators.”

Asked whether he has concerns about the direction Turkey is taking, Aslan said: “I am more concerned about the state of the economy, the rise of the dollar and how it is affecting my business.”

Since the thwarted coup blamed on a network of followers of U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, Turkey has engaged in an unprecedented crackdown, jailing tens of thousands as part of an investigation into the failed power grab and dismissed or suspended 120,000 suspected of links to the cleric, shut down more than 170 media outlets, detained more than 140 journalists, sacked elected Kurdish mayors and replaced them with government-appointed trustees.

The troubling clampdown comes as Turkey was already in turmoil, rocked by a wave of deadly suicide attacks, including one at Istanbul’s busiest airport that killed 54 people. The country is also engaged in renewed conflict with PKK rebels after the collapse of peace efforts, is militarily involved in operations in Syria and Iraq and grappling with 3 million refugees from those two neighboring countries. Earlier this month, Washington said it was ordering the families of U.S. diplomatic staff in Istanbul to leave Turkey over security concerns.

Despite some calls for the suspension of Turkey’s accession talks, the EU has its hands tied over the migrant issue. In a recent meeting in Brussels, top European diplomats struggled to reach a common stance over Turkey as they walked a tight rope trying to balance their concerns over what they say are rights abuses with their continued need for Turkish support to stem the flow of migrants heading to Europe.

Few believe that a U.S. administration under President-elect Donald Trump would make an issue of the degrading rights and freedoms in Turkey as he will seek to improve ties with a strategic partner. Relations were strained under President Barack Obama over Washington’s support for Syrian Kurdish militia, which Turkey regards as terrorists, and Turkish perceptions that Washington is reluctant to extradite a cleric blamed by Ankara for the coup.

“In the big picture, Erdogan knows that the EU needs Turkey and will come back begging for a new agreement on the migrants. That’s why he will play a game of brinksmanship,” said Soner Cagaptay, the director of the Turkish program at The Washington Institute. “Come spring, when the Aegean becomes possible again for crossings, the potential for refugees goes up. That’s when Turkey’s leverage on the EU increases.”

Cagaptay said Trump would likely give Erdogan a “free pass” as long as he has the Turkey president’s support in the fight against IS.

“Trump has one objective: unconditional and complete Turkish support for the fight against ISIS,” Cagaptay said, using an alternative acronym for the extremist group. “He will care very little about what goes on domestically. Erdogan will get a blank check for his executive presidency.”

Critics, human rights groups and Western allies claim Erdogan is taking advantage of the state of emergency, declared to facilitate the prosecution of coup plotters, to instead jail and intimidate opponents.

The government says it’s forced to purge Gulen’s followers from all state institutions to protect Turkey from new attempts to topple the government and has to take tough anti-terror measures at a time when it is under attack from multiple banned groups that have carried out a string of bombings over the past 18 months.

Over the past few weeks alone, authorities have incarcerated 10 members of parliament from Turkey’s pro-Kurdish party as well as the editor and nine senior staff of the Cumhuriyet newspaper — one of the few remaining opposition news outlets — all on terror-related charges. Close to 400 civic associations were closed down, universities were barred from electing their presidents and prosecutors demanded a life prison term for novelist Asli Erdogan, who also wrote for a newspaper accused of being the mouthpiece of the outlawed Kurdish rebels.

Erdogan and government officials accuse the West of failing to understand the gravity of the attempted coup, which saw renegade military personnel attack parliament and other government buildings with jets, tanks and helicopters, as well as the continued threat posed by the Gulen movement.

In addition, Turkish leaders frequently accuse Germany and other EU countries of harboring wanted Kurdish militants and treating Turkey unfairly by placing hurdles in the way of its EU bid.

“On the one hand you declare the PKK a terror group … but then you show this terror organization tolerance and you even give it direct or indirect support,” Erdogan said. “What kind of a friendship is this?”

Erdogan rejects accusations that rights and freedoms are being suppressed.

“There is no such problem in my country. Anyone can say what they like and live the way they like, dress the way they like, eat and drink as they want. We have not barred anything,” Erdogan told Al Jazeera television last week, according to comments that were carried by Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency. “Turkey has not become a country where bans are imposed. Turkey has in no other period experienced such freedom, such tranquility and such comfort.”

“Turkey is now going through a dark and authoritarian coup staged by the presidential palace under the pretext of fighting against (the Gulen movement),” the main opposition Republican Peoples’ Party, or CHP, said in a declaration issued earlier this month. “The current political situation poses a serious threat against the freedom of our people and the future of our country.”

Expressions of concern from Western allies spark angry response from Erdogan whose almost daily speeches are laced with anti-EU and anti-U.S. rhetoric.

Amid the threats from some EU countries to freeze Turkey’s EU membership talks, Erdogan challenged the EU to cut off the talks completely and later also suggested Turkey could hold a referendum to let the people decide on whether Ankara should press ahead with its efforts to join the bloc. In comments reported in Hurriyet newspaper on Sunday, Erdogan also suggested that the Shanghai Cooperation Organization — made up of China, Russia and Central Asian nations — could be an alternative to the EU.

Last week, Erdogan called on his supporters: “Take no notice of what the West or others say. Look at what Allah says. That’s what we are doing.”

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