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Paradise Papers: Turkish president’s allies sue journalist

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Award-winning Turkish investigative journalist, Pelin Ünker, and her newspaper, Cumhuriyet, are being sued in Turkey over alleged defamation.

The suit filed by influential allies of Turkey’s autocratic president, Recep Erdogan, do not claim factual errors or inaccuracies but seek financial penalties for alleged damage to their reputations.

Among those identified as parties in the suit are Turkey’s former prime minister, Binali Yildirim, President Erdogan’s son-in-law and powerful finance minister Berat Albayrak, and members of their families. The president’s allies filed defamation actions against the award-winning journalist, who is also member of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

The next court date, according to ICIJ, is November 22.

Last November, Cumhuriyet published a series of stories as part of the global Paradise Papers investigation that revealed how politicians, multinational corporations and criminals had hidden money offshore and avoided taxes.

PREMIUM TIMES, the only Nigerian platform involved in the investigation, also published details of the offshore arrangements involving Nigerian politicians, including Senate President Bukola Saraki among other political bigwigs.

In Turkey, Ünker and Cumhuriyet focused on opaque dealings by some of the country’s most powerful individuals, including allies of President Erdogan, who reports claim does not tolerate dissent.

Cumhuriyet is said to be one of Turkey’s oldest newspapers, and it is one of the country’s very last independent media outlets, in a country where major mainstream media now belong to government-affiliated investors. The media are used to wage a propaganda war against the opposition and civil society, Deloire said.

Berat Albayrak accused Cumhuriyet of “calumny” after the newspaper published details about the company he formerly managed and about his brother Serhat, listed as a director of a Malta company named Frocks International Trading Ltd.

According to the Paradise Papers documents, the company used nominees, which can be used to conceal the identity of real shareholders. Set up in 2003 and closed in 2009, documents from the Maltese company registry showed that Frocks International Trading Ltd. was in the garment and textile business.

Investigations revealed that throughout the same period, Berat and Serhat Albayrak were senior managers of Turkish textile, energy and media conglomerate Çalık Holding. Berat, who married President Erdogan’s daughter in 2014, was CEO of Çalık from 2007 to 2013.

Cumhuriyet’s report showed that Çalık has expanded rapidly under the favorable gaze of Erdogan’s government, as it received a $750 million loan from state-owned banks in 2007 in a non-competitive bid to buy a media company. Çalık Holding however told Cumhuriyet before publication that Frocks International Ltd. had never been used and had made no commercial transactions.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranked Turkey 157th of 180 countries on the 2018 World Free Press Index. The organisation described Turkey as “the world’s biggest prison for professional journalists.”

“President Erdogan and people close to him don’t tolerate dissent,” RSF Secretary General Christophe Deloire told ICIJ in July. Investigative reporting has been increasingly targeted since 2013, Deloire added.

Earlier on Monday, a Myanmar judge had found two Reuters journalists guilty of breaching a law on state secrets and jailed them for seven years, in a landmark case seen as a test of progress towards democracy in the Southeast Asian country.

Yangon northern district judge, Ye Lwin, said Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, breached the colonial-era Official Secrets Act when they collected and obtained confidential documents while reporting on Myanmar’s violence-plagued Rakhine State.

Press freedom advocates, the UN, the European Union and countries including the United States, Canada and Australia had called for the journalists’ acquittal.

“Today is a sad day for Myanmar, Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, and the press everywhere,” Reuters editor in chief Stephen Adler said in a statement.

“We will not wait while Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo suffer this injustice and will evaluate how to proceed in the coming days, including whether to seek relief in an international forum.”

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U.S. strikes 2 targets in Syria in response to ‘continued attacks’

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The U.S. military struck two facilities in eastern Syria used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Iran-affiliated groups in response to “continued attacks” against U.S. personnel in Iraq and Syria, the Pentagon said on Sunday.

The strikes were conducted against a training facility in Abu Kamal and a safe house in Mayadin in the eastern governorate of Deir Ezzor, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a brief statement.

The U.S. struck similar targets in eastern Syria in October and earlier in November.

Pro-Iranian militias have intensified their attacks on U.S. military bases in Syria and Iraq in recent weeks as a response to the Israeli military campaign in Gaza.

The security situation in the entire region has been particularly tense since Oct. 7, when Hamas militants staged deadly attacks in southern Israel.

Israel is responding with an overwhelming air and ground offensive in Gaza.

As a deterrent, the U.S. has moved more weapons systems, warships and air squadrons to the Eastern Mediterranean, and is deploying several hundred troops to the Middle East to support US units there.

U.S. President Joe Biden had ordered Sunday’s action to make it clear that the U.S. was defending itself, its personnel, and its interests, Austin stressed.

The U.S. is prepared to take further necessary measures to protect its own people and interests.

  • dpa
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Russia writes off $23bn debt for Africa – Putin

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Russia sends almost 12m tons of grain to Africa says Putin

…Pledges additional $90 million***

Vladimir Putin, the Russian President, says the Russian Government has written off $23 billion debt burden of African countries.

Putin spoke at the plenary session of the ongoing second Russia–Africa Summit 2023 held from July 27 to July 28.

He said Moscow would allocate an additional $90 million for these purposes.

Putin said Russia was advocating the expansion of representation of African countries in the UN Security Council and other UN structures.

“Russia and Africa strive to develop cooperation in all areas and strengthen ‘honest, open, constructive’ partnership.

“Russia will also assist in opening new African embassies and consulates in Russia,” he said.

According to him, the reopening of embassies in Burkina Faso and Equatorial Guinea is going as planned.

He said sovereignty was “not a one-time achieved state,” and it must be constantly protected.

Putin also offered assistance to Africa in countering threats such as terrorism, piracy, and transnational crimes adding that it would continue to train personnel from African countries.

He assured that Russian businesses have a lot to offer partners from Africa.

Putin said transition to national currencies and the establishment of transport and logistics chains would contribute to the increase in mutual trade turnover.

“Russia is ready to provide trade preferences to Africa, support the creation of modern production sectors, agricultural sector, and provide assistance through relevant international structures and agencies.

“Russia will always be a responsible international supplier of agricultural products,” he said.

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U.S. Coastguard Finds ‘debris field’ Near Missing Vessel

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A “debris field” has been discovered within the search area for the missing Titan submersible, the U.S. Coastguard (USCG) said on Thursday.

The agency said a remotely-operated vehicle made the discovery near the wreckage of the Titanic on Thursday.

The hunt for the missing deep-sea vessel is still an “active search and rescue” mission after it lost communication on Sunday.

The vessel was about 700 kilometres south of St John’s, Newfoundland, during a voyage to the Titanic shipwreck off the coast of Canada.

Coastguard officials said they were “evaluating the information” following Thursday’s debris discovery.

A press conference will be held at the Coastguard base in Boston to “discuss the findings” at 8pm (1900 GMT).

Rear Admiral John Mauger, the first Coastguard district commander, and Captain Jamie Frederick, first Coastguard district response coordinator, will lead the press conference.

Founding member of the Board of Trustees of The Explorers Club, Hamish Harding, was on board the undersea craft, alongside UK-based businessman Shahzada Dawood, his son Suleman Dawood, and OceanGate’s chief executive and founder Stockton Rush, as well as French submersible pilot Paul-Henri Nargeolet.

The USCG said the ROV that made the discovery was from the Canadian Horizon Arctic ship – with the debris being found on the sea floor near the Titanic wreckage.

Assistance from the Royal Air Force (RAF) is due to arrive in St John’s on Thursday after it confirmed a request was received overnight for help with the movement of additional commercial equipment.

Two RAF planes, a C-17 Globemaster and A400 Atlas, departed RAF Lossiemouth in north-east Scotland on Thursday.

A British submariner and equipment from a UK firm have been sent to help the search at the request of the U.S. Coastguard, Downing Street said.

Royal Navy submariner Lieutenant Commander Richard Kantharia, who was on exchange with the U.S. Navy, has been seconded to the search and rescue team.

OceanGate Expeditions estimated the oxygen supply on the 6.7 metre-long vessel would last 96 hours, giving rescuers a deadline of around midday on Thursday.

Experts said the chances of finding the sub and rescuing those inside were diminishing.

Former Royal Navy submarine captain Ryan Ramsey told the PA news agency: “The outlook is bleak, that’s the only word for it as this tragic event unfolds and almost the closing stages of where this changes from rescue to a salvage mission.”

The Titan is believed to be about 900 miles east and 400 miles south of Newfoundland.

It is not known how deep the vessel is, with the seabed being around 3,800 metres from the surface. 

– dpa

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