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Turkish lawyers stage rally to protest draft bill on bar associations



Thousands of Turkish lawyers on Tuesday staged a rally in Turkey‘s biggest city Istanbul to protest the ruling party’s draft bill, which aims to change the existing structure of bar associations.

Following the call of the Istanbul bar association, the lawyers gathered in front of the Caglayan Courthouse on the European side of the city for the protest dubbed the “defense meeting.”

The crowd denounced the draft bill, chanting slogans like “defense cannot be silenced” and “no salvation alone, either all or none.”

On Monday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his party was determined to create a more democratic and pluralistic structure, and for this, it is focusing on the formation of a multiple bar association system.

The ruling Justice and Development Party presented the draft to the parliament, where it holds the majority, on Tuesday.

If passed, the bill would allow legal professionals to establish new bar associations, with a minimum of 2,000 membership.

However, the opponents argue that it will affect the independence of lawyers, divide and politicize them, and weaken the power of the legal system.

Currently, there are 80 bar associations across the country, some of which are critical to the government.


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Blasts at Turkish fireworks factory kill 2, wound 73



A series of large explosions shook a fireworks factory in northwest Turkey’s Sakarya province on Friday, killing two people and wounding 73, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Friday.

Fire crews fought to contain the blaze ignited by an initial blast at 11.15 am (0815 GMT) in the province’s Hendek district, Turkey’s disaster and emergency management directorate AFAD said in a statement, describing it as an industrial accident.

“Some 85 ambulances and two helicopters were among emergency vehicles sent to the complex,’’ Koca wrote on Twitter, adding that President Tayyip Erdogan had instructed him to go to the scene.

Video footage obtained by Reuters showed smoke billowing from the complex as firework explosions rang out and a huge plume of smoke rose into the sky.

“The initial blast was heard up to 50 km (31 miles) away.

“Turkey’s interior and labour ministers also went to Sakarya to monitor the situation,’’ state-owned Anadolu news agency said.

Edited By: Abiodun Oluleye/Maharazu Ahmed (NAN)

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Turkish top court to review status of Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia museum



Turkey’s highest administrative court will on Thursday review a petition calling for Istanbul’s iconic Hagia Sophia museum to be reconverted into a mosque.

Built by the Byzantines, it was the largest church in Christendom from the 6th century for nearly a millennium, where emperors were crowned.

It was converted into a mosque following the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople, modern-day Istanbul, in 1453 led by Sultan Mehmet II (the Conqueror).

Four minarets were added to the structure.

Its status was changed to a museum after a 1934 decree.

The court’s decision could come on Thursday or within 15 days, state news agency Anadolu reported.

Religious hardliners have long demanded that the UNESCO World Heritage Site be made a mosque again.

Before elections last year, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke of the possibility of naming it a mosque.

It is a divisive issue in Turkey, where many view Hagia Sophia’s current status as emblematic of the country’s secular constitution.

Opposition parties see the revival of the debate as Erdogan’s way of rallying his Islamic conservative base while distracting from an economic crisis and the coronavirus pandemic.

The petition being heard in the Council of State was brought by a little-known association, whose 75-year-old head, Ismail Kandemir, has been fighting for 26 years for the change.

He recently told Kanal7 TV that he has “dedicated his life” for Hagia Sophia to be reopened for Islamic prayers.

Kandemir is seeking an annulment of the decree by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the modern Turkish republic, which changed the status of the monument to a museum.

The retired teacher alleged that Ataturk’s signature on the decree was fake.

He recalled praying secretly at the Hagia Sophia in his 20s and is now determined to do so “freely”.

In May, the Koran’s al-Fath sura resounded from the monument to commemorate the 567th anniversary of the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople.

Erdogan joined the event via videoconference.

Towering over Istanbul’s skyline, its breath-taking domes seemingly afloat, Hagia Sophia is a cultural landmark for both Christians and Muslims and is visited by millions of tourists each year.

The Istanbul governor’s office said there were 3.7 million visitors in 2019 alone.

Also part of the UNESCO heritage listing from 1985 is the historic Blue Mosque, which is located across the square from Hagia Sophia.

It is open to both tourists and worshippers.

“The conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque will disappoint millions of Christians around the world and Hagia Sophia, which, due to its sacredness, is a vital centre where East is embraced with the West, will fracture these two worlds,’’ said Patriarch Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of the Orthodox Christian Church, in Istanbul on Tuesday.

In an open letter on Wednesday, scores of Byzantine and Ottoman scholars from across the world appealed: “Hagia Sophia is too beautiful a monument and too precious a historical document to serve as a pawn in regional politics’’.

They noted that there has been a room for Islamic prayer within the complex since 1991, and a full-time Imam since 2016.

“Thus, in a certain sense, Hagia Sophia is currently functioning as both a museum and a mosque,’’ they wrote.

Any change in status could inflame tensions with Greece, as Athens condemns the use of the former seat of the Greek Orthodox Church for religious purposes.

Turkey has derided Greece, saying Athens is the only European capital without a mosque.

The United States urged Turkey to maintain the site as a museum.

Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, said on Wednesday that a change in status would diminish the legacy of the monument “and its unsurpassed ability … to serve humanity as a much-needed bridge between those of differing faith traditions and cultures’’.

Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman, Hami Aksoy, responded that Hagia Sophia “like all cultural assets on our land, is the property of Turkey’’.

Turkish media have reported that Islamic prayers could be held there on July 15, the fourth anniversary of a failed coup.


Edited By: Abdulfatah Babatunde (NAN)

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Turkish forces shell areas in Syria’s Hasakah province




The Turkish forces and allied Syrian rebels fired several shells on villages in the northern countryside of Syria‘s Hasakah province in northeastern Syria on Wednesday, state news agency SANA reported.

The shelling came from a Turkey-run base in the village of Bab al-Faraj in Hasakah countryside, said the report, adding that no casualties were reported.

Meanwhile, SANA said the Turkish forces created a field shooting to train rebels on using various weapons in Hasakah.

The Turkish forces and allied Syrian rebels control several areas in northern and northeastern Syria following an offensive against Kurdish forces last October.


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Turkish businesses worried over possible 2nd wave of COVID-19 pandemic




Melih Akca’s occupational health and safety firm in Turkish capital Ankara was already struggling due to economic woes, when the novel coronavirus pandemic struck Turkey in March.

Now the business owner is worried that his firm would face more trouble due to the seemingly ceaseless pandemic.

In the last few weeks, businesses in Turkey are wary of a second wave of contagion following the government decision to lift lockdown restrictions since June 1.

Government financial support and loans were essential for many businesses to remain afloat, however, a possible new wave of COVID-19 could be fatal to some companies.

“Before the outbreak, we were already facing serious challenges because of the depreciation of the Turkish lira and a lack of demand, a second wave, due to which we have to shut down again, could be very problematic,” said Akca who employs about 10 people in his firm.

The businessman explained that a new wave of contagion would bring additional costs because of extra health measures at the workplace and new shutdowns.

“The fundamental problem is Turkey’s existing economic woes, and the pandemic has deepened the trouble,” remarked Akca whose firm is tasked to monitor, educate and control firms and employees regarding health and safety standards.

Turkey was slowly recovering from a painful recession triggered by a 2018 currency meltdown with high inflation and unemployment when the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, raising fears that current difficulties would be aggravated.

In the last 10 days, Turkey recorded between 1,200 and 1,500 new daily cases, compared with around 800-900 daily infections during the strict lockdown period.

Machinery Exporters Association Chairman Adnan Dalgakiran warned that a second wave would bring an economic crisis, a bigger threat to the country than the health crisis.

“The economy cannot survive another round of business shutdowns. We are facing this massive threat because people are not taking necessary precautions,” he said during a television interview, referring to citizens who are reluctant to wear masks and disrespect distancing rules.

In the Ostim Industrial Zone in Ankara, where around 5,000 small and medium-sized enterprises are located, businesses returned to a “new normal” in late may when the government decided to ease restrictions, but some of the companies are concerned about their future.

“I don’t think that we have seen the full scale of the coronavirus impact on businesses yet. We have to wait until the end of summer to assess the (economic) losses,” Mustafa Ozbek, manager of a car parts manufacturer, told Xinhua.

He explained that his company didn’t lay off any workers, but they may have to make the painful decision to cut workforce if demand falls in the coming months.

Turkey’s vital tourism industry, one of the worst-hit sectors during the pandemic, is also expected to fall far behind this season compared with 2019.

Xinhua correspondent contacted several touristic facilities in the popular Mediterranean resort. For the moment, there are very few foreign visitors, and the resorts are mostly operating on a capacity of only 10 percent.

But the Turkish government is optimistic about the economic recovery.

The country’s Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak said last week that Turkey is anticipating a V-shaped recovery out of the crisis and will realize its potential growth.

“Leading indicators in June give positive signals for an improvement in the economy,” he pointed out, citing growth in domestic demand and increases in consumer confidence as well as a jump in the country’s Purchasing Managers’ Index.

“Turkey has the safest tourism facilities compared with those in Europe,” Tourism and Culture Minister Mehmet Ersoy told semi-official Anadolu news agency this week.

The Turkish government has made significant efforts to revive the tourism sector, granting health certificates to hundreds of tourism facilities as revenues are essential for the vulnerable Turkish economy.


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Turkish navy conducts operational readiness training in Mediterranean




The Turkish navy carried out operational readiness training in the Mediterranean from June 22 to June 26, Turkey‘s Defense Ministry said on Saturday.

“Operational readiness training was conducted between June 22-26 by the Turkish Maritime Task Group, which is comprised of four frigates and one oiler operating in the central Mediterranean,” the ministry tweeted.

The Turkish army recently increased its exercises in the Mediterranean where tensions grow due to the conflict in Libya, and a dispute with Cyprus and Greece over offshore hydrocarbon resources.

On June 12, Turkey’s military conducted air and naval exercise in the eastern Mediterranean.


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Roundup: Iran’s COVID-19 cases exceed 212,000; Chinese, Turkish medical experts hold video conference on fighting coronavirus




Iran‘s COVID-19 cases on Wednesday exceeded 212,000. Meanwhile, Turkish and Chinese medical experts held a video conference over the prevention and treatment of the COVID-19.

Iran, which has reemerged as the hardest-hit country by the pandemic in the Middle East, reported 2,531 new cases, raising the tally of confirmed cases in the country to 212,501.

Sima Sadat Lari, spokeswoman for Iran’s Ministry of Health and Medical Education, said that 133 people died from the virus overnight, taking the death toll to 9,996.

So far, 172,096 people have recovered and 2,869 are in critical condition, said Lari.

Turkey‘s confirmed novel coronavirus cases increased by 1,492 to 191,657. The death toll surged to 5,025 after 24 more deaths were confirmed. And the total recoveries increased to 164,234.

Turkish medical experts on Wednesday held a video conference with their Chinese counterparts in central China‘s Hubei Province over the prevention and treatment of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The conference, hosted by Chinese Ambassador to Turkey Deng Li and organized by the Chinese embassy, was attended by Emine Alp Mese, deputy health minister of Turkey, and other Turkish doctors specializing in various fields.

During the meeting, doctors from China shared their experience in coronavirus quarantine, tests, as well as the normalization of life.

Saudi Arabia reported 3,123 new coronavirus cases, raising the accumulated infections to 167,267. The death toll reached 1,387.

The recoveries increased to 112,797, with the reporting of 2,912 recovered cases.

Egypt ported on Wednesday 1,420 new COVID-19 infections, raising the total cases registered in the country since mid-February to 59,561, said Egyptian Health Ministry.

On the same day, 85 patients died from the novel coronavirus, bringing the death toll to 2,450, Egyptian Health Ministry spokesman Khaled Megahed said in a statement.

The Iraqi health ministry on Wednesday warned of serious health situation, as it recorded 2,200 new COVID-19 cases, the highest daily increase since the outbreak of the disease, bringing the total number of infections nationwide to 36,702.

The ministry also confirmed 79 more deaths, raising the death toll from the infectious virus to 1,330 in the country. A total of 16,814 patients have recovered from the disease so far.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced 450 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total confirmed cases in the country to 46,133.

The Gulf country also confirmed two more deaths, pushing the country’s death toll to 307.

Kuwait reported 846 new COVID-19 cases and three more deaths, raising the tally of infections to 41,879 and the death toll to 337.

Qatar‘s health ministry on Wednesday announced 1,199 new infections of COVID-19, increasing the total number of confirmed cases in the Gulf state to 90,778.

Morocco reported 563 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the tally of infections in the country to 10,907. The death toll from the coronavirus stood at 216.

Lebanon‘s number of COVID-19 infections increased on Wednesday by 22 to 1,644 while the death toll went up by one to 33.

The health ministry continued its tests all over Lebanon including refugees’ camps in an attempt to take measures to restrict the virus’ spread.

The total number of COVID-19 cases in Yemen‘s government-controlled provinces increased to 1,015, as 23 new cases were confirmed.

Also, the Yemeni government announced that the death toll from the deadly respiratory disease climbed to 274 in different areas under its control, including the southern port city of Aden.


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Turkish, Chinese experts hold video conference over COVID-19




Turkish medical experts on Wednesday held a video conference with their Chinese counterparts in central China‘s Hubei Province over the prevention and treatment of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The conference, hosted by Chinese Ambassador to Turkey Deng Li and organized by the Chinese embassy, was attended by Emine Alp Mese, deputy health minister of Turkey, and other Turkish doctors specializing in various fields.

Doctors from China, who also joined the meeting, shared their experience in the coronavirus quarantine, tests, normalization of life and vaccine development.

Deng hailed the mutual support and cooperation between Turkey and China since the COVID-19 outbreak, stressing that multilateralism is important in fighting the global pandemic.

The Turkish deputy minister thanked China for organizing the video conference and providing helpful advice to her country, adding that Turkey is willing to work with China in developing vaccines.

Both sides pledged to continue conversation on the vaccines and treatments of COVID-19.


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Turkish entrepreneur introduces Chinese culture, lifestyle via TV series




A young Turkish entrepreneur and his team based in Turkey‘s largest city Istanbul have been introducing Chinese culture and lifestyle to Turks through Chinese TV series from a YouTube channel.

“We believe that we will better explain the social structure of China and the Chinese way of life, including what they eat and drink, to Turkish people, through visual sources,” Muhammet Demirel, a 24-year-old director of Demirel Group, told Xinhua on Tuesday.

In Demirel’s view, Chinese and Turkish people have many things in common and resembling elements in their lives, but none of them has so far precisely introduced themselves to each other.

“But, once Turks, especially young generations, would discover China and Chinese culture through novels, movies, and dramas, they would also discover how the two societies are close to each other,” Demirel continued.

He believes that after getting familiar with each other’s way of thinking and their lifestyles, the political and economic relations between the two countries will further improve significantly.

After receiving the copyrights of almost 100 Chinese TV series, the company launched its YouTube channel, Clickia TV, a week ago, and received more than 3,000 hits in the first four days.

Demirel first started to promote China in his country by translating Chinese novels into Turkish with a team of 15 people almost four years ago and published them over a website.

“But, later, we realized that Turkish people mostly prefer watching something rather than reading about it. Therefore, we have diverted our focus towards visual sources, like movies, and series to better present China,” Demirel said.

Now, a total of 35 team members, including translators and writers, have been continuously working to keep the online channel updated, posting new episodes regularly.

They have been also working to launch a mobile application and a new website in July, which would comprehend all the visuals related to China, in return for a small amount of price.

The company is planning to translate the products into English, Arabic, and French next year.

Meanwhile, for Deniz Iscan, a high school senior student, who started to be interested in Asian culture nearly two years ago, the new online portal would be a big opportunity to watch her favorite Chinese dramas.

“I was first fascinated by Chinese food culture and began to search some sources related to China,” Iscan told Xinhua on Wednesday. “But, sadly, the sources in Turkey were very limited.”

She then decided to learn Chinese at the Confucius Institute at Istanbul-based Bogazici University to be able to read Chinese authors’ books and watch Chinese movies and dramas.

Speaking of Demirel’s devotion, she said watching Chinese TV series or movies from a mobile application with Turkish subtitles would be a big opportunity for the young generation in Turkey.

“I believe that it will fill a big gap for people of my age who are eager to learn more about China,” she added.


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Verdict delayed in terror trial of German-Turkish journalist Yucel



A long-awaited verdict in the trial, in absentia, of German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yucel on terrorism-related charges on Wednesday was surprisingly delayed by an Istanbul court.
The judge said that ore time was needed to study the defence’s plea after Yucel’s lawyer, Veysel Ok, made his final arguments.
The next hearing was set for July 16.
Yucel is accused of spreading terrorist propaganda for the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and sedition.
“I expect that he will be acquitted.

“Any other verdict would be unlawful. prosecutor is seeking a sentence of 16 years in prison,” Ok said.
Yucel, the correspondent for German newspaper Die Welt, was imprisoned in the maximum-security Silivri prison in Istanbul from February 2017 to February 2018, without being charged.
His incarceration triggered a diplomatic crisis between Ankara and Berlin.

Yucel was released in February 2018 and returned to Germany.
The prosecutor included articles by Yucel published in Die Welt as evidence against him.

One of them was an interview with PKK commander Cemil Bayik.
The PKK is designated a terrorist organisation by Turkey, the EU and the United States

The prosecutor accused Yucel of portraying the group as a legitimate and political organisation.
Earlier, Turkey’s Constitutional Court ruled in a unanimous decision that his year-long pre-trial detention was unlawful.
According to the country’s Apex Court, Yucel’s right to personal freedom and security, freedom of speech, as well as freedom of the press were violated, as such, ordered financial compensation.
The judges also said that Yucel’s interview with Bayik could not be interpreted as terrorist propaganda and criticised the fact that some of his reporting had been incorrectly translated into Turkish.
In February, the prosecutor had called for Yucel’s acquittal on accusations of having contacts with followers of United States-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara accuses of masterminding a coup attempt in 2016.
However, in the same court complex, a trial started against seven Turkish journalists and a civil servant for allegedly violating intelligence laws.
The case is related to unveiling the identities of and reporting about Turkish intelligence officers who were allegedly killed in Libya.
Meanwhile, six of the journalists had been in pre-trial detention since March.

The seventh journalist was in Germany and the civil servant was also not in custody.

Edited By: Yahaya Isah/Emmanuel Yashim (NAN)

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