By Aamir Latif</p> <p>KARACHI, Pakistan (AA) – A Pakistani court on Thursday handed down life sentences to two accused for their involvement in 2017 lynching of a university student over blasphemy claims, local media reported.</p> <p>According to broadcaster Geo News, an anti-terrorism court in northwestern Peshawar city found the two — Arif Khan, a city councilor belonging to ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, and Mohammad Asad — guilty of being involved in inciting the mob that led to lynching of the student.</p> <p>The judge acquitted another two accused for lack of evidence, the broadcaster said.</p> <p>The convicts can challenge the judgment in the high court within next seven days.</p> <p>Mashaal Khan, 23, a student of Wali Khan University Mardan was lynched by an angry mob at the campus in April 2017 after he was accused of committing blasphemy, which later was proved untrue.</p> <p>Last year, another anti-terrorism court had handed down death penalty to the prime accused and life term to another five for their involvement in the lynching.</p> <p>The fresh verdict came a day after a college student stabbed a professor to death for alleged “anti-Islam” remarks in northeastern Bahawalpur district.</p> <p>Blasphemy against Islam and Prophet Muhammad is a criminal offense that can carry the death penalty in Pakistan. While the state has never executed anyone under the law, mere allegations have stirred mass protests and violence.</p> <p>Rights group observe that the blasphemy law is often exploited to settle personal scores against religious minorities and should be annulled.</p> <p>There are nearly 600 cases of blasphemy pending in the courts, two-thirds of which involve Muslims, according to the local media.
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By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal
LONDON (AA) – The life sentence handed to a British academic, who was accused of spying for the U.K. in the United Arab Emirates, is “shocking,” British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said on Wednesday.
“I am deeply shocked and disappointed by the verdict today,” Hunt said.
Matthew Hedges, 31, a PhD student from Durham University, has been in a UAE prison for more than six months after he was arrested while leaving the country.
On Wednesday, Abu Dhabi’s Federal Appeals Court sentenced the British academic to life in prison after convicting him of spying and providing foreign parties with sensitive information, the United Arab Emirates (UAE)-based Al-Ain website reported on Wednesday.
Hedges was arrested at the Dubai International Airport in May before boarding a flight to the U.K. after a two-week working visit to the UAE, according to the website.
He worked on the effects of Arab Spring on the UAE’s foreign policies as a subject for a thesis, according to the local media reports.
In October, the Emirati authorities referred Hedges to Abu Dhabi’s Federal Appeals Court on charges of “passing on sensitive military, political and economic information to a foreign entity”.
“I have personally raised the case of Matthew Hedges at the highest levels of the UAE government, including during my visit to Abu Dhabi on 12 November,” Hunt said in a statement.
Reminding that he spoke of the case with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed and Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed, Hunt said “today’s verdict is not what we expect from a friend and trusted partner of the United Kingdom and runs contrary to earlier assurances.”
Hunt said the UK’s consular officials “have been in close contact with Matthew Hedges and his family.”
“We will continue to do everything possible to support him.”
Hunt said he has “repeatedly made clear that the handling of this case by the UAE authorities will have repercussions for the relationship between our two countries, which has to be built on trust.”
“I regret the fact that we have reached this position and I urge the UAE to reconsider,” he added.
By Ali Cevahir Akturk
ISTANBUL (AA) – A criminal high court in Istanbul on Tuesday sentenced a convict to two life terms after he confessed to murdering a Syrian anti-Assad activist and her young journalist daughter, according to a judicial source.
Ahmad Barakat was given a life term in prison for the deliberate killing of 60-year-old Orouba Barakat.
The court also sentenced the convict to an aggravated life sentence on the charges of deliberate killing with the aim of covering up a crime and tampering with evidence, the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to restrictions on talking to the media, said.
Orouba Barakat and her 22-year-old daughter Halla were found dead in their apartment in Uskudar, a neighborhood on the Asian shore of the Bosphorus, on Sept. 22, 2017.
The convict was arrested in northwestern Bursa province on Sept. 30 after he was spotted in a security footage recovered from an apartment building, a police source said.
The indictment said the convict confessed to killing the mother when she refused to give him money and later murdered her daughter as well to remove all witnesses to his crime.
He also said he came to Turkey after fleeing the civil war in Syria and would sometimes meet with the two women, who were his relatives.
Orouba Barakat was a human rights activist who had opposed the Syrian regimes of Hafez al-Assad and Bashar al-Assad since the 1980s, according to the Syrian Revolution Network, an opposition media group.
The deaths were not the first tragedy to hit the Barakat family in recent years.
In February 2015, Deah Barakat, a close relative of the murdered women, was shot dead alongside his wife and her sister in the U.S. state of North Carolina.
The son of Shaza Barakat, Orouba Barakat's sister, was also killed by the regime in Syria.
By Durmus Genc
MUGLA, Turkey (AA) – Two former Turkish naval officers got life sentences late Wednesday for violating the Constitution during last year's defeated coup by the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO).
Former Rear Adm. Namik Alper, FETO’s so-called “martial law commander” in the southwestern province of Mugla, and former Col. Aytunc Kan were convicted by Mugla’s 2nd Heavy Penal Court of trying to overthrow Turkey’s constitutional order through violence as part of the coup bid.
The court said the crime of attempting to overthrow the Constitution includes attempts to overthrow and hinder parliament and the government.
Halit Cokan, a prime ministry lawyer, told reporters following the conviction that this is the first time a court has judged one of the so-called martial law commanders, who would have been expected to exercise authority if the illegal putsch had succeeded.
The Fetullah Terrorist Organization and its U.S.-based leader Fetullah Gulen orchestrated the defeated coup of July 15, 2016, which left 250 people martyred and nearly 2,200 injured.
Ankara also accuses FETO of being behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police, and judiciary.
By Sayyid Fathi and Mustafa Eid
CAIRO (AA) – Egypt’s highest appellate court on Saturday upheld a life sentence against Mohamed Morsi, the country’s first democratically-elected president who was ousted in a military coup in mid-2013, according to a local judicial source.
The court also upheld death sentences handed down earlier against three other defendants, who, like Morsi, were convicted of spying for Qatar during Morsi’s brief stint as president from mid-2012 to mid-2013.
In August of last year, seven defendants in the case, including the former president, lodged appeals against the sentences, which had been handed down two months earlier by the Cairo Criminal Court.
The case involves a total of 11 defendants (four of whom are being tried in absentia) charged with spying for a “foreign state” and affiliation with an “outlawed group” — the latter referring to Egypt’s banned Muslim Brotherhood of which Morsi had been a leading member.
A number of the defendants in the case had worked for Qatari news broadcaster Al Jazeera during or after Morsi’s brief tenure in office.
In June of last year, the Cairo Criminal Court slapped Morsi with 40 years in prison for “spying for Qatar” — a sentence tantamount to life behind bars.
The same court sentenced six other defendants (three of whom were tried in absentia) to death, while the rest received jail terms of varying lengths.
The 2013 coup was followed by a harsh police crackdown — which remains ongoing — on Morsi’s supporters and members of his Muslim Brotherhood group, hundreds of whom have been killed and thousands more detained by the post-coup authorities.
By Sayyed Fathi
CAIRO (AA) – An Egyptian court on Thursday jailed 18 people convicted earlier of “inciting violence” and attempting to storm a police station two years ago, according to a local judicial source.
“The criminal court of Zagazig [capital of Egypt’s northern Sharqiya province] sentenced 15 people — in absentia — to life behind bars and three others to 15 years in prison,” the source told Anadolu Agency anonymously due to restrictions on talking to media.
“Another 18 were acquitted due to a lack of evidence,” the source said.
The defendants had been charged with “inciting violence” and attempting to storm a Sharqiya police station in early 2015.
Gouda Azab, a lawyer for the defendants, said the sentences could still be appealed and that those who had been tried in absentia would receive retrials if they turned themselves in to the authorities.
“The charges against the defendants are false; most are based on false claims,” the lawyer asserted.
Egypt has been wracked by turmoil since mid-2013, when the army ousted and imprisoned Mohamed Morsi, the country’s first freely-elected president and a leading member of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood group.
Since the 2013 coup, the Egyptian authorities have waged a relentless crackdown on Brotherhood members and Morsi’s supporters, killing hundreds and throwing tens of thousands behind bars.
In late 2013, Egypt’s post-coup authorities outlawed the Brotherhood, designating it as a “terrorist organization”.
By Cemal Asan
VAN, Turkey (AA) – Prosecutors are seeking life in prison for an opposition party co-leader on charges of disrupting the unity and territorial integrity of the state and spreading terrorist propaganda, according to judicial sources.
A court Thursday accepted an indictment prepared by the public prosecutor’s office in the eastern Van province calling for Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Co-Chair Figen Yuksekdag to serve life in prison, said the sources, who asked not to be named due to restrictions on speaking to the media.
In the indictment, Yuksekdag was also accused of supporting a declaration of “self-rule” in Van.
Last November, in a separate indictment, Van prosecutors filed the same charges against Yuksekdag, in addition to being a member of an armed organization, stemming from an October 2015 campaign speech in which she reportedly referred to slain PKK terrorists as martyrs.
Last month, 13 HDP lawmakers were arrested, and 10 of them, including Co-Chairs Yuksekdag and Selahattin Demirtas, remain in custody awaiting trial on terrorism-related charges.
The lawmakers face prosecution under anti-terrorism legislation after their parliamentary immunity was lifted earlier this year.
The government has accused the HDP of having links to the PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S., and the EU.
By Muhammet Mutaf
ERZURUM, Turkey (AA) – In the first-ever conviction of Fetullah Terror Organization (FETO) members for their role in the defeated July 15 coup, a court in eastern Turkey Thursday gave two ex-army officers aggravated life sentences.
After convicting them of attempting to overthrow the constitutional order, Erzurum’s 2nd Criminal Court sentenced former Colonel Murat Kocak and former Major Murat Yilmaz to life in prison.
The defendants, who were on duty in Erzurum the day of the coup, claimed innocence.
According to Turkey’s government, U.S.-based FETO leader Fetullah Gulen masterminded the July 15 defeated coup in Turkey, which left 248 people martyred and nearly 2,200 injured.
Ankara has also said FETO is behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police, and judiciary.
In the wake of the coup attempt, tens of thousands FETO suspects have been arrested, including many in the armed forces, police, justice system, and education sector.
By Hussein Qabbani
CAIRO (AA) – Egypt’s highest appellate court Tuesday overturned a life sentence against former president Mohamed Morsi for conspiring with Palestinian group Hamas and ordered a retrial.
Morsi, along with 16 leading members of his Muslim Brotherhood group, were slapped with a life sentence each for allegedly conspiring with Hamas to carry out terrorist attacks.
Sixteen Brotherhood leaders were sentenced to death and two others were given seven years in prison in the same case.
On Tuesday, however, Egypt’s Court of Cassation accepted an appeal filed by Morsi and his co-defendants against the sentences and ordered a retrial, a judicial source told Anadolu Agency on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to media.
Last week, the same court overturned a death sentence against Morsi on charges of taking part in a mass jailbreak during a 2011 uprising that forced autocratic president Hosni Mubarak to step down after 30 years in power.
Egypt’s first freely elected leader, Morsi was ousted by the military in mid-2013 — after only one year in office — following protests against his presidency.
He is currently serving out three lengthy jail terms for allegedly “killing protesters” and “spying” for Qatar.
He also continues to face charges of “insulting Egypt’s judiciary”.
Like his co-defendants, Morsi maintains that all the charges against him are politically motivated.