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Europe rights watchdog moves against Turkey over jailed philanthropist Osman Kavala

A European human rights watchdog told Turkey on Friday it was preparing “infringement proceedings” over its failure to release imprisoned philanthropist Osman Kavala, a move that could lead to Ankara’s suspension from the body.

The Council of Europe’s warning, issued in line with a 2019 ruling from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), prompted Turkey to accuse the Strasbourg-based body of meddling in the workings of its independent courts.

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Last week a Turkish court ruled to keep Kavala in prison, extending his four-year detention without conviction in a trial which has added to strains in Ankara’s troubled relations with its Western allies.

“By failing to ensure the applicant’s immediate release, the Committee (of Ministers) considers that Turkey is refusing to abide by the Court’s (ECHR’s) final judgment in this case,” the Council of Europe statement said.

The Council asked Ankara to submit its view on the case by Jan 19, 2022 and the issue will be referred to the ECHR at its subsequent meeting on Feb. 2, it said.

Ruling

The ECHR ruled in 2019 that Kavala’s detention was political and called for his immediate release over a lack of reasonable suspicion that he committed an offence and ruling his detention served to silence him. Turkey has not complied with the ruling.

The Council’s Committee of Ministers, which oversees implementation of ECHR decisions, has repeatedly called on Turkey to release Kavala in line with the ruling.

Turkey’s foreign ministry criticized the Committee’s move.

“(We) invite the CoE to refrain from continuing with this decision that will have the quality of interfering with the independent judiciary,” it said.

Kavala’s trial has been criticized as politically motivated and symbolic of a crackdown on dissent under President Tayyip Erdogan. The government rejects this and says Turkey’s courts are independent.

Last month Erdogan threatened to expel the ambassadors of 10 countries, including the United States, Germany and France, after they echoed the ECHR ruling that Kavala should be freed.

Kavala was acquitted last year of charges related to nationwide protests in 2013, but the ruling was overturned this year and combined with charges in another case related to a coup attempt in 2016. He has denied any wrongdoing.

If the court finds a violation, the Committee of Ministers can begin considering which measures should be taken. Turkey’s membership or voting rights at the CoE could be suspended at the end of the proceedings.

The CoE also urged Turkey to ensure the immediate release of Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtas, ex-leader of Turkey’s third largest parliamentary party, who has been jailed pending trial since November 2016 on terrorism-related charges.

The Council of Europe, established after World War Two, has limited powers. Its Committee of Ministers is composed of the foreign ministers of the organization’s 47 member states.

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US: Bodies of two of three missing kids found in Minnesota lake

The bodies of two young children have been recovered from a Minnesota lake, and searchers are still looking for a third they fear may have been intentionally drowned.

Meanwhile, the father of the children died at a different location hours earlier, and their mother is missing. Names have not been released.

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The chain of events began Friday morning when the father was found dead at a mobile home park in the town of Maplewood, near Minneapolis. Police determined that the woman had left with the children, and a search began.

Maplewood Police Lt. Joe Steiner said the woman’s car was found near Vadnais Lake around 4 p.m. Friday. The shoes of the children were found on the shore.

A search of the lake found one child’s body Friday evening. A second body was found overnight. Searchers from several organizations were busy Saturday looking for the third, as well as the mother.

Authorities believe all three children were under the age of 5.

“There’s nothing more tragic than the loss of young children,” Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher said at a news conference on Friday. He called the deaths a “likely triple homicide.”

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Foreign firefighters arrive in Greece for summer wildfire season

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Foreign firefighters arrive in Greece for summer wildfire season

Several dozen Romanian and Bulgarian firefighters took up their posts in Greece on Saturday, the first members of a European force being deployed to the country to provide backup in case of major wildfires during the summer.

More than 200 firefighters and equipment from Bulgaria, France, Germany, Romania, Norway and Finland will be on standby during the hottest months of July and August in Greece, where a spate of wildfires caused devastation last summer.

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A group of 28 Romanian firefighters with eight vehicles, and 16 firefighters from Bulgaria with four vehicles, were the first to arrive for the two-month mission, financed and coordinated under the European Union’s civil protection mechanism.

“We thank you very much for coming to help us during a difficult summer for our country, and for proving that European solidarity is not just theoretical, it’s real,” Greek Civil Protection Minister Christos Stylianides said on Saturday as he welcomed the members of the Romanian mission in Athens.

“When things get tough, you will be side by side with our Greek firefighters so we can save lives and property.”

The Bulgarian firefighters have been stationed in Larissa, in central Greece.

Last summer’s wildfires ravaged about 300,000 acres (121,000 hectares) of forest and bushland in different parts of Greece as the country experienced its worst heatwave in 30 years.

Following sharp criticism of its response to the fires, the Greek government set up a new civil protection ministry and promised to boost firefighting capacities.

In Greece’s worst wildfire disaster, 102 people were killed when a blaze tore through the seaside town of Mati and nearby areas close to Athens during the summer of 2018.

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One killed, six injured in shootout between migrant groups in Serbia

One migrant was killed and at least six others, including a teenage girl, were injured Saturday in a shootout between migrant groups in Serbia near the Hungarian border, the state-run RTS television reported.

The 16-year-old girl sustained life threatening injuries in the incident that occurred in a forest in the outskirts of Subotica, some 160 kilometers (100 miles) north of Belgrade, where the injured were hospitalized, RTS reported.

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Police, who made no immediate comment, blocked access to the forest where the incident took place, only around a kilometer from the Hungarian border.

Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin rushed to the scene.

The injured, aged between 20 and 30, have no documents, Subotica mayor Stevan Bakic told local media.

It is not known what triggered the incident, he added.

Local media reported that the shootout occurred between Afghan and Pakistani migrants most likely over human trafficking from the area to European Union member Hungary.

Serbia lies on the so-called Balkans route used by migrants heading towards Western Europe as they flee war and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

Although the route is nowhere as busy as it was during Europe’s migrant crisis in 2015, tens of thousands of illegal migrants still cross the region annually.

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