COLOMBO MAGISTRATE DISCHARGES USTHAZ HAJJUL AKBAR
Colombo magistrate on February 8 discharged Usthaz Rasheed Hajjul Akbar, former president of Sri Lanka Jamaathe Islami, from all charges against him. When his Fundamental Rights Violation application was taken up for hearing at the Supreme Court recently, the Attorney General Department informed the court that it had advised the Terrorist Investigation Division of the Police to withdraw all the charges against him. Consequently, he was discharged by the magistrate on February 8. Presidential Commission of Inquiries on Easter Sunday attacks had made certain charges against him based on evidences placed before it and recommended further inquiries and instituting legal action against him. Subsequently he was arrested and detained for investigation. He challenged his arrest and detention at the Supreme Court as illegal and violation of his Fundamental Rights. As an interim relief he was released on bail in January 2022 and on February 8 discharged from all charges.
24,600 KILLED IN POWERFUL EARTHQUAKES IN TÜRKIYE, 3,553 IN SYRIA
Turkish Vice President FuatOktay on February 11 said that at least 24,617 people were killed by two strong earthquakes that jolted southern Türkiye earlier this week. Oktay said 32,071 search and rescue teams continue to work. Also, at least 3,553 people have been killed and thousands injured in Syria from a series of powerful earthquakes on February 6. The 7.7- and 7.6-magnitude quakes, centred in Kahramanmaras province of Türkiye, were felt on February 6 by 13 million people across 10 provinces, including Adana, Adiyaman, Diyarbakir, Gaziantep, Hatay, Kilis, Malatya, Osmaniye and Sanliurfa. Several countries in the region, including Syria and Lebanon, felt the strong tremors that struck Türkiye in the space of less than 10 hours. At least 218,406 search and rescue personnel were working in the field, according to the AFAD statement. The Turkish parliament approved a three-month state of emergency on February 9 to speed up aid efforts. The country is also observing seven days of national mourning in the wake of the disaster.
TÜRKIYE-ARMENIA GATE OPENS FIRST TIME IN DECADES TO ALLOW AID
A border gate between long-feuding Türkiye and Armenia has been opened for the first time in 35 years to allow aid for victims of the devastating earthquakes in southern Türkiye, a report said on February 12. Türkiye’s special envoy for Armenia, Serdar Kilic, tweeted photos of trucks passing through the Alican checkpoint at the Turkish side of the Aras river separating the two countries. “I will always remember the generous aid sent by the people of Armenia to help alleviate the sufferings of our people in the earthquake stricken region in Turkey,” Kilic said, thanking Armenian officials. The crossing was last used to send aid from the Turkish Red Crescent to earthquake-hit Armenia in 1988. Last year, Turkish and Armenian leaders met informally at a European summit, following a meeting by their foreign ministers, in efforts to mend decades of animosity.
TÜRKIYE POLICE DETAINS 12 OVER POOR QUALITY OF HOUSING
Turkish police have detained 12 people deemed responsible for the collapse of buildings in Türkiye’s south-eastern provinces affected by this week’s earthquake, as authorities launch a series of investigations over a leading cause of the structures’ instability. Following the deadly earthquakes on February 6, which has so far killed over 27,000 people throughout Türkiye and Syria and destroyed at least 6,000 buildings, many expressed outrage at the poor quality and standards of housing in the impacted areas which contributed to their easy collapse. According to the news agency DHA, those taken into custody included contractors involved in the construction or approvement of the buildings. One of those contractors apprehended by Turkish police on February 11 was responsible for a block of high-rise luxury apartments in Hatay province, which collapsed. He was reportedly detained at Istanbul airport while attempting to flee the country. Another one detained was a contractor for a building in Gaziantep, who was also found by police in Istanbul. There are expected to be more nationwide arrests and detentions in coming days and weeks, as part of a wave of investigations launched by prosecutors in provinces impacted by the earthquakes.
CHARLIE HEBDO SPARKS OUTRAGE OVER CARTOON MOCKING DISASTER
The French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo has come under fire for publishing a cartoon which mocked the devastating earthquakes which hit Turkey and Syria on February 6. Shared as the “drawing of the day” on its Twitter account, the cartoon by artist Juin showed a damaged building, a toppled car and a heap of rubble with the caption: “No need to send tanks.” Social media users slammed the magazine for mocking the disaster, which has claimed thousands of lives and injured many others. Users said that the illustration was “insensitive”, made in “poor taste” and goes beyond the accepted threshold of “clever jokes and dark humour”. Prominent Imam, Omar Suleiman, from the Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research, also tweeted about the publication stating the cartoon “dehumanizes” Muslims as victims in “every way”.
IRAN MARKS 44TH ANNIVERSARY OF REVOLUTION
The Islamic Republic of Iran marked the 44th anniversary of the revolution on February 11 with state-organised rallies, as anti-government hackers briefly interrupted a televised speech by President Ebrahim Raisi. Raisi, whose hardline government faces one of the boldest challenges from young protesters calling for its ouster, appealed to the “deceived youth” to repent so they can be pardoned by Iran’s supreme leader. In that case, he told a crowd congregated at Tehran’s expansive Azadi Square: “the Iranian people will embrace them with open arms”. His live televised speech was interrupted on the internet for about a minute, with a logo appearing on the screen of a group of anti-Iranian government hackers. As part of an amnesty marking the revolution’s anniversary, Iranian authorities on February 10 released jailed dissident FarhadMeysami, who had been on a hunger strike, and Iranian-French academic FaribaAdelkhah. On February 12, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei issued an amnesty covering a large number of prisoners including some arrested in recent anti-government protests.
RAINWATER LEAKAGE, FLOOR CAVE-IN REPORTED AT AL-AQSA MOSQUE
Palestinian officials at the Al-Aqsa Mosque reported that rainwater was leaking and a number of floor tiles collapsed inside the Mosque compound on February 8, The Palestine Information Centre reports. According to the officials, rainwater leaked in the morning into the Aqsa Mosque’s Marwani prayer building from holes in its roof and several floor tiles caved in near Al-Ghawanmeh Gate. The officials affirmed that the Israeli restrictions on restoration works at the Mosque, and the underground digging under its foundations were the reasons for such problems. In this regard, Sheikh NajehBakirat, deputy head of the Islamic Awqaf Administration in Occupied Jerusalem, warned that the Israeli Occupation Authority’s (IOA) refusal to allow the Islamic Awqaf to carry out renovations to the Aqsa Mosque’s prayer buildings and premises constitutes a great danger to its existence. Sheikh Bakirat held the IOA fully responsible for any harm coming to the Aqsa Mosque and appealed to international heritage organisations to take action to save the Mosque.