Can Dündar, the former editor-in-chief of newspaper Cumhuriyet, was convicted Dec. 30 on charges of terrorism in Turkey and sentenced in absentia. The Istanbul court found Dündar guilty of aiding a terrorist organization and espionage, sentencing him to 27 years and six months in prison. Dündar was first sentenced to five years in 2016 on espionage charges and attempting to overthrow the government for publishing footage that allegedly showed Turkey's state intelligence agency transporting weapons to Syrian rebels in 2014. Dündar was later released when the matter went to appeal. Upon his release, Dündar fled the country while another Turkish court ordered the seizure of his property and froze his bank accounts in October. He is now living in exile in Germany.
In Episode 59 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg takes stock of Trump's evident preparation for a coup d'etat and what could be a culminating moment for the current crisis of American democracy. In the context of this dilemma, he discusses two very timely new books with similar titles that both examine the mechanics by which dictators seize and maintain power: Strongman: The Rise of Five Dictators and the Fall of Democracy by Kenneth C. Davis and Strongmen: Mussolini to the Present by Ruth Ben-Ghiat.
Iranian diplomat Assadollah Assadi and three Iranian-Belgians went on trial in Antwerp, Belgium, on Nov. 27, marking the first time an EU country has put an Iranian official on trial for terrorism. The four have been charged with planning an attack on a rally of the Paris-based National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) in 2018. The NCRI is the political wing of the exiled Iranian opposition group, Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MEK), which is seeking to overthrow the Islamic Republic. Assadi served at Tehran's embassy in Vienna and is believed to have been working for Iran's Intelligence Ministry.
The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) on Nov. 19 ruled that foreign military draft evaders may be entitled to asylum in the EU. In what was technically a preliminary ruling in an ongoing case, the court held that there is a "strong presumption" that people escaping military service under authoritarian regimes are entitled to asylum, if evasion is motivated by "political opinions, religious beliefs or...by membership of a particular social group." The ruling follows a referral from the Administrative Court (Verwaltungsgericht) of Hanover, Germany, seeking an interpretation of the EU Directive on International Protection. The Directive provides the standards for the qualification of third-country nationals or stateless persons to be beneficiary of international protection in the European Union.
Hundreds of demonstrators confronted riot police in central Berlin the night of Oct. 9 to protest the eviction of one of the city's few remaining squats, a symbol of the German capital's once-thriving alternative scene. Hundreds of police were mobilized to remove residents of the Liebig34 squat in the hip and gentrifying Friedrichshain district of the former East Berlin. The eviction itself went off peacefully—but after dark, ranks of masked and black-clad protesters marched in a driving rain from the central Mitte shopping district with a banner: "Defend free spaces, remain on the offensive." Shop windows were smashed and cars set ablaze. Police charges were met with barrages of pelted bottles.
Hundreds of far-right protesters broke through police barriers and tried to force their way into the German parliament building in Berlin on Aug. 29. Many were waving the black, white and red flag of the pre-1918 German Empire that once inspired the Nazis. "The fact that Nazis with imperial war flags try to storm the Bundestag recalls the darkest period in German history," said Robert Habeck, co-leader of Germany's Greens party. The action came as part of a broader demonstration against Germany's pandemic restrictions. The protest, bringing out many so-called "Corona Truthers" who deny the pandemic altogether, was organized by right-wing parties including the anti-immigrant Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) and the deceptively named National Democratic Party (NPD), which is openly neo-Nazi. Some carried signs reading "Trump, please help," and proffered conspiracy theories about Bill Gates seeking forced vaccinations. There were also many images of hearts, flowers, globes and other such feel-good symbols. Among the speakers was Robert F. Kennedy Jr, who ironically Nazi-baited German Chancellor Angela Merkel, saying: "Today Berlin is once again the front against totalitarianism." (DW, AP, NYT, Daily Kos)
The trial of an accused former high-ranking ISIS member charged with taking part in the genocide of the Yazidi people of northern Iraq opened in Frankfurt April 24. The suspect, identified only as Taha al-J., is under indictment in the murder of a five-year-old girl who he had "purchased" along with her mother at a "slave market" in 2015. The girl is said to have died of thirst while chained up for hours in blazing heat as "punishment" for having wet the bed. The girl, named Rania, was taken captive with her mother when ISIS seized the Yazidi enclave of Sinjar in 2014. They changed hands repeatedly before ending up as slaves in the home of the accused in Fallujah. The suspect faces charges of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and human trafficking.
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled April 2 that Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic failed to uphold their obligations regarding refugee quotas as required by law. The countries could face financial penalties for their actions. In 2015 EU leaders established a refugee relocation program in response to the large numbers of asylum-seekers from war-torn Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East. EU countries were supposed to apportion a share of asylum-seekers among those that arrived in Greece and Italy. Poland and the Czech Republic, according to the ECJ, "failed to fulfill their obligations under European Union law" by not accepting the number of refugees they had promised.