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Monday, August 5, 2013

Turkey Convicts Dozens of Plotting to Overthrow Erdogan

Around 250 people were convicted of plotting to overthrow Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s government in a secularist-military coup, ending the five-year trial that helped Erdogan bring the military to heel. They had been accused of plotting high profile attacks, meant to destabilize the government and prompt a military coup, allegedly as part of an ultranationalist gang called Ergenekon.

Among the defendants were military officers, politicians (three of them serving opposition parliamentarians), academics and journalists, all of whom deny the charges. Retired military chief General Ilkter Basbug was sentenced to life in prison, as were the leader of the nationalist, left-wing Workers Party and a well-respected journalist.

Defense lawyers booed as the verdicts were read; half stormed out. Tens of thousands of protesters clashed with police forces as they attempted to march to the High Criminal Court.

Secret DEA Unit Told To Cover Up Investigations’ Beginnings

A secretive DEA unit called the Special Operations Division (SOD) has been funneling  information from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of phone records, to help authorities launch criminal investigations against Americans throughout the United States.  These cases rarely are matters of national security.

Nevertheless, federal agents are told to actively conceal the source of their information from defense lawyers and sometimes even prosecutors and judges. They “recreate” the investigative trail using “normal” techniques to hide where the intelligence originated. This likely violates the defendant’s right to a fair trial – if they do not know how an investigation began, they have no source for exculpatory evidence.

Al-Qaeda Leader’s Edict to Yemen Affiliate Closed Embassies

At least 19 US embassies in the Middle East and North Africa will remain closed for the rest of the week due to intercepted electronic communications in which the head of al-Qaeda in Pakistan ordered the leader of the group’s Yemeni affiliate to carry out terrorist attacks yesterday.  It is rare for al-Qaeda’s leaders to discuss operational matters with any of the group’s affiliates. The specific nature of the attacks, their imminence and a lack of details about the intended target led to the decision to close the embassies last week. It was the most “serious chatter” since the lead-up to 9/11.

Politicians supportive of the NSA’s spying programs immediately used the news to underscore their importance. They glossed over the distinction between spying on known terrorists on international soil and collecting the private information of millions of American citizens.

Opposition To Go To Court After Zimbabwe Vote

After President Robert Mugabe won Zimbabwe’s recent election in a landslide, Prime Minister Morgan Tsivangirai says he is preparing to mount a legal and political battle against the “sham” election. He has called on his party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) to boycott government institutions and said they would no longer work with Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party.

Objective observers disagreed on whether or not the election was fair. Although all of them noted the lack of violence in the lead-up to the election, dozens of MDC supporters claim to have been attacked by members of the Zanu-PF after the results were announced. On the first trading day after the vote, Zimbabwe’s stock market plunged.

Egypt and Syria Updates

Egypt: The international community ramped up its diplomatic efforts as representatives from the EU, US and Gulf met with the Muslim Brotherhood’s deputy leader, Khairat al-Shater, who is currently in jail. The Brotherhood, however, said it would not “swallow reality” and would accept nothing except deposed President Mohammed Morsi’s full reinstatement.

Syria: Rebels successfully took villages in regime’s heartland; President Bashar al-Assad declared the revolution a failure.  Meanwhile, Syrians in refugee camps are now trying to flee those as well, due to rife organized crime, rape and the forced recruitment of teenage boys as soldiers.

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