Iraqi pilgrims protest corruption during Arbaeen march

More than 2 million Iranians and other Shiites joined the commemoration. (AFP)
Updated 20 October 2019

Iraqi pilgrims protest corruption during Arbaeen march

  • More than 2 million Iranians and other Shiites joined the commemoration
  • Arbaeen is considered the largest annual public gathering in the world

KARBALA: Thousands of Iraqis chanted anti-corruption slogans during the Arbaeen pilgrimage to the city of Karbala on Saturday, responding to firebrand cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr’s call to keep up anti-government protests.
Amid the throngs of black-clad pilgrims mourning the 7th-century death of Imam Hussein, Sadr supporters dressed in white demanded “No, to corruption!” and “Yes, to reform!.”
Waving Iraqi flags, they chanted “Baghdad free, corrupt ones out!”
Sadr, whose list emerged as the largest bloc in parliamentary elections last year, helped Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi to form his government. But on Tuesday he called on Twitter for his supporters to march in shrouds.
Iraq — the second-largest OPEC oil producer — is “a rich country where the people are poor,” Khedheir Naim told AFP. The grey-bearded man came from the southern oil city of Basra to join the world’s largest Shiite pilgrimage, which culminated on Saturday. He denounced corrupt leaders, who according to official figures pocketed €410 billion over the past 16 years.
“Unfortunately, tyrants and criminals live handsomely at the expense of the people,” Naim said.

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3.5m - people — mostly Iranians — officially entered Iraq by land borders by Friday, despite warnings from Iranian authorities for pilgrims to delay traveling.

Denouncing corruption has been a primary theme of the protest movement shaking Iraq, alongside demands for jobs and functional services. In a single week of protests at the start of the month, 110 people were killed and 6,000 injured, according to official figures.
Calls have been made for fresh marches on October 25, to mark the anniversary of the government that is the focus of public anger.
The annual Arbaeen pilgrimage sees millions of worshippers, mostly Iraqis and Iranians, converge by foot on Karbala, 100 km south of Baghdad.
Arbaeen marks the end of the 40-day mourning period for the killing of Imam Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, by the forces of the Caliph Yazid in 680 AD.
Placards with anti-US and anti-Israel messages are often seen in the crowd, though anti-corruption slogans are rare.
Despite warnings from Iranian authorities for pilgrims to delay traveling, 3.5 million people — mostly Iranians — officially entered Iraq by land borders by Friday.


Turkish police arrest journalist Altan a week after his release

Updated 13 November 2019

Turkish police arrest journalist Altan a week after his release

  • Altan and the others deny the charges against them
  • On Tuesday a higher court overruled the decision to release Altan, ordering his arrest on grounds that there was a risk of him fleeing

ISTANBUL: Turkish police detained prominent journalist and author Ahmet Altan late on Tuesday, a week after he was released from prison in his retrial on coup-related charges, Istanbul police said.

Before his release last Monday, the 69-year-old had been in jail since his arrest in 2016, two months after an attempted coup which Ankara says was orchestrated by the network of US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen.

The journalist’s case has drawn criticism from human rights groups and Turkey’s Western allies. They are concerned by the scale of a post-coup crackdown against suspected Gulen supporters under President Tayyip Erdogan.

Altan smiled and waved as he was driven away by counter-terror squad police officers after being taken from his home in Istanbul, video and photos published by Turkish media showed.

He was taken to Istanbul police headquarters after a hospital check-up, state-owned Anadolu news agency reported.

Altan, his brother and other journalists were previously sentenced to life in jail for aiding Gulen’s network. Last week he was convicted again in a retrial, but released from jail given the time served.

Altan and the others deny the charges against them.

On Tuesday a higher court overruled the decision to release Altan, ordering his arrest on grounds that there was a risk of him fleeing, Anadolu reported.

Under last week’s verdict, Altan was sentenced to 10 years and six months in jail. Turkey’s high court had overruled the previous life sentences against him in July, sending the file back for re-trial.

Erdogan’s government has jailed more than 77,000 people pending trial since the failed putsch. Widespread arrests are still routine in a crackdown critics say demonstrates growing autocracy in Turkey.

Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999, and his followers deny any involvement in the coup. Turkey has repeatedly called on the United States to extradite the cleric.

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