Turkey tries to shed light on White Helmets founder’s death

People leave the Forensic Medicine Institute where an autopsy and other procedures were underway for British army officer James Le Mesurier who helped found the "White Helmets" volunteer organization in Syria, in Istanbul, Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019. (AP)
Updated 12 November 2019

Turkey tries to shed light on White Helmets founder’s death

  • James Le Mesurier’s body was found near his home in Istanbul early Monday
  • Turkish police believe he fell to his death from his home and are investigating the circumstances

ANKARA: Turkish officials were performing an autopsy and other procedures Tuesday as they tried to understand how a former British officer who helped found the White Helmets volunteer aid group in Syria died.
James Le Mesurier’s body was found near his home in Istanbul early Monday by worshippers on their way to morning prayers. Turkish police believe he fell to his death from his home and are investigating the circumstances. Last week a top Russian official had claimed he was a spy, something Britain strongly denies.
The Istanbul chief prosecutor’s office said an autopsy and other procedures were underway at Istanbul’s Forensic Medicine Institute to determine “the exact cause” of his death. It also said police were still in the process of gathering security camera recordings near the scene and assessing them.
Earlier, Istanbul governor Ali Yerlikaya told reporters: “Our chief prosecutor’s office, our police are engaged in multifaceted efforts to shed light on the incident.”
Le Mesurier was the founder and CEO of May Day Rescue, which established and trained the White Helmets, also known as the Syria Civil Defense, a group of local humanitarian volunteers.
The group, which has had more than 3,000 volunteers in opposition-held areas, says it has saved thousands of lives since 2013 and documented Syrian government attacks on civilians and other infrastructure. The group has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, but has not won.
Last week, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova accused Le Mesurier of being a former British agent working in the Balkans and the Middle East. She alleged he had “been spotted all around the world, including in the Balkans and the Middle East.”
Karen Pierce, Britain’s ambassador to the United Nations, denied those allegations Monday, saying “the Russian charges against him, that came out of Foreign Ministry that he was a spy, are categorically untrue.”
She also said Britain would be “looking very closely” at the Turkish authorities’ investigation into Le Mesurier’s death.
Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency reported that he was 48 and had moved to Turkey with his wife four years ago.


Malaysia to work with UNICEF on polio vaccination in Sabah state

Updated 14 min 7 sec ago

Malaysia to work with UNICEF on polio vaccination in Sabah state

  • An infant was diagnosed with polio a few days ago for the first time since 1992
  • Authorities said the polio strain shared genetic links with the virus detected earlier in the Philippines

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s health authorities on Sunday said they are working with UNICEF to bring polio vaccines to the state of Sabah in Malaysian Borneo, where the country’s first polio case in nearly three decades was detected last week.
A three-month-old infant was diagnosed with polio on Dec. 6 after being admitted to hospital with a fever and muscle weakness, the first such case since 1992.
It comes after the Philippines, north of Borneo, reported its first cases of polio since 1993 in September.
Malaysia’s health ministry had said the child was infected with a polio strain that shared genetic links with the virus detected in the Philippines.
“We are planning to work with the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, to get vaccine supply at a low cost for an immunization program for non-citizen children in Sabah,” Director-General of Health Noor Hisham Abdullah said in a statement.
Noor Hisham said the plan is to have UNICEF subsidize the cost of the vaccines, and to administer the vaccinations with the help of selected non-governmental organizations and the Philippines government.
No new cases have been detected so far, though authorities are still waiting for the results of stool samples taken from people who had close contact with the infant and the surrounding area where the child lived, Noor Hisham said.
“The health ministry would like to stress that the best way to eradicate polio is through immunization. Contagious diseases such as polio know no boundaries,” Noor Hisham said.