Turkey detains 19 people over ‘provocative’ coronavirus posts

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Turkey closed cafes, entertainment and sports venues to contain the spread of coronavirus. (Reuters)
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There had been were social media posts targeting officials and spreading panic and fear by suggesting that the virus had spread widely in Turkey. (Reuters)
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Updated 17 March 2020

Turkey detains 19 people over ‘provocative’ coronavirus posts

  • Social media posts were targeting officials and spreading panic and fear by suggesting that the virus had spread widely in Turkey
  • The number of confirmed cases in Turkey has risen to 47

ISTANBUL: Turkey has identified 93 suspects who have made “unfounded and provocative” postings on social media about the coronavirus outbreak and has detained 19 of them, the Turkish Interior Ministry said.
The move came as Turkey closed cafes, entertainment and sports venues, suspended mass prayers in mosques and extended a flight ban to 20 countries to contain the coronavirus spread, as the number of confirmed cases rose to 47.
The interior ministry statement said there were social media posts which were targeting officials and spreading panic and fear by suggesting that the virus had spread widely in Turkey and that officials had taken insufficient measures.
“Nineteen of these suspects have been detained and the process of detaining others who have been identified is continuing,” said the statement, issued late on Monday.
Last Wednesday, Turkey became the last major economy to report an outbreak of coronavirus and Health Minister Fahrettin Koca announced 29 newly confirmed cases late on Monday, bringing the total to 47. No deaths have been reported.
The Istanbul governor’s office said on Monday that Turkish citizens who request to return from nine European countries would be brought back by midnight on March 17 on condition that they are quarantined for 14 days.

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Iranian professor jailed in US returns home

Updated 13 min 5 sec ago

Iranian professor jailed in US returns home

  • Tehran and Washington have denied reports that his release was part of a prisoner swap

DUBAI: An Iranian professor who was acquitted in the United States of stealing trade secrets arrived in Iran on Wednesday, Iranian media reported.
Materials science professor Sirous Asgari, 59, was indicted by US federal prosecutors in April 2016. A federal judge in Ohio acquitted Asgari in November 2019.
Tehran and Washington have denied reports that his release was part of a prisoner swap.
US authorities said in May that Asgari, who tested positive for the novel coronavirus in April, would be deported once he received medical clearance.
Photos published by Iranian state media showed Asgari being reunited with his family in Tehran on Wednesday.
Last year, Iran freed US citizen Xiyue Wang, who had been held for three years on spying charges, and the United States released Iranian Massoud Soleimani, who faced charges of violating US sanctions on Iran.
The outbreak of the coronavirus has led Iran, the worst-hit country in the region, to temporarily release some prisoners in a bid to curb the spread of infections.
In mid-March, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tehran was considering freeing some US citizens as Michael White, a US navy veteran who has been detained in Iran since 2018, was released from prison on medical furlough. He remains in Iran.