Turkish human rights attorney Ebru Timtik died Thursday from a hunger strike protesting her wrongful imprisonment on terrorism charges. Tried along with 17 other members of the Progressive Lawyers' Association, the Istanbul 37th High Criminal Court on March 20, 2019 sentenced Timtik to 13 years and six months in prison for acting as a courier on behalf of the Revolutionary People's Liberation Army/Front (DHKP/C), which is recognized as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US, and the EU. The prosecution's case relied on one secret witness, who last month petitioned Turkey's Supreme Court of Appeals to dismiss his testimony on account of his mental problems, including hallucinations. Timtik and colleague Aytac Unsal took on high profile cases related to the 2014 Soma mine disaster, 15-year-old Berkin Elvan's death during 2013's Gezi Park protests, and human rights activist Engin Ceber's murder in police custody. Unsal started his hunger strike a month after Timtik. Presidents of nine Turkish Bar Associations – including Istanbul's, Ankara's and Izmir's – issued a video message last month calling for the pair's release. Members of Turkey's parliament from the main opposition CHP, pro-Kurdish HDP, and the Workers' Party of Turkey demanded Timtik and Unsal receive a new, fair trial.
Lebanese Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh told Reuters Thursday that banks unable to increase their capital by 20 percent before March 2021 must exit the market. A financial crisis causing an 80 percent depreciation of the Lebanese pound triggered capital flight, prompting Lebanese banks last November to curtail the transfer of dollar deposits abroad and the central bank in March requiring all cash withdrawals be in Lebanese pounds, even for US dollar deposits. One central bank circular Thursday proposed banks offering clients securities in return for repatriated deposits. Yet, the central bank's inability to meet its obligations to the country's commercial banks represents the greatest threat to their solvency. Lebanon's financial crisis is in part attributable to the central bank pursuing an expansionary monetary policy while trying to maintain the Lebanese pound's dollar peg by borrowing dollars from Lebanon's commercial banks at high interest rates that it cannot repay.
Clashes, lasting nearly three hours, between Hezbollah members and Sunni Arab tribesmen left two dead and 10 wounded. The fighting with heavy automatic weapons occurred in Khaldeh, a town 7.5 miles south of Beirut sitting on the M51 highway linking the capital with the country's south. Gulf News reported that the violence, which killed a 14-year-old Lebanese boy and a Syrian man, erupted when Sunnis prevented Hezbollah and Amal supporters from hanging banners marking Ashura. The army closed the highway while restoring order.
On the same day Greece's parliament ratified an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) agreement with Egypt covering Mediterranean waters containing oil and gas reserves, Ankara announced it will hold live-fire exercises in the eastern Mediterranean on September 1 and 2. The EEZ's boundaries overlap with those established by a deal Turkey and Libya's Tripoli-based Government of National Accord clinched last November. The Turkish military exercises mark the latest escalation of a naval confrontation with Greece beginning on August 10 when Ankara dispatched the seismic survey vessel Oruc Reis, accompanied by Turkish warships, to the Greek continental shelf to search for oil and gas deposits. Greece participated in naval exercises with France, Italy, and Cyprus Wednesday, a day after German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas stressed, "Germany and the whole European Union stand by Greece in firm solidarity."
Libya's Turkish-aligned Government of National Accord (GNA) imposed a round-the-clock curfew in Tripoli and its suburbs Wednesday night, officially to contain COVID-19's spread, but conveniently terminating days of protests against GNA corruption, deteriorating living conditions, and high salaries paid to Syrian mercenaries fighting Khalifa Haftar's Libyan National Army. Some protestors surrounded GNA Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj's residence and demanded the GNA resign. Amnesty International reported, "Armed men fired live ammunition including from heavy machine-guns to disperse a demonstration in Tripoli on 23 August, according to eyewitness testimony and video evidence." Sunday's incident occurred in territory controlled by the GNA-affiliated al-Nawasi militia. GNA Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha acknowledged that gunmen on Wednesday attacked a peaceful demonstration by "firing live ammunition indiscriminately" and al-Sarraj's government Thursday threatened to use force against militiamen attacking peaceful protests.
The Iranian-backed Houthi militia informed its al-Masirah TV network that six field commanders died in clashes Wednesday with the internationally recognized government's Yemen National Army.
Micah Levinson is the Washington, DC Resident Fellow at the Middle East Forum