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Turkey seeks life term for suspects over 2013 Gezi Park protests | News

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A Turkish prosecutor is seeking life sentences for 16 suspects, including prominent philanthropist and businessman Osman Kavala, for allegedly financing widespread protests in Turkey in 2013 and “attempting to overthrow the government”.

Kavala, who has been held in custody for more than a year without being charged, is now accused of backing the 2013 anti-government protests in Istanbul and being linked to the failed coup attempt in 2016, state-run Anadolu news agency reported on Wednesday.

Exiled journalist Can Dundar and actor Mehmet Ali Alabora, who took part in the 2013 demonstrations, were also charged, Anadolu said.

Hundreds of thousands of people marched in Istanbul six years ago to protest against a plan to build a replica of an Ottoman barracks on Gezi Park in the city centre.

The protests turned into nationwide anti-government demonstrations that threw up one of the biggest challenges to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan‘s government. He was the prime minister at the time. 

Authorities recently renewed their efforts to investigate the protests, a move opposition figures said was designed to polarise public opinion and rally support for Erdogan before local elections next month.

2016 coup crackdown

Kavala is cofounder of the Iletisim publishing house and chairman of the Anadolu Kultur (Anatolian Culture) foundation. The foundation aims to overcome differences within Turkish society through culture and the arts and has sought to reach out to neighbouring Armenia.

A respected figure in intellectual circles in Turkey and abroad, Kavala has been kept in pretrial custody since November 1, 2017, at the Silivri prison outside Istanbul.

The case has alarmed Turkey’s Western allies and increased concern of a clampdown on freedom of expression under Erdogan.

The president has said the protests were organised and financed by Kavala – allegations he has denied.

The Gezi protests were one of the largest wave of movements in modern Turkish history and the government’s sometimes heavy-handed response drew criticism from human rights advocates and Turkey’s Western allies.

In November, police detained more than a dozen people as part of the investigation into the Gezi protests, while US billionaire George Soros’s Open Society Foundation said it would cease operations in Turkey after it became a target of the investigation

All the suspects are facing the charge of “attempting to overthrow the government”. Some are also accused of “damaging public property” and “damaging worshipping houses and cemeteries,” Anadolu said.

A court in Istanbul must accept the prosecutors’ indictment against the suspects before a trial can begin.

Turkish prosecutors are also accusing Kavala of being behind a 2013 corruption scandal in which Erdogan’s inner circle was implicated and linked to coup plotters which the government blames on US-based Muslim scholar Fethullah Gulen. He has denied the charges.

The charges against Kavala come as the government has launched a mass crackdown in the wake of the failed 2016 coup, with the arrest of tens of thousands of suspects.

Critics say the measures have gone well beyond the coup suspects and targeted dissent, but the government says they are needed to clean Gulen’s “virus” that infiltrated into state institutions.

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Egan: The longest yard — $300 to deliver packages final three feet

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Even before the pandemic began, almost everything was being delivered to the door — from a Big Mac to a big screen TV — any day, any waking hour.

Lockdowns and crowd avoidance only accelerated the trend, so that any urban neighbourhood is being daily criss-crossed with vehicles delivering any desire that can be bound in a cardboard box, even a mattress.

So, there are bound to be quirks and surprises.

In November, Brigitte McCauley-Philion, 36, ordered 85 packages of flooring from Lowe’s, the home improvement giant, enough to do most of the three-bedroom house in Beacon Hill South.

It wasn’t cheap. The total came in just shy of $1,400. Because of the quantity and weight, she carefully checked the delivery restrictions and agreed to pay $70 to have the laminate flooring delivered.

As she was later negotiating the delivery date and time, there came a shock.

The $70 would only bring the flooring to the curb side. If she wanted it inside the house, it would cost an extra $3 per package, times 85, plus tax, or something creeping towards $300.

“My main reaction was: $3 a box to bring it 3 feet?,” she wrote Friday. “So why did I pay a delivery fee? $300 to have my flooring delivered into home is absolutely crazy!”

McCauley-Philion, who is severely hearing impaired, says she appealed to various managers to make sure she understood the conditions. Did delivery not mean inside the house? After all, she reasoned, if she could carry 85 bundles inside the home, she wouldn’t need the delivery in the first place.

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Are the Proud Boys terrorists? Ottawa considers listing white supremacist groups alongside al-Qaida, Islamic State

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OTTAWA—Canada’s national security agencies are “very actively” monitoring white supremacist groups and are considering designating more of them as terrorist organizations, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair says.

Blair’s office said in a statement Sunday that intelligence and law enforcement agencies were actively gathering evidence to list white supremacist groups like the Proud Boys as terrorist organizations — a designation that would place them on the same level as al-Qaida and the Islamic State group.

“We strongly denounce ideologically motivated extremists including groups like the Proud Boys, white supremacists, (anti-Semites), Islamophobic and misogynist groups,” wrote Mary-Liz Power, a spokesperson for Blair’s office, in a statement to the Star.

“Intolerance and hate have no place in our society.”

Blair’s comments, first made in an interview with CTV News on Sunday, show a remarkable change in how federal authorities view the threat posed by white nationalists and far-right extremists in the last few years.

Canada’s domestic intelligence agency, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), abandoned a rolling investigation into far-right groups in 2016. After the deadly 2018 shooting at a Quebec City mosque by a man believed to be influenced by far-right voices online, that investigation was reopened.

Across western democracies — including the U.S. and U.K. —intelligence agencies have warned the threat of domestic far-right extremism is growing.

In 2019, the federal government listed two white supremacist groups — Blood & Honour and Combat 18 — as terrorist entities, the first far-right extremist groups given that designation by Canada.

Now, in the wake of last week’s violent sacking of the U.S. Capitol building, more white supremacists groups may join that list — which would empower financial institutions to freeze the groups’ assets, and make it a crime to deal with them.

The Proud Boys — a “western chauvinist” group spawned by a former Canadian far-right media personality — were front and centre in that riot. Famously told to “stand back and stand by” by President Donald Trump last year, the loosely organized movement has become a poster child for right-wing extremism in North America.

While the exact makeup of the mob is unknowable, the Proud Boys clearly had a presence in Wednesday’s assault on the Capitol building. Several have been identified by American media, and the group’s leader was arrested in Washington two days before the riot.

Blair’s office stressed that the listing of terrorist organizations is not a “political exercise.” Rather, the designation of a group requires evidence and intelligence, and follows a legal process.

“Such listings send a strong message that Canada will not tolerate such acts of violence,” Power wrote.

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Cafeteria chefs pivot as pandemic hollows out office towers

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When Ottawa’s office buildings quickly emptied out near the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the cafeterias reliant on throngs of nine-to-five workers were left behind.

But while many shut down, some have found ways to stay afloat, in part through creativity and in part through loyal customers. 

“It was a big shock for us,” Juan Dominguez, chef at the cafeteria for Canadian Blood Services’ corporate office, told CBC Radio’s All In A Day on Friday. 

“One day you’re working and the next day you’re out of there.”

Before the pandemic, Dominguez would send weekly menus out directly to his customers. 

Then, when the office tower’s employees started working from home, they began using that channel to reach out directly to tell him how much they missed his food.

“I was really shocked and surprised and happy at the same time,” he said.

‘Grateful’ for loyal customers

Dominguez continued to send out menus — adding some combos to better accommodate entire families stuck together at home — and now people who place orders can pick them up from the corporate office’s backdoor.

It’s important to be able to reinvent oneself, he said, and never give up.

“Honestly, like, I’m so grateful for all the support that we receive from our customers and for all the relationships that we create with them since day one, [even before] the pandemic,” he said. 

Decided to grow side business

Resa Solomon-St. Lewis also lost her steady stream of customers when the pandemic hit — and unlike Dominguez, didn’t have a way to reach them by email.

So the owner of Capital Fare Cafe, located inside a medical building along Montreal Road, chose to focus more on her side gig: a Caribbean-influenced catering business called Baccanalle

“It really didn’t have a sign or a shingle on the door,” she said. “It had more of an internet presence.”

While Solomon-St. Lewis would like to return to the cafeteria, that can only happen when foot traffic is back to normal, she said.

For now, she hopes to expand Baccanalle, which allows her to focus on her love of Caribbean food.  

“I have a lot of gratitude, especially to my team because we wouldn’t be here without them,” she said. “And they’ve been resilient and adaptable. And I’m really appreciative of the customers that have stayed with us… and the new customers that we’ve acquired.” 

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