Turkey: Politically-motivated trials of journalists and human rights defenders continue


Last week, ARTICLE 19, PEN International and Reporters without Borders (RSF) monitored the hearings of several criminal cases against journalists and human rights defenders in Turkey, all of whom face politically-motivated charges of propaganda for, or involvement in, terrorist organizations.

We are deeply concerned by the visibly political nature of these trials and the blatant abuse of the Penal Code and Anti-Terror law against journalists and human rights defenders. To date, no convincing evidence of the accused journalists’ involvement in terrorism or incitement to violence has been publicly presented. The cases also raised serious concerns in terms of due process and the right to a fair trial.

ARTICLE 19, PEN International and RSF call on the Turkish government to take immediate steps to restore the independence of the judiciary, reform laws which contradict international human rights standards, ensure due process during trials and cease the judicial harassment of journalists and human rights defenders.

The trials

Representatives from the three organisations attended the following trials on 14 – 15 February 2017:

  • Özgür Gündem Solidarity Case: On Tuesday 14 February, participants monitored a hearing of 22 of the journalists, writers and human rights defenders who participated in a solidarity action with the daily newspaper Özgür Gündem, which was forced to cease publication in August 2016. During the hearing, writer and journalist Cengiz Baysoy, peace activist İmam Canpolat  and a leader of the opposition, pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) Çilem Küçükkeleş, were found guilty of “spreading propaganda for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)” and “releasing statements sent by PKK”, in relation to the articles published on the day they acted as symbolic editor. All three were sentenced to one year and three months in prison and a fine of 6000 Turkish Liras (approx. 1500 Euro).
  • On 14 February, RSF also attended a hearing in a separate case against Hasan Cemal, veteran author and columnist, former editor-in-chief and now commentator for news portal T24. The author received a suspended sentence of one year and three months in prison under Article 7 (2) of the Anti-Terror Law (“making propaganda for a terrorist organisation”) in relation to an article referring to a previous interview with a PKK leader.
  • OdaTV Case: On Wednesday 15 February ten prominent journalists, including Ahmet Şık, Nedim Şener, Soner Yalçın, Barış Pehlivan and Barış Terkoğlu, made their final defense statements in the OdaTV trial. The case has been ongoing since 2011. The defendants are accused of being the media arm of a secret terrorist organisation, known as “Ergenekon”; however, at the previous hearing on 14 December 2016, the prosecutor requested the acquittal of all twelve defendants due to insufficient evidence of the existence of the “Ergenekon” organisation. A verdict is expected on 12 April 2017.
  • Taraf Case: Also on 15 February, the organisations monitored the third hearing in the trial of journalists and editors affiliated with the Taraf newspaper: Ahmet Altan, Mehmet Baransu, Yasemin Çongar, Yıldıray Oğur and Tuncay Opçin. They are all charged with acquiring and divulging state secrets in relation to the Egemen military plan, an out of date military war plan to respond to a Greek invasion. Baransu and Opçin face additional charges of membership and administration of the Fethullah Gülen Terrorist Organisation (FETÖ). The hearing was cut short as Baransu, who has been in pre-trial detention for over two years and was due to present his defence, was unable to attend as he had a hearing in a separate case in Mersin.

Inconsistent, politically-motivated charges

The indictments and charges include multiple inconsistences, suggesting the influence of politics on the justice system.

For example, investigative journalist Ahmet Şık, whose hearing in the OdaTV Case was observed this week, is in the unusual position of being tried simultaneously in two separate and contradictory cases, one in which he is accused of “supporting the Ergenekon organization” on the basis of his book in 2011 criticising the Gülen movement, and another for “supporting the FETÖ and the PKK”.

The Taraf case is also marred by inconsistencies and confusion, with an indictment that was largely copy-pasted from last year’s case against Can Dündar, with his name still featuring in the text.

The series of cases relating to those involved in the Özgür Gündem Solidarity Campaign constitute  a politically motivated abuse of the Anti-Terror law against Kurdish journalists and civil society activists defending them. The charges against the defendants rely solely on their association with the newspaper, either as members of the advisory board or through columns written in the paper.

Due process and the right to a fair trial

We are concerned by multiple abuses in the defendants’ right to a fair trial, and failures to observe due process.

Many of the defendants face numerous cases, with several being held in pre-trial detention, despite no clear rationale offered for this, with no indication that they will receive a fair trial within a reasonable period. This includes Mehmet Baransu, detained since 2 March 2015; Ahmet Altan, detained since 10 September 2016; and Ahmet Şık, detained since 29 December 2016. The Turkish authorities’ use of indefinite periods of pre-trial detention against journalists is in violation of international standards on the right to liberty and the right to a fair trial.

Moreover, in the Taraf case, the right to a fair trial is severely compromised by the conditions of Baransu’s now almost two-year pre-trial detention, where he has insufficient access to his lawyer and the case documents, meaning that he has so far been unable to prepare his defence.

While we welcome the request of the Prosecutor in the OdaTV Case to acquit the defendants, we are nevertheless concerned that this will not enable the genuine restoration of justice for the defendants, many of whom were held in pre-trial detention, some for more than a year, during the course of the investigation. A thorough review into the criminal investigation and subsequent trials is required to ensure those responsible for the miscarriage of justice are held accountable. Urgent steps must be taken to ensure the independence of the police and judiciary to prevent the same miscarriage of justice in other cases, including with regard to the ongoing cases against journalists.

Independence of the Judiciary, national security and the right to freedom of expression

The independence of the judiciary is protected under Article 138 of the Turkish constitution, however in practice political interference in the justice system is undeniable. As noted by Nils Muiznieks, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, in his statement on 15 February 2017, elements of the judiciary have become “an instrument of judicial harassment to stifle opposition and legitimate criticism”.

Moreover, as stated in our joint report issued in September 2016, the judiciary have numerous legal provisions at their disposition, which are ostensibly aimed at ensuring national security but may be used to stifle free expression. This includes overly vague provisions in the Penal Code that prohibit “propaganda” or “praising” of a terrorist organisation, as well as clauses that allow for individuals to be accused of “aiding and abetting a terrorist organisation”, purely on the grounds of an act of expression about that terrorist group. This is in clear violation of international standards on freedom of expression.

In its official response to the Council of Europe, Turkey claims that those on trial are not journalists, but terrorists: that they are not charged on the basis of their journalism. To date, we are not aware of any evidence of involvement in terrorism being presented against any journalist. The evidence used against journalists appears to consist entirely of the content of their articles or news they edited.

Turkey further claimed that it “has compromised neither its efforts to strike the right balance between freedom and security nor its ultimate determination to maintain reform agenda”; and that the provisions in the penal code and Anti-Terror law fall within international standards.

We contest that Turkey has indeed failed to strike the right balance, both in law and in practice. The Johannesburg Principles on National Security and Freedom of Expression set out the appropriate balance under international law: for a restriction on freedom of expression in the name of national security to be legitimate, there must be an intentional, direct and immediate connection between the expression and the likelihood of violence. The articles in the Penal Code and the Anti-Terror law fail comprehensively to meet these requirements, with broad and undefined terms enabling the government to use them as a weapon to silence critical voices.

Recommendations to the Turkish authorities

  • Immediately and unconditionally release all journalists, media workers and others arrested for exercising their right to freedom of expression, without any individualised evidence of involvement in a crime;
  • Cease the judicial harassment of journalists and human rights defenders;
  • Ensure the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Justice initiate a thorough and transparent investigation into failures in previous criminal investigations and past abuses of the criminal justice system, exemplified by the OdaTV case, with sufficient safeguards to avoid further politicisation;
  • Take immediate steps to restore the independence of the judiciary, including by working with international partners such as the Council of Europe and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) in Europe. As a first step, ensure that defendants have the right to swift judicial review of decisions, including on pre-trial detention, and increase transparency of judicial decisions, by accepting the standing offer of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights to send trial monitors, and cooperating fully with the Office on this initiative. Lift the state of emergency and reverse the measures implemented during the state of emergency which infringe the right to freedom of expression;
  • Reform the Anti-terror law and the criminal code, in line with international standards on the right to freedom of expression.

Background on the cases

Özgür Gündem Solidarity Campaign

The cases

Dozens of criminal cases have been initiated against participants in the Özgür Gündem campaign, initiated on 3 May 2016, which involved nearly 100 journalists, civil society, writers and human rights defenders volunteering to be symbolic editor of the paper for one day. The defendants have been charged with “spreading propaganda for the PKK” and “releasing statements sent by PKK” in relation to the articles published on the day they were symbolic editor. The first conviction related to the Özgür Gündem solidarity campaign that took place on 13 January 2017, when human rights defenders Şanar Yurdatapan and publisher Ibrahim Aydın Bodur received a one year and three month suspended prison sentence and a fine of 6000 Turkish Liras (approx. 1500 Euro) for their involvement.

The hearing on 14 February 2017

The hearing on 14 February involved the criminal prosecution of 22 journalists and human rights defenders for their involvement in the campaign. The defendants included Can Dündar and Said Sefa, who were absent; Cengiz Baysoy, İmam Canpolat and Çilem Küçükkeleş, who were found guilty and sentenced to one year and three months in prison and a fine of 6000 Turkish Liras (approx. 1500 Euro) and Nadire Mater, Necmiye Alpay, Yıldırım Türker, Hasan Cemal, Jülide Kural, Murat Uyurkulak, Faruk Balıkçı, Kumru Başer, Derya Okatan, Dicle Anter, Ayşe Batumlu, whose convictions were requested by the prosecutor and who face potential prison sentences of 10.5 years. The next hearings were set for 7, 9, 20 March, 20 April and 9 May 2017.


The case

The OdaTV case dates back to 2011, when 13 individuals, including ten journalists, one academic, one former police officer and one intelligence service officer ­­­who died in prison in 2011, were accused of being the media arm of a secret extreme nationalist terrorist organisation, known as “Ergenekon”. At the previous hearing on 14 December 2016, the prosecutor requested that all twelve defendants be acquitted, arguing that there was insufficient evidence of the existence of the “Ergenekon” organisation.

The hearing on 15 February­­­

On 15 February, the final defence statements were made by journalists Ahmet Şık, Nedim Şener, Soner Yalçın, Yalçın Küçük, Barış Pehlivan, Barış Terkoğlu, Muhammet Sait Çakır, Şükrü Doğan Yurdakul, İklim Kaleli, Coşkun Musluk and former police officer Hanefi Avcı. All said they were victims of a conspiracy involving members of the police and prosecutors with links to the Gülen movement, which at the time was an ally of the government.

A large number of journalists, supporters of Şık and foreign observers (including RSF and ARTICLE 19 representatives) were unable to enter the courtroom to observe the morning session, as the hearing was held in one of the small courtrooms. Despite requests from defence lawyers to move the hearing to an alternative room, the judge said there was not a larger room available. Some were able to enter in the later session, as people left the hearing one by one. Two judges of the Court were newly appointed and therefore the verdict was delayed until 12 April 2017.


The case

Five journalists, including previous Taraf editors and Ahmet Altan, Yasemin Çongar, Yıldıray Oğur and Mehmet Baransu, in addition to journalist Tuncay Opçin were charged with acquiring and divulging state secrets in relation to the Egemen military plan, while Baransu and Opçin face additional charges of membership and administration of the “FETÖ. Baransu has been in pre-trial detention since March 2015 and Opçin has left the country. At the first hearing in September 2016, the defendants (apart from Opçin) presented their initial defence statements. At the second hearing in November 2016, Baransu was scheduled to make his defence, however he was unable to do so due to his lawyer’s absence and insufficient time to prepare due to strict conditions in detention leaving him with extremely limited access to the required documents, his lawyer and a computer to study the case material. At the second hearing, a group of co-plaintiffs requested to join the case on the prosecution’s side, raising concerns for the principle of “equality of arms” which relates to the balance between the prosecution and defence.

The hearing on 15 February 2017

At the third hearing on 15 February, Baransu was again expected to present his defence, however he was unable to attend the hearing due to also being on trial in a separate case in Mersin. The court ruled that the co-plaintiff’s request to join the case was refused, as their complaints relate to the Balyoz case, which does not feature in the charges in this case.

Source : Article 19


Zimbabwe: U.S. Dollar Disappears From Banking System


Transactional activity in Zimbabwe in recent weeks indicates a slow disappearance of the United States dollar, which is being replaced by bond notes.

The bond notes were introduced last year under the $200 million export incentive to supplement dwindling dollar supplies due to weak exports.

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A survey by Standardbusiness in the central business district last week showed that banks were giving out less and less dollars, which are now available only from Automated Teller Machines (ATMs).

An FBC Bank depositor said the institution was dispensing money depending on the currency they had at the time.

“Sometimes we are given our withdrawals only in bond notes,” the depositor said.

“There used to be days when I received my withdrawals in United States dollars or bond notes while other times it was in both denominations.

“But, most of the time now we are receiving bond notes and very rarely in US dollars.”

Stanbic Bank was giving out $100 in bond notes inside the bank and another $50 in US$ from ATMs, making a total of $150 daily withdrawals.

Cabs was also giving depositors according to the available currency at that particular time.

“It depends on the branch but money is given out based on what the bank has on the particular day,” a Cabs Bank depositor who identified herself as Julia said.

The dollar has also become elusive in supermarkets where customers used to get them through the cashback facility

In an interview with our sister paper, Zimbabwe Independent, RBZ governor John Mangudya confirmed the scarcity of dollars saying banks were holding on to the currency to facilitate foreign payments.

“Each bond note in the economy represents a proportion of up to 5% of the foreign currency earned on exports generated by the economy. It stands to reason therefore that banks are retaining the bulk of foreign exchange for foreign payments,” he said.

“Bond notes will continue to circulate in the economy alongside other currencies in the multiple currency system.”

According to RBZ statistics, $94 million of bond notes are in circulation against an aggregate value of the export incentive of $107 million.

In a recent monetary policy statement, Mangudya said RBZ was putting in place a redistributable measure that mitigated against skewed concentration of bond notes within the banking sector by limiting the maximum amount of bond notes that each bank should hold at any given point in time in relation to its level and type of transactions

“This measure is necessary to ensure that bond notes are distributed proportionately according to the customer base or customer profile of each banking institution,” he said.

He said the move would ensure that bond notes continued to trade at parity with the US$ and to reflect the fact that they were supported by the $200 million offshore facility.

Source : The Standard

Unpaid Salaries : We are Yet Get To The Root of the Problem-Oyo TUC


We are Perplexed and Frustrated-Oyo NASU

Labour leaders in Oyo state, Nigeria have expressed hopes that the state Government would resolve all issues relating to salaries in good time.

In separate interviews the Chairman of the Public Service  Joint  Negotiating Council, who is also the Chairman of the Trade Union Congress in the state, Comrade Olusola Ogundiran  and the Chairman of the Non Academic Staff Union(NASU) Comrade Fatoki Olusola-Cole  streesed their differing positions on the issue of workers unpaid salaries.

Comrade Ogundiran wondered why the Local Government workers had not been paid for several months  saying”the state Government has it so good, may be because certain sources of funding came in, such as the recently extended refund of the Pairs Club over deduction. We thought that the Local Government should also benefit from this fund, but we wouldn’t know because they have their own separate account”.

”We don’t know what actually went on thereof, what we know is that  at the state level there was a committee, that once salaries are paid it was supposed to be  a standing committee. The committee used to meet, the state Government will open its book of account, will see what comes in, and will know how to pay  salaries. Local Governments were also represented in that committee, but suddenly that committee just stopped meeting and the state Government just told us that they are following whatever we had agreed, religiously So, once allocation comes the state Government will go ahead to pay salaries”.

”Like now, we are expecting October salaries, but we know that the state Government could go ahead  and pay November salaries too. So, as far as the Local Governments are concerned they have their own Joint Account Committee(JAC), it is the Joint Account Committee that deals with the Local Governments’ funds expenditure. So, we are still yet to get to the root of where the problem lies. If  the primary schools could be paid fully in a month, why not the Local Government workers and even the pensioners ?”, Comrade Ogundiran questioned.

Treasures Again

However the Chairman of the Non Academic Staff Union in the state, Comrade Olusola-Cole laments that the living conditions of workers in the state has deteriorated drastically.

”It has been pathetic, it has been frustrating. It has not been easy. They’ve been trying to manage, but  each day the situation aggravates, costs of goods and services have sky rocketed. And for workers who couldn’t get their salaries, and their salaries have ran into arrears, to the tune of between five(5) and six(6) months, you can imagine how pathetic the situation is. Some of them have turned to street beggars, some of them cannot afford to feed their families, some of them cannot afford to pay rents, some of them cannot afford to take care of their health, because their health is deteriorating. Life has been unbearable, so it is quite unfortunate. And it seems that there is no solution in sight”.

”Even with the release of the Paris Club refund that the Government has just obtained, could not solve  the problem. Government told us that it used 60 per cent of the money to pay the salary arrears, which covers two months. So, the money did not go anywhere, it has not solved the problem. the situation has not changed, it is just like a drop of water in the ocean. It is so pathetic. The lives of workers in Oyo state  is nothing to write home about. That is the situation and we are not happy about it We are perplexed and frustrated”, Comrade Olusola-Cole declared.

Ajaokuta Steel Will Soon Resume Production-Senator Ogembe


There are strong indications  that the Ajaokuta Steel Rolling Mill will soon commence operations, after years of inactivity.

According to  the Senator representing Kogi  Central in the Senate, on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP),Senator Ahmed Ogembe  who made this disclosure on Thursday at a meeting with  the Ebira Peoples Assembly, everything is been done to revive the company.

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”We are doing everything possible to make sure that the company comes back to life. We shall not rest until this objective is achieved”, Ogembe stated.

The steel rolling mill  which was  established about four decades ago, has since been under lock and key, while  efforts by successive administrations to bring it back to life never yielded positive results.

Uganda: Labour Exports to Middle East Up By 15, 000


Kampala — Up to 65, 000 Ugandans are doing odd jobs in the Middle East, the Uganda Association of External Recruitment Agencies (UAERA) says.

This is 15, 000 higher than the number that was working there one year ago.

Most are working as either cleaners, waiters/waitresses, drivers, tailors, construction and factory workers or security guards.

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“Their annual contribution in the form of remittances is $400, 000,” the acting chairperson of the UAERA, Lillian Keene Mugerwa, told the House Committee on Gender, on Wednesday.

The committee had summoned the 63-member association to brief the committee on its business.

“Due to unemployment in Uganda, some of the Ugandans now working in countries like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, sold family property to finance their flights to the Middle East,” she said.

“Many were made to believe that the ‘returns’ there would be higher than they would ever make in Uganda.”

The government in January 2016 banned the export of maids.

The ban came on the heels of reports that many were being mistreated by their Saudi Arabian employers.

Ms Mugerwa, who was accompanied by the Managing Director of Middle East Consultants Gordon Mugyenyi, the MD of Magrib Agencies Ltd Catherine Ocen Ssabwe and the General Manager of Horeb Services Ezra Mugisha, urged the government to lift the ban on the export of maids.

They said the ban is not serving the purpose.

“The ban was put into place without taking into account the fact the majority of the workers that were complaining [of mistreatment] had been deployed by [human] traffickers,” Ms Mugerwa said.

“The few licensed companies…stopped. But as we stopped, the traffickers continued to export people to Saudi Arabia. When Saudi Arabia stopped the influx, the traffickers are now taking maids to Oman.”

Serere Member of Parliament, Patrick Okabe, concurred with the recruitment agencies and said the ban should be lifted.

“If we maintain the ban, people will find alternatives,” Mr Okabe said.

Ms Beatrice Anywar, the vice chairperson of the Gender committee called on government should address the reasons that drive Ugandans abroad.

According to Action Aid (2012), six in every ten Ugandans are unemployed.

Some lack the skills employers need.

In other cases, the economy is not expanding as fast as the labour force.

Source : The Monitor

FG SpentN1.094.22 Trillion to Service Debts In 2016-Minister


About  N1.094.22 trillion was spent by the Federal Government to service debts in 2106.

This  disclosure was made  on recently, by  the Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, while presenting the 2016 report 2016 draft on budget implementation and performance monitoring report for the third quarter at a programme with  theme “Promoting Effective Policy Monitoring and Evaluating and Performance of Ministers, Department and Agencies in the implementation of the 2016 Budget of Change” in Abuja.

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The Minister also disclosed that N1.044 trillion was set aside  for servicing  local debt,  as against the N980.55 billion budgeted in the 2016 spending plan, representing N63.45 billion, the sum of N50.22 billion was spent for external debt servicing, marking N9.36 billion increase from the N40.86 billion budgeted.

“The increase in the external debt stock in the third quarter of 2016 was due largely to the rise in Non-Paris Club Bilateral Debts draw down”, Ahmed stated.

She maintained that net oil receipt dropped by 66.6 percent to N2012.37 billion in the third quarter of 2016, as  against N603.53 billion, while  non oil revenue improved by 9.47 percent to N777.37billion from N709.96billion same quarter last year.

In addition, the Minister stated that  in 2016, government  mainly  borrowed from domestic sources to fund capital projects, just as she disclosed that a net sum of N987.17 billion was available for distribution among the three tiers of government in the third quarter, with a 30 .96 percent shortfall of N442.73billion.

Russian Whistleblowers Turn on Putin—But Can They Be Trusted?

A husband and wife who were members of the Russian parliament have defected to Ukraine. The Kremlin calls them ‘enemies of the people.’ Enemies of Putin is more like it.


Anna Nemtsova

KIEV—Only a few months ago Denis Voronenkov and Maria Maksakova were two of the brightest stars in Moscow’s political firmament, trying to improve the system from inside, but very much a part of it. They rode in luxurious cars, dined with the Kremlin’s elite at expensive restaurants, vacationed in Paris and Cannes. Both were members of the Russian parliament, the Duma. He was a colonel in the Russian military—a veteran of the military prosecutor’s office—as well. She, a classic Russian beauty, was a diva at the Mariinsky (Kirov) opera. The couple lived the good life in President Vladimir Putin’s Russia. But then the system chewed them up and spat them out.

Now they are whistleblowers—defectors hunted by Russia’s Federal Security Service, the FSB, who have found asylum in Ukraine. And they say they are ready to open up in court about the inner workings of the Putin establishment.

For the moment, at least, they say they do not know about Russian’s dealings with Donald Trump or his associates, even if the information they supply to the Ukrainians might help indirectly to find out more about the many questions surrounding the new American president and his team and their contacts with Russian intelligence.  As intel analysts like to say, building a full picture is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle; sometimes the  holes can tell you as  much as the pieces.

“Americans should realize that Putin and his guys are convinced that he spins the planet with his feet,” like a soccer ball, Voronenkov told The Daily Beast in an exclusive interview. “The FSB cyber forces are quite powerful globally. Now they do not just listen to you (they listened and recorded all my phone calls for eight years). They also attack other states.”

Col. Voronenkov said he and his wife had no choice but to flee Russia late last year to “defeat the designs of the FSB,” which had begun to investigate them on a number of alleged criminal charges related to a contentious real estate deal. A favorite strategy for silencing suspected troublemakers is to charge them with corruption in a system rife with it.

Nobody stopped the two Duma deputies when they packed and crossed the border in October 2016, which was before their parliamentary immunity officially expired in early December. But they didn’t go to Germany, the country of Masakova’s second citizenship, and not to Israel, where they had gone for their Russian Orthodox Christian wedding. They came to Ukraine to cooperate with a government many in the Kremlin refer to as “the Junta” or “Obama’s puppets.”

Sitting by a fireplace in the lobby of the Hyatt Hotel in the heart of Kiev, Voronenkov spoke emotionally, and constantly checked messages on his cell phone.

“A group of criminals at the FSB offered to let me pay a bribe of $3 million in exchange for closing the case that they fabricated against me,” Voronenkov said. And he was very specific about the man driving the campaign against him: FSB General Oleg Feoktistov.

The ex-deputy insisted that he was not an enemy of Russia, that he loved his country, but he wanted to name names in court. After the Russian government “stole” the oil company Yukos in 2003 and imprisoned the man who built it, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, “Putin gave the entire team of General Feoktistov a green light to rob and persecute businessmen,” Voronenkov told The Daily Beast. Voronenkov claimed that in 2014 the FSB took over businesses and jailed thousands of people for supposed economic crimes. Vornenkov could see a similar fate awaited him. “Only 0.5 percent of Russia’s court decisions are acquittals. Even Stalin had 20 percent. Putin’s system feels more like the Nazis,” he said.

While Russian officials now call Voronenkov a traitor, the ex-deputy has been meeting with Ukraine’s presidential administration and prosecutors, preparing to testify on the treason case of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych  in early March.

“Yanukovych called for the Kremlin to send the army to Ukraine and kill the Ukrainian people. He is a criminal and if Putin backs up Yanukovych, I am not going to back up Putin,” Voronenkov declared.

The ex-president won’t be in the courtroom. He is living in exile in Russia. It is conceivable the hearings will shed light on some of the activities of his associates, including American political advisor Paul Manafort who was, until he resigned last summer, Donald Trump’s campaign chairman. But, again, Vornenkov says he knows nothing about Manafort.

Meanwhile, the news that Ukrainian authorities granted Voronenkov citizenship made many in Ukraine wonder what sort of deal the whistleblower has made with the country’s leadership.

“I want to know why our authorities do not prosecute Voronenkov,” Ukrainian journalist Anastasia Magazova told The Daily Beast with marked frustration. As a member of the Russian parliament he had voted for the Russian annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, she noted, and on Twitter he praised Novorossia, the breakaway state in Eastern Ukraine.

Giving Voronenkov and Maskakov asylum “was a political decision,” Mustafa Nayem, a deputy in Ukraine’s parliament, told The Daily Beast. Voronenkov was seen as a major asset in the upcoming Yanukovych trial—an ex-Russian deputy ready to testify against the Kremlin.

Moscow, in the best NKVD and KGB traditions originally adopted by Vladimir Lenin 100 years ago, has condemned Voronenkov and Masakova as “enemies of the people.”

Russian Deputy Vitaly Milonov, the author of an infamous anti-gay propaganda law, called Masakova “a political prostitute.” The opera- singer-parliament-member spoke strongly against his legislation and in favor of LGBT rights. She was also the only Duma deputy who did not vote for the law that prohibited American families from adopting Russian orphans.

“It is becoming dangerous to even write critical posts on social networks in Russia, but both Voronenkov and Maksakova, very bright public figures in the Russian political elite, criticized certain policies until the system pushed them out,” says Maksakova’s longtime friend, Kremlinologyst Olga Kryshtanovskaya.

But the couple had seemed so very cozy with the top brass at the Kremlin. Not long ago Voronenkov was shaking hands with ideologist of Putin’s Greater Russia policy Vladislav Surkov; the couple also posed for a picture with Sergey Naryshkin, the chief of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence office.

Were they double agents, some in Kiev wondered, sent over for some more complicated role? And even if the Ukrainians can trust them, can they trust the Ukrainians?

“There is no guarantee that our authorities would not give this couple to Russia in some deal or in exchange for prisoners; but for some reason Voronenkov is convinced that he is safe in Ukraine,” Ekaterina Sergatskova, an anchor at the independent Hromadske TV channel told The Daily Beast.

In one recent family portrait Maksakova is proudly hugging her husband and teen son, a student at Suvorov military college. Both men are in their military uniforms. They look like a poster of a patriotic family.

But his former colleague at the Duma, Deputy Milonov said, “He lost his dignity and the right to call himself a Russian officer. This is a betrayal! This man shamed the uniform.”

For his part, Voronenkov says he does not believe Ukrainian authorities will send him and his wife back to Russia. “That would spoil Ukraine’s international reputation,” Voronenkov said.

Clients Are To Blame For The Activities of Quacks-Nigerian Society of Engineers

The Nigerian Society of Engineers(NSE) has attributed the increasing number of quacks in the Engineering Profession to the attitude of clients, who are always after keeping costs low and  foot drag in the  funding of projects.

The Society made this disclosure on Monday, through  its Ibadan branch Chairman, Engr. Bola Olowe in an interview session with Federationews2day, at the branch’s  Secretariat, Akobo, Ibadan, Nigeria.

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”We have qualified Engineers, that engage in the business of bore hole drilling, and  also the people, who are Hydro-Geologists, they also engage in borehole drilling. But a lot of the time, people allow themselves to be deceived. When somebody says that the bore hole they will drill in your area, because of the peculiarity of the soil, it is this and this amount, somebody will come to them and give them about 50 per cent of that, and they will go with it and at the end of the day, they will lose their money”,

Engr. Olowe maintained that it was only when the people decide to patronize qualified Engineers that quacks would seize to function, stressing”if in doubt, find out from the relevant professional organizations”.

On the issue of qualified Engineers, who carry out shoddy and poor quality  jobs, the NSE Chairman said ” two issues to that, those who might be lackadaisical and are delaying may not be my colleagues, they may not be relevant and registered Engineers. Another issue is that when you give projects out and payments are not as and when due you will also suffer delays. So, it may not be the fault of the professional Engineer, but the fault of the client who is not funding the project, as and when due.