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Mass. man convicted of plot to behead Pamela Geller on orders from Islamic State

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A federal jury Wednesday convicted an Everett, Massachusetts man for conspiring to aid the Islamic State, behead Americans, including Pamela Geller and kill police officers.

The man, David Daoud Wright, a/k/a Dawud Sharif Abdul Khaliq, a/k/a Dawud Sharif Abdul Khaliq, 28, was born and raised in Massachusetts, but swore allegiance to the Islamic State and plotted attacks that he hoped would cause more harm than the Boston Marathon Bombings, said Acting U.S. Attorney William D. Weinreb.

“Wright will never again endanger the lives of innocent Americans or recruit others on behalf of a violent enemy of this country,” Weinreb said.

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The DOJ said Wright’s anti-American activities became criminal in February 2015, when he formed a Massachusetts-based martyrdom operation cell with Nicholas Alexander Rovinski. Wright was also partnered with his uncle Usaamah Abdullah Rahim, 26.

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A fourth member of the cell was Junaid Hussain, the DOJ said. The federal government identified Hussain as a member of the army of the Islamic State, who communicated with Rahim from overseas. This encrypted correspondence included instructions to target Geller.

Hussain was killed Raqqah, Syria in August 2015 during an airstrike.

Two months later, Wright opened a Twitter account that he titled “Lions of America,” along with a paper he called “Internal Conquest,” which he posted on the Internet, the DOJ said.

Among their plans, Wright, Rovinski and Rahim conspired to behead U.S. citizens at the direction of ISIS and their first target was author and anti-radical Islam activist Pamela Geller, the DOJ said. As part of this beheading operation, Rahim bought three knives.

Geller is the authoress of the book “Fatwa: Hunted in America.”

In preparation for their attacks, the government said Wright researched weapons, knives, machetes, bombing making components, as well as ways to subdue their victims.

Another one of Wright’s searches was for: “how to start a secret militia in the United States,” the government said.

Rahim was shot and killed after he attacked law enforcement officers in a parking lot June 2, 2015 in the Roslindale neighborhood of Boston, the DOJ said. Two hours prior to Rahim’s attack, Wright urged him to embrace martyrdom in his assault “boys in bluin aparking lote.”

(Courtesy of Pamela Geller’s Facebook page)

The government said Wright deleted data from his laptop and restored his computer to its factory settings, in addition to deleting call logs on his cellphone that documented his calls to Rahim before noon.

Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division Harold H. Shaw said the conviction was a victory for America in the war on terror.

“It reflects the true gravity of Mr. Wright’s crimes, betraying his country, conspiring to support a terrorist organization dedicated to the murder of innocent people, and obstructing an investigation,” he said.

“Wright was a soldier of ISIS right here in Massachusetts and his plan to carry out terror attacks was a very real threat,” he said.

Wright and co-defendant Rovinski were indicted in April 2016 on charges that they conspired with each other and Usaamah Abdullah Rahim, 26, Wright’s uncle, to provide material support to IS and commit acts of terrorism.

Rovinski was so committed that after his arrest and awaiting trial, he wrote letters to Wright from prison that discussed planning other attacks, overthrowing the U.S. government and decapitating individuals, who did not follow Islam.

Rovinski plead guilty in September 2016 of conspiring to provide material support to IS and conspiring to commit acts of terrorism transcending national boundaries.

Assistant U.S. Attorney B. Stephanie Siegmann of the District of Massachusetts’s National Security Unit prosecuted the case with DOJ trial attorney Gregory R. Gonzalez of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.

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Turkey Human Rights, Crackdown on Press Freedom Comes Under Renewed Scrutiny in Geneva

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Last week, the UK-based International Observatory of Human Rights (IOHR)and the Press Emblem Campaign held an information meeting in Geneva, to coincide with the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Turkey over hate crimes, minority, and LGBT rights, and press freedoms with a specific focus on the nation’s crackdown on these rights during the failed 2016 coup and the emergency rule that followed during which the government allegedly used its security powers to arrest thousands of people who opposed it.

Turkey’s human rights record was last reviewed in 2015 during the UPR. This was the third time in 10 years that Turkey’s record has come under review

Diplomats, minister, prominent members of Turkish media and human rights defenders – including those who have been forced into exile – were present at the event. Also in attendance was former U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues in the Office of Global Criminal Justice Ambassador Stephen Rapp. Louise Pyne Jones, head of research, International Observatory of Human Rights (IOHR) moderated the event. Two panels were held. The first was called “Press Freedom” and included Yavuz Baydar, editor-in-chief of Ahval; Evin Baris Altintas, journalist and blogger; and Massimo Frigo; senior Legal Advisor for International Commission for Jurists (ICJ). The second panel, “Human Rights Defenders,” included Dr. Sebnem Korur Fincanci; president of the Human Rights Foundation in Turkey; Nurcan Baysal, award-winning Turkish Human Rights Defender and Journalist; and Anne van Wezel, former co-chair EESC EU-Turkey Joint Consultative Committee.

Following an attempted, and failed, “coup” against the ruling Justice and Development (AKP) Party in 2016, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused many of his opponents and naysayers, including journalists who were critical of him and his government, of supporting terrorism and prosecuted many of them. Erdogan also suggested that the attempted coup was the work of exiled Imam Fethullah Gulen and his movement, which Turkey considers a terrorist organization. Turkey has asked for the United States to extradite Gulen. Gulen has been living in the United States in a self-imposed exile since 1999. Over 250 people died as a result of the failed coup attempt.

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Soon after the coup, Turkey implemented a state of emergency (SOE) which it said: “was put into effect in order to ensure the continuity of effective implementation of the measures for the protection of the rights and freedoms of our citizens, democracy and the rule of law.” However, the AK Party’s critics have maintained that the AK Party used the umbrella of its broader emergency powers and continuously postponed ending that state of emergency, in an attempt to destroy its political opposition.

Many journalists were apprehended under this state of emergency until it was lifted on July 19, 2018. As such, for three straight years, and up until 2019, the Committee to Protect Journalists ranked Turkey as the worst jailer of journalists in the world. According to Turkish, English, and Arabic-language news site Ahval, when China jailed 48 journalists to Turkey’s 47.

Nurcan Baysal, an award-winning Kurdish Human Rights Defender, Journalist, and contributor to Ahval, said she was even cautious with the words she used on the panel discussion for fear of punishment by the Turkish government. “We are censoring ourselves because of these fears,” Baysal said. “For example, before coming here I asked myself if I should use certain words, should I use the word invasion, or should I use the word war, because today in Turkey even to say war is forbidden,” she said. “Everything that I say has an effect on not only my life but of the lives of my children and family.”

Ahval editor in chief Yavuz Baydar said, “No state or power can decide who is a journalist, it is the domain for professional organizations and should always be separate from power.”

According to the IOHR, “In the previous UPR cycle of Turkey, the Turkish government officially supported 14 recommendations related to strengthening the legal framework on freedom of expression and 5 recommendations specifically related to bringing terrorism legislation in line with international human rights standards.

Hugh Williamson, the Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch recently said, “The huge number of journalists, politicians, and perceived government critics in prison and on trial flies in the face of the Turkish government’s public statements about the state of human rights in the country “Turkey’s disregard of human rights is a disservice to its citizens, who deserve to live with dignity and freedom.”

Meanwhile, Turkey’s state-run pro-government newspaper the Daily Sabah put out propaganda about the Erdogan government writing, “U.N. Human Rights Council highlighted Turkey’s achievements in the fields of judiciary, human rights and humanitarian causes on Tuesday during a Universal Periodic Review (UPR) meeting in Geneva.”

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