Turkey rebuffs U.N. enquiry into murder of Syrian-American journalist


Turkey has snubbed a request by the United Nations for more information into the murder of Syrian-American journalist Halla Barakat and her mother, Orouba Barakat, Reveal, a non-profit centre for investigative journalism, and ABC News reported on Thursday. Halla, a journalist for Syrian opposition news site Orient Net and ABC News, and Orouba, a prominent opponent of Syrian President Bashar Assad, were found dead in September 2017 in their apartment in the Üsküdar neighbourhood in Istanbul. They were stabbed to death by a distant relative, Ahmed Barakat, who also came to Istanbul fleeing the civil war, after he reportedly got into an argument with the mother and daughter while visiting them. The findings from the investigation by Turkish authorities prompted Agnes Callamard, the U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, to launch her own inquiry, Reveal said. She asked the Turkish government for clarity on the depth of the investigation into the murders, in a letter dated Oct. 7 and published by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. “It is unclear whether the investigative authorities considered if (Ahmed Barakat) acted in concert with or at the direction of others,” Callamard wrote, “such as representatives of the Syrian government, or of an armed group such as (the Islamic State militant group, or ISIS)”. Turkish officials responded almost two months later, saying the case’s investigation and prosecution were carried out by the authorities with “due diligence”. They declined to provide further information, Reveal said on its website. The exchange was the first official response to lingering questions about the case raised by the Barakat family and their supporters, who maintain that the motivations behind the murders were inadequately probed after Turkish authorities declined the FBI’s offer of forensic assistance. Callamard told ABC and Reveal she was “analysing the situation to see what my next steps might be”. Suzanne Barakat, a U.S.-based family member, who has led the effort to bring further scrutiny to the case, said if the Turkish authorities should not have any concern about cooperating with the FBI if they believed they handled the case properly. “If they are in fact aligned in seeking justice in Halla and Orouba’s names, then I don’t see why there would be any issue about collaborating,” she said. “What we’re looking for is just answers and the truth. The Turks have some answers.”



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