Turkey summons Saudi ambassador over missing journalist
By SUZAN FRASER
Monday, October 8
ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey has summoned the Saudi ambassador to request the kingdom’s “full cooperation” in an investigation into the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who Turkish officials say was killed while visiting the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.
The 59-year-old Khashoggi went missing last Tuesday while visiting the consulate for paperwork to marry his Turkish fiancée.
A Turkish official said the Saudi ambassador met with Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Onal on Sunday at the ministry. The Turkish private NTV television said Ankara requested permission for Turkish investigators to search the consulate building in Istanbul, but a Foreign Ministry official would not confirm the report.
Turkish officials say the Washington Post contributor was killed at the consulate and that his body was later removed from the building, without providing evidence. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said he would await the results of an investigation.
Saudi officials have denied the allegations as baseless.
The consulate insists that Khashoggi left its premises, contradicting Turkish officials. The Saudi writer spent last year in the U.S in self-imposed exile, after he fled the kingdom amid a crackdown on intellectuals and activists who criticized the policies of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Khashoggi’s disappearance could put pressure on the Saudi crown prince, who has promoted an image of himself as a reformer and a reliable Western ally.
“Opposition to the young crown prince in the ruling family will most likely grow,” warned Ayham Kamel, the head of Mideast and North Africa research at the Eurasia Group. “There are elements of the Al Saud family that are convinced that the prince is reckless and compromising the security of the country.”
Turkey’s state-run news agency, quoting police, has said 15 Saudi nationals arrived in Istanbul on board two planes and were inside the consulate building when Khashoggi went missing. The private DHA agency said the planes, which it identified as a two Gulfstream jets belonging to a Riyadh-based company that hires private jets, landed at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport on the day Khashoggi vanished.
Journalists and activists gathered outside the Saudi Consulate on Monday demanding information on Khashoggi’s fate.
“We would like to know exactly what happened inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul and the circumstances surrounding his disappearance,” said Mohamed Okad, a friend of Khashoggi and founder of Insight into Crisis, a conflict advisory group. “We demand from the international community to pressure Saudi Arabia and Mohammed bin Salman to tell us exactly what happened.”
Among the protesters was Tawakkol Karman, the Yemeni journalist and 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winner. She accused Saudi Arabia of “state terrorism” and called on the international community to take action against the kingdom. A Saudi-led coalition has been at war with Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi rebels since March 2015.
Associated Press writers Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and Ayse Wieting and Mehmet Guzel in Istanbul contributed to this report.
Bulgarian journalist killed after reporting on corruption
By ALISON MUTLER
Monday, October 8
BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Bulgarian police are investigating the rape, beating and slaying of a female television reporter whose body was dumped near the Danube River after she reported on the possible misuse of European Union funds in Bulgaria.
Authorities discovered the body of 30-year-old Viktoria Marinova on Saturday in the northern town of Ruse near the Romanian border. Police said she had been strangled and her body was found in a park near the river.
Marinova was a director of TVN, a small TV station in Ruse, and a TV presenter for two investigative programs.
Journalists’ groups and foreign officials, including Harlem Desir, the media freedom representative of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, demanded a “full and thorough investigation” into Marinova’s death. A Bulgarian investigative online media site went even further, calling for an independent international inquiry, saying that a Bulgarian probe could be compromised by corrupt Bulgarian officials.
But Interior Minister Mladen Marinov said Monday there was no evidence to suggest the killing was linked to Marinova’s work.
“It is about rape and murder,” he said.
Bulgarian police, however, said they are considering all possible scenarios and examining possible links to both her personal and professional life.
Corruption is endemic in Bulgaria, a Balkan nation that joined the EU in 2007 and was ranked 71st on Transparency International’s corruption list last year. Joining the bloc opened an enormous spigot of possible new EU funding for Bulgarian infrastructure projects or other programs designed to bring the nation up to EU standards — funds that were very attractive to both government officials and criminal networks.
Marinova’s final show was a program about Attila Biro, an investigative journalist with the Rise Project Romania and a colleague from the Bulgarian investigative site Bivol.bg, Dimitar Stoyanov. The two men were briefly detained Sept. 13 south of Sofia, the capital, as they investigated a tip that documents connected to suspected fraud involving EU funds were being shredded and destroyed.
Bivol.bg owner Assen Yordanov said he couldn’t directly link Marinova’s slaying to her work, but noted her Sept. 30 show tackled “our very sensitive investigation into the misuse of EU funds.”
“This is a topic on which no other Bulgarian national media dared to report on,” he told The Associated Press on Monday. “To get to the truth, we are calling for an independent investigation…. we want independent European investigators to get involved because we believe the Bulgarian authorities are part of this country’s criminal network.”
Yordanov said his journalists were getting threats to their safety for this reporting.
Chief Public Prosecutor Sotir Tsatsarov arrived in Russia and announced Monday that authorities had no new leads on the motive for the slaying.
“At this stage let’s be careful, not because we don’t have anything to say, but because every word uttered loosely could damage our work,” he said.
A vigil was being held for Marinova in the Bulgarian capital later Monday.
Margaritis Schinas, spokesman for European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, said Monday that the commission expected “a swift and thorough investigation …. that will bring those responsible to justice and clarify whether this attack was linked to her work.”
He quoted Juncker as saying previously that “too many” journalists were being intimidated, attacked or murdered and “there is no democracy without a free press.”
The German government also sharply condemned the slaying, with the Foreign Ministry saying it’s imperative “that there’s a fast investigation and that this horrible event will be illuminated as comprehensively as possible.”
Sven Giegold, a German member of the Greens party in the European Parliament, said all of Europe should worry about Marinova’s slaying.
“First Malta, then Slovakia, now Bulgaria. It is unacceptable that in Europe journalists are getting killed again,” he said, referring to the killings of two other investigative journalists in those EU countries.
Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia , who investigated local government corruption, was killed in October 2017 by a bomb that destroyed her car. Slovak journalist Jan Kuciak was shot dead along with his fiancee in February in an attack linked to his reporting on ties between Slovak officials and Italian mobsters.
In addition, Swedish journalist Kim Wall was tortured and murdered during a private submarine trip in August 2017. Danish submarine inventor Peter Madsen was convicted and sentenced to life in prison earlier this year.
Raf Casert in Brussels and Kirsten Grieshaber in Berlin contributed.
Pakistan delays ruling on blasphemy death sentence case
By KATHY GANNON
Monday, October 8
ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan’s Supreme Court postponed its ruling Monday on the final appeal of a Christian woman who has been on death row since 2010 after being convicted of blasphemy against Islam.
The judicial panel listened to Asia Bibi’s defense lawyer challenge statements by those who accused her of insulting Islam’s prophet, an allegation punishable by death that can incite riots in conservative Pakistan.
The three-judge panel, headed by Pakistan’s Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, did not say why they reserved their judgment or when they would announce their decision. It ordered everyone present to refrain from commenting on the case, in an apparent attempt to avoid inflaming public opinion.
The charge against Bibi dates back to a hot day in 2009 when she went to get water for her and her fellow farmworkers. Two Muslim women refused to take a drink from a container used by a Christian. A few days later, a mob accused her of blasphemy. She was convicted and sentenced to death.
Bibi’s lawyer, Saiful Malook, argued that the many contradictions in witnesses’ statements tainted the evidence. The two Muslim women who leveled the charges against Bibi denied they were quarrelling with her, saying her outbursts against Islam were unprovoked. Yet several independent witnesses who gave statements recounted a cantankerous exchange between the women.
The prosecution’s case centered mostly on religious texts that vilify those who make blasphemous statements.
Ahead of the hearing, Malook expressed optimism that he would win the last legal appeal for Bibi. But if not, he planned to seek a review, which could take years to complete.
“I am a 100 percent sure she will be acquitted,” Malook told The Associated Press in a telephone interview on the eve of the hearing. “She has a very good case.”
He refused to comment at the end of Monday’s hearing, citing the judges’ orders.
Bibi’s case has generated international outrage, but within Pakistan it has fired up radical Islamists, who use the blasphemy law to rally supporters and intimidate mainstream political parties.
Even defending Bibi in court is dangerous.
“I have lost my health. I am a high blood pressure patient, my privacy is totally lost. You have to be in hiding,” her lawyer said ahead of the hearing. Everyone on his tree-lined street knows his identity, he said. “They look at this house and they know this is the home of a person who can be killed at any time by angry mullahs.”
Police provide round-the-clock security around Malook’s home, in the city of Lahore.
Members of Pakistan’s religious minorities have campaigned against the law, which they say is invoked to justify attacks on them. For them, Bibi’s case is seen as a watershed. Her husband recently traveled to the Vatican to meet Pope Francis.
Joseph Francis, an activist for Pakistan’s Christians, said he currently is aiding 120 Christians facing blasphemy charges. His organization, Center for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement, provides legal aid as well as finding a safe haven for Christians who are targeted even after being cleared of blasphemy allegations.
“This law is misused and it is not only misused against Christians but also against Muslims,” he said.
France, Spain and Germany have all offered to welcome Bibi should she be acquitted, said Francis, who said he will help secret her out of the country.
But Khadim Hussein Rizvi, the leader of a radical Islamist party, warned after the postponement that “no blasphemer will be able to escape punishment.
In 2011, Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab province, was shot and killed by one of his elite guards for defending Bibi and criticizing misuse of the blasphemy law. Malook prosecuted his killer, Mumtaz Qadri, who was hanged for his crime.
Qadri has since become a martyr to millions, who make a pilgrimage to a shrine erected in his name by his family outside the capital, Islamabad. His supporters have called for the immediate killing of anyone accused of blasphemy.
Pakistan’s newly elected government is led by Prime Minister Imran Khan, a former cricket star who has embraced religious conservatism and bowed to some of the demands of radical Islamists. Last month, a member of his government offered prayers at Qadri’s shrine, drawing outrage from rights activists.
An unprecedented number of religious parties participated in the July elections that put Khan in power. As in previous elections, they garnered less than 10 percent of the popular vote, but they have allies among all the major parties.
According to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, 71 countries have blasphemy laws — around a quarter of them are in the Middle East and North Africa and around a fifth are European countries, though enforcement and punishment varies.
Pakistan is one of the most ferocious enforcers.
At least 1,472 people were charged under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws between 1987 and 2016, according to statistics collected by the Center for Social Justice, a Lahore-based group. Of those, 730 were Muslims, 501 were Ahmadis — a sect reviled by mainstream Muslims as heretical — while 205 were Christians and 26 were Hindus. The center said it didn’t know the religion of the final 10 because they were killed by vigilantes before they could get their day in court.
While Pakistan’s law carries the death penalty for blasphemy and offenders have been sentenced to death, so far no one has ever been executed.
Associated Press writer Munir Ahmed contributed to this report
Germany calls on Russia to halt campaign of cyberattacks
Friday, October 5
BERLIN (AP) — Germany has become the latest European country to blame the Russian military for a worldwide campaign of cyberattacks against sports organizations, businesses and media.
Government spokesman Steffen Seibert said Friday that Germany shares the assessment of British and Dutch officials earlier this week and “condemns the attacks in the sharpest possible manner.”
He said Germany believes, based on its own sources, that “with almost absolute certainty that the Russian military intelligence agency is behind the APT28 campaign.”
Advanced Persistent Threat 28 is another term used to describe the Sofacy or Fancy Bear hacking group.
Seibert said Germany believes successful attacks “could directly threaten free society, public safety and in principle our democracy” and urged Russia “to meet its responsibilities and cease such actions.”
Russia denies involvement in the attacks.
Attorney General DeWine Warns of Tech Support Scams
More than 60 reports of the scam logged in the past month
October 5, 2018
(COLUMBUS, Ohio)—Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine today warned consumers to beware of tech support scams, which have been reported by dozens of Ohioans in recent weeks.
Tech support scams (also known as computer repair scams) often begin when consumers receive a phone call or warning message claiming there’s a problem with their computer. They are asked to follow a series of instructions, and ultimately, they’re told to provide payment, access to their device, or personal information so the operator can address the supposed problem. Consumers who follow the instructions risk losing money and compromising their personal information.
The Ohio Attorney General’s Help Center logged more than 60 reports of the scam in September. While most consumers haven’t reported losing any money, some said they lost thousands of dollars.
“Instead of fixing problems, phony tech support operators just cause more problems,” Attorney General DeWine said. “They take money to correct problems that don’t actually exist, and they put consumers’ personal information at risk. We want to warn people to be very careful any time they get an unexpected message or call saying there’s a problem with their device.”
Tips to avoid tech support scams include:
Don’t give a stranger access to your device. If you receive an unexpected call or message saying there’s a problem with your computer or other device, don’t give the caller to access your device, don’t provide personal information, and don’t buy any software the caller claims to be selling. Instead, hang up.
Beware of pop-up messages. Scammers may use full-screen warnings or smaller pop-up messages made to look like legitimate virus warnings. Don’t click on suspicious links or pop-ups, and don’t call phone numbers contained in these messages or ads.
Know where to find real help. To find legitimate computer repair help, look through the tech support information found with your security or antivirus software package, contact your internet service provider, or locate documentation from your computer manufacturer. You may want to talk to friends and family for referrals and find out if a local computer repair service is available in your area. When searching online for help, be aware that some scam artists place legitimate-looking ads offering services they won’t actually provide.
Be wary if you’re asked to pay using gift cards or wire transfers. Con artists often ask for payment using one of these methods, because it is difficult to trace or recover the money after it’s sent. A scam artist may tell someone to buy a gift card and then read the card numbers over the phone. This allows the scam artist to drain funds from the card, even without having the card itself.
Watch out for phony refund offers. Be extremely cautious of anyone who claims to offer you a refund for bad tech support services, even if the offer comes months after a tech support scam. The supposed refund may be part of another scam, where a con artist pretends to offer compensation as a way to get you to provide money or personal information.
Earlier this year, Attorney General DeWine announced an action along with the Federal Trade Commission to shut down a computer repair scam operation. In August, Attorney General DeWine also filed a lawsuit against a company called IGeeksOnline and a Columbus woman accused of misleading consumers about tech support services.
Warnings about computer repair scams are part of the Attorney General’s “Ohio Protects” initiative, which aims to help Ohioans recognize and avoid scams. The initiative includes several videos (including one about the computer repair scam), which can be found at www.OhioProtects.org/Videos.
Today’s warning also coincides with National Cybersecurity Awareness Month (October), which highlights the importance of cybersecurity.
To report a potential scam to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, call 800-282-0515 or visit www.OhioProtects.org.
West accuses Russian spy agency of scores of attacks
By GREGORY KATZ, MICHAEL BALSAMO and RAF CASERT
Friday, October 5
LONDON (AP) — The West unleashed an onslaught of new evidence and indictments Thursday accusing Russian military spies of hacking so widespread that it seemed to target anyone, anywhere who investigates Moscow’s involvement in an array of criminal activities — including doping, poisoning and the downing of a plane.
Russia defiantly denied the charges, neither humbled nor embarrassed by the exceptional revelations on one of the most high-tension days in East-West relations in years. Moscow lashed back with allegations that the Pentagon runs a clandestine U.S. biological weapons program involving toxic mosquitoes, ticks and more.
The nucleus of Thursday’s drama was Russia’s military intelligence agency known as the GRU, increasingly the embodiment of Russian meddling abroad.
In the last 24 hours: U.S. authorities charged seven officers from the GRU with hacking international agencies; British and Australian authorities accused the GRU of a devastating 2017 cyberattack on Ukraine, the email leaks that rocked the U.S. 2016 election and other damaging hacks; And Dutch officials alleged that GRU agents tried and failed to hack into the world’s chemical weapons watchdog, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
The ham-handed attempted break-in — involving hacking equipment in the trunk of a car and a trail of physical and virtual clues — was the most stunning operation revealed Thursday. It was so obvious, in fact, that it almost looked like the Russians didn’t care about getting caught.
“Basically, the Russians got caught with their equipment, people who were doing it, and they have got to pay the piper. They are going to have to be held to account,” U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis said in Brussels, where he was meeting with NATO allies.
Mattis said the West has “a wide variety of responses” available.
Britain’s ambassador to the Netherlands, Peter Wilson, said the GRU would no longer be allowed to act with impunity.
Calling Russia a “pariah state,” British Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson said: “Where Russia acts in an indiscriminate and reckless way, where they have done in terms of these cyberattacks, we will be exposing them.”
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov of Russia said in a statement that the U.S. is taking a “dangerous path” by “deliberately inciting tensions in relations between the nuclear powers,” adding that Washington’s European allies should also think about it.
While the accusations expose how much damage Russia can do in foreign lands, through remote hacking and on-site infiltration — they also expose how little Western countries can do to stop it.
Russia is already under EU and U.S. sanctions, and dozens of GRU agents and alleged Russian trolls have already been indicted by the U.S but will likely never be handed over to face American justice.
Still, to the Western public, Thursday may have been a pivotal day, with accusations so extensive, and the chorus of condemnation so loud, that it left little doubt of massive Russian wrongdoing. A wealth of surveillance footage released by Western intelligence agencies was quickly and overwhelmingly confirmed by independent reporting.
The litany of accusations of GRU malfeasance began overnight, when British and Australian authorities accused the Russian agency of being behind the catastrophic 2017 cyberattack in Ukraine. The malicious software outbreak knocked out ATMs, gas stations, pharmacies and hospitals and, according to a secret White House assessment recently cited by Wired, caused $10 billion in damage worldwide.
The British and Australians also linked the GRU to other hacks, including the Democratic Party email leaks and online cyber propaganda that sowed havoc before Americans voted in the 2016 presidential election.
Later Thursday, Dutch defense officials released photos and a timeline of GRU agents’ botched attempt to break into the chemical weapons watchdog using Wi-Fi hacking equipment hidden in a car parked outside a nearby Marriott Hotel. The OPCW was investigating a nerve agent attack on a former GRU spy, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter in Salisbury, England, that Britain has blamed on the Russian government. Moscow vehemently denies involvement.
Photographs released by the Dutch Ministry of Defense showed a trunk loaded with a computer, battery, a bulky white transformer and a hidden antenna; officials said the equipment was operational when Dutch counterintelligence interrupted the operation.
What Dutch authorities found seemed to be the work of an amateur. A taxi receipt in the pocket of one of the agents showed he had hired a cab to take him from a street next to GRU headquarters to Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport. A laptop found with the team appeared to tie them to other alleged GRU hacks.
The men were expelled instead of arrested, because they were traveling on diplomatic passports.
The Dutch also accused the GRU of trying to hack investigators examining the 2014 downing of a Malaysian Airlines jetliner over eastern Ukraine that killed all 298 people on board. A Dutch-led team says it has strong evidence the missile that brought the plane down came from a Russia-based military unit. Russia has denied the charge.
Later Thursday, the U.S. Justice Department charged seven GRU officers — including the four caught in The Hague — in an international hacking rampage that targeted more than 250 athletes, a Pennsylvania-based nuclear energy company, a Swiss chemical laboratory and the OPCW.
The indictment said the GRU targets had publicly supported a ban on Russian athletes in international sports competitions and because they had condemned what they called a state-sponsored doping program by Russia.
U.S. prosecutors said the Russians also targeted a Pennsylvania-based nuclear energy company and the OPCW.
The seven were identified as: Aleksei Morenets, 41; Evgenii Serebriakov, 37; Ivan Yermakov, 32; Artem Malyshev, 30; and Dmitriy Badin, 27; who were each assigned to Military Unit 26165, and Oleg Sotnikov, 46, and Alexey Minin, 46, who were also GRU officers.
The U.S. indictment says the hacking was often conducted remotely. If that wasn’t successful, the hackers would conduct “on-site” or “close access” hacking operations, with trained GRU members traveling with sophisticated equipment to target their victims through Wi-Fi networks.
The World Anti-Doping Agency, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and the Canadian anti-doping agency were all identified by the U.S. indictment against the Russians.
WADA said the alleged hackers “sought to violate athletes’ rights by exposing personal and private data — often then modifying them — and ultimately undermine the work of WADA and its partners in the protection of clean sport.”
Travis Tygart, the CEO of the U.S. anti-doping agency and a prominent critic of Russian athletes’ drug use, says “a system that was abusing its own athletes with an institutionalized doping program has now been indicted for perpetrating cyberattacks on innocent athletes from around the world.”
Russia denied everything.
Konstantin Kosachev, the head of the foreign affairs committee in the upper house of Russian parliament, said the accusations were fake and intended to “delegitimize” a resurgent Russia. The West has picked up the GRU as “a modern analogue of the KGB which served as a bugaboo for people in the West during the Cold War,” he said.
Russia countered with accusations of their own: The Defense Ministry unveiled complex allegations that the U.S. has a clandestine biological weapons lab in the country of Georgia as part of a network of labs on the edges of Russia and China that flout international rules.
Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon called the accusations “an invention” and “obvious attempts to divert attention from Russia’s bad behavior on many fronts.”
The Associated Press, meanwhile, independently corroborated information that matches details for two of the alleged Russian agents named by the Dutch authorities.
An online car registration database in Russia showed that Aleksei Morenets, whose full name and date of birth are the same as one of the expelled Russians, sold his car in 2004, listing the Moscow address where the Defense Ministry’s Military University is based.
Alexey Minin, another Russian whose full name and date of birth match the Dutch details, had several cars, including an Alfa Romeo, that were registered and sold at the address where the Defense Ministry’s GRU school is located. In some of the filings, Minin listed the official military unit number of the GRU school as his home address.
Balsamo reported from Washington and Casert from Brussels. Raphael Satter in London, Nataliya Vasilyeva and Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow, Lorne Cook in Brussels and Eric Tucker in Washington contributed.