Middle East Updates / Turkish Court Bans Websites Publishing Charlie Hebdo Cover

In an interview with Czech publication Literarni Noviny, Assad called on Western leaders to reconsider their backing of Syrian rebels and opposition.

AFP

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8:48 P.M. Report: Detained Washington Post journalist indicted in Iran

A Washington Post journalist detained in Iran for months has been indicted and will stand trial, Iran's state news agency reported Wednesday, without elaborating on what charges he faced.

The report by the official IRNA news agency came the same day as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif before talks with world powers resume over the Islamic Republic's contested nuclear program.

AP

It wasn't immediately clear if the two events were connected, though Zarif earlier said he hoped the case against reporter Jason Rezaian could be "resolved." "We will have to wait for the judiciary to move forward, but we will try to provide all the humanitarian assistance that we could," Zarif told journalists in Geneva. "We hope that this issue could be resolved but unfortunately there are judicial issues involved which the judiciary has to deal with."

IRNA quoted Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dowlatabadi saying Rezaian, the newspaper's bureau chief in Tehran since 2012, had been indicted. He was previously charged last month, but the bill of indictment clears the way for his trial.
Rezaian, an Iranian-American who holds dual citizenship, has been held since July 22. (AP)

4:13 P.M. Turkish court bans websites publishing Charlie Hebdo cover

A Turkish court on Wednesday ordered the telecommunications authority to ban access to websites showing Charlie Hebdo's front cover with the image of the Prophet Muhammad, a state-run news agency said.

The Anadolu Agency said the ban, which would block access to the websites in Turkey, was ordered by a court in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir, according to the Dogan news agency. The decision came from the court, because a lawyer in Diyarbakir filed a petition saying the websites were a danger to "public order."

Earlier, police stopped trucks leaving a pro-secular newspaper's printing center and checked the paper's content after it decided to print a selection of Charlie Hebdo caricatures. The paper printed a four-page selection of cartoons and articles in a show of solidarity with Charlie Hebdo.

Cumhuriyet newspaper said police allowed distribution to proceed after thinking that the satirical French newspaper's latest cover featuring the prophet wasn't published. But two Cumhuriyet columnists used small, black-and-white images of the cover as their column headers in Wednesday's issue.

It wasn't immediately clear if the columnists' use of the cover image escaped the attention of police. (AP)

3:10 P.M. Banned Iranian filmmaker part of the Berlin Film Festival lineup

The Berlin Film Festival said on Wednesday it planned to screen the new movie from banned Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi in the main competition at next month's Berlinale.

Panahi's film Taxi, a portrait of the Iranian capital Tehran, was one of a batch of additional movies announced by the Berlinale that are to form part of the race for the festival's coveted Golden Bear for best feature film. (DPA)

2:25 P.M. Iran condemns 'provocative' new Charlie Hebdo cartoon

Iran on Wednesday condemned the "provocative" publication of a new caricature of the Prophet Mohammed on the cover of French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, calling it an insult to Islam.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham says the publication of the cartoon "provokes the sentiments of Muslims the world over."

Iran has strongly condemned last week's deadly assault on the magazine's Paris office by Islamic extremists who killed 12 people, including much of the weekly's editorial staff and two police officers. Afkham said the attack was against Islam's teachings. (AP)

1:50 P.M. Al- Qaida in Syria kills woman accused of adultery

Al- Qaida's Syria wing, Nusra Front, shot dead a woman in the northwest of the country after accusing her of adultery, a monitoring group said on Wednesday, saying it showed such execution-style killings were not confined to the militant Islamic State group.

Rami Abdulrahman, director of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said he received a video showing the woman being shot in the head outside Idlib city after being charged with adultery.

Before she was killed, she begged to see her children but her killer refused, he added.

Photos posted on Twitter said to be of the woman showed her dressed in a black robe, headscarf and a red jacket and crouching on a pavement next to a group of standing men who appeared to be from Nusra Front.

One man clothed in black wore a balaclava and held an assault rifle. (Reuters)

1:45 P.M. Iranian official hopeful on nuclear talks with US

Iran's foreign minister says he hopes a discussion with U.S. secretary of State John Kerry will accelerate nuclear talks and allow negotiators to meet a March target for a framework accord.

Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif said the meeting was important because he believed it would show the parties' readiness "to move forward and speed up the process." Zarif made the comment to reporters in Geneva before seeing Kerry.

The U.S. and its partners are hoping to clinch a deal with Iran that would set long-term limits on Iran's enrichment of uranium and other activity that could produce material for use in nuclear weapons. Iran says its program is solely for energy production and medical research purposes. It has agreed to some restrictions in exchange for billions of dollars in relief from U.S. economic sanctions. (Reuters)

1:40 P.M. Yemen's al-Qaida claims responsibility for Paris attack

Yemen's al-Qaida branch on Wednesday claimed responsibility for last week's deadly attack on a Paris satirical newspaper, with one of its top commanders saying the assault was in revenge for the weekly's publications of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, considered an insult in Islam.

The claim came in a video posting by Nasr al-Ansi, a top commander of Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP as the branch is known, which appeared on the group's Twitter account.

In the 11-minute video, al-Ansi says the assault on Charlie Hebdo, which killed 12 people — including editors, cartoonists and journalists, as well as two police officers — was in "revenge for the prophet."

He said AQAP "chose the target, laid out the plan and financed the operation" against the weekly, though he produced no evidence to support the claim. The assault was the beginning of three days of terror in France that saw 17 people killed before the perpetrators, three Islamic extremist attackers, were gunned down by security forces.

The two brothers, Said and Cherif Kouachi, who carried out the Charlie Hebdo attack were "heroes," al-Ansi said.

"Congratulations to you, the Nation of Islam, for this revenge that has soothed our pain," said al-Ansi. "Congratulations to you for these brave men who blew off the dust of disgrace and lit the torch of glory in the darkness of defeat and agony. (AP)

11.34 P.M. Turkish police check newspaper over Charlie Hebdo cartoons

Police on Wednesday stopped trucks as they left a pro-secular newspaper's printing center and checked the paper's content after it decided to print a selection of Charlie Hebdo caricatures, the paper said.

Cumhuriyet newspaper said police allowed distribution to proceed after verifying that the satirical French newspaper's controversial cover featuring the Prophet Mohammed was not published.

The paper printed a four-page selection of cartoons and articles on Wednesday in a show of solidarity with Charlie Hebdo but left out cartoons which Muslims may find offensive. However, two Cumhuriyet columnists used small, black-and-white images of the Charlie Hebdo cover as their column headers in Wednesday's issue.

"While preparing this selection, we respected societies' freedoms of faith and religious sensitivities," said Cumhuriyet's editor-in-chief Uktu Cakirozer.

"Following a large number of consultations we decided not to include the magazine's cover page," Cakirozer said. He did not mention the two columnists' decision to use images of the cover in their columns.

Caricatures featured in Cumhuriyet included some depicting Pope Francis and French President Francois Hollande and one referring to a massacre by Boko Haram in Nigeria.

Police intensified security outside Cumhuriyet's headquarter and printing center as a precaution. A small group of pro-Islamic students staged a protest outside the paper's office in Ankara, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported. (AP)