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EL ESPECTADOR

Colombia Wants To Defend Its Troops Against War Crimes Charges

Colombian special forces troops in training
Colombian special forces troops in training
El Espectador
BOGOTA — As negotiations continue to try to bring a definitive end to Colombia's decades-long civil war, another thorny issue related to the country's violent past won't go away: the fate of soldiers accused of crimes.
The government's proposal for a specific military justice code to handle such cases was recently rejected by the Colombian Supreme Court. In response, the Defense Ministry has just announced a proposal for a so-called Plan B — a request to Congress to approve a "Technical and Specialized Defense Fund" for use in domestic and international trials, to provide legal protection for those accused.
The Ministry is concerned that accused troops risked being left in a “legal limbo” should they be taken to court for alleged rights violations committed in the battle against Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas or criminal gangs.

At home and abroad
Among the cases in question are investigations at the International Court at The Hague into the Army’s 1985 assault on Colombia's Supreme Court of Justice to clear out rebels, and the 2008 bombing of a FARC camp inside Ecuador. One hundred people died in the first incident and civilians "disappeared," while the second killed 22 guerrillas and provoked Ecuador's fury.
Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzón said that “in practice the aim of the Technical Defense Fund is that with the fall of the proposed amplification of the military justice code, there should be enough money to assure an effective defense.”
The fund proposal, he said, “allows the creation of a technical defence system and defence fund to be financed from the national budget, the defense budget and donations.”
He said it could not be used in cases relating to “private incidents, acts of corruption and those unrelated to operational activities of the Public Force,” responding to a question on the delicate case known as “false positives.” This case revolves around allegations that certain officers or troops had youngsters kidnapped, killed, and later “identified” as FARC fighters killed in combat.
Interior Minister Aurelio Iragorri Valencia told critics in turn, “make no mistake, we shall not abandon our military and police forces. If we have to present a hundred projects to defend them, we will."

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Society

Tour Of Istanbul's Ancient Yedikule Gardens, At Risk With Urban Restoration

The six-hectare gardens in the center of Istanbul, which are more than 1,500 years old, have helped feed the city's residents over the centuries and are connected with its religious history. But current city management has a restoration project that could disrupt a unique urban ecosystem.

Photo of Muslims performing Friday prayer in the garden of Suleymaniye Mosque, Istanbul.

Last March, Muslims performing Friday prayer in the garden of Suleymaniye Mosque, Istanbul.

Tolga Ildun via ZUMA Press Wire
Canan Coşkun

ISTANBUL — The historic urban gardens of Yedikule in Istanbul are at risk of destruction once again. After damage in 2013 caused by the neighborhood municipality of Fatih, the gardens are now facing further disruption and possible damage as the greater Istanbul municipality plans more "restoration" work.

The six-hectare gardens are more than 1,500 years old, dating back to the city's Byzantine era. They were first farmed by Greeks and Albanians, then people from the northern city of Kastamonu, near the Black Sea. Now, a wide variety of seasonal produce grows in the garden, including herbs, varieties of lettuce and other greens, red turnip, green onion, cabbage, cauliflower, tomato, pepper, corn, mullberry, fig and pomegranate.

Yedikule is unique among urban gardens around the world, says Cemal Kafadar, a historian and professor of Turkish Studies at Harvard University.

“There are (urban gardens) that are older than Istanbul gardens, such as those in Rome, but there is no other that has maintained continuity all this time with its techniques and specific craft," Kafadar says. "What makes Yedikule unique is that it still provides crops. You might have eaten (from these gardens) with or without knowing about it."

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