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Turkey's Erdogan praises 'clean' legal process against opponents
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday praised as "clean and lawful" the legal process against his opponents that has been sharply criticised by the EU and in...
Turkey's Erdogan praises 'clean' legal process against opponentsee4a56d37d6c389759d175ef9c84ae798f80b521.jpg
AFP / Adem Altan
Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, seen here in April 2014, defended the detention of journalists as part of the probe, saying that some journalists were using the profession as a "mask" for other activities
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday praised as "clean and lawful" the legal process against his opponents that has been sharply criticised by the EU and includes an arrest warrant for his arch-foe Fethullah Gulen.
"I have been watching this process closely as president of this country. Everything is lawful and in line with procedure ... a really diligent and clean process is going on at the moment," Erdogan said in a televised speech in Istanbul.
"The police and judiciary are not repeating the mistakes of the past," he added.
Erdogan defended the detention of journalists as part of the probe, saying that some journalists were using the profession as a "mask" for other activities.
He argued that the detention of journalists was nothing unusual, referring to the arrests in Britain over the phone-tapping scandal that rocked the tabloid press there.
His comments came a day after an Istanbul court issued an arrest warrant for the US-based Gulen, who Erdogan accuses of running a "parallel state" from his exile in the US state of Pennsylvania.
A court Friday also remanded in custody on terrorism charges the head of the pro-Gulen Samanyolu TV Hidayet Karaca and three others, although the editor-in-chief of the equally pro-Gulen Zaman newspaper Ekrem Dumanli was released.
The detention of 30 people last weekend on raids on journalists, scriptwriters and police deemed close to Gulen was sharply criticised by the EU, who in turn aroused Erdogan's own ire.
"Turkey is not the EU's doorman," said Erdogan in the speech, sarcastically noting that the bloc had rushed to make its criticism in the Christmas holiday period while it had "kept Turkey waiting at the door for 50 years".
Erdogan's heated rhetoric against the EU adds to existing problems for the long-stalled membership bid of Turkey, already held up by disputes on Cyprus and human rights.
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Essential news in text, photo, graphic and video format19/12/2014 - 19:30
Vatican lit up by Christmas hope and love
AFP / Filippo Monteforte
A guard stands near the crib and a Christmas fir tree in St Peter's Square after being illuminated during the unveiling ceremony on December 19, 2014 at the Vatican
The Christmas lights went on at the Vatican Friday, sending out what Pope Francis described as a message of "light, hope and love" at the end of an extraordinary year for the Catholic Church.
As the fairy lights sparkled into life on the 25-metre fir tree on St Peter's square, there was also an early unveiling of a giant nativity scene inspired by an Italian opera.
Equally eagerly awaited, and scheduled shortly afterwards, was the switching on of a new LED system for the exterior illumination of St Peter's itself, which was expected to make the cathedral's famous facade and dome an even more spectacular part of the Roman nightscape than ever before.
The nativity scene at St Peter's is usually not unveiled until Christmas Eve.
But, as with so many aspects of Church life, there has been a change of approach this year and the pope underlined how much importance he attaches to the symbolism of the Yuletide season.
"The crib and the tree touch the heart of everyone, including those who do not believe, because they speak of brotherhood, intimacy and friendship," he said at an audience earlier in the day.
AFP / Filippo Monteforte
A Christmas tree stands in front of St Peter's basilica after it was illuminated during a ceremony on December 19, 2014 at the Vatican
That was seen as a reference to the trend in many countries to get rid of Christmas cribs and nativity scenes in public schools and buildings in the name of secular multiculturalism.
"These symbols are an invitation to unite, to come together in peace, an invitation to make space in our personal and social lives for God, who does not come with arrogance to impose his power but instead offers his all powerful love through the fragile face of a child," Francis added.
"The crib and the tree therefore carry a message of light, hope and love. They are the dear and evocative symbols of Christmas for our Christian family."
- I will not be there -
Francis spoke as he greeted delegations from Verona, where the nativity scene was made, and Catanzaro in the southern region of Calabria, which provided the tree.
The nativity scene was designed by artist Alfredo Troisi. Inspired by the comic opera, "The Elixir of Love" by Gaetano Donizetti, it features 20 adult-sized terracotta figures.
The new lighting system at St Peter's involves the use of 315 LED lights designed to save money and reduce energy costs.
The switch follows a similar move in October to introduce LED lighting in the Sistine Chapel, home to Michelangelo's famous ceiling frescoes and the place where cardinals have elected new popes since the 15th Century.
In line with tradition, the pope will visit the nativity scene on December 31 following a service to give thanks for the year past.
AFP / Andreas Solaro
Pope Francis looks on during an audience with Italian athletes in St Peter's Basilica at the Vatican on December 19, 2014
For Francis, it has been an extraordinary 12 months with his global popularity helping to bring hundreds of thousands of believers back to the church and his reforms renovating an institution battered in recent years by clerical sex abuse and financial scandals.
His influence on the global stage was spectacularly illustrated this week when he was hailed as having played a key role in facilitating a historic rapprochement between the United States and Cuba.
Despite his superstar status, Francis appears convinced that, at the age of 78, he is living on borrowed time.
He reiterated again Friday that he does not expect to be around for much longer, telling Italian Olympic officials he did not expect to be here for the 2024 Games if Italy wins them.
On his way back from South Korea in August he lightheartedly remarked to reporters that he may only live for "two or three years, and then I'll be off to the house of the Father".
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