Gibraltar hands Al-Qaeda suspect over to Spain

Police in Gibraltar deported to Spain on Friday a Turkish suspected Al-Qaeda member accused of plotting bombing attacks, who entered the British territory illegally, an official said.

Gibraltar hands Al-Qaeda suspect over to Spain
The UK overseas territory of Gibraltar. Photo: Wikimedia

Cengiz Yalcin had been arrested in August in Spain along with two Chechen suspects who the Spanish interior ministry said were Al-Qaeda members plotting an attack in Europe.

The three were released on bail by a judge in Madrid in March pending terrorism charges. Yalcin was arrested in Gibraltar on Wednesday, authorities said.

Spanish media at the time cited police sources saying the three were suspected of plotting to drop explosives on a shopping mall in Gibraltar during the 2012 London Olympics.

The governor's office in Gibraltar, a British-ruled enclave on the southern tip of Spain, said in a statement that Yalcin was arrested on Wednesday as a "prohibited immigrant".

A police spokesman who asked not to be named told AFP that Yalcin was deported to Spain on Friday as an undocumented immigrant — not due to any arrest warrant.

"He's got no documentation which allows him to be in Gibraltar," the spokesman said.

After the three suspects were arrested in August, the Spanish interior ministry released a video found in Yalcin's home which they said showed a trial bomb attack using a model aircraft.

Police found explosives in his home where he was arrested in the Spanish city of La Linea de la Concepcion, near the border with Gibraltar, the government said at the time.

The judge in Madrid's National Court is investigating terrorism and explosives charges against the three suspects but ruled in March that there was not yet enough evidence to keep them in custody.

Yalcin's lawyer said at the time of his arrest that his client was an engineer with an international company who had lived for seven years in Gibraltar and had a British work permit.

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Gibraltar holds referendum on its draconian abortion laws

Gibraltar heads to the polls on Thursday to vote on plans to ease abortion laws which currently carry possible life sentences for offenders, in a referendum delayed for over a year by the coronavirus pandemic.

Gibraltar holds referendum on its draconian abortion laws
A woman wears a t-shirt reading " Gibraltar for Yes!" outside a polling station in Gibraltar, on June 24, 2021. Photo: Jorge Guerrero/AFP

The issue has exposed sharply opposing views within this tiny, normally closely-knit British enclave at the southernmost tip of Spain, which is home to some 32,000 people.

The referendum was initially slated for March 19 2020 but a week ahead of the vote it was postponed as virus cases began spiralling at the start of the pandemic.Except in cases where it would save the mother’s life, abortion is currently banned in Gibraltar on pain of life imprisonment, although such a penalty has not been applied in modern times.

The government is proposing changes to the law to allow abortion where a woman’s mental or physical health is at risk — such as in cases of rape or incest — or when foetuses have fatal physical defects.

Although the changes have already been approved by Gibraltar’s parliament, the referendum will decide whether or not that amended law be brought into force.

Under the changes, a woman would be able to undergo an abortion up to 12 weeks into her pregnancy if her mental or physical health is deemed at risk, or beyond if such damage would be grave and permanent.

There would be no time limit on cases involving fatal foetal anomaly.

Until now, women wanting to have an abortion have had to travel to Spain or to Britain to undergo the procedure.

Chief Minister of Gibraltar Fabian Picardo and his wife Justine Olivero leave a polling station after casting their ballots. Photo: JORGE GUERRERO/AFP

– ‘In Gibraltar’s best interests’ –

Ahead of the vote, both sides have been campaigning hard, with Chief Minister Fabian Picardo and two other party leaders releasing a video urging people to vote “Yes” to the proposed amendment to the crimes act that will regulate abortions in Gibraltar.

“My personal, professional & political opinion on the abortion referendum: it is in #Gibraltar’s best interests to #VoteYes on Thursday 24th June,” Picardo tweeted.

“No” campaigners have also been rallying support with hundreds of people dressed in pink and purple joining a pro-life “Save Babies, vote no” march through the city centre last week, chanting “We vote no!”

On the ballot, voters will be asked: “Should the Crimes (Amendment) Act 2019, that defines the circumstances which would allow abortion in Gibraltar, come into force?”

If the changes are approved, the law is expected to take effect fairly quickly although officials have not yet laid out a timeline.

The proposed changes came after Britain’s Supreme Court ruled in June 2018 that Northern Ireland’s abortion laws, which at the time were almost identical to Gibraltar’s, were incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

“It is therefore clear that if the equivalent law on abortion in Northern Ireland was in breach of the Convention, our identical, archaic law is too,” wrote Picardo in an op-ed in Wednesday’s Gibraltar Chronicle.

“It is our duty to vote to stop this ongoing breach.”

Picardo has said he believed the changes were long overdue and that the plans would be approved “by a very large majority”.