Court seizes control of Gülen-linked industry, media group
DHA photoThe appointment of a trustee panel for Koza İpek, a corporation linked to the Islamic Scholar Fethullah Gülen, ahead of the general elections on Nov. 1 has created an uproar across Turkey amid scuffles between the police and supporters of the firm in the company’s building on Oct. 27.
An Ankara court decided late Oct. 26 to appoint a trustee panel to Koza İpek, upon the request of the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, state-run Anadolu Agency reported.
The Ankara 5th Court of Peace said in a statement on Oct. 26 that it was “necessary to assign managers with full control to prevent crime and to protect evidence in a case in which reports have revealed that this company has helped and been involved in the activities of an organization titled FETÖ/PDY which is said to have attempted to topple the government.”
The holding owns two daily newspapers, Bugün and Millet, and two television stations, Bugün TV and Kanaltürk.
The Ankara Prosecutor’s Office said in a statement that they had found evidence of illegal donations as well as gold which were delivered to the company as part of donations.
“Hundreds of pages of [illegal] donations were found in the computers of the related holding and the companies linked to it. These donations were shown as interest received from the gold production and the money was laundered by front companies,” prosecutors said.
Police officers forcefully entered the Koza İpek Holding headquarters in Ankara on Oct. 27, deploying tear gas on protesters that had gathered to support the firm. An attempt to serve the court ruling to Koza İpek Holding’s media group headquarters in Istanbul failed, after the holding’s lawyers refused to receive the official notice, arguing that the police officer was not authorized for such an operation.
Shares of Turkish mining firm Koza Altın slid more than 5 percent late Oct. 26 after the company was placed in administrative receivership.
A number of managers have been appointed as administrative receivers to the group of companies, including former managers from the pro-government Turkuvaz Media Group, which brings together pro-government outlets of the Sabah and Takvim dailies and the ATV channel.
Meanwhile, Hakan Yıldız, the lawyer for Koza İpek Holding Chairman Akın İpek, said the new managers had started their work in the company even though the police had not delivered the decision on their appointment. “The managers started to work simultaneously in 22 companies. We will object to this on Monday or Tuesday,” said the lawyer.
The move drew criticism from supporters of the firm and political parties as well.
Democracy and law is suspended if a prosecutor is able to seize a corporation without any court ruling, Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said after the appointment of a trustee panel for Koza İpek.
“The business world is intensely concerned. Foreign investors are also intensely concerned. There is no assurance of life and property in Turkey,” Kılıçdaroğlu said, in a live interview with NTV news channel on Oct. 27, warning that any prosecutor in Turkey would be able to seize the property of a person on “reasonable doubt.”
“What is graver is that persons who are appointed as trustees are close to the government,” he said.
Kılıçdaroğlu visited the group before midnight on Oct. 26, shortly after reports surfaced.
Bugün TV Editor-in-Chief Tarık Toros welcomed Kılıçdaroğlu, who argued the incident was an anomaly in a state of law. “Such decisions harm our democracy and the reputation of our country. Declaring a group as the enemy and attacking them without restraint is unacceptable,” he said.
According to a report by Cihan News Agency, CHP Deputy Chairman Sezgin Tanrıkulu submitted a parliamentary question requesting a written response from Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu on Oct. 27, a day after Kılıçdaroğlu’s visit.
Tanrıkulu drew attention to Koza İpek’s written statement where the group alleged that they had not received any legal notification and were continuing to “follow all developments from the state-run Anadolu Agency.”
He also criticized the appointment of managers with links to the Justice and Development Party (AKP) to Koza İpek companies.
The deputy chairman asked why these people were chosen from among the ranks of the AKP and questioned whether the move was in fact an attempt to “intimidate” the media.
“If the allegations are correct, does this operation aim to silence the media outlets owned by Koza İpek ahead of the elections? Is it intended to intimidate media outlets critical of the AKP?” he added.
Meanwhile, a group of journalists from daily Cumhuriyet, including Editor-in-Chief Can Dündar, paid a visit to the headquarters of the İpek Media Group in Istanbul, BGNNews reported.
“We will struggle against this pressure all together. We won’t give up. These buildings, TV stations, newspapers are all temporary. We will always be here. We won’t surrender,” Dündar told reporters.
The U.S. Embassy in Ankara also tweeted a statement expressing concern about the decision.
“The U.S. believes strongly that freedom of press/expression are universal rights. They are essential for healthy democratic societies,” the embassy said on its official Twitter account.
“When there is a reduction in the range of viewpoints available to citizens, especially before an election, it is a matter of concern,” the embassy added.
European Parliament President Martin Schulz also voiced concern over the incident. “Deeply concerned about seizure of Koza İpek group right ahead of Nov. 1 election in Turkey. Free media a cornerstone of vibrant democracies,” he wrote via his Twitter account.
Turkish police raided companies in Ankara belonging to Koza İpek in September. A court search warrant at that time showed that Koza Altın and group firm Koza Anadolu Metal were being investigated on suspicion of terror financing, terror propaganda and other crimes related to Chairman Akın İpek’s alleged support for Gülen. The detained persons were released on probation by an Ankara court on Sept. 2. Ankara’s Eighth Criminal Court of Peace then issued an arrest warrant in absentia for Akın İpek.