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POLITICS >Turkish court rules against controversial presidential palace in Ankara

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President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s 1,150-room mega-palace was illegally constructed on protected land, Turkey’s top administrative court has confirmed in a ruling, according to architects’ NGO.

Erdoğan moved into the palace last year, brushing aside protests by opposition parties and advocacy groups who said the $615 million complex was illegal.

The Ankara Chamber of Architects, which filed several cases against the palace, said on May 26 in a written statement that the Council of State had overturned a decision that allowed the construction of public buildings on some preserved sites, confirming the palace was “illegal,” the Associated Press reported.

The Council of State plenary session of the chambers for administrative cases canceled the protection board’s resolution which said the public buildings could be built on protected natural site areas.

The ruling was the second against the construction of the presidential palace in the protected area in Ankara, Cihan News Agency reported. The Ankara 5th Administrative court had previously decided to stop the execution of the construction project on the Atatürk Forest Farm (AOÇ). 

After the court’s ruling, the Cultural and Natural Heritage Preservation Board amended Decision No. 271 on the matter, saying, “Public buildings can be built in historical site areas without having a reconstruction plan for protection.” With the amendment, the construction of the palace, widely dubbed the “Ak saray” (White Palace), continued. The Chamber of Architect’s Ankara branch filed a lawsuit and the case was sent to the Council of State.

The Chamber of Architects said in its statement on May 26 that the ruling “once again revealed that the construction of the palace was illegal.”

President’s office deny claims on ruling

“The construction plans, the Protection Board’s decisions and the construction licenses which allowed the illegal construction are completely unlawful at the moment after this verdict. All the unlawful decisions and documents which allowed the unlawful construction in the AOÇ have lost their legal ground,” said the statement.

Meanwhile, the Presidential Office denied the chamber’s claims in a statement on May 27, saying the court ruling was not relevant to the presidential palace. 

The Council of State’s 14th Board canceled on May 22, 2014, a local court’s ruling which had canceled the removal of historical site designation for the mentioned area, recalled the statement.

“Thus, it was previously revealed by a court ruling that the area where the presidential service building [palace] is located is not a historical site area. Thus, the ruling of the Council of State plenary session of the chambers for administrative cases which halted the execution of the protection board’s resolution has no relevance to the presidential service building,” it said.

The cost of Turkey’s controversial new presidential palace, which was at least 1.37 billion Turkish Liras ($615 million), and the legality to build it inside the Atatürk Forest Farm have been criticized by the opposition.
 
A residence for the president, a mosque and a cultural center are still waiting to be completed in the presidential complex.



May/27/2015

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