July 25, 2015

Bank Asya shareholders vow to appeal to ECtHR after Demirbank ruling

In the wake of a recent verdict made by Europe's top judicial body in the Demirbank case, shareholders of Islamic lender Bank Asya have vowed to appeal the decision over its seizure in domestic and international courts.

Having already filed several lawsuits against the controversial seizure on the bank with local courts, shareholders argue that the recent decision of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has strengthened their position.

Selçuk Demirel, one of the B-Class shareholders in Bank Asya, said he is confident of getting a favorable result from the ECtHR if avenues among domestic courts are exhausted.

“I have got a long-term Bank Asya share. Yet [the value] of it went into meltdown after Dec. 17, 2013. The value of my shares have rapidly collapsed after defamatory remarks made by politicians and intimidating reports against the bank were published in some newspapers. I will seek my rights all the way up to the ECtHR and I believe I will get a return for my efforts,” Demirel said.

After a three month-long interim management, the Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency (BDDK) announced in late May it had handed over control of the lender to the Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF) in what most have called a politically motivated move. When the ECtHR ruled early this week that the seizure of Demirbank during the economic crisis in 2001 was unfair as regulators violated protection of property and the right to a fair hearing; Asya shareholders are setting their hopes on the expectation that the decision over Demirbank will act as a precedent for Bank Asya. Founded by sympathizers of Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen in 1986, Bank Asya has been persistently targeted by the government since late 2013, when the massive corruption probes that implicated several then-Cabinet ministers were made public. The government accuses Gülen and his followers in the judiciary and police forces of launching the investigations. Gülen and voluntary members of his movement -- known as the Hizmet or Gülen movement -- strictly refute the claims.

Süleyman Taşbaş, the lawyer of some of the shareholders, also remarked that Turkey should obey the ECtHR's decisions as it has been a party to the 46th Article of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR).

Another Bank Asya shareholder, Günay Mollaoğlu, said he has purchased some shares very recently in a bid to support the bank after intimidating statements from politicians and reports in pro-government media outlets. Mollaoğlu maintained that international courts will definitely reverse the decision to seize Bank Asya as the lender was tried for falling into bankruptcy by arbitrary moves.

In the meantime, some of Demirbank's shareholders are also preparing to appeal the decision to derive compensation. Organizing via social media groups, shareholders along with then-bank personnel and lawyers are set to challenge the confiscation by presenting the ECtHR verdict as a precedent.

Published on Today's Zaman, 24 July 2015, Friday