October 27, 2015

Opposition, jurists slam arbitrary seizure of critical holding, warn of serious consequences

Interim Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government’s decision to appoint a trustee to take over management of Koza İpek Holding, which owns media outlets that are critical of the government, has sparked strong reactions with politicians and jurists calling the move “arbitrary” and “unlawful” and warning of serious consequences it would lead to.

Jurists stressed that the move which lacks a court decision as it is only based on a prosecutor’s request, is not acceptable. “You cannot explain seizing a company which is open to the public with lame excuses to anybody in the world. Free media has been silenced with the seizure of İpek Media Group. The elections are now completely shady,” Sami Karahan is a professor of commercial and banking law, said on Twitter.

Lawyer Yasemin Bal said such decisions to appoint a trustee to a company should be taken based on concrete evidence. “These companies have thousands of employees and hundreds of suppliers. Such things pose serious risks to economy. … We should see that such decisions would result in heavy consequences for Turkey,” the lawyer was quoted as saying by the Hürriyet daily.

Another lawyer, Hüseyin Poyraz, warned that the trustee to be appointed has the legal responsibility to act impartially. “The trustee would commit a crime in accordance with the demands of the political authority,” he said.

Opposition parties also strongly condemned the move with Republican People's Party (CHP) İstanbul deputy Barış Yarkadaş saying the decision is completely arbitrary and illegitimate.

"This operation which is carried out without a court order is arbitrary, null and void and illegitimate," Yarkadaş tweeted. "Those who took as well as those who implement this decision are committing a constitutional crime,” he continued, adding that the move is the latest attempt of the government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to silence critical media.

CHP İstanbul deputy Mahmut Tanal, also a jurist, explained why the decision lacks any legal ground and serves just political purposes. “The AK Party is creating instability to change the agenda and prevent the public from learning the truth,” he tweeted.

CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu also called Koza İpek Holding CEO Akın İpek to show solidarity with him in the face of what he called the unlawful decision to seize his companies.

He went to headquarters of the Bugün and Kanaltürk news outlets from İpek Media Group later at night to show solidarity with journalists working at these outlets in the wake of the government move.

Academic Koray Çalışkan said the seizure is a blow both to the public and entrepreneurship as the company was open to public while Liberal Democrat Party (LDP) leader Cem Toker termed the move as “an illegal seizure that appear to be legal.”

Ankara-based Koza İpek is active in several sectors, including media, energy and mining. Among the locations raided in a recent government-led operation were İpek University and the headquarters of Koza İpek in Ankara.

According to reports on Monday, a trustee will be appointed to replace the existing boards of directors of Koza and companies that belong to it following a demand by the 5th Ankara Criminal Court of Peace. “Courts of peace” are a new feature of the Turkish justice system, established by the government when President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was prime minister as specially authorized courts with extraordinary powers that contradict the universal rule of law and take decisions under the influence of the AK Party.

Published on Today's Zaman, 26 October 2015, Monday