The seizure of Turkey's Koza İpek Holding and its media organizations by use of force has demonstrated that the current Turkish rulers may not refrain from encouraging further violence against dissent in this country if they win the Nov. 1 parliamentary election.
The politically motivated move early this week to take over about 22 Koza holding companies as well as its media outlets has also displayed that Turkish rulers have come closer to proving their authoritarian rule.
Late on Oct. 26, only six days before the national election, an Ankara court decided to appoint a trustee panel to the holding's companies on accusations of money laundering and of involvement in the activities of what the government describes as Fethullah Gülen's terrorist organization.
This is despite the fact that the expert report, which was used as the basis for the decision to take over Koza İpek Holding, has been revealed to contain statements to the effect that although it is very common to see improprieties in the official transactions of large conglomerates in Turkey, the holding's transactions did not contain any.
US-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, once an ally of the government, and his movement have been turned into an enemy after the disclosure of corruption and bribery allegations in 2013 implicated four cabinet ministers and their sons, some businessmen and then-Prime Minister and current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and some of his family members. The government blamed the police and the judiciary that are allegedly close to Gülen movement for making up the corruption allegations in order to unseat its rule. Yet no credible evidence was presented to support the government's claims over the Gülen movement while the graft allegations were supported by strong evidence that they had taken place.
Since then, the government has initiated an all-out war against the Gülen movement. The government has broadened its campaign of pressure on all forms of dissent, criticizing what it sees as increased unlawful acts.
The government has used its majority in Parliament to bring the judiciary under its full control, hence paving the way for judges and prosecutors to take legal action against the growing opposition.
Therefore, the court decision to seize Koza İpek Holding assets was made against a background of increased authoritarianism in Turkey under the Justice and Development Party (AKP) headed by Erdoğan. As part of a strategy installing a one-party state, independent and critical media has gradually been silenced. In addition, business groups who have been refusing to bow under the pressures of the government have been scrutinized by a strictly controlled judiciary, further risking Turkey's economic security, among other things.
One of the most worrying aspects of the ongoing strategy to silence the opposition is the increased use of violence to reach that end. It was only recently that Ahmet Hakan, a columnist for the Hürriyet daily, was beaten by a group of people said to be inspired by Abdurrahman Boynukalın, the head of the AKP's youth branch. Yet he did not face any judicial inquiry over his alleged role in the violent act against Hakan.
The Bad got worse. Police used water cannons and tear gas to disperse the protesters gathered to support Koza İpek Holding on Oct. 28 and forcefully entered the group's media headquarters in İstanbul whereupon trustees assigned to take over the company's management took full control of the media group, silencing all its subsidiaries.
The appointment of partisan trustees to take over the management of Koza İpek Holding, including its media group, has further cast a shadow over the legality of the company's seizure. As the US-based Freedom House put it, in a press release on Oct. 27, the Koza İpek Holding take over has been the result of a politicized investigation into terror financing.
As the AKP headed by Erdoğan has been losing political control it has been intensifying both its method of repression and the use of government policies to buy support. Moreover, violence and intimidation is coupled with the possibility of electoral fraud in the Nov. 1 election. Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muiznieks said on Oct. 28 that the violent police raid on the İpek Media Group illustrates the dangerous path Turkey is on.
I fear that this dangerous path may pave the way for a military intervention as Turkish citizens may opt for welcoming a military coup as a means to get rid of the AKP's authoritarianism, instead of trusting the ballot boxes in which they cast their votes. Or a civil war may break out. Both would be catastrophic.
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Published on Today's Zaman, 29 October 2015, Thursday