May 21, 2015

New package to introduce economic sanctions on anti-gov’t businesses

The Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government, which launched a war against the faith-based Gülen movement, also known as the Hizmet movement, following the publicizing of a graft probe in December 2013, has pressed ahead with a package that includes economic sanctions against anti-government companies, the Taraf daily reported on Thursday.

According to the Taraf story, the economic sanctions in the package are reminiscent of those that were introduced against conservative companies during the Feb. 28, 1997 coup era when the Turkish military forced a coalition government to resign on the grounds that there was rising religious fundamentalism in the country.

The AK Party government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accused the Gülen movement, inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, of masterminding the graft probe in which senior government members were implicated. Erdoğan, who was the prime minister at the time, accused the movement of establishing a “parallel structure” within the state and staging a coup against his government, while the movement strongly denies the accusation.

Taraf said the package prepared by the government is expected to the take effect following the June 7 general election. In addition to introducing economic sanctions on anti-government companies, the package also articulates incentives for bureaucrats who take part in operations against the “parallel structure.”

The sanctions in the package will not only be applied to Gülen-inspired foundations or businesses. It will be possible to apply them to any anti-government organization and business.

Following the publicizing of the graft probe, not only individuals but also organizations and businesses owned by people who were inspired by the ideas of Gülen have become the target of the AK Party government and Erdoğan.

The foundations for the controversial package were laid at a National Security Council (MGK) meeting held on April 29 during which representatives from public institutions made presentations about the steps that have been taken and will be taken in the fight against the “parallel structure.”

Most of the sanctions in the package targeting anti-government companies concern the allocation of Treasury land and amendments to the tax law. There will be restrictions on the amount of Treasury land given to the foundations and associations that are anti-government. There will also be restrictions on the tax exemptions granted to them. The criteria for tax exemption will be changed while the government's authority to have a say in the allocation of Treasury land to businesses and foundations will be increased. This will make it possible for the government to deprive anti-government organizations of state land and tax exemptions.

The package also makes the prosecution of bureaucrats who took part in controversial operations against Gülen-inspired companies impossible. When Turkey's state-run Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF) took over management control of 63 percent of the privileged shares in Bank Asya, Turkey's biggest Islamic lender, as part of a government-orchestrated crackdown on institutions affiliated with the Gülen movement in February, there were claims that some bureaucrats did not want to take part in this operation because it was unlawful and don't want to face a trial in the future.

The government's package provides a legal shield for bureaucrats who take part in such operations while introducing rewards for carrying them out. The package also creates incentives for pro-government companies with the claim that they have been victimized by the “parallel structure.”

Published on Today's Zaman, 21 May 2015, Thursday