October 28, 2015

Jurists say İpek’s seizure a blatant violation of law ahead of election

A number of Turkish jurists have strongly criticized the interim Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government's decision to appoint trustees to take over the management of Koza İpek Holding, a conglomerate which owns media outlets that are critical of the government, calling the move “arbitrary” and “unlawful” and warning of serious consequences.

Turkish Bar Association (TBB) Chairman Metin Feyzioğlu called the takeover of the holding's management “the seizure of media outlets that are critical of government by the palace” -- a reference to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan -- on Twitter on Tuesday. “The management of the companies [of Koza İpek Holding] has been taken over and individuals designated by a judge have been appointed [to manage the companies]. But there is a detail that should not go unnoticed: Most of these trustees are affiliated with the AK Party. … They can't fool people. All these occurrences are viewed as a seizure of critical media outlets by the palace,” Feyzioğlu said.

Although trustees appointed in such cases should be independent of any political party, figures close to the AK Party -- such as AK Party Beylikdüzü branch head Nevzat Demiröz and AK Party Ümraniye City Council member Ali Yazlı -- have been appointed as trustees of Koza İpek Holding's companies.

Speaking to the Barotürk news portal on Tuesday, Adana Bar Association head Mengücek Gazi Çıtırık said the government has intensified its intimidation of and pressure on people and institutions that have opposing views. He added that the freedoms of press, thought and expression are being completely disregarded in Turkey.

Republican People's Party (CHP) İstanbul deputy Mahmut Tanal, who is also a lawyer, said the decision lacks any legal grounds and is only intended to serve political purposes. “The AK Party is creating instability to change the agenda and prevent the public from learning the truth,” he tweeted.

Ankara-based Koza İpek Holding 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 the holding in Turkey's capital.

According to reports on Monday, trustees will be appointed to replace the existing boards of directors of the holding and companies that belong to it following a ruling by the 5th Ankara Criminal Court of Peace. The so-called courts of peace are a new feature of the Turkish justice system, established by the government when 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.

‘AK Party is fighting against the free media on eve of election defeat'

Speaking to the Cihan news agency on Tuesday, Van Bar Association Chairman Murat Timur said that he viewed the government's move to take over Koza İpek and its media outlets as a desperate move by the AK Party to improve the dim prospects of it emerging with a parliamentary majority after the Nov. 1 election.

“[The government's seizure of Koza İpek] has nothing to do whether the company's activities are in compliance with the law, everyone knows that. What is really happening is that the government is fighting a rearguard action five days before the election,” Timur said.

In a press conference on Tuesday, Bursa Bar Association Chairman Ekrem Demiröz slammed the seizure of Koza İpek, saying that he had never seen such a practice before. “A company is accused of financing a terrorist organization. I view this [operation] as political because it is being pushed by the government. … This operation is silencing those who have opposing views. Our country will become ungovernable if such witch hunts continue,” Demiröz said.

Manisa Bar Association Chairman Ali Arslan told Cihan that Turkey had entered a new period in which the law serves as a tool for oppressors. “Those who consider themselves powerful should anticipate that they will be subject to similar kind of acts in the future, such as the confiscation of companies. Laws should be applied in an objective manner and not used to destroy a particular group,” he said.

Antalya Bar Head Alper Tunga Bacanlı also spoke to Cihan on Tuesday to condemn the seizure of Koza İpek, saying that the move cannot be justified in legal terms. “Can trustees be appointed to companies via a decision by a criminal court of peace? What is this? … It should not be surprising if unlawful practices continue,” Bacanlı said.

He added that the seizure of Koza İpek Holding is proof that business cannot freely operate in Turkey.

Published on Today's Zaman, 27 October 2015, Tuesday