October 29, 2015

Lawyer Ülgen criticizes seizure of Koza İpek, says it violates Constitution

Lawyer Celal Ülgen, who previously served as a defendant lawyer in a number of some of Turkey's biggest cases, has joined the chorus of condemnation towards the government's recent seizing of Koza İpek Holding, saying that it violates the constitutional right of press freedom.

In an interview with online news portal Grihat, Ülgen pointed to the long series of unlawful acts in which the interim Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government has been involved in an attempt to hold on to power.

Ülgen was quoted as saying, “You know there is a chain of earthquakes and similar to a chain of earthquakes, there has been a chain of unlawfulness happening.”

He added that trying to shut down the operation of TV channels is a violation of the Constitution. “The article of the Constitution that says, ‘The press should be free and cannot be censored' has been violated,” Ülgen stated.

Following a government-backed decision given earlier this week by the controversial Ankara 5th Penal Court of Peace, a number of trustees accompanied by police arrived on Wednesday morning at the İstanbul office of İpek Media Group, a subsidiary of Koza İpek Holding.

Despite a large crowd of demonstrators outside the building, the trustees were able to enter the building due to police force and tried -- and several times succeeded-- to cut the broadcasting of Bugün and Kanaltürk TV channels, which are part of İpek Media Group.

Leading politicians, journalists and representatives of civil society organizations have stood in support of Ipek Media Group's fight against the attempts to silence its critical voice.

Ülgen calls the attempts to intervene in the broadcasts of Bugün and Kanaltürk TV channels as one of the black holes of Turkey's democracy. Describing the government-led act as tyranny and oppression, he further stated: “When someone says, ‘These channels did this and did that in the past, so this seizure serves them right,' then this is unbelievable in democracy because [in democracy] the identity, background, race and sect of those who are oppressed do not matter.”

Ülgen also commented on the justifications of the trustee-appointment decision that was given based on an expert report that was prepared after a demand by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor's Office.

Referring to Articles 133, 134 and 135 of the Law of Criminal Procedure -- which was used for appointing trustees to Koza İpek Holding's management -- Ülgen said, “Within the framework of security measures [described in the aforementioned articles] a company with illegal activities under a holding can be seized; however, all of the companies under that holding cannot be seized.”

According to media reports, the Ankara 5th Penal Court of Peace used the Articles 314 and 315 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK), which concern the "supply of weapons to armed groups," for appointing trustees to all of the subsidiaries of the Koza İpek Holding. However, no evidence was shown for strong suspicion of the holding's violation of these articles. Moreover, the trustees arriving at Koza İpek Holding's buildings persistently refused to show the court's ruling.

Ülgen also mentioned the trustees' refusal to show the court ruling, saying: “Raiding a business enterprise is described in the law. You present the search warrant or the [court] decision on trustee appointments, and then you enter [the building] freely. However, those [trustees and policemen] persistently did not show such a ruling.”

Asserting that the voter base of the AK Party and the audience of Bugün and Kanaltürk TV overlapped, Ülgen said: “That's why the political power [the ruling party] has become uncomfortable [with the criticism of Bugün and Kanaltürk]. In other words, as they could not bear a loss of their voter base, so they now have to violate the Constitution [by forcefully seizing the channels].

Published on Today's Zaman, 29 October 2015, Thursday