A regional appeals court has upheld prison sentences given to members of the İpek family, whose İpek Holding was seized by the Turkish government in 2015 due to their alleged links to the Gülen movement, a faith based group inspired by Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen.
According to Turkish Minute, the 4th criminal chamber of the Ankara Regional Court on Thursday upheld a prison sentence of 79 years, eight months for Cafer Tekin İpek, a brother of Akın İpek, the founder of İpek Holding who has been living in the UK since 2015, and a prison sentence of 11 years, eight months to his mother, Melek İpek.
The İpek family members were given jail sentences on charges of membership in a terrorist organization and tax evasion at the end of a trial concluded in January by the Ankara 24th High Criminal Court.
Cafer Tekin İpek has been behind bars since April 2016. Melek İpek was a well-known and respected woman even among ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) circles as a pioneer of charity activities before the government crackdown on the Gülen movement began.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement since the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013, which implicated then-Prime Minister Erdoğan, his family members and his inner circle.
Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy against his government, Erdoğan designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. He locked up thousands including many prosecutors, judges and police officers involved in the investigation as well as journalists who reported on them.
Erdoğan intensified the crackdown on the movement following a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity.
There were 20 defendants in the trial. The remaining defendants were also given jail sentences ranging between two and almost 10 years.
The defendants will be able to challenge the court’s ruling at the Supreme Court of Appeals.
The court also ordered that the defendants’ shares in the company be transferred to the Treasury and that a board of trustees continue to run the organization.
İpek Holding has been managed by a group of government-appointed trustees since 2015.
When the government decided to seize İpek Holding, Akın İpek was in the UK and decided not to return home.
The Turkish government filed a formal extradition request for the senior İpek that was rejected by a UK court.