The headquarters of Zaman newspaper, which was seized and later shut down by the Turkish government, was assigned to the İstanbul judicial complex to be used as an additional service building, the Bold Medya news website reported.
The Zaman daily had at one time been the highest circulating newspaper in Turkey before it was seized by the government on March 4, 2016 over its alleged affiliation with the Gülen movement, to be subsequently closed down with an emergency decree-law issued after a failed coup on July 15, 2016.
The Turkish government accuses the Gülen movement of masterminding the failed coup and labels it a “terrorist organization.” The movement strongly denies involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity.
According to Bold Medya, a Belgian-based company named Cascade Investment NV claiming ownership to the building filed a case with the World Bank-affiliated International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), a leading international arbitration institution that provides legal dispute resolution and conciliation between international investors.
Cascade Investment NV claimed that the Zaman headquarters was owned by Cihan Medya Dağıtım AŞ, of which it was a shareholder, and that the company was unlawfully confiscated by Turkey. In early 2015, Cascade Investment NV had bought the shares of Cihan Medya Dağıtım AŞ, which owned the Zaman daily’s buildings and printing plants.
The Gülen movement has been a vocal critic of Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and his government on a range of issues including corruption, increasing authoritarianism and meddling in the Syrian civil war on the side of jihadists. Followers of the movement have been persecuted since what is widely known as the December 17 and 25, 2013 corruption investigations that implicated Erdoğan, his son, four ministers and his close associates.
Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist plot, Erdoğan whitewashed the accusations, purging and eventually imprisoning all the police officers and prosecutors involved in the probes. He then designated the movement as a terrorist organization and initiated a never-ending witch hunt against its followers, which became massive in scale after the coup attempt.
Dozens of Zaman journalists have been jailed since then. The government also closed down some 200 media outlets, including Kurdish news agencies and newspapers, after the coup attempt.