Municipality demolishes headquarters of TV station shut down over Gülen links

Municipal teams in İstanbul on Tuesday demolished the former headquarters of Samanyolu TV, one of the country’s major networks before President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and the Development Party (AKP) government shut it down in 2016 over alleged links to the Gülen movement, Turkish Minute reported.

The building encompasses approximately 2,500 square meters that were allocated in 2017 to the University of Health Sciences, headed by former AKP lawmaker Prof. Dr. Cevdet Erdöl.

The situation of the building, located in Üsküdar, was brought to the agenda of the Üsküdar City Council in June, local media reports said. After an inspection found the building unsafe, the university on June 2 asked to sign an agreement with the municipality to reinforce the building, which was to be used as a student dormitory.

The decision to convert the building into a dormitory was passed by the city council with a majority of votes, despite the objections of members of both the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the nationalist opposition İYİ (Good) Party.

The building, which was expected to be reinforced so as to be used as a dormitory, was on Tuesday demolished with heavy equipment belonging to the Üsküdar Municipality. Footage of the demolition was shared widely by Turkish social media users, local media reports said.

It was not clear how the building was suddenly demolished despite the city council’s decision to reinforce it.

The AKP government virtually eliminated the network by removing it from government-owned satellite operator Turksat and canceled its license in 2015.

In July 2016 Samanyolu TV’s license was revoked and the network was shut down altogether due to alleged links to the Gülen movement, inspired by Muslim preacher Fethullah Gülen.

The development came days after an attempted coup on July 15, 2016, following which Erdoğan’s AKP government pinned the blame on the Gülen movement, labeling the faith-based group as a terrorist organization.

Although both Gülen and his followers strongly denied having any role in the failed coup or any terrorist activities, Erdoğan, calling the coup attempt “a gift from God,” and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

Some 622,646 people have been investigated and 301,932 have been detained, and 96,000 others have been jailed due to alleged links to the Gülen movement since the failed coup, according to official data, while the government removed more than 130,000 civil servants from their jobs.

Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the movement since the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013, which implicated then-Prime Minister Erdoğan, his family members and 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.

Hidayet Karaca, former chief executive of the Samanyolu Media Group, was arrested in December 2014 and was sentenced by an İstanbul court to 31 years, six months’ imprisonment over the scenario of a TV series that was broadcast by Samanyolu TV. Karaca was convicted on charges of membership in a terrorist organization for his alleged ties to the Gülen movement and for allegedly slandering the al-Qaeda-affiliated radical Islamist group Tahşiyeciler.

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