Turkey freezes assets of 770 people, including journalists and rights activists, over alleged terrorism links

Turkey has frozen the assets of 770 people including some journalists in exile and an organization on the grounds of terrorism financing, Turkish Minute reported, citing a ruling bearing the signatures of Treasury and Finance Minister Nureddin Nebati and Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu that was published in the Official Gazette on Friday.

Abdulhamit Bilici
Journalist Abdulhamit Bilici, former Editor-In-Chief of Zaman daily, which was first seized and then closed by AKP government in 2016.

The ruling includes 454 people – among them journalists Adem Yavuz Arslan, Bülent Keneş, Cevheri Güven, Said Sefa, Sevgi Akarçeşme, Sevinç Özarslan, Abdulhamit Bilici, Mehmet Efe Çaman and Tarık Toros — and the Chicago-based Niagara Foundation, which is suspected of financing the Gülen movement, inspired by ideas and activism of Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen.

“According to an arbitrary decision of the Turkish regime … the assets of 770 people in TR have been frozen. My name is also on the list. Turkey acts like the mafia. The only ‘crime’ (!) I have committed is my critical voice and being a dissident,” journalist Çaman tweeted in English.

Sharing two photos, one showing a court decision about her and the other the ruling to freeze assets, Akarçeşme said: “[They gave] the same decisions in 2016 and 2021. [They’re like] thieves who forget what they stole and rob the same house again… The thing they know best…”

Akarçeşme was referring to the December 17-25 bribery and corruption investigations that shook the country back in 2013. The probe implicated, among others, the family members of four cabinet ministers as well as the children of the then-prime minister and current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Erdoğan launched a war against the Gülen movement after the corruption investigations of 2013. Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy, 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 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.

Since the coup attempt, a total of 319,587 people have been detained and 99,962 arrested over alleged links to the movement as part of a massive purge launched under the pretext of an anti-coup fight, while the government also removed more than 130,000 civil servants from their jobs on alleged Gülen links, according to the latest Interior Ministry data.

The names of Adil Öksüz, a leading suspect in Turkey’s failed coup attempt, and Nurettin Demirtaş, brother of imprisoned Kurdish leader Selahattin Demirtaş, the former co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), were also on the list, according to local media reports.

The ruling also listed the names of 108 people accused of links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and its umbrella organization the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), and 119 people accused of links to “terror organizations that abuse religion,” including the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

The assets of 89 individuals accused of links to the leftist organizations, mainly the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C) and the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party (MLKP), were also frozen, according to the decision.

The assets of 770 individuals and the Niagara Foundation would be frozen based on the fact that they “engaged in acts mentioned in Articles 3 and 4 of Law No. 6415, in accordance with subsection 3 of Article 7 of the same law,” the decision said, in reference to “providing or collecting funds” for terror-related acts.

People whose assets are frozen are allowed to file a lawsuit at the Ankara High Criminal Court, the ruling also noted.

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