Turkish gov’t detains 29 people for depositing money in now-closed Bank Asya

The Turkish government detained 29 people out of 59 warrants issued in Ankara on Wednesday for depositing money in private lender Bank Asya, which was closed by the government as part of a massive crackdown targeting the Gülen movement in the aftermath of a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

According to a report by Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency, the warrants were issued by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office.

Before the government seizure, Bank Asya was one of three banks with the highest liquidity in Turkey. The government took over the bank on Feb. 4, 2015, contrary to strict statutory banking regulations against such a drastic move.

Bank Asya’s banking license was cancelled on July 22, 2016 — seven days after the coup attempt — by Turkey’s Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency (BDDK). The banking watchdog had ruled for a complete takeover of all shares of the Islamic lender by the Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF) in May 2015.

The bank, which had 210 branches, 5,000 employees and around 1.5 million clients, was founded on Oct. 24, 1996 upon formal approval from regulators. It operated under the supervision of independent regulatory bodies in Turkey that were responsible for overseeing the banking sector. It was a popular bank.

In the wake of the coup attempt in July 2016, having an account at Bank Asya was presented by prosecutors as evidence of membership in a so-called “terrorist organization.”

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President 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.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15. On December 13, 2017 the Justice Ministry announced that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu announced on April 18, 2018 that the Turkish government had jailed 77,081 people between July 15, 2016 and April 11, 2018 over alleged links to the Gülen movement.

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