Turkish gov’t detains Bank Asya’s 49 shareholders over alleged links to Gülen movement

Turkish government has issued detention warrants for 68 former shareholders closed Islamic lender Bank Asya and detained 49 of them so far on Wednesday over their alleged links to the Gülen movement as part of its massive pos-coup witch hunt targeting the alleged members of the movement.

The nationwide operations had been initiated by a prosecutor’s office that specifically targets former shareholders who had authority to elect their executive board and take trade-related and administrative decisions. The witch hunt operations targeting Bank Asya shareholders was being carried out in 9 provinces. The bank was recently declared bankrupt by a government body.

It was reported that police have also determined that two of the shareholders sought with detention warrants were abroad.

The Turkish state seized Bank Asya in 2015 over its links with the Gülen movement. In the aftermath of a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016, the Turkish government closed down Bank Asya on the grounds that it was linked to the Gülen movement.

Later Turkey’s Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF) had taken over management of Bank Asya and took control of 63 percent of its privileged shares, enough to name the board, in February 2015. New board members, a general manager and deputy general managers were appointed immediately.

Before the government seizure Bank Asya was one of the three banks with the highest liquidity in Turkey. The government unlawfully took over the bank on February 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 controversial coup attempt — by Turkey’s Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency (BDDK). The banking watchdog had ruled for the complete takeover of all shares of the Islamic lender by the state-run Savings Deposit Insurance Fund in May 2015.

The bank, which had 210 branches, 5,000 employees and around 1,5 million clients, was founded on October 24, 1996 upon formal approval from the regulators. It has operated under the supervision of the independent regulatory bodies in Turkey that were responsible for overseeing the banking sector. It was a popular bank.

In the aftermath of the controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 having an account at Bank Asya have been presented by prosecutors and government officials as evidence of being member to a so-called “terror organisation.”

Also on Wednesday, 14 teachers, who were dismissed by government decrees previously, were detained by police over their alleged links to the Gülen movement. It was reported that there are women among the detainees.

One person was also detained in the southern Kahramanmaraş province over his alleged use of  the mobile phone messaging application ByLock, while in the central Anatolian province of Eskişehir, a local businessman was detained by police over his alleged links to the Gülen movement on Wednesday

Turkish authorities believe that ByLock is a communication tool among the alleged followers of the Gülen movement. Tens of thousands of people, including civil servants, police officers, soldiers, businessmen and even housewives, have either been dismissed or arrested for using ByLock since the failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

Moreover, a total of 10 people were convicted and sentenced on Wednesday across Turkey for being alleged members the Gülen movement. The 2nd High Criminal Court in the northern city of Samsun has sentenced Enes Çetin and Yusuf Özbek to over 7 years in prison over alleged membership to the movement. Nurullah Saygın, Oktay Dolu, Samet Yılmaz and Üzeyir Aydemir were also given nearly 7 years over same allagetions.

In the southeastern province of Adıyaman, the 2nd High Criminal Court gave separate jail terms of 11 to 13 years to three defendants for being alleged members the Gülen. movement and for allegedly using the ByLock. Murat İno was sentenced to 11 years and 3 months in jail, while Abdulkadir Yıldırım and Ahmet Kandırmaz were given jail terms of 13 years and 6 months each. The court also sentenced Tarık Çetin to 9 years for being alleged member of the Gülen movement.

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 Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

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. Turkey’s Interior Minister announced on December 12, 2017 that 55,665  people have been arrested. Previously, 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.

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