Turkish gov’t detains pastry shop owner, 20 other businessmen over alleged Gülen links

Twenty-one businessmen including Mehmet Tahir Sekizkardeş, the owner of the Görgülü pastry shop chain, were detained on Thursday over their alleged links to the Gülen movement.

The pro-government Turkish media reported on Thursday that detention warrants were issued for 32 businessmen who are suspected of having links to the movement. At least 21 of them were taken into custody, while police were seeking the remaining 11 people.

The detainees include Sekizkardeş, the owner of Görgülü, a pastry shop established in 1960 with many branches throughout İstanbul.

At least 937 companies with TL 19,4 billion (about 3,5 billion euros) in equity and assets of TL 50 billion (about 9 billion euros) are under the control of the Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF), according to a statement made by Muhiddin Gülal, chairman of the TMSF on July 18, 2018.

Meanwhile, at least 6,700 pieces of real estate that were seized from alleged members of the Gülen movement have been transferred by Turkey’s General Directorate of Land Registry and Cadastre to the Treasury and the General Directorate of Foundations since the coup attempt.

According to a statement issued by Turkey’s General Directorate of Land Registry and Cadastre on Sunday, 4,583 properties had been transferred to the Treasury as of July 9, 2018, and 2,117 properties were transferred to the General Directorate of Foundations. In total 6,700 properties that used to belong to alleged members of the Gülen movement have been transferred to public institutions.

In addition, investigations carried out by the General Directorate of Land Registry and Cadastre into 348,151 properties are still underway. According to the statement, investigations of 121,696 properties were launched following requests from administrative authorities and probes of 226,455 properties were launched upon the request of judicial authorities.

According to a survey conducted by Brussels-based The Arrested Lawyers Initiative in June 2018, the Turkish government has transferred some TL 49,4 billion ($11 billion) in assets of 1,124 companies seized for alleged affiliation with the Gülen movement to a special fund under a crackdown that began following the July 2016 coup attempt.

The survey said that as of June 4, 2018 the TMSF controls 1,124 seized companies and also the personal assets of 127 individuals. Among the companies are Boydak Holding, which has 34 subsidiaries including the Bellona and İstikbal furniture makers and retailers, with 1,240 retail stores. Boydak employs 14,000 people and indirectly creates 110,000 jobs, the survey said.

The other major Turkish companies that were cited in the survey as seized include Koza, Dumankaya, Akfa, Orkide, Sesli and Naksan

Turkey has seized the companies under presidential decrees, leaving their owners no judicial recourse. The proprietors are allegedly members of the Gülen movement. Trustees have been appointed to run the companies against their shareholders’ wishes.

The companies are active in all areas of business and trade including investment, mining, petrol distribution, automotive, auto-gas, energy, transportation, food, agriculture, home textiles, furniture, jewellery, pharmaceuticals, law and IT, said the survey.

The value of the assets seized does not include those of 127 individuals, 19 unions, 15 private universities, 49 hospitals, 145 foundations, 174 media outlets, 1,419 foundations and another 2,271 education companies, it said. The total value of all assets confiscated could total TL 100 billion, added the survey.

According to the survey, at the very beginning of a state of emergency (OHAL) declared on July 23, 2016 in the aftermath of the coup bid, 934 private schools, 109 dormitories, 35 hospitals, 15 private universities, 16 unions, 104 foundations and 1,125 associations were dissolved and all their assets including real estate, bank accounts, intellectual property and other financial assets were transferred to the public treasury. As of June 4, at least 4,100 profit-oriented or nonprofit legal entities had been dissolved, and their assets were confiscated under decree-laws without any judicial process.

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. (SCF with turkeypurge.com)

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