The authorities took control of the Koza-Ipek Group companies, including the Bourse Istanbul-listed companies Koza Altin and Koza Madencilik, belonging to businessman Akin Ipek, who is close to US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, a formal ally of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan turned arch-enemy, just days before Turkey’s crucial elections.
The move against the Koza Group adds more to concerns over basic freedoms and press freedom in a country marred by violence and social tensions. Since the 2013 protests, the government has tightened the screws on its critics and the opposition media.
President Erdogan’s increasingly authoritarian rule continues to polarise the country which will hold a snap election on November 1, after Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, AKP, lost its majority in parliament in the June elections for the first time since 2002.
The government crackdown on the opposition media also raises questions that whether the November elections could be fair and transparent. The Cihan news agency, owned by a company liked to Gulen, has accurately reported the results of the past elections with its large network of reporters at the polling stations. Some speculates that the authorities may go after and silence the Cihan news agency just before the elections. Cihan’s rival in reporting the real time election results is the state-run Anadolu agency.
In September, the police raided the offices of the Koza-Ipek Group on suspicion of providing financial support to the so-called “Fethullahist Terrorist Group”. Erdogan accuses Gulen and his followers of infiltrating the country’s police force, media and judiciary, establishing what he calls “a parallel state” to overthrow him. Gulen denies the charge.
The Koza-Ipek Group also owns TV channels Kanalturk, Bugun and Bugun and Millet newspapers, all critical of the government.
In October, Turkey’s largest pay-TV network Digiturk, and digital satellite companies Teledunya and Kablo TV removed several stations, including Bugun and Kanalturk, from their platforms. Those other channels taken off air also belong to the companies with close ties to Gulen.
In February, the regulators took management control of the Gulen-linked Islamic lender Bank Asya citing violations of banking regulations on transparency in organizational and partnership structure. In March, they seized the Bank Asya shares held by Kaynak Holding, owned by a businessman close to Gulen.
Prosecutors in Ankara ruled on October 26 that the 23 companies of the Koza-Ipek Group should be placed under administrative receivership, following an investigation into the Group over its alleged links to terrorism. The company is accused of providing financial support to the Gulenist network.
Shares in the mining companies Koza Madencilik and Koza Altin fell 5.6% and 5.7% on October 26. Akin Ipek, chairman of Koza Ipek, denies any wrongdoing. Ipek says that the government pressure on him has intensified after he refused to provide financial support to the pro-government media. Following the court’s decision, managers from pro-government media outlets have been appointed to his media companies, said Akin Ipek.