Istanbul, Nov 3 () - More than 50 employees of several opposition media outlets that were recently placed under the management of a trustee panel have been relieved of their duties, daily Hürriyet has reported.
Fifty-eight employees working at dailies Bugün, Millet and private broadcasters Bugün TV and Kanaltürk, which are owned by the Koza İpek Media Group, were forced to take mandatory leave from work following a police raid against the group’s headquarters in late October. When they attempted to return on Nov. 3, however, they were not permitted into the media group’s office building in Istanbul’s Şişli district.
The 58 people, whose time on mandatory leave ended on Nov. 3, were told their job contract had been terminated after they tried to enter the building, but failed to do so due to a police blockade.
Police officers demanded that employees show their identity cards at the entrance to the media group’s building before forcing them to sign documents that terminated their contracts.
The employees had to remove their possessions with a large escort of police officers.
Meanwhile, lawyers for Akın İpek, the CEO of the Koza İpek Group, have appealed against the court ruling, which placed the media group under the management of a trustee panel.
Hakan Yıldız, one of İpek’s lawyers, said they had appealed against the decisions by the caretakers, who were appointed to the Koza İpek group and the firms beneath it, including a media outlet.
The Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on Oct. 26 ordered the Koza-İpek Group to be placed under the management of a trustee panel while an investigation continues into the group’s purported ties to U.S.-based scholar Fethullah Gülen, a former government ally who is currently wanted for “being the head of and managing a terror organization.”
Gülen and his “Hizmet” (Service) Movement was an ally of then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the Justice and Development Party (AKP) throughout their rule from 2002 until late 2013, when the government was shaken by the country’s biggest ever corruption case, which included four former ministers, three of their sons, the former head of Halkbank, an Azeri-İranian businessman and a business tycoon, among others of around 100 suspects.
The government blames Gülenists in the police and judiciary for launching the probes.
Istanbul police used force on Oct. 28 to enter the headquarters and seize control of media outlets owned by the Koza İpek Group, dramatically breaking into the main broadcasting room and shutting down two TV stations, Kanaltürk and Bugün TV. The caretakers then prevented the printing of the Oct. 29 editions of dailies Bugün and Millet, declaring the proposed front-page story of Bugün as a “disgrace” while summarily firing employees during a meeting the following day. Since the appointment of the caretakers, the papers have taken a decidedly pro-government line, in contrast to the period before the forcible takeover.
According to the Turkish Penal Code, the appeal will first be considered by the judge, who gave the rule to appoint the caretakers. If the judge rules in favor of the appeal, he will reverse his decision and withdraw the caretakers from the companies. If the judge rejects the appeal, he will need to send the appeal application to Ankara’s 6th Criminal Court of Peace, where it will be evaluated.
An arrest warrant for İpek, one of the suspects in the case, has been issued in absentia as the CEO is currently abroad.