10:26, September 24 43 0 theguardian.com

2018-09-24 10:26:04
Media tycoon fights extradition to Turkey in coup round-up

British diplomatic links to Turkey will come under pressure this week as a dispossessed media proprietor faces extradition to Ankara for financial offences allegedly related to a military coup.



Akın İpek, whose newspapers and TV stations have been confiscated by Turkish officials for criticising President Recep Tayip Erdoğan’s regime, will appear alongside two other men at Westminster magistrates court on Tuesday.

The case against İpek and his co-accused follows demands for the UK to send back fugitives supposedly involved with the Fethullah Gülen movement, which the Turkish government claims was responsible for the 2016 uprising against Erdoğan.

In November, the Turkish prime minister, Binali Yıldırım, met the British prime minister, Theresa May, and asked her to extradite those supposedly associated with the failed coup.

Tens of thousands of Turkish lawyers, journalists, civil servants, judges, soldiers and others have been imprisoned or lost their jobs since 2016. MPs on the foreign affairs select committee have accused Erdoğan of exploiting the failed coup to purge opponents and suppress human rights.



The case is expected to put further strains on relations between fellow Nato members at a time when the UK is courting business partners outside the EU. Recent extradition requests from Turkey have been refused on the grounds that the country’s prison system is unsafe.



İpek fears he will not receive a fair trial in Turkey. He fell out with Erdoğan in 2013 over his media empire’s independent reporting of politics. The accusations against him, he believes, are an abuse of the extradition process and politically motivated.



The Home Office has certified the case as a being a legitimate legal request. At a preliminary hearing, however, the district judge dismissed two-thirds of the charges.



İpek, who founded the Koza Group of companies but now lives in the UK, told the Guardian: “I have never talked about politics. I have always defended human rights. Up until 2013, there was no problem but then there was a big corruption scandal.”



İpek said after that the political pressure on his news outlets to support Erdoğan increased. In 2015, his television channel was raided and closed down by police and government officials.



Since then, İpek said, the regime had “tortured and killed people in prison. My lawyers in Turkey are in prison. They shut the university in Turkey I established. They have broadcast the number-plate of my car in London and I have received death threats.”



Half of his former journalists were in prison, he said, and the other half “purged” from their former publications. “All the media there now is saying crazy lies. The Turkish authorities are cancelling the passports of anyone they suspect so they can’t travel,” İpek said.



His brother, Tekin İpek, a director at Koza Group, has been imprisoned in a Turkish jail for more than two years. In a separate case İpek is challenging the Turkish government over the expropriation of his companies, having initiated action at the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes in Washington.



Turkey has also been pressing the US to repatriate Gülen, a preacher whom Ankara alleges was the mastermind behind the coup. Gülen and his supporters have denied being involved in the incident and accused Erdoğan of staging it for political gain. The US has refused to hand over Gülen.



The other two men facing similar extradition demands in London are Talip Büyük and Ali Çelik. The hearing, the first Gülenist coup-related case to be heard in the UK, is expected to last three days.



Before an extradition case can go to court the Home Office has to certify that it is a legitimate request. The Crown Prosecution Service, which represents Turkey in the hearing, the Home Office and the Turkish embassy all declined to comment on the case.

Topics

Week News

Month News

Year News