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Turkey shuts down media businesses linked to Gulen

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Employees block the door as riot police try to enter Kanalturk and Bugun TV building in Istanbul, Turkey, October 28, 2015. ©Reuters

Authorities in Turkey have closed media outlets linked to Fethullah Gulen, a US-based cleric and arch-foe of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as Ankara continues its crackdown on dissent.

Last October, the state seized Koza Ipek Holding, a conglomerate connected to Gulen, as well as its media businesses, including the newspaper Bugun and television station Kanalturk, on accusation of financial irregularities.

Now, a stock exchange filing released late on Monday says operations were stopped due to “constant losses and the depletion of capital, while (the firms') corporate entities will be retained.”

Gulen is regarded an outspoken opponent of Erdogan and his policies. The Turkish president has accused Gulen and his followers of plotting to overthrow the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), a charge that Gulen denies.

The preacher is wanted for purportedly running a "parallel" structure within Turkey’s state institutions.

A move by police and prosecutors considered sympathetic to Gulen to open a graft probe into Erdogan's inner circle in 2013 prompted the Turkish government to launch a crackdown on Gulen's commercial interests. Erdogan has also purged police and judiciary.

According to Erhan Basyurt, Bugun's former editor-in-chief until the state takeover, the media business had a valuation of USD 200 million in 2015, and the new management had shown investments, including acquisitions, as losses.

Turkish top judge stands up to Erdogan

In a separate development on Tuesday, Zuhtu Arslan, the president of Turkey’s Constitutional Court, defended his court's independence after Erdogan and the justice minister slammed a ruling that the detention of two well-known journalists had violated their rights.

Erdogan said on Sunday he neither recognized nor respected the February 25 ruling by the tribunal that led to the release of Can Dundar, editor-in-chief of the opposition Cumhuriyet daily, and its Ankara bureau chief, Erdem Gul.

The opposition Cumhuriyet daily's editor-in-chief Can Dundar (right at podium) and Cumhuriyet daily's Ankara bureau chief Erdem Gul (left at podium) talk to the press and employees after being released from jail on February 26, 2016 at the Cumhuriyet headquarters in Istanbul. ©AFP

The two journalists have been under arrest since late November 2015 on charges of treason, espionage, and terrorist propaganda.

In late May 2015, Cumhuriyet posted on its website footage showing trucks belonging to Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT) allegedly carrying weapons for Takfiri groups in neighboring Syria.

Ankara denied the allegations, saying the trucks had been carrying humanitarian aid to Syria.

"Decisions taken by the constitutional court using its authority, are binding for everyone and every institution," Arslan told a legal conference in Ankara, adding, "We are doing our job. We do not look at who is making the application. We are not on anybody's side or against anyone."

Ankara has been accused of supporting militant groups fighting to topple the Syrian government since March 2011.

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