UK lawyer says Turkish tycoon extradition part of Erdogan ‘pogrom’

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by Agence France-Presse

Lawyers in Britain battling the extradition of a prominent Turkish businessman said Tuesday the case was part of “a state-directed pogrom” by Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Hugo Keith, representing exiled mining and media tycoon Akin Ipek and two other wanted Turkish nationals, told a British court that charges they helped finance a 2016 coup attempt in the country were “absurd” and “politically driven”.

“(The charges) are a direct and deliberate consequence of a state-directed pogrom,” Keith told judge John Zani, who will rule on the case after hearing legal arguments this week.

“It is a pogrom… because they’re being tried on trumped up charges.”

Keith said he will also highlight the risk of additional charges being later added and argue the Turkish judiciary is no longer independent.

“There is no due process in Turkey,” he said. “The institution of the judiciary is so compromised it offers no protection against the apparatus of the state which has descended into near-fascist ignominy.”

Ipek, the head of the Koza-Ipek media conglomerate, was arrested in Britain in May following a request from Ankara.

He faces charges of funding “terrorist” enterprises linked to US-exiled preacher Fethullah Gulen, a one-time Erdogan ally turned arch-foe blamed for the failed putsch.

Gulen, based in the United States, denies involvement.

“All the reality is going to appear,” Ipek said outside court, adding “the questions will be answered”.

The tycoon reportedly fled Turkey on a private jet to Britain in 2015.

His conglomerate has since been targeted, with its assets seized and numerous employees charged, Keith said.

Turkish prosecutors issued 65 arrest warrants in December 2015 as part of a vast probe into suspected so-called Gulenists, according to Anadolu, Turkey’s state-run international news agency.

They initially requested his extradition for “attempting to overthrow the Turkish government” and “violating the constitution”, and involvement in a terrorist organisation, Anadolu reported.

But the majority of those charges were blocked at an earlier hearing in Britain, leaving only several charges related to fundraising.

Keith said Tuesday that Ankara would likely reinstate the charges — which could carry a life sentence in Turkey — if his client was returned.

He noted Ipek was currently on trial there in absentia for various charges, which had not been disclosed to British authorities.

“The paranoid world in which elements of the Turkish government live, you simply can’t take at face value what’s being said,” Keith added.

Britain’s prosecution service, which processes extradition requests, declined to comment. (AFP)

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