Istanbul police block court-ordered eviction of area used by Erdoğan-linked foundation

Istanbul police forces on Oct. 6 prevented municipality employees from carrying out a court-ordered eviction of an area used by TÜGVA, an Islamist foundation controlled by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's son Bilal Erdoğan, on Büyükada.

Duvar English

Turkish police on Oct. 6 prevented a court-ordered eviction of an area used by the Turkey Youth Foundation (TÜGVA), an Islamist foundation controlled by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's son Bilal Erdoğan, on Büyükada, the largest of Istanbul's Princes Islands.

As per a recent decision of the court, the TÜGVA is legally required to evacuate the upper floor of the Büyükada Pier.

In 2018, the area was leased to the TÜGVA for a period of 10 years. On Feb. 7, 2020, the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality (İBB), run by the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), determined that the TÜGVA had illegally subleased the area, in contravention of the agreements, therefore ordering the foundation to evacuate the space. When the foundation rejected this, the case was taken to the judiciary, with an administrative court ruling in favor of the municipality.

After the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality sent the legal notice to the district governor's office of the Princes Island, the eviction process was launched. 

On Oct. 6, the municipal police (“zabıta”) came to the Büyükada Pier to remove the belongings of the foundation from the relevant area, but faced police resistance.

A brawl took place between police officers and municipal police and CHP provincial members. 

A lawyer representing CHP's Princes Islands head Ali Ercan Akpolat said that police officers had battered five people, including himself, during the brawl. Lawyer Fırat Burak said that they will file a criminal complaint.

Residents of Büyükada also reacted against the police for their action, shouting slogans of: “The state's police stand by TÜGVA. The police of TÜGVA go out; we demand rights, law, justice.”

Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality spokesperson Murat Ongun released a statement on Twitter saying that the police was committing a crime by preventing the evacuation of the area. “A legal process will be launched into all people and institutions who are doing this [preventing the evacuation],” Ongun wrote.

CHP Istanbul provincial head Canan Kaftancıoğlu visited the island, saying that the TÜGVA had violated the agreement by subleasing the area. In a press statement in front of the pier, she said that the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality back in 2018, when it was run by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), leased the area to TÜGVA for only 2,500 Turkish Liras a month.

“The pier, which belongs to the residents of the island and Istanbul, was transferred to the İBB in 2005 with a protocol. Later in 2018, the upper floor of the pier was leased to TÜGVA for ten years for 2,500 liras a month. When thousands of students, who are having an accommodation problem, cannot even find a flat for 5,000-6,000 liras a month, this place was leased for 2,500 liras,” she said.

Meanwhile, TÜGVA released a statement on Twitter saying that the evacuation order was unlawful and a group of its members were on their way to visit the foundation's youth center on the island. “Our TÜGVA Island youth center will continue to give its service,” the foundation said.

Since Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu, from the CHP, assumed the post in 2019, he has been trying to expose the AKP-era officials' wrongdoings.