Duvar English

An Istanbul court has banned access to the online version of a cartoon published by the satirical magazine Leman which makes a reference to Finance Minister Berat Albayrak’s land purchase on the route of the controversial Kanal Istanbul project.

Leman’s Jan. 22-dated cover shows Bayrak’s caricatures as he stands along the route of the Kanal project and utters his famous phrase of “Here is very important.”

At the bottom of the cover reads: “Berat Albayrak’s lawyer has confirmed: When the land was put on sale in 2012 by its owner, it was bought by Berat Albayrak, with the thought that ‘a stranger should not buy it,’ through a regular purchasing procedure that can be conducted by any citizen who has the opportunity.”

The cartoon makes a reference to daily Cumhuriyet’s Jan. 20-dated report that Albayrak, who is also President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s son-in-law, purchased 13 acres of land in 2012 — a year after Erdoğan announced plans for the construction of the canal.

Cumhuriyet based its report on a government official who told the daily that Albayrak purchased the land in the Arnavutköy district in order to have land neighboring another that belongs to his father Sadık Albayrak.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that Sadık Albayrak purchased land in 2003 and Berat Albayrak purchased the neighboring one “in order for it to not be sold to a stranger.”

Cumhuriyet’s report was later confirmed by Albayrak’s lawyer Ahmet Özel, who said “it was an ordinary purchase.”

“When it was put up for sale by its owner in 2012, Berat Albayrak bought it in a way that every citizen with the financial capabilities could have. It was an ordinary purchase,” Özel said.

Last week, at Albayrak’s request, the Istanbul Anatolian 7th Court of Peace blocked access all online reports making a reference to the minister’s land purchase, including that of Gazete Duvar and Leman.

Dubbed by Erdoğan himself as his “crazy project”, Kanal Istanbul involves the carving of an artificial shipping canal on the far western outskirts of Istanbul between the Black Sea and the Marmara Sea, thereby rendering a huge section of Istanbul’s European side an island. 

The project has been criticized by the opposition, who said that the area around the route has into a “rent market.” The value of the land along the route is expected to skyrocket if the project is realized.

According to reports, a number of Arab businesspeople have already purchased large swathes of land near the route of the project, looking forward to make huge profits.