Istanbul prosecutors are seeking up to two years in jail for a journalist of the opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet who had reported that Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, who is also President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s son-in-law, purchased a land on the route of the controversial Kanal Istanbul project in 2012 — a year after Erdoğan announced plans for its construction.
An initial indictment filed by an Istanbul prosecutor on March 6 demanded that Hazal Ocak stand trial on charges of “defamation,” Cumhuriyet reported on April 18. The chief public prosecutor however rejected this indictment and said that Ocak should be accused of “defamation through the press,” which increases the penalty in defamation cases.
In a newly prepared indictment filed on March 31, the prosecutors are now seeking a prison term of between one year and two years. The indictment defined Albayrak’s land purchase on the Kanal Istanbul route was as a “normal purchase.”
The new indictment was accepted by the Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance. Ocak will appear before the court on June 18.
Ocak’s report said on Jan. 20 that Albayrak had purchased 13 acres of land in 2012 on the route of the Kanal Istanbul.
The report was later confirmed by Albayrak’s lawyer Ahmet Özel, who said “it was an ordinary purchase.”
On Feb. 12, the Istanbul Anatolian 7th Court of Peace blocked access all online news reports regarding Albayrak’s land purchase, including that of Gazete Duvar.
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.