Halkbank
A U.S. judge on Oct. 1 refused to dismiss an indictment accusing Turkey's state-owned Halkbank of helping Iran evade American sanctions. U.S. District Judge Richard Berman in Manhattan rejected Halkbank's claim that its status as a Turkish “instrumentality” shielded it from prosecution because of sovereign immunity.
CHP Group Deputy Chair Özgür Özel has asked the government to reveal who received millions of dollars of bribe from shady Iranian-Turkish businessman Reza Zarrab. "It's said that $80 million of this money was given to a single politician. Will the Financial Crime Investigation Board, Turkish Treasury, Court of Accounts and other auditors be mobilized?" Özel asked.
Turkish state lender Halkbank has lost a bid to have the U.S. judge overseeing a criminal case accusing it of helping Iran evade American sanctions recuse himself. “Haklbank’s recusal motion is a belated rerun of the Zarrab recusal motion, supplemented by 1,014 additional pages of exhibits and two purported expert declarations,” the judge wrote.
Turkey’s state-run Halkbank, facing trial in the U.S. over charges of breaking sanctions on Iran, said on Aug. 10 that it was immune from prosecution and that U.S. laws did not cover its alleged misconduct. In a Manhattan court filing, Halkbank said its status as an "instrumentality" of Turkey shielded it from prosecution under principles of sovereign immunity.
RTÜK head Ebubekir Şahin was appointed to Halkbank board membership after resigning from TÜRKSAT board membership and will receive multiple salaries as a result. "I asked the general manager of Halkbank about what kind of benefit they're expecting from Şahin, who doesn't know anything about economics or finance. They didn't respond," CHP deputy Atila Sertel said.
A lawyer for Turkey's state-owned Halkbank has said that the bank will ask the U.S. judge overseeing a criminal case accusing it of helping Iran evade American sanctions to recuse himself. Earlier in June, former US national security adviser John Bolton had said in his new memoir that Trump agreed to intervene in the Halkbank investigation at Erdoğan's request.
Turkish Presidential Communications Director Fahrettin Altun said that a book by former U.S. national security adviser John Bolton had "misleading" and "manipulative presentations" of the conversations between President Erdoğan and U.S. President Trump. "It is clear that the goal of this mischaracterizations and falsehoods are driven by domestic political considerations as well as personal gain," Altun said.
There probably isn’t a journalist left on earth who hasn’t read John Bolton’s book, 'The Room Where It Happened'. Bolton first mentions Turkish President Erdoğan’s name on page 24. His impression of Erdoğan is not positive: Bolton thinks Erdoğan resembles the Italian dictator Mussolini.
Former national security adviser John Bolton has claimed that U.S. President Donald Trump agreed to intervene in a federal investigation into Halkbank upon President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's request. Trump agreed to "take care of things" and said the prosecutors from the Southern District of New York were "Obama people, a problem that would be fixed when they were replaced by his people."
CHP deputy Mehmet Bekaroğlu criticized the Turkey Wealth Fund (TVF) over not being transparent enough, saying that the fund "was becoming a parallel state." "It is really heading toward a parallel state, a parallel financial power. This is not right, and neither you nor the country benefit from it,” Bekaroğlu said during the meeting.
Turkey’s government is considering a capital injection worth 20 billion lira ($2.81 billion) for three state-owned banks -- Ziraat Bank, Halkbank and Vakıfbank -- so that they can provide loans to businesses hit by the coronavirus epidemic, two anonymous banking sources told Reuters.
Turkey’s state-owned Halkbank on March 31 pleaded not guilty to criminal charges in a federal court in Manhattan that it helped Iran evade US sanctions, in a case that has strained relations between the United States and Turkey. The plea – to charges including conspiracy, bank fraud, and money laundering – was entered by the bank’s US lawyer at a hearing conducted by telephone conference because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Second largest state-run Turkish bank Halkbank's decision to provide shopkeepers with 25,000 TL in cash loans as a part of the struggle against the economic blowback of coronavirus has resulted in massive lines in front of the bank's branches. As long as the application process for these loans continue, both customers and bank personnel are at great risk of contracting coronavirus, economic consultant Meriç Dıraz warns.
A hearing scheduled for March 3 in the case against Turkey's state-owned Halkbank has been adjourned. In a letter to Judge Berman, the bank's lawyer Andrew Hruska asked for more time to obtain a written authorization from Halkbank indicating that he has been given permission by the bank's general manager to enter a plea on its behalf.
After more than three months of resistance, Turkey’s state-owned Halkbank has agreed to appear in the New York court to face criminal charges that it helped Iran evade U.S. sanctions. The bank is expected to enter its plea on March 3.
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Ankara's conflict-oriented foreign policy has received the public's support for military operations, but public opinion often fails to translate into votes. While Ankara's "enemy" in military conflict is ever-changing, the northern Syria conflict was revealed to be the only intervention that expanded the government's voter base.
Selahattin Demirtaş writes: You have re-arrested us after six years. You say we are the instigators of the Kobane massacres when we were actually the victims. Do you think you will be able to make us responsible for this through conspiracies based on secret witnesses and be saved from responsibility? You must genuinely believe that the fascism you rely on today will always exist.
Politics
Refugee children are isolated to a single school in the central Turkish province of Kırşehir, daily Evrensel reported. The school has reached enrollment figures of more than 1,000 elementary and middle school students, all of whom are refugees. Smaller numbers of refugee children coming from relatively well-to-do families were reportedly able to enroll in regular schools alongside Turkish students.
Turkey's three opposition parties have denounced a recent proposal by the AKP for the establishment of the Turkey Environmental Agency, which they claim will pave the way for corruption and nepotism. "It runs parallel or even rival to the Ministry of Environment and Urban Planning in terms of its inspection authority but it itself is exempt from both internal and external inspection,” the CHP said.
Turkey's Deputy Interior Minister İsmail Çataklı has said that reports of Ankara mulling re-imposing curfews are "completely baseless." Çataklı's comments came after Reuters, citing a senior official, said that the government is weighing the re-implementation of lockdowns to stem rising coronavirus cases in the country.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's salary has been raised by 8.3 percent to a total of 88,000 Turkish Liras, as part of a budget proposal submitted by the ruling AKP government to parliament. Erdoğan's new salary will be effective as of January 2021. Earlier in October, Erdoğan had urged the believers of Islam to have “patience” in the face of financial problems.
Some 32 deputies in parliament failed to take the stand except to take an oath, daily BirGün reported on Oct. 21. A total of 27 of said deputies were members of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), receiving more than 500,000 liras in annual salaries when combined.
The trial into the murder of prominent Kurdish human rights lawyer Tahir Elçi started on Oct. 21, amid further obstacles to securing an effective investigation into the killing. None of the three defendant police officers attended the hearing in person in the courtroom, but instead appeared via the video system. Elçi family's lawyers said that this is against the normal procedure and the case was being handled in a “negligent” and “impartial” way.
Turkish police have seized 879 animal and plant fossils worth $10 million from two houses owned by Islamic televangelist cult leader Adnan Oktar. Officials said the fossils would be delivered to a museum in Ankara.
The Istanbul 15th High Criminal Court has rejected exiled journalist Can Dündar's appeal against the seizure of his assets. The court has said that it has found the 14th High Criminal Court's Oct. 7-dated decision “in accordance with procedure and law.”
In a parliamentary question addressing Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, HDP lawmaker Ali Kenanoğlu has asked what kind of legal proceedings the ministry has run against the assailants of 36 publicly known hate crime incidents that were committed against Alevis in the last eight years. Kenanoğlu's inquiry came after unidentified assailants on Oct. 20 painted threatening messages on an Istanbul apartment building housing Alevis.
Turkey said it would not hesitate to send soldiers and provide military support for Azerbaijan if such a request were made by Baku. "There is already a military cooperation agreement between Turkey and Azerbaijan. If there is a need and Azerbaijan makes such a request, then Turkey would do it openly [provide military support]," Vice President Fuat Oktay said on Oct. 21.
Unidentified assailants have stabbed a 14-year-old Syrian child to death in Turkey's Central Anatolian province of Konya. Vail El-Mansur was on his way to the tailor shop he was working at when he was murdered brutally.
Turkish authorities seized 220 kilograms of cocaine on a ship that arrived at a port in the country's southern coast from Brazil. Police in the coastal province of Mersin found the cocaine hidden in a container carrying packages of paper.
Istanbul University's Cerrahpaşa Medical School has been observing twice as many patients, the dean said on Oct. 20. Turkey's official numbers receded to early May levels on the same day, observing some 2,026 diagnoses. "There's almost a doubling of the number of cases and patients seeking help in Cerrahpaşa. The winter might be rough for all of us," the dean said.
Turkey will send some 110,000 tons of grains and flour to countries in need, primarily Syria, a presidential decree in the Official Gazette said on Oct. 21. While the grains will be handed out by Ankara's Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) and the Turkish Red Crescent, any wages related to the operation will be taken out of the Treasury's budget as well.
During a recession that has dealt a deep blow to agricultural producers across Turkey, potato farmers are struggling to get by while retailers purchase produce cheap and sell at high prices to consumers. "I don't like the AKP anymore,” said one 70-year-old farmer, who has grown potatoes in Niğde for 45 years.
A controversial social media legislation has enabled the Turkish government to swiftly block access to scores of news reports from critical newspapers and websites within the past month. "What we are facing is a heavy censorship mechanism,” cyber-rights expert Yaman Akdeniz told the daily Cumhuriyet.
The death of Serkan Tumay in a prison raised concerns on the prison conditions in Turkey once again. While Tumay's family says that he was tortured by prison guards repeatedly and died as a result in Kırıkkale F-Type Prison, opposition deputies Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu and Gülizar Biçer Karaca asked Justice Minister Abdülhamit Gül to explain how he died.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has found Turkey guilty of violating the right to free speech of Prof. Baskın Oran and Prof. İbrahim Kaboğlu, who faced prosecution in 2005 for publishing a report on the country's minorities. The ECHR said that the legal proceedings against the two academics had “inevitably created pressure" on them leading to “self-censorship.”
The Coalition for Women in Journalism has launched a petition demanding that Turkey immediately drop charges against journalist Ayşegül Doğan, who prosecutors accuse of "being a member of an armed organization." "Today, Ayşegül Doğan has become the target of the government due to her journalism, which touches on social issues such as the struggle for peace, women's struggle and labor," read the petition.
Economy
The Turkish government has said that it "laughs off" boycotts imposed on Turkish products in Saudi Arabia, Morocco and United Arab Emirates. "We laugh off some countries' boycotts against Turkey. They should first learn to stand as independent countries," AKP deputy leader Numan Kurtulmuş said on Oct. 18.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) projected that income per capita in Turkey would drop to 2005 levels, an annual average of $7,720. The IMF also predicted a five percent contraction in the Turkish economy until the end of 2020, despite Ankara's 0.3 percent growth projection.
Turkey's net international investment deficit grew by $20 billion from the end of 2019 to reach a total $365.8 billion at the end of August. Turkey's international assets shrunk by 10.2 percent to reach $227.4 billion in the same period.
President Erdoğan on Oct. 17 announced the discovery of an additional 85 billion cubic meters of natural gas in the Black Sea, following a similar find in August. As a result of testing, analysis and detailed engineering work, another 85 billion cubic meters were added to the reserves we had discovered. The total amount of natural gas reserves in the TUNA-1 well of the Sakarya Gas Field reached 405 billion cubic meters," Erdoğan said.
Data from the Turkish Statistical Institute (TÜİK) revealed a dip in real estate sales vis-a-vis last year in September, dropping by 6.9 percent for some 136,744 residences sold. Meanwhile, the total volume of sales between January and September was larger than the number in 2019.
Urban Beat
Kurdish artist Zehra Doğan's work that she created during her two prison sentences between 2016 and 2019 are on display in Turkey for the first time. The artist was jailed on terrorism charges and gained international fame after finishing her second sentence and holding a show at London's Tate Modern.
Turkey's Presidential Symphony Orchestra will thrive thanks to the completion of its long-awaited music hall, Conductor Cemi'i Can Deliorman said. Having been in the works for 25 years, the music hall's large auditorium can seat more than two thousand viewers.
Alterations on Istanbul's iconic Hagia Sophia reportedly violated guidelines mandated under the site's "UNESCO World Heritage" status. Converted within two weeks of the legal ruling that allowed Muslim worship, the ancient structure's mosaics were unlawfully covered up, and any work on it was deemed practically impossible, architectural publication Mimarlık Magazine reported.