A total of 2,000 trustees were appointed to hundreds of private entities in Turkey over the past six months, in what is considered an alarming issue regarding increasing government control across the country, according to a report by Al Monitor.
The trustees were appointed by either courts of commerce or criminal courts of peace. However, these court rulings are widely deemed the result of government pressure as they mainly target sympathizers of the Gülen movement, against which the government had waged a battle since a corruption scandal led to the resignation of four Cabinet ministers in December 2013. The graft probe had implicated then-Prime Minister Erdoğan, members of his family and senior government figures. President Erdoğan and the ruling AK Party claimed that the investigation was a “coup attempt” against the government and accused the Gülen movement of being behind it.
The Al Monitor article titled “Why does Turkey suddenly need so many bankruptcy trustees?” touched on the ongoing government crackdown on the Gülen movement under the pretext of the battle against a “parallel state.” Turkish criminal courts of peace, which have recently become a tool of the government, have ordered detentions of 4,011 people, including academics, business people, police officers and soldiers in the past two years.
The article by Ufuk Şanlı continued “More than 800 of them were subsequently arrested, and new management was installed at more than 350 organizations, including educational institutions, hospitals and companies of varying sizes. The government appointed 1,200 people it favors to be trustees to run these organizations.”
According to the same article, “Since October, thousands of people have Googled the question ‘How can I become a trustee?’ That in itself is enough to illustrate Turkey’s economic problems — not to mention the unusual wave of bankruptcies the government has been involved in.” Al Monitor’s analysis revealed that the appointed trustees are paid a monthly salary of between TL 5,000 and TL 100,000.
The article gave the example of İmran Okumuş, who was appointed as a trustee to the Kaynak Holding with a monthly salary of TL 5,000 ($1,700) for every company he was put in charge of. Okumuş ended up with a total salary of TL 129,000 a month for managing 19 companies and two foundations after some companies that had indirect links to the same holding were also seized.
The Gülen movement is a grassroots social initiative inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen and carries out charitable activities all around the world, including education, distributing humanitarian aid and providing drinking water especially in African countries.
Erdoğan refers to the movement as “Fethullahist Terrorist Organization,” which is used by the government-backed judiciary to frame sympathizers of the Gülen movement. Erdoğan also coined the term “parallel state” after December 2013 to refer to people believed to be inspired by the ideas of Gülen, especially those within the state bureaucracy.
Thousands of prosecutors, judges and police chiefs were reassigned, dismissed or imprisoned either for taking part in the corruption investigation or based on allegations of having links to the movement. Also there have been many police operations carried out targeting shopkeepers, teachers, members of the judiciary, journalists and police officers who are accused of being affiliated with the Gülen movement, also known as the Hizmet movement.
The Gülen movement strongly rejects the allegations brought against it.