President Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government has seized the Istanbul-based Foundation for Sciences and Arts (BISAV) which was founded by former AKP Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
The AKP move came just weeks after Davutoglu formed the Future Party (FP), a new rival political party.
On Tuesday, a group of three governmental trustees reportedly came to the BISAV office located in Istanbul’s Fatih district and took over the management.
In December, the private Istanbul Sehir University (ISU) which was founded by the BISAV was also handed over to a public university based on its failure to pay back loans to public lender Halkbank.
The BISAV condemned the AKP’s turn-over act in a statement, calling it a “dangerous initiative”.
“Such treatment to our foundation, which has been serving our country’s education and cultural life for 40 years, does not fit in any way to rights and justice. This arbitrary attitude is a perilous step that may lead to big damage to our centuries-long foundation tradition. A dangerous initiative that interests not only the BISAV but also all foundations in our country,” the statement read.
Mustafa Yeneroglu, another former AKP lawmaker who resigned from the party last month, also denounced the take-over on his Twitter account, saying it was “really a shameful” move.
“It is really saddening that a foundation established by the labor and savings of Islamic circles is today taken over by the trustees,” said Sibel Eraslan, a writer close to the Erdogan family, referring to the function of the seized foundation and the university during the mid-90s.
At the time many students were banned from entering public universities by the then staunchly secular Turkish government due to headscarves, could continue their studies.
The General Directorate of Foundations issued in a statement in response to the reactions, claiming that it only applied the relevant rules following the seizure of the ISU.
“We preserved the foundation by immediately assigning a lawyer, a property expert and a financial expert to its management. This was made to protect the foundation’s legal entity, monetary assets, and founding principles,” the directorate said.
In 2016, Davutoglu resigned from his PM post shortly after a declaration which was later called “the Pelican file” that listed his dissent points with Erdogan. He resigned from the party in September and launched the FP in December last year.
Following the formation of the rival FP, Erdogan accused Davutoglu of defrauding the state-run Halkbank through the ISU, without mentioning Davutoglu’s name but calling him “that person.”
Following the fraud accusations, Davutoglu’s up-to-the careful criticism of Erdogan’s one-man rule has turned into serious corruption accusations.
In response, Davutoglu called on the AKP seniors to declare their assets, proposing the transfer of the assets and resources that cannot be explained under objective legal criteria to the Treasury.
Last week, the former PM said in an interview that all founding board members of the FP had come under investigation.
Recent acts by the Erdogan regime toward Davutoglu have been interpreted by many as politically-motivated since he was challenging the 17-year-rule of Turkey’s strong man.