Baklava manufacturer convicted of terror crime in Turkey

One of Turkey’s most successful baklava manufactures has been sentenced to 8 years and nine months for “being a member of a terror organization,” the Gazete Duvar news portal reported on Wednesday.

The Istanbul 23rd Heavy Penal Court also ordered the release of Faruk Gullu, the chairman of the Faruk Gulluoglu chain of sweet shops and restaurants, taking into account the time he had already served in jail and his health problems.

The tycoon was released under judicial supervision with a travel ban imposed on him.

Gullu, once one of Turkey’s best-known suppliers of baklava, which is a traditional sweet pastry that rounds off meals, was arrested, together with other 27 businessmen, in September 2016 over alleged links to the Gulen movement, which the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government accuses of masterminding the 2016 attempted coup.

The businessman was first tried in the TUSKON case in which members of the Confederation of Businessmen and Industrialists of Turkey (TUSKON) stood trial. Gullu was later put on trial in a separate case.

In its final hearing, the court also quashed the decision of confiscation imposed previously on Gullu’s company. However, the trustee appointed by Turkey’s Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF) will continue to manage the company.

As a part of a massive sweeping crackdown on the movement following the July 15 coup attempt, the AKP government has not only dismissed and arrested movement-linked people but also confiscated their assets and wealth.

Hundreds of companies and assets have been confiscated and put under the TMSF authority since the first state of emergency declared on July 21, 2016.

According to a report by the business news site Dunya released in July 2019, the TMSF has seized and transferred the assets of 885 businesses so far.

The companies hold assets worth a combined total of 58.98 billion lira ($10.32 billion), having a combined annual turnover of 7.93 billion lira ($1.39 billion) and profit worth 0.98 billion lira ($170 million), the report said.

According to official figures, the Turkish state has confiscated 1024 middle and upper big size companies with as many as 200,000 employees, and worth around $9.5 billion.

However, the worth is “in reality” estimated to be as much as $50 billion, when the personal assets and belongings of individuals are taken into consideration, the TUSKON EU claimed in its recent report which was submitted to the United Nations (UN) Universal Periodic Review 2020.

Like many other institutions, the TUSKON was shut down in Turkey for its alleged ties to the Gulen movement, with its European branch still conducting some reports with a special focus on Turkey and the human rights violations there.

With the emergency decrees and court decisions based on the decrees, thousands of private companies have also been either appointed trustees by the TMSF or nationalized.

Further, the trustees have been granted immunity, so they cannot be held accountable for any action taken while running these companies, meaning that they cannot face legal action from anyone or even be prosecuted for corruption.

In many reported cases, the trustees have opted for liquidation of companies’ assets, fired important personnel, and even hired relatives or pro-government figures with allegedly high salaries, the TUSKON report claims.

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