İpek says he surrendered his passport, is facing extradition hearing
Akın İpek, a prominent Turkish businessman residing in England who is accused of links to the exile preacher Fethullah Gülen grabbed the Turkish media headlines last week. The pro-government press claimed that İpek, who is being investigated for his connection to what the Turkish government calls Fethullah Gulen Terror Organisation (FETO), was arrested in England following an extradition request from the Turkish government. Ahval interviewed İpek about these media reports.
Q: First the pro-government Turkish media and later some British press such as The Times reported that you were arrested today. Are you under arrest?
A: This judicial process [for my extradition] started about a year ago. After my name was included in the coup umbrella Investigations, I submitted all the necessary information about myself and my companies to the British authorities. I said; if there are any other missing documents, please inform me to provide them.
This happened months ago, maybe in May around the time Turkish prime minister Binali Yıldırım visited England. The British authorities called me, I went with my lawyer and testified. Now there is the court process, this is the legal procedure according to international agreements between two countries. But this happened in May. I appeared before the authorities and testified. This is not a new incident.
Q: How do you interpret today's news?
A: Recently, since last Friday I think, I have been being harassed more than usual. Someone breached my office. I only realised that someone had entered my office when I saw a picture published by the Anatolian Agency (AA).
But looking at the press, the harassment probably started after the arbitration trials (over the fate of his businesses). Maybe they want to head off some news that they think might have international legal consequences, or perhaps they are trying to influence the court. I can't think of any other reasons.
Q: So, there is an ongoing legal procedure in England regarding Turkey's extradition request for you. And the trial date is in September.
A: Yes, there is an ongoing legal process right now. We filed and submitted to the court. Now the court will determine whether the extradition request meets the requirements of the applicable extradition treaty or not. Because if the claim is for a political offence, there is a political offence exception. That exemption limits the obligations of the host country. And the decision is up to the court.
But maybe it was a blessing in disguise; real journalists like yourself started asking questions. Who is Akın İpek, why were his companies confiscated, what did the Akın İpek do... Real journalists began to investigate all these things.
And I am answering all of these questions, I have to answer these questions. I did not ask for this media attention. But now all the eyes are on me. I did not do anything wrong. I want to explain my side of the story.
(I hope) one day (the real journalists) can question those who threw all this mud at me and ask; “If this man was innocent why did you try so hard to discredit him?” They should answer that question. Why have they been demonising my family and me with this Goebbelsian lies.
Q: Is it true that your passport is confiscated?
A: I handed my passport to the authorities in May. My brother Tekin who was appointed as a trustee to manage my companies said, 'Brother, I don't want to get mixed-up [in these FETÖ accusations],' and he went back to Turkey, even though he delivered his passport to the Turkish authorities, he was arrested.
See, they ordered my arrest in absentia. Even though I asked for permission from the prosecutor through my lawyer before I came to England, even though I volunteered to testify before Turkish authorities, they treated me like I was on the run. Instead of inviting me to testify, they issued my arrest warrant in absentia. Now if I go back, I will be arrested.
Q: The media also said that you were under house arrest, you're not allowed to leave England.
A: I handed over my passport to the British authorities. So, I cannot leave England. I will be waiting for the court to decide.
Q: The Turkish government, in its extradition request claims that you were involved with the July 15th Coup attempt...
A: There are 12-13 reasons the government lists for their extradition request. The coup attempt is one of them. You know they issued a Decree-Law (KHK), that says; 'If you are a member of a community, you are responsible for everything that community has done'. There isn't another example of such a law in the world. Collective punishment against a group is illegal everywhere else in the world.
The British authorities looked at the accusations according to British law and according to international law, to see if they are indeed illegal. 12 of these charges were dismissed right away. Part of the coup plot, stole questions, etc. such nonsense. Of course, they denied all of them.
But since financial crimes; money laundering, terrorist financing etc. are against British law as well, they are investigating those allegations. So, the court will look into the evidence to decide whether I laundered money. This, of course, is good news for me.
I have been saying the same thing for years. I am not involved in any criminal wrongdoing. Now the international media will be watching closely as well. I dare (the Turkish government) to prove my guilt.