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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 11 December 2018

Turkish dissident wins "politically motivated" London extradition trial 

Akin Ipek is accused by Ankara of supporting the 2016 attempted coup against president Erdogan

Turkey has seized many assets belonging to Akin Ipek over claims he supports the banned Gulenist movement (AP)
Turkey has seized many assets belonging to Akin Ipek over claims he supports the banned Gulenist movement (AP)

A London court has blocked the extradition of a Turkish media magnate who was accused by Ankara of links to an attempted 2016 coup against president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

District judge John Zani said he was “satisfied that this is a politically motivated prosecution,” against Akin Ipek, 54, who is a prominent critic of president Erdogan.

Judge Zani said that if Mr Ipek were to be returned to Turkey he was at risk of torture and mistreatment, in violation of Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights.

Mr Ipek has lived in the UK since 2015 and appeared on Wednesday at Westminster Magistrates Court alongside Ali Celik and Talip Buyuk, who were also accused of having links to the banned Gulenist movement.

The media mogul was arrested by UK police in May this year over alleged links to the movement, which has been proscribed as a terrorist organisation by Ankara. His brother has already been held in a Turkish jail for three years.

Mr Ipek, said to be a billionaire, has also been investigated by Turkish police over supposed financial irregularities within his conglomerate, which also has interest in mining, aviation, health insurance and agriculture.

Speaking to reporters outside the court, Mr Ipek said: "In the last six months, these attacks have made their way to British shores. I have been followed in London and secretly filmed by those acting on behalf of the Erdogan regime.

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"I have received dozens of death threats, provoked by the actions of those at the highest level of the Turkish government,” he added.

Mr Ipek and his two co-defendants faced an initial four day hearing that began on 24 September. At the time, the three men's lawyer Hugo Keith QC said Turkey "has become a truly authoritarian regime, which now faces an economic crisis with a plunging currency, high inflation, rising borrowing costs, and loan defaults – none of which is conducive to a speedy restoration of the rule of law,”

At least 20 TV stations and newspapers owned by the Koza-Ipek group have also been seized by Ankara over their criticism of president Erdogan’s regime and perceived links to the Gulenist movement.

At the time, human rights activists described it as “a particularly disturbing illustration of the dangerous path Turkey has undertaken in recent months as regards its stance on media freedom”.

Turkey has 14 days to appeal the result of Wednesday's hearing.