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Top court finds rights violation in blocking of Bank Asya customer’s funds

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In a landmark decision, Turkey’s Constitutional Court has ruled in favor of an applicant who claimed she was blocked from withdrawing money from her account at the now-closed Islamic lender Bank Asya on suspicion of membership in the Gülen movement, the Kronos news website reported on Wednesday.

The Turkish government accuses the Gülen movement of masterminding a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 and labels it a “terrorist organization,” although the movement strongly denies involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

The government took over Bank Asya on Feb. 4, 2015, and its banking license was canceled on July 22, 2016 — seven days after the coup attempt — by Turkey’s Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency (BDDK) because of its links to the movement. The banking watchdog had ruled for the complete takeover of all shares of the Islamic lender by the Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF) in May 2015.

The TMSF reportedly imposed an “inspection block” on Ayşe Sabahat Gencer’s money, which was originally at Bank Asya and later transferred to the state-run Vakıf Bank, on suspicion of her membership in the Gülen movement.

Prevented from withdrawing her money from Vakıf Bank, Gencer filed a lawsuit, but both the local court and the appeals court ruled against her. She then submitted an individual application to the Constitutional Court.

According to Turkish media reports, the Constitutional Court ordered the Turkish government to pay Gencer TL 13,500 ($718) in non-pecuniary damages for violating her right to own property.

The court said the restriction of fundamental rights and freedoms cannot be contrary to “the letter and spirit of the Constitution, the requirements of the democratic order of the society and the secular Republic and the principle of proportionality.”

Thousands of people have faced terrorism charges and been jailed in Turkey since the coup attempt simply for their transactions at Bank Asya, which is considered, among other things, sign of terrorist organization membership by the Turkish authorities.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, inspired by Turkish Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, since the corruption investigations of Dec. 17-25, 2013, which implicated then-prime minister Erdoğan, his family members and his inner circle.

Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy against his government, Erdoğan designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. Erdoğan intensified the crackdown on the movement following the coup attempt.

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