ISTANBUL, ANKARA: George Soros’ Open Society Foundation said on Monday it would cease operations in Turkey, days after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused the billionaire philanthropist of trying to divide and destroy nations.
The foundation said it had been the target of “baseless claims” in the Turkish media, which made it impossible for it to continue its work.
It also faced an investigation by the Interior Ministry, which sought to demonstrate a link, which it denied, between the foundation and protests at Istanbul’s Gezi Park in 2013.
One of its founders in Turkey, Hakan Altinay, was among 13 people detained 10 days ago. They were accused of supporting jailed rights activist Osman Kavala in a bid to overthrow the government through mass protests.
In a speech last week, Erdogan linked those arrests to Soros.
The foundation said that “new investigations” were trying to link it to the Gezi protests five years ago. “These efforts are not new and they are outside reality,” it said
The foundation said it would apply for the legal liquidation and winding up of the company’s operations as soon as possible.
2013 bombing suspect
Turkish prosecutors on Monday demanded multiple life sentences for the prime suspect in a 2013 bombing blamed on Syria which left more than 50 people dead, state media reported.
Turkish citizen Yusuf Nazik was caught in September in the Syrian city of Latakia and brought back to Turkey in an operation by the Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MIT).
Nazik is accused of planning the May 2013 Reyhanli bombing which left over 50 people dead in one of the deadliest attacks in Turkey’s modern history.
At the start of the trial in Ankara attended by Nazik, the public prosecutor sought 53 aggravated life sentences, state news agency Anadolu said.
Such sentences have replaced the death penalty in Turkey and carry harsher conditions than normal life sentences.
Nazik is charged with “destroying the state’s unity and integrity” and “intentionally killing” 52 people, including five children, Anadolu said.
The agency also reported that the prosecutor demanded different sentences for “attempting to kill,” since 130 people were injured in the attack, for having “explosive material without permission” and “damaging goods.”
Ankara at the time blamed the attack on Bashar Assad and allied groups but Damascus rejected the claims.
Turkey has repeatedly called for Assad’s ousting during the civil war.
Nazik was captured in Latakia, a stronghold of support for Assad that has never slipped from his control.
At the time of his capture, Anadolu shared a video of Nazik giving what it described as a “confession,” saying he was behind the attack and it had been ordered by Damascus. The next hearing in Nazik’s trial will be on Feb. 14, 2019.