Islamists Accounts Frozen by Turkish Court

ANKARA (Reuter)–A Turkish court Tuesday froze more than $100 million worth of accounts and securities belonging to a leading Islamist group of companies in the wake of an army claim that businessmen were supporting religious activism.

Court officials said the action was taken after Kombassan Holding failed to seek the necessary permission for raising capital from Turkey’s Capital Markets Board (SPK).

"After the application from the SPK we have frozen bank accounts and securities worth 14.9 trillion lira ($102 million) belonging to Kombassan Holding,"an official at Ankara Commercial Court told Reuters.

Turkey’s powerful military–engaged in a fierce battle with the Islamist-led government–said last week at strongly-worded briefings to senior civil servants and the media that political Islam was financially backed by "100 Islamist businessmen."

No companies were identified–but newspaper reports pointed to Kombassan and food retailer Yimpas Holding–based in the conservative town of Yozgat–as among the leading Islamist firms targeted by the military.

The SPK said over the weekend it had started legal proceedings against Kombassan–saying "the company attempted to raise its capital without being registered on the board’s books."

Kombassan–involved in printing–paper and machinery production and construction–wants to raise its capital to 100 trillion lira from 39.5 trillion – currently the highest capital of any Turkish company.

Run from Islamist Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan’s stronghold of Konya–Kombassan caught the public eye when it bought a state tire company in a government sell-off shortly after Erbakan took office last June.

Its activities were highlighted last month when a company courier arriving at Ankara airport was allegedly caught importing 1.7 million marks ($979,000) illegally from Germany.

Kombassan and other leading Islamist companies launched an advertising campaign on Monday to defend themselves against accusations that they were fostering an Islamic revival.

"It is a very serious mistake to show us among the so-called ?companies helping fundamentalism’ in newspapers and on TVs," read a full-page advertisement by Yimpas in many newspapers.

Turkish authorities will monitor mosques and religious education courses for signs of militancy as a part of an army-inspired curb on Islamist activism–state-run Anatolian news agency said Tuesday.

"It was determined that some preachers at the mosques and teachers at the Koran courses have recently made speeches against Ataturk and the Turkish armed forces," the agency quoted the interior ministry as saying in an order to police.

Police will closely watch religious centers–recording speeches made there and increasing their intelligence activities about religious activism–the agency said. It did not say how many mosques or education classes would be observed.

Anatolian said plainclothes police would also listen to sermons by suspected extremist religious leaders and report back to their superiors.

"From now on we will put more importance on intelligence work. Speeches that constitute crimes will be recorded by tape cassettes and cameras,” the agency quoted an unnamed senior police official as saying.

A military-dominated council in February demanded a government crackdown on a religious upsurge–including tighter implementation of dress restrictions–the closure of unofficial Islamic education courses and efforts to limit the role of religious schools.


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