TURKEY'S PRESIDENT GUL GOES TO TEACH EGYPT ABOUT DEMOCRACY
President Gul left Ankara for a critical visit to Egypt upon invitation of the Chairman of the High Council of Egypt's Armed Forces, Field Marshall Muhammed Huseyin Tantavi.
President Gul held a press conference at the airport. "I am going to Egypt to share our democratic experience with the Egyptians. Very critical developments are going in our region nowadays. Our goal is the good of people and democratic human rights."
BRITISH PAPER TO PAY COMPENSATION
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan won the lawsuit he filed against the U.K.'s Daily Telegraph on charges that they insulted him.
A British high court ruled that the newspaper did not ground its allegations in evidence and that the story was inaccurate. The court ordered the British daily to pay compensation worth 25,000 British pounds to Prime Minister Erdoğan.
POLICE RAID HOMES OF OPPOSITION FIGURES
Police raided ten locations with search warrants in conjunction with the Ergenekon case. All addresses belonged to journalists and reporters known for their opposition to the current government. Searches continue in the homes of Professor Yalcin Kucuk, author Nedim Sener, and former National Intelligence Agency (MIT) member Kasif Kozinoglu.
TURKISH POLICE SEARCH HOMES OF JOURNALISTS
Turkish police on Thursday raided the homes of several people, including journalists and a former intelligence officer, as part of a crackdown on an alleged gang accused of conspiring to topple the government, the Associated Press reports.
The raids come two weeks after a court jailed three journalists who were affiliated with the dissident web site, Oda TV. Critics say freedom of the press is under attack in the country and the United States has expressed concern over media freedom. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has denied any government attempt to silence journalists.
The European Union and the Committee of Protect Journalists have accused Turkey of suppressing critical news and commentary on the alleged anti-government conspiracy. About 400 people, including journalists, politicians, academics and retired military officers are on trial accused of being part of the so-called Ergenekon network, which allegedly tried to overthrow Erdoğan's government in 2003.
Police were searching computers, notes and books of the journalists, including Ahmet Şık who already faces prosecution for co-writing a critical book about the crackdown on the so-called Ergenekon network, NTV reported.
Police had reportedly discovered a draft manuscript by Şık on one of the computers seized in last month's raid on Oda TV several websites said. The draft allegedly focuses on the religious groups within the police force.
Nedim Şener, an investigative reporter for Milliyet and Posta newspapers, and Doğan Yurdakul, who occasionally writes for Oda TV, were among the targeted journalists along with a renowned hard-line secularist and leftist writer Yalçın Küçük, NTV said.
The Ergenekon case started in June 2007 with the discovery of 27 hand grenades in a shanty house belonging to a retired noncommissioned officer. The finding has led to scores of arrests and put nearly 200 journalists, writers, military personnel, gang leaders, scholars, businessmen and politicians in detention in what has become a terror investigation to stop the alleged ultra-nationalist gang. In the later stages of the investigation, those in custody have been accused of planning to topple the government by staging a coup, initially by spreading chaos and mayhem.
LAND SPECULATION GETS OUT OF HAND IN DIYARBAKIR
The southeastern city of Diyarbakır is going through a 'mad period' of surging land prices. The selling price for non-arable land has increased fifty-fold due to rampant speculation, local businesspeople say. Rumors of American and Israeli companies ready to invest in the city, coupled with expectations that the land will be opened up for construction, are fueling the boom.
The southeastern city of Diyarbakır is competing with Istanbul in property sales, as land prices have increased nearly fifty-fold in the past five years. The surge comes despite some investors still viewing the city as "politically dangerous."
According to figures obtained by the Anatolia news agency, a quarter-acre of land near the city center sells for as much as 900,000 Turkish Liras, while the same amount of land twenty kilometers from the heavily populated city finds buyers for perhaps 50,000 liras. If the distance from the city center is sixty kilometers, a quarter-acre of land may be sold for 6,000 liras.
The biggest demand is for land not suitable for agriculture in the western sections of the province. Due to high interest rates, some buyers who cannot find cheaper land have started to purchase in the town of Siverek, eighty kilometers from Diyarbakır.
Experts speaking to the agency warned of a speculative bubble, calling for authorities to intervene. Some buyers are buying land without even seeing it, while the same piece of land may be bought and sold four or five times per month, according to locals.
The number of transactions at the four title-deed registry offices in Diyarbakır has increased fifty percent in the past year. In that period, the offices processed more than 9,000 transactions, most of which consisted of land sales. Finding the surge alarming, the Diyarbakır Tax Office has started an investigation.
"I find it hard to grasp this [price] rise," said Ahmet Karacadağ, the mayor of Alatosun, near Diyarbakır. "One quarter-acre of non-arable land is selling for 40,000 or even 50,000 liras." Karacadağ recounted rumors that "American and Israeli companies were going to invest" in Diyarbakır. "I do not think this is true," he said. "Somebody is making this up to artificially elevate prices. Much land has been sold near the Siverek highway. Civil servants, workers and shopkeepers are all buying land."
When will the bubble burst?
Mustafa Koç, a real estate agent in Diyarbakır, agreed that the price hike is artificial. "A quarter-acre of land that I had sold for 3,000 liras is today being sold for 175,000 liras. This is not natural," Koç said. "Due to the high demand for land, contractors are not able to sell houses any more. Many people are selling homes, cars and gold to buy land without doing any research. This is a huge risk and authorities must look into this."
According to Koç, some companies have decided not to invest in job-hungry Diyarbakır because of the price surge. "These land prices will [blow up] in the hands of the buyers who get them last [before the bubble bursts]," he said. "There are people that present themselves falsely as real estate agents. They are deceiving our citizens."
Galip Ensarioğlu, head of the Diyarbakır Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the price speculation owes much to expectations that lands purchased will be freed up for construction. "Even women are selling their bracelets without telling their husbands to buy land," the top businessman said. "These lands would normally reach these prices after a century. This is a speculative rise, which has stopped all other commerce in the city. Nobody is thinking of alternative investing."
Ensarioğlu warned that the bubble would burst sometime soon. "This has become a Ponzi scheme," he said.
Aziz Elaldı, a construction investor in the city, said his doorman bought a piece of land by selling his wife's gold. "When this scheme collapses, people will go bankrupt. Families will break up. I am even afraid of murders," he said.
İlyas İşitmez, a local farmer, said the buyers of the land are not farmers. "A piece of land that was sold for 2,000 liras a year ago is selling for ten times that price," he said. "They are buying and selling without even seeing the land."
TURKISH CYPRIOTS AGAIN DEFY ANKARA
Several thousand Turkish Cypriots took to the streets Wednesday to protest belt-tightening economic measures pressed by Turkey, following a similar demonstration in January that angered Ankara.
Members of Turkish Cypriot opposition parties and unions flocked to a square in the northern section of Nicosia, creating a large crowd in Turkish Cyprus, which has a population of 255,000.
Protesters carried banners that read, "AKP, take your hands off our collars," referring to Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
Other banners read: "No to being governed by instructions" and "Either take your [economic] package back or get packing," reported Agence France-Presse.
Some protesters called for an end to the island's thirty-six year division and waved the Republic of Cyprus flag, used only by the Greek Cypriots, who hold the internationally recognized government in the south.
In a similar demonstration on January 28th, Turkish Cypriot trade unions unfurled banners urging Ankara "to get its hands off [Cypriot] shores." The rally angered Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who harshly criticized the protests targeting his government.
Erdoğan's angry comment that the Turkish Cypriots were taking "handouts" from Turkey, followed by Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Çiçek's statement that the protesters "swore at us ... and the next day we sent them money," sparked a fierce counter-reaction from Turkish Cypriots, who castigated Ankara for describing them in a humiliating way.
Following the protests, the Turkish government replaced its ambassador to Turkish Cyprus and appointed Turkey's fiscal grant-maker to northern Cyprus, Halil Akça, who had been among the targets of the demonstrations due to his work drafting tight fiscal policies for the island territory.
Turkey economically supports northern Cyprus, which has been suffering from embargoes for decades due to the lack of a solution for the divided island. The latest economic package was concluded in late 2009 between then-Turkish Cypriot Prime Minister Derviş Eroğlu, the current president, and Turkey's Çiçek. The package includes the privatization of some public institutions in northern Cyprus as well as wage cuts.
Turkey has contributed $860 million (622 million euros) to the Turkish Cyprus budget this year, or about a fourth of the total. Turkish Cypriots are unhappy that an economic reform program, drawn up under Ankara's guidance, calls for lower public spending, privatization and curbing the rights of trade unions. General living standards in Turkish Cyprus, especially public sector wages and pensions, are higher than those in Turkey. Turkish Cypriots have come under fire from Ankara for their spending levels.
In 1974 Cyprus was split into a Greek Cypriot south and a Turkish Cypriot north, when Turkey intervened after a coup by supporters of union with Greece. Reunification negotiations are continuing between Greek and Turkish Cypriots for years.