A court has imposed a ban on the media coverage of Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab, who is currently under arrest pending trial as part of an ongoing corruption investigation, the Taraf daily has reported.
Taraf reported in its headline story on Friday that the ban was announced by the İstanbul 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance upon a request from Zarrab and his wife, Ebru Gündeş, a renowned Turkish singer. The ban covers all reports, interviews and criticism concerning the businessman, according to the daily.
Zarrab was arrested as part of the major corruption investigation that became public on Dec. 17, 2013.
On Dec. 17, İstanbul and Ankara police staged dawn raids and detained more than 50 people in the corruption investigation. The sons of former ministers Muammer Güler and Zafer Çağlayan, as well as Zarrab and more than 20 other suspects, have since been arrested. The suspects stand accused of rigging state tenders, accepting and facilitating bribes for major urbanization projects, obtaining construction permits for protected areas in exchange for money, helping foreigners obtain Turkish citizenship with falsified documents and involvement in export fraud, forgery and gold smuggling.
Lawyer Veysel Ok, speaking to Taraf, criticized the court's decision, which he said is unprecedented. “The decision prohibits freedom of expression and people's right to information. A judge cannot decide to ban the media's right to criticize. This right cannot be prohibited by anyone,” he stated.
In the meantime, Republican People's Party (CHP) deputy Bülent Tezcan claimed on Thursday that Education Minister Nabi Avcı, Food, Agriculture and Animal Husbandry Minister Mehdi Eker and Halk Bankası General Manager Süleyman Aslan flew with Zarrab to Saudi Arabia on Zarrab's private jet to perform umrah, a pilgrimage to Mecca outside of the annual pilgrimage season.
In early January, claims emerged in the media that Çağlayan, who resigned following the corruption investigation, flew with his family and Zarrab to Saudi Arabia on Zarrab's jet to perform umrah.
Çağlayan; his wife, Songül; their two sons, Kaan -- who was also arrested as part of the probe -- and Ahmet Çağan Çağlayan; Ahmet's wife, Kübra Ece; the former minister's bodyguard, Emrah Sarıyüce; İbrahim Arslan; Zarrab; and his wife, Gündeş, flew to Jeddah on Zarrab's private jet on March 22, 2013, the Hürriyet daily claimed.
A criminal organization allegedly headed by Zarrab is claimed to have distributed a total of TL 137 million ($66 million) in bribes to the economy and interior ministers, their sons and possibly to some other bureaucrats, to cloak fictitious exports and money laundering. In documents sent by the İstanbul Prosecutor's Office to Parliament, former ministers Çağlayan, Güler and Egemen Bağış are alleged to have accepted bribes.