ANKARA May 27 A major Turkish conglomerate has
been suspended from state tenders, the government said on
Wednesday, days after President Tayyip Erdogan accused its head
of being a "coup lover" and described columnists for its media
arm as charlatans.
The government denied any link between the media dispute and
the ban. But Erdogan has a history of conflict with Dogan
Holding and its head Aydin Dogan.
Columnists in Dogan's flagship newspaper Hurriyet have been
critical of Erdogan's ambitions to create a more powerful
presidency after June 7 polls he hopes will produce a big enough
majority for the AK Party he co-founded to change the
constitution. Recent surveys suggest he may fall short.
Erdogan appears to have taken umbrage when, after former
Egyptian president Mohamed Mursi was sentenced to death,
Dogan's flagship newspaper Hurriyet ran a headline reading:
"elected with 52 percent of the votes and handed a death
Erdogan, who also won 52 percent in a presidential election
last August, publicly suggested the headline was a reference to
him and was meant to imply that he should share the same fate.
"I don't care what your columnists write. I don't care what
your bankrolled charlatans write; they mean nothing to me,"
Erdogan said in television interview this week.
In an editorial published on Wednesday, Hurriyet denied any
suggestion of a comparison between Mursi and Erdogan.
"The alleged connection never passed through the minds of
Dogan and its former fuel retailing unit, Petrol Ofisi, will
not be able to bid in state tenders for the next 237 days,
according to an order from the energy ministry published in the
government's official gazette.
Dogan and Petrol Ofisi were handed a one-year ban in 2009
over quality issues in a supply deal with a state power plant.
They served part of that before the penalty was overturned by a
Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said the decision to reinstate
the penalty was not related to the recent media dispute.
"This ruling is a decision that has nothing to do with the
current conjuncture and debates," he told reporters in Ankara.
In 2009, Dogan was handed a large tax penalty after a tax
inspection that followed its close coverage of corruption
allegations against figures close to Erdogan.
Erdogan said the corruption investigations were concocted by
a former ally turned political enemy who was seeking to engineer
a coup against him. He has since purged the police force and
judiciary and the investigations have been dropped.
Company founder Aydin Dogan was forced after the tax demand
to sell the group's Milliyet and Vatan newspapers, the Star TV
channel and shares in Petrol Ofisi.
(Writing by Ece Toksabay; editing by David Dolan)