LONDON/ANKARA (Reuters) - Exiled Turkish businessman Akin Ipek will face an extradition hearing in Britain in September, the British interior ministry said on Saturday, following his arrest in relation to a Turkish request to extradite him.
Ipek built a multi-billion-dollar fortune in Turkey based on gold mining but left the country in 2015 after relations between the government and followers of U.S.-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen soured.
Ankara now accuses Gulen, a former ally of President Tayyip Erdogan, of orchestrating a 2016 failed coup attempt and has carried out a widespread crackdown targeting his alleged followers. Gulen has denied any involvement.
In 2015, Turkey seized Ipek’s Koza-Ipek Group and its media outlets, including broadcasters and newspapers, on suspicion of financial irregularities, prompting criticism from rights groups in Turkey and abroad.
Britain’s interior ministry said on Saturday that Ipek had been arrested in relation to the Turkish extradition request and an extradition hearing had been listed before Westminster Magistrates’ Court in September.
The ministry declined to comment further.
Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency, also citing British sources, said Ipek had been arrested in May over the extradition request but was released on bail with certain travel restrictions.
Britain’s potential extradition of Ipek, whose brother and the director of Koza Group has been jailed for over two years, would mark the first high-profile extradition by a European Union member state since the failed coup, Turkish media said.
A spokesman for Ipek’s Koza Ltd told Reuters this week that accusations made by the Turkish government were baseless and said Ipek expected the extradition request to be rejected.
“Mr Ipek is one of Turkey’s most respected entrepreneurs and is a man of good character. He has complete confidence that the English courts will throw out this extradition request, which is the latest attempt to bring the Turkish state’s ongoing campaign of persecution to these shores,” the spokesman said.
Since leaving Turkey, Ipek has been seeking to build up assets in Britain.
Turkish authorities have taken control of hundreds of companies as part of a crackdown on companies it suspects of links to Gulen and his supporters. The government has also shut down more than 130 media outlets as part of the purges.
Reporting by Alistair Smout and Tuvan Gumrukcu; Editing by Edmund Blair