An Istanbul court on Friday ruled in favour of blocking access to news articles questioning the role of Berat Albayrak, the son-in-law of the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, in a longstanding dispute between Ankara and Baghdad over Kurdish oil exports through Turkey.
The Paris-based International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) decided in favour of Baghdad on 23 March, which claimed that Turkey had violated a joint agreement by allowing the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to export oil through a pipeline to the Turkish port of Ceyhan. The court also asked Turkey to pay Iraq about $1.5 billion before interest for the term 2014-2018, Reuters reported, citing unnamed sources. Following the decision, Baghdad halted crude oil exports from the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region (KRG) and northern Kirkuk fields to Turkey last Saturday.
The KRG began exporting crude oil from the semi-autonomous northern region independently from the federal government in 2013. According to Turkish media reports, Powertrans, a company where Albayrak was holding shares and working as a manager at the time, played a role in the illegal transportation of KRG oil through Turkey starting from 2011.
Albayrak filed an application this week asking the court in Istanbul to block access to five news reports and 10 tweets citing his name in relation to the oil dispute. The lawyers of the former minister said in their application that the information in those news articles were based on lies and misled the public. The court ruled in favour of Albayrak’s application on Friday and blocked access to five news reports, internet freedom watchdog Free Web Turkey reported.
One of the news articles is a commentary written by journalist Mehmet Y. Yılmaz for T24 news site. Yılmaz in his articles does not directly blame Albayrak but cites a book written by Tolga Tanış which claims Powertrans, which was established in 2011, played a major role in carrying crude from KRG through Turkey. This article is now removed from the T24 website.
However, according to journalist Murat Yetkin, Powertrans was mainly engaged in carrying crude by oil tankers and lost its major role in Kurdish oil exports following the start of the Syrian civil war in 2012 and the emergence of the Islamic State (ISIS).
Albayrak is not the only name in Erdoğan’s family who is allegedly involved in transporting Kurdish oil despite Baghdad’s objections. In a parliamentary motion submitted this week, the centre-right opposition Good Party (İYİP) also mentioned the BMZ group, who was founded by Bilal Erdoğan, the Turkish President’s youngest son. Erdoğan’s brother, Mustafa Erdoğan, and his close relative, Ziya İlgen, are also partners of the company, which in the past was accused of selling oil seized by ISIS.
The parliamentary motion was declined by the votes of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its ally, the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).