Geopolitics

Gezi Case: Turkey Must Reject Conspiracy Theory As Justice

The indictments filed against prominent liberal figures after the 2013 Gezi park protests show the government doesn't care about defending the constitution.

Police and protestors gather at Gezi park
Police and protestors gather at Gezi park
Örsan K. Öymen

-OpEd-

ISTANBUL — The current round of indictments prepared by Turkish prosecutors regarding the "Gezi Events' of 2013 shows that the time for judicial scandals and slanderous conspiracy theories are far from over. The criminal charges filed against businesspeople, artists and journalists — including such prominent names as Osman Kavala, Mehmet Ali Alabora and Can Dündar —reminds us of other troubling episodes from the past such as "Ergenekon" and "Sledgehammer." It proves that the methods of the Fethullah Gülen movement (which dominated Turkey's judiciary from 2008-2013 ) has since been fully adopted by the ruling Justice and Development Party — even if their onetime alliance with Gülen's movement is long over.

Journalist Can Dündar speaking during press conference — Photo: Arne Immanuel BäNsch/DPA/ZUMA

The indictment in question is built on a completely false paradigm: identifying the right to assembly and protest as a crime despite the plain fact that Article 34 of the Turkish Constitution grants that very right. Millions of people had attended these protests in and around Istanbul's Gezi park, according to numbers provided by the Interior Ministry. Police records show a very small percentage of those in attendance committed vandalism or threw stones at police. The "Gezi" was a legal and peaceful protest, by no means a violent movement to overthrow the government. On the contrary, the security forces were the perpetrators of violence, causing multiple deaths and thousands of injuries of peaceful demonstrators.

The aim is to minimize the reaction from the leftist front.

The indictment turns a blind eye to these basic facts, twists historical events and attempts to create fictional criminals through lies and slander. It is a particularly sinister approach. Although millions of people from different ideologies attended these protests, the indictment focuses on the people who identify as "liberals." The aim of this action is to minimize the reaction from the leftist front, especially from supporters of the main opposition, the Republican People's Party (CHP). By doing so, prosecutors aim to criminalize "Gezi" as a "liberal" criminal action. However, the "liberals' were a minor group at the protests, which would not have spread across the whole country without the involvement of CHP voters.

The indictment is thus built around Osman Kavala, who is not close to the CHP, the Atatürk revolutions or the left. People who identify as leftists or Atatürk-inspired patriots should not fall into this trap, even if they are political rivals of the liberals. The Communist Party of Turkey made the right call after the indictment was announced, declaring that they stand by their participation at the "Gezi" events. The CHP and other leftist groups should follow their example, and publicly reaffirm the constitutional right to participate in such protests.

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Economy

Air Next: How A Crypto Scam Collapsed On A Single Spelling Mistake

It is today a proven fraud, nailed by the French stock market watchdog: Air Next resorted to a full range of dubious practices to raise money for a blockchain-powered e-commerce app. But the simplest of errors exposed the scam and limited the damage to investors. A cautionary tale for the crypto economy.

Sky is the crypto limit

Laurence Boisseau

PARIS — Air Next promised to use blockchain technology to revolutionize passenger transport. Should we have read something into its name? In fact, the company was talking a lot of hot air from the start. Air Next turned out to be a scam, with a fake website, false identities, fake criminal records, counterfeited bank certificates, aggressive marketing … real crooks. Thirty-five employees recruited over the summer ranked among its victims, not to mention the few investors who put money in the business.

Maud (not her real name) had always dreamed of working in a start-up. In July, she spotted an ad on Linkedin and was interviewed by videoconference — hardly unusual in the era of COVID and teleworking. She was hired very quickly and signed a permanent work contract. She resigned from her old job, happy to get started on a new adventure.


Others like Maud fell for the bait. At least ten senior managers, coming from major airlines, airports, large French and American corporations, a former police officer … all firmly believed in this project. Some quit their jobs to join; some French expats even made their way back to France.

Share capital of one billion 

The story began last February, when Air Next registered with the Paris Commercial Court. The new company stated it was developing an application that would allow the purchase of airline tickets by using cryptocurrency, at unbeatable prices and with an automatic guarantee in case of cancellation or delay, via a "smart contract" system (a computer protocol that facilitates, verifies and oversees the handling of a contract).

The firm declared a share capital of one billion euros, with offices under construction at 50, Avenue des Champs Elysées, and a president, Philippe Vincent ... which was probably a usurped identity.

Last summer, Air Next started recruiting. The company also wanted to raise money to have the assets on hand to allow passenger compensation. It organized a fundraiser using an ICO, or "Initial Coin Offering", via the issuance of digital tokens, transacted in cryptocurrencies through the blockchain.

While nothing obliged him to do so, the company owner went as far as setting up a file with the AMF, France's stock market regulator which oversees this type of transaction. Seeking the market regulator stamp is optional, but when issued, it gives guarantees to those buying tokens.

screenshot of the typo that revealed the Air Next scam

The infamous typo that brought the Air Next scam down

compta online

Raising Initial Coin Offering 

Then, on Sept. 30, the AMF issued an alert, by way of a press release, on the risks of fraud associated with the ICO, as it suspected some documents to be forgeries. A few hours before that, Air Next had just brought forward by several days the date of its tokens pre-sale.

For employees of the new company, it was a brutal wake-up call. They quickly understood that they had been duped, that they'd bet on the proverbial house of cards. On the investor side, the CEO didn't get beyond an initial fundraising of 150,000 euros. He was hoping to raise millions, but despite his failure, he didn't lose confidence. Challenged by one of his employees on Telegram, he admitted that "many documents provided were false", that "an error cost the life of this project."

What was the "error" he was referring to? A typo in the name of the would-be bank backing the startup. A very small one, at the bottom of the page of the false bank certificate, where the name "Edmond de Rothschild" is misspelled "Edemond".

Finding culprits 

Before the AMF's public alert, websites specializing in crypto-assets had already noted certain inconsistencies. The company had declared a share capital of 1 billion euros, which is an enormous amount. Air Next's CEO also boasted about having discovered bitcoin at a time when only a few geeks knew about cryptocurrency.

Employees and investors filed a complaint. Failing to find the general manager, Julien Leclerc — which might also be a fake name — they started looking for other culprits. They believe that if the Paris Commercial Court hadn't registered the company, no one would have been defrauded.

Beyond the handful of victims, this case is a plea for the implementation of more secure procedures, in an increasingly digital world, particularly following the pandemic. The much touted ICO market is itself a victim, and may find it hard to recover.

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