Critical Turkey economist detained by anti-terrorism police

A Turkish economist critical of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s policies was detained by anti-terrorism police in Istanbul and accused of inciting division and hatred.

Evrim Devrim Zelyut, chief strategist of Avrasya Investment, said police had arrived at his house early on Monday and taken him away for questioning. He was later released. Police and prosecutors were acting on a public complaint about his social media videos on Turkey’s economy, Zelyut said in a series of comments on Twitter.

“I am apparently carrying out acts of terrorism,” he said. “I will not step back from speaking the truth, even if they take further steps! I am not afraid! You cannot scare me!”

Erdoğan and his son-in-law, Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, have warned economists and commentators in Turkey and abroad against stirring up economic instability, saying such acts are no different from those of terrorists.

The government is implementing an unorthodox economic programme in an attempt to rescue the country from a currency crisis, but many analysts have criticised the moves. The currency volatility erupted in 2018 due to political tensions with the United States over the detention of a U.S. pastor on terrorism charges.

In his latest video for Avrasya Investment on Dec. 1, Zeylut said Erdoğan should brace himself for three blows next year that threaten his goal of growing the economy by 5 percent. They included urban poverty, tensions with Kurds in the southeast of the country and political spats with the United States and the European Union. All those problems should be resolved, he said.

Zelyut, who also writes a column for the left-wing Aydınlık newspaper, cited a report from ratings agency Fitch that mentioned multi-faceted risks to Turkey’s economy, which meant Erdoğan was unlikely to achieve his economic growth target.

The detention of Zelyt is the latest in a series of actions against Erdoğan’s critics in the financial world. Three-dozen people, including two reporters employed by Bloomberg, went on trial in Istanbul in September accused of undermining economic stability. The charges are related to reporting on the plunge in the lira in the summer of last year.

In March, Turkey’s Banking and Regulation Supervision Agency opened an investigation into JPMorgan for advising clients to sell the lira. At the height of last year’s financial turmoil, HSBC Turkey CEO Selim Kervancı was charged by prosecutors with insulting Erdoğan by sharing a video on social media six years earlier comparing him to Adolf Hitler. He was acquitted in April after the case was widely criticised by foreign investors and the international press.