Taylan Yıldırım / Izmir, July 16 () - A court has ruled for stay of execution on a decision that reduced the natural site criteria of an area in the Urla district of Turkey’s Aegean province of İzmir, where a businessman known to be close to President Tayyip Erdoğan built villas, hosting Erdoğan there on a number of occasions.
İzmir’s 2nd Administrative Court ruled for a stay of execution of a previous court order that reduced an area in Urla’s Zeytineli village from a first degree to a third degree protected space, which had paved the way for the construction of the controversial villas.
The villas, constructed by Mustafa Latif Topbaş, the owner of the popular BİM discount retailer, first stirred outrage when details emerged during Turkey’s huge corruption probe that broke on Dec. 25, 2013.
An expert report presented to the İzmir court said the area should be considered as having two different qualifications, and the space where the villas were constructed should be evaluated as a third degree protected area, open to zoning. The more untouched areas around the villas should be evaluated as first degree protected areas, thus forbidding zoning.
However, despite this report, the court ruled that the area should be considered as a single space when considering the degree of the protected area. It said the area as a whole was a first degree protected zone, thus ruling for the stay of execution of the previous decision that had granted a legal basis to constructing the villas.
Topbaş, against whom charges have been dropped, rejected claims that his summer houses in Zeytineli, regularly visited by President Erdoğan, were built illegally.
“I bought the land in question with seven other friends 34 years ago. The area was declared an archeological site 15 years ago and we objected to this, like our neighbors in the village,” Topbaş had said in his testimony on Feb. 11, 2014.
He also rejected allegations that the summer houses were owned by Erdoğan. “I have a 35-year friendship with Erdoğan, dating back to before he started doing politics. After he became prime minister he visited Zeytineli only three times due to his intense working schedule” Topbaş had said.