Fatih Mayor Mustafa Demir said he was certain the Council of State would not ratify the recent court decision to annul the project to “transform” Istanbul’s Sulukule district, a historical Roma quarter, adding that a new project was also in the works just in case.
Fatih Mayor Mustafa Demir expressed his certainty that the Council of State would overturn a recent court verdict to annul the preliminary project to "transform" Sulukule, a historical district inhabited mainly by the Roma community, and that a new preliminary project was also in the works, as he took journalists on a tour across the "new Sulukule."
Lawyer Hilal Küey countered the mayor's claims, however, and said the Council of State would not overturn any court verdict backed by the approval of three experts, adding they could also sue the new preliminary project that took no heed of the court's critique over the "transformation" scheme as well.
A court had annuled the preliminary project last week on the grounds it was not in public interest. The verdict cited reports by three experts and reasoned that the project spoiled the district's historical silhouette, failed to protect the belt drawn by the historical walls and that it violated property rights.
"The court misinterpreted the law"
Mustafa Demir, the mayor of Istanbul's Fatih district, also added they were going to refer the verdict to the Council of State within a month and that Sulukule's demolition was out of question.
"95 percent of the project has been completed. The owners of 620 apartments and 53 stores are waiting in line. Why would this project be demolished?" Fatih Mayor Demir said.
The construction work would finish on July 11, and a lottery would determine the new owners, he added.
The court verdict to annul the project represents an injustice, according to Mayor Demir, who also said the criticisms levelled against the project were out of tune with reality, and that the 5366th Law had been misinterpreted.
"The decision will form [new] jurisprudence"
"The court misinterpreted the law. The Council of State will overturn this verdict. This decision will also create [new] jurisprudence so as to allow for easier application of the 'earthquake law.' Such projects would otherwise encounter much difficulty in the future," he said.
They already drew up a new preliminary project on April 20 pending approval, Mayor Demir said while responding to a question by journalists about how they would proceed if the Council of State did ratify the verdict.
"We have come to terms with 98 percent of the beneficiaries," he said, adding they were going to do all they could to help the 350 Roma families who left for the flats built by the Housing Development Administration of Turkey (TOKİ) in Taşoluk, and all of whom subsequently returned back to the area except two.
Around 50 original Sulukule residents are going to stay in the newly built Sulukule, according to estimates. The tenants who returned back from the Toki houses in Taşoluk due to "financial difficulties" continue residing in the nearby district of Karagümrük, on the other hand.
Mayor Demir also said the new houses in Sulukule were expensive and cost no less than 300,000 Turkish Liras.
"We could sue the new project as well"
The construction could still continue without having to wait for the approval of the Council of State thanks to the new preliminary project, Hilal Küey, the lawyer for the Sulukule Roma Association, told bianet, but added they could also sue this new project as well.
"[They] drew up a new project without consulting anyone. They should first share the new project with us first, then we will see whether they have appeased the court's criticisms or made only a couple of changes," she said.
Küey also expressed her surpise at the mayor's certainty that the Council of State would overturn the decision. "The Council of State did not overturn any verdict based on the reports of three experts until this day." (NV)
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