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Research Institution on Rural Environment and Forestry Issues filed a criminal complaint on October 4, against Ankara Metropolitan Mayor Melih Gökçek as well as other authorities of the metropolitan municipality.
The allegation was made with regards to destruction of the forest by cutting down the trees for the construction of a second road passing through the campus of Middle East Technical University where the forest is located. Gökçek and other authorities of the municipality are being accused of opposing the Law on Forests, cutting down the trees illicitly and damaging public property.
On September 9 in the evening hours, 100 construction vehicles and 400 trucks of the Ankara Metropolitan Municipality entered the campus of METU evening for the construction of a road planned to pass through the campus area.
All the trees along the 4,5 km road were already cut down in the next morning and a 48-hectare area of the METU forest was destroyed.
Unlawful according to initial examination
Research Institution on Rural Environment and Forestry Issues Executive Board member, forest engineer Ahmet Demirtaş talking to bianet after an initial examination of the construction had told bianet the trees had been cut down unlawfully.
Pointing out that the width of the road was reported 50 meters in the press initially, and was later reduced to 38 meters following a meeting with the university, Demirtaş said:
"In some parts, the width of the road is 90 and in other parts it's 100 meters. A 95-meter-wide area has been cleaned from trees on average".
"Gökçek's tweets are the confession of crime"
In the criminal complaint, the institution also underlined that Gökçek confessed the crime in his tweets and said:
"The drone footage and the videos İ. Melih Gökçek has shared on the social media reveal what has been done.
"Besides, Gökçek's statement of "We broke a record by completing a 4.5 km long road in one night' that was reported in the press, is the confession of this crime.
"Municipality has no authority"
The institution in the criminal complaint has pointed out that the area, through which the road was planned to pass, is subjected to the regime of the forests and that the Law on Forests should therefore apply.
On that grounds, Ankara Metropolitan Municipality had no authority to any trees or to replace them, according to the criminal complaint.
University cannot grant authority either
According to the criminal complaint, neither Ankara Metropolitan Municipality was allowed to ask METU for permission nor METU had the status to grant the municipality permission to cut down the trees. As the owner of the forest, METU should ask for permission from the General Directorate of Forestry.
"It is forbidden and it is a crime"
According to the Article 14 of the Law on Forests, it is forbidden to cut down, remove or damage saplings and trees which have been planted.
The route of the road
The construction of the first road was completed in 2014 despite great disputes, massive protests and the lawsuits brought against the construction. This first road was foreseen in the METU construction plan which was approved in 1994.
The first road completed in 2004 entered the campus through the A-1 entrance east of the main entrance, goes along the eastern border and connects to 100. Yıl and Çiğdem neighbourhoods.
Regarding the second road which is the current subject of debate, it has been announced that a protocol was signed between the metropolitan municipality and the university on September 8.
The units began to cut down the trees in the area in the night hours the next day (September) and all the trees along the 4,5 km road were already cut down in the next morning.
Ankara Metropolitan Mayor Melih Gökçek announced the length of the road on his Twitter account, as well as that its construction was completed in one night.
According to the initial examinations, the width of the area which was cleaned for the road construction of the road varies between 90 and 100 meters.
The history of the forest
The land which is also called the METU Forest, is a 3,100-hectare area which was created by growing a forest by sowing in the 4,500-hectare campus of METU.
The trial planting process began in 1958. In 1961, a "forestation campaign" was launched and the the forest was created in 40 years. (HK/DG)
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