George Soros’ civil society organisation announced on Monday it would cease its activities in Turkey, days after President Tayyip Erdogan accused the billionaire philanthropist of trying to divide and destroy nations.
The foundation said it had been the target of “baseless claims” in the Turkish media, which made it impossible for it to continue its work.
The foundation faces an investigation by the Interior Ministry which sought to demonstrate a link, which it denied, between the foundation and protests at Istanbul’s Gezi Park in 2013.
One of its founders in Turkey, Hakan Altinay, was among 13 people detained 10 days ago. They were accused of supporting jailed rights activist Osman Kavala in a bid to overthrow the government through mass protests.
Erdogan linked those arrests to Soros. “The person (Kavala) who financed terrorists during the Gezi incidents, is already in prison,” he told a meeting of local administrators. “And who is behind him? The famous Hungarian Jew Soros. This is a man who assigns people to divide nations and shatter them. He has so much money and he spends it this way.”
Pro-government media in Turkey accuses Kavala of engaging in anti-government conspiracies. He has been in prison awaiting trial for more than a year.
The foundation said that “new investigations” were trying to link it to the Gezi protests five years ago. “These efforts are not new and they are outside reality,” it said
The foundation said it would apply for the legal liquidation and winding up of the company’s activities as soon as possible.
The organisation’s Board of Trustees approved the proposal, according to a statement from Open Society.