Turkish PM’s son denies fleeing to Italy

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's son Bilal on Wednesday said he had temporarily moved to Italy to complete his doctoral studies but denied fleeing Turkey after being implicated in a corruption scandal.

Turkish PM's son denies fleeing to Italy
The Turkish president's son has moved to Bologna to complete a PhD, but has denied the move was to escape a corruption scandal in Turkey. Photo: Bulent Kilic/AFP

Bilal was one of the main protagonists implicated in corruption allegations that exploded in December 2013 against the president's inner circle and were bitterly denied by Erdogan, then premier.

Fuat Avni, a mysterious whistleblower who has on occasion correctly predicted the authorities' moves, claimed on Twitter on Sunday that Bilal fled to Italy on September 27th in the company of armed guards.
Bilal on Wednesday denied the allegations, saying he had settled in Italy on August 30th to complete his PhD in international relations at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University in Bologna.

“Only cowards flee,” Bilal told the state-run Anatolia news agency.
“How can those who tell and spread this lie about 'fleeing to Italy' look at themselves in the mirror? Maybe they can look at themselves in the mirror, but how can they look at their mothers' and fathers' faces?

“I see how people can become cruel on an issue and about a person they have never met. I feel so sorry for them,” he said.

Bilal said he planned to complete his thesis in one-and-a-half or two years and said: “After that I'll return to my country and live there until my last breath.”

Erdogan and his wife Emine have four children – eldest son Burak who is rarely seen in public, Bilal and two daughters Esra and Sumeyye.

Fuat Avni had claimed that Bilal would manage the family's bank accounts in Switzerland while in Italy.

End of the road

“Noticing that he's nearing the end of the road, (Erdogan) has ordered Bilal to 'quietly' leave the country in the company of armed guards,” Fuat Avni had written.

Erdogan will decide whether or not Bilal can return depending on the outcome of the November 1 snap election, which he called after the ruling party lost its governing majority for the first time after a June 7 poll, the Twitter user claimed.

The government has repeatedly tried to block Fuat Avni's presence on Twitter but he simply moves to another account.
In December 2013, stunning corruption allegations emerged against Erdogan and his inner circle based on bugged conversations that enthralled the country like a soap opera.

Leaked tapes emerged in February 2014 of Erdogan allegedly telling Bilal to dispose of some €30 million ($37 million) in cash. Erdogan has dismissed the recordings as a “vile montage”.


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Italy receives UNESCO site record as Bologna’s porticoes are added to World Heritage list

Bologna's medieval porticoes were inscribed on UNESCO's list of World Heritage sites Wednesday, handing Italy a record number of recognitions for its cultural heritage.

Italy receives UNESCO site record as Bologna's porticoes are added to World Heritage list
Photo by Thaddaeus Lim on Unsplash

The porticoes, a network of arcades lining the streets of the historic centre of the capital of Emilia Romagna, were recognised as an “outstanding example of a building type, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape that illustrates one or more important phases in human history,” UNESCO said in a statement.

Begun in the 12th century, the porticoes stretch over 62 kilometres (39 miles) in the medieval city, with most found in the centre.

Made of wood, stone, brick or reinforced concrete, they cover streets, squares, passages and sidewalks. Acting as a shelter against the sun or rain, for centuries they welcomed merchants’ stalls and craftsmen’s workshops.

Over the centuries, they also increased the city’s housing supply, with lodgings built atop them — an asset for Bologna, where millions of students have flocked since the founding in 1088 of its university, one of the oldest in the world.

Bologna’s Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca, a basilica sitting high above the city – connected by porticoes from the historic centre. Photo by Constantin Mutaf on Unsplash

The addition of Bologna’s porticoes means that Italy now has 58 sites recognised on UNESCO’s World Heritage list.

It includes entire city centres, such as the historic centres of Rome, Naples and Florence, Venice and its lagoon, as well as archaeological areas such as the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum, and the scenic Amalfi Coast. 

READ ALSO: Venice dodges Unesco ‘endangered’ listing after placing new limit on cruise ships

The new classification is “an immense satisfaction and a great recognition that makes us happy,” said Bologna’s mayor, Virginio Merola.

Only twelve sets of porticoes and their surrounding built areas were classified as World Heritage.

“In the 20th century, the use of concrete allowed the replacement of the traditional vaulted arcades with new building possibilities and a new architectural language for the porticoes emerged,” wrote Unesco.

“The porticoes have become an expression and element of Bologna’s urban identity,” it said.

The longest covered walkway in the world is considered to be the portico that leads to Bologna’s Sanctuary of the Madonna of San Luca, a basilica sitting high above the city. The portico is 3.8 kilometres long, with 664 arches.