67 police officers detained in ‘parallel state’ probe in Turkey
Ayşegül Usta ISTANBUL
The detained police officers include the former head of the Istanbul police’s anti-terror department, Yurt Atayün. AA PhotoDozens of high-ranking police officials were detained in simultaneous operations conducted in 22 provinces of Turkey early July 22, as part of an investigation into accusations against the “parallel state.”
A total of 67 people were detained as part of two investigations conducted by the anti-terror unit, one into “espionage” allegations and the other into the “illegal wiretapping,” the Istanbul Public Prosecutor’s Office said in a statement.
A detention order was given for a total of 115 police officers as part of the two separate investigations, with 67 of them detained so far, according to the statement.
Most of the detained suspects were in key positions during the Dec. 17, 2013, probe into allegations of graft and corruption, which targeted prominent businessmen, civil servants and four ex-ministers. The government has claimed that the movement of Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen was behind the probe.
The criminal probe into alleged illegal wiretapping and forgery by the “parallel structure” is likely to expand further, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has indicated.
Responding to questions from reporters after addressing his party’s parliamentary group July 22, Erdoğan noted that it would not be appropriate for him to comment without seeing the related judicial decision that kicked off the probe against suspected members of the Gülen network, which he alleges attempted to topple his Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.
The investigation had already led to the detention of dozens of police officers, including high-ranking officers, earlier on the same day.
“The judiciary’s picking up of these names, followed by both the prosecution process and subsequent court process will proceed. At the moment, we are also following developments. We will all together see what comes out,” Erdoğan said.
When asked whether the current operation would spread into other fields, he responded, “That is what it seems, of course, of course.”
A total of 52 police officers have been detained while there is a detention order for 24 others as part of the espionage case, the prosecutor’s office said in its statement.
On July 21, a detention order was given for 76 police officers involved in the alleged wiretappings of high-level officials, including the phone conversations of the Turkish prime minister, other ministers, world leaders and the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) chief, said the statement. It also added that the officers started a prank investigation into the Selam-Tevhid organization, wiretapping 251 people since 2010. Members of the judiciary subsequently chose not to pursue the 251.
Istanbul public prosecutor İrfan Fidan is carrying out the “espionage” investigation under which detention orders have been given for 76 people.
Fifteen other officers from the intelligence units were also detained July 22 as part of the second investigation into the illegal wiretappings.
“Despite having no evidence that a terror organization had been founded,” a total of 2,280 people, 251 of whom were the main targets, were wiretapped for three years as part of a prank investigation, said the statement.
“After it was understood that these [wiretappings] were done completely for private interests and have no relation to the state’s security, a detention order was given on July 21 for 39 suspects from the police intelligence department; 15 of them have been detained so far,” said the statement.
Istanbul public prosecutor Okan Özsoy is conducting the “illegal wiretapping” investigation.
Among the suspects detained are Yurt Atayün, former head of the Istanbul police’s anti-terror department, Ömer Köse, head of the anti-terror department at the time of the Dec. 17, 2013 operation, as well as former deputy police chiefs Kazım Aksoy, Ramazan Candan and Gafur Ataç. Aksoy was expelled from the police force following the Dec. 17 operation, during which he was a part of the financial crimes department, while Köse was suspended after the same incident.
Judge Hulusi Pur who was recently reassigned to the Istanbul 2nd Criminal Court of Peace issued the orders for the arrest of the 115 people on July 21. Pur previously ordered the release of six people, including state-run Halkbank’s former manager, Süleyman Aslan, as part of the Dec. 17 corruption investigation.
Pur also sentenced famous pianist Fazıl Say to 10 months in prison on charges of “insulting religious beliefs held by a section of the society,” for retweeting lines of poetry attributed to poet Omar Khayyam.