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More than 50 judiciary members tapped

ISTANBUL – Daily news with wires | 11/13/2009 12:00:00 AM |

Justice Ministry in a statement on Thursday evening said 59 judiciary officials were tapped under the ongoing investigation about an alleged gang called Ergenekon, after one of the greatest wiretapping scandals of Turkish history erupted on Thursday.

One short of 60 judiciary officials have been wiretapped in the ongoing investigation into an alleged gang called Ergenekon, the Justice Ministry said late Thursday in the aftermath of one of the greatest wiretapping scandals to ever hit Turkey.

The country was shaken Thursday when it was revealed that Aykut Cengiz Engin, Istanbul’s chief prosecutor under whom the prosecutors who run the Ergenekon investigation were working, was tapped as well. To date, many high-level officials, journalists and academics have been detained and interrogated in relation to the investigation, which alleges that the Ergenekon gang aims to topple the government by creating turmoil in society.

The wiretapping records of 46 officials including Engin had no criminal elements, while for eight of them the investigation was still ongoing, the Justice Ministry said. The wiretapping had been completed for two officials, Ömer Faruk Eminağaoğlu, chairman of the Judges and Prosecutors Association, or YARSAV, and Osman Kaçmazthe, chief judge of the First High Criminal Court in Sincan, daily Milliyet reported.

The ministry’s statement said that within the last five years 69 judicial officers were tapped, while 56 of them were for Ergenekon. The Justice Ministry allowed these officials to be investigated in two decisions dated April 15, 2008 and Sept. 5, 2008. The ministry inspectors requested to tap the telephone conversations of the officials and the courts decided to allow them. In Turkey, a court decision is required in order to tap telephone conversations.

[HH] No tap on switchboard

One of the shaking claims was that the switchboard at the Supreme Court of Appeals and Istanbul Chief Prosecutor’s Office were tapped, but the ministry rejected that claim. “It is not a matter of discussion to request a wire tap for the switchboard of the Supreme Board of Appeals and the Istanbul Chief Prosecutor’s Office and all judges and prosecutors using these switchboards,” the ministry said in a statement. “The telephone number that was alleged to belong to the switchboard of the Supreme Board of Appeals belongs to Supreme Court of Appeals prosecutor Ömer Faruk Eminağaoğlu, which he uses in his room,” the ministry said, adding that this number could not be tapped for technical reasons.

The statement from the ministry did not mention the name “Ergenekon,” instead, it said “under the framework of an ongoing investigation run by the Istanbul Chief Prosecutor’s Office.”

Meanwhile, Mustafa Birden, the head of the Council of State, the top administrative court, criticized the wiretaps, saying that these are all efforts to pressure the judiciary. “Tapping members of the judiciary, watching them physically and frequently publish news about them and their photographs and images in the press is nothing but trying to control and influence the judiciary,” he said.

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