Erdoğan’s intervention ‘saved four former ministers from corruption trial’

Erdoğan’s intervention ‘saved four former ministers from corruption trial’

Deniz Zeyrek - ANKARA
Erdoğan’s intervention ‘saved four former ministers from corruption trial’

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan received an honorary doctorate from his Ethiopian counterpart, Mulatu Teshome Wirtu, at Addis Ababa University on Jan. 22.

The Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) members of a parliamentary panel tasked with probing graft claims against four ex-ministers originally intended to send them to the top court, but an intervention by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan changed their minds, it has emerged.

During meetings with AKP executives ahead of the Dec. 22, 2014 panel vote on the matter, the nine panel members from the AKP signaled that they would vote to send the quartet to the Supreme Council, sources told Hürriyet. 

After the AKP leadership learned of such an intention, a critical two-and-a-half-hour meeting at the Prime Ministry was held on Dec. 21, hosted by Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and including AKP deputy parliamentary group chairs Mustafa Elitaş and Mahir Ünal, as well as the four former ministers under investigation. 

After Elitaş explained that the commission members were likely to vote to send the former ministers to the Supreme Council, Davutoğlu recalled his earlier meetings with Erdoğan and told the former ministers that it would be better if they announced that they wanted to be sent to the Supreme Council voluntarily.

Former Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan openly stated that they should not be sent to the top court and asked the prime minister to pledge his support to them. 

Fellow suspects Egemen Bağış and Muammer Güler agreed with Çağlayan, but underlined that they would not oppose being sent to the court if a joint call was made. However, they also sought assurances on whether the government would support them if they were sent to the court.

One of the former ministers reportedly emphasized that if they were sent to the Supreme Council, further information about the AKP and some of its officials would surface and potentially damage the party. However, Davutoğlu remained convinced that the issue would be best resolved by the four names submitting to the Supreme Council, according to sources. 

Çağlayan met President Erdoğan 

After their meeting with Davutoğlu failed to produce results, the four former ministers chose to express their demands to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, with Çağlayan as their representative. After the meeting between Çağlayan and Erdoğan, the members of the panel all changed their decisions in the period between Dec. 22, 2014, and Jan. 5. 

“Apart from [commission head] Hakkı Köylü, all other members of the panel are young and want to continue in politics and be re-elected [to parliament]. That should have an effect,” said one AKP official upon a question from Hürriyet over why these members had changed their votes. 

The parliamentary elections are set to be held in June this year.