EU urges Turkish government to be clean on graft case
Turkey’s new EU Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has rebuked the European Commissioner for Enlargement Stefan Füle for issuing a statement welcoming a Council of State ruling to annul a controversial regulation lifting investigation secrecy amid a graft scandal. Mevlütoğlu took office this week, replacing Egemen Bağış following a cabinet reshuffle. CİHAN photoTurkey has come under criticism from key European figures for the way it is handling a gripping corruption investigation.
Elmar Brok, who chairs the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier called on the Turkish government not to intervene in the judiciary process, a day after a top European commissioner touched on the issue.
Steinmeier also called on Turkey to shed light on the corruption scandal. “We trust in the strength of the Turkish state to clear up the corruption allegations that are on the table, irrespective of the persons involved,” Steinmeier said in an interview published Dec. 28 by the Bild am Sonntag weekly. He noted that Turkey was needed as a “stable anchor” in the Middle East.
“The government is exercising dramatic influence on the independence of the judiciary,” Brok, who chairs the European Parliament‘s foreign affairs committee, said during an interview broadcast Dec. 28 by the German broadcaster Deutschlandfunk.
The European Union formally warned Ankara against taking sides last week.
“I urge Turkey ... to take all the necessary measures to ensure that allegations of wrongdoing are addressed without discrimination or preference in a transparent and impartial manner,” EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Füle said in a statement Dec. 27.
He underlined “the need to guarantee the independence and impartiality of investigations by the judiciary into any allegation of wrongdoing, including corruption.”
New EU minister warns Füle for graft statement
Turkish EU Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu responded to Füle’s criticism.
“I invite our European friends to avoid preconceived convictions and be more vigilant while commenting on developments about Turkey’s internal developments which have political dimensions,” Çavuşoğlu said in his first statement as EU minister on Dec. 28.
“Nobody should have any doubt that Turkey will overcome this difficult process with the guidance of democracy and basic legal rights,” the statement also said.
The investigation became public on Dec. 17, when police raids in a high-level corruption investigation led to the arrests of 24 people, including the sons of two former ministers and a state bank owner. The allegations are about bribery involving public tenders, gold smuggling and illegal dealings with the Iranian government to circumvent international sanctions.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, however, denounced the corruption inquiry as a conspiracy against his government. Istanbul public prosecutor Muammer Akkaş has been removed from one investigation, while hundreds of police officers have been removed from their posts.
Akkaş issued a written statement, saying the case had been taken from his hands for no reason and that the leak of the story had given the suspects time to destroy potential evidence, while personally blaming Istanbul’s governor, new police chief and chief prosecutor for the hindrance.
He also said the act was an “open intervention to and pressure on the judiciary.” Erdoğan has repeatedly hit out at Akkaş for making press statements.