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MURAT YETKİN > Guess who triggered the probe against me

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Was it Bilal Erdoğan, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan’s son who had filed a complaint against Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), triggering a judicial scandal on April 29 after an Istanbul prosecutor “mistakenly” summoned Kılıçdaroğlu to testify?

That summons, which came despite the CHP head’s parliamentary immunity, was immediately withdrawn by the chief prosecutor, who said the correct proceedings had been “neglected” by Prosecutor Mehmet Demir. But debate continued with more news about the case coming on April 30, with a claim that it was Bilal Erdoğan who filed the complaint. He had been accused by Kılıçdaroğlu of occupying a key position in the “ring of bribery,” after a phone recording was leaked onto Twitter and YouTube allegedly featuring conversations between the prime minister and his son about cash transfers.

The news about Bilal Erdoğan has neither been confirmed, nor denied, so the CHP leader cannot be 100 percent sure about who actually triggered the probe against him.

At least I know who triggered a recent probe against me over something I wrote.

I learned about the person who filed the complaint about me from a document signed by Istanbul prosecutor Nevin Özkan on Feb. 27, which was sent to the Istanbul Police Directorate for my testimony about the “crime” attributed to me.

The alleged crime is my piece in the Radikal newspaper on Dec. 18, 2013 about the graft probe that started a day earlier - the largest such probe ever in Turkey. (It is largely the Turkish version of my article in the Hürriyet Daily News from the same day, titled “Corruption probe might grow to rock the Turkish government.”) Among the names reported as having been taken into custody, according to the information given by the police and the prosecutor’s office, was Süleyman Aslan. Aslan was the general manager of the government controlled Halkbank at the time.

At that point, Turkish people had not yet seen the police camera footage of about 4.5 million unregistered U.S. dollars stuffed in shoe boxes found in the bedroom of Aslan’s house.

But things started to unfold at an incredible pace. On Dec. 25, Erdoğan removed four of his ministers from the Cabinet because their names were involved in the Dec. 17 probe. Later in the day, another corruption probe was launched, this time based on allegations about a foundation, TÜRGEV, for the education of young people. Bilal Erdoğan is also on the TÜRGEV board.

Prime Minister Erdoğan then forced a change of law through his Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) dominated Parliament, increasing political influence over the appointment of prosecutors and judges. New prosecutors, judges and police officers were appointed to the positions of those removed because of their involvement in the probes.

Suspects included the sons of two former ministers (economy and interior), Reza Zarrab, an Iranian-origin nouveau-rich businessman in the oil-for-gold business to bypass sanctions on Iran (as the source of bribery), and Aslan, the former Halkbank manager.

The Erdoğan government has since appointed Aslan as the board member of another government-controlled bank, Ziraat, and Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan had to defend this appointment as a “political choice” upon questions from investors when he was in the U.S.

It was Aslan who filed the complaint about me that triggered the probe.

I am accused of violating two Articles of the Turkish Penal Code, just because I reported that he had been taken into custody by police upon prosecutors’ orders within the corruption probe: Article 285 about the confidentiality of judicial procedures (suggesting 1-3 years in jail or fine) and Article 288 about trying to prevent a fair trial (suggesting a minimum 50 days in jail or fine).

Pietro Grasso, the president of the Italian Senate, who has fought with mafias and corruption through his career, spoke to me recently about the situation in Turkey, saying, “The way to fight corruption cannot be to get rid of those who fight against corruption.”

Such an atmosphere is trying to be created nowadays in Turkey that those trying to report corruption feel under pressure, not those being accused of corruption.

Do they really think that such probes will deter everyone from reporting corruption? This would be the wrong way to go in a democratic country.

May/01/2014

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