The corruption to boost all corruption
Since last December, Turkey has been shaken by the “corruption investigation” opened against four ministers and other prominent figures close to the government. The government itself condemned this investigation as a sinister “coup attempt,” whose aim was not to serve justice, but to weaken the ruling party. It pointed at the Gülen Movement, which apparently has a network of members within the police and judiciary, as the culprit. Since then, those who believe in this “coup attempt” theory and those who do not have been bitterly divided. This, in fact, has even become the main fault line in Turkish politics.
For my part, I took a middle ground — not to be in the middle, but because I believed the overall picture was really complex. I admitted that the corruption investigation really did seem to have a political motive behind it. But I also noted that a corruption investigation, which is a common occurrence in democracies, cannot be called a “coup.” I also said that no matter how biased the prosecutors and police may be, the evidence they found should matter.
But few had time for such wishy-washy analyses, as they saw them. The government took no time to block “the coup,” i.e., the investigation, by replacing its prosecutorso and launching a hate campaign and witch-hunt against the whole Gülen Movement. Those who defended the government’s position argued that the investigation could not be allowed to move on, because the judicial system was compromised by the “parallel state” — the Gülen Movement network that supposedly serves the Americans, neo-cons, Zionists, etc. Most of these defenders actually admitted that the evidence for corruption was clear, but added that such delicate matters should be taken care of only when the judiciary is saved from the “parallel state.”
Now, almost 10 months have passed since the beginning of the controversy. In the meantime, the government has taken extraordinary steps to redesign the judiciary. Just the other week, the elections for the Supreme Court of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) were won by the list that the government supported. Pro-government papers happily declared the “parallel state” had lost the battle. So, in this new setting, it was our right to expect to see the corruption investigation move forward, right?
Well, it did not work that way. Last week, the new prosecutor who took over the corruption investigation after the sacking of the initial prosecutors - who were condemned as “parallel” - gave a fateful decision: He announced that the evidence was too weak and there was no need to take it to court. The leniency that this prosecutor showed to the suspects was quite notable. He accepted that many expensive “presents” (such as a $700,000 watch!) were given by Reza Zarrab, an oil-rich billionaire, to certain ministers, but argued that this did not prove any bribery. And he did not let the courts decide.
This controversial decision not only buried Turkey’s most controversial corruption investigation into the dusty archives. It also further destroyed the public’s trust in the judicial system. Moreover, this whole drama established an ugly standard for the much-overrated “New Turkey.” From now on, any corruption investigation against those in power will be easily demonized as yet another “coup attempt.” What can the practical result of this be, other than making corruption safe and boosting it to higher levels?