Turkish PM Erdoğan dubs wiretap incriminating him of corruption a 'vile attack’
Turkey's Prime Minister Erdoğan leaves his seat to address members of parliament from his ruling Justice and Development (AKP) during a meeting at the Parliament in Ankara. REUTERS photo
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan denied the authenticity of the latest wiretap recording incriminating him of corruption during a Feb. 25 parliamentary group speech.
“Yesterday they published a play that they have montaged and dubbed themselves. What has been done is a vile attack against the prime minister of Turkey,” he said.
The fresh wiretap leaked into the Internet Feb. 24 containing four phone conversations between Erdoğan and his son dating back to Dec. 17, the day when massive graft raids were conducted by the police.
“I was making calls for weeks. I said: Publish everything you have, disclose whatever you’ve got. And they go and make an immoral montage and publish it. But even fabricating has morals and decency,” Erdoğan said, announcing that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) would use the same technology and publish similar tapes featuring opposition leaders.
He also accused the opposition of opportunism after both the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) held extraordinary meetings over the leaked recordings. “Both the executive board of the CHP and MHP held extraordinary meetings. Why? Because they [are thinking] about how to take advantage of the montage. We can’t get it from the ballot box, and no coup is happening. Maybe we can do it thanks to [the help] from across the ocean,” he said, visibly referring to U.S.-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, whom he has repeatedly accused of orchestrating the probes.
The voice recordings have sent shockwaves through Turkish politics, prompting the Prime Minister’s Office to issue a statement denouncing a "manipulation" and calls from the main opposition CHP for resignation.
On Feb. 25, the MHP joined the CHP’s call for the government’s resignation, with its leader Devlet Bahçeli describing the recordings as “mindblowing.”
“It has been reported that Prime Minister Erdoğan called his son Bilal asking him to gather with his brother Burak, uncle Mustafa and brother-in-law Berat to get rid of all the stolen money as soon as possible from his house. It is understood that the prime minister urgently and insistently asked for 2.2 billion [Turkish Lira] of dirty money hidden in different addresses to be dispersed,” Bahçeli said during his party’s group meeting in Ankara.
“If those conversations are true and nothing has been added, then it will be impossible to speak about the credibility, the humanity and, worse, the morality of the person in the position of prime minister,” he added.
'A president cannot speak with PM'
Erdoğan also described the reports of widespread wiretapping published by two newspapers on Feb. 24 as “the biggest eavesdropping scandal in Turkish history.”
According to the reports, hundreds of people, including the prime minister, his closest associates, the head of the National Intelligence Agency (MİT), as well as a number of journalists, scholars and business leaders had been tapped by prosecutors.
Erdoğan said the scandal justified the recent bills that gave more control to the government over the Internet and the intelligence agency, announcing similar measures for Turkey’s science watchdog, TÜBİTAK.
“It is very interesting; they even tap the state’s cryptic phones from there. A president cannot speak with a prime minister without being wiretapped at an instant,” he said, calling on the judiciary to take action about the mass eavesdropping.
"We will bring legal action against these [wiretapping] activities. If we let it go on, there will be no privacy for families, nor for the state in this country."
The sons of the ex-Interior Minister Muammer Güler and ex-Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan have remained in custody since the raids, along with the Iranian-born Azeri businessman Reza Zarrab, considered the main suspect of the investigation.
Bilal Erdoğan also recently testified as part of the graft probe after a long period of uncertainty over his implication in the case.
The government has repeatedly accused Gülen of orchestrating the probes, and has launched a massive purge of its sympathizers from the civil service.