All eavesdropped on, even Gül, me, my kids: Turkish PM Erdoğan

All eavesdropped on, even Gül, me, my kids: Turkish PM Erdoğan

Deniz ZEYREK ANKARA – Hürriyet
All eavesdropped on, even Gül, me, my kids: Turkish PM Erdoğan

PM Erdoğan has vowed to introduce new measures to make eavesdropping more difficult after claiming that a large number of people had been wiretapped. AA Photo

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has vowed to introduce new measures to make eavesdropping more difficult after claiming that a large number of people, including himself, his family, President Abdullah Gül and Parliamentary Speaker Cemil Çiçek had all been wiretapped. 

“We are being notified of such interesting things on the eavesdropping of the president, the parliamentary speaker and myself. They have eavesdropped on everybody, on our families and our children. Can something like that happen?” Erdoğan told journalists traveling with him as he returned from Tehran late Jan. 29. 

Erdoğan did not directly name names but overtly referred to what he called members of the “illegal gang within the state” as those responsible for the eavesdropping on senior state and government officials. 

“We are doing something very important on phone tapping. Afterwards, judicial proceedings will not be carried out randomly. This decision will be given unanimously by the court for serious crimes and no longer by the majority [of judges],” Erdoğan said. 

Courts for serious crimes will have the most important say on eavesdropping on citizens, as all three judges on a court panel will have to agree on the necessity of tapping a suspect after concluding a required detailed inspection of the case, Erdoğan said. 

“The duration of eavesdropping was limitless. Now we give only three months. And then, if necessary, we give another three months, which makes the total duration only six months,” he said.

Although eavesdropping has been a problematic issue for Turkey in the last decade with a large number of legal and illegal wiretappings being publicized in the media, it emerged as an issue for the government only after a number of phone conversations of senior Cabinet members, the prime minister and his family members were exposed as part of an ongoing fight between the ruling party and the Fethullah Gülen community or the Hizmet movement following the launch of a massive corruption and graft operation. 

As for the government’s new efforts to give a new order to the judiciary after the abolition of special courts, Erdoğan said articles from the Anti-Terror Law would be transferred entirely to the Penal Code and that ongoing cases would also be transferred to courts for serious crimes. 

“We are working on a package concerning the Interior Ministry and the judiciary. The most important item in it is the abolition of specially authorized courts,” Erdoğan said, underlining that some terror cases could be dropped while transferring them to courts for serious crimes. As for the new measures with regard to judicial proceedings, the prime minister said a deputy governor in each city would be the main authority to implement a prosecutor’s order, meaning that prosecutors would no longer inform the Police Department as part of judicial proceedings. 

Retrials not included

Erdoğan said the issue of retrials had not been included in his new judicial reform package but that work on it was continuing. 

“How we will draw the frame for the retrials? Who will be retried and who won’t be? We have to work on it because this is not an easy issue. It can lead to serious problems, and therefore, we have to take such a step by taking certain sensitivities into account,” he said. 

Noting the fact that the current law accorded the right to a retrial under certain conditions but that both convicts and arrestees were prevented from exercising this right, Erdoğan said it would be more beneficial if suspects were given the right to an individual application to the Constitutional Court simultaneously with an appeal to the Supreme Court of Appeal. 

“A quick decision to be given by the Constitutional Court will serve as the basis, as it is superior then the Supreme Court of Appeals. I think now Başbuğ Paşa [former chief of General Staff Gen. İlker Başbuğ imprisoned on charges of being the leader of a terrorist organization] has made his individual application. He did not use this right until last week. Perhaps the others will do the same thing,” he said. 

On the government’s plans to restructure the Supreme Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK), Erdoğan noted that their call to the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) for a constitutional amendment had not received a positive response. 

“They also rejected the deal reached at the Constitutional Conciliation Committee. It was more or less agreed. I have also told the parliamentary speaker that we may conclude it,” he said.

No Syria deal with Iran

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said differences between Turkey and Iran over Syria cannot be reconciled as Tehran is against the removal of Bashar al-Assad before the disbanding of all terrorist groups inside this country and the cutting of support pledged to these groups. 

“There is one point Iran is currently dwelling on: They say ‘the removal of Assad will not be meaningful without the eradication of terrorist groups; without stopping the infiltration of these groups into Syria and without ending the support given to these groups’. But we have told them that these terror groups were not in Syria three years ago. They have established themselves inside Syria with Assad,” Erdoğan said. 

“We have also brought another issue to their attention: A transitional government can be set up in Syria. This transitional government should be composed of those who have not committed violence and those who can be approved by the people so that they can take the country to elections,” he said, adding the elections would ease conditions in Syria. “I cannot say that we have fully agreed on these issues with Iran but we have tasked our foreign ministers and chiefs of intelligence [to work together on these issues],” he added.