Eleven police officers arrested in wiretapping probe

Eleven police officers arrested in wiretapping probe

Ayşegül Usta ISTANBUL - Hürriyet
Eleven police officers arrested in wiretapping probe

Yurt Atayün, a former head of the Istanbul anti-terror squad, is the most high-profile name arrested in the second wave of the wiretapping probe. AA Photo

Eleven police officers were arrested early July 30 as part of an investigation into the alleged illegal wiretapping of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his inner circle, while a judge said in the court reasoning that it was not possible for the police chiefs not to be informed about the so many illegal wiretappings.

The 11 arrested officers, which include former Istanbul police intelligence chief Yurt Atayün, were all charged with “sharing secret information and documents belonging to the state.”

Eight of the 49 suspects were released under probationary conditions, while 30 others have also been released but may still face charges. The court ruling brought to 31 the number of officers arrested out of a total 115 police officers who were detained in overnight raids last week.

The judge said in the reasoning for the arrest decision that it was not possible for the suspects, who have been working for a long time in senior posts, not to have known the content of the files that they signed, taking into consideration that many high-profile names were wiretapped as if they were members of illegal organizations due to their decisions.

The judge also said there was strong criminal suspicion against the suspects and the charges were regarded as crimes committed against the state.

“It is understood that it cannot be a coincidence that the prime minister’s minutes-long phone conversations with other countries’ presidents and prime ministers was recorded, while [the suspects] cheated the judiciary by changing the real names of those being wiretapped while taking a court decision for the wiretapping, and they misused these recordings by giving false or imperfect data to the court,” said the judge.  

Meanwhile, the police officers’ lawyers have denounced the judges for not allowing the suspects to present their defense.

“The rights to a defense by those detained have been restricted. They [the suspects] weren’t given sufficient time to present their defense. The decision to arrest them has been made without the submission of all the necessary evidence,” lawyer Kemal Şimşek said.

Lawyer Kamil Ata also slammed the prosecution as political. “We know the allegations are false. We were also certain the court would issue arrest orders, so we were ready for it and so were the suspects,” he said.

The investigation comes after two corruption probes into high-profile figures from political and business circles was interpreted by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) as an operation aiming at toppling the government.

Many of the officers detained last week were involved in those corruption probes and have interpreted the current case as politically motivated.

Among the most prominent of the officers kept in custody was Ali Fuat Yılmazer, who oversaw intelligence for Istanbul police and is accused of forming and leading a criminal gang. Others are accused of illegal wiretapping, forging documents and espionage.

The arrests follow a stream of purges targeting the police, judiciary and other state institutions this year, which government critics have condemned as a symptom of Erdoğan’s tightening grip on power.

Erdoğan said earlier this week that the operations against the “parallel state” would continue and widen with the information acquired from the upcoming investigations.