Ex-prosecutors in charity corruption case acquitted

Ex-prosecutors in charity corruption case acquitted

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Ex-prosecutors in charity corruption case acquitted

The leader of main opposition CHP, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, attends a court hearing during which former prosecutors in a charity fraud case are cleared.

Three prosecutors removed from an embezzlement probe into the Deniz Feneri (Lighthouse) charity in August 2011 were acquitted on Nov. 16 of falsifying documents used in the probe and for an abuse of office.

“In fact, I’m not very happy about my acquittal. One who is guilty becomes happy for his acquittal. But I’m happy the court gave a historic ruling for Turkish history of law. This ruling told the judges and prosecutors in Turkey ‘Don’t be afraid, do whatever you should do within the law regardless of your counterparts.’ That’s why this ruling is very important,” Nadi Türkaslan, one of the acquitted prosecutors told reporters after the verdict was announced.

All three prosecutors were unanimously acquitted of abuse of office and Türkarslan was also acquitted of falsifying official documents by a majority vote of the court board.

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu and his lawmakers attended Friday’s hearing at the Supreme Court of Appeals. CHP deputy parliamentary group chair Emine Ülker Tarhan praised the ruling as historic. “This case gave us the impression that there are still some judges in Ankara,” she said.

An investigation into the Deniz Feneri charity was launched after a Frankfurt court in 2008 convicted three managers of the Deniz Feneri charity of funneling charitable contributions worth 40 million euros that were collected from pious Turkish people in Germany. Most of the money is believed to have ended up in Turkey in the coffers of the pro-government Kanal 7 television channel and a business group whose owners are close to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Removal from office

After six high-profile suspects, including former head of the Supreme Board of Radio and Television (RTÜK), Zahid Akman, Kanal 7 CEO Zekeriya Karaman were arrested in July 2011 on charges of establishing a criminal organization and embezzlement, the three prosecutors were removed from the Deniz Feneri investigation in August 2011 on the grounds that they had misled authorities to seizing assets belonging to companies in which the suspects were shareholders, even though a court had rejected the measure.

The court had granted the prosecution permission to seize the personal assets of the suspects, but the prosecutors allegedly tampered with the papers, blacking out the rejection of their second request. The prosecutors have rejected any wrongdoing, exemplifying similar practices in previous probes.
The six high-profile suspects were released in October of 2011 and the prosecutors working in the probe were changed. The indictment prepared by newly appointed prosecutors cleared the suspects of charges of establishing criminal organization while charging them with falsification of documents and abuse of authority by a public official.

A probe into the three prosecutors was launched after the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) gave the green light to the prosecution in September of 2011. The indictment sought a sentence of up to 11 years in prison for one of the accused prosecutors, Türkaslan, on charges of forgery of official documents and abuse of office. A prison sentence of up to three years was being sought for the other two, Abdulvahap Yaren and Mehmet Tamöz, for abuse of office. It also demanded that all three be banned from practicing their profession.

The three prosecutors were tried in the Supreme Court of Appeals as the high court acts as the court of first instance in trial of judges and prosecutors.

During Friday’s hearing, the prosecutor asked his three colleagues be acquitted on the grounds of the absence of a committed crime, stressing that the three prosecutors only covered unrelated parts of documents to seize personal assets of the suspects in the Deniz Feneri case.