Government shields intel by changing law

Government shields intel by changing law

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Government shields intel by changing law

Hakan Fidan. AA photo

The National Intelligence Organization (MİT) rejected yesterday an Istanbul prosecutor’s invitation for its head to answer questions in an ongoing judicial process as the government lent its full support to the chief in an effort to avert the deepening crisis.

MİT head Hakan Fidan, as well as two former MİT officials, Afet Güneş and Emre Taner, did not appear in court to provide testimony yesterday. In an urgent move to avert the prosecution of the MİT officials, the Justice Ministry launched an initiative to amend both the MİT Act and the Penal Code in order to make probing intelligence members’ probe more difficult. The details of the amendment were specially crafted by Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin, who met with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan twice yesterday.

In the first phase, Article 250 of the Penal Code, which gives broad autonomy for specially authorized prosecutors to prosecute whomever they want, could be changed. Second, the amendment will also include Article 26 of the MİT Act, which essentially says a MİT member could be prosecuted only with the prime minister’s consent. This article could be rewritten to increase its scope to exempt MİT brass from being prosecuted.

Specially authorized Sadettin Sarıkaya’s unprecedented move to summon Fidan and the two former MİT officials has shaken Ankara, with some speculating on the existence of a simmering power struggle within the state.

MİT’s message came in the late afternoon as Fidan was meeting President Abdullah Gül and Erdoğan was meeting Ergin in an effort to put an end to the crisis between the country’s most important institutions. Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel also visited Erdoğan just before the prime minister met with Gül.

A statement by the President’s Office made public after the meeting said it was a routine weekly meeting and that the focus was on the latest developments. Gül is “closely watching the situation,” according to the statement.

According to MİT’s earlier message to the prosecutor’s office, the MİT Act requires the permission of the prime minister before its members can be prosecuted. The organization also said that as MİT was located in Ankara, the request should be made by an Ankara-based court.

Speaking at a conference in Istanbul yesterday, former deputy MİT chief Cevat Öneş said such a development “cannot even take place in Patagonia” – a Turkish phrase to emphasize backwardness.
The incident displayed how much Turkey needs a “qualified democracy,” Öneş added.

Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ also defended Fidan, saying he “was just doing his job.”

“It is MİT’s primary task to infiltrate terrorist organizations and collect information on their plans. But if you mix apples and oranges and accuse people who are risking their lives in the service of the nation, that would be extremely wrong,” Bozdağ told reporters yesterday.

Fidan, Taner and Güneş had been asked to give testimonies in the judiciary’s wide-ranging investigation into the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party’s (PKK) alleged urban wing.

“What I see is that there is no crime committed [by MİT]. There is a duty done. I read comments suggesting that this duty constitutes a crime. But one cannot accuse people by comments but by law,” Bozdağ said.

The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.

The prosecutors sought to question the suspects in relation to a number of claims, including charges pertaining to MİT operatives who allegedly transgressed their duties to infiltrate the KCK and gather intelligence by actually facilitating the KCK’s administration instead, according to daily Hürriyet.