Indictment in fraud probe sparks debate

Indictment in fraud probe sparks debate

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Opposition parties yesterday denounced the indictment in the Deniz Feneri (“Lighthouse”) probe as too lenient, raising concerns that charges against the suspects could be further mitigated.

The charge sheet, which is awaiting approval from the court, was designed to favor the suspects, following the removal of three prosecutors from the high-profile embezzlement probe last year, members of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) said.

“So we see that the charges change when the prosecutors change,” the CHP’s Ali Özgündüz, a former prosecutor, said. He suggested that the charges could be further mitigated when the trial starts and the case could eventually be dropped.

The 20 defendants in the case were charged with “forgery,” “involvement in forgery conducted by a public official” and “abuse of confidence while on duty,” offenses that carry jail terms of up to 14.5 years. The prosecutors came under fire for not having considered any of the defendants as members of an organized group and for having failed to raise charges of fraud or embezzlement. The prosecutors also decided there were no grounds to pursue an investigation into Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay, who allegedly warned the suspects of an impending police search.

“Now we see why the prosecutors were removed. The objective was to alter the nature of the charges the suspects would face. The government must take its hands off this case and the judiciary,” Oktay Vural of the MHP said. The probe into the Deniz Feneri charity was launched after a Frankfurt court in 2008 convicted three managers of the related Lighthouse e.V. charity in Germany for embezzling 40 million euros. Most of the money is believed to have ended up in Turkey in the coffers of the pro-government Kanal 7 television.