Judge who banned reporting on corruption commission says 'commenting, criticizing' is allowed

Judge who banned reporting on corruption commission says 'commenting, criticizing' is allowed

Nurettin Kurt ANKARA
Judge who banned reporting on corruption commission says commenting, criticizing is allowed The judge who ruled for a publishing ban on the parliamentary inquiry into corruption allegations concerning four former Cabinet ministers has said he only ruled out the direct printing of testimonies from the commission, not "criticizing and commentating" on the commission’s work.

Yavuz Kökten, the judge who approved the gag ban on a parliamentary commission working over the graft probe allegations against four former ministers, said the "boundaries" of the decision should have been apparent.

“My decision is clear and open. It is obvious what I have and have not banned. I did not put a ban on comments and criticism," said Kökten.

"A complaint was filed that stated testimonies taken at the commission were being written directly. A decision to not write these [testimonies] is already in Parliament’s internal regulations. So there is a prohibition on writing the testimonies directly. It can be commented on and criticized; we do not have a ban on that," he added.

Former ministers Zafer Çağlayan, Egemen Bağış, Muammer Güler and Erdoğan Bayraktar resigned from Cabinet after a huge graft operation highlighted their relations with Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab, who had allegedly paid them a number of bribes over the last few years. Along with Zarrab, former Halkbank chief executive Süleyman Aslan is among the suspects of the corruption probe.

Kökten complained that people made comments about the issue without reading the ruling, saying he had done nothing wrong.

“What is important is the content. I did not do anything wrong. I evaluated and investigated the application. The issue is not like the fuss that has been made,” said Kökten, adding that he stood behind his ruling.

An Istanbul prosecutor ruled on Oct. 17 not to proceed against 53 graft suspects, including the sons of four former ministers, Aslan and Zarrab. With the decision to drop the case, the final part of the legal scandal that had been dogging President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s inner circle since late 2013 was buried.

The smaller of two dossiers in the graft affair was the Dec. 25, 2013 probe that concerned the alleged awarding of illegal permits for building projects. In May prosecutors dismissed the case against all 60 suspects in the dossier, among them a former minister’s son and a construction tycoon.