No justification for mass wiretapping, Istanbul chief prosecutor says
Hadi Salihoğlu has ruled out the presence of any reasonable ground to justify eavesdropping on thousands of people. CİHAN PhotoThe chief prosecutor of Istanbul has strictly ruled out the presence of any reasonable ground to justify eavesdropping on thousands of people including Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, stressing that the prosecutor involved has been dismissed from the investigation.
In a written statement released on Feb. 25, Istanbul Chief Prosecutor Hadi Salihoğlu said it was necessary to inform the public after reports about an investigation conducted by the related department of the Chief Prosecutor’s Office, authorized by Article 10 of the Anti-Terror Law (TMK).
Salihoğlu was referring to news reports published on Feb. 24 by two pro-government dailies, which said two anti-terrorism prosecutors had obtained court orders authorizing the phone-tapping as part of an investigation into the “Selam Terror Organization,” a hitherto unheard of group whose name means “Greeting.”
The daily newspapers, Yeni Şafak and Star, had said classified documents revealing the surveillance were discovered by prosecutors newly appointed after a mass purge of the police and prosecution services in the wake of the corruption probe launched in December.
The investigation file drew particular attention because it involved the surveillance of such a huge number of people, Salihoğlu said.
“In the preliminary examination … it has been seen that decisions for the inspection and recording of communications, in addition to decisions for physical and technical surveillance, were taken. Telephones were tapped in this context, signal information was evaluated, and audio and physical surveillance was carried out into many people. This went on for longer than three years although there was no armed terrorist act or terrorist plot,” he said.
Salihoğlu also underlined that the telephone conversations of those who were wiretapped were included in the file even when the conversations were not relevant to the crime in the investigation file, such as personal conversations with friends or relatives.
He added that the file had been physically taken from the prosecutor involved due to the findings, without giving a name. The file has also been removed from the National Judiciary Network Information System (UYAP) for the same reason.
The file on the investigation, which was first launched in 2011, was composed of 107 folders. Over time, various court decisions were taken for the investigation and recording of various people’s communication, Salihoğlu stated.
“It is understood that the folders and wiretapping hard disks were quickly handed over to the related prosecutor on Dec. 17, 2013,” he said.
That is the date when a mass corruption and bribery probe, involving the sons of three former ministers and businesspeople known to be close to the government, was launched.
HSYK to examine prosecutors allegedly involved in mass tapping
Meanwhile, in Ankara, a chamber of the recently restructured top judicial body of Turkey has decided to launch an investigation into two prosecutors alleged to have been involved in the tapping of thousands of phones in order to blackmail and concoct criminal cases to influence the government.
The decision by the 3rd Chamber of the Supreme Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) came after an appeal by the prosecutors themselves, namely Adem Özcan and Adnan Çimen.
The move followed the news reports in Yeni Şafak and Star. The 3rd Chamber reviewed both news reports about Özcan and Çimen and their petitions at a meeting on Feb. 25, Anadolu Agency reported.
It accepted the petitions, but the decision for the examination of the prosecutors needs to be approved by the Justice Ministry. If an investigation is deemed necessary, the chamber will present a proposal for investigation to the ministry. The investigation into the prosecutors will be conducted by the Second Chamber of the HSYK upon the Justice Ministry’s approval.
In a statement carried by news websites on Feb. 24, prosecutor Özcan denied the widespread phone-tapping allegations.
“There was definitely no monitoring or phone tapping of thousands of politicians, writers, NGO representatives and businessmen in the framework of this dossier in the way that the newspaper stories say,” he said.