Regional aspects of Turkey’s paralyzing corruption case
Turkey’s now-frozen corruption scandal has not been sending tremors only to the country’s deeply divided political spectrum, but also has been paralyzing its judiciary system entirely, which has obviously become a political tool no matter what the rival parties have been saying. Similar deadlocks have occurred in two different cases in the last couple of days when prosecutors have been left with their hands tied, despite their raid or search orders as the security forces snub their calls.
First, it was the so-called second wave of police raids on the country’s high-profile figures as part of corruption investigation, which was actually a tit-for-tat political struggle between the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the influential Islamist group Hizmet (Service). Security forces, both police and gendarmerie, reportedly turned a blind eye to detention orders for the second raids, having the prosecutor lambasting them as he was removed the case.
Later, a mysterious truck near Turkey’s border with Syria hit the headlines amid a flow of conflicting information. Initially, it was said to belong to a controversial aid organization in Turkey, which was a main character in the Mavi Marmara crisis that resulted in a huge blow in Turkey’s ties with Israel. The report was later denied, but following developments have echoed similar paralyzed judicial ordeal. Attempts by a prosecutor to stop and search the truck’s load have been halted by the governor’s office due its “state secret” cargo, which the country’s newly appointed Interior Minister Efkan Ala said was humanitarian aid and bound to Turkmens in Syria.
State secret relief on its way to a war-ridden neighboring country was obviously an eye-brow-raising issue considering the accusations that Turkey has been giving alleged arms support to rebels fighting against the regime forces in Syria. The Ankara government has been fiercely rejecting these claims with official statements acknowledging that some weapons “without military reasons” have been sent “just for sports” to the war-hit country.
The cargo of the truck will remain a mystery and the two cases might appear unrelated, but the showdown between the AKP and the Hizmet Movement has been having its effects on the country’s domestic politics, as well as, its covert or open regional activities via its home-made judicial blockage. The regional dimension of the fight has not come to the agenda for the first time since Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has staged many salvos on the “plot,” one of which is “a counter attempt by powers, who are not content with Turkey’s rising regional influence.” However, considering Turkey’s troubled regional relations in the recent years, it was hardly to consider it an actor which has a rising influence in its region.
The corruption scandal was also linked by the AKP government to its bid to settle the country’s long-standing Kurdish issue with the help of regional actors, like Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani. It was the AKP’s drive to win the “hearts and minds” of Kurds in Turkey and in the region, particularly in Barzani’s Kurdish Regional Government, with which it has blossoming trade and energy ties. In the meantime, the AKP’s move to have the jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Abdullah Öcalan, as the negotiating partner in talks has long been a source of concern for the Hizmet Movement. But linking Turkey’s one of the biggest corruption scandal in decades would be a far-stretched theory, aimed at blurring the case with another crucial issue for Turkey.
Last week’s mysterious truck and the cover-up story for it were the new hints that Turkey’s corruption scandal would have further expansions abroad, such as Iran for the country’s gold-for-gas trade, and spell more troubles, thus risks bringing a higher bill in front of the government.