Opposition calls on Turkish gov’t to clean its own house
Amid the ongoing anger of President Tayyip Erdoğan, who accuses the U.S. of conspiring against both himself and Turkey in the Reza Zarrab case, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has accused Erdoğan of “letting the spy in.”
Recalling an alleged National Intelligence Organization (MİT) report dated April 18, 2013, Kılıçdaroğlu said the MİT warned (then prime minister) Erdoğan that the activities of an Iranian called Reza Zarrab could put Turkey-U.S. relations at stake. Speaking in Ankara on Dec. 5, Kılıçdaroğlu quoted the alleged report, which said the relations of then-Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan and then-Interior Minister Muammer Güler could put Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) government in difficulties.
“That was months before the Dec. 17-25, 2013 corruption investigations,” Kılıçdaroğlu said. “But you knew it and let it go anyway.”
Recalling the parliamentary vote in 2014 that closed the investigations into four ministers who had already been removed from office (the two others were EU Affairs Minister Egemen Bağış and Public Works and Environment Minister Erdoğan Bayraktar), Kılıçdaroğlu called on Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım to reopen the Zarrab case in parliament.
“We have to clean up our own dirt. We shouldn’t let a U.S. court judge our problems,” he said.
Of course, the Zarrab trial is not only about Turkey; it is about violations of U.S. sanctions on Iran through a chain of bribery and fraud, allegedly working through Turkey.
“We have not violated any U.N. sanctions on Iran,” Erdoğan said again on Dec. 5. “We did nothing wrong and we can decide who to trade with ourselves. Turkish trade with Iran cannot be limited while U.S. and European companies do it.”
But an Istanbul court has already frozen the assets of Zarrab in Turkey on suspicion of espionage after he pleaded guilty and turned witness, leaving former public lender Halkbank general manager Hakan Atilla the only defendant in the U.S. court. Zarrab had acquired Turkish citizenship during the gold-for-gas trade with Iran process, which he allegedly accelerated through bribery.
Early on Dec. 5, some 17 of Zarrab’s employees were detained by police on suspicion of transferring secrets to another country, including the New York court.
But given the current political situation in Turkey, it is not likely that Prime Minister Yıldırım will reopen the December 2013 corruption cases regarding four ex-ministers allegedly bribed by Zarrab. Even if Yıldırım wanted to reopen the probes, President Erdoğan (as the head of the AK Parti) is likely to object to such a move.
It also worth noting that Kılıçdaroğlu wants to distance himself and the CHP from the court case in New York by focusing on Zarrab’s Iranian connections and the need to deal with corruption allegations in Turkish courts. That is because the more Zarrab speaks more on behalf of the New York prosecutor, the more he weakens the prosecutor’s accusations.