Turkish president intervenes in corruption, tapping scandals

Turkish president intervenes in corruption, tapping scandals

Hours before President Abdullah Gül announced that he had instructed the State Auditing Board (DDK) to look into claims of widespread corruption, another recording of tapped telephone conversations had hit the Internet.

The conversations were allegedly between Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan and former Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin in the summer of 2013, right after the Gezi protests. According to those recordings, Erdoğan allegedly asked Ergin to use his influence on the Court of Appeals to nix the acquittal of a businessman in a conflict with the Capital Markets Board (SPK). The businessman in question was Aydın Doğan, the founder of the Doğan Media Group to which the Hürriyet Daily News also belongs.

Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), claimed that the recordings showed a clear attempt to politically manipulate justice and also the business environment. He said Turkey was drifting away from being a proper democracy thanks to Erdoğan.

The recording on the court manipulation is one of numerous tapped telephone conversations on the Internet following the graft probe that started on Dec. 17, 2013, which triggered a fight between Erdoğan and his one-time ally Fethullah Gülen, the U.S.-resident moderate Islamist scholar with a global network of sympathizers.

Erdoğan, who had to ask for the resignation of four of his Cabinet ministers in relation to the probe, denied any corruption and said the claims were part of a “coup attempt” against his government by Gülenists, as he repeated in an election campaign speech yesterday ahead of the March 30 local elections.

Erdoğan’s deputy in charge of the economy, Ali Babacan, on the other hand, said yesterday in an address to investors that corruption claims should not be swept under the carpet and that laws should not be changed frequently for a healthy economy.

That is why President Gül’s intervention into the debate is important. He says he instructed the DDK on five topics, including the Dec. 17 graft probe allegations, telephone wiretappings and widespread corruption claims on real estate speculations and other kinds of favoritism.

The opposition parties have been asking Gül to take a more active approach regarding corruption claims for some time and have been criticizing him for approving the laws putting additional limits on the use of the Internet and allowing more government influence in the appointment and disciplinary moves regarding judges and prosecutors, which Erdoğan brought to the agenda following the graft probe.

Gül has activated the DDK a few times before. The re-trial for the murder of Hrant Dink, the Armenian-origin Turkish journalist became possible after the DDK inspection, for example.

Presidential sources told the Daily News that Gül had asked the DDK inspectors to give the highest priority and importance to the corruption file. It is not certain when the inspection will be completed.

But the fact that the president has now also intervened in the claims that have been shaking Turkish politics for nearly two months is something that cannot be ignored by the government.