Tape wars: Who is behind Baykal scandal?

Tape wars: Who is behind Baykal scandal?

Illegal recordings leaked to the Internet once again dominated the country’s agenda yesterday, as more tapes rekindled the debate over an alleged sex tape of the former main opposition leader.

According to the tape, which a hacker group claims to have received from the computer of Mustafa Varank, a close aide to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Erdoğan allegedly talks to a group of people about a recording of Deniz Baykal, the former leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP). Erdoğan allegedly asks about the ways to distribute the sex tape, while also ordering preparations for new recordings.

A tape allegedly showing Baykal having sex with a CHP lawmaker was leaked onto the Internet in May 2010, leading to Baykal’s resignation from the party post on May 10 of the same year.

At the time, the veteran politician described the incident as a “political act,” saying there was a conspiracy against him.

“This is not a sex tape, this is a conspiracy ... Those who were behind this conspiracy did it for political aims,” Baykal said, underlining that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) must have had knowledge of the videotape.

CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu yesterday called on Erdoğan to resign, arguing that the incident was “another version of Watergate.”

The prime minister, however, rejected any involvement. “I ordered the removal of the tape when it was released onto social media,” he said at an election rally yesterday. “You cannot disrespect a prime minister who removed the tape in half an hour.”

Erdoğan did not elaborate on how he had the tape removed, since a prime minister, for now, does not have the legal authority to directly order a ban on the Internet. And he did not say why tapes accusing AKP members, himself and his family members of corruption are still online, when there is a blanket ban on Twitter citing the same recordings.

The perpetrators of Baykal’s tape, along with the names behind similar tapes against senior Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) members that came out around the same time still remain unknown to date.

Erdoğan considers the Fethullah Gülen movement, once an ally of the government, as the force behind the leaks targeting his party and government, and has claimed that same group organized the plot against Baykal. He slams the group for violating personal privacy and trying to reshape Turkish politics with tapes, but he forgets to say how he enjoyed slamming the opposition over the issue at the time.

“This is not private life,” Erdoğan told reporters May 16, 2010. “I would be the first to fight if it was his own bedroom, but it is not even his house. Don’t make me get into the details. Did you enter the room or not?”

According to a daily Hürriyet story dated May 9, 2010, Erdoğan ordered the National Intelligence Agency (MİT) to find out the perpetrators of the incident. However, the MİT must have been too busy to deal with this issue since then, as we know nothing about the issue after almost four years.

An investigation into the scandal is open; however, Baykal’s lawyer Muzaffer Yılmaz told reporters yesterday that currently no prosecutor is in charge of the investigation.

If a serious and thorough investigation had been made and those who recorded and leaked the Baykal tape had been brought to justice, it would have been a deterrent force for similar plans in the future. If scandals and tapes are not to shape Turkish politics, then solving this four-year-old case is a good place to start.