Panel delays key vote into graft claims related to former ministers

Panel delays key vote into graft claims related to former ministers

Panel delays key vote into graft claims related to former ministers A legislative commission investigating graft claims involving four former ministers has delayed a vote about whether to send them to the Supreme Council until Jan. 5, 2015.

Former Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan, former EU Minister Egemen Bağış, former Interior Minister Muammer Güler and former Environment Minister Erdoğan Bayraktar have faced accusations of bribery and influence-peddling. All four have been cleared judicially of any wrongdoing.

The parliamentary inquiry commission was set to vote late Dec. 22 on whether to send the four former ministers involved in Turkey’s Dec. 17 and 25, 2013, corruption probe to the Supreme Council, which only hears cases against Cabinet ministers and other top officials.

Çağlayan, Bağış and Güler filed written objections to reports displaying the growth in their wealth which were prepared by the Financial Crimes Investigative Board (MASAK), Erdal Aksünger, a deputy of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) who is a member of the commission, told reporters.

Commission gives break to review objections

Aksünger was speaking to reporters as the commission took a break only half an hour after gathering in the afternoon at 3:40 p.m. The commission only managed to gather after a delay as it was originally set to meet at 3 p.m.

“The commission took a break in order to have objections reviewed by the members,” Aksünger said.

Çağlayan, Güler and Bayraktar resigned days after the eruption of the huge corruption scandal on Dec. 17, 2013, when the police detained their sons and businessmen close to then-Prime Minister, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Bağış was replaced by Erdoğan as part of a major Cabinet reshuffle on Dec. 25, 2013. All four ex-members of the Cabinet deny any wrongdoing.

During the first part of their gathering, they did not discuss the issue of voting concerning the Supreme Council, Aksünger said, noting that they were set to meet again at 6 p.m. in order to decide whether the voting would take place on time and the method of the voting.

All four parties in Parliament are represented on the commission according to the proportionate number of seats they hold in the legislature. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) therefore holds a majority on the 15-member commission with nine seats, while the CHP holds four seats and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) each hold one seat. The HDP, however, had already withdrawn from the commission after a media ban was imposed on the commission’s work.

AKP deputies ask for postponement 

AKP deputies in the commission asked for a postponement of the voting until Jan. 5, 2015, sources said.
During the break before 6 p.m., experts reviewed objections by the former ministers and compared them with reports by MASAK.

“I’ve been eyeing the expert, If he can muddle through, then we will meet. We are considering postponing, if he cannot do so,” said Hakkı Köylü, the commission chair from the AKP.

CHP members, meanwhile, went to meet with party leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu during the break.

No party decisions have been made on the issue, as it was not on the agenda in the Central Executive Board’s (MYK) latest meeting held earlier this week either, AKP deputy leader Beşir Atalay said in response to questions at a press conference on Dec. 19.

“Investigation commissions are very important at Parliament. They are like a judiciary, they have such authority. The decision will be made by the commission, too. There, everybody will make a decision with their own conscience,” Atalay had said.

Before he leaves for an official visit to Macedonia, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu spoke to journalists during a press conference in Esenboğa Airport of Ankara and declined to comment on the issue. 

"Any statement that may perplex people about the mission and the workings of the investigation panel (of the Parliament) should be avoided," Davutoğlu said.