Parliamentary speaker encourages graft suspects to stand trial to end controversy

Parliamentary speaker encourages graft suspects to stand trial to end controversy

Parliamentary speaker encourages graft suspects to stand trial to end controversy

Former EU Minister Egemen Bağış (L), former Interior Minister Muammer Güler (2L), former Environment Minister Erdoğan Bayraktar (2R) and former Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan (R) have faced accusations of bribery and influence-peddling. DHA Photo

Turkish Parliamentary Speaker Cemil Çiçek has issued a veiled yet public call for four ex-minister accused of corruption to be tried at the country’s Supreme Council, arguing that it would benefit the nation and the quartet if they were absolved by the top court.

In the event that they are not tried by the top court, there will always be rumors against the four, even if a parliamentary commission eventually rules that there is no need for them to be tried on bribery and corruption charges, Çiçek said in delicately tailored remarks published Dec. 26.

His statement followed a news report released on Dec. 25 which said that Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu had already urged the four former ministers to take the initiative to stand trial before the Supreme Council without waiting for the completion of the ongoing investigation process in Parliament.

The ongoing investigation by the parliamentary commission is a secret one, said Çiçek in an interview with daily Habertürk.

“It [investigation] will become public when it goes to the Supreme Council,” said Çiçek. “Thereby, the public will have the right to know what there is in it and who said what,” the veteran politician said.

“If they are not tried by the Supreme Council, then this issue will be discussed on and on; the discussions will go on without ceasing,” Çiçek said.

“Then, the court will make its decision. [The decision] will not be a center of focus and life will go on,” Çiçek said when asked what would happen if the former ministers were tried by the top court.

Çiçek has been actively involved in politics for three decades and has held various ministerial posts since the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) first came to power in 2002. After the AKP won a third consecutive parliamentary election in 2011, Çiçek was elected as parliamentary speaker being as the AKP’s candidate.

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. However, the vote was delayed until Jan. 5, causing uproar from the opposition parties.

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.

‘Cut off arms’

At the Dec. 22 session, Çağlayan, Bağış and Güler filed written objections to reports displaying the growth in their wealth which were prepared by experts at the Financial Crimes Investigative Board (MASAK), eventually leading to the delay.

Just a day before the session, Davutoğlu vowed that he would display zero tolerance for corruption.
The authorities will “cut off the arm” of anyone involved in graft “even if it is our own brother,” Davutoğlu said Dec. 21. His blunt remarks came at nowhere else but at a provincial convention of his ruling AKP.

Also on Dec. 21, Davutoğlu gathered with the four former ministers at his official prime ministry residence where the latter explained to him how they had been subjected to “injustice,” according to an exclusive report by private broadcaster CNNTürk.

“Request to be taken to the Supreme Council and announce this request,” Davutoğlu reportedly told the ex-ministers.

Rumor has it that the former members of the Cabinet have been waiting to see the results of their objection to the MASAK reports in order to make a final decision on whether to act in line with Davutoğlu’s recommendation.

Earlier this week, AKP Deputy Parliamentary Group Chair Mahir Ünal made a striking comment in responding to questions about the delay in the commission’s vote.

“If it were me, I would go to the Supreme Council,” Ünal said, while refuting any kind of interference in the commission’s work by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan or Davutoğlu.

Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç, meanwhile, voiced confidence that the AKP would make their decision according to what their consciences say.

“I believe that all of our deputy fellows will act with their consciences,” Arınç said in an interview with daily Milliyet, published on Dec. 26, recalling that the commission would submit a report on its probe into the corruption claims to the General Assembly, where a final vote on whether to send each minister to the council will take place. Sending a former minister to the council requires at least 276 votes.