Prime Ministry says new tapes incriminating Erdoğan ‘montage,’ opposition demands resignation

Prime Ministry says new tapes incriminating Erdoğan ‘montage,’ opposition demands resignation

Prime Ministry says new tapes incriminating Erdoğan ‘montage,’ opposition demands resignation

The fresh tape features four phone conversations between Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his son on Dec. 17, 2013. AA photo

A fresh wiretap leak late on Feb. 24 featuring four phone conversations between Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his son on Dec. 17, 2013, when massive graft raids were conducted by police, has again sent shockwaves through Turkish politics, prompting separate emergency meetings in Ankara.

Erdoğan held a late night meeting with the head of the National Intelligence Organization (MİT), Hakan Fidan, over the latest tape incriminating him of corruption while the Prime Minister's Office released a statement calling the tapes a “product of montage.”

The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) gathered its Central Executive Board (MYK) as the news of the tapes spread through social media. The CHP’s deputy head, Gürsel Tekin, told daily Hürriyet following the meeting that the party believed that the phone conversation was not fake.

The four phone conversations are the latest in a series of leaked voice recordings of Erdoğan with businessmen and media representatives. The Hürriyet Daily News could not verify the authenticity of the recording uploaded onto YouTube and which received over 1.2 million hits in 12 hours.  

‘Dirty plot’

The authenticity of the leaks was categorically rejected by the Prime Ministry, which published a statement as the meeting between Erdoğan and Fidan was ongoing. 

“The claims of a phone conversation between our prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and his son [Bilal Erdoğan] as voice recordings leaked into the Internet this afternoon are an immoral product of montage and completely false,” the statement said. 

“Those who stage this dirty plot against the Turkish prime minister will be brought to justice and render an account,” it added.

The fresh leaks came as reports that several hundreds of people, including Erdoğan and his top advisers, were wiretapped made waves in Ankara. Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç confirmed the reports, saying files containing the names of 2,280 people who had been wiretapped had been found. 

Voice recordings 'mindblowing': MHP leader

The CHP, meanwhile, called on the government to immediately resign, adding that it had completely lost its legitimacy.

“It is unacceptable that someone who is in the middle of these dirty relations leads Turkey from now on. This government has lost all legitimacy after this hour,” said CHP spokesman Haluk Koç.

“We understand now far better those extraordinary efforts of making legal arrangements to render the graft claims unquestionable. [They] want to cover up the dirt. The prime minister wants to prevent them from getting to him,” Koç said. 

On Feb. 25, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) joined the CHP’s call for the government’s resignation, with its leader Devlet Bahçeli describing the recordings as “mindblowing.”

“It has been reported that Prime Minister Erdoğan called his son Bilal asking him to gather with his brother Burak, uncle Mustafa and brother-in-law Berat to get rid of all the stolen money as soon as possible from his house. It is understood that the prime minister urgently and insistently asked for 2.2 billion [Turkish Lira] of dirty money hidden in different addresses to be dispersed,” Bahçeli said in a written statement.

“If those conversations are true and nothing has been added, then it will be impossible to speak about the credibility, the humanity and, worse, the morality of the person in the position of prime minister,” he added.

The sons of the ex-Interior Minister Muammer Güler and ex-Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan have remained in custody since the raids, along with the Iranian-born Azeri businessman Reza Zarrab, considered the main suspect of the investigation.

Bilal Erdoğan had also recently testified as part of the graft probe after a long period of uncertainty over his implication in the case.

The government had repeatedly accused the movement of U.S.-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen of orchestrating the probes and launched a massive struggle to purge its sympathizers from the civil service. 

The prime minister himself had claimed after the probes that the “operation” was targeting him through the Service for Youth and Education Foundation of Turkey (TÜRGEV), a charity NGO which counts Bilal Erdoğan among its board members. He responded to the claims, saying he would “disown his children” if it was determined that they were involved in corruption.