Prosecutors go on trial over Lighthouse probe

Prosecutors go on trial over Lighthouse probe

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Prosecutors go on trial over Lighthouse probe

Prosecutor Nadi Türkaslan (C) and two others were removed from the Lighthouse investigation in August 2011 on the grounds that they had misled the authorities. AA photo

The three prosecutors removed from the high-profile probe into the Deniz Feneri (Lighthouse) charity last year went on trial on May 4 in a lawsuit that has fuelled accusations the government is seeking to cover up the alleged embezzlement at the charity.

The trial kicked off at the Appeals Court, amid speedy judicial procedures which have overtaken the pace of the investigation against the suspects, who have yet to appear before the court.

The indictment is seeking a sentence of up to 11 years in prison for one of the accused prosecutors, Nadi Türkaslan, on charges of forgery of official documents and abuse of office. A prison sentence of up to three years is being sought for the other two, Abdulvahap Yaren and Mehmet Tamöz, for abuse of office. It also demands that all three be banned from practicing their profession.

Türkaslan denied any wrongdoing, stressing that the paper used to implicate him for forgery was not an official document, but only a photocopy. He argued that he could not be tried for abuse of office because the Higher Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) had not even granted permission for a probe against him on such grounds. Tamöz and Yaren also rejected the accusations.

The trio was abruptly removed from the Lighthouse investigation in August 2011 on the grounds that they had misled the authorities into seizing assets belonging to companies in which Lighthouse suspects were shareholders. The court had granted a prosecution request to seize only the personal assets of the suspects, but prosecutors allegedly tampered with the papers, blacking out the rejection of the second demand.

Türkaslan said they never mentioned any companies in the order and the subsequent seizure was the result of misinterpretation by the bailiffs. The blacking out of irrelevant parts in a court order is a widespread procedure when papers are sent to third parties, he said.

The main opposition People’s Republican Party (CHP) has argued that the prosecutors were removed from the probe because they uncovered evidence linking the scandal to the Justice and Development Party (AKP), namely Deputy Prime Minister Beşir Atalay, who allegedly provided the suspects with insider information of an impending police search. The AKP has repeatedly denied any involvement in the affair, whose key suspects are close to the ruling party.

Lawmakers from the CHP and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) attended the hearing, pledging to closely follow the fate of the prosecutors. “Standing trial in this case are not only three prosecutors but the independent judiciary,” the CHP’s Ömer Süha Aldan said.

The prosecutors who took over the case came under fire last month when they pressed lesser-than-expected charges like “forgery” and “abuse of confidence” against the Lighthouse suspects.