Prosecutors who launched Turkey’s graft probe removed from case amid fresh purge

Prosecutors who launched Turkey’s graft probe removed from case amid fresh purge

Prosecutors who launched Turkey’s graft probe removed from case amid fresh purge

Barış Güler, the son of the ex-Interior Muammer Güler, is among the high-profile suspects of the graft probe. CİHAN photo

Two prosecutors in charge of the massive graft probe launched on Dec. 17 were removed from the case on Jan. 29, amid a new purge in Istanbul’s Çağlayan Courthouse involving dozens of other prosecutors.

With the fresh mass reassignments, 90 of the 192 prosecutors appointed in the main courthouse of Istanbul’s European side have been relocated after the appointement of Hadi Salihoğlu as the new Istanbul chief prosecutor on Jan. 21, daily Hürriyet said. Prosecutors dealing with high-profile cases such as the Ergenekon coup plot case are also among those relocated.

The most controversial reassignment was the removal of Prosecutor Celal Kara from the graft probe. Kara has been conducting the investigation since its earliest phases, and ordered the raids in which prominent businessmen close to the government and the sons of three ex-ministers were detained on Dec. 17.

Two new prosecutors were appointed to the case shortly after the Dec. 17 raids, raising concerns over political interventions into the investigation. Only one of those prosecutors, Ekrem Aydıner, is still working in the case. It remains unclear whether new prosecutors will be assigned.

Another prosecutor, Mehmet Yüzgeç, who was involved in the earlier stages of the probe into civil servants connected to suspects in the graft case, has also been removed from his duty.

Both prosecutors were informed about their reassignments via e-mail, daily Hürriyet reported. 

The development came after Kara’s Jan. 29 objection to a court decision that lifted an asset freeze against the Iranian-born Azeri businessman Reza Zarrab, a key suspect in the case who has close ties to government figures.

It also came after two prominent businessmen were summoned to give their testimonies as suspects, sources from the Istanbul Public Prosecutor’s Office told Hürriyet.

Late in December, the prosecutor of a second graft investigation, Muammer Akkaş, was also controversially removed from his case. Akkaş denounced “pressure” against him after he gave orders for detentions and the seizure of assets.

Four implicated ministers were replaced in a large Cabinet reshuffle on Dec. 25.

Zarrab, along with the sons of former Interior Minister Muammer Güler and former Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan, still remains in custody. The son of Environment and Urbanization Minister Erdoğan Bayraktar was released after a brief spell in detention.

The government responded to the graft probe with massive judicial waves of purges within the Police Department and the judiciary. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) alleges that a “parallel state” is orchestrating the corruption probes in order to damage the government.