Questions linger over science watchdog's 'montage report'

Questions linger over science watchdog's 'montage report'

Questions linger over science watchdogs montage report Turkey’s government "pressured and threatened" Turkey's science watchdog, TÜBİTAK, to conclude in its expert report that leaked voice recordings allegedly belonging to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan “were montage,” according to an opposition MP who recently filed a parliamentary question.

Several phone conversations were posted on YouTube ahead of the March 30 elections amid intense political tension in the wake of the corruption probe late last year. One of them, a recording that was leaked in February, allegedly revealing Erdoğan asking his son Bilal to turn millions of euros stashed at several houses into “zero,” sparked a vast political debate.

But Erdoğan rejected the authenticity of the leaks, alleging that the voice recordings were a “montage.” The expert report presented by TÜBİTAK on June 6 confirmed Erdoğan’s claim that the recordings were manipulated.

But main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Deputy Chairman Sezgin Tanrıkulu noted in a written question to Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç at Parliament on June 7 the claims that the government might have pressured TÜBİTAK into conducting such a report.

"Is it true that TÜBİTAK experts declined to report that the recordings were 'montage' despite Science, Industry and Technology Minister Fikri Işık's pressure and threats? Is it true that they have been removed from their posts? Who ordered Turkey's Telecommunications Directorate (TİB) to delete all the recordings from Dec. 17 to Dec. 25 [2013] after TÜBİTAK didn't provide the fake report that was demanded?" Tanrıkulu asked.

Tanrıkulu also noted claims that the head of TİB met the high-level officials of three mobile phone operators in Turkey and asked them to delete all traffic and location data recorded from Dec. 17 to Dec. 25, the two key dates in a corruption probe against the government.

The expert report was released only a few days after the Turkish parliamentary speaker rejected an opposition motion for an inquiry against Erdoğan over the graft accusations. The government has repeatedly dismissed the claims, blaming the movement of the U.S.-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen for orchestrating the graft probes.