Ruling party deputies justify vote against trial of ex-ministers over graft

Ruling party deputies justify vote against trial of ex-ministers over graft

ANKARA Bülent Sarıoğlu
Ruling party deputies justify vote against trial of ex-ministers over graft

The four ministers greet a crowd during a rally in Trabzon shortly after the corruption allegations went public.

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputies who voted against sending four former Cabinet members to the Supreme Court for graft allegations have defended the former ministers with controversial statements during the parliamentary commission’s meetings.

On the Jan. 5 meeting of the parliamentary commission established to investigate the corruption and bribery claims against four former ministers - Muammer Güler, Zafer Çağlayan, Egemen Bağış and Erdoğan Bayraktar - decided not to send them to the Supreme Court for trial, thanks to nine votes from its AKP deputies.

AKP Konya Deputy Ayşe Türkmenoğlu told the commission that the four ministers and other suspects of the Dec. 17 and 25, 2013 corruption probes had been monitored and wiretapped for two years, throughout which “people were almost encouraged to commit crimes.”

AKP Bartın deputy Yılmaz Tunç, meanwhile, said there was a court order to wiretap the former ministers, but these wiretappings were still "unlawful."

Türkmenoğlu told the commission that a report had come to Parliament saying that the deciphering of the wiretapped phone calls was real. “But there is a nuance here. It said the deciphering was real. This report did not say whether the ‘tapping’ was real or whether it was montaged,” she said.

“Technical surveillance took place for two years before the Dec. 17 and 25 probes. They almost encouraged people to commit crimes,” she added.

AKP Denizli deputy Bilal Uçar told the commission that some crimes that have no connection with each other and that were allegedly committed at different times were monitored over the course of a year and someone “pushed the button” to begin an operation based on those allegations.

“They could commit these actions, they could be guilty; they could be innocent. But the process is that these people [the suspects of the Dec. 17, 25 probes] were victims of a smear campaign everywhere for a year. Almost all of the evidence is based on audio surveillance. We have also seen in some of the ministers’ files that there are phone calls that had nothing to do with these crimes; just normal daily conversations, like we also have every day, were tapped. When you consider this, from the very beginning, I believe that probe was planned. There is not enough evidence to start a trial,” said Uçar.

AKP Yozgat deputy Yusuf Başer, however, criticized the investigation for preparing evidence by the surveillance of Iranian businessmen Reza Zarrab’s email accounts. Zarrab was one of the key suspects in the Dec. 17 graft probe. Başer said those who prepared this investigation into the former ministers were aiming to plot against then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan through a “perception operation.”

The prosecutors, who conducted the Dec. 17 and Dec. 25 probes with charges of corruption and bribery, were actually attempting “political assassination” on Erdoğan, according to AKP Aksaray Deputy İlknur İnceöz. İnceöz told the commission during the Jan. 5 meeting that the probe was aimed to create a perception in the society that there is systematic corruption in the country.

Tunç also criticized the methods of collecting evidence in the massive graft probes, saying the suspects’ emails were leaked.

AKP Konya Deputy Mustafa Akış said he found it significant that the security forces who conducted the wiretappings did not take any actions against the crimes they alleged to be committed for nearly two years.