Security staff prevented from accompanying bug search at Erdoğan’s office

Security staff prevented from accompanying bug search at Erdoğan’s office

Mesut Hasan Benli - ANKARA
Security staff prevented from accompanying bug search at Erdoğan’s office The third hearing into the case of illegal wiretapping at the offices of former prime minister, now President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has revealed that a senior adviser for Erdoğan at the time prevented his security staff from accompanying a search by intelligence officials.

Five fugitive suspects were absent at the hearing at the Ankara 7th Heavy Penal Court, while the other seven suspects, tried without arrest, were present.

Protection officers and technicians who worked at Erdoğan’s residences during his tenure as prime minister testified at a hearing March 4. Ferhat Yüksel, who was chief of security at the prime minister’s private residence in the Keçiören district of the Turkish capital Ankara at the time, was also present.

“Previously, somebody assigned to the residence would definitely accompany the police during search operations. However, during the search conducted by the MİT [National Intelligence Organization], [Prime Ministry Advisor] Mustafa Bey [Varank] didn’t want personnel to accompany [them]. The personnel’s request to accompany the search was not accepted,” Yüksel told the court. 

“The concerned fellow told me that ‘He wanted to accompany, but Varank didn’t permit him to do so.’ Thereupon, I went downstairs and rang the doorbell, however nobody opened the door,” he added.

“Apart from the attendant police officer, nobody can enter the room,” Yüksel said, elaborating on customary procedure at the residence. “Only Prime Ministry Advisor Mustafa Varank is an exception, he can enter anytime,” he said.

Other witnesses acknowledged that nobody was allowed to enter Erdoğan’s room without a companion, while lawyers for the defendants also focused on this point during the hearing.

“How do we know that the bugs in question were not planted in the room by Varank or MİT officers? That’s why detailed questions on this matter were posed to witnesses,” the same lawyers told reporters, as they were speaking outside the court hall.

In the case into the wiretapping of Erdoğan’s offices, some of the leader’s top guards have been accused of planting bugs to eavesdrop on him.

Varank, currently a principal advisor for Erdoğan at the presidential palace, testified at a hearing on Feb. 4, saying that he oversaw the removal process of bugs at Erdoğan’s office. 

Also on Feb. 4, in remarks delivered to the state-run Anadolu Agency, Interior Minister Efkan Ala said that some 5 million people in Turkey were listened to in 2012, referring to a calculation that around 250,000 people who were wiretapped spoke to at least 20 people on the phone. He blamed officers affiliated with the movement of U.S.-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen for the scandal.

Ala also said the government had knowledge about the whereabouts of five missing suspects in the case into the eavesdropping of the prime minister’s office.