Top judges reject claims of threatening prosecutor upon PM Erdoğan’s instructions
Chief Ombudsman Nihat Ömeroğlu (C) was cited by news reports as one of the two high-ranking officials who allegedly intimidated prosecutor Zekeriya Öz into dropping a graft probe. DAILY NEWS photo photoTwo top judges have rejected claims that they were sent by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to intimidate a prosecutor into stopping a graft investigation that could further engulf the government.
Istanbul prosecutor Zekeriya Öz voiced the allegations in a press statement on Jan. 8 without citing names, but several reports on the Internet on Jan. 9 suggested Chief Ombudsman Nihat Ömeroğlu and a Supreme Court of Appeals senior justice, İsmail Rüştü Cirit, were the two figures.
“It is absolutely out of the question that I was tasked by the prime minister to threaten [Öz] and [request him] to drop the investigation. It is self-evident that no one can have the power to shut down an ongoıng investigation. No lawyer can say such a thing,” Ömeroğlu said in a statement Jan. 9.
Regarding Öz’s statements that both high-ranking judges conveyed the threats when they met him in a hotel in Bursa, Ömeroğlu attested that they recently met each other in the city.
“Öz was an intern that I met in Bursa’s Courthouse. We still see each other with our families. I was not in Bursa on Dec. 22, 2013. I went there on Dec. 28, 2013, for New Year’s Eve. But we did not talk about the issues that he claims when we met,” Ömeroğlu said, urging Öz to disclose the names.
“Öz has not made public the names of those two members of the high judiciary. If he did and said my name, I would have given the necessary response,” he said.
Similarly, Cirit also said he met Öz in Bursa on Dec. 28, 2013, together with their families, but categorically rejected the claims.
“Just as no member of the judiciary would agree to be an intermediary or make threats, no one would find oneself fit to do those things. Therefore, something such as [asking someone] to drop an investigation has not and cannot have any meaning,” he said.
Öz’s accusations triggered a new development in the graft maelstrom in which the government is engulfed, but was quickly rejected by Erdoğan as “slander.”
“Those two people I met at a hotel in Bursa told me that the prime minister was angry with me, I should write a letter of apology and stop the probe immediately, or I would be harmed,” Öz said after learning that he had been removed from his post as deputy Istanbul chief prosecutor.
He explained that he told both men that “the worst thing that can happen to me is death, and I would welcome it, since I would become a martyr.”
The statements come as the government moves to increase its control over the judiciary, particularly the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK), amid controversy and concerns vis-à-vis the independence of the judiciary.