Top judicial board suspends key jurists involved in 2013 graft probes
Four prosecutors that led initial graft probes against the government a year ago have been suspended, even though the cases were ultimately thrown out.Turkey’s highest judicial board has suspended four prosecutors who were all involved in now-dropped graft investigations last December pending the outcome of an ongoing investigation.
Ruling that their remaining in office would “harm the clout and reputation of judicial power,” the 2nd Chamber of the Supreme Judges and Prosecutors Board (HSYK) decided to suspend Zekeriya Öz, Celal Kara, Muammer Akkaş and Mehmet Yüzgeç Dec. 30.
In May, the 3rd Chamber of the HSYK gave the green light for the prosecution of Öz, Kara, Akkaş and Yüzgeç. Subsequently, the decision to open an investigation obtained the final approval of Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ. At the time, the third chamber also asked for the suspension of the four from their duties pending the outcome of the investigation.
Upon the completion of the investigation, a decision will be made on whether the prosecutors will be dismissed from their profession.
Speaking to reporters following the release of the decision, the head of the second chamber, Mehmet Yılmaz, said the five members of the chamber voted in favor of suspension, while two members objected.
Yılmaz recalled that Article 77 of the Law on the HSYK stipulates that the board may suspend a judge or prosecutor, who is being investigated, as “a temporary caution,” if it maintains that the continuation of his or her presence in office would harm the clout and reputation of judicial power. In this case, the investigation has been completed, meaning the soundness of the investigation is not in question, but there is still “harm to the clout and reputation of judicial power,” Yılmaz said.
“Our decision was made because the prosecutors didn’t conduct the appropriate legal operations and didn’t conduct impartial investigations that were also not in line with the Code on Criminal Procedure [CMK],” Yılmaz told daily Hürriyet.
“There were Dubai vacation claims about Zekeriya Öz. He has been suspended because he accepted a favor for a vacation from [construction magnate] Ali Ağaoğlu whom he knew was being investigated,” Yılmaz said.
At the time, Öz denied media reports that a visit he made to Dubai in November 2013 was paid for by the construction company. The company, one of those targeted in the graft probe, said its Dubai office had covered the expenses, but Öz said he paid the bill himself.
Following the release of the HSYK decision, Öz posted messages on his Twitter account in which he dubbed the judiciary “dependent under oppression of the executive body.”
“It is an honor for me that I was first exiled and then suspended as a result of my struggle for not letting robbers and corrupted people seize the rights of my nation,” Öz said.
All four were removed from their positions following the mass purges within the judiciary orchestrated by the government in response to the graft investigations in late 2013.
Öz is the former Istanbul deputy chief prosecutor who had supervised prosecutors in the investigation into corruption claims involving the government on Dec. 17, 2013. He was also the lead prosecutor at the beginning of the controversial Ergenekon coup plot case.
Shortly after the eruption of the Dec. 17 investigation, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) responded with waves of purges in the police department, judiciary and other state departments, with the AKP alleging that a “parallel state” orchestrated the probes in order to damage the government.
As part of these purges, Öz was assigned to the Bolu Prosecutor’s Office in February, shortly after being assigned to the Bakırköy district of Istanbul.
Kara was the prosecutor who conducted the Dec. 17 investigation, leading to the police raids during which top figures, including the sons of three ex-ministers and the ex-manager of the state-run Halkbank, were detained. A subsequent Dec. 25, 2013, investigation carried out by Akkaş was aborted after the prosecutor was dismissed and replaced soon after ordering the arrest of 41 suspects, including several top businessmen. The Turkish prime minister’s son, Bilal Erdoğan, was also investigated as part of the second investigation.
Yüzgeç was involved in the earlier stages of the probe into civil servants connected to suspects in the graft case.
In a separate decision, the third chamber yesterday gave the go-ahead for an investigation into Judge Hüsnü Çalmuk and former Ankara Deputy Chief Prosecutor Şadan Sakınan.
Çalmuk was one of the judges dealing with the controversial Ergenekon coup plot case. The chamber reviewed complaints suggesting that Çalmuk erased information on 40 computers at the Istanbul Courthouse after he was relocated. Accordingly, an inspector will be assigned to draft an investigation report about Çalmuk.
As for Şakman, claims concerning an inexplicable growth of his wealth were reviewed. Another inspector will be assigned to conduct the investigation into claims about Şakman.