Top suspect in graft probe threatens gov’t by talking: Main opposition leader

Top suspect in graft probe threatens gov’t by talking: Main opposition leader

Top suspect in graft probe threatens gov’t by talking: Main opposition leader

Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu alleged that a key suspect will be freed to prevent him from talking. AA photo

A key suspect in Turkey’s massive graft probe has threatened the government for talking to the authorities, Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu claimed on Feb. 6.

Iranian-born Azeri businessman Reza Zarrab, charged with forming a ring that bribed officials to help disguise illegal gold sales to Iran via Turkey’s state-owned Halkbank, will be freed to prevent him from confessing his actions, Kılıçdaroğlu also alleged. 

“They will free [Zarrab], ‘We will get you out [of prison]; don’t talk,’ because [Zarrab] said ‘If you keep me here longer, I will start talking.’ He sent a message. They don’t want him to talk. They will release him after a while. This is why they lifted the asset freeze on him,” Kılıçdaroğlu said Feb. 6 during a live interview broadcasted by local TV stations.

A court decision lifted the asset freeze on Zarrab last week in controversial fashion, with the prosecutor who launched the probe objecting to the decision. Prosecutor Celal Kara was removed from the case shortly afterward, with his successor announcing that the indictments would be rewritten.

Zarrab reject claims

Later on Feb. 6, lawyers representing Zarrab said they were suing Kılıçdaroğlu over his claims. 

“[Kılıçdaroğlu’s] words violate basic legal rules and the public conscience. We have filed a complaint for slander and libel and sued him for 100,000 Turkish Liras in compensation for spiritual damage,” Zarrab’s lawyer Şeyda Yıldırım said in a statement.

Kılıçdaroğlu, for his part, also said Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan should question how Zarrab could offer a $700,000 watch to the former economy minister instead of rejecting the accusations. 

He also touched on the alleged phone conversation between Erdoğan and an executive of private broadcaster Habertürk during the Gezi protests, in which the prime minister demanded the removal of a news ticker. 

“I said that Erdoğan is the biggest newspaper boss in Turkey. He imposes any censorship he wants on all newspapers,” Kılıçdaroğlu said, adding that Erdoğan was also increasing panic in the markets with his statements. 

The CHP leader also slammed a controversial Internet bill adopted by Parliament late Feb. 5 that has raised serious concerns about censorship, comparing it to the post-1980 coup era. 

The bill includes controversial arrangements, such as granting the president of the Directorate of Telecommunication (TİB) the authority to block access to sites and pages on his own initiative, in the event of appeals concerning the violation of the right to private life. Such a decision would not require approval from a court

It raised immediate outcry among the Turkish and foreign civil society, which argued that the government was seeking more control and surveillance of the Internet.