Turkey orders new arrests of top police in eavesdropping probe

Turkey orders new arrests of top police in eavesdropping probe

Turkey orders new arrests of top police in eavesdropping probe

DHA Photo

Turkey launched a new operation to arrest top police officers suspected of involvement in illegal eavesdropping on senior officials, including President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, on Oct. 21 .

The operation targeted 18 senior police figures in Ankara, including the former head of the national police intelligence agency, Ömer Altıparmak, and the former deputy head of the Ankara police department, Lokman Kırcılı, Anadolu Agency reported.

The arrests were the fifth wave in a sequence of coordinated raids against police, which began in July and have already seen the arrest of dozens of former senior officers.

Altıparmak came to the Ankara police department with his lawyer on Oct. 21, telling reporters before entering the building that he had received instructions directly from Erdoğan to begin operations against the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), the urban wing of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), according to the Cihan news agency.

Four of the 18 people detained on Oct. 21 were formally arrested and another suspect was already being held in prison in Istanbul, it was also reported.

The suspects allegedly wiretapped members of a team who conducted the defense projects of TÜBİTAK, the Turkish Air Forces, as well as politicians and journalists such as Ali Kılıç, an adviser to the main opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. The list of journalists and columnists who were eavesdropped on includes Nuray Mert, Yonca Verdioğlu Şık, the wife of journalist Ahmet Şık, Erkan Bülent Haberal, the son of Mehmet Haberal, as well as the lawyer of former Istanbul police chief Hanefi Avcı.

As in almost all previous raids, the details of those targeted were leaked overnight before the raids were launched, by a mysterious Twitter user named Fuat Avni whose identity remains unknown. The government has repeatedly moved to shut down Fuat Avni’s Twitter account, but the user has always simply moved to another address after being closed down.

The operation is aimed at cracking down on what the government has described as a “parallel state” within the security forces loyal to the U.S.-based scholar Fethullah Gülen.

The probe is linked to last year’s stunning corruption allegations against Erdoğan and his inner circle – vehemently denied by the president – that were based on wiretapped telephone conversations. Those arrested have been accused of forming a criminal organization and wire-tapping hundreds of people.

The latest court action follows two high-profile, Istanbul-based anti-graft operations that were launched on Dec. 17, 2013 and led to the arrest of high-profile figures, including the sons of three government ministers, as well as several business entrepreneurs. Turkish prosecutors on Oct. 17 dropped cases against more than 50 people, including the sons of two former ministers, who had been accused in the corruption probe.