Turkish government refutes ‘purges,’ calls mass replacements ‘routine’

Turkish government refutes ‘purges,’ calls mass replacements ‘routine’

Turkish government refutes ‘purges,’ calls mass replacements ‘routine’

The replacement of various public servants was not intended as a demotion, according to Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ. AA photo

The mass reassignments of public servants should not be considered a demotion or a purge, Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ has said, adding that recent shuffles were not abnormal, but were simply seen like that because of their “timing” after the graft probes. 

The replacement of various public servants was not intended as a demotion, Bozdağ said. 

“When a provincial chief is posted [to a new location], he may change deputy police chiefs and department director, as happens in every appointment. When the provincial governor changes, then the division of labor among governors also changes,” he added.

“The posting of a police officer who works for the Department of Public Order to KOM [Department of Anti-Smuggling and Organized Crime], or the posting of someone working for KOM to TEM [Counter-Terrorism Department], or to any other department, doesn’t mean he has been expelled from the profession. There is nothing more natural than the division of labor being done by the person who has the position of supervisor there. However, because of debates in recent days, these operations, which would seem routine if they were done in normal times, are seen as demotions. I want to state that this is not true,” Bozdağ said. 

Bozdağ’s statement came late on Feb. 20, responding to questions from lawmakers in a General Assembly meeting during which a “democratization package,” particularly focusing on the judicial field, was debated and eventually adopted early on Feb. 21.

Many in Turkey are convinced that the government is purging civil servants following the launch of a massive graft investigation on Dec. 17, 2013. The probe has reached the upper echelons of the government, including the sons of three former ministers and businesspersons known to have been close to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). 

Since the corruption scandal broke, the government has removed hundreds of prosecutors, judges and police officers involved in the investigations into alleged money laundering, gold smuggling and bribery.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has accused supporters of the Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, who has been in voluntary exile in the United States for 15 years and who wields influence in the judiciary and police, of launching the probe as part of a “coup plot” against his government in a crucial election year.

But the purges, coupled with legislation aimed at increasing government control over the judiciary and Internet, have raised deep concern at home and abroad about the state of democracy in Turkey.