Turkish gov’t removes Istanbul police chief as pressure grows for ministers’ resignation

Turkish gov’t removes Istanbul police chief as pressure grows for ministers’ resignation

Turkish gov’t removes Istanbul police chief as pressure grows for ministers’ resignation

Istanbul Police Chief Hüseyin Çapkın has been dismissed from his post in the latest fallout from the country's massive corruption probe. AA photo

Istanbul Police Chief Hüseyin Çapkın Dec. 19 joined a long list of police officials dismissed from their posts, as the opposition continued to press for the resignation of ministers allegedly involved in a massive corruption scandal.

Two of Çapkın’s assistants, as well as four assistant chiefs, including chiefs involved in the execution of the probe targeting high-profile figures, were also dismissed from their posts on Dec. 18.

“I’m a public officer. I’ve served for four-and-a-half years here [in Istanbul] with honor. But now I’m being asked to return to the headquarters. Let’s hope for the best,” Çapkın told reporters Dec. 19. He had previously been severely criticized for the excessive use of police force in Istanbul during the summer’s anti-government Gezi protests.

Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli strongly urged the government not to intervene in the conduct of the investigation.

The dismissal of police chiefs conducting the operation shows “the panic” of the government “due to feelings of guilt,” Bahçeli said.

More than 10 police chiefs have been removed from their posts by the government since the operation was launched on Dec. 17, while two additional prosecutors have been assigned to conduct the case.

The Istanbul and Ankara police caused a sensation when they staged raids on the morning of Dec. 17 as part of the probe into tender fraud and bribery allegations, detaining over 80 people.

There are three members of the Cabinet whose sons are among those detainees; Interior Minister Muammer Güler, Environment and Urban Planning Minister Erdoğan Bayraktar and Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan. The suspects are, respectively, Barış Güler, Abdullah Oğuz Bayraktar and Kaan Çağlayan.

MHP leader Bahçeli said that even if a small part of the allegations turned out to be true, the government should step down. “This investigation should continue until the very end, regardless of who was involved. The judicial process should proceed properly,” he said.

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu accused the government of attempting to “cover up” the corruption investigation, while also calling on the government not to interfere in the judicial process.

“There’s an apparent conflict between the government and judiciary. The judiciary and security forces are taking steps to disclose corruption, while the ruling Justice and Development Party [AKP] is making attempts to cover it up,” Kılıçdaroğlu told London based Arab-language Al-Hayat newspaper on Dec. 19.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan Dec. 19 met with President Abdullah Gül and later Minister Çağlayan in Ankara, but no official statement was issued after the meetings.

In his speech made on Dec. 18, Erdoğan made a defense of corruption and bribery, according to the CHP head. “There’s corruption and bribery, and people have been taken into custody. Everything is clear. He should not defend [corruption],” Kılıçdaroğlu said.

“He [Erdoğan] says there are gangs within the state. If he wants to see a gang, he should look at his fellows in Cabinet, the gang is there,” he added.

Despite opposition pressure, the government remained defiant in the face of the corruption allegations on Dec. 19. Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ publicly issued a criminal complaint about the violation of privacy of the ongoing investigation, while also pledging a “fair approach” to the investigation on behalf of the government.

“In my capacity as deputy prime minister, in the presence of the Justice Commission, I’m making a criminal complaint about those who have violated the privacy of the investigation; about prosecutors, if they are prosecutors; about clerks, if they are clerks of the court; about law enforcement forces, if they are law enforcement forces,” Bozdağ said.

CHP Deputy Chair Gökhan Günaydın, meanwhile, claimed that all ministers, their relatives, their staff and senior officials, had formed a “class” that keeps millions of dollars, cash boxes and money counting machines in their homes. Günaydın described the entire situation as “a farce” that should go on no longer.