Turkish justice minister downplays official’s phone call to graft prosecutor

Turkish justice minister downplays official’s phone call to graft prosecutor

ANKARA – Anadolu Agency
Turkish justice minister downplays official’s phone call to graft prosecutor

Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ responded to the CHP's accusations during a session at Parliament. AA photo

Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ has acknowledged that the ministry’s undersecretary called a chief prosecutor conducting an investigation into fraud claims at İzmir Harbor but dismissed main opposition allegations that the dialogue was “threatening.”

“Prosecutors and judges are administratively attached to the Justice Ministry. It should not be regarded as strange that an undersecretary or a minister speaks with a chief public prosecutor,” Bozdağ said at Parliament’s General Assembly Jan. 21 in reaction to Republican People’s Party (CHP) criticisms that the government had attempted to intervene in the investigation processes. 

CHP head Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu had earlier exposed a document revealing the minutes of a conversation between recently appointed Justice Ministry Undersecretary Kenan İpek and İzmir Chief Prosecutor Hüseyin Baş on the probe into İzmir Harbor which has engulfed a relative of the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) candidate for mayor in İzmir, Binali Yıldırım. 

Bozdağ said he had discussed the issue with İpek and confirmed that the conversation had occurred. “He has spoken with [Baş]. However, the Justice Ministry undersecretary was briefed about the [probe]. Following that, he asked that the law be applied and that justice not be obstructed,” Bozdağ said, adding that he was ready to act if there was any “pressure.” 

“If he had demanded that the investigation be halted, closed or covered up, I would be [on your side] and do what’s necessary. But there is absolutely nothing as such,” he said.

According to the document exposed by the CHP, however, Baş said the ministry undersecretary persistently asked for the halt of the investigation lest it further damage the government, which is embroiled in a graft scandal.

“[İpek] wanted this investigation to be stopped at once and wanted me to ask the law enforcement officers to return the court decisions. He said he waited at his office and asked to be notified of the result,” Baş said in the transcript that was read out by Kılıçdaroğlu during a party group meeting on Jan. 21. 

“Go just at this hour, replace the prosecutor, rescind all decisions and halt this investigation. If you do not this, you will face the results,” Baş quoted İpek as telling him during the telephone call.

The new claims emerged after Baş was relocated to the Black Sea province of Samsun following a fresh government reshuffle in the judiciary.