Turkish PM Erdoğan admits meddling in judiciary, trade deals

Turkish PM Erdoğan admits meddling in judiciary, trade deals

Turkish PM Erdoğan admits meddling in judiciary, trade deals

PM Recep Tayyip Erdoğan addresses the crowd during an election rally in Kirikkale, March 4. REUTERS photo

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has admitted to interfering in the judicial process and defense tenders, following the revelation of wiretapped conversations released online this week, defending his meddling as “natural.”

“Is there anything more natural than for me to ask my justice minister to follow [an ongoing trial]?” he said March 5 in Ankara, a day after a recording appeared depicting him demanding that a court punish Doğan Holding Honorary Chairman Aydın Doğan while speaking to then-Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin. 

"The information given to me by the Capital Markets Board [SPK] was very dangerous. [It contains] parallel structures and a dirty relationship. So it makes it necessary for me to tell [the justice minister] to closely follow [the case],” Erdoğan said during a meeting with representatives of local media outlets.

Erdoğan’s remarks also came after Doğan Holding issued a statement expressing hope that the alleged conversation was not correct and that the tapes were not real. 

“If correct, such a conversation will further shake the judicial system in Turkey beyond creating a personal grievance,” the statement said. 

Erdoğan also commented about another leaked conversation regarding a project to build a national warship, known as the MİLGEM program, in which he advises a businessman who claimed to have been unable to take part in the bid to take legal action.

“There are many tenders and someone could have been excluded and might have appealed to me. And I’m telling them to open a lawsuit because the state ultimately earns millions of dollars out of it,” Erdoğan said regarding the tape.  

“Here it is, they are characterless to the degree of listening to that conversation,” he added, accusing once again the movement of U.S.-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen of conducting the wiretappings. 

“You will infiltrate the state, tap people’s phone conversations, then blackmail them. You will extort people. Leave aside Islam, you cannot see such lowness in any religion,” he said.

Erdoğan also reiterated his threat to uncover many truths regarding the Gülen network. “All the dirty relationships and the dirty actions will be revealed one by one, and their perpetrators will face justice,” he said. 

Erdoğan faces one of the biggest crises in the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) 11-year rule and has proclaimed that the upcoming local elections on March 30 will be his party’s most important test.

Corruption allegations moved closer to Erdoğan’s family after voice recordings between him and his son were leaked last week onto the Internet. Erdoğan described the recordings, in which he was heard discussing how to hide large sums of money, as a “montage.”

But on March 5, he said he was ready to step down if his ruling party failed to win the most votes in the March 30 elections.

“I am ready to quit politics unless my party emerges as the winner in the elections,” Erdoğan said.