Wiretapping list infuriates both Turkish gov’t, opposition

Wiretapping list infuriates both Turkish gov’t, opposition

Wiretapping list infuriates both Turkish gov’t, opposition

The first comments on the reports by a member of the Cabinet came from Energy Minister Taner Yıldız. AA photo

Reports that thousands of people - including Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Intelligence Chief Hakan Fidan, and a range of journalists, academics, business leaders and civil society representatives - have been wiretapped by the police for years as part of various probes, has sparked fury from both the government and the opposition. 

Opposition voices, however, expressed little surprise at the revelations, underlining that wiretapping was not a new matter for Turkey and suggesting that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) brought these cases onto the agenda simply to strengthen its claims about the existence of a “parallel state.” 

The term “parallel state” is now commonly used by critics to refer to the movement of U.S.-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, who has been in voluntary exile in the United States for over a decade.

The alleged “parallel state” is accused by Erdoğan of orchestrating a corruption scandal to unseat him. The related investigation became public in mid-December and triggered a huge counter-reaction from the AKP, particularly in the judiciary, as it aimed to contain the damage from the probe, which involved the sons of three former ministers and businesspeople known to be close to the government.

In the first comments on the issue by a member of the Cabinet, Energy Minister Taner Yıldız said such wiretapping was “unacceptable.” 

“According to these people, [those who carried out the wiretapping] are the real owners of the state and we are the parallel structure. That’s to say, it’s us who remain in the parallel structure and these people are the ones who did the wiretapping. Such a thing cannot be accepted,” Yıldız told journalists Feb. 24.

“This is not only the AKP’s problem. The targets include scholars and journalists. I don’t find such a hidden and mysterious approach well-intentioned, either on behalf of my country or on behalf of my state,” he added. 

No surprise on the opposition front

Meanwhile, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu recalled a remark by Erdoğan recently delivered at a parliamentary group meeting.

“Mr. Kılıçdaroğlu, we are even following your breathing,” Kılıçdaroğlu quoted Erdoğan as saying at the time, going on to suggest the government had colluded in the Gülen movement’s wiretapping. “This is something we knew. What I wonder is where the government was when so many people were wiretapped.”

The government has been complaining of wiretapping solely because of the corruption claims regarding itself, the CHP leader maintained. 

Overcoming media blockage

When asked about it during a meeting in Istanbul, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli approached the issue sarcastically.

“We know the MHP headquarters is being wiretapped. We regard it with tolerance, because we accept that our views, which we cannot convey through the media, are being conveyed through this wiretapping,” Bahçeli said Feb. 24.

His words were referring to the recent scandal in which it emerged that Erdoğan had demanded that an executive from private broadcaster Habertürk remove a news ticker feed referring to a statement from Bahçeli at the height of the Gezi Park protests last June. 

'Parallel or not'

People’s Democratic Party (HDP) co-leader Sebahat Tuncel, whose name was listed among those wiretapped, also argued that wiretapping was not a new phenomenon in Turkey. 

“Our name was involved in the wiretapping archive of the General Staff too. Whether parallel or not, they have listened to us. This is a serious problem. An end should be put to it from now on. This is very unlawful and is not an acceptable situation,” Tuncel said, adding that similar wiretapping lists may exist elsewhere.