Turkey’s opposition parties warn against covering up December 2013 corruption scandal

On the fifth anniversary of a corruption scandal that continues to rock Turkey to this day, opposition politicians have warned against it being covered up by the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Ali Şeker, Istanbul Member of Parliament (MP) for the opposition Republican People’s Party says that the events of the 2013 corruption probe that saw some 89 people being detained was actually a falling out between two groups who could not agree on how to divvy up the spoils of the state.

“Whatever the government says about the Gülen community, it turns out to be true. In the same way, whatever the Gülen community says about the government, it turns out to be true as well. They can’t agree on how to divide the state they hijacked,” said Şeker

He says the events of December 2013 ultimately led to the failed coup of July 15, 2016 and the subsequent state of emergency that was implemented by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Allegations of corruption

During the corruption probe from December 17 to December 25, the AKP faced serious allegations of corruption. Investigators detained 89 people.

Among those arrested at the time was Barış Güler, the son of the Interior Minister Muammer Güler; Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan’s son Kaan Çağlayan, Minister of Environment and Urban Planning Erdoğan Bayraktar’s son Oğuz Bayraktar, Halkbank General Director Süleyman Aslan, Head of Fatih Municipality Mustafa Demir and businessman Rıza Sarraf’.

Of those that were detained, 24 were formally arrested. While Oguz Bayraktar was released, Baris Guler and Kaan Caglayan were arrested for ‘facilitating the giving and taking of bribes’. Riza Sarraf was arrested for ‘giving bribes and setting up a criminal organisation,’ and Suleyman Arslan was arrested for ‘taking bribes.’ The three ministers quit.

At the heart of the scandal is the Turkey’s sale of gold to Iran that helped Iran to bypass US sanctions.

Erdogan, who was at the time the country’s prime minister stated that “those who have dark forces behind them cannot designate this country’s future”, but Bayraktar claimed that Erdogan should also resign because everything that had been done, had happened with Erdogan’s approval.

Erdogan announced a cabinet reshuffle that also saw the three ministers replaced.

On December 25, 2013, a second operation took place, and prosecutor Muammer Akkas wanted to detain a number of people including Tayyip Erdogan’s son Bilal Erdogan but failed to do so.

Erdogan and his government then blamed the Fetullah Gülen Movement for the scandal, claiming that the movement infiltrated the judiciary and had taken on the form of a “parallel state”.

Media outlets that reported on the corruption operations and the decision not to prosecute found themselves facing the wrath of the regime and were accused of ‘destroying the Republic of Turkey’.  

Everything’s covered up

The CHP’s Şeker claims that the “AKP placed the Gulen community to every position of the state, but then they couldn’t divide the state equally among themselves which resulted in a power struggle between the two sides. Thereafter a series of events transpired that brought us to the July 15 incident.”

Şeker said: “We can no longer talk about the 17-25 December corruption probe. Everything’s covered up.”

He pointed out that both the AKP-controlled parliament and the country’s judiciary block any investigation into the matter.

Şeker said that the truth behind the 2013 corruption scandal will not be uncovered until an independent judiciary can take action.

“Whoever allowed the Gülen community to take root in the army, politics and judiciary should make themselves known. Why can’t anyone investigate the political aspect of the Gülen community? It is because the political side of the equation is the AKP,” Şeker claimed.

According to Şeker, while all the prosecutors who took part in the corruption probe are abroad and that they are known, this matter cannot be discussed by the public.

“We cannot discuss anything. What kind of communication is taking place with the countries where the prosecutors live? What is being done? What will happen to the investigations?”

No action

Şeker also pointed to the fact that no action had been taken against ministers whose names appeared in the corruption probe and this was instilling of lack of trust towards the current government.

HDP spokesperson Saruhan Oluc emphasised that the government has been prioritising its fight against the Gülen Movement for the past five years.

Oluc said: “The fact that the ministers involved stepped down shows that there was corruption. Why didn’t the government take any action? Even the investigation into the involvement of the ministers was denied at the Parliament. All of them were acquitted.”

Oluc said there were also question marks regarding the forced resignation of a number of mayors from AKP. “This shows that these people were acquitted through forced resignation. Everything is thus covered up,” Oluc argued.

What rule of law?

“There is no rule of law in Turkey. If there was one, the fight against FETO would be more fruitful. Why is the judiciary in the service of politics? Why can’t the judiciary work independently to deeply  investigate the truth of December 17-25? Because they do not want the political side of FETO to be brought to the surface.”

Since July 2016, the Turkish government has classified Gülen Movement as a terror organization under the assigned name FETO. No other country has recognized it as a terror organization. 

Turkey’s government accuses exiled cleric Fethullah Gülen of masterminding the failed July 2016 coup attempt. Gülen denies any involvement and has called for an impartial international investigation. He has also suggested that Erdogan may have himself been behind it.

Birol Aydin, vice-president of Felicity Party also remarked that the government should “begin a judicial process that can convince the public.”

Aydin said that “after 17-25 (December, 2013), Turkey entered an unpredictable period. If in a country the public does not know what will happen overnight, constant worry never leaves that country.”

Aydin urged the government to take immediate action, adding that, “although the government is the apparent victim, it was a part of this structure at one point that it is fighting against at the moment. Everyone can see that the settings of the state structure have been tampered with and that abnormality is the new norm. Therefore a transparent judicial process should start as soon as possible.”

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