Friday, December 27, 2013

Turkey's corruption scandals explodes on December 27 - 29 , 2013 -- Turkey Tensions Escalate As Riot Police, Water Cannon Unleashed .......Prime Minister appears tone deaf even as the scandal threatens to engulf not just his Government but the Prime Minister himself ! Corruption cracks in Turkey's AKP as three MPs announce resignations from party ...... Turkish Lira hits new record lows as crisis swirls.......Prominent Turkish businessmen among arrest list in second corruption probe and how will Turks react to the news that Al-Qaeda suspects flee after Turkish Government blocks raid ? With concerns that the corruption probe has been or could be blocked , the Opposition calls on president to activate State Supervisory Council for corruption case - will the President do so ?

Following the fast moving developments in Turkey's corruption scandal....... first , my prior posts .....

Catharsis OursTurkey corruption scandal update December 25 ...


Catharsis OursTurkey's corruption scandals widens as Prime ...

Today's news items and links include ......

‘How can a prime minister shield 

thieves?’ CHP leader asks


The leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu hails his supporters along with his pick for Istanbul mayoral race, Mustafa Sarıgül.AA photo 
The leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu hails his supporters along with his pick for Istanbul mayoral race, Mustafa Sarıgül.AA photo
Main opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has asked how a prime minister could defend “thieves,” vowing that his Republican People’s Party (CHP) would bring clean politics to Turkey.

“It is the first time in the history of the Turkish Republic that a prime minister defends those who are implicated in corruption. How can someone who defends thieves be a prime minister? Turkey needs clean and honest politics,” Kılıçdaroğlu said, blasting Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for his stance on an ongoing graft scandal during the inauguration of the CHP’s new Istanbul headquarters Dec. 29.

“You are going to [steal], all your family is feathering their nest; then you will trick the people. We will not allow that,” Kılıçdaroğlu said during the event, which was also attended by the CHP’s candidate for the Istanbul mayoral post, Mustafa Sarıgül.

Kılıçdaroğlu called on “devout citizens” to refuse to vote for a party involved in corruption, while reiterating his call on Erdoğan and the four former ministers implicated in the graft probe to make public their assets.

“If he can’t make it public, he won’t be able to be cherished by this country. He cannot be described as an honest politician,” Kılıçdaroğlu said, emphasizing that Istanbul was a huge source of corruption.

“They have fed themselves from Istanbul. [Preventing them from siphoning off money] is in the hand of Istanbulites. Make the biggest contribution to your country,” he said.

Ahead of the inauguration ceremony, Kılıçdaroğlu was welcomed by a crowd of supporters on his arrival at Istanbul’s Atatürk airport Dec. 29, two days after thousands were deployed in support of Erdoğan at a rally in the country’s main airport.

Sarıgül, together with many prominent CHP figures, were also among those who greeted Kılıçdaroğlu at the airport.

PM Erdoğan to prosecutor of second 

graft investigation: ‘We’re not done yet’


PM Erdoğan speaks to the crowd during a mass opening ceremony on Dec. 29 in Manisa's Salihli district.  AA photo
PM Erdoğan speaks to the crowd during a mass opening ceremony on Dec. 29 in Manisa's Salihli district. AA photo
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has amped up the volume of his vitriolic attacks amid a graft scandal that has rocked the government firing more salvos at a prosecutor who was controversially removed from duty for carrying out a new corruption case.

“We will expose them if they cause this country’s division by abusing their power. How is this, prosecutor? Hold on, we are not done yet. You distribute statements in front of the courtroom. What prosecutor comes out onto the street to distribute statements?” Erdoğan rhetorically asked prosecutor Muammer Akkaş during a mass opening ceremony in Manisa’s Akhisar district on Dec. 29.

“A prosecutor comes out and uses his position in a very peculiar manner. He turned many innocent people into scapegoats by slandering them by [leaking] confidential documents to the partisan media. How can these people go out in public even if they are cleared tomorrow?” he said, implicitely referring to the movement of Fethullah Gülen, whose followers are known to hold key positions in the judiciary.

The government's erstwhile ally, the Hizmet (Service) movement, has literally become the administration's latest "bête noire" since a row on the closure of test prep schools turned into an open conflict with the recent graft investigation implicating four government ministers.

Akkaş denounced “pressures” on the judiciary last week after police refused to carry out arrest orders against 41 suspects prior to his removal from the case by the head of Istanbul Prosecutor’s Office. The investigation he was working on was reportedly bigger than the first graft probe that has shaken the government and included many prominent businessmen, including the executives of companies that form part of the consortium that won the tender to build Istanbul’s controversial third airport.

Erdoğan also said the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) would not permit any corruption. “Even if it’s our father’s son or our child, we will not give any room to corruption.”

Last week, Erdoğan told reporters he believed that the real target of the graft probe was himself through a charity foundation which counts his son among its board members.

The sons of former Interior Minister Muammer Güler and former Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan, Barış Güler and Kaan Çağlayan, respectively, were also charged with acting as intermediaries for giving and taking bribes and put under formal arrest on Dec. 21. Former Environment and Urban Planning Minister’s Erdoğan Bayraktar’s son was among those released pending trial. All the ministers resigned Dec. 25, with Bayraktar calling on Erdoğan to follow suit for approving questionable development plans at the heart of the case.

When the going gets tough, AK Party 

shifts the blame

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Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab was arrested on Dec. 21 as part of the ongoing investigation into claims of corruption and bribery. (Photo: Reuters)
The Justice and Development Party (AK Party) is showing a tendency to look for a scapegoat whenever it feels cornered by accusations of mismanagement, corruption or fraud rather than calling its members to account for their misdeeds.
The latest example of the phenomenon surfaced during a sweeping investigation into corruption and bribery claims that drew in members of the AK Party government. Instead of clearing the way for a swift and proper investigation of the claims, the governing party went into a rage and chose others to blame in the scandal.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who is also the head of the AK Party, called the corruption investigation a “dirty operation” against the government and Turkey and claimed that the probe -- which many are saying is unprecedented in the history of the republic -- was orchestrated by a “parallel state” and a “gang within the state,” in a veiled reference to the Hizmet movement inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen. Gülen has accused the government of trying to derail the corruption investigation. The prime minister also said “foreign powers” were involved in the operation.
On Dec. 17, İstanbul and Ankara police staged dawn raids and detained over 50 people in the corruption investigation. Among the detainees were officials, well-known businesspeople and the sons of three ministers. Allegations emerged that several ministers were involved in bribery.
The sons of the two ministers as well as over 20 other suspects have been arrested. The suspects stand accused of rigging state tenders, accepting and facilitating bribes for major urbanization projects, obtaining construction permits for protected areas in exchange for money, helping foreigners obtain Turkish citizenship with falsified documents and involvement in export fraud, forgery and gold smuggling. Some claim that the suspects illegally sold historic artifacts unearthed during the construction of the Marmaray rail project connecting the European and Asian sides of İstanbul.
Three ministers -- Interior Minister Muammer Güler, Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan and Environment and Urban Planning Minister Erdoğan Bayraktar -- resigned from their posts on Dec. 25 while denying any involvement in corruption or bribery.
Even after the resignations, the prime minister called the corruption operation an “international plot,” supported by local collaborators, to sow discord in Turkey. He also accused an international “interest-rate lobby” of being behind the operation, which he said had already cost Turkey some $20 billion. In addition, the prime minister claimed that his government is as “clean as the color of the milk” in an attempt to dismiss the accusations leveled against his government.
According to Professor Mehmet Altan, an academic and writer, the AK Party resorts to demagogy and sanctimonious, tawdry rhetoric instead of addressing the corruption claims. “This is a very cheap and worthless method. … This method seeks to exploit the nationalist and conservative sentiments of the people,” he told Sunday's Zaman.
The professor also said the AK Party claims that “foreign powers,” “a parallel state” and “gangs nested within the state” are behind the corruption and bribery investigation, attempting to distract the people from the matter. “The prime minister is seeking to influence Turkish public opinion with imaginary scenarios and to distract the people's attention from the corruption investigation. The prime minister, in this way, hopes to prevent the investigation from expanding and reaching him.”
Retired military judge Ümit Kardaş said repeatedly claiming that foreign powers are to blame whenever anything goes wrong in the country diminishes the government's credibility in the eyes of the people. “If you attempt to put the entire blame for corruption or fraud on a plot, on foreign powers, on gangs or a parallel state, the people won't believe it. … There is an ongoing investigation into claims that many people, including members of the government, were involved in corruption. And it is not possible to save the government by just putting the blame on others. When the government reiterates its claims of a plot behind the operation, it grows less convincing,” he said.
Altan added that this is not the first time the prime minister has sought to shift people's attention from troublesome events that rocked the country. He said Erdoğan did the same thing during the Gezi protests.
The Gezi Park protests began as a peaceful sit-in against a government plan to replace a park in İstanbul's Taksim Square with a replica of an Ottoman-era military barracks. The movement later erupted into violent clashes with police and spread across the country. The rallies brought together large groups of protesters who accused Erdoğan of increasing authoritarian tendencies and attempting to impose his religious and conservative values on a country governed by secular laws.
The protests drew the ire of the prime minister, who took a challenging, aggressive and insulting tone when he addressed the protesters, which exacerbated already high tensions in the country. The prime minister described the protesters as “a couple of looters,” saying, “I wouldn't ask a couple of looters for permission [to go ahead with the Taksim project.]” Seemingly out of anger and a desire to show his determination to go ahead with his plan to build the replica, Erdoğan defied the protestors, saying, “When in the world have servants become masters?”
In addition, in an attempt to discredit the protests, the prime minister said an “interest-rate lobby” and “international conspiracy groups” were behind the events. He accused these mysterious entities of speculating in the financial markets during the protests. He also claimed that some banks, which he didn't name, were trying to bring down the stock exchange. The prime minister tried everything except for self-reflection on whether he was right to turn a deaf ear to the protesters' demands.
Hüseyin Öngel, a member of the Grand Unity Party's (BBP) Central Decision and Administration Board (MKYK), said the prime minister was seeking to blame others instead of encouraging a sound and impartial investigation of the corruption claims. “The prime minister puts the blame on others by claiming that the corruption operation is a plot against his government and he also continues to take steps that are aimed at impeding the investigation,” he complained.
Öngel was referring to the government's response to the corruption investigation. Some 500 police officers who had been ordered by the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office to conduct the probe were removed from their posts immediately after the first round of detentions and two new prosecutors were appointed to the investigation. The removals and the new appointments led legal experts to argue that the government is trying to stall the investigation.
Furthermore, the government changed a regulation to require police officers to inform their superiors of all investigations. Jurists described the change as a violation of the law and the Constitution, and said the change will allow the government to monitor any investigation ordered by prosecutors.

Turkey's prime minister refuses to step down amid protests

December 28, 2013 5:30PM ET
Prime Minister Recep Erdogan still has many supporters even as an increasingly vocal opposition takes to the streets


Riot police use water cannons to disperse demonstrators during an anti-government protest in central Istanbul Friday.
Murad Sezer/Reuters
Turkey's prime minister has rejected calls for him to step down, as protests continue across the country against a growing corruption scandal that has embroiled Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government.
Speaking to a large rally of supporters in the western city of Manisa on Saturday, Erdogan brushed aside allegations of fraud, saying they were part of an international campaign to discredit the government.
"If there is corruption, how come (Turkey's) $230 billion GDP moved up to $800 billion in 10 years since we got to power?" he said.
Erdogan said the government would not tolerate any corrupt officials, and urged his supporters to vote for his Justice and Development (AKP) party in elections scheduled for March.
But Erdogan's strong words, as well as the recent resignation of many of his staff amid accusations of taking bribes, has failed to quell the public anger over what many in Turkey see as a governmentincreasingly out of touch with most Turkish people.
In the capital Ankara on Saturday, about 4,000 people called for Erdogan to resign, chanting, "may the thieves' hands be broken."
A day earlier, Turkish riot police used water cannons, tear gas and plastic bullets to push back hundreds of protesters in Istanbul and Ankara, in scenes reminiscent of the summer's mass anti-government demonstrations.
Police blocked hundreds of protesters from gathering in Istanbul's central Taksim Square and pushed them away to the nearby streets. At least 70 people have been detained in the Taksim protests.
Meanwhile, the bribery scandal continued to widen. Twenty-four people, including the sons of two former government ministers and the head of the state-owned financial institution, Halkbank, have been arrested on bribery charges.
Members of Erdogan's party have begun defecting as well. Former Culture Minister Ertugrul Gunay said Erdogan's ruling party was being directed by "arrogance," in a news conference Friday in which he announced his resignation, and said that he was parting ways with the AKP.
Reporting from Istanbul, Al Jazeera's Omar Al Saleh said the corruption scandal may deepen since some reports have suggested that another wave of investigations will implicate 40 more people, including some government officials.
The turmoil is causing the Turkish currency to plummet against the dollar and the euro.
European officials urged Turkey to handle the scandal openly, amid concerns that Erdogan's government was trying to stifle investigations. Mevlut Cavusoglu, Turkey's newly appointed minister in charge of relations with the European Union, responded by saying the matter was an internal Turkish one.

Flautre accuses Erdoğan with being ‘irresponsible' in corruption scandal

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Hélène Flautre, the co-chairwoman of the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee, speaks in an exclusive interview with the Cihan news agency. (Photo: Cihan)
Hélène Flautre, the co-chairwoman of the EU-Turkey Joint Parliamentary Committee, released a statement on Saturday in which she criticized Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan with being “irresponsible” for accusing those who investigate the recent corruption probe.

"I observe the recent developments in Turkey with extreme vigilance, which greatly affect the credit of Prime Minister. In his statements, he accuses those who investigating the probe rather than require light on serious allegations of corruption involving his family is irresponsible. Allegations are certainly not findings, and justice must now continue its work in serenity and independence,” Flautre said.

Flautre's statement came after the Council of State's decision on Friday to cancel the Erdoğan government's executive order requiring police and prosecutors to notify their superiors of all investigations, effectively giving the government advance warning of what should be secret investigations.

“This is a serious political crisis and the European Union must stand firmly on the side of the defense of the rule of law, avoiding any exploitation of the situation,” her statement added.
After the cancellation of the order by the Council of State on Friday, Erdoğan said he would prosecute Turkey's top judicial body if he had the authority because it “committed a crime.”
Erdoğan claimed the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) has committed a crime by issuing a statement about a judicial police regulation while it was being assessed at the Council of State. On Thursday, the HSYK has harshly criticized the new judicial police regulation, saying that it is in violation of the Turkish Constitution.

The Erdoğan government's interference into and pressure on the judiciary was met with a huge backlash from opposition parties, bar associations, advocacy groups and the media. It has raised concerns of an attempted government cover-up of the corruption probe that has implicated prominent people in the business community and government.

( Battle royale between Erdogan and Gulen coming into view... ) 

PM Erdoğan slams resigning AKP deputies in support rally at Istanbul airport


Thousands of people were deployed at Istanbul's Atatürk airport on Dec. 27 to show their support to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan amid a graft scandal that has shaken the government. AA photo 

Thousands of people were deployed at Istanbul's Atatürk airport on Dec. 27 to show their support to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan amid a graft scandal that has shaken the government. AA photo
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has fulminated against the three ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lawmakers who resigned from the party expressing criticism over the recent graft scandal.

“We have come this far in our cause together, whatever [the resigning lawmakers] might say. But, I beg your pardon, we won’t say let’s continue to walk together to those who betray us during our journey. Those, we will throw them of the door,” Erdoğan told a crowd of supporters gathered at Istanbul’s Atatürk airport Dec. 27 to show their support to the government.

The ruling AKP had also organized a similar rally in Istanbul’s main airport during the Gezi protests as a response to the mass demonstrations against the government.

However the party is facing now a significant crack due to corruption allegations implicating four ministers, all replaced by the cabinet reshuffle on Dec. 25. Three lawmakers have announced their resignations from the AKP Dec. 27 after they were sent to the party’s joint disciplinary committee with an expulsion request due to their dissenting stance.

“The people did not vote you so that you can betray your party. The party has an internal discipline,” Erdoğan said. The three lawmakers - Former Culture Minister Ertuğrul Günay, İzmir MP Erdal Kalkan and Ankara MP Haluk Özdalga - joined former Interior Minister İdris Naim Şahin in resigning over the graft investigation.

“Everything is nice when you are a minister but when you quit your position, you go and say that you don’t like the choice of a minister. Do you have such authority? Know your place first,” Erdoğan said, aiming particularly at the former ministers who were among the resigning deputies.

Erdoğan also accused those who are criticizing the AKP over the graft probe of meddling in corruption in the past. “Those who called this operation a graft operation are the very ones who are corrupted. I know what happened in the past,” he said, adding that the investigation was the sequel of the test prep school row between the government and the movement of the Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen.

“I’m calling on those who have set their heart on AKP’s cause. Come and say that you don’t need anything other than state schools,” Erdoğan said.

Members of Gülen's Hizmet (Service) movement were outraged after the government announced plans of closing the test prep schools. Gülen's followers saw in the decision an attack against the movement itself and reacted very strongly from various channels.

The high-level graft probe also exposed the gravity of the bitter feud as the government accused Gülen’s movement, whose followers hold key positions in the police, judiciary and secret services, for being responsible of the investigations.

The sons of former Interior Minister Muammer Güler and former Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan, who handed over their portfolios Dec. 26 after resigning, were among the 24 people who have been formally arrested under the corruption investigation.

A second graft probe was also made public this week with great controversy after the head prosecutor of the case announced the investigation files were “taken from his hands.”

After the rally at the airport, Erdoğan was received by another multitude of supporters in front of his house in Istanbul.


Police in Istanbul stage crackdown on protesters denouncing Turkish gov't over graft scandal


Protesters run away from a water cannon on İstiklal Avenue on Dec 27. AFP photo 

Protesters run away from a water cannon on İstiklal Avenue on Dec 27. AFP photo
Police have staged a crackdown on protesters who took to the streets in Istanbul on Dec. 27 to denounce the corruption and bribery allegations against the government over a graft probe that has shaken the country since last week.

In scenes that were reminiscent of the nationwide Gezi protests, riot police fired tear gas and water cannon against a group of protesters who were attempting to gather on Istanbul’s iconic İstiklal Avenue and near the GermanHospital in Cihangir, both in central Beyoğlu.

Police also fired rubber bullets against protesters. Many ambulances and fire trucks were seen entering the pedestrian road following the crackdown.

Daily Radikal reporter Elif İnce, who was covering the protests, was among those shot by rubber bullets. She suffered an injury to her femur, but was subsequently able to continue reporting from the scene.

Some of the protesters hurled fireworks and stones to the riot police officers. At least 31 people were detained, including three lawyers, the Istanbul Bar Association said.

Riot police officers fired rubber bullets on
protesters who were staging a demo at the
İstiklal Avenue in Istanbul. AFP photo
Footage and photos showed municipality workers closing the street cameras in the surroundings of the Taksim area ahead of the demonstration.

Protesters, who gathered upon a call that spread via social media, urged the government to resign over the accusations that led to the resignations of three ministers.

Protesters chanted “Everywhere is bribery, everywhere is corruption,” reminiscent of the slogan “Everywhere is Taksim, everywhere is resistance” that became the motto of the Gezi protests. They also shouted slogans like "Catch the thief!" in reference to the corruption allegations.

Police chased protesters as they tried to escape from the narrow streets leading to the Cihangir neighborhood. The streets surrounding the area were affected by intense tear gas, reports said.

Similar protests were held in Ankara and İzmir where police also resorted to tear gas and water cannons to disperse the crowds. Battles between protesters and police were also reported in Antakya, one of the key battlegrounds between locals and security forces during the height of the Gezi protests.

The sons of former Interior Minister Muammer Güler and former Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan, who handed over their portfolios Dec. 26 after resigning, were among the 24 people who have been formally arrested under the corruption investigation.



Turkey Tensions Escalate As Riot Police, Water Cannon Unleashed

Tyler Durden's picture

As we noted earlier, political instability is spilling into social unrest:
The crowd was chanting "Thief Tayyip Erdogan" in reference to Turkey's graft-probe-implicated PM. And the nation's European cousins are "growing concerned" at events in Turkey, calling for "transparent, impartial justice."

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Clashes erupt between Turkish police & anti-government protesters in Istanbul's Taksim Square