( Is a " cornered " Erdogan attempting to co-opt the Military be freeing previously convicted Officers in exchange for the Military supporting efforts to cover up or drop of the ongoing corruption probe which is slamming AKP ? )
GYV says Gülen did not send letter to Erdoğan
4 January 2014 /TODAY'S ZAMAN, ANKARA
The Journalists and Writers Foundation (GYV), whose honorary chairman is Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, dismissed reports that Gülen has sent a letter to the prime minister.
According to the GYV statement, the letter was neither a peace nor a reconciliation letter and it was not sent to the prime minister. “The letter in question was sent to another state official. It did not include any negotiation [with that official],” read the statement.
“We're saddened that a series of incorrect comments were made over false information,” the foundation noted, regarding the letter. “It is possible that Mr. Prime Minister's words were not fully understood and were wrongly evaluated.”
According to the GYV, the letter followed a meeting Gülen recently had with an individual dispatched by a “respected state dignitary” and the former reciprocated with a letter.
Osman Şimşek, editor of herkul.org, a website that typically publishes Gülen's speeches, also posted a statement on the website on Sunday in which he said the letter does not contain an excuse or offer of negotiation. In his letter, as Şimşek stated, Gülen expressed his sadness to see that members of the Hizmet movement, inspired by Gülen himself, were being targeted due to ongoing developments in Turkey.
Gülen also recalled that he had expressed his wish to some high-level state authorities on various occasions not to have prep schools, which he said are very beneficial to the country and its population, shut down by the government. He said prep schools should be allowed to carry on their existing missions.
The renowned scholar, in addition, denied claims that he has influenced state activities, including giving orders or directives to civil servants. He also expressed his sadness to see that some police officers who were involved in investigating the corruption allegations that targeted some government members and bureaucrats as well as businesspeople were removed from their posts on the grounds that they were followers of a certain group, namely the Hizmet movement.
Gülen also said he would continue to ask his friends and followers to act with common sense and work for peace in Turkey.
PM Erdoğan denounces 'plot' against Turkey at luncheon with journalists and NGO representatives
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan gathered with NGO representatives, columnists and newspaper executives at his Dolmabahçe office in Istanbul Jan. 4. AA photo
At a luncheon in Istanbul on Jan. 4 with NGO representatives, columnists and journalists predominantly close to the government, Erdoğan reiterated his view that shadowy groups in Turkey and abroad are conspiring to oust him from power.
"What they wanted to do was an attempted assassination of the national will," Erdoğan said.
"They tried to carry out a judicial coup in Turkey.... But we are going to oppose this operation, this December 17 plot that targeted the future, the stability of our country," Erdoğan added, referring to the to the vast corruption investigation that led to the arrests on December 17 of key allies including high-profile businessmen and the sons of former ministers.
Five lawmakers resigned from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) due to the scandal.
Erdoğan on Jan. 4 expressed confidence that Turkey would overcome its current difficulties. He pointed to municipal elections set for March as a test for the regime in upcoming presidential elections in August. "We will not allow a cloud to be cast over Turkey's future," he said.
Erdoğan's statements come as President Abdullah Gül has promised that any corruption would not be hushed up.
Government officials have accused followers of U.S.-exiled Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, whose movement wields influence in the police and judiciary, of instigating the corruption probe.
A journalist at the Erdoğan meeting Jan. 4 said the premier told them that he had received a letter from Gülen's movement, "possibly drafted by Gülen himself", calling for reconciliation between the two sides.
Erdoğan orders Justice Ministry to seek ways for retrial of army officers
4 January 2014 /TODAYSZAMAN.COM, İSTANBUL
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdoğan has reportedly said he ordered the Justice Ministry to seek possible ways for the re-trial of army officers suspected of coup attempts.
He quoted Erdoğan as saying that “some amendments” could be made for completed investigations. Sabah columnist Mehmet Barlas also made similar remarks, saying that the government is looking for ways for the re-trial of the officers in Ergenekon and Sledgehammer coup trials.
“[Erdoğan] ordered the Justice Ministry. If there is any wrongdoing, the [Justice Ministry] is looking for ways how it could be fixed,” Barlas said.
Zaman columnist Ali Bulaç confirmed that the prime minister talked about the re-trial, noting that the Justice Ministry is working on this issue.
Earlier this week, Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç ruled out the retrial for army officers and firmly denied any government plan to make a change. His remarks came after members of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) had signaled a possible government proposal on the issue of a potential retrial of army officers in the past few days.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's senior political adviser Yalçın Akdoğan wrote in an op-ed piece last week that convicted officers had been framed by groups within the judiciary.
He suggested that the same group is now allegedly orchestrating a widespread corruption probe against the government.
President Gül warns against intervention in judicial process
Turkish President Abdullah Gül (Photo: Today's Zaman)
3 January 2014 /TODAY'S ZAMAN WITH REUTERS, İSTANBUL
Turkish President Abdullah Gül has emphasized the importance of the conclusion without outside intervention of an ongoing major graft investigation, which has shaken the roots of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and led to the resignation of three ministers.
He also said there should be no tolerance for corruption, adding that the investigation should proceed to the end in a way that satisfies the people's demand for justice.
Gül, whose role as president is largely ceremonial but who must approve laws passed by parliament and makes key appointments in the judiciary, has not been implicated in the corruption allegations.
"Anybody can work at state institutions - the army, the judiciary, or other state actors - but they have to abide by the law, the constitution and the rules of that institution ... taking orders from somewhere else is not acceptable," he said given government's claims of a parallel state within the state.
"If there are such claims, these will be investigated and this cannot be allowed. If this is happening within the judiciary, among the judges, this cannot be tolerated."
He also dismissed any link between the Gezi protests and the recent corruption scandal. While Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan says the recent corruption investigation, which involves four ministers and high-level officials, is a continuation of last summer's Gezi Park protests and aims to topple his government, the Turkish president has said he sees no link between the Gezi protests and the ongoing investigation.
Speaking on a televised program aired on HaberTürk TV Friday evening, Gül emphasized that there is no link between the Gezi Park protests, which erupted in June over the government's plan to redevelop the park by constructing a replica of an Ottoman-era barracks, and the recent corruption investigation.
"These are two different incidents and there is no way to link them," he said, revealing an open disagreement with the government's much repeated narrative that links the graft investigation with the Gezi protests.
Gül declined to comment on a Syria-bound truck which was stopped by Turkish gendarmes on suspicion of arms shipment in the southern province of Hatay on Wednesday.
He said he was told by officials that the truck was carrying humanitarian aid to Syria's Turkmens. Responding to a question, Gül also underlined the importance of complying with legal norms and transparency even when it comes to national security. The events concerning the truck had been labeled a “state secret.”
President Gül also declined to comment on a possible general amnesty for terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) militants amid a recent flare-up of discussions as part of the settlement process aimed at ending the three-decades-old Kurdish dispute and armed struggle.
The PKK declared a cease-fire last year and withdrew some of its forces to its camps in northern Iraq. The terrorist group demands a general amnesty for its militants as part of the process, which it views will pave the way for PKK members' return to their home and reintegration into society.
As for the unfolding debate over the switch to a presidential form of government before or after the next presidential election slated for summer 2014, an issue which was raised by Prime Minister Erdoğan on a number of occasions, Gül said he favors the parliamentary system, citing the historical experience of the Turkish political system.
Gül also refused to talk about whether he will seek re-election in the upcoming presidential election this summer amid mounting speculation over his next move in his political career.
Among other scenarios, sources close to the ruling party are floating the idea that Gül and Erdoğan would swap positions, a possible exchange reminiscent of a political move that took place in Russia when Vladimir Putin became president while former President Dmitry Medvedev became the Russian prime minister in 2012.
Economic consequencesGül, seen as a more unifying figure than Erdoğan and who has largely stayed out of the furor, emphasized that the judiciary should also be free from government interference.
"We are in parliamentary system and as the president I am trying to do ... everything within my authority to ensure that state institutions are working in harmony," he said.
"The legislative and executive powers are in a way accountable through elections but the judicial system is in a different position. For them, independence and impartiality is much more important."
Erdoğan's conservative AK Party has relied on its economic record to maintain the support of many Turks.
But the corruption scandal is shaking investor confidence at a time when the lira currency is weakening, inflation rising and growth slowing, risking tipping the nation into its greatest period of political instability in a decade - just before local and national elections this year and next.
"Economic stability comes first," said Gül, who co-founded the AK Party with Erdoğan more than a decade ago.
"If there is a worsening in the economy we would be shooting ourselves in the foot. If there is any deterioration in confidence, that will be the biggest damage to the country."
Erdoğan, who has won three elections, is barred by party rules from standing for a fourth term as prime minister and is widely expected to run instead for the presidency in August.
That has generated speculation that Gül, rather than running against Erdoğan, could become prime minister in general elections currently scheduled for 2015.
Gül declined to be drawn.
"It is too early for me to say anything on this, but I would like to add that nobody should put a risk premium for Turkey on this issue," he said.
"To be frank nothing has been discussed until now, I want everyone to know this. We will have three elections in the next two years and I believe Turkey will complete these as a mature democracy."
Parliament Speaker: Independence of judiciary done away with
Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek (Photo: Today's Zaman, Ali Ünal)
3 January 2014 /ALİ ASLAN KILIÇ/AYDIN ALBAYRAK, ANKARA
At a time when the government has been harshly criticized for interfering with the judiciary following a shocking graft probe in which four ministers are involved, Turkey's second-highest political figure has warned that the independence of the judiciary is currently over and done with.
Çiçek, who met with members of the press at Parliament, stressed that it is the duty of all to respect the law and that it is only possible to achieve justice through the rule of law. “By interpreting a judicial verdict in a way that suits our purposes, we are politicizing the judiciary. As Article 138 of the Constitution, which deals with the independence of the judiciary, has not been respected, the article has become extinct in this country,” Çiçek said.
Following the corruption investigation that rocked the government at the end of last year, opposition parties lashed out at the government for interfering in the progress of the first investigation and for blocking a second one which prosecutors wanted to launch which allegedly also implicates Bilal Erdoğan, the son of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Article 138 of the Constitution says: “Judges shall be independent in the discharge of their duties; … No organ, authority, office or individual may give orders or instructions to courts or judges regarding the exercise of judicial power, send them circulars, make recommendations or suggestions. … No questions shall be asked, debates held or statements made in the Legislative Assembly relating to the exercise of judicial power concerning a case under trial.”
Noting that the law is an instrument of justice and not of politics, Çiçek, who is also a deputy from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), jokingly said in reference to Article 138: “We might as well get rid of the article!”
A day or so after the first graft investigation on Dec. 17, İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor Turan Çolakkadı appointed, seemingly upon instructions from the government, two additional prosecutors to the ongoing corruption probe, which opposition parties maintained was a move to water down and impede the investigation.
Since the launch of the investigation, the government has replaced hundreds of high-level police officers in various cities, including those who were, under the instruction of prosecutors, conducting an investigation that allegedly revealed that three ministers had been bribed by an Iranian businessman. The government has accused the prosecutors and police chiefs who launched and carried out the investigation of being part of a Western plot against the government.
At the breakfast meeting hosted by the Parliament speaker, Çiçek complained that the rule of law is a concept which people in Turkey generally just pay lip service to without feeling the need to actually act in line with the concept.
Çiçek, who drew attention to the fact that Turkey is among the countries where separation of powers most often becomes the subject of hot political debates, said: “We are the first in violating the rules we ourselves put into place. I can cite countless examples for you.”
During the second phase of the graft investigation, which allegedly implicates the prime minister's son, to be initiated by public prosecutor Muammer Akkaş nearly a week after the first, it came out that police officers did not comply with the prosecutor's instructions. Immediately after, Akkaş, who maintained that he had been prevented from performing his duty in the investigation, was removed from his post. The prosecutor's removal came only a day after he had ordered the detention of 30 suspects, including a number of deputies and businessmen.
The Parliament speaker also criticized the attitude of the government towards the second phase of the corruption probe. In reference to Akkşaş' case, he said: “No [public] body, nor the executive can in any way amend the verdicts of the courts. They cannot delay the implementation of those verdicts as well.” Complaining about the delayed handling of decisions given by the judiciary, Çiçek said: “The legislative and executive organs need to respect the verdicts handed out by the courts of law.”
Although media outlets close to the government have recently complained about judicial tutelage, the parliament speaker complained of government tutelage, particularly over the legislature. Since the launch of the current Constitution 31 years ago, he said, “It has been Parliament whose powers have been most weakened [by the executive].”
“The executive has become [like] a tutor [to Parliament],” he added.
As part of the first graft probe, prosecutors asked Parliament to lift the immunity of four government ministers, three of whom resigned after the Dec. 17 raids. The other was removed in a later Cabinet reshuffle. The government not only paid no attention to the prosecutors' demand, but also amended police regulations to require officers to notify their superiors before carrying out prosecutors' instructions in investigations.
In the current corruption probe -- in which former ministers Muammer Güler, Zafer Çağlayan, Erdoğan Bayraktar, together with their sons, and Egemen Bağış have been implicated -- that would have forced the police to inform the interior minister that they were investigating his son.
Turkish Bar Association slams gov't noncompliance with prosecutors' ordersMetin Feyzioğlu, the president of the Turkish Bar Association (TBB), lambasted the government for interfering with the judiciary, saying that if a governor is preventing security officials from complying with a prosecutor's orders, the state structure has been turned upside down.
His comments addressed an incident on the first day of the new year when the provincial governor of Hatay overruled a prosecutor's orders and prevented the search of a truck allegedly carrying arms and humanitarian aid to Syria.
As for the “parallel structures” and “gangs” the government is accusing of being behind the corruption investigation, Feyzioğlu called on anyone making such claims to provide evidence to back them up. “Those who made these claims and later withdrew them hurt the justice system more,” Feyzioğlu said.
The president of the TBB spoke to reporters on Friday after meeting with Turkish President Abdullah Gül a day earlier. He said he had discussed the crisis in the judiciary triggered by government interference with the president.
He said that the bar association presented Gül a road map to resolve this crisis, adding that he plans to meet with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Saturday in İstanbul, and then meet with the political parties represented in the Turkish Parliament.
Feyzioğlu also called for the creation of an independent judicial police force to help prosecutors and courts carry out investigations and prosecute offenders. He criticized the government's move to block prosecutorial orders in İstanbul in the second corruption investigation, during which a prosecutor ordered the detention of 30 suspects, including a number of deputies and businessmen. The order was never carried out.
EP rapporteur Oomen-Ruijten: International plot claims ‘pure nonsense'
3 January 2014 /SELÇUK GÜLTAŞLI, BRUSSELS
A government corruption scandal is still dominating the Turkish political scene and European authorities continue to criticize the way the government has handled the investigations so far.
In an exclusive interview with Today's Zaman, Oomen-Ruijten said that the Turkish government should refrain from interfering in judicial proceedings and let the investigations continue. Commenting on the removal of hundreds of police chiefs and the halting of the second corruption investigation, she warned the government to respect the independence of the judiciary and the principle of the separation of powers. “These are the main articles of the Constitution and the government should abide by them,” she insisted.
Oomen-Ruijten has already completed the draft of her report on Turkey and the draft is expected to be voted on at the EP plenary at the end of February.
Reacting to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's characterization of Prosecutor Muammer Akkaş as a “disgrace,” the EP rapporteur noted that combating corruption was of utmost importance for the good functioning of the rule of law “whether politicians like it or not.” She said she was very concerned about interference in investigations and reiterated that the process should be carried out independently and impartially.
Warning on HSYKReacting to government plans to change the law related to the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) that was already amended just three years ago, Oomen-Ruijten warned both the prime minister and the minister of justice not to change it again. Noting that she had applauded amendments made back in 2010, she said, “It is not up to a prime minister or a minister of justice, now, to try to change the council that was already amended only three years ago simply because the changes gave judges and prosecutors too much independence.” She underlined that the whole point of the 2010 referendum was to make the council independent, and apparently some politicians are now complaining that it has become too independent. Oomen-Ruijten also said she had just visited the HSYK two months ago and emphasized that they are “doing a good job.”
Foolish imageReiterating her concern about the principle of the separation of powers, she called on the government not to block investigations. “If the government does not pay attention to the principle of the separation of powers, it will be giving a foolish image to the outside world,” Oomen-Ruijten said.
When asked about the government's decision to close one of the gold mines of businessman Akın İpek, who owns the Bugün daily -- a move that raised suspicions that İpek was punished because of Bugün's critical coverage of the corruption investigation -- Oomen-Ruijten said Turkey is a candidate country to the EU, where the rule of law is the basic principle. “This does not fit at all in a full-fledged democracy. In the EU, what binds us is the rule of law; this does not fit in there. I do not know what he [the prime minister] wants to do, but all the speeches are not just for domestic consumption; they are also consumed in the outside world. This should not be forgotten,” she said.
Oomen-Ruijten also said the perception in Europe about the latest events in Turkey has been quite “bad.” She added that those who had been saying that Turkey would never be a democratic country have started to claim that the latest events have vindicated them. “I cannot even convince my good friends about what is going on in Turkey. They listen but they do not believe my arguments anymore. That is the problem. Turkey was on a good path toward democratization, but after all these events and press stories, how can I possibly convince my friends that Turkey is on the right path? Confidence is melting,” she said.
She added that the allegations of corruption would definitely be reflected in the progress report she has been drafting on Turkey and that a number of paragraphs would be rewritten.