Live updates on the graft probe


17:07 – Speaker says no motion on ministers sent to Parliament

Parliament Spekar Cemil Çiçek has said no motion to lift the immunity from prosecution of four ministers sent to Parliament amid reports that İstanbul prosecutors sent the documents to Justice Ministry late on Wednesday via the National Judiciary Network Project (UYAP).

Çiçek’s denial added to murkiness of the motion saga amid flooding of conflictual reports in the media.

 

 

16:29 – KESK members throw shoe boxes at Halkbank branch

Members of the Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions (KESK) held a demonstration in Bursa on Thursday in which they hurled shoe boxes at a Halkbank branch in protest of the bank’s manager’s alleged involvement in corruption.

Halkbank General Manager Süleyman Aslan is among dozens of individuals, including the sons of three ministers and prominent businessmen, who were detained in a corruption investigation on Tuesday.

According to sources within the judiciary, $4.5 million was found in Aslan’s house. The police found the huge amount of money concealed in shoe boxes in Aslan’s home library and confiscated it. Aslan reportedly had a wiretapped telephone conversation with his wife in which she notified him in code about the arrival of the money at their house.

Meeting in Setbaşı, KESK members arrived in front of the Halkbank branch in Bursa and began throwing shoe boxes at the bank while chanting, “There is a thief here.” The bank employees locked the doors and watched the protest.


16:21 – PM Erdoğan meeting with Minister Çağlayan amid graft claims

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is in a meeting with the Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan, whose son was detained as one of the suspects in the corruption case.

As the investigation into alleged bribery linked with public tenders and gold smuggling from Iran to Turkey deepens, details have come out of the probe suggesting that Çağlayan has received a TL 105 million bribe in return for helping an Iranian businessman who was involved in irregular financial transactions, a Turkish daily reported on Thursday.


16:03 – Motion to lift ministers’ immunity reaches Justice Ministry

A motion to lift the immunity from prosecution of four ministers, which was allegedly sent to the Justice Ministry on Wednesday but failed to arrive that day after being sent outside office hours, is reported to have reached ministry on Thursday.

Suspicions of involvement in bribery by Interior Minister Muammer Güler, EU Affairs Minister Egemen Bağış, Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan and Environment and Urban Planning Minister Erdoğan Bayraktar prompted prosecutors to send a request to lift their immunity to investigate the case without any obstructions.

The motion to lift immunity was alleged to have been sent to Justice Ministry late on Wednesday via the National Judiciary Network Project (UYAP) but early on Thursday, officials at the ministry denied having received it and noted motions should be sent to the ministry within office hours. Prosecutors resent the motion at around noon on Thursday, initiating the legal process for lifting the four ministers’ immunity, sources within the judiciary have revealed.


15:57 – Selami Altınok appointed as İstanbul police chief

Authorities appointed Aksaray Governor Selami Altınok as İstanbul police chief, as former chief Hüseyin Çapkın was removed amid a graft investigation.


15:52 – MHP leader: Nobody should derail graft investigation

Opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli lashed out at the government for removing police chiefs investigating the alleged bribery linked with public tenders, saying that nobody should derail the graft probe.

Bahçeli argued that the intervention in the corruption investigation points to a state of panic within a government trying to evade allegations of tender rigging and bribery, stressing that any kind of attempt to derail the legal process will further reinforce the claims of graft rather than alleviating suspicions.

Speaking at an event in his hometown, the southern city of Osmaniye, Bahçeli said on Thursday that if even one of the allegations about government’s involvement in bribery linked with public tenders proves true, the government should resign.


15:40 – Turkey’s US ambassador says transparency essential in democracies

US Ambassador to Turkey Francis J. Ricciardone has said transparency is essential in democracies and that his country is closely following a major corruption investigation that has rocked Turkey since its revelation on Tuesday.

Ricciardone’s remarks came after a meeting with main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu on Thursday. The main topic of the meeting was said to be the corruption investigation.

Kılıçdaroğlu said during the meeting that the investigation should reveal all the facts.

The meeting was closed to the press and lasted for 1 hour and 15 minutes.


15:10 – Report: Economy Minister Çağlayan received TL 105 million bribe

As the investigation into alleged bribery linked with public tenders and gold smuggling from Iran to Turkey deepens, details come out of the probe, suggesting that Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan has received TL 105 million bribe in return of helping an Iranian businessman who was involved in irregular money transactions, a Turkish daily reported on Thursday.

Reza Zerrab, an Iranian-Azeri businessman who is among those detained on Tuesday in an investigation of alleged bribery linked to public tenders, is accused of being involved in irregular money transactions, mostly from Iran, that total some 87 billion euros, sources from the İstanbul Police Department told Today’s Zaman.

Zerrab has long been suspected of taking part in financial felonies. The Finance Ministry’s Financial Crimes Investigation Board (MASAK) submitted a report a couple of years ago to the İstanbul Police Department detailing transactions from abroad that indicated that Zerrab’s companies had participated in money transfers amounting to hundreds of millions of euros each without any actual corresponding trade.

According to a report appeared on the Taraf daily on Thursday, Zerrab paid TL 105 million to Çağlayan to cover his money transactions and gold smuggling from Iran. The emerging details has sparked public outrage, leading to questions of government’s credibility.


15:03 – TL 10 million seized from houses of corruption suspects

Over TL 10 million is reported to have been confiscated so far as part of the graft probe.

The amount of money found in Interior Minister Muammer Güler’s son’s house is reported to have been TL 1.5 million while $ 4.5 million was found in General Manager of Halkbank Süleyman Aslan’s house concealed in shoe boxes.

It has also been reported that TL 90,000 has been confiscated in a separate extension of the probe and that the identity of the person or people for whom the money was destined has been determined.

The property of some suspects have also been confiscated, the media reports said on Thursday.


14:29 – Nine suspects in graft probe referred to court

Nine suspects in the major graft investigation have been referred to İstanbul Courthouse on Thursday.


14:22 – Detained ministers’ sons staying in police chiefs’ rooms instead of prison

The sons of three ministers and Fatih Mayor Mustafa Demir, who were detained on Tuesday as part of a major investigation into alleged bribery linked to public tenders, were transferred to police chiefs’ offices from jail cells after police chiefs conducting the investigation were removed from their posts on Wednesday.

After the removal of those police chiefs, Barış Güler, the son of Interior Minister Muammer Güler, Salih Kaan Çağlayan, the son of Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan, Abdullah Oğuz Bayraktar, the son of Environment and Urban Planning Minister Erdoğan Bayraktar, and Fatih Mayor Demir were taken from jail cells and spent Wednesday night in the police chiefs’ offices. They stayed in jail cells on Tuesday night.


14:10 – Energy minister: AK Party wouldn’t make mistake on corruption

Commenting on the graft probe that has dominated the country’s agenda for the last three days, Energy Minister Taner Yıldız backed his party, saying that it would never do wrong concerning corruption.

Referring to the accusations against the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) following the major operation into graft headed by prosecutors, Yıldız said: “The AK Party, as a party that has gained power in line with the right things it does regarding this nation, wouldn’t make a mistake concerning corruption. We always opt for what is right. We are on the side of those who would be delighted at improvements, not the side of those who would be bothered by the country’s progress.”


13:50 – Dismissed police chief: I served to İstanbul with honor for 4,5 years

İstanbul Police Chief Hüseyin Çapkın who was removed from his post amid a major investigation into alleged bribery linked with public tenders thanked very İstanbullites, saying that he served to İstanbul with honor for 4,5 years.

In a brief statement, Çapkın said he was appointed to another position at National Police Department in Ankara.


13:35 – AK Party Deputy Chairman Soylu: Probe shouldn’t be covered up

AK Party Deputy Chairman Süleyman Soylu whose cousin, Sadık Soylu, an advisor to Environment and Urban Planning minister, was detained as part of a major investigation into alleged tender rigging, said the graft probe shouldn’t be covered up.

“If there is a slightest suspicion [of corruption] it should be investigated with determination to the end. This [probe] shouldn’t be covered up. This country is more important than us,” said Soylu at a party meeting on Thursday.


13:10 – Turkish leadership holding meeting amid graft probe

Turkish President Abdullah Gül is hosting Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek and Head of Supreme Court of Appeals Ali Alkan in Çankaya Palace in capital Ankara.

The luncheon is not an extraorindary meeting but it comes amid a major corruption scandal. Erdoğan and Gül will hold a separate meeting after the lunch to discuss the latest developments.


13:06 – Two more police officers removed from duty in Kocaeli

Two police officers, one a chief, have been removed from their posts in Kocaeli province, adding to the list of those dismissed in the wake of the graft probe.

The chief of the anti-smuggling and anti-organized crime unit, Mehmet Ağzıbağlı, and his deputy Abdullahkadir Demir have been removed from duty at the Kocaeli Police Department following dismissals and shifts that took place in the İstanbul, Ankara and İzmir police departments.

Ağzıbağlı was appointed to his new post as chief of the education branch and has been replaced by Ayhan Karakoyun, who was the chief of the foreigners’ branch office in the department.

Hakan Başkal became the new deputy in the anti-smuggling branch after Demir’s removal from his post.


12:56 – Turkish deputy PM to file complaint over violation of corruption case privacy

Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ has said he is planning to file a complaint against those who he said have “violated the confidentiality” of the investigation into graft allegations.

“I’m filing a criminal complaint as a deputy prime minister about whoever violated the confidentiality of the case,” Bozdağ said on Thursday. It was unclear whether Bozdağ had specific people in mind for his complaint.


12:55 – Amnesty calls on officials involved in graft scandal to resign

Amnesty International has called on Turkish officials who are involved in the corruption investigation to resign to maintain the impartiality of probe.

Amnesty urged the authorities to maintain checks and balances and preserve fair and impartial judiciary without any intervention. The statement noted that it is important that officials who are directly or indirectly involved in the corruption investigation to resign from their post so that judiciary could be pursue a healthy proceeding.


12:20 – Court freezes assets of corruption suspects

The İstanbul 18th Court of Criminal Peace decided to freeze the assets of 28 suspects one day before Tuesday’s launch of a high-profile anti-graft operation, Turkish media reported on Thursday.

Thursday marks the third day in the highly publicized corruption case, and saw the 10th out of 52 people detained as part of the investigation released.

Thirty-eight of those detained, including construction mogul Ali Ağaoğlu and Fatih Mayor Mustafa Demir, were taken to the Haseki Hospital for medical check-ups on Thursday as part of detention procedures.

Forty-two suspects are still being held for interrogation and it has been requested that 28 suspects’ detention periods be extended.


12:00 – EU calls on Turkish authorities to investigate graft claims in ‘impartial manner’

The European Union has called on Turkish authorities to investigate allegations of graft in an “impartial manner” as Turkey is rocked by a corruption scandal that involves several businesspeople, sons of ministers and senior bureaucrats.

Peter Stano, spokesman for EU Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighborhood Policy Stefan Füle, said these developments have “naturally raised our attention and we follow them closely.”

“The [European] Commission underlines the need to guarantee the independence and impartiality of the judicial process,” Stano said in a statement made to the private Cihan news agency.

He added that the commission has noted the government’s vow not to intervene in the probe and to stand behind the judiciary in the investigation, and underlined the responsibility of the relevant authorities to investigate allegations of wrongdoing in an impartial manner.


11:53 – Justice minister: no motion to lift immunity sent to ministry

Turkey’s justice minister has dismissed claims that the prosecutors working on the graft probe that has resulted in the detention of many prominent people in the country sent a motion to Parliament requesting the immunity of the four ministers be lifted.

Media reported on Wednesday that the İstanbul prosecutors who launched a major graft probe into alleged bribery linked with public tenders had finalized initial legal procedures for four ministers for their alleged role in corruption and bribery, asking the Turkish Parliament to lift the ministers’ immunity in order to include them in the investigation.

Parliament was expected to review the request from prosecutors in the days to come, until the Justice Ministry denied having received one.

The Justice Ministry also denied allegations that the prosecutors who conducted the anti-corruption operation have been removed from their posts.

Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin, in response to reporters’ questions on whether there had been a move to dismiss the prosecutors who conducted the operation, said on Thursday: “Removal of the prosecutors from their posts is out of the question. Everybody carries out their duty.”


11:00 – Dismissal of police chiefs leaps to western Turkey

Three more police chiefs have been dismissed from their posts, this time in İzmir, a move that comes after numerous shifts took place within the İstanbul and Ankara police departments following the major anti-corruption operation which resulted in detentions of bureaucrats, well-known businesspeople and the sons of three ministers.

Following the removal of 11 police chiefs from their posts in İstanbul for carrying out corruption raids that authorities said constitute “misconduct,” the Ankara governor also removed 18 police chiefs in a similar fashion and reappointed them to “ineffective” positions. The dismissals of police chiefs have now continued in İzmir, with Mehmet Erikoğlu, chief of the anti-organized crime police branch; Emin Göktaş, chief of the financial crime branch; and Halil İbrahim Güzel, chief of the anti-terror branch, being removed from their positions.

The replacements of the dismissed İzmir police chiefs were as follows: Fatih Çankaya, the chief of a district police department, has been appointed to head the anti-terror unit; Bahadır İçmeyiz, chief of the Foça district’s police department, will head the anti-organized crime branch; and Bora Köprü, chief of the social services branch, will head the financial crime unit.

İzmir Governor Mustafa Toprak said there have been further replacements in the body.

Further updates:
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About yavuzbaydar

Yavuz Baydar has been an award-winning Turkish journalist, whose professional activity spans nearly four decades. In December 2013, Baydar co-founded the independent media platform, P24, Punto24, to monitor the media sector of Turkey, as well as organizing surveys, and training workshops. Baydar wrote opinion columns, in Turkish, liberal daily Ozgur Dusunce and news site Haberdar, and in English, daily Today's Zaman, on domestic and foreign policy issues related to Turkey, and media matters, until all had to cease publications due to growing political oppression. Currently, he writes regular chronicles for Die Süddeutsche Zeitung, and opinion columns for the Arab Weekly, as well as analysis for Index on Censorship. Baydar blogs with the Huffington Post, sharing his his analysis and views on Turkish politics, the Middle East, Balkans, Europe, U.S-Turkish relations, human rights, free speech, press freedom, history, etc. His opinion articles appeared at the New York Times, the Guardian, El Pais, Svenska Dagbladet, and Al Jazeera English online. Turkey’s first news ombudsman, beginning at Milliyet daily in 1999, Baydar worked in the same role as reader representative until 2014. His work included reader complaints with content, and commentary on media ethics. Working in a tough professional climate had its costs: he was twice forced to leave his job, after his self-critical columns on journalistic flaws and fabricated news stories. Baydar worked as producer and news presenter in Swedish Radio &TV Corp. (SR) Stockholm, Sweden between 1979-1991; as correspondent for Scandinavia and Baltics for Turkish daily Cumhuriyet between 1980-1992, and the BBC World Service, in early 1990's. Returning to Turkey in 1994, he worked as reporter and ediytor for various outlets in print, as well as hosting debate porogrammes in public and private TV channels. Baydar studied informatics, cybernetics and, later, had his journalism ediucatiob in the University of Stockholm. Baydar served as president of the U.S. based International Organizaton of News Ombudsmen (ONO) in 2003. He was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at University of Michigan in 2004. Baydar was given the Special Award of the European Press Prize (EPP), for 'excellence in journalism', along with the Guardian and Der Spiegel in 2014. He won the Umbria Journalism Award in March 2014 and Caravella/Mare Nostrum Prize in 2015; both in Italy. Baydar completed an extensive research on self-censorship, corruption in media, and growing threats over journalism in Turkey as a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
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