Following a police operation on Dec. 17 in which the sons of two ministers, state-run Halkbank General Manager Süleyman Aslan and Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab were arrested along with 20 others, prosecutor Akkaş attempted to launch another operation as part of the second phase of the corruption investigation, allegedly involving prominent figures in business and politics.
The prosecutor made a public statement, claiming that he had been prevented from performing his duty. Akkaş, who is known for his work on sensitive cases such as the Ergenekon coup plot and the murder of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink, was then removed from the probe by İstanbul Deputy Chief Public Prosecutor Oktay Erdoğan on the grounds that he had violated the confidentiality of the investigation with his announcement. The prosecutor’s removal on Dec. 26 came only a day after he had ordered the detention of numerous suspects, including a number of deputies and businessmen.
The İstanbul Police Department, which saw an extensive round of replacements within the police force last month, including several top officers, did not comply with the detention order. Following his removal, Akkaş gave copies of a written statement to reporters outside the İstanbul Courthouse on Dec. 26 that detailed his complaints about the pressure he had experienced.
“All my colleagues and the public should know that as a public prosecutor I was prevented from carrying out the investigation,” he said, adding that pressure had clearly been placed on the judiciary both from the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the police, giving suspects the opportunity to flee and/or destroy evidence.
On Monday, prosecutor Akkaş released another press statement in which he claimed that those who have not carried out the court decision to detain suspects in the case are the ones who violated the confidentiality of the probe.
“I have not leaked information or documents to unauthorized people in any of the investigations I have overseen so far. I did not expose any information related to the confidentiality of the [corruption] probe in my previous press statement. Those responsible for the violation of the confidentiality of the probe are the ones who refused to comply with the court decisions,” the prosecutor said.
He also complained of an ongoing campaign of public aggression toward him and said that the judicial bodies’ failure to make a statement in defense of judicial independence had forced him to make another statement in response to the accusations against him.
He said he rejects all the accusations, which he believes constitute slander, made by many people in different positions, adding that he will pursue legal options against these individuals.
Since the corruption operation became public, some media outlets that are close to the government have been running derogatory stories about the prosecutors, which is interpreted by some as an attempt to undermine the corruption probe.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who describes the probe as “a dirty operation” designed to topple his government, also frequently attacks the prosecutors of the probe, accusing them of exceeding their authority and being part of a plot against his government.