Shame intact: Court orders ignored in Turkey’s second graft probe

Although an İstanbul court has ruled for the detention of 41 new suspects and the confiscation of the property of seven others as part of a second corruption investigation that was being overseen by prosecutor Muammer Akkaş, the court’s rulings have not yet been carried out.
Although it is a constitutional obligation to implement the court rulings, the police have so far not taken any action to detain the suspects or confiscate their property.

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.

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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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