Refusal of subpoenas to ministers implicated in graft probe raises fears of tampering, impunity

Motions summarizing the corruption charges against former Justice and Development Party (AK Party) ministers have been returned to the office of the prosecutor, according to a statement by the speaker of Parliament on Wednesday, raising concerns that the Justice Ministry may have altered the content of the documents.

Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek said that although he does not know the details of the process for the motions, as the minister of justice declared that he had no authority to take action on the documents, they will be returned to the prosecutor’s office.

Before Çiçek made his statement, on Wednesday Republican People’s Party (CHP) Konya deputy Atilla Kart accused Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ of making changes in the motions and tampering with the evidence they contained.

Directing attention to the procedural rules regarding such motions in the Ministry of Justice, Kart said that the motions should only be returned to the prosecutor’s office when they fail to meet formatting requirements. “It has been 40 days since they were sent to the ministry,” Kart said, adding that the long waiting time for the motions is a sign that they have been tampered with.

“We face a minister of justice who dares to distort the content of the [legal] documents,” Kart said.  He said that the motions regarding the ministers who were implicated in a corruption probe that went public on Dec. 17 must arrive in Parliament by Friday.

Meanwhile, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) is determined to keep track of the motions. Chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said on Tuesday that the party knows every single line of the motions as he warned the government not to alter them in an effort to save the ministers.

In the party’s Central Executive Board (MYK) meeting on Wednesday, Kılıçdaroğlu asked members of the party to do their best to explain the corruption allegations to the public. Media outlets reported that Kılıçdaroğlu asked the deputies to read full text the 241-page motion on the sale of Sabah-ATV media group to a pro-government businessman.

In an effort to pressure the Justice Ministry to send the motions to Parliament, the members of the CHP’s youth and women’s branches will organize a protest in front of the ministry. If the process is further delayed, the opposition party will expand the protests across Turkey and keep the issue on the agenda during the local election campaigns.

Kılıçdaroğlu said on Tuesday that the party will follow up on the motions that haven’t been sent to Parliament. He claimed that some parts of the motions were given to pro-AK Party lawyers to help the ministers prepare their legal defense. “The AK Party wants to trash the motions, but we say that they now are also in the minds of the people, since people do not forgive theft.”

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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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