Erdoğan confirms tape seen as meddling in judiciary, public bid

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has confirmed the authenticity of a voice recording in which he is heard meddling in the judiciary by ordering his justice minister to “closely monitor” judicial proceedings related to a businessman.

Erdoğan dismissed criticisms on Wednesday, saying that it is normal that he told previous Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin to closely monitor a court case about Turkish media mogul Aydın Doğan.

Erdoğan is heard telling the former justice minister to closely monitor the court case to make sure that Doğan, whom tax authorities fined $600 million in a separate case in 2009, does not get off scot-free.

After a lower court ruled in Doğan’s favor in a trial over alleged irregularities in capital markets law, Ergin tells Erdoğan not to worry because the case would go for a final decision to the Assembly of Criminal Chambers of the Supreme Court of Appeals.

Erdoğan said on Wednesday that the Capital Markets Board (SPK), which regulates markets, sectors and companies to ensure fair competition between firms, provided him with “very dangerous information” on Doğan. “Parallel structures, dirty relations,” Erdoğan said to justify his actions. “It required me to tell [Ergin] to closely follow the case,” Erdoğan noted, adding that he wants this for his “country and nation.”

Doğan, whom the prime minister has criticized on a number of occasions in past years, owns a number of mainstream TV channels and newspapers that are critical of the government.

The prime minister also confirmed the authenticity of another voice recording released on Tuesday that revealed that Erdoğan instructed businessman Metin Kalkavan to engineer the reopening of the public bid on the national warship project (MİLGEM).

In the phone conversation from April 2013, Erdoğan asks Kalkavan, the owner of a maritime company, to claim that the necessary conditions for competition had not been met in the initial bidding for MİLGEM. Although Kalkavan tells Erdoğan that his company failed to make an official application for the bid, Erdoğan insists that Kalkavan submit a petition to the Prime Ministry’s Coordination Center (BİMER) and Prime Ministry Monitoring Council (BTK).

The MİLGEM contract, which was awarded to Koç Holding subsidiary RMK Marine for $2.5 billion in January of 2013, was cancelled by the Defense Industry Implementation Committee (SSİK) in September, 2013. At a meeting chaired by Erdoğan and attended by Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel and Defense Minister İsmet Yılmaz, a report prepared by the BTK on the MİLGEM contract, stating that it was not in the public interest, was approved by the SSİK.

In another phone call claimed to date from Sept. 27, 2013, Erdoğan allegedly talks to Kalkavan again, instructing him to offer a competitive price in the new bid for MİLGEM.

Erdoğan justified his phone conversation with Kalkavan, saying that a businessman who was sidelined during the tender appealed to him.

The voice recording, however, clearly shows that Erdoğan instructs Kalkavan to re-apply for the bid.



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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