‘Erdoğan bringing Turkey to brink of collapse amid corruption scandal’

Turkey is suffering from an ongoing crisis and chaos in its state institutions including the judiciary and law enforcement due to a government-orchestrated plot to minimize corruption and bribery scandals.

The Justice and Development Party (AKP), led by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has complained about the existing judicial system, has made the whole system dysfunctional with changes to the judiciary, the police department, the national intelligence agency, the media, the business world and bureaucracy in the aftermath of a corruption operation.

Amid this chaos, Ergenekon suspects, including some murderers who were convicted of their crimes, have been released.

After the dramatic changes in the judiciary, Turkey is now a country where the police refuse to take orders from the office of the chief prosecutor, Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ ignores the authority of the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) and the courts fail to consider the decisions of Parliament.

The National Intelligence Organization (MİT) is working as the prime minister’s private detective. Media bosses are intimidated into publishing reports in favor of the government. It is almost impossible to do business without bribery.

A similar collapse is being witnessed in foreign diplomacy. The prime minister, who previously argued that a newspaper had been shut down in Britain, an allegation that was subsequently denied, has been corrected by the Barack Obama administration twice.

The US strongly reacted to the Erdoğan administration’s allegation that the American envoy in Ankara was responsible for the Dec. 17 corruption operation. In addition, the US administration also stated that Erdoğan had misinterpreted President Obama’s remarks pertaining to the Turkish prime minister’s extradition request for Fethullah Gülen, which Erdoğan incorrectly implied to be positively viewed by Obama.

Most people in Turkey heard the name Reza Zarrab for the first time on Dec. 17 when an operation was conducted to deal with corruption and bribery. Zarrab appeared to be the leading name in the corruption allegations. The Iranian businessman who allegedly bribed many ministers and businessmen was referred to as a philanthropic man by the prime minister.

Prime Minister Erdoğan took unusual steps which dramatically changed the judicial and state structure because it became evident by recordings leaked in the aftermath of the operation that most of his family members were implicated in corruption.

During this process, 10,000 police officers were reappointed to different posts, particularly those who were working in intelligence units. The reshuffling of police officers who had worked hard to deal with the activities of the Ergenekon terrorist organization and many other violent incidents has raised fears that this might lead to serious security problems in Turkey.

The HSYK, the highest judicial organ authorized to appoint judges and prosecutors, has been subordinated to the justice minister. It is interesting to note that this move was made shortly after Erdoğan said he would try the prosecutors who carried out the operations himself if he had the authority to do so. Subsequent to these changes, hundreds of judges and prosecutors, including those who carried out the corruption operations, were reassigned.

Some recently leaked recordings reveal that Prime Minister Erdoğan had interfered with the election of the chairmen and members in the courts of the higher judiciary, including the Council of State and the Supreme Court of Appeals, discharged the prosecutors and judges who carried out the corruption operations and that Interior Minister Efkan Ala had threatened the prosecutors who did not comply with his requests. Questions were raised as to whether the government was trying to cover up the corruption charges given that the cases were taken from the prosecutors conducting the corruption operations.

In his election campaign, Erdoğan frequently stresses that they will take the necessary steps after the March 30 elections. These remarks are seen as an intention by the government to initiate an operation against the Hizmet movement. Before such an operation, it appears that the government is redesigning the judiciary.

MİT is the state institution the prime minister trusts the most in this process. Erdoğan, after taking measures to ensure that MİT remains above judicial inspection, alone holds the power to authorize any operation or investigation into MİT’s activities. Likewise, any interrogation of MİT members or officials is now subject to the prime minister’s approval. Cemalettin Çelik, who was previously working at MİT, was reappointed as the chair of the Telecommunications Directorate (TİB). This move is viewed as a march towards becoming an intelligence state.

An Internet bill introduced by the government raised controversy among the public. Those who are opposed to the Internet law, which restricts access to the Internet and introduces serious measures against Internet use, were labeled porn lovers by members of the media who support the government. However, the prime minister’s statements suggesting that all virtual modes of communication including Twitter, Facebook and YouTube may be shut down have raised serious concerns not only in Turkey but also around the world.

Voice recordings have also confirmed the prime minister’s efforts to silence and intimidate the media. Erdoğan, who places enormous pressure on leading media groups including Doğan (Kanal D, CNN Türk, Hürriyet), Demirören (Milliyet), Ciner (Habertürk Daily, Show TV) and Şahenk (NTV, Star TV), basically wants to prevent any broadcast critical of his government, ensure that the media allocates less time for the opposition’s activities and demonize the Hizmet movement, which he has declared the enemy during his election campaigns. It is also evident from the recordings that Erdoğan makes decisions on the headlines of the ATV-Sabah group, which is fully controlled by the government and uses material from MİT for the content of the reports published in these media outlets.

In addition to intimidating media bosses and businessmen and threatening them with extensive tax inspections, Erdoğan is also trying to punish those media outlets that are against him.

Arguing that the Dec. 17 operations were part of a national and international conspiracy staged against his government, Erdoğan alleges that the voice recordings were fabricated for blackmailing purposes and were not legally acquired. However, he used recordings of Gülen, which were not legally acquired, during election campaigns.

Another recording also reveals the government blocked the delivery of reports by the Court of Accounts to Parliament because the reports clearly confirm the scope of corruption. The recordings of conversations between deputies of the ruling party and bureaucrats show that members of the ruling party believe they would be in trouble and would be held accountable should the reports be deliberated in Parliament.



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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