Ruling AKP refuses to sign on revealing details of corruption files in Parliament

Deputies from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government insisted on the secrecy of the investigation file concerning four former Cabinet ministers facing corruption allegations, sparking huge criticism from the opposition parties, which claim the government is trying to hush-up damning evidence from the corruption investigation.
Parliament held an extraordinary session on Wednesday to address the summaries of proceedings on four former Cabinet ministers facing corruption allegations, following a call from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).

The quorum for the discussion of the summaries of proceedings at the General Assembly of Parliament was reached, and after 184 deputies cast their votes to open a session on the issue, Parliament began to discuss the proceedings.

As dramatic day came closer to an end after hours of wrangling in Parliament, the call for a general discussion of files were rejected by 259 No votes of the ruling party against 158 votes of the opposition parties.

Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Deputy Chairman Oktay Vural objected, saying Deputy Parliament Speaker Meral Akşener should have presided over the session instead of Deputy Parliament Speaker Sadık Yakut. Yakut responded to the criticism by saying that that Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek had decided who would manage the session.

According to Parliament bylaws, the person who manages a parliamentary session is pre-determined, and the deputy parliament speaker names that person from a monthly rotating list. Despite it being Akşener’s turn to manage the session, Çiçek used his authority to change the list prior to the meeting.

CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu and other CHP deputies attended the session in full while MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli was absent in Parliament as he is campaigning across Turkey for the upcoming elections.

After Parliament convened and the deputies cast their votes to meet and discuss the summaries of proceedings, Yakut said carousel voting would be used, causing objections from opposition parties in Parliament. The Justice and the Development Party (AK Party) deputies chose to follow the proceedings from their offices instead of the General Assembly.

The summaries of proceedings target former Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan, former Interior Minister Muammer Güler, former European Union Affairs Minister Egemen Bağış and former Environment and Urban Planning Minister Erdoğan Bayraktar, who resigned one week after the Dec. 17 corruption scandal went public. The four ministers were allegedly involved in corruption and bribery.

Güler and Çağlayan echoed Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in depicting the corruption inquiry as baseless and part of a conspiracy when they left their positions, but Bayraktar turned against the prime minister, calling for his resignation.

AK Party Deputy Chairman Nurettin Canikli said the content of the proceedings had already been shared with the public and denied allegations of illegal deliveries of money as revealed in recent voice recordings.

CHP Deputy Chairman Gürsel Tekin took the original proceedings to the General Assembly with him and showed them to journalists during the session. When asked about disclosing these documents to the media, Tekin replied: “Is theft not a crime? If showing these documents to the media [is a crime], then I have committed a crime. The source of the accusations is not the media or newspaper reports. It is the bill of indictment of the state’s prosecutor. Here are the proceedings. One of three of the Cabinet is involved in corruption, according to these documents. Here are the photos, official documents and accusations about money transfers. There is only need for a conscience.”

Vural also told Yakut that the proceedings had not been completely read in Parliament, adding, “Do not hide anything from the people,” while other opposition deputies also raised objection about the issue.

CHP deputy Akif Hamzaçebi also criticized the fact that the documents were not read fully, sparking a discussion between Hamzaçebi and Yakut.

The four former ministers defended themselves by saying that they were the victims of a defamation campaign, claiming they are insulted by the illegally obtained information contained in the investigation file.

Prior to the opening of the session, Deputy Parliament Speaker Yakut announced that the four former Cabinet ministers had petitioned the Parliament Speaker’s Office and demanded the establishment of an inquiry commission regarding the corruption allegations leveled against them.

The Cumhuriyet daily wrote that Çağlayan had accepted a total of $52 million in bribes on 28 different occasions; Güler received bribes totaling $10 million on 10 occasions; and Bağış received a total of $1.5 million on three occasions.

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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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