Turkish opposition denied access to corruption files on ministers

Members of a parliamentary commission investigating the alleged corruption of four ministers are purportedly being denied access to the summaries of proceedings regarding the accused ministers.

Three ministers resigned and one was removed from his post following a major corruption investigation that went public on Dec. 17, 2013, when the prosecutors carrying out the probe ordered the detention of several businessmen and the sons of three of the ministers implicated. Although the ministers are no longer in their posts, the investigation has been stonewalled by the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government, which accuses a “parallel structure” plotting against it of being behind the corruption investigation.

Although the investigation has been stalled effectively, an investigation commission in Parliament has been set up in Parliament to look into the allegations about the four ministers. However, the prosecutor’s office has refused to send the summaries of proceedings against the ministers, according to a report published in the Taraf daily on Friday.

Taraf claimed that the commission initially had a copy of the summaries of proceedings against the four men, but the AK Party’s Hakkı Köylü, who chairs the commission, at some point sent the summaries back to the prosecutor’s office on the grounds that they lacked an index. Erdal Aksünger, a Republican People’s Party (CHP) member of the commission, later requested the summaries from the prosecutor’s office, but, according to Taraf’s report, the prosecutor’s office has said only the Parliament Speaker’s Office is entitled to share the requested files with the commission, turning down the deputy’s request.

The four implicated ministers are former Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan, former Interior Minister Muammer Güler, former EU Affairs Minister Egemen Bağış and former Environmental and Urban Planning Minister Erdoğan Bayraktar.

Parliament adopted a decision to set up a commission two-and-a-half months ago, but the process has been moving on slowly. Recently, the CHP, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the People’s Democracy Party (HDP) called for an emergency meeting, in response to the tardiness in the delivery of the summaries of proceedings. However, the AK Party members of the commission, who take up nine seats, did not attend the meeting, making it impossible for the members of the opposition parties to meet the quorum needed to convene a commission meeting. It was after this failure to convene the commission that Aksünger requested a copy of the summaries from the prosecutor.

Aksünger told Taraf that if as the prosecutor says the summaries can be delivered to the commission through the Parliament Speaker’s Office, that means the commission’s chairman did not have the right to send the summaries back to the prosecutor’s office of his own accord. “This serves as evidence that the chairman has committed a crime and overstepped his authority,” said the CHP deputy.

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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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