Dismissing police officers in a graft probe is judicial scandal, analysts say
Removal from duty of five police officers early on Tuesday, after 52 people including bureacrats and the sons of three ministers due to allegations of bribery linked to public tenders, represents a judicial scandal, but would positively affect, in the medium term, Turkey's fight against corruption, analysts have underlined.
“Deposing police officers who serve under instructions from a prosecutor represents a sheer interference with justice and is scandalous,” Mümtazer Türköne, a political scientist at Fatih University, has told Today's Zaman. “This is not something acceptable in a constitutional state,” he added.
It was also claimed that the rigging investigation was taken away from Zekeriya Öz, the chief prosecutor who launched the the graft probe, but the Supreme Council of Judges and Public Prosecutors denied, on Wednesday, that the investigtion was taken from Öz.
İstanbul Police Chief Hüseyin Çapkın removed, possibly upon instructions from the government, from duty, early on Wednesday, five police officers, chiefs of various departments in the İstanbul Security Directorate. The five police officers are claimed, according to the Hürriyet daily, to have been replaced, as they failed to be aware in time of the investigation conducted by the Financial Crime and the Anti-organized Crime departments in the İstanbul Security Directorate. According to the information obtained, the daily said, police officers, under instructions from the prosecutor, in the Financial Crime and the Anti-organized Crime departments launched the investigation without informing the department chiefs in the Directorate.
“In a democratic country, prosecutors and police officers who conduct graft probes can not be removed from duty. This is called intervention in a [judicial] probe and in justice,” İdrs Bal, a former ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) deputy who recently resigned from his party.
Police commissioners in the İstanbul Security Directorate, Yakup Saygılı, chief of the financial crime unit, Tuğrul Turhal, chief of the anti-smuggling branch unit, Nazmi Ardıç, chief of the anti-organized crime unit, Ömer Köse, chief of the anti-terror branch and Ertan Erçıktı, chief of the public security branch, were reported to be among those who were dismissed from their posts. Turkey's National Police Department said in a statement on Wednesday that five İstanbul police commissioners were dismissed for "misconduct" during the graft probe.
In a matter of hours, authorities appointed five new police chiefs. According to new appointments, Hakan Sıralı will be financial crime unit chief, Ömer Burak Aktaş to head organized crime unit, Yusuf Bengü will be public security unit chief, Aydın Yılmaz to be anti-smuggling unit chief and Serdar Ali Seçkin will be anti-terrorism unit chief.
Teams from the financial crimes unit of the İstanbul Police Department carried out dawn raids in İstanbul and Ankara. The sons of Interior Minister Muammer Güler, Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan and Environment and Urban Planning Minister Erdoğan Bayraktar were among those detained. Other detainees included the mayor of İstanbul's Fatih district, Mustafa Demir, Turkish construction mogul Ali Ağaoğlu, Emlak Konut General Director Murat Kurum, Halkbank General Manager Süleyman Aslan, Iranian-Azerbaijani businessman Reza Zarrab and bureaucrats from the Environment and Economy ministries.
None of the ministers whose sons were involved in the investigation resigned, nor was taken from their posts by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Two new prosecutors have been assigned in the rigging probe conducted under the coordination of the prosecutor Öz.
According to Türköne, the seemingly slack attitude of the government, which he believes should be expected to lose power in the next general elections due mainly to its failure against corruption, towards the probe will serve to pave the way for Turkey to take more solid steps in its fight against corruption. Maintaining that people will punish the ruling AK Party at the elections, Türköne commented: “This current picture indicates that this government will not be the one which will take solid steps against corruption.”
According to Ramazan Taş, head of the Economy Department in Turgut Özal University, getting bribes of 20 percent of given figure in public tenders has been a common practice during the rule of the AK Party. Maintaining that the members of the AK Party borrowed this practice of getting bribes from Iran, “Getting a share of 20 percent in each tender has come to be considered as a legitimate right [by members of the AK Party],” Taş has told Today's Zaman.
Turkish prosecutors said on Wednesday they were conducting three separate investigations in a wide-ranging corruption probe. "Two further prosecutors have been appointed to assist these investigations," the İstanbul Prosecutor's Office said in a statement. The two new prosecutors, the statement said, are working in the Public Servants Crimes Investigation Bureau and Special Investigation Bureau -- established to investigate crimes committed by bureaucrats. “Attempting to cloak such a case of corruption is a bigger crime than the the crime itself,” Taş commented.
*Ali Aslan Kılıç contributed to this report