Recording reveals PM’s undersecretary ordered police chief to detain graft prosecutor

March 14, 2014, Friday/ 22:06:00/ TODAY'S ZAMAN

A new recording, uploaded by Twitter user "Başçalan" (Prime Thief) onto YouTube late on Thursday, allegedly reveals that Interior Minister Efkan Ala, then-undersecretary to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, ordered the country's chief of police to unlawfully detain prosecutor Zekeriya Öz in the wake of an anti-corruption operation that took place on Dec. 17, 2013.

In the audio clip, Ala is allegedly heard ordering National Police Department Chief Mehmet Kılıçlar to detain Öz, who was leading one part of the corruption investigation that first broke in December and then swept Turkey's political landscape, as four ministers of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government had to resign due to alleged involvement in tender-rigging and bribery.

Police raided dozens of addresses in the early hours of Dec. 17, detaining 52 people over allegations of corruption linked with public tenders and bribery. Among the detainees were the sons of three ministers, a business tycoon, close associates of Erdoğan and an AK Party mayor.

Shocked by the anti-corruption investigation, the government pushed back by purging thousands of police officers and removing the lead prosecutors in the case.

Öz reportedly paid a visit to the İstanbul Police Department to ensure the safety of documents and evidence after the emergence of news reports suggesting police chiefs newly appointed by the government would intervene in legal proceedings and attempt to alter the testimony given by graft suspects in the initial days of the investigation.

In the audio clip, Ala allegedly ordered the chief of the National Police Department to detain Öz, who was coordinating the graft investigation.

"He has no authority to visit the police department and intervene. Detain him immediately, now," a voice alleged to be Ala's is heard to say over the phone.

Kılıçlar then tells Ala it is better to write up minutes about the prosecutor's visit to the police department than to detain him.

Today's Zaman cannot independently verify the authenticity of the new voice recording.

CHP and MHP slam Ala for alleged unlawful order

Republican People's Party (CHP) Deputy Chairman Gürsel Tekin reacted harshly to the minister's alleged instruction to detain Öz, saying, “Such instructions and incidents occur in gang situations, not democratic regimes.”

Visiting a shop in İstanbul's Bakırköy district in response to Erdoğan's call to boycott Boyner Holding, Tekin bought several items from a shop owned by the company. Prior to Erdoğan's call for a boycott, CEO Cem Boyner had sent a message to the company's employees after the death of 15-year-old Berkin Elvan. In his message, Boyner instructed employees to turn off all music in their stores in memory of Elvan, who was shot with a police tear gas canister on June 16, 2013 and remained in a coma until his death on Thursday, as well as ordering the suspension of all operations except sales and allowing all customers to use the company's Internet connection with no password.

Angered by Boyner's message, Erdoğan called on AK party supporters to boycott Boyner's businesses during election campaign rallies in the province of Aksaray.

When asked whether Ala's alleged instructions to prosecutor Öz were lawful, Tekin replied: “Of course this instruction is not lawful. This kind of order is seen in gang systems. None of these moves are acceptable in democratic systems. Such orders are reminiscent of an authoritarian regime. I think Interior Minister Ala has still not overcome the power of the emergency periods. He was in office as a governor during the states of emergency in the 1990s and worked with no basis in law. He continues his old practices even today by instructing people and officials with phone calls. It is clear to see that they have adopted a stance that abolishes the rule of law. However, the basic principle of democracy is the separation of powers. If the judiciary is cast aside in any country, then an atmosphere of chaos can be created. That is what Turkey is experiencing now.”

Holding a press conference in Parliament, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Parliamentary Group Deputy Chairman Oktay Vural also criticized the interior minister, saying, “New voice recordings reveal how the Republic of Turkey is governed like a 'primitive state' through the breaking of laws and a despotic administrative mentality.”

Asserting that no one in Turkey can feel safe under such a governmental mentality, Vural said, “Erdoğan established the political party, and the bureaucrats act like the protectors and defenders of this party state.” Recalling Erdoğan's contradictory discourse on the Hizmet movement inspired by Turkish-Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, Vural stressed that Erdoğan recently called the movement "traitors and assassins," adding, “But in a previous speech, Erdoğan had abused the MHP by accusing our party of 'attacking the [Hizmet] movement' and 'treating them like traitors.'” This kind of behavior is called hypocrisy. Just be honest for once.”

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