A leaked voice recording purportedly of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan organizing the dissemination of video footage of former main opposition Republic People's Party (CHP) leader Deniz Baykal's adultery has provoked widespread criticism, including from Baykal, who made a statement on Wednesday calling on “Erdoğan and the state to provide an explanation” concerning the leaked audio.
Baykal said he would do what is necessary after Erdoğan's explanation. Speaking to reporters in Afyonkarahisar, where he was visiting as part of the election campaigns, Baykal said, “The picture that was revealed last night is a picture that may not be explained by reason, logic, conscience and the law.”
Baykal called the sound recording a “big satanic scenario” and wanted Erdoğan to immediately offer an explanation for it. “This is a very important starting point to disclose how and where all dirty games stem from in Turkey,” said Baykal.
“It is understood that a legal, democratic and political problem exists,” the former CHP leader said, adding that the new situation is not something that can be covered up, whitewashed or denied with ordinary assertions. “If this event [the leaked audio] is real, these people which plotted it have no right to look in the mirror, to look me in the face. It is impossible for them to keep walking as if nothing has happened,” Baykal said.
Erdoğan rejected the claims in an election campaign speech in Düzce on Wednesday. He said he had ordered his ministers to do everything to remove the video from the Internet. “We are not so shameless to commit such mischief as is prohibited by our beliefs,” said Erdoğan. Erdoğan had made this claim before, but Baykal's lawyers rejected it, saying they had struggled to block access to the video uploaded to the Internet through court orders and that they received little or no help from the government.
The sound recording stirred harsh reactions on social media platforms. Thousands of people on Twitter, access to which was recently restricted by the government, argued that the sex tape intrigue, which compelled Baykal to resign after a massive public scandal in 2010, was plotted by Erdoğan to get rid of his archrival on the political stage.
Erdoğan's voice cannot be heard clearly in the recording, and a note included with the recording states it was intercepted through covert audio surveillance, which explains possibly the noise and scratch interference throughout the sound recording. But in some versions, cleaned up by audio engineers using scratch filters, Erdoğan's words are largely audible. Only the prime minister's voice is heard in the recording.
The leak was uploaded onto YouTube under an account named “DLMHACK,” ostensibly belonging to a leftist group as the logo has a hammer and a sickle in place of the letter D of its name. The YouTube user claimed that they seized the recording from the email account of Erdoğan's adviser Mustafa Varank, hinting that the recording was carried out by the prime minister's own associate in the first place.
In the recording, which seems to be a collage of different speeches, the voice attributed to Erdoğan instructs his men to capture Baykal in flagrante delicto and spread the footage through the media and Internet.
“Unfortunately, there are very indecent and immoral things. There has to be an intervention here. The CHP has gone completely off the rails,” Erdoğan is allegedly heard telling the people in the room.
“We have such things in our hands, a document to be published. If I give it to you, how would you do it? … Are you passing them to websites?” says the voice, and after a pause, possibly a point at which parts of the original recording were edited out, he goes on: “All right, let's do it like this, then. Let me first save it to a hard disk. But the recording is very bad. Can't he [Baykal] say they are fake and this and that?”
CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu also lashed out at the prime minister over the allegations during a press conference in Manisa's Akhisar district, accusing the prime minister of being behind the sex tape scandal. Kılıçdaroğlu said such viciousness had not been witnessed in the world, adding that Erdoğan's alleged involvement in the plot was possibly the reason why the actors behind this conspiracy had not been pinpointed yet. “He is the lead actor. A person who brings indecency to these levels may not sit in the seat of the prime minister. This event is yet another version of the US Watergate scandal,” Kılıçdaroğlu said.
‘This is public, public'
Erdoğan referred to Baykal's tape in his public rallies during the election campaign in 2011. He refuted Baykal's defense that this action was in the private sphere and was being used as a political instrument, saying it was “not private, this is public, public.”
Speaking at his party's parliamentary group meeting last month, Erdoğan criticized the former CHP leader for his silence over the issue of recordings and videos that have been posted “illegally” on the Internet and called on Baykal to speak out against them. His criticism came after a voice recording allegedly between Erdoğan and his son Bilal emerged in which the prime minister warns his son about cash stashed in several houses. Rejecting the recording as "completely fake," the prime minister vowed in a statement to sue those who orchestrated the "dirty plot."
Erdoğan made this call saying that Baykal should speak out as he was once subjected to and was a victim of a similar plot before he resigned from his party in 2010.
Baykal, however, maintained his stance on the issue and said Erdoğan was mistaken in expecting a supportive attitude from him unless the claims by the prime minister about who is responsible for recording the sex tape are proven true. Erdoğan had blamed the Hizmet movement for the sex tape that forced Baykal to resign from the top post in the CHP. However, when the sex tape first went public in 2010, Baykal rejected claims that Hizmet was involved in the incident.
“I am waiting for the prime minister to share his evidence on this issue before I talk about it,” Baykal said, refusing to put the blame on the Hizmet movement and calling on the prime minister to present evidence of his claims, if such evidence exists.
‘Baykal is no good for Turkey'
“He is such a shameless man and this is no good for the country,” Erdoğan allegedly says in the leaked recording. He instructs his men to make sure that the sex tape is hastily made known to the public. “Start immediately, and upload it onto that thing [a likely reference to the Internet]… We have to give the video [in addition to the audio], too. This is important. Let's also give the rest of the video,” he says.
In another conversation, Erdoğan mentions the video-sharing platform metacafe.com as the place to publish the sex tape and talks about a second tape, asking his associates whether it was also posted online.
The recording also features another conversation believed to have been with his advisers, intending to ascertain the authenticity of news about Baykal's decision to resign from his post. “But look, since these men are coming from a civil servant background, it is very hard for them to solve such a complicated event. They're messing up already.” Erdoğan is also heard saying that a similar plot may also be prepared for Kılıçdaroğlu, who took over the CHP's top seat after Baykal.
Sezgin Tanrıkulu, a CHP deputy chairman, said on his Twitter account that the new audio is a “complete scandal." CHP İstanbul mayoral candidate Mustafa Sarıgül also commented on the allegation that Erdoğan orchestrated the trap to remove Baykal from his post. “If the sound recording leaked yesterday is real, this is a complete disgrace. It is a complete scandal in the political sense, too,” he said.
Renowned investigative journalist Mehmet Baransu claimed the plot against Baykal was due to his strong reaction to the negotiations between the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) and the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
A video appeared on several news websites showing Baykal partially clothed in a room with CHP Ankara deputy Nesrin Baytok in 2010, while Baykal was still the leader of the party. The longtime CHP leader heeded insistent calls from both members and supporters of his party and announced in May 11 of the same year that he had decided to step down from his position. During a televised press conference at the CHP headquarters, Baykal said the release of the video was part of a conspiracy against him.