Experts have strongly criticized a report by the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK) stating that a voice recording between Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his son Bilal suggesting that the two were attempting to hide unknown amounts of cash in their family home was a "montage,” saying the report was far from scientific and is instead politically motivated.
Hasan Palaz, a former vice president of TÜBİTAK, told Today's Zaman that the three people who prepared the report are not specialists in determining the authenticity of recordings, adding: "Most probably, the report was prepared outside of TÜBİTAK and was just signed by the institution. This can be determined by both the content of the report and its wording."
Palaz, who was forced to leave his post following the Dec. 17 corruption scandal, said he had refused to falsify a report on the issue of a bugging device that was allegedly found in Erdoğan's home, adding: "So far, more than 90 TÜBİTAK employees have been removed from their posts. Almost 30 high-ranking managers were dismissed, and others still face serious pressure. All those officials who could write a report on the recordings were fired. A real witch-hunt is being conducted in the institution."
Palaz said he refused to be a scientist who obeys the political authority, specifically referring to an order to draft a report saying the recordings were not genuine.
Palaz said although the technology to combine syllables to produce a voice recording is available, it is easy to determine whether it is genuine, adding, “If you examine the histogram of the tape and voice wavering, you can easily determine if it is authentic.”
“The best way to produce a voice recording technically is to combine syllables but it can also be easily discerned. Otherwise, Hollywood would use such technology. The content of the report is fake to cover up the truth. The main concern is the emotional wavering in voices. When you create a recording, emotions sound so mechanical that anyone who listens to it will be able to discern [if it is authentic],” Palaz added.
Sound engineer Erdem Helvacıoğlu told Today's Zaman a voice recording that contains such strong content in terms of meaning and emotion cannot be simply produced, adding: “The continuity of the voice also nullifies claims that these recordings were a montage. Even creating a meaningful sentence by combining syllables could take days, and the result would be unsatisfactory. In my opinion, the report will be used for propaganda purposes ahead of the presidential election [on Aug. 10].”
In February a Twitter user posted voice recordings purportedly of the prime minister and his son discussing how to hide huge sums of cash on Dec. 17, the day police raided a number of locations as part of a corruption investigation that implicated the sons of three former ministers as well as business executives and the chief of a state-run bank. In the recording, Erdoğan asked Bilal to “zero” the money in his house.
After the recording was leaked, Prime Minister Erdoğan denied the authenticity of the tape, claiming that it was doctored, using in one instance the word “fabricated” and in another the term "dubbed,” which are technically two different processes.
The TÜBİTAK report thus seems to confirm Erdoğan's claims, drawing the ire of experts who say fabricating such a voice recording using current technological capabilities is not possible.
The report also said an alleged conversation between former EU Affairs Minister Egemen Bağış and journalist Metehan Demir revealed in March in which Bağış allegedly mocks the Quran was also fabricated and a “montage.”
In the recording, Bağış is heard making jokes about the Quran and saying that he “chucks” verses from the Quran on Twitter every Friday, presumably in an effort to present himself as a religious person.
The controversial TÜBİTAK report claims both voice recordings were prepared by combining syllables used by Erdoğan and Bilal, as well as Bağış and Demir.
After these recordings were disseminated on social media, both Erdoğan and Bağış filed a criminal complaint with the Ankara Public Prosecutor's Office. Prosecutor Durak Çetin, who has been investigating the case, had asked TÜBİTAK to prepare an expert's report to determine the authenticity of the audio recordings.
Another point in the investigation process that has been criticized is the fact that the Ankara Public Prosecutor's Office launched a new investigation into the case even though the İstanbul Prosecutor's Office is already conducting a graft investigation into the Dec. 17 corruption scandal.
According to media reports, several employees of the Telecommunications Directorate (TİB), which was raided last week by police teams from the Ankara anti-terrorism unit over claims that the TİB had engaged in spying for foreign countries, had sent letters to media outlets saying that evidence had been made up against the Hizmet movement, which is inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen. There are also claims that Erdoğan's advisors have often visited the Ankara Public Prosecutor's Office over the various investigations.
Erdoğan continues to accuse the faith-based Hizmet movement of being behind the corruption investigation into the government. Even though all the wiretappings were conducted with court orders, the prime minister claims they violated his privacy.
In its report TÜBİTAK said both recordings were examined via the MovieMaker and DC LIVE/Forensics computer programs and concluded that they were created through the syllable combining tool.
Erdoğan had earlier confirmed the conversation with his son but claimed that its content was doctored, contrary to the TÜBİTAK report, which completely rejects the authenticity of the recording by calling it fabricated and a “montage.”
Similarly, when the recording was leaked between Bağış and Demir in which both mocked the Quran, Demir had owned up to the authenticity of the recording and apologized to the public. The TÜBİTAK report, however, states that the recording is not authentic and was fabricated, contradicting Demir's admission.
The report came after a purge of employees at TÜBİTAK. Over the past two months, 110 employees have been dismissed from TÜBİTAK's Marmara Research Center (MAM) on the grounds of alleged links to the so-called “parallel state,” making easier for the political authority to intervene in the institution.
Joshua Marpet, a US-based expert on digital forensics and information security, stated to Today's Zaman that he had found no evidence that the tape was fabricated, adding, “According to my analysis, the tape is 100 percent authentic.”
Marpet analyzed the recording from the two aspects. He first examined the sound waves and later conducted a spectrogram analysis. Since there is currently no computer program that can insert a syllable in the middle of a word, he believes the recording is genuine.
The government has appointed dozens of new people to TÜBİTAK. Ankara Zoo Director Hasan Sancar has been appointed to the post of deputy president at TÜBİTAK's Turkish Academic Network and Information Center (ULAKBİM), sparking debate over whether such an unqualified person is appropriate for the position.
Experts say TÜBİTAK’s report on recordings not scientific
TÜBİTAK headquarters. (Photo: Today's Zaman, Ali Ünal)
June 08, 2014, Sunday/ 17:35:25/ SUAT ÖZÇELİK / MÜRSEL GENÇ