PM hits back at WikiLeaks claims in meeting with rectors
Following clashes between police and protestors on Saturday, 13 students were taken into custody.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan denied once again the accuracy of recent claims that he owns eight secret Swiss bank accounts, which were made against him by US diplomats in confidential documents released by whistleblower web site WikiLeaks, and targeted the main opposition party leader due to his insistence on proving the claims wrong.
“A politician who wants a stronger foreign policy view would not embrace the claims with screams of joy. He would not tell his prime minister to retrieve documents from Switzerland. Something that does not exist does not have documents,” Erdoğan said on Saturday during a meeting he held with Turkey’s university rectors in his office at the Dolmabahçe Palace.
The meeting was attended by the heads of 74 universities. The website WikiLeaks last week began posting hundreds of thousands of confidential diplomatic messages, including some that show a complex, difficult relationship between the United States and Turkey. In one of the messages, it is claimed that the Turkish prime minister has eight secret Swiss bank accounts. The prime minister immediately denied the claims and said he would file lawsuits against those responsible for the claims. Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), urged Erdoğan to provide documents from Swiss banks to prove that he does not have any such accounts.
On Saturday, Erdoğan accused his rival of adopting a “political approach that lacks vision” and is merely based on claims.
“Embracing claims once they emerge without analysis is nothing more than a political approach that lacks vision and scope. A politician who knows the seriousness of the state would not seek interest from slander. He would not ask his prime minister to receive documents from Switzerland. Something that does not exist does not have documents. In law, a person who brings forward claims should be able to prove them,” he stated. The prime minister also said the American diplomats’ cables were not serious and were created from gossip, magazines, allegations and slander. He suggested that the release of the trove of cables may be “propaganda” aimed at damaging relations between the United States and its allies.
“Are there disclosures of state secrets or is there another aim? Is the publication of these cables a full disclosure of all secrets, as the site claims? Or is it an operation in which certain documents, within a clear timetable, are filtered through a censor? Is it carrying out veiled, dark propaganda? Are there efforts to manipulate relations between certain countries?,” he said.
The prime minister also touched on Turkey’s efforts in the fight against separatist terror and said Turkey would be in a different position now if universities had exerted the same effort to contribute to the anti-terror fight as they did on ideologies and prohibitions.
“Ignoring or denying it does not abolish a problem. On the contrary, it makes the problem chronic. We have lived with this problem [terror] for decades. I am putting it clearly: Had universities exerted efforts in the anti-terror fight as they did on politics, ideologies and prohibitions, Turkey would be in a different position now.”
Dozens detained after clash with police
Saturday’s meeting between the prime minister and rectors witnessed violent clashes between university students and police officers in İstanbul.
A group of students from neighboring cities who wanted to protest the meeting wanted to enter İstanbul early in the day, but police did not allow them to. When the students insisted on entering, the police tried to disperse them using tear gas and truncheons. Fifty-nine students were detained.
Another group of around 50 students gathered in the Beşiktaş district of İstanbul in the early morning hours on Saturday to protest the meeting between Erdoğan and the rectors. The students carried banners that read: “We will abolish the Higher Education Board [YÖK],” and “The right to say and decide on our future belongs to us.”
Police did not allow the group to march toward Dolmabahçe Palace where the meeting took place. Students, however, insisted, saying that they wanted to present a folder to the prime minister. Police objected and ordered the group to disperse. When students resisted, clashes occurred between the group and the police. Police used tear gas. As a result of the clashes, 13 students were taken into custody.
Students who escaped from police gathered on the Kabataş wharf and delivered a statement. They chanted slogans against YÖK and the government. Police also dispersed this group.