‘I considered dropping out of university,’ columnist TaIpInar says

The Justice and Development Party (AK Party) governmentand’s decision in November 2013 to close university preparation schools, known in Turkish as dershanes, was a deliberate and pre-emptive perception management operation designed to reduce the impact of the revelation of major graft investigations the following month implicated members of AK Party, a former police chief has said.
During an exclusive interview with Todayand’s Zaman, former Istanbul Police Department Financial Crimes Unit Deputy Chief Yasin Topandcu, who took part in the police operations investigating the graft probes, said the closure of dershanes was not the reason for the investigations but the prep schools were victimized by the government, which wanted them to cover up the graft allegations.
Then-Prime Minister and current President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused those members of the police forces and judiciary who are sympathizers of the faith-based Gandulen movement, popularly known as the Hizmet movement, inspired by the views of prominent Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gandulen, of being behind the graft probes in a bid to overthrow his government after the AK Partyand’s decision to close prep schools. Erdogan and the AK Party leadership claim that dershanes, established by people inspired by Gandulen, were an important source of finance for the movementand’s activities across Turkey and the world.
Topandcu draws attention to some of the police investigations and their launch dates to show that the closure of dershanes was a project by the AK Party government, which feared that the graft investigations could develop into a large-scale corruption investigation on the eve of the March 2014 local elections.
h2 Erdogan family and ministers were not targeted by surveillance during graft probesh2 The main graft probe, launched on Dec. 17, 2013, was started by the Financial Crimes Unit of the Istanbul Police Department on Sept. 13, 2012 after a complaint was received accusing an Iranian businessman, Reza Zarrab, of being the ringleader of a money-laundering and gold-smuggling scheme in Turkey that was established to circumnavigate sanctions against Iran by bribing people close to the AK Party.
and”At the beginning of the investigation no name of any [involved] AK Party minister was known. Their relations with Zarrab were revealed during the process of surveillance. Therefore this investigation never started targeting members of the government,and” Topandcu said.
A total of 53 people, including former Interior Minister Muammer Gandulerand’s son Barii, former Economy Minister Zafer andcailayanand’s son Kaian, former Environment and Urban Planning Minister Erdogan Bayraktarand’s son Oiuz as well as Mustafa Demir, the former mayor of Istanbuland’s Fatih district, businessman Ali Aiaoilu, Zarrab and former Halkbank General Director Sanduleyman Aslan.
The investigation has since revealed that Zarrab had bribed former Ministers Ganduler, andcailayan and Egemen Baiii in addition to several high-level bureaucrats on a number of occasions in order to prevent government institutions from undermining his illegal business practices — which included illegal transfers of gold to Iran.
However, the Dec. 17 case was closed after prosecutor Ekrem Aydiner, who was assigned to the case after a government-backed reshuffle of the judiciary, dropped the charges against the suspects in the case in October 2014 and a parliamentary vote, in January 2015, agreed against the trial of the four former ministers implicated in the investigation.
h2 Government-stalled Dec. 25 investigation began in March 2012h2 Speaking about the Dec. 25, 2013 investigation, which was stalled by the government, Topandcu said a public prosecutor in Istanbul sidelined the case by employing the gendarmerie as a law enforcement agency and transferred it to the Financial Crimes Unit in March 2012.
Then, in 2012, the Istanbul Police Department launched the investigation into an earth transportation company, whose trucks were recklessly violating traffic rules and threatening road safety. However, as the investigation proceeded, the police found that the earth transportation company was not only involved in bribery but also threatening individuals and arranging for others to gain from political influence.
The owner of the earthmoving company, against which police officers were afraid to impose fines, turned out to be a close relative of a top government official. Technical and physical surveillance of suspects during the probe also revealed that the company was involved in suspicious affairs with well-known bureaucrats, businessmen and politicians.
On Dec. 25, 2013, the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutorand’s Office ordered the detention of 30 suspects, including a number of people and businessmen affiliated with the AK Party. However, the Istanbul Police Department, which saw an extensive purge of its top officers following the first Dec. 17 wave of the graft probe, did not comply with the order.
Shortly after the order, the prosecutors involved in the Dec. 25 investigation were removed from office on the grounds that they had abused their authority. The government assigned new prosecutors to the investigation in an apparent move to drop the charges against the corruption suspects.
Among the main suspects of the Dec. 25 investigation were President Erdoganand’s son Bilal businessmen Mehmet Cengiz, Mustafa Latif Topbai and Yasin al-Qadi, a supposed financier of the al-Qaeda terrorist network.
and”Neither the telephones of the then-Prime Minister Erdogan nor his family members and AK Party ministers were wiretapped as part of this investigation. However, during the course of the investigation it turned into a large-scale graft probe in which some of the people close to the government were also involved according to the technical surveillance on other suspects,and” Topandcu said.
Hundreds of police officers, including police chiefs who carried out the operations as part of the graft probes, were targeted by government purges to repopulate police forces. While thousands of officers were either transferred to other police units or forced to retire, hundreds more were detained, some arrested as part of the government-orchestrated investigations launched against police officers who revealed the governmentand’s involvement in corruption.
h2andlsquoraft probes were a coup attempt,and’ allegations by AK Party are baselessh2 According to Topandcu, who was also detained and released pending trial as part of an investigation after the December 2013 graft probes, allegations made by the AK Party government and Erdogan who labeled the graft probes as a coup attempt to overthrow the government are baseless, because all the evidence in the graft investigations was acquired through legal means and orders.
Reiterating that the investigations didnand’t aim to overthrow the government but simply to reveal the evidence of corruption among the trial suspects, Topandcu claimed that redesigning the entire police forces and the judiciary through unlawful government orders to cover up the graft can itself be labeled a government coup on police forces and the judiciary.
In a recently submitted indictment to the Istanbul Public Prosecutorand’s Office on Oct. 1, Topandcu, along with Gandulen and a number of police officers and police chiefs who oversaw the graft probe in 2013, is accused of andquotestablishing an armed terrorist organization,andquot andquotattempting to overthrow the government by force and violenceandquot and and”publicizing confidential state documents,and” for allegedly conspiring against the government officials who were suspects in the graft probe.
h2 Incidents predating dershane decision intensified fears in AK Party of upcoming graft probesh2 According to Topandcu, a number of incidents that took place around the time of the AK Partyand’s decision to close the dershanes intensified the suspicions of Erdogan and other party leaders that a large-scale graft investigation was coming.
Topandcu also underlined that Erdogan and the AK Party had been wary of the Istanbul Police Department ever since an Istanbul prosecutor summoned National Intelligence Organization (MiT) Undersecretary Hakan Fidan and a number of other MiT officials to his office on Feb. 7, 2012 to discuss the activities of its members in the outlawed Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK).
Journalists who write for pro-government dailies have claimed that the Feb. 7 incident was planned by prosecutors and police officers who are sympathizers of the Gandulen movement in order to arrest Erdogan and Fidan on charges of treason. However, it was later revealed that Fidan was summoned by Prosecutor Sadrettin Sarikaya when he did not respond to Sarikayaand’s request for a statement in the KCK investigation. No arrest warrant was issued against Fidan and then-Prime Minister Erdogan was never part of the investigation due to his parliamentary immunity.

h2Financial Crimes Unit rejected EPDKand’s request that it deploy police officers during tax inspections of Koandc Holdingh2
One of the incidents that increased the AK Partyand’s suspicions of the Istanbul Police Department was its series of decisions between July and November 2013 to reject demands by inspectors from the Energy Market Regulatory Agency (EPDK) that the departmentand’s Financial Crimes Unit deploy large number of police officers during tax inspections on companies owned by Koandc Holding, Turkeyand’s largest conglomerate, following the infamous Gezi Park protests of May-June, 2013.
The controversial investigations came after Erdogan issued stern warnings to a number of business groups including Koandc Holding, saying that the AK Party — which had ruled Turkey single-handedly for over 10 years at that time — had been shocked that Koandcand’s hotels and institutions opened their doors to protesters running from the police during protests in Istanbuland’s Taksim Square.
Topandcu said that these rejections by the Financial Crimes Unit prevented the government from using large number of police officers while raiding Koandc Holding and thereby giving a message to critical groups. and”It was a sign for [the AK Party] that the Financial Crimes Unit was not complying with its orders and could turn against it,and” Topandcu said.
h2 Yildirimand’s chief aiser Sertbai wiretapped as part of bid-rigging investigationh2 Another incident took place at the end of October of 2013 when andOmer Sertbai, a chief aiser to former Transportation, Maritime Affairs and Communications Minister Binali Yildirim, learned from the Telecommunications Directorate (TiB) that his telephone was under surveillance as part of an investigation by Istanbul Police Departmentand’s Financial Crimes Unit.
Sertbai had been placed under surveillance as part of an investigation into bid-rigging by the Istanbul Public Prosecutorand’s Office and prosecutors alleged that Yildirim had collected money from a number of businessmen through his and businessman Mehmet Cengiz to help them win public tenders. They also allegedly prepared lists of businessmen that clearly stated who would win each tender before the tenders had been held.
According to Topandcu, this was another incident that made the AK Party and Erdogan think that the Financial Crimes Unit was about to launch a large-scale graft investigation implicating government figures.
h2 Intelligence Unit demanded documents from Financial Crimes Unit about CHPand’s Sarigandulh2 Topandcu also said that Istanbul Police Departmentand’s Financial Crimes Unit rejected another demand by the government in early November 2013, when the Intelligence Unit of the Istanbul Police Department asked for documents concerning Mustafa Sarigandul, the main opposition Republican Peopleand’s Partyand’s (CHP) mayoral candidate for the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, to use against him during the election campaign ahead of the local elections on March 2014.
When a police chief from the Intelligence Unit openly asked for documents proving Sariganduland’s involvement in corruption and other crimes, then-Financial Crimes Unit Police Chief Yakup Saygili said that his unit did not have such documents and even if it did, it would only be able to give them to the prosecutors overseeing the investigation, Topandcu said.
h2 Ali Erdogan pressures andcapkin to transfer Saygili from Financial Crimes Unith2 During the interview, Topandcu also said that Istanbul Police Chief Handuseyin andcapkin was pressured to transfer some heads of units in Istanbul Police, including Saygili, after Ali Erdogan — Erdoganand’s nephew and bodyguard at the time — realized that he was under surveillance in June-July 2013 as part of the investigation into the earthmoving company.
However, Topandcu noted, after talking with Saygili and other police chiefs and convinced that they had not placed Ali Erdogan under surveillance, andcapkin did not comply with his request to transfer the police chiefs.
h2 Bilal Erdogan calls andcapkin regarding a bid-rigging investigationh2 Speaking about an investigation into large-scale bid-rigging in Istanbul, about which he did not give information so as not to violate the confidentiality of an investigation still in progress, Topandcu told Todayand’s Zaman that andcapkin has asked the Financial Crimes Unit to give him information about the case after being asked to do so by Bilal Erdogan.
Saygili told andcapkin that the investigation was being coordinated by inspectors on the orders of a prosecutor and that was why the Financial Crimes Unit was not involved in the case, Topandcu said.
However, Topandcu believes that Saygiliand’s reply — which dates back to October 2013, prior to the dershane decision — did not convince the AK Party leadership, further stoking suspicions of a large corruption investigation targeting bureaucrats that could extend to members of the government.
h2 Dershane conflict was created by Erdogan in order to brand graft probes andlsquorevenge operationsand’h2 After giving the chronological order of the abovementioned incidents before the decision by the AK Party to close down dershanes, Topandcu claimed that the dershane conflict was created by Erdogan and the AK Party leadership just before the revelations of the Dec. 17 and 25, 2013 graft probes in order to brand the probes and”revenge operationsand” by the Gandulen movement.
and”Once they [the AK Party leadership and Erdogan] realized that the investigations into bid-rigging, bribery, money pools to buy pro-government media outlets and corruption would turn into investigations against them, they wanted to create an enemy before the local elections to portray themselves as the victims,and” Topandcu said.
Topandcu voiced his suspicions of the AK Partyand’s decision to close the dershanes, saying: and”Why didnand’t they announce it after the March 2014 local elections? It was launched all of a sudden at the beginning of the academic semester and before the local elections, despite possible criticism and a loss of support from sympathizers of Gandulen movement.and”
span style=”color:#B22222PROFILE
Yasin Topandcu, former Istanbul Police Department Financial Crimes Unit deputy chief, was appointed to the Istanbul Police Department in 2010 after serving in Diyarbakir and Ankara. Topandcu took part in the police operations on Dec. 17, 2013, as part of the infamous graft probes. He was shortly detained and released pending trial in a government-backed investigation

SOURCE: TODAY’S ZAMAN

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