Five Erzurum police officers accused of illegal wiretapping released

ERZURUM: Five police officers from the Erzurum Police Department who were detained on Monday as part of an investigation into illegal wiretapping claims were released early on Wednesday by a local court.

Former head of the Erzurum Police Department’s Intelligence bureau, Hursit Ucak, and police chiefs from the same bureau, Arslan Kartal, Serkan Dogan, Yuzel Bilgic and Soysal Akturk were detained as they were on duty on Monday. They were referred to the Erzurum 1st Criminal Court of Peace for arrest after they testified to Public Prosecutor Volkan Kavukcu.

The lawyers of the police officers demanded a change of judge as the judge of the court, Vildan Yesilyurt Celebi, recently came to the agenda with her public statements against the so-called “parallel structure,” a term coined by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to legitimize a witch hunt against members of the Hizmet Movement. Kavukcu decided to transfer the case to judge Levent Varol from the Erzurum 3rd High Criminal Court.

The police officers were released by the new judge.

Commenting on the court ruling police chief Dogan said they were referred to court for arrest without evidence. “We did not commit a crime. We trust justice. This is an investigation launched since we did what laws told us to do,” he said after his release.

The operations against the police, which prosecutors say were launched after allegations of spying and illegal wiretapping were issued, are widely believed to be an act of government revenge for a corruption investigation that went public on Dec. 17 of last year. The corruption investigation resulted in the detentions of dozens of people, including businessmen close to the government, senior bureaucrats and the sons of three ministers in office at the time.

The operations are widely seen as targeting the Hizmet movement, which Erdogan and some government officials refer to as a “parallel structure.” Erdogan has accused the movement of being behind a plot to oust him from power. The movement denies the accusation.