Opposition says probe commission to work for acquittal of ex-ministers

Parliament will discuss the establishment of a commission to examine the summary of proceedings about four former Cabinet ministers accused of involvement in corruption this Thursday, while but the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) is pessimistic that the commission will properly examine the graft summaries because, the CHP claims, it will seek to acquit the former ministers of the charges.

The CHP has presented four separate motions about the four former ministers while the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) has presented one motion. In its motions, the main opposition party has cited accusations leveled against the four former ministers, asking Parliament to thoroughly investigate the accusations so that the principle of equality before the law finds a real-life embodiment in the Turkish state. With the separate motions, the CHP seeks to allow Parliament to separately examine claims of corruption and bribery raised about the four former ministers.

The AK Party, on the other hand, wants the claims to be addressed as a whole and in one process.

The AK Party’s majority in Parliament, with roughly 313 seats, makes it easier for the ruling party to establish a commission that will work in line with the expectations of the ruling party.

The summary of proceedings involving former Interior Minister Muammer Guler, former Economy Minister Zafer Caglayan, former Minister of EU Affairs Egemen Bagıs and former Environment and Urban Planning Minister Erdogan Bayraktar reached Parliament in February, but the government prevented Parliament from holding a debate over the contents. The four men resigned from their posts roughly one week after the major graft operation broke out on Dec. 17 of 2013. They have denied any wrongdoing.

CHP parliamentary group deputy chairman Engin Altay told Today’s Zaman that if the AK Party ignores the CHP’s motions for the parliamentary commission and insists on establishing a commission that befits its own expectations, then the commission will fail its mission. “If this happens, the commission will work for the acquittal of the former ministers. The AK Party, in its motion, claims that the right to communication of its ministers was violated [through wiretappings of their phones by public prosecutors]. But we want the former ministers to undergo a parliamentary investigation to see if they committed a crime according to the Turkish Penal Code [TCK]. If the AK Party rejects our demands, then claims of corruption and bribery against the former ministers will go uninvestigated,” Altay stated.

Parliament will decide whether to establish a commission to examine the summary of proceedings about the four former ministers on April 24. Deputies will cast secret ballots. If a commission is established and the commission decides to refer the former deputies to the Supreme State Council (Yuce Divan) — a title the Constitutional Court undertakes when it tries ministers, prime ministers and former military chiefs — then Parliament will vote for or against the trial of the four former ministers at the Supreme State Council. The vote of an absolute majority of the deputies will be enough to refer the four former ministers to the Supreme State Council.

The content of the graft summaries have not been made public. In mid-March, a Twitter account called Haramzadeler (sons of thieves) posted online links to a large number of documents of what it presented as summaries of proceedings on the four Cabinet ministers. The authenticity of the documents has not been verified.

In the documents, Caglayan is accused of accepting bribes 28 times, amounting to $52 million. He stands accused of “establishing a criminal group for the purpose of committing crimes,” “conducting imports with fake documents” and “violating the Anti-Smuggling Law.”

According to the summary of proceedings, Guler stands accused of accepting bribes 10 times, amounting to $10 million. He is also accused of “establishing a criminal group with the purpose of committing crimes,” “abusing his authority” and “protecting the guilty.”

In addition, Bagıs is accused of accepting three bribes, amounting to $1.5 million.

According to the summary of proceedings, an investigation into Bayraktar began following a separate investigation into construction mogul Ali Agaoglu. In 2012, the Ministry of Forestry and Water Affairs launched an investigation into a project known as “Maslak 1453,” which was to be built by Agaoglu, after claims that the ministry had allocated part of Fatih Forest for the project. After realizing that its project would encounter problems, Agaoglu contacted then-Minister Bayraktar through his son, Abdullah Oguz Bayraktar, to resolve the issue.

Altay said that the reputation of Parliament will be damaged if a commission established to examine the graft summaries cannot fulfill its duty effectively.

He also made a call to all deputies, saying they should act according to their conscience when voting for the establishment of the commission. “We have learned that the AK Party is willing to establish a commission that will seek to acquit the four former ministers of corruption and bribery charges. However, the graft summaries accuse the ex-ministers of various charges, which include abuse of power, violation of the secrecy of an ongoing investigation, receiving bribes and favoring culprits,” Altay added.