US on police arrests: Investigation should be fair

WASHINGTON (CIHAN)- In its first public comment on the recent arrest of dozens of police officials in Turkey, the US repeated its calls for fairness and transparency in any judicial investigation, and said it will continue to discuss the matter with the Turkish authorities.

More than 100 police officials, including former senior police chiefs, have been detained in an operation that began with early morning raids on Tuesday.

The operation, which prosecutors say was launched in response to allegations of spying and illegal wiretapping, is widely believed to be an act of revenge by the government against a corruption probe that became public on Dec. 17 with the detention of dozens of people including businessmen close to the government, senior bureaucrats and the sons of three now-former ministers.

“We are closely following these developments, and I understand they’re related to the ongoing corruption investigations in Turkey, including the recent arrest of some 100 police officials,” State Department deputy spokesperson Marie Harf said at a daily press briefing on Wednesday.

“We have repeatedly said that any investigation should be conducted in a fair, transparent and democratic manner. We have, in the past, made clear concerns about Turkey’s due process and effective access to justice, and we’ll continue talking to the Turks about it,” said Harf.

The Dec. 17 corruption probe was blocked to a large extent after the government pushed through legislative changes that allowed it to reassign or remove scores of police officials as well as judges and prosecutors — including those who were in charge of the graft investigation. All the suspects detained as part of the corruption probe are now free.

The corruption probe has strained Turkey-US ties after pro-government media accused the US ambassador of being behind the investigation and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip ErdoIan threatened to expel the envoy.

Dismissing any involvement in the probe, the US has warned such accusations could undermine ties.

The US has also repeatedly called on the Turkish authorities to conduct the corruption investigation in a fair and transparent manner.

‘Totally false’

Harf also rejected a report in the Turkish media stating that US Secretary of State John Kerry, in talks with his Turkish counterpart, Ahmet DavutoIlu, expressed uneasiness over comments on Turkey made by State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki. The report is “totally false,” said Harf.

The Turkish government and the United States have been publicly exchanging increasingly critical remarks about each others’ policies on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with US officials warning that recent “offensive” remarks by Prime Minister ErdoIan targeting Israel damage Turkey’s international standing.

During a press briefing on Friday, Psaki said the US believes ErdoIan’s statements are “offensive” and that his “provocative rhetoric is unhelpful and distracts from urgent efforts to bring about a cease-fire” between Hamas — which governs Gaza — and Israel, following ErdoIan’s statements that Israel is “committing genocide.”

ErdoIan then responded to the US statement by saying the US has been making more offensive statements with its insistence that Israel is exercising its right to self-defense.

Deputy spokesperson Harf said on Monday that she agrees with Psaki about “how offensive and awful these comments were, and that they quite frankly hurt Turkey’s international standing.”

“Secretary Kerry stands behind everything Jen Psaki and hopefully I say from this podium,” Harf said at the briefing on Wednesday. “I am the one who speaks for Secretary Kerry and conveys his thoughts, and I can assure you that is not something he said,” she said in reference to the Turkish media report.