By Manolis Kostidis – Ankara
The corruption scandal rocking Turkey that involves four ministers has turned into a dispute between the US and Turkey with the Turkish Prime Minister threatening to expel the U.S. Ambassador to Ankara!
It all started when newspapers backing the government Υenişafak and Akşam published a speech by Francis Riccardione, the US Ambassador in Ankara, in which he told EU ambassadors in Turkey in a private meeting held Dec. 17th, that the US had asked Ankara to discontinue the economic transactions of Halkbank in Iran. “We asked for an end to Halkbank’s relation with Iran but they never listened to us. Now you are witnessing the downfall of an empire” the American ambassador is quoted as saying.
Before confirming these statements were made, the Turkish PM said in a speech “the last few days, oddly enough, ambassadors have been involved in provocative actions. I call them from here today to stop and just get on with their job. If you go beyond your duties you will enter out area of competence. Then, we will no longer have an obligation to keep you in the country”. This statement by the Turkish prime minister was seen as a threat to expel the US ambassador.
In an announcement, the US Embassy categorically denied the statements published by the two Turkish newspapers and said F. Riccardone held no meeting with other ambassadors.
Witch hunt in the police
The Turkish Foreign Ministry was satisfied by the explanations given, however, until now nobody has convinced Erdogan who still speaks of a conspiracy against him and continues not to refer to whether or not his ministers played a role in the kickbacks of millions of dollars. Moreover, the witch hunt in the police force continues as Erdogan sacks police chiefs he considers to have plotted against him.
Twenty five police officers were axed by Turkish authorities while the probe into the corruption scandal continues with 24 persons so far accused, among them two sons of ministers and the General Manager of state – run Halkbank.
Seventy police officers, including the chiefs of five police stations in Istanbul were sacked in the past few days. Others were moved to other departments since last week when suspects were detained in connection with the corruption scandal. The decision to sack the police chiefs was taken immediately as the Erdogan government considers it unacceptable that ministers were not informed of the police operation. The government has for days now been sacking officers thought to be close to Fethullah Gulen.
Meanwhile, a surprising change in the code of the judiciary police was published in the government Gazette. Police officers that participate in secret prosecution enquiries will have to inform their superiors in the police. Until now, they were only supposed to take orders by the prosecutor conducting the investigation.
Furthermore, journalists were banned from police stations! They no longer can enter the Police Headquarters in Istanbul, according to a relevant announcement.
The decision was taken as part of measures the Turkish government is taking following the corruption scandal as the Erdogan administration has characterized the revelations a scandal against the government itself.
In any case, after being questioned, the sons of Interior minister Muamer Guler and Economy minister Zafer Caglayan were detained before their trial. The prosecutor has seen considerable evidence that they were both bribed by Azeri- Iranian businessman Riza Zarab. The son of environment minister Erdogan Bairaktar was released on restraining conditions.
Everyone involved speak of conspiracy and gathering donations!
Economy minister Caglayan maintained “the government is facing a trap set up by someone”. He didn’t however refer to the millions of dollars his son appears to have received as a bribe.
EU Affairs minister Egemen Bagis claimed the accusations he received EUR 1.5 million from Zarab “is unfounded and everything is a result of a conspiracy”!
General Manager of Halkbank, Suleyman Aslan, at the home of whom USD 4.5 million were found hidden in shoe boxes said the money were donations by businessmen towards the building of a priest school. “Mr. Zaran gave me money to build a school but the project hadn’t started and I kept the money in my home! A further USD 1.9 million was given to me by an MP as a donation for a University in Skopje. I kept that at home too” he said during the interrogation!
The Turkish prime minister has not proceeded with a cabinet reshuffle as there are fears there are more revelations about other ministers to follow. If they surface after a reshuffle it could cause Erdogan a serious problem.
Gulen’s curse on Erdogan
The former ally of the Turkish PM now prays for the government to be harmed
Fethullah Gulen has thrown a curse on the government as his feud with Erdogan has no end.
Gulen, who is self-exiled in the US, and his Islamic guild is now targeted by the government as it is accused of having organized the entire corruption scandal through the power it has in the judiciary and police.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in a speech on Saturday was very aggressive as he warned “those of you that wish to act in a shadowy way and have infiltrated the state mechanism should know we will enter your dens, we will shake you down and we will uncover the gangs that hide in within the state. Just as we tackled gangs until today we will battle against organizations carrying out the work of international centers they have contracts with”!
Gulen’s answer was tough as he prayed for the government to suffer, stressing “if there is still even a crumb of the public sector some have usurped and to which others have turned a blind eye, this means they share a common path with the thieves (…) God shouls demolish, burn down and throw fire on the homes of those that ignore the thief and turn against those that revealed the thief”.
Popular Turkish comedy website Zaytung wrote “the fire department is on red alert following Gulen’s curses”.