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Erdoğan prevented ex-ministers’ trial for graft, former PM says

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Former Turkish prime minister and current leader of the opposition Future Party (GP) Ahmet Davutoğlu has said an order by then-prime minister and current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan prevented the trial of four former ministers who were implicated in bribery and corruption in late 2013, local media reported on Thursday.

Davutoğlu on Thursday explained in televised remarks that he and Erdoğan were initially on the same page about sending the four ministers’ case files to the Supreme State Council so that they could be tried and acquitted of the accusations against them.

Davutoğlu added he had a meeting with the ministers on Dec. 21, 2014 and persuaded them to accept his and Erdoğan’s joint decision that they should demand a trial for the bribery and corruption accusations so that they could be acquitted of them.

“The next day, [Dec. 22, 2014], I was waiting for the ministers to announce their decision to be sent to the Supreme State Council [to be tried for graft], and when they didn’t, I had a phone call with our group deputy chairman [Mustafa] Elitaş and was informed that Erdoğan gave them a different order,” Davutoğlu said.

He also stated that when he asked Erdoğan the reason behind his change of heart, the president replied that the investigation into the four ministers was in fact an operation against the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.

“I also got a question [from Erdoğan], one that I heard again later on: ‘Is it a crime to accept a gift from someone?’ Yes, it is indeed a crime for a government official to accept a gift from someone. We had a cordial but firm discussion. … We left without reaching a mutual understanding,” Davutoğlu said.

Ertuğrul Günay, a former culture and tourism minister for the AKP government, also recently alleged that Erdoğan stepped in to prevent a parliamentary committee that was established in May 2014 from investigating the former ministers and was inclined to send their cases to the Supreme State Council.

The committee decided by majority vote back in 2015 against sending cases of the ex-ministers to Turkey’s Constitutional Court, which also functions as the Supreme State Council to hear cases brought against the country’s highest officials for crimes related to their official duties.

Discussions regarding the December 17-25 bribery and corruption investigations were rekindled after Erdoğan Bayraktar, one of the four ministers implicated in the probes and the former Turkish minister of environment and urban planning recently confirmed the validity of charges against him in connection with the graft scandal that had shaken the Turkish government to the core in 2013. He said that the evidence against him in his case file was genuine and not doctored as alleged by the AKP.

The graft scandal that erupted with the arrest of the sons of three then-ministers from the ruling AKP, Iranian-Turkish businessman Reza Zarrab, the director of a state-owned bank, a district mayor and many more on December 17, 2013, also implicated the children of Erdoğan.

Despite the scandal resulting in the resignation of the cabinet members, the investigation was dropped after prosecutors and police chiefs were removed from the case. Erdoğan, AKP officials and the pro-government media have described the investigation as an attempt to overthrow the government.

Dismissing the investigations as a conspiracy against his government by the Gülen movement, a group inspired by Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, Erdoğan designated the faith-based movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members.

He locked up thousands, including many prosecutors, judges and police officers involved in the investigation.

Bayraktar’s revelations came as a blow to Erdoğan’s claim that the corruption scandal was fabricated by sympathizers of the Gülen movement in the police department with the aim of overthrowing his government.

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