Erdoğan sues main opposition leader over corruption allegations

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has filed a lawsuit against main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu for TL 250,000 ($18,445) in non-pecuniary damages over Kılıçdaroğlu’s claims of corruption in a tender, local media reported on Friday.

The development was announced by Erdoğan’s lawyer, Hüseyin Aydın, in a written statement on Friday.

Aydın also said Erdoğan filed a complaint with the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office against the CHP leader, accusing him of “insulting the president,” which is a crime in Turkey, according to the controversial Article 299 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK).

Erdoğan’s actions against Kılıçdaroğlu came after he claimed in a video he tweeted on Jan. 26 that the president had caused the state to sustain a loss of $460 million by awarding a TL 9.449 billion ($695 million) tender to a pro-government holding in 2020.

According to Kılıçdaroğlu, a tender held by the government in April 2018 was participated in by 15 companies, one of which won with a bid of TL 3.198 billion ($235 million).

“But the tender wasn’t awarded to the winning company because it wasn’t one of the gang of five,” the CHP leader said, referring to the five businessmen and their companies who have won nearly all the large tenders during the time in the office of President Erdoğan.

Cengiz Holding Chair Mehmet Cengiz, Limak Holding CEO Nihat Özdemir, MNG Holding Chairman Mehmet Nazif Günal, Kolin Construction CEO Naci Koloğlu and Kalyon Construction Chair Cemal Kalyoncu comprise the so-called gang of five.

“The same tender was held again. This time, the contract was awarded to [one of the] gang of five for TL 9.449 billion ($695 million) on August 21, 2020,” Kılıçdaroğlu said, adding: “Do you understand the reason why [Erdoğan] signed [the contract this time]? It’s because of the [more than] TL 6 billion [price] difference.”

Following Kılıçdaroğlu’s claims, journalist Ozan Gündoğdu explained on Twitter that the tender the CHP leader was talking about was for the Bursa Osmaneli High Standard Railway Project, awarded to Kalyon Construction, adding that the company was granted a tax exemption for the amount it was awarded for the project.

The CHP leader’s claims also prompted Ali Mahir Başarır, an MP from the party, to file a complaint against Erdoğan, Transportation Minister Adil Karaismailoğlu, former Transportation Minister Mehmet Cahit Turhan, Kalyon Construction, Kolin Construction, Cengiz Construction and the Turkey representatives of CRRC Zhuzzhou Locomotive, an electric locomotive manufacturer in China, on Friday.

Making a statement to the press after filing the complaint with the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, Başarır said it was on allegations of “aggravated fraud,” “misconduct” and “bid-rigging.”

Turkey was shaken in late 2013 by two corruption investigations that implicated the family members of four cabinet ministers as well as the children of the then-prime minister and current President Erdoğan.

As part of the first investigation, the sons of three then-ministers from the AKP were detained on Dec. 17, 2013. A week later another investigation reached Erdoğan’s son Bilal Erdoğan. The Dec. 17-25 investigations led to the resignation of four Cabinet ministers, to which Erdoğan responded by claiming that the corruption scandal was fabricated by sympathizers of the Gülen movement within the police department with the aim of overthrowing his government.

Since then, hundreds of police officers and members of the judiciary have been detained and some arrested for alleged illegal activity in the course of the corruption investigations.

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