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Turkish prosecutor, police officers detained on drug-trafficking charges

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A Turkish prosecutor and police officers were among 20 suspects detained on drug-trafficking charges, Turkish media reported on Friday.

According to the reports, after an operation carried out by the Konya Police Department last week against a network trafficking drugs from Turkey’s southern Adana province to the central Anatolian city of Konya, the police identified public prosecutor Osman Yarbaş as the drug kingpin running the network, through the evidence obtained from the phone of a courier, who was a police officer.

According to a report by the NTV news website, the police retrieved WhatsApp messages on the courier’s phone and found that Yarbaş, a public prosecutor in charge of the Adana Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office Terrorism Crimes Investigation Bureau, had given instructions to him about a shipment of drugs.

A court arrested 14 of the 20 detained, including the police officers. The Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK) suspended Yarbaş and assigned an inspector to investigate his conduct.

According to Turkish media, Yarbaş also ran an extortion ring that has been taking money from individuals under pressure and threat, telling them terrorism charges against them wouldn’t be dropped unless they paid the money demanded.

The prosecutor reportedly collected 3 million lira ($170,000 as of 07/22/2022) from nine people who were being investigated over alleged links to the Gülen movement.

The faith-based movement is inspired by Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen and is labeled as a terrorist organization.

The government accuses the group of masterminding an abortive putsch in 2016 and has since jailed some 96,000 people while investigating 622,646 over alleged links to the movement as part of a massive purge launched under the pretext of an anti-coup fight, although both Gülen and the movement strongly deny the charges.

 

After the 2016 coup attempt, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government dismissed 4,156 judges and prosecutors, nearly a third of the total number at the time.

What followed was a mass recruitment of judges and prosecutors.

Yarbaş was hired as a prosecutor in 2017, after the post-coup purge targeting the judiciary resulted in a shortage of staff in the judiciary.

According to a report by Italian judge Luca Perilli, as of December 2019, at least 45 percent of Turkey’s roughly 21,000 judges and prosecutors had three years of experience or less.

Hakkı Köylü, a lawmaker from Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), acknowledged to Reuters in 2020 that some judges and prosecutors “have been appointed without adequate training.”

Critics accuse Erdoğan of recruiting pro-AKP lawyers as judges and prosecutors. On top of that, the mass disbarment of members of the judiciary is believed by many to have had a chilling effect on the entire justice system, intimidating the remaining judges and prosecutors into doing the government’s bidding by launching politically motivated investigations into critics.

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