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High-level bureaucrats, AKP lawmakers accused of obtaining fraudulent degrees

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An opposition lawmaker has revealed allegations of high-level bureaucrats and lawmakers from Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) obtaining fraudulent master’s and doctoral degrees from the Turkish Aeronautical Association (THK) University without completing the required coursework.

A parliamentary motion to investigate the allegations, presented on Friday by main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Ali Mahir Başarır, was rejected by lawmakers from the AKP and its ally, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). Başarır cited information based on reports by Turkey’s Council of Higher Education (YÖK) and named those who were allegedly awarded fraudulent degrees before 2017.

The list includes Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Ebubekir Gizligider; Secretary General of the State Supervisory Council Necdet Ada; Osman Çangal, head of the Presidential Security Department, which is responsible for the protection of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his family members as well as the presidential residences; Gökhan Biçkur, advisor to the Ministry of Health; Hüseyin Hüsnü Karakullukçu, former president of the Council of State; Enes Çelebi, advisor to the president of the Capital Markets Board; and pro-government A Haber TV anchorman Erkan Tan.

Başarır accused the then-rector of THK University, Ünsal Ban, of offering diplomas to those who sought them like “candy.”

“If the allegations are proven true, this conduct constitutes defrauding the taxpayer because such a diploma grants its holder seniority and thus increases their pay. This conduct requires imprisonment and a refund of the excess salary received. In any case, the allegations warrant a thorough criminal probe, and the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office should ipso facto initiate an investigation,” Brussels-based lawyer Ali Yıldız told Turkish Minute.

The CHP lawmaker also criticized the government’s favoritism in filling state posts with cronies, which critics say reached new heights following a failed coup in July 2016, when more than 130,000 civil servants were removed from their jobs under the pretext of an anti-coup fight.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has also faced controversy regarding his university degree, as a four-year college degree is a requirement to serve as president. Doubts have arisen about the authenticity of his diploma from Marmara University, further fueling allegations of widespread corruption within the AKP-led government.

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