Turkey: Erdogan dealt blow in police court case

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Picture: Getty
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Picture: Getty
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A TURKISH court has blocked a government attempt to force police to disclose investigations to their superiors.

The ruling is seen as a setback for prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is seeking to manage the damaging fallout from a high-level corruption scandal.

Police on 17 December detained dozens of people, among them the sons of the interior minister and two other cabinet members, after months of corruption probes that were kept secret from commanders who might have informed the government in advance.

The ensuing crisis is unprecedented in Mr Erdogan’s three terms, triggering the ministers’ resignations and a reshuffle, and spreading speculation he may call snap elections next year.

The affair turned more personal this week when Turkish media published what appeared to be a preliminary summons for Bilal Erdogan, one of the premier’s two sons, to testify.

Denying wrongdoing and portraying the case as a foreign-orchestrated conspiracy, the Erdogan government purged about 70 of the police officers involved, including the head of Istanbul force, and on 21 December it issued a new rule requiring investigators to share their findings with their superiors.

However, the Council of State, an Ankara court that adjudicates on administrative issues, yesterday blocked implementation of the regulation.

Another of Mr Erdogan’s feats has been pruning the power of the military, once Turkey’s dominant authority and guardian of its secularist constitution. In a rebuke to Mr Erdogan, the generals said yesterday that when they were taken to court in the past, they respected the independence of the judiciary.

“The legal proceedings regarding Turkish armed forces personnel were observed in accordance with the duties and responsibilities laid out in the law,” the chief of staff said.

On Thursday, a Turkish prosecutor, Muammer Akkas, said he had been removed from the corruption case and accused police of obstructing it by failing to execute his arrest warrants.

Turkey’s chief prosecutor responded that Mr Akkas was dismissed for leaking information to the media and failing to give his superiors timely progress reports.

The government’s attempts to impose new regulations on the police rile Turks who see an authoritarian streak in Mr Erdogan and flooded the streets in mass protests this year.

The High Council of Judges and Prosecutors, a Turkish body which handles court appointments independent of the government, also threw its weight behind the criticism.

The latest requirement that police investigators keep their superiors informed amounts to “a clear breach of the principle of the separation of powers, and of the constitution,” it said.

Yesterday Mr Erdogan fired back at the judges.

“The High Council of Judges and Prosecutors has committed a crime,” he said in a speech at Sakarya University, after receiving an honorary doctorate. “Now I ask: Who is going to try this council? If I had the authority, I’d do it right away.”

Mass-circulation newspaper Hurriyet quoted Mr Erdogan as saying the naming of his son in the case was intended to damage his premiership.

“If they try to hit Tayyip Erdogan through this, they will go away empty-handed. Because they know this, they’re attacking the people around me,” he said.