On Thursday five senior members of the police force, including Yakup Saygılı, former head of the İstanbul Police Department’s financial crimes unit, were placed under arrest by an İstanbul court on accusations of working to overthrow the government.
Seven others were released by the court.
Six of them have been banned from leaving Turkey.
Saygılı was head of a team of police officers that carried out the major corruption and bribery operation on Dec. 17 and 25 of last year. He was removed shortly after the operations.
Besides Saygılı, Kazım Aksoy, Mustafa Demirhan, Hüseyin Korkmaz and Arif İbiş — who served at the financial crimes unit of the İstanbul Police Department before being removed in the aftermath of corruption and bribery operations — were arrested by the İstanbul 1st Penal Court of Peace.
A judge said the officers were arrested due to their risk of fleeing the country and obscuring evidence. The officers were sent to Metris Prison, where they will stay until they are tried.
On Sept. 1, 33 policemen were detained as part of an operation against those who were involved in a major corruption operation last year. The officers had carried out the corruption operations of Dec. 17 and 25 of last year. In addition, they had investigated Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab, among other corruption suspects. Zarrab is accused of bribing Turkish officials to get Turkish citizenship as well as laundering massive amounts of money.
The officers have been accused of working to overthrow the government, forging official documents and spying.
Also on Thursday, eight police officers were sent to an İstanbul court for arrest, while eight others were set free. The eight officers were still testifying at the court and it was not immediately clear if they had been arrested or released by the time Today’s Zaman went to print.
Former head of the İstanbul Police Department’s Financial Crimes Unit Mehmet Akif Üner told the media after he was set free that the operation against the police officers lacks any legal basis. “I was detained for passing an envelope which contained the names of to-be-detained people as part of the [Dec. 17, 2013] corruption operation to a deputy police chief. The list was prepared by prosecutor Muammer Akkaş [who was in charge of the operation before he was removed],” Üner said.
Üner also said he asked the policemen who detained him and the prosecutor who ordered his detention if there is any shred of evidence to prove claims that he was working to overthrow the government. “They couldn’t provide any concrete evidence,” he noted, adding, “The investigation against the policemen is as empty as the reason behind my detention.”
According to the former police chief, the motive behind the investigation is to create a false public perception that the officers were involved in an operation against the government. “None of my colleagues did anything wrong. All of them are in good health. I ask their families not to worry about them,” he added.
Üner also called Iranian businessman Zarrab, who is accused of bribing Turkish government officials and bureaucrats, a “charlatan.”
“An Iranian charlatan managed to buy some [officials and bureaucrats] with a few shoeboxes and chocolate boxes [filled with money.] We saw this and launched an operation. And now we are accused of coup plotting,” he said.
Police officer Mehmet Sait Sevinç, who was also set free on Thursday, said he was not sorry for being detained and not happy for being released. “I apologize to my nation for not being able to capture trucks carrying the money ‘zeroed’ [by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his son, Bilal],” he said.
He was referring to a phone conversation between Erdoğan and his son, Bilal, in which the two allegedly discussed how to “zero” huge sums of money stashed at houses of several people on Dec. 17 — when police raided a number of venues as part of the corruption investigation.
Since July 22, when the operations against the police began, 60 police officers have been placed under arrest on such accusations of illegal wiretapping and spying. Prosecutors say the anti-police operations were launched to follow up on allegations of spying and illegal wiretapping, but they are widely believed to be an act of government revenge for the Dec. 17 corruption and bribery operation and are seen as targeting the Hizmet movement.
Hizmet promotes interfaith dialogue and the resolution of problems through peaceful means throughout the world. However, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the ruling AK Party have recently been engaged in a bitter fight with the movement. This conflict intensified after Dec. 17 and 25. Erdoğan claims the operation was orchestrated by the Hizmet movement, which intended to overthrow his government. However, he has not provided any evidence to prove his claim. The movement denies the accusation.
Since Dec. 17, more than 40,000 police officers, civil servants, judges and prosecutors have been reassigned for no official reason other than having suspected links to the Hizmet movement. Critics have described the arbitrary reassignments as a “witch hunt.”
Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Namık Havutça said Turkey needs to give thanks to the arrested policemen because the policemen uncovered corruption the government was involved in. “The policemen also worked to protect the money, taxes and order of the country. We owe thanks and gratitude to them,” he stated.
Also on Thursday, CHP deputy Mahmut Tanal entered Parliament with a black T-shirt that read “Ze-Ro!” both in English and Turkish — similar to T-shirts some police officers were wearing on Sept. 1 when they were detained as part of the anti-police operation.
“Zero” is a reference to a phone conversation between President Erdoğan and his son, Bilal, in which the two allegedly discussed how to “zero” huge sums of money stashed at houses of several people on Dec. 17 — when police raided a number of venues as part of the corruption investigation.
Tanal said he wore the T-shirt to draw people’s attention to claims of corruption and bribery some government officials are involved in.
Lawyer Murat Erdoğan claimed on Thursday that the five police chiefs were arrested as per orders passed to judges and prosecutors involved in the legal process against the policemen.
“They [judges, prosecutors] have a list. The policemen are arrested based on this list. They need no legal ground or evidence [of crime] to arrest the policemen,” the lawyer noted. He did not disclose who is responsible for preparing the list; however, he was referring to President Erdoğan, who on various occasions dropped hints that he is behind the operations against the police.
The lawyer also criticized the judge’s decision to arrest the five police officers due to a risk that the officers may flee Turkey or obscure evidence related to a criminal case against them. According to the lawyer, the officers were sacked from the police force months ago and if they had wanted to flee, they could have done so before this week.
“Our friends [policemen] are not worried. They are not worried because they were not involved in any unlawful activity. They have the full support of all Turkish people,” the lawyer added.
Police chief İsmail Arpacı, who was released by the court on Thursday, said he would again participate in the corruption operation of Dec. 17, if he returned to that date today. “We, as policemen who have never tasted anything haram [forbidden in Islam], were obliged to carry out this operation because some people were stealing money of this state and people. I thank God I was involved in this [Dec. 17] operation,” he noted.