After 8 intense days of defiance, threats and counter-measures to slow down the massive graft probe, after much loss of time and energy, and erosion of image for Turkey, this morning we have had the news of two ministers stepping down.
The resignation decision came eight days after their sons were detained over corruption charges.
Economy Minister Zafer Cağlayan’s son Salih Kaan was among 24 people arrested on graft charges on Dec. 21 in a case centering on state-run lender Halkbank. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has responded by purging police investigators involved.
The Erdoğan government casts the scandal as a foreign-orchestrated effort to sow discord in Turkey, which during the premier’s three terms has flourished economically though he has been accused of authoritarianism.
“I have resigned from my post of economy minister to help the truth to come out and to foil this ugly plot, which has impacted my child and my close work colleagues, among others,” Cağlayan said in a statement.
“It is obvious that the operation carried out on Dec. 17 [the initial detentions] is a dirty set-up against our party and our government.”
Interior Minister Muammer Güler has stated that his son Barış Güler was arrested in the recent corruption investigation on charges of brokering a bribe.
Speaking to press at the Presidential Grand Award in Culture and Arts in Ankara on Tuesday, Güler said his son’s arrest is not lawful as he had not been charged with a “catalog crime,” a term that refers to crimes during whose investigation special security measures could be implemented.
“My son has not been arrested for an organized crime. He is only arrested on charges of brokering a bribe. According to a decision taken by the general assembly of the Supreme Court of Appeals, there are no legal grounds for his arrest. This is because the person [accused of brokering] has to be a public official. I am the public official [not my son],” Güler said, adding that any unofficial wiretapped telephone conversation of his is not legal evidence, referring to a wiretapped conversation with his son that went viral after the corruption investigation started last week.
The affair has reignited anti-Erdoğan sentiment among many Turks that had simmered since the unprecedented mid-2013 mass protests against his rule. It also drew an EU warning that Ankara needed to safeguard the separation of powers.
Moving to salve the domestic divisions, President Abdullah Gül pledged on Tuesday that there would be no cover-up and that the investigation would be adjudicated in independent courts.