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Erdogan flexes new legal muscles

1 March 2014

The sons of two former Turkish ministers and an Iranian businessman have been released pending trial, only hours after a new law giving the Turkish government great powers over the Judicial supervisory body was passed.

The three men were arrested on suspicion of bribing officials as part of a wide ranging corruption investigation which was launched on 17th December, 2013.

Prime Minister Erdogan declared that, “Justice has been served”.

Prosecutors had held 71 suspects for questioning, eventually detaining 24 people pending trial. Particularly catching the public’s attention were, Salih Kaan Caglayan, the former economy minister’s son, Baris Guler, Erdogan’s former interior minister’s son and Reza Zarrab, a businessman accused of giving bribes to enable the export of gold to Iran, worth billions of dollars and of founding a criminal organisation. Currently none of the 24 suspects in the corruption investigation are being detained while awaiting trial.

The former detainees have all protested their innocence while Prime Minister Erdogan has accused former ally Fethullah Gulen of plotting to undermine the current AKP government via his movement ‘Hizmet’. A charge Gulen has consistently denied.

The Prime Minister’s son Bilal Erdogan, has also been in the spotlight in relation to the corruption investigation and recently was called to make a statement in court.

The rapid release of the detainees throws into sharp relief that fact that many others held pre-trial in Turkey have been detained for years.

Ilter Turan, professor of Political Science in the Department of International Relations at Istanbul Bilgi University observed that:

“Rather than treating this case as one of corruption, the government has treated it as a conspiracy, and used it to achieve full political control over almost all instruments of the state.” 

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