The EU has issued a stern warning to Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan to stop interfering in the judicial process following the latter’s bellicose attacks on the judiciary over an investigation into corruption at governmental level.
Turkey’s new EU Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, who has replaced Egemen Bagis who was also implicated in the corruption charges, has rebuked the European Commissioner for Enlargement Stefan Füle for issuing a statement welcoming a Council of State ruling to annul a controversial regulation lifting investigation secrecy amid a graft scandal.
Elmar Brok, who chairs the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said that the Turkish government should not intervene in the judiciary process, a day after a top European commissioner touched on the issue.
The German FM also called on Turkey to shed light on the corruption scandal. “We trust in the strength of the Turkish state to clear up the corruption allegations that are on the table, irrespective of the persons involved,” Steinmeier said in an interview published 28th December by ‘Bild am Sonntag’ weekly. He noted that Turkey was needed as a “stable anchor” in the Middle East.
“The government is exercising dramatic influence on the independence of the judiciary,” Brok, who chairs the European Parliament‘s foreign affairs committee, said during an interview broadcast 28th December by the German broadcaster Deutschlandfunk.
“I urge Turkey … to take all the necessary measures to ensure that allegations of wrongdoing are addressed without discrimination or preference in a transparent and impartial manner,” EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Füle said in a statement 27th December.
He emphasised “the need to guarantee the independence and impartiality of investigations by the judiciary into any allegation of wrongdoing, including corruption.”
The recently instated Turkish EU Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu replied with the following:
“I invite our European friends to avoid preconceived convictions and be more vigilant while commenting on developments about Turkey’s internal developments which have political dimensions,” Cavusogu said in his first statement as EU minister on 28th December.
“Nobody should have any doubt that Turkey will overcome this difficult process with the guidance of democracy and basic legal rights,” the statement added.
The investigation became public on 17th December, when police raids in a high-level corruption investigation led to the arrests of 24 people, including the sons of two former ministers and a state bank owner. The allegations are about bribery involving public tenders, gold smuggling and illegal dealings with the Iranian government to circumvent international sanctions.
Prime Minister Erdogan, however, denounced the corruption inquiry as a conspiracy against his government. Istanbul public prosecutor Muammer Akkas has been removed from one investigation, while hundreds of police officers have been removed from their posts.
Akkas issued a written statement, saying the case had been taken out of his hands for no reason and that the leak of the story had given the suspects time to destroy potential evidence, while personally blaming Istanbul’s governor, new police chief and chief prosecutor for the hindrance.
He also said the act was an “open intervention to and pressure on the judiciary.” Erdogan has repeatedly criticised Akkas for making press statements.