Turkey’s controversial top court judge denies jailed mob boss’s bribery allegations

Yüksel Kocaman and Erdogan
Prosecutor Yüksel Kocaman came to public attention in Turkey when he visited President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at his presidential palace with his bride on his wedding day and received gifts there in September 2020.

Yüksel Kocaman, a controversial figure and member of the Supreme Court of Appeals, has denied allegations of bribery made by a mob boss who was arrested earlier this week, Turkish Minute reported on Wednesday, citing the Halk TV news website.

A Turkish court on Monday arrested Ayhan Bora Kaplan, a mob boss known for his alleged close ties to former Turkish interior minister Süleyman Soylu, on charges that include “forming a criminal organization,” “intentional injury,” “armed robbery,” “deprivation of liberty” and “torture.”

Kaplan said in an “off-the-record statement” made at the police department that he had given a luxurious villa and a car to Kocaman, the former Ankara chief public prosecutor, as a gift. The mob boss’s claim spread quickly on social media.

Kocaman on Wednesday told Halk TV that the he comes from a wealthy family, with a father who owns an international trucking company.

“I wouldn’t engage in this kind of stuff [bribery] even if I needed something. … The man has said something, and someone from the police department has leaked it to the press,” Kocaman said, referring to Kaplan.

When asked whether he had ever met with Kaplan, Kocaman said his friends told him at dinner about how the police were unfairly after Kaplan and that he and Kaplan then had a conversation for a few minutes.

Kocaman came to public attention in Turkey when he visited President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at his presidential palace with his bride on his wedding day and received gifts there in September 2020.

The visit was viewed as an indication of the current state of judicial independence, or lack thereof.

Shortly after the visit, he was appointed as a member of the country’s Supreme Court of Appeals by Turkey’s Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK).

Kocaman had ordered the detention of 82 Kurdish politicians in September 2020 and filed a criminal complaint against jailed Kurdish leader Selahattin Demirtaş because Demirtaş accused him of drafting an indictment against him and the other Kurdish politicians in disregard of the law and said he would settle accounts with him one day in court.

Meanwhile, Deutsche Welle Turkish service reported on Wednesday that Kaplan also claimed that Alp Aslan, the then-head of the Ankara Police Department’s Anti-Smuggling and Organized Crime Department (KOM), had demanded a bribe of $250,000 while Kaplan was running the Günay restaurant in 2018.

“When I said I wouldn’t pay that much money, he said, ‘I will file a lawsuit that will end your life.’ I said I hadn’t committed a crime. However, they raided my place every day and prevented me from doing business,” DW quoted the mob boss as saying.

Eren Keskin, a prominent Kurdish lawyer and human rights activist, said on X, formerly known as Twitter, that the public only gets to know about the “dirty relationships” between the mafia and the government officials when they have a “civil war.” She added that nothing happens to those in power even then.

The detention of Kaplan and the others come amid significant changes within the police force after Soylu was removed from the post of interior minister.

During Soylu’s tenure, Turkey faced allegations of involvement in international drug trafficking, primarily driven by Turkish mob boss Sedat Peker. In a series of dramatic videos in 2021, Peker accused Soylu and other high-ranking officials of protecting and facilitating cocaine trafficking networks.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s recent re-election and a subsequent cabinet reshuffle have led to speculation among critics who claim that the new Interior Ministry leadership may no longer provide cocaine traffickers with the protection they enjoyed during Soylu’s time in office.

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