An İstanbul court ruled on Friday for a continuation of the imprisonment of 69 police chiefs and police officers who played a role in an operation on December 25, 2013 that exposed a corruption and bribery scandal implicating then-Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, his family members and his Cabinet ministers.
The trial at the İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court was attended by jailed police chiefs Mehmet Habip Kunt, Hüseyin Tokgöz, Fatih Aydın and Mehmet Akif Üner. Jailed police officers Ercan Taş, Hayrettin Can and Raif Bektaş participated in the hearing through a video conference system (SEGBİS).
During the hearing Üner made his defence before the court and requested his acquittal. However, the court announced its interim decision for the continuation of the imprisonment of all jailed police chiefs and police officers including Yakub Saygılı, Kazım Aksoy, İbrahim Şener, Arif İbiş, Mustafa Demirhan, Mehmet Habip Kunt, Mehmet Fatih Yiğit, Hüseyin Tokgöz, Ercan Taş, Hayrettin Can, Fatih Aydın and Raif Bektaş.
The court also issued arrest warrants for police chiefs Engin Filiz, Hamza Tosun and Sinan Sağyalavaç and ruled for the arrest of US-based Turkish Muslim scholar Fethullah Gülen and fugitive police officers Hüseyin Korkmaz and Sinan Dursun in absentia. The court also ruled for the continuation of a search for these three through Interpol red notices.
The trial was adjourned until June 19-20-21 and will resume with the continuation of the defence of Üner.
The Dec. 17/25, 2013 corruption investigation incriminated Cabinet ministers and the family members of Turkey’s President Erdoğan. Turkish prosecutors accused Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab and high-ranking Turkish officials of involvement in facilitating Iranian money transfers via gold smuggling.
After Erdoğan cast the case as a coup attempt to overthrow the government orchestrated by his political enemies, several prosecutors were removed from the case, police were reassigned and the investigation in Turkey against Zarrab was dropped. All police chiefs and officers involved were jailed in 2014. Last year the wives of most of these police officers were also jailed over alleged links to the Gülen movement.
Zarrab testified in New York federal court in early December that he had bribed Turkey’s former economy minister, Mehmet Zafer Çağlayan, in a billion-dollar scheme to smuggle gold for oil in violation of US sanctions on Iran. Zarrab also said that Turkey’s then-Prime Minister Erdoğan personally authorized the involvement of Turkish banks in the scheme.
Zarrab also said he made payments to secure his release in February 2014 and that those payments were partly bribes. The Turkish government seized the assets of Zarrab and his relatives following his testimony in the US court.
Hüseyin Korkmaz in the New York trial of Halkbank official Hakan Atilla called Erdoğan the “No. 1” target in a group that also included Çağlayan, and Süleyman Aslan, a former chief executive at Halkbank, a large Turkish state-owned bank that was central to the sanction-busting scheme.
Police notes of the Dec. 17 operations show that Zarrab personally talked with Erdoğan on April 13, 2013 and asked for an official police guard. Erdoğan and his Cabinet approved it immediately.
A phone call and a video in the Dec. 17 file show that Zarrab in July 2013 sent an unspecified amount of money to the Service for Youth and Education Foundation of Turkey (TÜRGEV), run by Bilal Erdoğan, Erdoğan’s son.