Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is in the midst of a political storm following leaked tapes which he says are “treacherous” in nature. The phone conversations, which were released on YouTube Tuesday, implicate Prime Minister Erdogan of instructing his family members to hide tens of millions of euros stored at his house from corruption investigators.
The tape is just one of a number of leaked phone conversations involving high-ranking Turkish officials that prompted the investigation.
The conversation between Prime Minister Erdogan and his son Bilal was quickly refuted by Erdogan, who called them “fabricated and treacherous,” accusing opposition leaders in producing what he considers false evidence against him. The conversation between Erdogan and his son took place December 17th, the same day raids on cabinet ministers and businessmen in Turkey were ordered by prosecutors. Deals to smuggle sanctions violating gold into Iran has prosecutors searching venues and the homes of various officials. Erdogan vows that he is innocent of the allegations.
Erdogan has experienced quite a tumultuous tenure as prime minister, being the source of blame for the large-scale uprisings in Istanbul in 2013. The protests came after the proposed demolition of a park in Istanbul which brought tens of thousands into the streets, tacking on grievances of corruption and oppression to the proposed project. Before being doused with tear gas and attacked by riot police, protesters and opposition leaders called for Erdogan’s resignation.
The latest scandal to follow Erdogan has opposition leaders once again calling for his resignation, some facetiously suggesting the prime minister “flee by helicopter” in the wake of the leaked tapes.
In his defense Erdogan said that the encrypted telephone lines of top state officials had been tapped in an attempt to sully his reputation. He vowed that his administration would investigate whoever bugged his phone and that “it will not go unpunished.”
Erdogan went as far as saying that a self-exiled cleric living in the US, Fethullah Gulen, is running a “parallel state” that seeks to overthrow Erdogan’s government. Mr. Gulen has refuted the accusations.
Over four hours of phone conversations between Erdogan and his son, which are now up on YouTube for all Turkish citizens to hear has landed the prime minister in a tough situation. Following the leak, Erdogan held a meeting with the head of the National Intelligence Organization, Hakan Fidan, to conjure up ways to prevent something like this from coming out again. The opposition says Erdogan has used the latest events to pass sweeping laws to monitor the internet by security services, as well as the reassignment of over 5,000 policemen involved with the raids to different posts. Erdogan has also dismissed several prosecutors involved in the case.
Observers say Erdogan’s resistance to the prosecutor’s investigation is not helping his case, both legally and politically.
Turkey’s main opposition party, the Republican People’s Party, says they can verify that the tapes are authentic, and have submitted them through “three of four channels” to validate the tape’s credibility.
The political uncertainty in Turkey has critics worried that Erdogan may be vulnerable to a coup by the opposition if mass demonstrations like the ones held last year take to the streets.
by John Amaruso