Turkey

Turkish parliament establishes graft commission

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Turkey’s parliament has formed a commission of enquiry to investigate corruption allegations against four former ministers of the administration of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

On Monday, lawmakers voted 453 to nine to set up the commission, which is tasked with deciding whether the ministers will be prosecuted.

Last December, Turkey’s interior, environment and economy ministers resigned after police arrested their sons on charges of bribery and illicit money transfers. The EU affairs minister was also implicated and replaced.

The four were present in the parliament on Monday to defend themselves in their first public appearance since the corruption scandal broke out.

The former EU affairs minister, Egemen Bagis, accused of supervising the EU Ministry at a time when a student exchange program misused EU funds, slammed “those who, unable to silence us through threats and blackmails, have set up a ‘political gallows.’”

The commission of inquiry will include 15 members — nine from Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party — and investigation is set to begin in mid-May.

Turkey plunged into political crisis after dozens of government officials and prominent businessmen close to the Turkish premier were arrested for inquiry on graft charges on December 17, 2013.

In February 2014, leaked phone conversations, posted on YouTube, allegedly revealed Erdogan asking his son Bilal to turn millions of euros in cash stashed at several houses into “zero.”

Bilal at one point could be heard as saying, “There is 30 million euros (USD 41 million) more.”

The phone conversations, whose authenticity could not be verified, were said to date back to last December.

Erdogan has accused supporters of Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish Muslim preacher who lives in self-imposed exile in the United States, of prompting the probe and spreading the leaks in social media to topple his government.

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