The Turkish Parliament has voted overwhelmingly to commission an inquiry into the corruption allegations against four former ministers by 453 votes in favour to 9 against after a tense debate on 5th May, Turkish daily ‘Hurriyet’ has reported.
The former ministers facing corruption charges have answered, for the first time, the accusations against them in Parliament during the decisive session, which was delayed due to the recess for the 30th March local elections.
The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) had filed four separate motions for an inquiry into former Economy Minister Zafer Caglayan, former EU Minister Egemen Bagis, former Interior Minister Muammer Guler and former Urbanisation and Environment Planning Minister Erdogan Bayraktar. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) filed a single motion for an inquiry into the former cabinet members, which was eventually adopted after the four CHP motions were rejected.
All four ex-members of the Cabinet took to the floor and all used their allotted ten minutes to deny any wrongdoing.
First to deny the charges to the Assembly was Zafer Caglayan, who said, “We are facing a huge slander and huge lies.”
Referring to claims that he had been bribed with a gift of a wristwatch worth TL 700,000 by the Iran-born Azeri businessman Reza Zarrab who is at the centre the graft investigation, Caglayan assured the Assembly that he had paid the entire sum from his pocket. He also rejected claims that he performed Umra (pilgrimage) by travelling to Mecca with his family on Zarrab’s private plane. “These claims reveal an effort to exploit Turkish people’s religious sensitivity,” he said.
For his part, Muammer Guler accused prosecutors and judges conducting the investigation of breaching the law by prosecuting ministers.
“Ministers cannot be considered as suspects and prosecutors are not competent to carry out an investigation into them,” Guler said.
Egeman Bagis in combative mood, also dismissed the investigation as a “dirty plot” against the government, assuring lawmakers that none of the accused ex-ministers would hide behind their parliamentary immunity.