|PM Erdoğan has not only vehemently denied allegations that he owns secret Swiss bank accounts, but also vowed to take legal action against its sources — the US diplomats who mention it in cables they sent home.|
|Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Wednesday that Turkey was working on legal action against claims made by US diplomats against him in confidential documents released by whistleblower Internet site WikiLeaks — including claims that he owns eight secret Swiss bank accounts.|
|Speaking at an inauguration ceremony for the Ankara City Security Management System project yesterday, Erdoğan responded to questions from the press on the recently leaked correspondence between the US and its diplomats around the world.
Erdoğan criticized the opposition that demanded that he explain the allegations about his Swiss bank accounts saying, “You can’t speak about increasing respect for Turkey in the world and at the same time demand that the prime minister of the Republic of Turkey ‘prove’ [that the allegations are baseless]. For one thing, our friends are working for [legal action] at national and international level. We will continue this process. They [US diplomats] should think about the rest.
He said that although the US administration had apologized for Turkey being mentioned in the documents – in fact, according to statistics on the WikiLeaks site, most of the leaked cables had been sent from the US Embassy in Turkey – the government did not find this was adequate. “They [the US administration] are obliged to take the necessary action regarding these diplomats. Look at the situation of the intelligence organization of such a country as the US, look at its diplomacy. This is the US’ problem, not ours. I am saying this very openly, we have no problems; they are the ones who should worry. Those who have slandered us with things that we haven’t done will be smashed, finished and destroyed under these confessions.” In addition to his promise that he will pursue legal action against the US diplomats that made allegations about him, Erdoğan denied that he had any Swiss bank accounts. “I don’t have a single cent in Switzerland. If you can prove that I do, I won’t stay at my position or remain a deputy. But will you continue to occupy your seats?” he asked, addressing his accusers.
Officials from the Foreign Ministry yesterday told Today’s Zaman that foreign diplomats in Turkey had 100 percent judicial immunity, which implies that a foreign diplomat can not be tried in a Turkish court.
The same officials said the only way to hold such diplomats responsible was to request legal action against them in the US. The reverse also applies to Turkish diplomats serving abroad, officials said.
The prime minister said that newspapers that published the allegations in their headlines, as well as the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) that has been dwelling on the claims since the documents have been exposed, are acting lowly, and that they are slanderers.
“How can I prove something that does not exist?” Erdoğan said. He recalled earlier allegations that he had a billion dollars in the bank during the time when he served as mayor of İstanbul. “The person who slandered me then is currently in jail as a suspect in the Ergenekon investigation,” the prime minister said.
He also said that if anyone had respect for their own country, they wouldn’t be accusing its prime minister based on dubious accusations made by foreign diplomats. He also accused the opposition of being distant to Turkey’s realities saying, “In the old days, [the opposition] just read the entertainment news to understand Turkey. Now they are reading entertainment diplomacy.”
The prime minister also denied something else that appeared in one of the cables, that he had arranged a rail system tender in Antalya to be contracted to Sadık Albayrak, the father of his son-in-law. “The father of my son-in-law spent his entire life writing. They turned the man into a contractor,” he said.
Erdoğan continued to criticize the opposition saying, “They believe the gossip they produce when it comes from others. Politics demands civility and politeness. Those who base their politics on lies and slander can never fulfill their aims. Is this how weak and filled with anxiety you are? Is this how desperate you are? How much more opportunistic can you be?” he said, addressing the opposition. He also called on the anti-government news media to “act with dignity.” He said those using the cables to attack the government were at the same low level as the opposition.
However, the prime minister said he was also unnerved by insults toward the opposition.
In a cable written on Dec. 30, 2004, former US Ambassador Eric Edelman refers to the main opposition CHP as “no more than a bunch of elitist ankle-biters.” It is also in this same cable where Edelman wrote, “We have heard from two contacts that Erdogan has eight accounts in Swiss banks; his explanations that his wealth comes from the wedding presents guests gave his son and that a Turkish businessman is paying the educational expenses of all four Erdogan children in the U.S. purely altruistically are lame.”
CHP leader’s response
CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu was quick to respond to the prime minister’s remarks. Following a visit to a factory in the Nilüfer Organized Industrial Zone (NOSAB) in Bursa, Kılıçdaroğlu responded to questions from the press. In response to a question on what his response would be to the prime minister’s challenge that he would resign if the CHP could prove the allegations were true, but also expected Kılıçdaroğlu to resign if he couldn’t, the CHP leader said, “This allegation comes from the US Embassy. Why is he asking us [to prove it true] but not the original accusers? The allegations regarding Mr. Prime Minister are gravely serious, and for this reason he has to make a satisfying statement to the public. He should be reacting against the US, if this allegation is untrue. But if he doesn’t have the power to do that, if he is thinking, ‘I can’t hold the US accountable, so if I will be angry I should be angry at the opposition party,’ then this is wrong. What we are saying is clear. This is a very serious allegation, it is not something insignificant. This has been raised against the prime minister of the Republic of Turkey. He should respond to this. He should say, ‘none of this is true.’”
He also recalled that two ministers whose names are mentioned in the documents denied the quotes that were attributed to them in the US diplomats’ cables. “The prime minister also shouldn’t let this go. Today, you might have this accusation, tomorrow there will be something else.” Kılıçdaroğlu said the prime minister should act rationally and hold accountable the right people for the allegations against him.
“WikiLeaks documents have a purpose”
In related developments, Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Çiçek made comments on the WikiLeaks documents, saying they were released with the purpose of creating tension between nations and politicians.
Responding to questions from the press following the Conference on Fighting Corruption which he attended yesterday, Çiçek said he believed the motivation behind the leak was to create tension. “I think we should evaluate [the cables] in a calm manner.” He said the government will be making further statements on the documents over time.
President Abdullah Gül also made a comment on the documents yesterday saying, “I am of the opinion that such ‘diplomatic gossip’ should not waste our time in domestic politics.” He said he did not know “who would believe” the truth of the allegations such as those made about Erdoğan.