Dec 05 2017

The other split in the Turkish government caused by the 2013 sanctions trial

The desire of Ahmet Davutoğlu, Turkey’s foreign minister at the time, for four ministers accused of corruption in 2013 to be put on trial was among the issues that led hardliners in his Justice and Development Party (AKP) to turn against him, according to columnist Elif Çakır in the pro-Davutoğlu newspaper Karar.

Zafer Çağlayan, a former economy minister; Mua­mmer Güler, a former interior minister; Egemen Bağış, a former minister of EU affairs; and Erdoğan Bayraktar, a former planning minister were investigated for involvement in the sanctions-busting schemes of Iranian-Turkish gold dealer Reza Zarrab in December, 2013.

The sanctions cases were instigated by Zekeriya Öz, the prosecutor behind the trials of the so-called Ergenekon conspiracy of hundreds of secularist-nationalists from 2007 onwards. Öz is alleged to be a follower of exile cleric Fethullah Gülen, accused of mounting last year’s failed coup. The Ergenekon cases were dropped and Turkey has recently issued an Interpol warrant for the arrest of Öz.

The 2013 sanctions cases are seen as the final split between the Gülen movement and the government, as from that time the former allies did their best to undermine the other.

When the corruption cases were quashed, Çakır said, some in the government including Davutoğlu wanted to retry the suspects in a fair court of law and issue a government transparency law, while others saw this as treachery against the party and government.

Hence, this case also marked the start of the rift between hardliners and moderates within the AKP, Çakır said, eventually contributing to Davutoğlu’s forced resignation from the prime ministry in 2016.

Davutoğlu, a former academic at Marmara University who was known for his neo-Ottoman outlook on international relations, recently found his invitation to speak to a student society there retracted by the rector’s office.