“The AKP has divided Turkey; Erdoğan has tough days ahead” – CHP Deputy Chair
The deputy chairman of Turkey’s main opposition party said President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government was leading the country towards internal and external crisis.
Republican People’s Party (CHP) Deputy Chairman Erdal Aksünger was also on a parliamentary investigation committee looking into corruption allegations linked to Iranian-Turkish gold trader Reza Zarrab after a series of arrests by Turkish police beginning on Dec. 17, 2013. Turkish prosecutors dropped the investigation but Zarrab is now in U.S. custody and is due to face trial in New York on Nov. 27.
He spoke to Ahval reporter Ezgi Karataş:
You have been closely following the Reza Zarrab case from the first day. Some claim Zarrab is no longer in prison and that he is in an FBI witness protection programme. What do you say?
This is not actually a new topic. We know that the (U.S.) National Security Agency has been carrying out listening activities since 2005. When I told that to the parliament in the past, AKP (Justice and Development Party) members of parliament decided I was someone who had watched too many spy films.
That is, even if the part of this case that concerns Turkey might look like it was the Dec. 17 case, in fact it is not. This is something that is more rooted in the past.
There were already the processes that lead up to that case. There were very serious claims and evidence at the parliamentary investigatory commission in regard to Dec. 17. There were National Intelligence Organisation (MİT) reports. MİT was writing reports to the prime ministry that said that Zarrab was both dangerous and doing mysterious things.
And the basis for the investigation into this case being opened by police was in 2008, when a 210-kgpackage of heroin was caught at customs in Edirne. The trail of this heroin led to the Durak Foreign Exchange at (Istanbul’s) Grand Bazaar
Their owners were the Happani family, Zarrab’s partners. Abdullah Happani is one of the people today with a warrant in the United States. And there was a Financial Crimes Unit report. So it is not right to link this to a conspiracy. In addition, the evidence-gathering, the prosecution decisions, the judges’ decisions, the surveillance, the tapes, were all issues carried out according to the law.
People have begun talking about the claim that Zarrab will talk. What do you expect from his hearing next week?
Zarrab was aware of everything when he left Turkey. That is, Zarrab guessed that Iran would request his extradition to Iran within a few days and that it would be a million times to Turkey’s benefit to surrender Zarrab to Iran.
Those in prison (in the United States) would not be harmed and if he went there and talked, no one would care too much. My guess is that Zarrab was aware of this and got in contact with the Americans.
Because when he first went to America, he needed to invoke the Miranda Laws. That is, he should not have done anything until his lawyers came. But Zarrab immediately gave up all his passwords and everything. But it’s also clear that he didn’t go with a 100 percent agreement, because he has been going through this process.
I see Zarrab as being comfortable. In fact, backdoor diplomacy could have taken place on this issue. That is, Trump and Erdoğan, I think, are in agreement on this subject. But it did not happen, because there is a lot of hatred towards Trump in the federal courts.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has entered the debate on whether Zarrab will become an informant, saying “We’re following (the case), and we know that when these things are over the world will be brought to its feet”. What do you think about that?
Look, if Erdoğan had said “informant” we would have understood this differently. But being an informant means that they sooner or later say something they know that is being hidden. In fact, these words that slipped out of his mouth have made this business clear. When it comes to the world being brought to its feet, the world is already on its feet.
It is clear that this will badly damage both this country’s foreign policy and its economy. This business is pushing us straight towards a pact with Russia. This problem means a move that will break us apart from not just half the world, but the developed countries who the world mostly revolves around. When Europe is included in this, we will have serious problems. We need to know that these things will not work with these salvos.
At your party’s Diyarbakır Provincial Congress, you said “The Zarrab Case has turned into political blackmail”. Can you explain a little?
I have been saying “This case could turn into blackmail, beware,” since 2015. America needs to get Turkey to do something for it. Now the case could turn into a story along the lines of “I’ll shut this case, but you must behave in certain ways that suit my interests.”
If you look at it from that perspective, the fining of banks could cause a problem. If Turkey accepts this and wants to close the case, it could go and pay a price relating to this.
But it is said that in contrast to the West, the AKP is getting closer to Russia and Iran.
Our relations with Russia are hardly super. We still have visa problems; we still have export problems. We cannot say that things are all ‘honey and cream’ with Iran either. Now it is thought that the best course may be to turn towards Saudi Arabia. Is this how you manage policy? Every year we keep changing our policy as though we are getting on and off horses.
To turn to domestic policy, how do you find the AKP’s Kurdish policy in recent times?
Why are you making all Kurds pay the price for what the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) have done? You have taken all their local municipalities from their hands. You have jailed their members of parliament. If this split continues in the near future it will be very dangerous.
The region is cleansing itself already. The region is Kurdifying and their narrative is becoming based on ethnic identity. While the AKP ought to be celebrating living together, in its domestic policy it is trying to make people more nationalistic. I fear that in the times ahead of us, this situation will reach serious proportions.
Let us talk a little about the upcoming elections … In recent days, people have been saying that new names will be added to the purges that have started in AKP local administration. How do you read this internal process of AKP purges?
Erdoğan has said one other thing himself during these purges other than his narrative of “metal fatigue” (within the party). Erdoğan mentioned that there were corrupt people and those who took bribes in these local administrations.
Of course, there is also FETÖ (the Fethullah Gülen movement) membership in this business. Now the AKP have thrown them out with the idea that they will cause trouble if they are removed at the last minute. But what has happened is that the people’s will has been taken into administration. That is why first of all these regions must definitely hold elections, including HDP (Peoples’ Democratic Party) municipalities whose elected officials have been removed.
After the referendum you made a series of announcements about unstamped envelopes and electoral irregularities, and made objections in the party’s name, but none of these objections resulted in anything. Are you getting prepared for the 2019 elections?
There were two big problems in that referendum. The first came from the Higher Electoral Council (YSK), which took no precautions despite our concerns. And additionally, the Interior Ministry said “once the votes have been cast at schools, we will not leave anyone watching the ballot boxes.”
However, in the Electoral Law, it is written that a citizen’s right to do that cannot be removed under any circumstances and that it is protected by the constitution. Everyone knows that. But they would not allow people to remain watching the ballot boxes.
The second, biggest problem was in the southeast. Two of our party’s young boys were killed. Plus, we had dozens injured. The HDP had around 800 injured. They removed thousands of HDP electoral observers from the polling stations for security reasons.
Of course that is the time when the HDP’s arms were broken. They threatened people with death. They put the two children of our Ceylanpınar district party head into comas. All of this was an indicator for us of the precautions we would need to take there. We now know what precautions we need to take both in terms of the YSK and in terms of the southeast in the 2019 elections.