News / Europe

Turkey Begins Espionage Investigation After Syria Leak

YouTube logos displayed on a laptop screen partially covered with Turkey's national flag in this photo illustration taken in Ankara, March 27, 2014.YouTube logos displayed on a laptop screen partially covered with Turkey's national flag in this photo illustration taken in Ankara, March 27, 2014.
x
YouTube logos displayed on a laptop screen partially covered with Turkey's national flag in this photo illustration taken in Ankara, March 27, 2014.
YouTube logos displayed on a laptop screen partially covered with Turkey's national flag in this photo illustration taken in Ankara, March 27, 2014.
Reuters
Turkey has started an espionage investigation after a discussion between top officials on potential military action in Syria was leaked on YouTube, heralding a possible government crackdown on its political opponents after elections on Sunday.

The recording of the meeting between Turkey's intelligence chief, foreign minister and deputy head of the military was by far the most serious breach in weeks of highly sensitive leaks, a scandal which Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has cast as a plot to sabotage the state and topple him.

Erdogan and his aides have blamed the Hizmet movement of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, a former ally whose followers have influence in the police and judiciary, of running a "dirty campaign" of espionage to implicate him in corruption ahead of crucial nationwide municipal elections on Sunday.

"Tomorrow we will teach those liars and slanderers a lesson," Erdogan told a jubilant crowd of supporters in Istanbul's working class Kartal district on Saturday, vowing his ruling AK Party would triumph at the polls.

Gulen has vociferously denied orchestrating the leak scandal, but those close to his network have said they fear a heavy crackdown once the local elections have passed.

Police overnight briefly detained Onder Aytac, a prominent writer and journalist known to be close to the Hizmet movement, on suspicion of having information about the bugging of the foreign ministry meeting, the Hurriyet newspaper said.

CNN Turk meanwhile reported Erdogan's lawyers asked prosecutors to take precautionary measures to stop both Aytac and Emre Uslu, a newspaper columnist, academic and former senior anti-terrorism police official, from fleeing abroad.

Aytac said in a statement on the Hizmet-affiliated Samanyolu news website that he had been asked whether he was a spy and how he had known so much about the content of the leaked recording, after he discussed it on a television program.

"I made my assessment as an academic in that program. They are trying to intimidate people who think like me in this election process," he said in the statement.

Government officials declined to comment on whether an investigation into the leak had begun, saying any probe would be a matter for the judiciary. The state prosecutor's office could not immediately be reached for comment.

"Declaration of war"

Senior officials said in February that Turkey would launch a criminal investigation into an alleged "parallel state" backed by Gulen, which they accuse of orchestrating the graft scandal and illegally tapping thousands of phones over years.

Erdogan's government has already reassigned thousands of police officers and hundreds of prosecutors in a purge after the corruption investigation burst into the open on Dec. 17 with the detention of businessmen and three ministers' sons.

Gulen's network has said it is the victim of witch hunt.

Today's Zaman, a newspaper close to the network, said on Saturday Erdogan had filed legal complaints against its editor and deputy editor, as well as its contributors Aytac and Uslu and a former Istanbul police intelligence chief.

Meanwhile Fatih Altayli, editor-in-chief of the mainstream Haberturk newspaper who openly decried government pressure on the media in a television interview last month, said in a column on Saturday that he was stepping down.

"With great regret I see that an era of 'militant journalism' has started," he wrote, decrying what he portrayed as an increasingly polarized media landscape in Turkey with a lack of independent voices.

The corruption scandal and anti-government protests last summer have grown into one of the greatest challenges of Erdogan's 11-year rule, and his critics fear that what they see as his authoritarian instincts will only deepen if the AK Party puts in a strong showing in Sunday's polls.

A senior government official on Friday described the crisis as "one of the biggest in Turkish history".

The bugged Syria meeting involved intelligence chief Hakan Fidan discussing possible military operations in Syria with Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, Deputy Chief of military Staff Yasar Guler and other senior officials.

Erdogan denounced the leak as "villainous" while Davutoglu called the posting a "declaration of war," an apparent reference to the escalating power struggle with Gulen.

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More