Mobile telephones used by Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu were monitored in an illegal manner by police officers under his command. With two separate inquiries started by inspectors in Ankara and Istanbul after the affair came to light, a Police General Directorate Intelligence Office Assistant Director and six police officers in Ankara and Istanbul have been assigned to new posts. It remains undetermined who ordered the monitoring of Minister Soylu’s telephones. However, the press has previously picked up on reports of a succession quarrel between President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s son-in-law and Energy Minister, Berat Albayrak, and Interior Minister Soylu. With the quarrel between the two coming into the open, Soylu has made speeches in recent months betraying his irritation. Soylu allegedly wished to resign, but was blocked by Erdoğan.
“We monitored him in error”
It emerged a few months ago that the mobile telephone lines used by Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu had been queried in the police computer monitoring system. In response to the illegal monitoring determined to have been conducted by the Istanbul Police Directorate’s Intelligence Branch Directorate, Interior Ministry inspectors were appointed and two separate examinations were started in Ankara and Istanbul. The police officers determined to have been involved in the affair rejected the allegations in the statements they gave the inspectors and said the illegal monitoring had been conducted “in error.” The police officers whose statements were taken indicated that the error arose during investigations in the procedures in which the Justice and Development Party (AKP) sought the resignation of certain municipal mayors and provincial and sub-provincial chairs as to whether the individuals to be elected to replace them were adjunctive to the Fethullah Gülen organisation. During these investigations, all telephone records of the potential appointees and any potential relations the people they spoke to had with the Gülen Brotherhood were subjected to instantaneous and retroactive examination in the computer monitoring system. From what the police officers claim, Soylu’s calls were among the communications of one of those under examination. And the officers claimed that they also examined Minister Soylu’s calls “in error.”
Investigation may be launched
To enable provincial intelligence branch directorates intending to do research to use the telephone computer monitoring system and conduct queries and monitoring, they must connect to the IDB main database in Ankara where the system is headquartered. Automatic record is made in the IDB database of what is being investigated about whom and who it is being done by in which city. To prevent abuse of the application, should important people such as the president, prime minister, cabinet members or the chief of the general staff and the telephone numbers they use be first recorded in the system and improper monitoring, querying or interception be conducted, the warning system comes into action. With inspectors’ inquiries into improper monitoring in progress, five police officers in Ankara including a Police General Directorate Intelligence Office Assistant Director and two police officers in Istanbul assigned to the Istanbul Police Directorate’s Intelligence Branch Directorate have been assigned to new posts. Following the inquiry, a decision will be made as to whether an investigation will be launched into the police officers.
“No impropriety is involved and the inquiry is routine”
Interior Ministry General Secretary, Türkay Öksüz, said in a statement he made to our paper that there was absolutely no inquiry or investigation into whether Soylu’s phones had been intercepted or monitored improperly. Öksüz, noting that the inspectors were conducting a routine inquiry as to whether the procedures performed by the IDB’s headquarters and provincial units complied with statutory procedure, said, “There are checks into whether the procedures performed complied with statutory procedure, due process and the rules. Whether there was any impropriety is also being looked into. There is no determination, data or transaction to the effect that the minister was listened in on or his phones were monitored. It is a procedure being conducted as part of statutory monitoring. If any impropriety comes to light, the necessary investigation will be launched.”
LEAKS FROM WITHIN THE PARTY
There has been frequent talk of the past relations between Soylu, who has courted criticism from the CHP ranks for his comments targeting General Chair Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, and the Gülen Brotherhood. Footage and information about Soylu has been leaked by opposition circles within the AKP to certain CHP people and opposition media outlets.
13 September 2017: Photograph with assailant
A group attacked the funeral in Ankara of detained HDP Deputy Co-General Chair Aysel Tuğluk’s mother. With the family removing Hatun Tuğluk’s remains from where they buried them, the assailants were also arrested. However, a photograph appeared of one of the assailants, Murat Alp, taken along with Interior Minister Soylu at the police station where he was being held under arrest. With news emerging of the photo that Alp posted on his social media account, Soylu confirmed the incident. In the explanation he posted on his social media account, Soylu said to those criticising him, “You are despicable” and indicated that neighbourhood residents had taken a photograph with him before he left the police station and one of these people was later arrested.
24 September 2017: Son’s car searched
Journalist Ali Tarakçı who makes a programme on Akit TV has alleged in a column published in on-line Gazetemİstanbul that the Minister’s son Engin Levent Soylu’s car was stopped and searched by the police. Tarakçı stating that, even though Soylu the son was accompanied by bodyguards, the car was stopped and searched for half an hour by police officers forming part of the Motorcycle Squad and the search continued despite the minister intervening, claimed that Istanbul Director of Police Mustafa Çalışkan did not take Soylu’s phone calls, either.
11 October 2017: Alleged organised crime ties
Can Ataklı penned an article in Sözcü newspaper in which he alleges that, according to a source in the AKP, Soylu is the least liked minister in the party. Ataklı asserts that the AKP source said with reference to the incident that befell Minister Soylu’s son, “Is it possible for the general chair to have no news of this business? The police for sure undertook such a procedure having obtained his approval.” Ataklı claims his source said, “Because Soylu is running the Interior Ministry with a group of people whose names are associated with organised crime.”
15 October 2017: War spills into the AKP media
The in-party power quarrels have from time to time spilled over into media outlets close to the government depending on their proximity to the involved parties. One such example was the coverage given to the wedding of Süleyman Soylu’s son Engin Levent Soylu and Presidential Human Resources Department Head Ahmet Minder’s daughter Saadet Nur Minder. The wedding on 14 October 2017 was proclaimed in an above-masthead headline in the following day’s Yeni Şafak. By contrast, in Sabah newspaper, owned by Turkuvaz Medya of which the deputy chair of the board of directors is Minister Albayrak’s big brother Serhat Albayrak, a brief report in the inside pages was devoted to the Soylus’ wedding.
19 October 2017: Proxy war
Sabah newspaper’s Ankara Representative Okan Müderrisoğlu, in an article of his in which he claims that certain people within the AKP are creating new alliances, has alleged that a “proxy war” is taking place in Ankara. He said, “Let us accept that certain figures who have entered politics and acquired status and position thanks to his excellency the president have also started over time to have ‘delusions of power.’ It may perhaps be presumptuous to call it a ‘proxy war’ but to speak of a ‘concealed power struggle’ may hit the mark.”
24 December 2017: Expellees
Minister Soylu’s old speeches and messages praising the Gülen Brotherhood have also frequently been posted on social media by social media trolls and AKP opposition circles. Numbering among the diplomats who were expelled under Decree with the Force of Law number 695 was Mehmet Yavuz Arabul. On 24 December when the decrees were published in the Official Gazette, a photograph of Minister Soylu taken at the family wedding of Arabul, who had been expelled on FETO charges, did the rounds on social media along with his congratulatory message.
12 January 2018: With FETO “prayer leaders”
Sabah newspaper published a report alleging that former A Haber commentator, lawyer Fidel Okan, who is also Hanefi Avcı’s lawyer and is at the same time known for his AKP opposition leanings, went on a minor pilgrimage to Mekka along with people it claims to be ByLock users and FETO “prayer leaders”. The newspaper’s report informs us, “Appearing on the passenger list of the 1 May 2015 flight is the name of Fidel Okan along with İsa İmanlı, Muharrem Aşıcı, Süleyman Nazif Gürer, Hasan Hüseyin Tanrıverdi, Mustafa Arslan and Akif Aşıcı, all of whom are either detainees or fugitives under FETO investigations.” For his part, lawyer Okan, replying to the accusations on his social media account, posted photographs of Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu participating at a chat along with the people Sabah alleges to be FETOists. Lawyer Okan, pointing out that Sabah newspaper did not write about Şener Yürek among the people it speaks of as being “crypto prayer leaders,” inquires, “Why was this individual who organised the alleged coup meeting held in 2015 not written about?” said, “Who was Şener Yürek, who attended the coup meeting with me, closest to? According the photographs, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu” and posted photographs of the Interior Minister taken with the same group. Sabah newspaper, while appearing to be crucifying someone in the AKP opposition, has placed Minister Soylu in the firing line thanks to the photographs lawyer Okan has posted.
17 January 2018: Fight to get appointed
A further spilling out of the quarrel between Soylu and Albayrak came in the form of a dispute over landing an appointment between the advisor of Minister of Family and Social Policies, Fatma Betül Sayan Kaya, and Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu’s bodyguards and advisors. The dispute over landing a post between Soylu’s and Kaya’s advisors in parliament prior to an AKP group meeting that President Erdoğan was to attend made it onto the cameras. Minister Kaya put a final end to the fight of nearly one hour’s duration over the same appointment between the two ministers’ advisors and bodyguards. Kaya, who gave Soylu’s advisor a dressing down, got the advisor to stand up and herself sat in his place, while Süleyman Soylu did not attend the meeting. Ahmet Takan of Yeniçağ newspaper has claimed in an article he devotes to this that an argument took place with Soylu over comments Minister Kaya made about the Afrin operation. Takan, stating in his article that Berat Albayrak, whom Minister Kaya notified of the situation, also became embroiled in the argument and claiming that Soylu drew up his resignation letter, made the following allegations: “His excellency the son-in-law also gets pretty cross about the situation. One day, Süleyman Soylu’s phone rings and Berat Albayrak sallies forth from the other end. In a manner suggesting that he means business, he interrogates Soylu as to whether he uttered those words... Minister Soylu says, ‘Yes, I said that. I am this country’s Interior Minister. It is my area of responsibility.’ Albayrak retorts harshly, ‘Aren’t you being presumptuous?’ Soylu, having made a brief defence, counters by saying, ‘I’m not the presumptuous one, what about you?’ and ends the phone call with a harsh argument. Following this phone call, Süleyman Soylu heads off to the palace and puts R. Erdoğan in the picture about events. AKP General Chair R. Erdoğan says pretty nonchalantly, ‘I’ll take care of it’ and sends Soylu packing. Soylu is still waiting for it to be ‘taken care of’.”
25 February 2018: Farewell speech
Minister Soylu, going to his native province of Trabzon and attending the AKP Ortahisar Second Sub-Provincial Youth Sections Congress, made a speech that was described as his “farewell speech.” His asking forgiveness from his audience led to interpretations that his resignation was imminent. On the day following rumours that Minister Soylu was going to resign, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan denied this.
From the opposition to the cabinet
Süleyman Soylu, who was a staunch opponent of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the time he served as Democrat Party General Chair, rapidly climbed the political staircase after he transferred to the ranks of the AKP. Soylu, who was first an MP and the Minister of Labour and Social Security, was made Interior Minister in place of Efkan Ala following the 15 July coup attempt. It is no secret that Süleyman Soylu, who the lobbies suggest has earned plenty of enemies in the party thanks to the support afforded him by the President despite his past comments and demeanour that caused difficulty for the AKP and government, has become embroiled in a succession quarrel with son-in-law Minister Berat Albayrak. The ongoing tension between the pair alleged to be engaged in a fight for the leadership after Erdoğan continues to be discussed at times on social media troll accounts and in reports that are leaked to the media. Reports of the Istanbul police under Soylu’s command seemingly coming out in favour of Albayrak have previously made their way into the media.