Date posted: December 27, 2013
Democratic countries have well-established principles and procedures to be followed if an egregious scandal erupts.
The most important principle is that any investigation should be conducted freely and in such a manner that suspicion is impossible. Even the slightest indication of an attempt to meddle with the judiciary and the police leading the investigation is considered suicide in a democratic country because such actions give the impression that a cover-up is underway.
Media outlets apply journalistic standards in freely deciding to run stories and publish confidential information that they deem is in the public’s interest.
No one is considered guilty unless proven so. The principle of presumption of innocence should be our primary guiding principle. Yet those who, by the very nature of their positions, are capable of influencing or inhibiting the investigation should either resign or be removed from office until they are acquitted.
Former German President Christian Wulff resigned immediately when the media reported that he hadn’t informed the state assembly of a personal loan of 500,000 euros he obtained from the wife of an affluent friend — not because the police found millions of dollars stashed in shoeboxes and strongboxes in his bedroom or because he was bribed. “The public trust in me has been undermined. Therefore, I resign,” he said. He has since retreated to a monastery to be cleansed.
Another example is four-star Gen. David Petraeus, who was appointed by US President Barack Obama as the head of one of the most important agencies in the country, the CIA. An FBI investigation into threatening emails received by a friend of the CIA director found that he was having an extramarital affair. Even the individualistic society of the US couldn’t tolerate this scandal, which mainly concerned the private life of Petraeus, as such an affair could be leveraged to blackmail the head of a critical agency to the detriment of US interests.
As soon as the affair was publicized, Petraeus resigned. “After being married for over 37 years, I showed extremely poor judgment by engaging in an extramarital affair. Such behavior is unacceptable, both as a husband and as the leader of an organization such as ours,” he said in an email to all CIA employees. Although he was considered a potential candidate for president, he opted to take a back seat. A slew of conspiracy theories dominated conversations in marginal circles, but the country did not move one inch away from the principles of democracy, transparency, morality and rule of law.
I couldn’t believe my ears when I first heard the news stories about the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office’s graft probe involving several ministers, ministers’ sons, a general manager of a public bank, a mayor and a number of businessmen. Then I was surprised to read the claims and documents reported by the media about trusted people, some of whom I have met in recent years, as well as their relatives. As I read on through the records of legally wiretapped the phone calls, I learned of bribery, gifts and abuse, and learned that the perpetrators were senior members of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) — a party for which I voted, which I supported in hard times, which claimed to promote honest and fair policies — my amazement turned into disappointment.
As a consolation, I said to myself: “Well, there may be few who falter and do wrong. We are all human beings. We are a democratic country just like Germany and the US. They will resign and they may be tried and later acquitted. ” Further developments, however, turned my disappointment into a serious pessimism about the country’s future. Indeed, the public officials who exposed the scandal weren’t rewarded; rather, the prosecutors who were conducting the probe were quickly blocked. Moreover, the top police chief in İstanbul was removed from office. Simultaneously, numerous police chiefs in Ankara and other cities were sacked. Instead of focusing on the concrete evidence, officials fabricated conspiracy theories about the US and Israel. During this time, the ministers who were charged with serious accusations refused to resign.
A defamation campaign was kicked off to demonize the Hizmet movement — just as the “deep state” would do in the past — and a witch hunt was launched in various state organs. Despite the fact that the prep school debate started months ago, the probe was portrayed as part of it.
Now, my disappointment has turned into shame. I am ashamed of the fact that the reverse of what would happen in a normal democracy is currently happening in my country, and the fact that our media outlets and intellectuals are acting so unethically. I hope those who caused all this to happen to our country feel a bit ashamed. My God endow us with understanding, fairness, straightforwardness and affection.
Source: Today's Zaman , December 27, 2013