The Turkish Interior Ministry has denied reports that a group of police officers have been reassigned due to allegations of warrantless tapping of Minister Süleyman Soylu’s phone conversations, saying monitors were conducting “routine inspections” in the police intelligence department.
“Ongoing proceedings have been taken under review to ensure they are carried out in line with the legal procedures, methods and principals. It is being checked if there is any infraction of the rules. There is no finding, information or action with regard to the minister being wiretapped or his phone being traced,” Interior Ministry General Secretary Türkay Öksüz told daily Cumhuriyet on April 12.
This is an action within the context of the legality audit. Investigations will be opened if there is any finding of infraction,” Öksüz added, stressing that the inspections are “routine.”
Cumhuriyet had reported on April 12 that seven police officers, including a vice head of the intelligence department, were reassigned after it was discovered that the department had been tapping mobile phones used by Soylu.
The officers defended themselves by saying the phone numbers were inserted into the eavesdropping database inadvertently during an inquiry into mayoral candidates – members of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) – over suspected links to what the authorities call the Fethullahist Terror Organization (FETÖ).
Cumhuriyet also reported that the tapping controversy was just one part of a political conflict between Soylu and Energy Minister Berat Albayrak, the son-in-law of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
There was no finding of any eavesdropping without juridical orders in 2017 after the regular audits, the Interior Ministry said in a statement on April 12.
The statement also denied the claims of reassignments related to such an investigation. Although some officers were reassigned by administrative decisions and there are ongoing investigations “on other issues” after the annual audits, these are not related to the tapping, it said.
“The report with the headline ‘Earthquake in Ankara! Soylu under police surveillance’ was an ill-intentioned one that aims to create an atmosphere of insecurity through such allegations, as in the old Turkey,” the statement read.
Meanwhile, Soylu, who went to Ukraine on April 12 to attend the Kiev Security Forum, shared a picture on Twitter showing him standing with his guards and accompanied by the caption: “Turkish police surveils me 24 hours here too.”