Turkey’s EU Minister Egemen Bağış has become the first minister to issue a public statement on his involvement as a suspect in the massive corruption probe, strongly refuting the charges and denouncing efforts to “build a parallel state within the state.”
“In recent days, in print and visual media and on the Internet, a series of news stories and comments regarding the ongoing investigation in Istanbul have been published. Accusatory and slanderous assessment were made about me,” Bağış said in a written statement issued on Thursday, Dec 20 evening, according to Hurriyet Daily News.
“Irresponsible reporting being made is completely based on misleading and speculative information. These scenarios are being deliberately produced and are completely false … and are part of an outrageous conspiracy,” he added.
The sons of three members of the Cabinet – Interior Minister Muammer Güler, Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan and Environment and Urban Planning Minister Erdoğan Bayraktar - have been detained as part of the investigation.
Bağış’s name is also being cited in news reports as being involved in a large bribery scandal, including allegations that he facilitated the issuing of Turkish citizenship and passports for gang members.
“Those who have been instrumental in smear campaigns of organizations, and gangs that have been exerting efforts to build a parallel state within the state, have become evident in terms of both execution without trial and assassination of personality,” Bağış said when describing those supposedly behind the operation targeting the government.
The term “parallel state” is commonly used by critics of the followers of the U.S.-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, many of whom have been employed in the judicial and security bureaucracy.
Bağış said he initiated legal processes against those who “reflect nonsense, and who claim to have found evidence for these denigrations in a way that would lead to a judgment [of me].”