In a surprise move Wednesday, Erdogan distanced himself from the sensational trials of former Turkish military leaders, which were aimed to halt the army’s involvement in politics and orchestrated by Erdogan, himself.
A new audio recording uploaded to YouTube, allegedly of Erdogan and his son Bilal Erdogan discussing a lower-than-promised bribe from a businessman, has escalated tensions in Turkish politics while putting the legitimacy of the government further into question.
In a previous digital audio file leaked on Feb. 24 Erdogan reportedly told his son to quickly get rid of enormous sums of money–$10 million–stashed in the houses of several family members.
The incident is alleged to have taken place on the morning of Dec. 17, the day when a major graft scandal involving prominent public figures close to Erdogan came to light.
The second audio track is purported to be of Erdogan ordering Bilal to hold out for a better offer in an unspecified deal with a businessman, whose name is mentioned by Bilal as Sitki.
“Don’t take it [the money]. Whatever he has promised us, that’s what he should bring. If he is not going to bring that, there is no need, “says the voice on the recording.” The others are bringing [that amount]. Why can’t he bring it? What do they think this business is? … But don’t worry, they will fall into our lap.”
An accompanying text within the YouTube clip says the mentioned businessman in the tape is Sitki Ayan, the chairman of the Istanbul-based transportation company Turang, which was awarded a contract to build a pipeline to transport Iranian and Turkmen gas to Europe via Turkey.
Erdogan Dares Gulen to Return to Turkey
Calling the recording a “montage”—edited—Erdogan, once again, shifted the blame for his and his country’s woes on Islamist preacher Fetullah Gulen, who lives in seclusion in Pennsylvania but has a powerful hold on Turkish society.
Addressing his first campaign rally for March’s local elections since the recordings appeared, a combative Erdogan said Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen had collaborated with the secularist Republican People’s Party (CHP) to spread the fabricated “montage,” reported Reuters.
“Hodja [scholar], if you have not done anything wrong, then don’t live in Pennsylvania. If your country is Turkey, then come back to your country,” Erdogan told thousands of supporters in the southern town of Burdur, using Gulen’s honorific title.
Erdogan Calls Ergenekon Case ‘A Sham’
For the past several years, Erdogan and his government have arrested and jailed former military leaders for allegedly plotting coups. Now, The New York Times reported Thursday, Erdogan is calling the trials, known as the Ergenekon case, a sham.
“He has reversed himself no because of any pangs of guilt,” said Tim Arango, reporting for The New York Times, “but for the simple reason that the same prosecutors who targeted the military… are now going after him.”