Two prosecutors behind a graft probe that targeted the inner circle of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan fled to Armenia via Georgia after an arrest warrant was issued against them, officials said Friday.
The Istanbul prosecutor’s office on Monday ordered the arrest of Zekeriya Oz, Celal Kara and Mehmet Yuzgec on accusations of “forming an organisation to commit crime” and “attempting to overthrow the government by force”.
But police found out that Oz and Kara had fled to Georgia early Monday just 10 minutes apart, the official Anatolia news agency said, indicating they had found out about the warrant before it was formally issued.
From there, the pair crossed into the neighbouring Armenia, said Kemal Girit, the governor of the Black Sea province of Artvin on the Georgian border.
Turkey has no diplomatic relations with Armenia after they are frozen due to the dispute over the massacres from 1915 of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, which Yerevan regards as genocide, a term Ankara vehemently rejects.
Anatolia released CCTV footage purporting to show the prosecutors carrying their suitcases as they left Turkish territory via the Sarp border post.
The two apparently had to take the route because the border between Turkey and Armenia has long been closed.
Hurriyet newspaper had earlier said that Ankara contacted Georgian authorities to seek their extradition. Turkish police were still hunting for Yuzgec, it added.
The three prosecutors had been disqualified from their functions in May for allegedly abusing their authority by leading the December 2013 graft probe that rocked then-prime minister Erdogan’s government, claiming four of his ministers.
The corruption case was later dropped due to a “lack of evidence”.
Erdogan, who came out fighting from the crisis and won the presidency in August last year, claimed the investigation was an attempted “judicial coup” staged by US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen and his followers in Turkish state administrations.
The president has promised no mercy in the fight against Gulen, and authorities have effectively purged the police force and judiciary of thousands of alleged pro-Gulenist elements, arresting people considered close to the preacher.
Erdogan’s Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) failed to win an overall majority in June legislative elections for the first time since coming to power in 2002, plunging Turkey into political uncertainty.
By AFP | Istanbul