A Turkish prosecutor who handled probes into alleged coup cases in Turkey has fled with a colleague to Germany via Georgia and Armenia after learning of an upcoming arrest warrant issued in his name, daily Hürriyet reported on Aug. 14.
Former prosecutor Zekeriya Öz fled to Armenia through Georgia on Aug. 10, some 12 hours before the Bakırköy Chief Prosecutor’s Office in Istanbul issued an arrest warrant for him and two other former prosecutors, Celal Kara and Mehmet Yüzgeç. The suspects have been accused of attempting to overthrow the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government by force and forming a criminal organization.
Reports indicated Öz flew to Germany from Armenia on Aug. 11 without encountering any problems because the arrest warrant had not been issued at the time.
It remains unknown whether Germany was Öz’s final destination.
Öz led probes into alleged coup plots, most significantly the controversial Ergenekon trials, during which he was criticized for human rights violations.
He was also the prosecutor who launched the Dec. 17, 2013, graft probe, the country’s most extensive corruption investigation to date, which implicated senior government figures including former ministers Muammer Güler, Erdoğan Bayraktar, Egemen Bağış and Zafer Çağlayan.
The sharp turn in Öz’s relationship with the AKP government was believed to be associated with a feud between the AKP and U.S.-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, who allegedly has influence over the Turkish judiciary.
Öz had been dismissed from his post as Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor on May 12 and downgraded to a minor position.
Meanwhile, Ahmet Çörtoğlu, the lawyer of former Ergenekon suspect Tuncay Özkan, told Hürriyet Turkish authorities had turned a blind eye to Öz’s escape.
Çörtoğlu underlined other prosecutors had been suspended from their duties as soon as a judicial processes began, and questioned why this practice was not applied for Öz, Kara and Yüzgeç.
“Rules did not apply to them because they have too much evidence against the government. The arrest warrant in question was not issued for the Ergenekon trials but for the corruption probe. However, they were allowed to flee. Either the arrest warrant was issued after they escaped, or the Gülenist establishment [referring to Gülen’s followers] is still active within the judiciary and gave them a heads up,” he said.
Zekeriya Öz’s cousin, Yusuf Öz, who was a candidate MP for the Democratic Party (DP) during the June 7 election, also joined the debate by commenting to Doğan News Agency, saying he should not have fled.
Yusuf Öz argued his cousin had been manipulated by the AKP government and probably fled because he did not trust the Turkish justice system.
“Yesterday he was celebrated as a hero, now he is slammed as a traitor, which is a situation that needs to be questioned,” he said.
In the meantime, Yusuf Öz alleged his cousin pursued the coup attempt investigations because of his ties with Gülen.
“He went to one of their schools and he was grateful to the Gülen movement. That is probably why he felt compelled to work with them. He is in fact a smart, nationalist and religious person,” he said.