Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s point man in a major Turkish media outlet suppressed a news story about vehicular manslaughter committed by the son of a mayor in Istanbul affiliated with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
According to secret wiretaps obtained by Nordic Monitor, Ahmet Safa Develioğlu, the 34-year-old son of Osman Develioğlu, the long-time mayor of Istanbul’s Bahçelievler district until last year, hit and killed a pedestrian in Hadimköy with his car in January 2013. The police detained Safa overnight, but a judge let him go the next day after his arraignment.
The only reporter who got the scoop about the accident from police sources was Serhat Alaattinoğlu, who was working for the Ciner Media Group, which owns the Habertürk daily and Habertürk TV. Fearing the political fallout, Mayor Develioğlu called Mehmet Fatih Saraç, a senior executive at the Ciner Media Group, on January 20, 2013 at 16:57 hours asking him to kill the story. “Dear Fatih, last night, my son hit a pedestrian in Hadimköy, and unfortunately the pedestrian was killed,” the mayor told Saraç, adding that “nobody in the press is aware of this except someone from your media group who was informed about it.”
Secret wiretap transcript:Osman_Develioglu_wiretap2
The mayor identified the reporter as Serhat Alaattinoğlu and asked Saraç to prevent him from running the story. Saraç, an islamist businessman, was brought into the Ciner Media Group on December 26, 2012 as deputy chairman of the board of directors by owner Turgay Ciner at the special request of President Erdoğan. His mandate was to slant the editorial policy of the Ciner media divisions in favor of Erdoğan and his government. In exchange, the owner, who has interests in the mining and energy sectors, benefited from favorable contracts and tenders from the government.
When asked to kill the story about the accident by a mayor from Erdoğan’s party, Saraç said he would look into it. Nine minutes later, Saraç called Mehmet Kenan Tekdağ, chairman of the board of directors at the Ciner Media Group, telling him about the special request from the mayor. Tekdağ said the reporter worked for the Habertürk newspaper and that he would talk to him about killing the story. Tekdağ has a background in law and also works as chief legal counsel for the Ciner Media Group.
Crime reporter Alaattinoğlu transferred to TV news network Show Haber in January 2020 after working for years at the Habertürk daily. The story was not run by the Ciner Media Group, and Ahmet Safa Develioğlu’s court case was quietly handled by the Erdoğan government.
Secret wiretap transcript:Osman_Develioglu_wiretap1
President Erdoğan personally attended Ahmet Safa’s wedding on November 26, 2017 along with Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım, members of the cabinet, AKP lawmakers, Istanbul Mayor Mevlüt Uysal and others. Ahmet Safa married Gökçe İncekara, the daughter of Halide İncekara, a former member of parliament from Erdoğan’s party.
President Erdoğan’s eldest son, Ahmet Burak Erdoğan, was also involved in vehicular manslaughter when he hit Sevim Tanürek, a classical music singer, in a traffic accident in 1998. She subsequently died from her injuries. He was a university student in İstanbul at the time, reportedly didn’t have a driver’s license and hit the singer while she was in a crosswalk. The car dragged Tanürek for about 65 meters. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was mayor of İstanbul at the time and hurriedly sent Burak abroad. According to eyewitnesses, municipal workers were immediately dispatched to the scene of the accident, and the entire street was cleaned up. Burak Erdoğan never appeared in court for his ensuing trial.
The initial police report noted that Burak was at fault on three out of of eight counts and wasn’t paying attention to the road, so the prosecution opened a case against him, demanding a sentence of between three and 20 months for causing injury by reckless driving. When Tanürek died after a week in intensive care, the prosecution changed the indictment, seeking between two and five years in prison for Burak. However, the chairman of the traffic specialization department of the Institute of Forensic Medicine, Eyüp Çakmak, submitted a report in which he found that all the fault lay with Tanürek, and based on this report, the court acquitted Burak of all charges. Çakmak was appointed president of the Turkish Maritime Organization (TDİ) in 2004, after Erdoğan became prime minister. Erdoğan has widely been accused of manipulating the justice system to get his son Burak off the hook, but his lawyer has always categorically denied the allegations.
The wiretaps were authorized by the Istanbul 2nd High Criminal Court, which was looking into terrorism-related cases. The authorization was granted on December 24, 2012 as part of investigation file No. 2012/656.
Saraç was among many suspects in an organized crime investigation pursued by prosecutors in Istanbul and was the subject of detention warrants issued on December 25, 2013 by the prosecutors. However, Erdoğan stepped in, illegally preventing the execution of the warrants by ordering the police to ignore the prosecutor’s orders. After the removal of the prosecutors and police chiefs who were involved in the investigation, Erdoğan managed to whitewash the crimes of his associates.