Turkey’s December 17 Process: A Timeline of the Graft Investigation and the Government’s Response

Silk Road Paper June 1, 2014, pp. 72

On December 17, 2013, an arrest wave targeted high officials in the Turkish government and their families. Fifty-two people were detained on accusations of accepting and facilitating bribes for state projects and receiving construction permits for protected areas in exchange for money. The accused included the sons of three cabinet members, businessmen, officials and the mayor of the Fatih district in Istanbul from the Justice and Development Party (AKP).The arrest wave is now known in Turkey as the “December 17 process”, marking the fact that this date formed a milestone, or watershed, in Turkish politics. It has led to a bewildering series of events that defy common assumptions about Turkey. Indeed, following this watershed, Turkey’s primary political fault line is now within the Islamic conservative movement, pitting the Prime Minister against the Fethullah Gülen movement, whom Erdoğan blames for the arrest wave – and for the subsequent massive leaks of private communications, including the Prime Minister’s own phone conversations. And whereas the secularist main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) had long been at extremely critical of the Gülen movement, it now seemed to enter into a tactical alliance with the movement against Erdoğan’s AKP. As for Erdoğan, he had held up the domestication of the Turkish military as one of his main achievements in power. But in response to the perceived onslaught from the Gülen movement, Erdoğan now entered into a tactical alliance of his own with the top brass against the Gülen movement, and overturned the sentences of numerous officers jailed on coup-plotting charges.
But developments in the December 17 process have not only been byzantine; they have included serious changes to Turkey’s legal system. Not least, there have been important confrontations between the executive and the judiciary over a restrictive internet law, as well as on a law strengthening the powers of the National Intelligence Organization (MIT).
Even seasoned Turkey watchers are at pains to follow the dizzying pace of events in Turkey. Therefore, the Joint Center resolved to provide a timeline of key events to facilitate understanding of the unfolding situation. This timeline will be updated periodically, and thus several versions of the document will be available. The current version was updated on June 10, 2014. Of course, the Joint Center welcomes suggestions on items we have omitted in the current timeline.

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