Turkey denies Nordic Monitor report on AKP MP accepting $65 million bribe from Qatar

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Turkish officials have denied a report that an MP from Turkey’s ruling party accepted a $65 million bribe from a Qatari intelligence officer linked to a deal that allowed Turkish troops to deploy to Qatar.

Last month, the Stockholm-based Nordic Monitor news website reported that a 19-page intelligence report that was discussed in a Turkish court alleged that a senior member of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) received a bribe from Qatari intelligence.

The document reportedly described how Ahmet Berat Conkar, the head of the Turkish parliament’s foreign affairs commission in 2015, secretly communicated and accepted a $65 million bribe from a Qatari intelligence officer to fast track the military deal with Qatar through Turkey’s parliament.

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According to the Nordic Monitor, the 19-page intelligence report was brought up by Rear Adm. Sinan Surer during his trial over his alleged role in the failed military coup of 2016. Surer, who was responsible for the external intelligence branch of the Turkish military at the time, raised details of the document during his testimony after accusations by pro-Erdogan Turkish media outlets that he had prepared it himself.

“The reason for his insistence is that pro-Erdogan media picked up some parts from the document and published fake stories as if he was the one who wrote it. He sent corrections to the media, filed a motion with the prosecutor’s office with no avail,” Nordic Monitor’s director Abdullah Bozkurt told Al Arabiya.

Turkey: accusations ‘disgraceful black propaganda’

But in a written statement sent to Al Arabiya English by Turkey’s Consul General in Dubai on Monday, Conkar himself rejected the allegation of bribery and instead alleged that the Nordic Monitor was affiliated with the movement allegedly behind the 2016 Turkish coup attempt.

“The allegation of bribery in the news article, referring as its source to the website ‘Nordic Monitor’ owned and run by persons known to be affiliated to the Fetullahist Terrorist Organization (FETO), is a disgraceful utterance of completely ungrounded slanders that serves as black propaganda,” Conkar said, in the statement sent by Turkey’s Consul General in Dubai Ilker Kilic.

“Moreover, these hateful slanders are based on the remarks of a person who personally took an active role in the July 15 coup attempt of FETO,” Kilic added.

FETO is the name the Turkish government uses to refer to the Gulen movement inspired by exiled Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, who the government alleges was behind the failed coup in 2016.

Nordic Monitor’s response

In response, Nordic Monitor said that the allegations against Conkar were made during Surer’s testimony in a Turkish court after the intelligence was intercepted by Turkey’s MIT intelligence agency, and that Conkar should therefore redirect his complaint to Turkish intelligence.

“According to the information obtained from a source, Berat Conkar communicated with a Qatari intelligence officer before the session [in the Foreign Affairs Committee] to push the law [that allowed the deployment of Turkish military units in Qatar] and received a $65 million bribe,” the Nordic Monitor quoted Surer as saying in the article.

The author of the Nordic Monitor article pointed to Turkish intelligence as the source of the allegations in his response to Conkar.

“The allegation was raised in this [19-page] document. If correction is needed, Mr. Conkar should have sent his challenge to the MIT that sent this intel to all relevant branches in the Turkish government,” said Bozkurt.

Bozkurt is currently in exile after the previous newspaper that he worked for, Today’s Zaman, was seized by the Turkish government in 2016 over its perceived support for Gulen.

“The document was explained in detail in the court by a senior general who was in charge of the external intelligence of the General Staff and saw and analyzed the document. It has nothing to do with a coup attempt and it took place before that,” Bozkurt told Al Arabiya English.

Bozkurt said that he cross-referenced some of the allegations made in the document such as the changing of the dates in the Foreign Affairs Commission.

“I cross-referenced some of the allegations in the document such as changing dates in the Foreign Affairs Commission, rushing the approval and challenges by the opposition deputies in the commission. The minutes of the commission verified the allegations covered in the document which gives more credence to bribery charges in my opinion. The document specifically states that the bribery claim was obtained from a source,” Bozkurt added.

Request to “depublish” the report

Kilic, Turkey’s Consul General in Dubai, had requested by email and several phone calls that Al Arabiya English “depublish” its reporting on the Nordic Monitor article.

“We would therefore like to kindly ask you to publish this correction and remove the September 3 article from your websites,” Kilic said in an email.

He also cautioned Al Arabiya English of the “danger of using the Nordic Monitor website in Turkey-related news.”

A follow up email to Turkey’s Consul General in Dubai regarding Bozkurt’s statements about the intelligence document and Nordic Monitor's subsequent report on it were not answered in time of publication.

Gulen, a one-time ally of President Erdogan who subsequently became his archfoe, has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999. The Turkish government accuses Gülen of orchestrating the failed coup attempt against Erdogan and continuing to undermine the Turkish government, charges Gulen denies.

Turkey approved in 2015 the establishment of a military base in Qatar as part of a defense agreement signed in 2014 aimed at helping them confront “common enemies.” At the time, Turkey said it would station 3,000 of its ground troops at the base.

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