Premier Erdogan appears to be digging a hole deeper and deeper hole in his credibility to keep his Premiership in Turkey. The latest example is the kerfuffle that was created by the release of several alleged phone calls with his son, Bilal, a person of interest in the corruption probe, mid-December 2013. The several calls with Bilal over December 17th and 18th, when the public prosecutor revelations hit the media, appear to be deliberate attempts to scatter in excess of 30 million Euros ($40 million) to relatives and favored businessmen in Turkey. Erdogan in rebuttal said it was all a fabrication by the Gulenist “deep state” out to embarrass him in the final run up to the March 30th municipal elections in Turkey. It appears he may survive the onslaught of his self inflicted political injuries, because of a divided opposition if you believe some Turkish polls. Reuters noted:
“They went and made a shameless montage and released it,” Erdogan told deputies. “They are even listening to the state’s encrypted telephones. That’s how low they are.”
“There is no allegation that we cannot answer.”
The “they” cited by Erdogan was a reference to those among the followers of U.S.-based Islamic cleric Gulen he accuses of building a “parallel state” using influence in the judiciary and police. Gulen denies the accusation.
“We will reveal one-by-one the disgraces of the parallel organization and we will make those who walk with them so embarrassed they won’t be able to go onto the street,” he said.
Watch this purported English translation of the Erdogan calls on this You Tube video:
Watch this France 24/7 report on the Erdogan phone calls and his suggestion to have the Turkish government Scientific Research Institute do a voice print analysis to settle the matter:
Over this weekend there were conflicting reports from the Wall Street Journal about analysis of audio supplied to labs in New Jersey and Manhattan by what appears to audio files US Turkish allies of Erdogan. The Wall Street Journal, article in the Weekend edition, WSJ Turkish Scandal Ripples in US, noted the peculiar circumstances behind the two audio lab reports. However, Sunday’s Zaman had a rebuttal in its report, “American company says Erdogan voice recording genuine”. Their report cited the conflicting audio lab tests saying:
John Marshall Cheary III, founder and CEO of John Marshall Media Inc., issued a statement on his company’s Facebook account on Wednesday denying the claims of some Turkish pro-government media that the telephone recordings had been proven to be fake after technical analysis by his company. He said his company has not issued any opinions on any Turkish-language digital recordings, calling the document a blatant forgery that is signed with the company name “J Ou Productions” and has a John Marshall Media business card stapled to the top. “This is not official JMM letterhead. And the fact that the company in the signature and the business card stapled to the top are different companies makes this an obvious attempt at deception,” Cheary III said in the statement.
The other company, Kaleidoscope Sound, mentioned in the [WSJ] story as having provided technical evidence that the recordings had been spliced together, also issued a Facebook message explaining that their report could only determine whether the recording had been edited or was a continuous conversation. Owner Randy Crafton said that making any determinations beyond this “would certainly require at least a native Turkish speaker.”
“We are a commercial recording studio that specializes in recording, editing, and mixing audio, mostly music. We have no credentials as audio forensics specialists, just our experience as audio professionals,” Crafton said. “Please do not construe this to be an indication of innocence or guilt on anyone’s part; it is simply an answer to the question asked,” he added. Those who say the recording is genuine admit they are an audio file containing five different conversations that took place at different locations over 26 hours.
Sunday’s Zaman referred to a McClatchy Newspaper report by a qualified expert Joshua Marpet who issued a formal report that appears to confirm that the audio files are authentic. Read the 11 page report with graphics of matching voice prints, here. Zaman noted:
Joshua Marpet, managing principal of cyber analytics firm Guarded Risk, told McClatchy that the recordings appear to be genuine. The only apparent “montage,” Erdo?an’s term for the recordings, was the combination of the five different conversations into one audio file, said Marpet, who was reported to have testified in court on the validity of computer evidence in Turkish criminal cases. He said there was no sign that the individual conversations had been edited. “If it’s fake, it’s of a sophistication that I haven’t seen,” he said.
Note what Erdogan did in furtherance of the France 24/7 suggestion as reported by Sunday’s Zaman:
Erdogan rejected claims that the recordings are genuine in a written statement and later at public rallies, claiming that they had been “dubbed” and edited. In the speeches, however, he acknowledged that his encrypted phones had been tapped, which has been perceived as a confession that the conversations actually occurred. Science, Industry and Technology Minister Fikri Itik, who is responsible for the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey , seconded Erdogan, saying, “He feels that the recordings were manipulated.”
He also stated that five TÜB?TAK employees in charge of the encrypted phones had been sacked.
Evidence of the recordings’ authenticity abounds . On Wednesday, audio engineers and specialists released analyses they had conducted in professional labs to verify that the talks had not been edited or spliced and that the voices actually belong to the prime minister and his son. A former Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy and IT specialist Tacidar Seyhan, the studios Babajim Records and STD, among many others, found no trace of doctoring in the recordings.
Meanwhile, the WSJ reported on the Teflon-like poll figures for Erdogan versus the opposition in the March 30th municipal elections, WSJ Swing Voters Swinging Erdogan’s Way.
Our usually well informed European – based observer of developments in Turkey had these comments:
As far as I have heard Erdogan is losing votes and might lose the cities of Istanbul and Ankara. People are being asked to apply as election booth controllers so that the AKP does not rig the ballot boxes. We have another month until the elections and a lot of mud will be slung by Erdogan and the opposition.
EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The New English Review.