YEREVAN — Immigration authorities in Yerevan on Tuesday did not confirm reports that two Turkish prosecutors who led a high-profile investigation into alleged corruption around President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s inner circle have fled to Armenia to avoid arrest.
Zekeriya Oz, the former chief prosecutor of Istanbul, and his colleague Celal Kara reportedly fled Turkey on Monday, just before the arrest warrants were issued for them on charges of an attempted violent overthrow of the government. According to the Reuters news agency, Turkish media published pictures that appeared to show Oz and Kara leaving the country.
Öz was dismissed as the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor on May 12 this year after being rotated to a minor judiciary position, following his launch of the country’s biggest corruption investigation on December 17, 2013, in which government figures and their relatives, as well as several prominent businessmen, were implicated.
The Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK), Turkey’s top judicial body, had fired all three prosecutors on May 12, as well as prosecutor Muammer Akkas and judge Süleyman Karaçöl, who also took part in the corruption investigation.
A statement from the governor of Turkey’s northeastern Artvin province bordering Georgia said the two men crossed into the Georgian Black Sea region of Ajara before proceeding to Armenia. According to “Hurriyet Daily News,” official Ankara asked the Georgian authorities to track down and extradite them.
A spokesperson for Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS), which runs the country’s border crossings, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that the NSS has “no information” about Oz’s and Kara’s alleged arrival in Armenia. The official declined to comment further.
It was not clear whether the Turkish government plans to contact the Armenian side in connection with the reports.
Armenia and Turkey have no diplomatic relations and open borders. Direct communication between their governments is therefore rare. Their relations have been tense since the collapse of Turkish-Armenian normalization agreements signed in 2009.
Oz is reportedly close to the Gulen movement leader Fethullah Gulen, a U.S.-based Muslim cleric and a former Erdogan ally.