During the rule of the Welfare Party (RP), Abdullah Gül was deputy chairman. In 1997, members of the party were accused of forging documents and embezzling money from the Treasury, a case referred to as the "Lost Trillions" in public.
Overruling the prosecution's decision to drop the case against Gül, the Sincan 1st Heavy Penal Court in Ankara has ruled that the President may face trial.
The court argued that the immunity from prosecution which was granted to MPs and ministers did not apply to the President.
President's office rejects possibility of trial
Meanwhile, the President's Office released a statement in the evening hours of Monday, 18 May, saying that a President could only be tried for treason when in office.
"The fact that our President is being shown as a suspect by some in a case where he is not a defendant and not being tried definitely does not demonstrate good will."
The statement, which referred to Gül in the third person, continued:
"Because of his parliamentarian immunity at the time, no case was opened against our President at the time. Despite his own insistence on lifting the immunity and facing trial, his immunity was not lifted."
"The deputy chair of the party responsible for finances and the accountant were even acquitted, and our President was at that time deputy chair responsible for Foreign Affairs, without any rights, authorities or responsibilities concerning financial issues."
"In addition, because his parliamentary status did not prevent compensation claims to be filed against him, our President and others were taken to court by the Ministry of Finance. The court considered his duty as deputy chair and his lack of financial responsibility in the structure and rejected the case on 19 April 2007, i.e. before he was elected President."
Welfare Party leaders were accused of embezzling around one trillion lira, i.e. one million lira in today's currency (around 477,000 Euros). Party chair Necmettin Erbakan (pictured with Gül) and 78 party leaders were accused of forging documents and were tried. Erbakan was sentenced to two years four months imprisonment. 68 party officials received prison sentences of up to one year and two months. The Supreme Court of Appeals ratified the sentences.
Because Gül had parliamentary immunity at the time, no criminal case was opened against him. When his term ended, the file was considered again, but the Ankara Chief Public Prosecution decided to drop the case. Following the objection of Cahit Nalbantoğlu, a former member of the Supreme Court of Appeals, the Sincan court has decreed a possible trial.
Gül offered Erbakan a presidential pardon on health grounds in August 2008. (TK/AG)
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