Turkey’s Erdoğan meets justice minister after ruling party infighting - Cumhuriyet

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Justice Minister Abdülhamit Gül have met three times since the minister hit back on Wednesday at criticism of him in pro-government media from the so-called Pelican clique within the ruling party linked to the president’s son-in-law, Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, secularist Cumhuriyet newspaper reported on Friday.

Reports of splits and infighting within the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) have risen in recent weeks after the Islamists suffered their biggest electoral blow since coming to power in 2002, losing five of the country’s six biggest municipalities in March local elections.

A columnist in the pro-government Sabah newspaper on Wednesday accused Gül of allowing the Gülen movement, a secretive Islamist group blamed for a coup attempt in 2016, to re-infiltrate the judiciary. Followers of the reclusive U.S.-based preacher Fethullah Gülen were once closely tied to the AKP and used positions within the judiciary to prosecute and jail their secular opponents while the movement’s newspapers cheered them on. 

Erdoğan’s followers fell out with the Gülenists in 2013 when prosecutors linked to the group brought corruption charges against several cabinet ministers. Then in 2016, officers launched an attempt to overthrow Erdoğan when the government moved to purge Gülenists from the military.

After other pro-government journalists joined in the accusations against Gül on social media, the minister warned in a speech that those who were once on good terms with the Gülen movement should stop lecturing him the struggle against the group, and stop attacking the judiciary. 

Abdülkadir Selvi, a columnist at the Hürriyet newspaper known for his close relations with the president, said on Wednesday that one of the meetings between Gül and Erdoğan had taken place before Gül’s speech. 

“I showed the president some documents. It was a very good meeting,” Selvi quoted the minister as saying after the meeting, without giving a source. “It is really an interesting period with all its dimensions,” Selvi said

The secular Cumhuriyet newspaper said the accusations against the minister were a result of escalating tensions between Gül and Albayrak, citing unnamed AKP sources.

The newspaper said Albayrak, widely seen as being groomed by Erdoğan as a possible successor, had previously supported Gül’s inclusion in the cabinet. But, it said, relations had soured when figures close to the president’s son-in-law tried to secure the appointments of judges and prosecutors without Gül’s knowledge. 

Albayrak’s allies now want Gül removed from the cabinet in a mooted reshuffle and have him replaced with one of their own, Cumhuriyet said. 

The Pelican clique inside the AKP got its name after a leaked document called “the Pelican file”, a reference to a John Grisham political thriller, led to the resignation of Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu in 2016.