The vice president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) and head of the Turkish delegation has past links to a one-time al-Qaeda financier from Saudi Arabia, a secret document has revealed.
According to the document Akif Çağatay Kılıç, a former aide to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, was identified as having cozied up to Yasin al-Qadi, listed as an al-Qaeda financier on both the US Treasury and UN lists for many years, and his son Muaz al-Qadi (Kadıoğlu). The document, which was stamped “secret,” detailed an intercepted communication of Kılıç with al-Qadi’s son on August 19, 2013 at 23:01 hours. The two sounded very friendly on the phone according to a readout from the transcript. At one point in the conversation, Kılıç reveals he had met with Muaz and his family in Mecca some two years before the conversation took place.
When Kılıç called Muaz, who was in Istanbul, Turkish investigators had been monitoring Muaz, his father, Erdoğan’s son Bilal and others as part of an organized crime network that set out to defraud the government on a multi-million dollar public property in Istanbul, procure forged documents and violate several Turkish laws. Muaz was dining with a man identified as Taha, a close acquaintance of Kılıç, when the call was made. Muaz was in Turkey to represent his father’s clandestine business interests and fix secret deals through his influential friends in the government, including Kılıç and many other Islamist politicians.
In the phone conversation Kılıç asked Muaz about his father Yasin, and Muaz replied that he was in Istanbul, too, and might go to Ankara. “I will tell him to call you if he goes to Ankara,” Muaz said. The two promised to meet in Istanbul the next time Muaz and his father came to Turkey. Towards the end of the conversation, Kılıç expressed his commitment to help Muaz out if he ever encountered any problems while in Turkey. Muaz responded by saying that he had already been working with his associates Necmettin Bilal Erdoğan, the then-prime minister and now Turkish president’s son, and Bilal’s close friend Abdulkerim Çay, who was working for Turkey’s investment agency at the time.
Secret transcript of the wiretap, which was authorized by an Istanbul court on August 18, 2013:Cagatay_Kilic_MUaz_Qadi
Al-Qadi is a Saudi businessman who had been on the US Treasury Department’s “Specially Designated Global Terrorist” list as well as on the UN sanctions list. He entered Turkey seven times before his name was taken off the lists of those suspected of supporting terrorist activities. He entered Turkey without any documents at various airports, where he arrived on his private jet with the full knowledge and protection of the Erdoğan government. He was also given an official vehicle, a bodyguard and a driver by the government. Al-Qadi, called “Amca” (uncle) by those around him, and Erdoğan had 12 meetings in Turkey. The investigation file also indicates that al-Qadi met with National Intelligence Organization (MİT) Undersecretary Hakan Fidan five times during a period when he was not allowed to enter Turkey.
The prosecutor conducting the investigation was planning to detain the suspects mentioned in the summary of proceedings on Dec. 25, 2013. However, the government found out about the investigation and reacted preemptively, appointing new police officers loyal to it and later gradually changing laws to ensure that the investigation stalled. The investigation would have resulted in a series of detentions and arrests had the prosecutor been allowed to continue his work independently.
Erdoğan publicly mentioned al-Qadi as a “Saudi businessman who would like to invest in Turkey”; rejected the US and UN designations; and described him as a family friend.” In an earlier statement, he had vouched for al-Qadi, saying: “I trust Mr. al-Qadi as much as I trust myself. He is a charitable person.” While Erdoğan was defending him, al-Qadi’s assets were frozen across the globe and he was banned from entering Turkey. Later, al-Qadi won several court cases in Europe and the US and was able to remove his name from the terror lists. The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) removed his name from the List of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons (SDN List) on September 11, 2014.
After working closely with Erdoğan for years, Kılıç ran for Parliament in 2011 on Erdoğan’s party ticket. He was appointed in December 2013 as the minister of youth and sports.
In September 2016 Kılıç was involved in a major scandal with German broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW), which conducted an interview with him for its flagship political talk show, “Conflict Zone.” The reporter, Michel Friedman, asked Kılıç questions about a failed military coup on July 15, 2016, mass purges and arrests that began in the aftermath of the abortive putsch, the situation of the Turkish press and the place of Turkish women in society. While the DW team was preparing to leave the ministry building after the interview, the minister’s press advisor came and told the team that they could not air the interview. When the DW team refused to agree, ministry officials told the DW team that they would not be able to leave the building without handing over the video footage of the interview, after which they seized it.
DW General Director Peter Limbourg strongly condemned Turkish authorities for their confiscation of the video footage of the interview with the Turkish minister. Limbourg said the move by Turkish authorities does not abide by the principles of a state of law and a democracy, adding that it is unacceptable for a minister who himself agreed to give an interview to prevent the airing of the interview just because he did not like the questions. Deutsche Welle filed a lawsuit against the Youth and Sports Ministry over the seized interview.
In a cabinet reshuffle, Kılıç was removed from his ministry position. He currently leads the Turkish delegation to PACE and has been active on various committees including the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy, the Bureau of the Assembly, the Standing Committee and the Sub-Committee on External Relations.