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Turkish Minister Attempts Suicide

July 7, 1999

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) _ Turkey’s economy minister tried to kill himself Wednesday after hearing a report on the news about a scandal involving his agency.

Hikmet Ulugbay underwent three hours of emergency surgery to his chin, mouth and tongue on Wednesday but was not in life-threatening condition, Mehmet Haberal of Ankara’s Baskent hospital said. There was no damage done to his brain.

Ulugbay’s family rushed to the private study after hearing the first shot and prevented him from firing a second shot, NTV television quoted his wife, Nedret, as saying.

The prime minister, visibly upset and his voice breaking, later spoke in parliament to offer an explanation for the suicide attempt.

``Mr. Ulugbay is a person with an extraordinary sense of responsibility and is extraordinarily sensitive,″ Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit said. ``He may have been upset more than anyone else by the unfair allegations directed at his colleagues at the Treasury.″

The 60-year-old Ulugbay had recently conducted two weeks of talks with a visiting International Monetary Fund delegation to try and secure funds to increase Turkey’s creditworthiness and attract foreign investments.

He was said to be saddened by a reported leak of a secret IMF document to a brokerage firm owned by a cousin of Mesut Yilmaz, a former prime minister and a coalition partner in the government. The firm allegedly used the information to manipulate stock.

The government denied the allegations of insider trading, but Treasury Undersecretary Cuneyt Sel resigned from his post last week after claims that he leaked the document to former Economy Minister Gunes Taner, who reportedly gave it to Yilmaz.

Yilmaz claimed Tuesday that he was shown the secret documents by Ulugbay himself, but denied allegations that he passed them on to market traders.

Upon news of Ulugbay’s suicide attempt, the Istanbul stock market dropped nearly 4 percent upon opening Wednesday. The market recovered to close at 1.3 percent down from Tuesday.

Update hourly