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Turkish Court Convicts Ex-Officials

July 13, 2002

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ANKARA, Turkey (AP) _ A court convicted three former top energy officials of corruption Friday and sentenced them to lengthy prison terms for rigging state power contracts.

The officials were found guilty of allocating a 1997 contract for an electrical transmission line in central Turkey to favored companies and taking bribes from businessmen, the Anatolia news agency reported.

The court dismissed charges of forming a criminal gang against the three.

The scandal surfaced last year after a government drive to stem corruption. and led to the resignation of then energy minister, Cumhur Ersumer.

Ersumer was implicated in the prosecutor’s indictment, but no charges were brought against him after parliament voted against opening an inquiry into allegations he had pressured government officials into awarding state contracts to favored companies.

The court sentenced Muzaffer Selvi, the former head of the state-run electricity company, to 11 years in prison and ordered him to pay a fine amounting to $565,000, Anatolia said.

His deputy, Unal Peker, also received an 11-year prison sentence and a $120,000 fine, while Birsel Sonmez, a former member of the company’s board of directors, was given nine years and nine months and a fine of $300,000, the agency reported.

The court also sentenced 13 other, minor energy officials to prison sentences ranging from three months to up to one year, for accepting bribes. Three businessmen were sentenced to pay fines, while five other officials were acquitted.

The court stripped them of their right to work in government in the future.

The men, who have denied the charges, have the right to appeal.

Widespread corruption is seen as one of the key factors behind Turkey’s deep economic crisis which has led to some 2 million layoffs.

Update hourly