Former Head of Turkey’s Top Science Body (TÜBİTAK) Detained

yyyThe former head of Turkey’s top science body and two of its employees were detained on April 14 for hiring an employee with a fake diploma, amid allegations of illegal wire-tapping targeting senior government officials.

Anti-terror police officers detained Prof. Dr. Yücel Altunbaşak in Ankara, four days after he resigned from the top post at the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK).

Altunbaşak’s former chief of staff, identified as Osman K., and a manager of a TÜBİTAK institute, identified as Eren Y., were also detained April 14. Another suspect that the police sought to detain fled the country.

Science, Industry and Technology Minister Fikri Işık announced during an April 10 television interview that Altunbaşak had resigned from his post with “mutual agreement.”

Before his starting term at TÜBİTAK in 2011, Altunbaşak was a prominent name internationally in the academy and the industry. He has worked in Silicon Valley and lectured at institutions such as Stanford, the Georgia Institute of Technology and San Jose State University.

Hasan Palaz, Altunbaşak’s deputy at TÜBİTAK, was arrested in Ankara last week for hiring an employee who presented a fake diploma.

In January, 28 employees of TÜBİTAK and Turkey’s Telecommunications Directorate (TİB) were detained for wiretapping the encrypted phones of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, Constitutional Court President Haşim Kılıç and Chief of General Staff Necdet Özel.

In recent years, TÜBİTAK had also been criticized for its reports on controversial legal cases.

Investigations targeting TÜBİTAK came soon after the government and its erstwhile ally, U.S.-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, engaged in a fierce struggle.