Turkey blocks WikiLeaks over release of AK Party emails

Officials downplay sensitivity of leaked emails, say website blocked to protect privacy and personal phone numbers.

Wikileaks AK party
The Wikileaks website said more emails and attached files would be published soon [Al Jazeera]

Turkish officials have downplayed the release of hundreds of thousands of private emails belonging to members of the ruling party that were published on the WikiLeaks website.

The whistle-blower website was blocked on Wednesday by Turkey’s Internet watchdog, TIB, shortly after the mass release of the emails, which included the current phone numbers of AK Party members of parliament.

The internet authority said an “administrative measure” had been taken against WikiLeaks, a generic term it often uses when blocking websites in Turkey.

Al Jazeera independently confirmed the authenticity of emails and phone numbers of at least 10 members of parliament released by WikiLeaks.

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WikiLeaks said more emails and attached files will be published soon. 

“Part one of the series covers 762 mail boxes beginning with ‘A’ through to ‘I’ containing 294,548 email bodies together with many thousands of attached files,” the website said.

“The emails come from ‘akparti.org.tr’, the AKP’s primary domain … It should be noted that emails associated with the domain are mostly used for dealing with the world, as opposed to the most sensitive internal matters.”

The leak of ruling party emails comes at a sensitive time for Turkey. 

At least 290 people were killed after rebel soldiers attempted to overthrow the government on Friday, bombing state buildings and killing civilians and security forces. Thousands of civilian State employees and military personnel have been sacked or detained in the aftermath of the failed coup. 

Since the attempted coup authorities have purged suspected backers of the plan to topple the government, and as of Monday night more than 8,000 people had been arrested over their alleged involvement. 

‘April Fools’ jokes’

A Turkish official, speaking to Al Jazeera on condition of anonymity, said the content of the leaked emails was not sensitive for the AK Party or Turkey.

“The emails largely consist of spam, updates about various social activities, and April Fools’ Day jokes,” the official said.

The official said that access to the WikiLeaks website was restricted due to the “publication of personal information about MPs including phone numbers,” he said.

There is a “violation of privacy and publication of illegally obtained data,” he added.

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Ismail Aydin, an AK Party member of parliament, said it was illegal to publish the private communications of people, though he stressed that nothing would come out of the leaked emails that would harm the party or its officials.

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“It is not a very important development for us. Our electorate knows our phone numbers and emails,” he told Al Jazeera.

“Private communications are protected by law. Despite the fact that release of the emails is a breach of privacy, I don’t believe anyone can find anything against us in those emails. 

“Within the country and abroad, there always will be circles trying to blackmail us. We don’t seek anything, but to serve our citizens and that’s all what we did for the last 15 years.”

Releasing the emails was a “shameful act” and a breach of privacy, AK Party Member of Parliament Emrullah Isler told Al Jazeera. 

Source: Al Jazeera