Outrage grows over rector's arrest, official's suicide

November 18, 2005

A senior official at the centre of a $25 million corruption row at a Turkish university has committed suicide while in custody.

And Yücel Askin, the university's rector, who was sharing a prison cell with the official at the time, is in critical condition in hospital after a heart spasm.

An autopsy confirmed that the death of Yüzuncü Yil University deputy secretary-general, Enver Arpali, was suicide.

Professor Askin's arrest has sparked a row between the Government and Turkish university authority Yok. His arrest, over charges of irregularities in a tender for medical equipment, was filmed by TV crews as he was manhandled by police.

Yok head Erdogan Teziç condemned the arrest and questioned the motive behind it. Yok claimed Askin's arrest stemmed from the rector's campaign to remove radical Islamists from the university.

Since his appointment, the rector has removed academics suspected of radical Islamist affiliation and sent home visiting academics from Egypt's Al Said University. Last week, a police report alleging contacts between the rector and the outlawed pro-Kurdish party PKK was obtained by a Turkish newspaper.

Professor Tezic and 50 Yok members and university rectors confronted Justice Minister Cemil Çiçek over the arrest, prompting him to respond: "Such a huge crowd of them came to my office. I can never approve of their stand.

This smells of protest."

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned the rectors. "If everyone does their own job and sticks to their business, it will be much more useful for our country," he said.

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