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Turkish ministers resign over corruption probe

© AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-12-25

Turkey’s economy, interior and environment ministers on Wednesday resigned over a vast corruption scandal that has rattled Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government and led to the sacking of several police officers investigating the case.

In a brief statement, Economy Minister Zafer Caglayan said he is stepping down “so that full light can be shed on this ignoble operation targeting our government".

Interior Minister Baris Guler announced his resignation shortly afterwards, followed by Environment and Urbanisation Minister Erdogan Bayraktar, who called on Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to follow suit.

The ministers’ sons, Salih Kaan Caglayan, Baris Guler and Oguz Bayraktar, were among 24 people arrested on graft charges last week in a case centering on state-run lender Halkbank.

Local media has reported that they are suspected of acting as intermediaries in order to give and take bribes.

Erdogan, who has led Turkey since 2002 as the head of a conservative Islamic-leaning government, has described the probe as "a smear campaign" to undermine Turkey's ambitions to become a major political and economic power.

Since the scandal broke, Erdogan has sacked dozens of police officials, including the Istanbul police chief, for cooperating with the investigation without permission.

The fast-moving police enquiry has struck at the heart of Turkey's ruling political elite, including sons of government ministers and businessmen, and has thrown up a serious challenge for Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP), which already weathered mass street protests in June.

Observers say the wide-ranging investigation has exposed a rift between Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) government and Fethullah Gulen, a hugely influential Muslim cleric who lives in the United States and whose movement wields considerable influence in Turkey's police and judiciary.

The scandal has erupted just months ahead of Turkey's local elections on March 30 that will include a contest for the control of Turkey's largest city Istanbul and which are now being seen as a key indicator of where the political fault-lines lie throughout the country.

The stakes are high for Erdogan. Fast in the tracks of the local polls are presidential elections in August, which for the first time will be open to all voters and in which the still popular premier is expected to participate.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

Date created : 2013-12-25

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