Turkey sacks 350 police officers amid corruption probe
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The Turkish government sacked 350 police chiefs and officers overnight as it struggles to contain a vast corruption scandal involving key allies of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, local media reported Tuesday.
The officers, who were fired by a government decree published at midnight, included the heads of the financial crimes, anti-smuggling, cybercrime and organised crime units, the private Dogan News Agency reported.
The move appears to be the government's latest effort to contain a high-level corruption probe that is posing the biggest threat ever to Erdogan's 11-year-long rule.
Erdogan has denounced the investigation as a foreign plot to bring down his government. He has ordered the sacking of hundreds of police officials across the country, including the police chief in Istanbul.
The appointment of Selami Altinok, a little-known governor with no background in police work, as Istanbul's new head of police was seen as a further attempt to undermine the investigation.
The probe has revealed the bitter fault lines that exist within Erdogan's traditional power base and prompted calls from both his own party and the opposition for the resignation of the entire government.
It has also exposed the pervasive influence of exiled Muslim scholar Fethullah Gulen on the Turkish power structure.
The investigation is believed to be linked to tensions between Erdogan's administration and followers of Gulen, who lives in exile in the United States but whose supporters hold key positions in government, including in the police force and the judiciary.
The crisis erupted December 17 when police arrested dozens of people suspected of numerous offences, including accepting and facilitating bribes for development projects and securing construction permits for protected areas. Those detained included Erdogan allies as well as the sons of former ministers and the chief executive of Turkey's state-run Halkbank.
Erdogan's critics accuse him of desperately trying to protect his cronies.
Erdogan has vowed to battle "a state within a state", apparently referring to Gulen supporters in the state apparatus, and said he would not allow parallel structures in the government.
Gulen, who has been living in self-imposed exiled in the US state of Pennsylvania since 1999, has denied any involvement in the controversial graft inquiry. His followers were key backers of Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) when it came to power in 2002.
The European Union, which Turkey aspires to join, urged Turkish authorities to address the graft allegations in an "impartial manner".
The turmoil has rattled Erdogan's government ahead of key local polls in March and plunged the Turkish lira to an all-time low.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)
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