Turkish prosecutors have continued charging those in connection to a broad graft probe, including the sons of two ministers. Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan maintains, however, that the investigation is a smear campaign.
According to CNN Turk and other media agencies, 16 people had been charged by early Saturday morning, including the sons of the Turkish interior, economy and environmental ministers and Suleyman Aslan, the general manager of state-owned Halkbank. The son of Environment Minister Zafer Caglayan, who had also been detained in dawn raids on Tuesday, was among those released after questioning.
Others were the subject of corruption indictments prosecutors began to hand out on Friday. Among the offenses the accused face are accepting and facilitating bribes for development projects and securing construction permits for protected areas. In total, almost 90 people have been detained in the swoop.
Erdogan - Turkish Prime Minister since 2002 - believes the probe and arrests are part of a campaign to unsettle his government, saying he is struggling against "a state within a state." He has reportedly responded by sacking dozens of police officials,including the Istanbul police chief,
for cooperating with the investigation without permission.
Turkish media said 17 alone were fired on Monday, with Selami Altinok - a former governor with no experience in the police force - appointed Istanbul's new police chief.
"We don't deserve this. Who else has waged such a determined fight against corruption?" Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said in a parliamentary debate on Friday.
His words were met with opposition heckling. Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), has called for change.
"In this country, everything is controlled by what comes out of a dictator's mouth ... They want to drag the country into the darkness of 19th century," he said. "Turkey needs clean politics and a clean society."
Havingjust reignited talks with Turkey
on their potential inclusion to the bloc, the European Union is monitoring the situation closely.
It is the second major 2013 headache for Erdogan's Islamist government, after June's clashes between demonstrators and police in Istanbul. His tenure was allegedly under threat almost immediately after taking power through the so-called ‘Sledgehammer' coup plot of 2003, allegedly led by prominent members of the military.
Hundreds of people were arrested for their involvement in the plan, though many of the accused maintain the evidence against them was fabricated.
ph/msh (AFP, Reuters)