Turkey graft purge, 96 judges removed

2014-01-22 14:59
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (File, AP)

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (File, AP)

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Istanbul - Turkey launched a mass new purge of the police and judiciary on Wednesday as parliament debates controversial reforms that have heightened the crisis engulfing Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Around 470 police were sacked or re-assigned in the capital Ankara alone, NTV television reported, in the latest fallout from a corruption scandal targeting several top politicians and business leaders including Erdogan allies.

On Tuesday, the supreme board of judges and prosecutors (HSYK) removed 96 judges and prosecutors from their posts.

The shakeups came as Erdogan, on a visit to Brussels to try to advance Turkey's EU membership bid, defended government moves to tighten its control of the judiciary.

Coup plot

Those removed in the latest purge include five chief prosecutors and other senior figures who oversaw the trials against hundreds of top military officers convicted of plotting against the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.

At least 2 000 police and prosecutors have been dismissed or re-assigned in recent weeks in what critics have blasted as government efforts to stifle the graft probe.

Dozens of people including the sons of ministers, civil servants and business leaders, including the head of a state-owned bank, were rounded up a month ago on allegations of bribery in construction projects, money laundering, gold smuggling and illicit dealings with Iran.

But Erdogan and his allies insist it is a "coup plot" by supporters of exiled Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, a onetime AKP supporter, to destabilise the government ahead of March local elections.

The turmoil has also had a major impact on the economy, sending the lira tumbling to record lows almost daily and jeopardising government growth targets.

Government intervention

In Brussels, the prime minister refused to budge on the reforms despite EU concerns about the threat to the independence of the judiciary, a key criteria for membership of the European club.

"The judiciary should not go beyond its defined mission and mandate. This is what we're doing. Anything else is misinformation and disinformation", Erdogan said at a news conference.

"Certain recommendations have been made by our European friends and we have taken them into account", he said.

"Other modifications possibly will be made", he added, without elaborating. "But the law must come into force as quickly as possible."

Parliament was due to continue on Wednesday debating the bill, which notably calls for a greater government say in appointments at the HSYK, the country's top independent judicial body.

The corruption scandal has sparked new protests against Erdogan after he faced down a wave of nationwide anti-government demonstrations in June.

Turks have come out on to the streets to demand his resignation over the corruption scandal and what many see as his increasingly authoritarian rule, including recent moves to clamp down on the Internet.

Read more on:    eu  |  recep tayyip erdogan  |  turkey
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