ANKARA: A graft probe that has shaken Turkey’s government to its core and threatened Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s rule has been blocked, a prosecutor alleged on Thursday (Friday in Manila).
“Clear pressure” from Istanbul’s chief prosecutor and police commanders have stymied further arrests in the investigation, which has already netted several high-profile political and business figures suspected of bribery and corruption, state prosecutor Muammer Akkas said in a statement.
His charge came the day after Erdogan reshuffled nearly half his cabinet following the resignation of his interior, economy and environment ministers, all of whose sons have been implicated in the scandal, and the first two detained pending trial.
The outgoing environment minister, Erdogan Bayraktar told NTV television he had been pressured to quit, and stated “I believe the prime minister should also resign.”
The premier, though, appears determined to weather the storm, even as it inches closer to his inner circle and family.
He has claimed the probe was launched by a shadowy international cabal, and has ordered the sacking of dozens of police officers involved in carrying it out.
But many observers see the developments as a grievous blow to his 11-year reign, during which he has built a reputation as a formidable economic steward but also an autocratic leader.
On Thursday, the Turkish lira dived to a new record low on the developments. The Istanbul stock market has also taken a beating.
The opposition Cumhuriyet daily predicted an “earthquake” would ensue as investigators turned their attention to a non-governmental organization connected to the premier’s son Bilal.
The paper said prosecutors were pressuring police to investigate construction tenders granted to the NGO by an Istanbul municipality, whose mayor has been implicated in the corruption scandal.
The mayor, a member of Erdogan’s Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP), was briefly detained last week but later released pending trial.
Akkas said in his statement on Thursday that Turkey’s public “should be aware that I, as public prosecutor, have been prevented from launching an investigation.”
On Wednesday he was reported to have ordered the detention of 30 more suspects in the case, including ruling party lawmakers and businessmen.
Akkas said police chiefs were acting illegally by disobeying court orders furthering the probe.