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Turkish ministers resign over fraud probe

Economy, interior and environment ministers step down over corruption crackdown, with one calling for PM's resignation.

Last updated: 25 Dec 2013 14:07
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Zafer Caglayan and Muammer Guler announced their resignations early on Wednesday [AP]

Three Turkish ministers have resigned over a high-level corruption crackdown in which the sons of three cabinet ministers and renowned businessmen were arrested.

Economy Minister Zafer Caglayan, Interior Minister Muammer Guler and Environment Minister Erdogan Bayraktar announced their resignations on Wednesday.

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Turkey has been shaken by three sensational corruption investigations last week that led to dozens of detentions and 24 arrests of people ranging from influential business leaders to senior bureaucrats and the ministers' sons.

Caglayan's son Salih Kaan Caglayan, Guler's son Baris Guler and Bayraktar's Oguz Bayraktar were among those arrested in the sweep, which Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's prime minister, called a "dirty operation"  to smear his administration and undermine the country's progress. 

Erdogan Bayraktar, talking to Turkish television NTV on Wednesday, said that he was resigning his seat in the parliament along with his position in the cabinet.

He also criticised the government for putting pressure on him to step down, in exchange calling for Erdogan's resignation.

"I am stepping down as minister and MP.. I believe the prime minister should also resign," he said.

'No wrongdoing'

Caglayan announced his resignation in a written statement on Wednesday morning, calling the investigations a "dirty set up" against Turkey and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Rejecting any wrongdoing during his time, he said that he was resigning in order to disrupt what he calls a "set up".

Al Jazeera's Isil Sariyuce reports from Istanbul

"I am stepping down from my post as economy minister so that this ugly game targeting my close colleagues and my son will be spoiled and the truth will be revealed," Caglayan said.

Guler told the semi-official Anatolia news agency that he told Erdogan of his intention to resign on December 17. He said that he submitted his official written resignation on Wednesday morning.

The government started reshuflling the Turkish police force hours after the investigation was revealed, moving dozens of senior police officers, including the  Istanbul police chief, to passive positions over Ankara's claims of "abuse of office".

Festering tension

The investigations are widely believed to be  linked to the recent tensions between the United States-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen's movement and Erdogan's AKP that, many analysts say, used to be allies in the past in a struggle against Turkey's politically dominant military.

The tensions, which have been festering for months, peaked after the government's plans to abolish private prep schools. Gulen owns a large network of such schools.

Erdogan recently said that those behind the investigations were trying to form a "state within a state", an apparent reference to Gulen's movement, whose followers are influential in Turkey's police and judiciary.

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