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Turkey's Erdogan dares rival to return home

Fethullah Gulen accused of sowing dissent after second audio leak deepens allegations of government corruption.

Last updated: 27 Feb 2014 22:39
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Former Erdogan ally, Fethullah Gulen, has been in the United States since 1999 [Reuters]

Turkey's prime minister has openly challenged an arch-rival based in the US to return home, as their feud deepened with a second leaked recording linking Recep Tayyip Erdogan to a corruption scandal.

Erdogan said on Thursday that Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim religious leader who lives in Pennsylvania, should return to Turkey if he has not done anything wrong.

"If you want to engage in politics, go out to the squares," Erdogan said in speech.

"But do not stir up this country. Do not disturb the peace of this country."

It was the first time the prime minister directly spoke to his ally-turned-enemy Gulen, who left Turkey in 1999.

The challenge came as a second tape recording was posted online on Wednesday, in which Erdogan can supposedly be heard talking to his son about $10m promised by a businessman.

The corruption scandal erupted on December 17 when dozens of Erdogan allies were detained in police raids on allegations of bribery in construction projects, gold smuggling and illicit dealings with Iran.

Erdogan retaliated by sacking hundreds of police and prosecutors believed to be linked to Gulen, but the crisis has evolved into the biggest challenge yet to Erdogan's 11 years in power.

First recording

A tape was released on Monday in which Erdogan and his son allegedly discussed hiding $41m on the day of the police raids.

Bekir Bozdag, justice minister, has dismissed the tapes as "slander" aimed at weakening Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the run-up to the polls.

Erdogan's government, which once teamed up with so-called Gulenists to tame the influence of Turkey's military, has alleged Gulen's allies want to destabilise the country ahead of local elections in March, and presidential elections in August.

Gulen, who has strong ties to Turkey's police and judiciary, has denied the accusations.

Through his lawyer, Gulen has described the accusation of complicity in the tapes as unjust and contributing to an atmosphere of "hatred and enmity" in Turkish society, the Reuters news agency said.

Local media, meanwhile, reported the AKP was now mulling whether to issue an international arrest warrant for Gulen.

Speculation that the Gulen movement may face legal action was spurred by a meeting on Wednesday of Turkey's National Security Council, bringing together the country's top civilian and military brass.

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Source:
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