Fourteen more senior police commissioners have been removed from their positions in the Turkish National Police headquarters as part of the developments that followed a high-level corruption crackdown that includes the sons of three cabinet ministers and renowned businessmen.
The government started comprehensive revisions in the Turkish police force on Wednesday, a day after the corruption raids, in a move widely perceived as Ankara’s response to the corruption investigation, which Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan calls a “dirty operation” to smear his administration and undermine the country’s progress.
Dozens of high-level police commissioners have been sacked in various cities, after the raids related to the probe that led to detention of tens prominent business figures.
Those detained in relation to the graft investigation on Tuesday included the sons of Interior Minister Muammer Guler, Economy Minister Zafer Caglayan and Environment Minister Erdogan Bayraktar.
Various well-known businessmen and bureaucrats were also detained including Suleyman Aslan, the chief executive of Turkish state bank Halkbank, Mustafa Demirand, the mayor of Istanbul district Faith, and Ali Agaoglu, a renowned construction tycoon. Over 80 people are detained in relation to the probe, according to Turkish police.
The suspects are accused of accepting and facilitating corruption in tenders, money laundering and bribery to secure construction permits for protected areas, the Turkish media reported. Cash money of $4.5m had been seized at Aslan’s house at the raids.
Tensions high before elections
Many analysts link the recent corruption investigation to the recent rift between United States-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen and Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
Erdogan says those behind the investigation were trying to form a “state within a state”, an apparent reference to the movement of Gulen, whose followers are influential in Turkey’s police and judiciary.
Political tensions are running high in Turkey ahead of a series of elections starting next year that will pose a key test for Erdogan after anti-government protests in June.
The tensions between AKP and Gulen arose after the government’s plans to abolish private prep schools that prepare students for the Turkish central university exam. Gulen owns a large network of such schools.
The cleric, 72, has been living in exile in the US since 1999 to escape charges of plotting against the secular state but his movement still wields considerable influence within the status apparatus in Turkey including the police and the judiciary.