Turkish authorities have detained at least 34 police officers in a new wave of raids over the illegal eavesdropping of senior government officials including current President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, according to state media.
On Monday, police conducted raids in 13 cities across Turkey and detained officers accused of tapping the phones of important figures including businessmen, politicians and government officials, Anatolia news agency reported.
The dawn raids, targeting mostly police intelligence unit officers, were carried out simultaneously in mainly eastern and southeastern cities including Erzurum, Gaziantep, Hatay and Tunceli.
The swoop was the latest in a series of raids since July last year which saw dozens of other policemen arrested for allegedly tapping the phones of Erdogan and other officials.
A trial opened on Friday of 13 suspects accused of setting up bugs to eavesdrop on Erdogan while he was prime minister, including his former top bodyguard and the head of the prime minister’s security department.
The case is linked to last year’s corruption allegations against Erdogan and his inner circle that were based on phone-tapped telephone conversations and a series of leaked recordings.
Erdogan has blamed Fethullah Gulen, a US-based Turkish Muslim leader, of concocting the corruption scandal and has purged thousands of his followers from the police and the judiciary.
The authorities last month launched raids against pro-Gulen media in a move sharply criticised by the EU as marking a new erosion of press freedom in Turkey.
As in almost all previous raids, the details of Monday’s swoop were leaked by a mysterious Twitter user named Fuat Avni before it was carried out.
Fuat Avni, who refers to Erdogan as “the tyrant”, correctly predicted the locations of the raids, including the southeastern city of Gaziantep, and the timing.
The identity of the user remains a mystery, amid speculation the person could be a senior government figure.
In another development on Monday, a parliamentary committee investigating corruption allegations voted against prosecuting four former cabinet ministers.
The four ministers stepped down last year amid suspicions of bribery and illicit money transfers to Iran.
The government insisted that the allegations were orchestrated by Gulen followers intent on bringing down the government. It nevertheless agreed to set up a committee to investigate the accusations.
The committee, which is dominated by members of Turkey’s ruling AK Party, voted 9-5 on Monday against referring the former ministers to the Supreme Court.
Parliament’s full house will have the final say on whether the politicians should be prosecuted; they are expected to be spared trial because of AK Party’s strong majority.
No date has yet been set for the vote.