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Protesters lambast Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan over phone recordings

By CNN Staff
February 27, 2014 -- Updated 0129 GMT (0929 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Several people responsible for encrypted phones were dismissed or suspended
  • Recordings allegedly of Erdogan talking to his son about money laundering go viral
  • Protesters lambast the Prime Minster for a second day
  • The recordings were allegedly made amid a wide-reaching corruption investigation

Istanbul (CNN) -- Red banners flapped in the breeze of a packed Istanbul street Wednesday, where demonstrators gathered to listen to opposition members lambast Turkey's Prime Minister for a second day.

Embarrassing audio recordings that sound like Recep Tayyip Erdogan giving his son money laundering tips over the phone have become a social media rage that poured out into the streets this week.

The crowd chanted "corruption everywhere, bribery everywhere" and held up signs mocking the alleged phone conversations between Erdogan and his son Bilal. "Daddy, is that you?" one read.

A day earlier, Erdogan made a full-throated denial. He did not say that the voice heard was not his, but that the recording was "immoral edited material."

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"They are listening to the government's encrypted phones; that's how low they have sunk," Erdogan said.

He denounced the recordings not as an attack on his person, but on the Turkish Republic, and he fingered interest groups that he has long accused of plotting to overthrow his government.

Two people were dismissed and five were suspended in the past two days from a key government advisory group because of the scandal, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

The Minister of Science, Industry and Technology, Fikri Isik, said the former head of the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey's Information Technology department and the head of a leading technology center were dismissed.

Five people responsible for encrypted phones for the research council were suspended.

Opposition exploits

The recordings were just what his opposition was looking for in a corruption scandal that bogged down the country for months.

Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, played the recordings at a speech before an assembly of CHP lawmakers.

"Either you take a helicopter and flee abroad, or you resign," Kilicdaroglu said in a jab at Erdogan.

Most mainstream Turkish television channels interrupted their live broadcast of Kilicdaroglu's speech when he began playing audio of the alleged conversation between Erdogan and his son. They then resumed the broadcast after the audio recordings stopped playing.

The recordings appear to be wiretaps of a series of conversations allegedly between Erdogan and Bilal.

They were allegedly made the day after a wide-reaching corruption investigation ensnared the sons of three Cabinet members. Bilal was questioned, but never detained in the investigation.

Recordings common

Embarrassing recordings of private phone conversations have been emerging on the Internet on an almost weekly basis in Turkey, ever since police detained the Cabinet minsters' sons and dozens of other businessmen and officials closely linked to Erdogan's government on December 17.

The government denounced the investigations, saying they were part of a coup attempt by what Erdogan officials described as a "parallel state" established within the police force and the judiciary.

Thousands of police officers were removed from their posts after the corruption investigation, which caught Erdogan's administration by surprise.

The top prosecutors who led the investigation have also been stripped of their positions.

Meanwhile, the government has passed a highly controversial law that gives it direct control over the judiciary.

Is instability the 'new normal' for Turkey?

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More arrests as power struggle racks Erdogan government in Turkey

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