NEW: Protesters march in Istanbul, Adana, are met by police
A Turkish prosecutor says police have not carried out court orders
He is removed from a high-profile corruption investigation
Three ministers resign after their sons are detained
A Turkish prosecutor has openly accused police of interfering with a high-level corruption investigation.
“Court orders have not been carried out and there has been open pressure on the judicial process from both the chief prosecutor’s office and from the police force, which is supposed to carry out the decisions of the courts,” Muammer Akkas said in a Thursday statement.
He spoke one day after three Cabinet ministers resigned their posts, after their sons were arrested or temporarily detained in an anti-graft sting, semiofficial news agency Anadolu reported.
One of them, Urbanization and Environment Minister Erdogan Bayraktar, went further than the other two, not just resigning his Cabinet position but also calling on Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to step down.
Turkish media reported a possible second wave of detentions as imminent late Wednesday, but the raids did not materialize.
Instead, an apparent deadlock within the judiciary emerged as Akkas, the prosecutor, issued his statement saying the judiciary was under the heel of the government.
Akkas accused police and prosecutors of ignoring a decision of the courts by refusing to carry out more raids.
In a televised statement, Chief Istanbul Prosecutor Turan Colakkadi fired back, saying that Akkas had mishandled the investigation and leaked information to the press, leading to his removal from the case.
Economy Minister Zafer Caglayan and Interior Minister Muammer Guler, whose sons were also arrested in the investigation, also resigned Wednesday. Erdogan accepted the resignations, Anadolu reported.
The sons were detained in a roundup that included the head of a public bank, several bureaucrats and high-profile businessmen. The roundup came after a two-year investigation by the Istanbul Prosecutor’s Office into allegations of corruption including money laundering, gold smuggling and bribery.
Many analysts see the corruption investigation as a public fight between Erdogan and Fethullah Gulen, an Islamist preacher living in self imposed exile in Pennsylvania.
Erdogan has repeatedly said since the corruption arrests began that international organizations with branches inside Turkey are trying to destabilize the country.
“This country has never been and never will be the operational space of international organizations. We will not allow the interest lobby, the war lobby, the blood lobby to carry out an operation under the guise of a corruption operation,” he said Sunday.
Turkey is expected to hold local elections next year, and some analysts see the raids as a test of Erdogan’s grip on power, especially after a turbulent year of unprecedented anti-government protests.
Demonstrations continued Thursday, with marches in Istanbul, Mersin, Izmir and Adana, where police used water cannons on marchers.
Protesters chanted: “The ministers are thieves,” “Everywhere is bribery, everywhere is corruption,” the “Public will clean this dirt” and the “Prime Minister is a thief.”
The Prime Minister had been expected to reorganize his Cabinet, because some of his ministers will be running for office in March. Late Wednesday, he announced a Cabinet shuffle, naming 10 new people.
After the announcement, former Culture Minister Ertugrul Gunay tweeted his displeasure.
“I wish success to the new members of the Cabinet. I will suffice to say for now that I don’t find the choices for Justice and Interior positions suitable,” he wrote Wednesday.
One day later, he and two other members of parliament – Izmir MP Erdal Kalkan and Ankara MP Haluk Ozdalga – were sent to Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party’s disciplinary committee with a request for their dismissal.
According to Anadolu, the party announced it is taking this disciplinary action against three of its members for “disparaging remarks” against its ideals and core policies.
Gul Tuysuz reported and wrote from Istanbul. Talia Kayali and Dana Ford reported and wrote from Atlanta.