Erdogan denounces 'judicial coup' against Turkey

Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan at a joint news conference with his Libyan counterpart Ali Zeidan (not pictured) in Istanbul on Jan 3, 2014. Mr Erdogan on Saturday, Jan 4, 2014, hit out against a corruption probe that has dragged down members
Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan at a joint news conference with his Libyan counterpart Ali Zeidan (not pictured) in Istanbul on Jan 3, 2014. Mr Erdogan on Saturday, Jan 4, 2014, hit out against a corruption probe that has dragged down members of his government, calling it an "attempted assassination" and a "judicial coup". -- PHOTO: REUTERS

ISTANBUL (AFP) - Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday, Jan 4, 2014, hit out against a corruption probe that has dragged down members of his government, calling it an "attempted assassination" and a "judicial coup".

At a luncheon in Istanbul with generally pro-government intellectuals, writers and journalists, Mr Erdogan reiterated his view that shadowy groups in Turkey and abroad are conspiring to oust him from power.

"What they wanted to do was an attempted assassination of the national will," he said in the address later broadcast on television.

"They tried to carry out a judicial coup in Turkey... But we are going to oppose this operation, this Dec 17 plot that targeted the future, the stability of our country," Mr Erdogan said.

A string of public figures including high-profile businessmen and the sons of three ministers were detained on Dec 17 over allegations of bribery for construction projects as well as illicit money transfers to sanctions-hit Iran.

Several MPs including a former culture minister have resigned from the ruling party AKP since the raids, which the government has suggested were instigated by supporters of an influential US-based Turkish cleric.

Mr Erdogan was also forced into a major Cabinet reshuffle after the resignation of three ministers whose sons were implicated in the probe.

The corruption scandal has sparked a fresh wave of protests against Mr Erdogan, half a year after he faced down a series of nationwide anti-government demonstrations.

It has also hurt the economy, sending the Turkish lira currency to a record low against the dollar and shares tumbling on the Istanbul stock exchange.

Mr Erdogan on Saturday expressed confidence that Turkey would overcome its current difficulties and pointed to municipal elections set for March as a test for his government ahead of presidential elections in August.

"We will not allow a cloud to be cast over Turkey's future," he vowed.

Meanwhile Turkish President Abdullah Gul has promised that any corruption would not be hushed up.

"If acts of corruption are covered up, society will disintegrate," said Mr Gul on television on Friday night. "Nothing must be hidden. Those who have not committed a crime, have nothing to fear." Mr Gul and Mr Erdogan were co-founders of the AKP in 2001.

Since a government crackdown in June on protesters opposed to plans to develop an Istanbul park, the two leaders have carefully avoided any confrontation but have been demonstrating different styles in the crisis - Mr Erdogan is seen as authoritarian while Mr Gul has appeared as a unifier.

Mr Erdogan's government, in power since 2002, has accused loyalists of US-exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen, whose movement wields influence in the police and judiciary, of instigating the corruption probe.

A journalist at the meeting with Mr Erdogan on Saturday said the Premier told them that he had received a letter from Mr Gulen's movement, "possibly drafted by Gulen himself", calling for reconciliation between the two sides.

But Mr Gulen's movement said in a statement that "this letter was not addressed to Mr Prime Minister and it includes no references to bargaining."

Mr Gulen, who left Turkey for the United States in 1999 after being accused of plotting to form an Islamic state, has denied involvement in the graft investigation.

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