Turkey in new mass purge as MPs debate judicial reforms

Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses a meeting in Istanbul on Jan 17, 2014. Turkey launched a mass new purge of the police and judiciary on Wednesday, Jan 22, 2014, as parliament debates controversial reforms that have hei
Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses a meeting in Istanbul on Jan 17, 2014. Turkey launched a mass new purge of the police and judiciary on Wednesday, Jan 22, 2014, as parliament debates controversial reforms that have heightened the crisis engulfing Mr Erdogan. -- FILE PHOTO: REUTERS

ISTANBUL (AFP) - Turkey launched a mass new purge of the police and judiciary on Wednesday as parliament debates controversial reforms that have heightened the crisis engulfing Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Around 470 police were sacked or reassigned in the capital Ankara, local media reported, in the latest fallout from a corruption scandal targeting several top politicians and business leaders including Erdogan allies.

In the western port city of Izmir, a dozen police chiefs were removed from their posts, Dogan news agency reported.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) had removed 96 judges and prosecutors from their jobs.

The shakeups came as Mr Erdogan, on a visit to Brussels to try to advance Turkey's EU membership bid, defended government moves to tighten its control of the judiciary.

Those falling victim of the latest purge include five chief prosecutors and other senior figures who oversaw the trials against hundreds of top military officers convicted of plotting against the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.

At least 2,000 police and prosecutors have been dismissed or reassigned in recent weeks in what critics have blasted as government efforts to stifle the graft probe.

The purge extended to the other sectors at the weekend, with the dismissal of high-ranking officials at the top banking watchdog, communications regulatory body and state television.

Dozens of people including the sons of ministers, and business leaders were rounded up a month ago on allegations of bribery in construction projects, money laundering, gold smuggling and illicit dealings with Iran, setting off the worst crisis in Erdogan's 11-year rule.

But the prime minister insists it is a "coup plot" by supporters of exiled Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, a onetime AKP supporter, to destabilise the government ahead of March local elections.

The turmoil has also had a major impact on the economy, sending the lira tumbling to record lows almost daily and jeopardising government growth targets.

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