Reuters reports: Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s purge of the police command spread to other state institutions on Friday, widening a crackdown on what he described as a foreign-backed conspiracy to undermine him and create a “state within a state”.
The crisis, Erdogan’s biggest challenge in 11 years as Turkey’s leader, raised fears of damage to the Turkish economy and a fracturing in his AK Party, helping drive the lira to a historic low.
Erdogan ordered at least 14 senior police officers removed on Friday after the police launched a series of anti-corruption raids and detained senior businessmen close to Erdogan as well as the sons of three cabinet ministers.
The powerful Istanbul chief was sacked on Thursday following the dismissal of dozens of unit chiefs.
The vice chairman of the financial crimes investigation board, a unit of the finance ministry, was also removed on Friday, local media reported, as well as the editor-in-chief and news channel coordinator of state-owned TV channel TRT.
Erdogan has refrained from naming U.S.-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, a man with strong influence in the police and judiciary, as the hand behind the raids which shook the political elite. But Gulen’s Hizmet (or Service) movement has been increasingly at odds with Erdogan in recent months. [Continue reading…]
The New York Times reports: Mr. Gulen left Turkey in 1999 after being accused by the then-secular government of plotting to establish an Islamic state. He has since been exonerated of that charge and is free to return to Turkey, but never has. He lives quietly in Pennsylvania, though his followers are involved in an array of businesses and organizations in the United States and abroad, and some of them helped start a collection of charter schools in Texas and other states. He rarely gives interviews, and a spokesman recently said he was too ill to meet with a reporter.
But a lawyer for Mr. Gulen, Orhan Erdemli, said in a statement released to the Turkish news media and shared by Mr. Gulen on Twitter that “the honorable Gulen has nothing to do with and has no information about the investigations or the public officials running them.”
Huseyin Gulerce, who is personally close to Mr. Gulen and is a writer for a Gulen-affiliated newspaper, said Mr. Gulen’s followers have many of the same complaints about Mr. Erdogan that the protesters had this summer. They believe that Mr. Erdogan has become too powerful, too authoritarian in his ways, and has abandoned his earlier platform of democratic overhauls and pursuit of membership in the European Union. “This is not a group that Mr. Erdogan is not familiar with,” Mr. Gulerce said. “He knows all of us personally, from the time he was mayor of Istanbul. He has known Mr. Gulen personally for 20 years.”
“It was the Mavi Marmara crisis that created the first cracks,” in their relationship, Mr. Gulerce said. “Mr. Gulen’s attitude was very clear, as he always suggested that Turkey should not be adventurous in its foreign policy and stay oriented to the West, and that it should resolve its foreign policy issues through dialogue.”
Now, he suggested, their estrangement may be beyond repair.
As Mr. Erdogan has tried to contain the fallout, he is blaming domestic conspirators and foreign meddlers, just as he did during last summer’s protests, which began over plans to raze Gezi Park in central Istanbul and convert it into a shopping mall.
“Such accusations are only absurd speculations,” said Ersin Kalaycioglu, a political science professor at Sabanci University in Istanbul. “In Gezi, he accused the Alevis, interest rate lobbies, opposition powers and international power groups for organizing the protests. And now, he’s trying to build the same links with this corruption investigation. What kind of twisted logic is that?”
Hours after a series of dawn raids unfolded at the offices of several businessmen on Tuesday, Mr. Erdogan appeared before a crowd in Konya, a conservative town in the country’s heartland where he draws many supporters. “Some people have guns and weapons, tricks and traps,” he said, “but we have our God and that is enough for us.” [Continue reading…]