Reuters reports: The network of a U.S.-based cleric illegally tapped thousands of telephones in Turkey to blackmail and concoct criminal cases as part of a campaign of covert influence over government, a top adviser to Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday.
A lawyer for preacher Fethullah Gulen, accused by Erdogan of building a parallel command structure in police and judiciary, described the accusations as unjust and contributing to an atmosphere of “hatred and enmity” in Turkish society.
The government accuses Gulen’s Hizmet (Service) network of engineering corruption charges against figures including businessmen close to Erdogan that came to light with a series of raids on December 17. The scandal has posed the biggest challenge yet to Erdogan’s 11-year-rule.
The government responded by reassigning thousands of police and hundreds of prosecutors and judges in a bid to purge the influence of Gulen, once an ally of Erdogan believed to have helped the prime minister rein in the power of the military.
Hizmet runs a large network of schools, businesses and media groups in Turkey and across the world. Tension with Erdogan came to light when the prime minister moved to close the schools, a primary source of Hizmet’s income and influence. [Continue reading…]