Anti corruption riots in Taksim as Erdoğan returns to Istanbul

 

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As reported by AP:

Turkish riot police blasted opposition protesters with water cannons, tear gas and plastic bullets in İstanbul on Friday in scenes reminiscent of the summer’s mass anti-government demonstrations.

At least 31 people, including three lawyers, were detained in İstanbul, according to the İstanbul Bar Association.

Thousands of Erdoğan backers, meanwhile, gathered at other spots showing their support for the embattled Erdoğan. 

A Turkish high court on Friday blocked the government from changing the rules on how corruption investigations are initiated, dealing another blow to Erdoğan’s government.

Twenty-four people, including the sons of two former government ministers and the head of the state-owned financial institution, Halkbank, have been arrested on bribery charges.

Media reports say the probe is over alleged illicit money transfers to Iran and bribery for construction projects.

Erdoğan was forced to reshuffle his government this week after the three ministers, whose sons were detained for questioning as part of the corruption and bribery probe, resigned. Erdoğan says the probe is part of a wider conspiracy aimed at bringing his government down.

But his government has also removed police officers from posts and changed police regulations to ensure that corruption investigations are initiated by top police and judicial officials – some of whom are believed to be close to Erdoğan. Critics have accused Erdoğan of trying to stifle the investigation.

The High Administrative Court ruled Friday that the government revert to previous protocols on investigations pending further deliberations on the issue – a case that was prompted by complaints by Turkey’s bar association.

Before Erdoğan’s government changed the regulations, prosecutors could launch investigations and order police to carry out detentions without seeking approval from superiors.

Asked to comment on the court’s move, Erdoğan said the government would do “whatever is necessary” but did not elaborate.

Earlier, he verbally attacked a prosecutor involved in the investigation, calling him a “disgrace” and accusing him of smearing innocent people. Some Turkish media reported that the prosecutor, who has said he was being prevented from expanding the corruption probe, wanted to summon Erdoğan’s son for questioning.

The prosecutor, Muammer Akkaş, complained that police officers had not carried out orders for another wave of arrests.

In a written statement he distributed to reporters outside the courthouse late Thursday, he said that the chief prosecutor and police were hampering his probe.

İstanbul’s chief prosecutor, Turan Çolakkadı, later removed Akkaş from the case for allegedly leaking information to the media, and said Akkaş was carrying out “random investigations.”

A Turkish media outlet published what it said was a copy of the prosecutors summons for Erdoğan’s son, Bilal, to testify as a “suspect” in the investigation. According to the document, the prosecutor would have questioned him on Jan. 2 on suspicion of “forming a criminal gang.”

There was no immediate government statement disputing the authenticity of the document, which was also printed in Cumhuriyet newspaper.

Akkaş could not be reached for comment or to verify the document while officials at the prosecutors’ office refused comment.

Erdoğan said earlier this week that he believed he was the target of the corruption probe, maintaining that there were efforts to get to him through his son and through an educational foundation, of which Bilal is a board member. He also said that the efforts would fail.

The foundation, TURGEV, which is involved in the building and running of student residences, refused to comment.

Erdoğan repeated claims of a foreign conspiracy to destabilize Turkey and its economy in four separate speeches on Friday and slammed the prosecutor.

“A prosecutor who distributes press releases to journalists outside a courthouse is a disgrace to the judiciary,” Erdoğan said.

“How can you smear innocent people?” he said.

Earlier, three legislators from Erdoğan’s party, who have been critical of the government’s handling of the scandal, resigned over what they said was the government’s pressure on the judiciary.

The leader of the opposition also accused the government of protecting “thieves.”

“We have entered an era where the thieves are being protected and prosecutors who are going after the thieves are rendered ineffective,” said Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party.

Erdoğan vowed to fight the graft allegations.

“We will go if the people tell us to go, but we will ignore those who tell us to go while the people tell us to stay,” Erdoğan said in Sakarya.

The Turkish currency continued to plunge over the turmoil with the lira reaching new lows against the euro and the dollar.

The military meanwhile, said in a statement that it would not be dragged into politics amid the scandal.

The statement came after one of Erdoğan’s advisers raised the possibility in a regular column published in Star newspaper that the scandal may be a plot to trigger a coup.

 

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About yavuzbaydar

Yavuz Baydar has been an award-winning Turkish journalist, whose professional activity spans nearly four decades. In December 2013, Baydar co-founded the independent media platform, P24, Punto24, to monitor the media sector of Turkey, as well as organizing surveys, and training workshops. Baydar wrote opinion columns, in Turkish, liberal daily Ozgur Dusunce and news site Haberdar, and in English, daily Today's Zaman, on domestic and foreign policy issues related to Turkey, and media matters, until all had to cease publications due to growing political oppression. Currently, he writes regular chronicles for Die Süddeutsche Zeitung, and opinion columns for the Arab Weekly, as well as analysis for Index on Censorship. Baydar blogs with the Huffington Post, sharing his his analysis and views on Turkish politics, the Middle East, Balkans, Europe, U.S-Turkish relations, human rights, free speech, press freedom, history, etc. His opinion articles appeared at the New York Times, the Guardian, El Pais, Svenska Dagbladet, and Al Jazeera English online. Turkey’s first news ombudsman, beginning at Milliyet daily in 1999, Baydar worked in the same role as reader representative until 2014. His work included reader complaints with content, and commentary on media ethics. Working in a tough professional climate had its costs: he was twice forced to leave his job, after his self-critical columns on journalistic flaws and fabricated news stories. Baydar worked as producer and news presenter in Swedish Radio &TV Corp. (SR) Stockholm, Sweden between 1979-1991; as correspondent for Scandinavia and Baltics for Turkish daily Cumhuriyet between 1980-1992, and the BBC World Service, in early 1990's. Returning to Turkey in 1994, he worked as reporter and ediytor for various outlets in print, as well as hosting debate porogrammes in public and private TV channels. Baydar studied informatics, cybernetics and, later, had his journalism ediucatiob in the University of Stockholm. Baydar served as president of the U.S. based International Organizaton of News Ombudsmen (ONO) in 2003. He was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at University of Michigan in 2004. Baydar was given the Special Award of the European Press Prize (EPP), for 'excellence in journalism', along with the Guardian and Der Spiegel in 2014. He won the Umbria Journalism Award in March 2014 and Caravella/Mare Nostrum Prize in 2015; both in Italy. Baydar completed an extensive research on self-censorship, corruption in media, and growing threats over journalism in Turkey as a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
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