Friday 20 October 2017

Turkish ministers resign after sons' arrest

Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Suzan Fraser

Three cabinet ministers have resigned in Turkey, days after their sons were taken into custody in a sweeping corruption and bribery scandal that has targeted prime minister Recep Erdogan's allies in one of the worst political crises of his more than 10 years in power.

Economy minister Zafer Caglayan and interior minister Muammer Guler announced their resignations in statements carried by the state-run Anadolu Agency.

Environment and urban planning minister Erdogan Bayraktar gave his resignation from both the cabinet and parliament in a live interview with the private NTV television channel, during which he urged the prime minister to step down.

All three ministers denied any wrongdoing.

Caglayan's and Guler's sons, along with the chief executive officer of the state-run Halkbank, are among 24 people arrested on bribery charges.

Bayraktar's son, Abdullah Oguz, was detained as part of the probe but later released.

Media reports said police seized $4.5m (€3.3m) in cash that was stashed in shoe boxes in the home of the bank's CEO, while more than $1m in cash was reportedly discovered in the home of Guler's son, Baris.

Mr Erdogan has denounced the corruption probe as a plot by foreign and Turkish forces to thwart his country's growing prosperity and discredit his government ahead of local elections in March.

Critics accuse Mr Erdogan of becoming increasingly authoritarian, but his government has won three successive elections since 2002 on the strength of the relatively robust economy, a clean image and a promise to fight corruption.

CHALLENGES

The investigation is one of the biggest political challenges Mr Erdogan has faced since his Islamic-based party narrowly escaped closure in 2008 for allegedly undermining Turkey's secular constitution.

Last summer, his government also weathered a wave of protests sparked by a development project that would have engulfed a beloved Istanbul park.

Yesterday's resignations came as a surprise.

Mr Erdogan was expected to remove ministers implicated in the scandal quietly and without fuss through a cabinet reshuffle that was planned even before the corruption allegations erupted.

Irish Independent

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