PM Erdoğan speaks to the crowd during a mass opening ceremony on Dec. 29 in Manisa's Salihli district. AA photo
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
has amped up the volume of his vitriolic attacks amid a graft scandal that has rocked the government firing more salvos at a prosecutor who was controversially removed from duty for carrying out a new corruption case.
“We will expose them if they cause this country’s division by abusing their power. How is this, prosecutor? Hold on, we are not done yet. You distribute statements in front of the courtroom. What prosecutor comes out onto the street to distribute statements?” Erdoğan rhetorically asked prosecutor Muammer Akkaş during a mass opening ceremony in Manisa’s Akhisar district on Dec. 29.
“A prosecutor comes out and uses his position in a very peculiar manner. He turned many innocent people into scapegoats by slandering them by [leaking] confidential documents to the partisan media. How can these people go out in public even if they are cleared tomorrow?” he said, implicitely referring to the movement of Fethullah Gülen, whose followers are known to hold key positions in the judiciary.
The government's erstwhile ally, the Hizmet (Service) movement, has literally become the administration's latest "bête noire" since a row on the closure of test prep schools turned into an open conflict with the recent graft investigation implicating four government ministers.
Akkaş denounced “pressures” on the judiciary last week after police refused to carry out arrest orders against 41 suspects prior to his removal from the case by the head of Istanbul Prosecutor’s Office. The investigation he was working on was reportedly bigger than the first graft probe that has shaken the government and included many prominent businessmen, including the executives of companies that form part of the consortium that won the tender to build Istanbul’s controversial third airport.
Erdoğan also said the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) would not permit any corruption. “Even if it’s our father’s son or our child, we will not give any room to corruption.”
Last week, Erdoğan told reporters he believed that the real target of the graft probe was himself through a charity foundation which counts his son among its board members.
The sons of former Interior Minister Muammer Güler and former Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan, Barış Güler and Kaan Çağlayan, respectively, were also charged with acting as intermediaries for giving and taking bribes and put under formal arrest on Dec. 21. Former Environment and Urban Planning Minister’s Erdoğan Bayraktar’s son was among those released pending trial. All the ministers resigned Dec. 25, with Bayraktar calling on Erdoğan to follow suit for approving questionable development plans at the heart of the case.