22nd Dec 2013 – (Reuters) – Thousands took to the streets of Istanbul on Sunday to protest against the government over a corruption scandal that has led to multiple arrests and exposed a rift between Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and an influential U.S.-based Muslim cleric. Twenty-four people, including the sons of two ministers and the head of state-owned Halkbank, have been formally charged in connection with the corruption inquiry that Erdogan has called a “dirty operation” to undermine his rule.
In response, Erdogan has sacked or moved to different posts about 70 police officers, including the powerful head of Istanbul’s force, in a widening crackdown on the force that launched the investigation.
Erdogan drew thousands of cheering supporters when he toured the north of the country on Sunday.
But in Istanbul, anti-government demonstrators flooded into Kadikoy Square, where a protest against government urbanisation plans had been scheduled to take place, before they were largely dispersed by police firing teargas and water cannon. “Everywhere is (Erdogan’s) AK Party, everywhere is corruption,” they chanted, a reference to the slogan of summer anti-government protests that centred on Istanbul’s Taksim Square, “Everywhere is Taksim, everywhere is resistance”.
As in the case of the summer protests, the fiercest since he came to power in 2002, Erdogan has pointed to foreign hands in the crisis. “They are setting wicked and dark traps in our country, using their local pawns to disrupt Turkey‘s unity and integrity,” Erdogan said in the Black Sea city of Giresun on Sunday. The Economy Minister and Interior Minister, whose sons were among the 16 arrested on Saturday, echoed Erdogan on Sunday, saying via Twitter and the media that the allegations were part of ‘big trap’.
- Istanbul Police Fire Tear Gas at Protesters (voanews.com)
- Another 25 chiefs removed, Turkish police use water cannons to disperse protesters (cyprus-mail.com)
- Erdogan Removes Police Probing Turkey Graft Amid Protests (bloomberg.com)
- Turkish corruption scandal: Erdogan blames foreigners (yalibnan.com)
- Thousands in anti-corruption protests; Erdogan defiant (trust.org)