Turkish government in crisis over corruption scandal
27.12.13 @ 09:28
Berlin - Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has reshuffled almost half of the entire cabinet - 10 ministers - in a bid to stave off calls that he should resign over a corruption scandal.
One of the ministers who lost his job is Egemen Bagis, the EU affairs minister and chief negotiator for Turkey's EU membership.
The move comes amid an ongoing police investigation into allegations of illicit money transfers to Iran and government officials having taken bribes for construction projects.
The sons of three ministers, as well as the head of the state-run bank Halkbank, are among 24 people who have been arrested on bribery charges, after police found millions of US dollars stashed in shoe boxes.
Protests were held in Istanbul demanding Erdogan's resignation and local media reported there were clashes with riot police Wednesday evening (25 December).
Another minister who quit, Erdogan Bayraktar, said the prime minister himself had approved many of the disputed construction projects.
"I want to express my belief that the esteemed prime minister should also resign," the outgoing environment minister said.
But Erdogan said the probe is a "dirty game" aimed at destabilising the country ahead of local elections in March.
His government appears to want to stop the investigation, with an Istanbul prosecutor on Thursday saying he had been removed from the case.
The prosecutor, Muammar Akkas, accused the government of using loyal policemen to block the execution of court orders.
"A crime has been committed throughout the chain of command.... Suspects have been allowed to take precautions, flee and tamper with the evidence," he said in a statement.
Chief prosecutor Turan Colakkadi said Akkas was removed from the investigation because he didn't report to his superiors - a new provision adopted by the government last week.
The European Parliament's Social-Democratic leader Hannes Swoboda urged the Turkish government to "show determination" in the fight against corruption and stop sacking prosecutors.
"This is Mr Erdogan's last chance to show that he wants to fight – and not cover up – corruption," Swoboda said.