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Turkey's corruption scandal sparks demos

Monday, Dec 23, 2013 - 02:00

Dec 23 - The corruption scandal that has exposed a growing rift between Prime Minister Erdogan and his former ally, the influential cleric, Fethulla Gulen, escalates into demonstrations in Istanbul as thousands take part in anti-government protests. David Pollard reports.

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After a summer of riots, is Turkey on the brink again? It's the same demand: the government must resign - thousands taking part in this protest in Istanbul. This time, the anger is fuelled by allegations of widespread corruption. Police are leading an inquiry into officials at the highest level - some very close to the premier, Tayyip Erdogan. A day earlier, 24 people were charged, including the sons of two government ministers and the head of the state-owned Halkbank. Protesters marking his arrest with shoe boxes - after media reports they were found filled with cash at his house. For his part, Erdogan has sacked or moved some 70 police chiefs in a crackdown on the force that opened the investigation. And told supporters at a rally in northern Turkey that unnamed foreign powers were playing a part. SOUNDBITE (Turkish), TAYYIP ERDOGAN, TURKISH PRIME MINISTER, SAYING: "These recent days, very strangely, ambassadors have been involved in some provocative acts. I am calling on them from here: do your job. If you leave your area of duty, this could extend into our jurisdiction." Although he didn't name him, Erdogan also holds responsible a recent, former close ally. The secretive Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen lives in a religious compound in the United States. But wields huge influence through a chain of religious schools - and a massive popular following including, it's suggested, parts of the Turkish police and prosecution service. The crisis hasn't yet reached the pitch of the summer unrest, but foreign investors are keeping an eye on things. Peter Dixon of Commerzbank. SOUNDBITE (English), PETER DIXON, GLOBAL ECONOMIST, COMMERZBANK, SAYING: ''If we do get a significant mounting of unrest and we get much more protest on the streets of Istanbul, that's certainly going to make investors think again about whether they're prepared to invest in Turkey at current exchange rates.'' Erdogan's position is thought to be safe for now. But the row may help decide local elections in March - even more so as Gulen's influence has helped Erdogan's AK Party win its share of the vote in three successive past elections.

Turkey's corruption scandal sparks demos

Monday, Dec 23, 2013 - 02:00

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