News / Europe

Source: Turkey Detains Ministers' Sons, Businessmen in Graft Probe

A TV correspondent reports in front of Halkbank headquarters in Atasehir, in the Asian part of Istanbul, Dec. 17, 2013.
A TV correspondent reports in front of Halkbank headquarters in Atasehir, in the Asian part of Istanbul, Dec. 17, 2013.
Reuters
Turkish police detained the sons of three cabinet ministers and several well-known businessmen as part of investigations into alleged corruption on Tuesday, state officials said, in a blow to Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan months ahead of elections.

Police carried out dawn raids in the main commercial city Istanbul, detaining at least 18 people including prominent business figures, and searched the headquarters of state-run Halkbank in the capital Ankara, state officials and banking sources said. Halkbank shares fell some five percent.

Turkish commentators saw the hand of powerful Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen behind the operation, whose network of followers holds influential positions in institutions from the police and secret services to the judiciary.

Erdogan and Gulen have been locked in an acrimonious row in recent weeks over government plans to abolish private “prep” schools, many of which are run by Gulen's Hizmet [“Service”] movement and provide funding and new followers.

“It is a very bold move by the movement, one that you can't possibly ignore. It is a battle to curb each other's power,” said Ahmet Sik, a journalist detained for a year over his book on Gulen's life and influence.

Turkey holds local polls in 2014 that will be a test of Erdogan's power after a year that has seen unprecedented protests and riots against what some opponents see as an authoritarian style of government. He remains broadly popular, but some see his vulnerability in a rift with Hizmet.

Tuesday's operation, launched by the chief prosecutor's office in Istanbul, consisted of three separate investigations, according to the website of the mainstream daily Hurriyet.

One involved Halkbank, one of Turkey's biggest banks, whose offices were searched. Halkbank officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

Police also searched the headquarters of the Agaoglu Group of construction magnate Ali Agaoglu, 59, its chief executive Hasan Rahvali told Reuters.

“We are talking about a wide-scoping investigation here. It is not focused on Ali Agaoglu,” Hasan Rahvali, the chief executive of Agaoglu Group, said.

“This investigation is related to claims of bribery against some public officials. They searched the company in the early hours this morning but could not find any criminal evidence.”

He said Ali Agaoglu had been asked by the police to come and make a statement as part of the investigation.

A third investigation focused on the mayor of Istanbul's Fatih district and the three ministers' sons, the newspaper said.

Deepening political row

The sons of Interior Minister Muammer Guler, Economy Minister Zafer Caglayan and Environment and City Planning Minister Erdogan Bayraktar were detained, according to state officials in Ankara and Turkish newspaper reports.

Officials from the three ministries could not immediately be reached for comment.

Istanbul Governor Huseyin Avni Mutlu told reporters the investigation was continuing and he could not comment. Officials from Erdogan's ruling AK Party could not immediately be reached and police also declined to comment.

The developments, and fears of a deepening political row, weighed on Turkish markets. The main stock index was down 2 percent at 73,350 points, well below a 0.19 percent rise in the wider emerging markets index.

“These are fairly seismic developments. I guess inevitably people will link these to internal AK Party fissures and the battle between Erdogan supporters and the Gulen movement,” said Timothy Ash, head of emerging markets research at Standard Bank. “The gloves will now be off.”

Gulen runs a network of schools and other social facilities across the Middle East, Asia and Africa from a compound in the United States. He moved to the United States in 1999 after being charged with attempting to undermine the secular state.

He was subsequently acquitted but has remained in Pennsylvania, an enigmatic figure who gives little hint of his intentions in Turkish politics but is viewed with caution in all areas of the state.

Erdogan has incensed Gulen's movement with plans to abolish the “prep” schools. Istanbul member of parliament Hakan Sukur, a former international footballer and well-known follower of Gulen, quit the AK Party on Monday in protest.

Erdogan was first elected in 2002 and has introduced sweeping reforms that have broken the political power of the military and stimulated the economy. Some secularists accuse him of imposing Islamist values, something he denies.

The movement has helped Erdogan's Islamist-rooted AK Party win a growing share of the vote in three successive elections over the past decade.

There have long been ideological differences, though, with many of Gulen's followers seeing him as a more progressive and pro-Western influence on Turkey than Erdogan, whose views on issues from abortion to alcohol consumption have triggered growing accusations of interference in Turkish private life.

Since he came to power, Erdogan has built his own body of wealthy loyalists, largely from the same religiously minded professional and business class that revere Gulen. The rift between the two sides risks fracturing their support base ahead of local and presidential elections next year.

You May Like

IS Militants Release 49 Turkish Hostages

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reports that no ransom was paid and no conditions accepted for the hostages' release; few details of the release are known More

Photogallery IS Attacks Send Thousands of Syrian Kurds Fleeing to Turkey

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 300 Kurdish fighters crossed into Syria from Turkey to defend a Kurdish area from attack by the Islamic militants More

Video Sierra Leone's Ebola Lockdown Continues

Thousands of health workers are going door to door in the West African country of 6 million, informing people of how to avoid Ebola, handing out soap More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’i
X
Jeff Seldin
September 20, 2014 10:28 PM
Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid