ISTANBUL — Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan says a leaked recording of conversations he allegedly had with his son about hidden funds was fabricated. However, opposition leaders ignored Erdogan's denial and called for his resignation.
Erdogan angrily condemned an audio recording of him allegedly talking to his son Bilal about hiding large sums of money.
They published a recording that they have edited and dubbed themselves, he said Monday, calling the leak a "vile attack" against the prime minister of Turkey.
Following the release of the recording late Monday, Erdogan held an emergency meeting with his intelligence chief Hakan Fidan and senior ministers. The prime minister's office issued a statement saying it was part of a sustained campaign to unseat him.
The conversations are purported to have occurred last December, the day after police detained dozens of people, including the sons of three ministers, as part an investigation into alleged high-level corruption.
Devlet Bahceli, leader of the far-right National Action Party, described the recording as "mind blowing" and called on prosecutors to investigate.
Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party, demanded the prime minister resign or flee the country by helicopter, saying he had lost all legitimacy.
Asli Aydintasbas, columnist for Turkish newspaper Milliyet, thinks the government may be able to contain the political damage. He says, "In theory they [the alleged conversations] are extremely damaging, but I am not sure people are hearing about it. On the airwaves you rarely hear proper allegations. Sometimes you hear the denial, but not the actual story. "
The prime minister claims the recording and corruption probe are part of a conspiracy against his government by followers of Islamic cleric Fetullah Gulen.
Gulen, who lives in self-imposed exile in the United States, was once an ally of the prime minister. The ruling AK Party accuses Gulen followers of creating a parallel state within the police and judiciary - a charge Gulen denies.
On Monday, the government claimed rogue prosecutors had been monitoring the telephone calls of 7,000 people, including ministers, journalist and academics.
Soli Ozel, a political commentator for Haberturk TV, says the Turkish state is now under threat.
"We are basically seeing the disintegration, the unraveling, the evaporation of the Turkish state as we’ve known it," he said. "Its institutions no longer have institutional integrity left. Its rules and laws are not really being observed. We don’t know which laws are going to be observed and which laws are not. And it's going to be pretty tense from now until the end of the March, when we have the local elections."
Analysts say that the corruption probe is a major challenge to Erdogan, who has been in power for 11 years. They are also say additional alleged recordings of the prime minister and other government officials are likely to be released ahead of key local elections in March.