A Turkish prosecutor leading a high-level bribery and corruption investigation says he has been removed from the case and that police refused to comply with his orders to arrest more suspects.
Muammer Akkas said Thursday the Turkish judiciary "was subjected to open pressure from both the chief prosecutor's office and the judicial police, [while] the execution of court orders was obstructed."
The investigation has ensnared former top politicians and businessmen and prompted a cabinet reshuffle by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan after three ministers stepped down this week.
One of the three, former Interior Minister Muammer Guler, criticized the probe as "blackmail."
He said, "I have pointed out that this operation is a blackmail rather than a legal probe considering quality and implementation of this process and the fact that none of the rules that are necessary for proceeding were complied with."
Turkey's chief public prosecutor, Turan Colakkadi, also rejected Akkas' charge, saying that prosecutors were not authorized to launch "random investigations."
Colakkadi said Akkas was removed from the case because he mishandled the proceedings and leaked information to the media.
Akkas' dismissal comes a day after he reportedly ordered the detention of 30 more suspects, including ruling party lawmakers and businessmen.
Despite the reshuffle and resignations, Erdogan remains defiant. He claims the graft allegations are being advanced by a shadowy international cabal with high-level ties to the Turkish police and judiciary.
He has already ordered that dozens of police officers involved in the probe be fired.
The scandal poses the most serious threat yet to Erdogan's grip on power. His image was already bruised by a wave of anti-government protests in June.