London, Asharq Al-Awsat—Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Wednesday that the arrests of a number of people close to his government in a corruption inquiry amounted to a “dirty operation” against his government.
A total of 52 people, including three ministers’ sons, prominent businessmen close to Erdoğan, and local government officials, were detained on Tuesday on corruption charges.
Speaking at a news conference on Wednesday, Erdoğan said: “At a time when we are trying to make Turkey one of the world’s top 10 countries, some parties work on hindering our rapid growth—some of them outside the country, and some of their aides inside the country.”
Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç has said the corruption inquiry was part of a “plot” to damage the government’s reputation. He added that his comments were not directed at US-based cleric Fethullah Gülen, who has supporters who hold influential posts in the police force and the judiciary.
Meanwhile, a prominent Erdoğan aide, Taha Genç, told Asharq Al-Awsat that there was an organization within the police force and judiciary who wanted to embarrass the government prior to upcoming elections, and accused the group of trying the same tactics on intelligence service chief Hakan Fidan last year, to no effect.
He expressed surprise at the fact that members of Istanbul police force went to Ankara to arrest the son of the Minister of the Interior and his aides, as well as the chairman of the state-owned Halkbank, without informing Ankara police, which he said contravened Turkish police procedure.
Genç also linked the new arrests to the Gezi Park protests, and accused figures linked to the protests of pursuing a new plan to undermine the government in the run-up to new elections.
The arrests have provoked a wide range of reactions across the political spectrum in Turkey, leaving many commentators speculating about the reasons behind the arrests and their impact on Turkey’s political scene.
The head of the Ankara bureau of the pro-government newspaper Akit Gazetesi, Yener Dönmez, said the corruption probe proves that there is a “separation in powers” and a “consolidation of democracy” in Turkey, and that the events were “proof that government had no influence on the judiciary.”
He told Asharq Al-Awsat that there were around 50 people being interrogated and that it was difficult to judge what was going on at the moment.
He added that “media sources and politicians have different views, some link the arrests with an ‘internal struggle’ and some link them to the Gezi Park protests against the government in June.”
Emrullah Uslu, writer in the pro- Gülen Taraf newspaper, told Asharq Al-Awsat that everyone was aware of the volume of corruption among officials, especially in government, but yesterday it was made public when police arrested the suspects.
Uslu added that “bribery, nepotism and corruption is widespread in all state institutions, and governments have tried to reduce them, unfortunately, when the issue is related to major deals and state tenders, the bribes did not stop but increased, especially among the close circle and relatives of government officials.” He said “those who eliminated small bribes kept the large ones for their close associates.”
Uslu also said: “I remember the prime minister saying he would fight corruption even if the perpetrator was his father, but we see today that those who are practicing corruption are not the fathers, but the sons, and Erdoğan stands idly by and does not punish them and is incapable of punishing them.”
Uslu also pointed to the Iranian factor in the recent events. He said: “Money was transferred from Iran when there were international economic sanctions against it. Billions of euros were brought into Turkey, which would cause embarrassment to Turkey in the world.”
The editor-in-chief of left-wing newspaper Sol, Kemal Okuyan, said these events would reduce the popularity of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and would reduce its share of the vote in the next elections, adding that the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) may enter into coalition with the ruling AKP to fight leftist and other forces.
Pro-government Yeni Şafak newspaper columnist Cem Kocek told Asharq Al-Awsat that Turkey was being influenced by “a group which is in control of the judiciary, and is affiliated to the Fethullah Gülen group. It follows orders from outside the government and does not even listen to its ministerial officials, and for more than a year, it has been causing damage to the standing of the AKP and trying to topple Prime Minister Erdoğan. The group includes attorneys, governors, and police chiefs, and all aim to harm the government ahead of the elections.”