Ankara, Reuters—Turkey’s deputy police chief has been sacked, the most senior commander yet targeted in a purge of a force heavily influenced by a cleric Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accuses of plotting to seize the levers of state power.
Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) meanwhile sent plans to parliament to allow government more say over the appointment of prosecutors and judges. Erdoğan argues that judiciary and police are in the sway of the Hizmet (Service) movement of cleric Fethullah Gülen contrived a graft investigation now shaking his administration.
The police website said the deputy head of the national police, Muammer Buçak, and provincial chiefs, among them the commanders in the capital Ankara and the Aegean province of Izmir, were removed from their posts overnight.
The government has purged hundreds of police since the graft scandal erupted on December 17 with the detention of dozens of people including businessmen close to the government and three cabinet ministers’ sons. Among the dozens questioned, most have been released. Twenty-four, including two of the ministers’ sons, remain in custody, according to local media.
The scandal has shaken investor confidence in Turkey before elections this year and heightened concern about the erosion of judicial independence, something which in the longer term could damage its bid for membership of the European Union.
“We urge Turkey, as a candidate country committed to the political criteria of accession . . . to take all the necessary measures to ensure that allegations of wrongdoing are addressed without discrimination,” a spokesman for the European Commission said when asked in Brussels about the affair.
Details of the corruption allegations have not been made public, but are believed to relate to construction and real estate projects and Turkey’s gold trade with Iran, according to Turkish newspaper reports citing prosecutors’ documents.
The affair, which exposed a deep rift within the Turkish political establishment, has hit market confidence, driving the lira to new lows. Ratings agency Fitch warned that “strains on institutional integrity” were among the factors that could weaken Turkey’s creditworthiness.
Moody’s, which raised Turkey to investment grade last May, said domestic political risk was already factored into its rating, suggesting it plans no imminent change.