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article imageTurkey: Erdogan faces new protests over corruption scandal Special

By Lonna Lisa Williams     Dec 28, 2013 in World
Istanbul - Turkish protesters once again face off with lines of police as they protest the Ak Party corruption scandal in Turkey and demand Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to resign.
Three top Ak Party Ministers have resigned since the police launched a corruption inquiry 2 weeks ago. The inquiry (known as "the operation" inside Turkey) took everyone by surprise, even billionaire builders, heads of banks, members of the Ak Party and their families, and Prime Minister Erdogan himself.
Erdogan struck back by declaring that the corruption inquiry was initiated by "international forces" that aimed to take down him and the Ak Party. He accused former ally, Muslim Cleric Fetullah Gulen, whose system of private language schools Erdogan had begun to shut down in Turkey. Gulen, who controls vast wealth and power through his million-plus "hizmet" followers, also wields power inside Turkey's police, secret service, and courts. Gulen broadcasts his Islamic teaching through his television and newspaper media. He fled to American in 1999 after being accused of trying to set up an Islamic state in Turkey and lives on an estate near Philadelphia.
Erdogan also accused Israel and America of being behind the operation, even issuing a warning to U.S. Ambassador Francis Ricciardone. Erdogan later softened his tone toward Ricciardone and other ambassadors when the European Union and American issued statements of concern over Erdgoan's actions and rhetoric.
Even though several top Ak Party ministers have resigned and Erdogan has rearranged his cabinet members, Erdogan refuses to admit any guilt on behalf of the Islamist Ak Party. Recently, Erdogan's own son Bilal, who is the head of several companies, has come under some suspicion in the anti-corruption operation.
Erdogan has fired police officers all over Turkey, even the chief of Istanbul. He has fired prosecutors who issued search warrants for the operation. Erdogan even issued new orders that no surprise corruption operations could be launched without first informing the Ak Party and Erdogan himself. This infuriated Turkey's prosecutors, who labeled this decree illegal and unconstitutional.
Istanbul prosecutor Muammar Akkas, whom Erdogan fired from the corruption inquiry, stated, "By means of the police force, the judiciary was subjected to open pressure, and the execution of court orders was obstructed. A crime has been committed throughout the chain of command.... Suspects have been allowed to take precautions, flee and tamper with the evidence."
The corruption issue took to the streets this past week as thousands of protesters gathered in Ankara and Istanbul to demand Erdgoan's resignation and transfer of the country's government away from Ak Party power and back to Ataturk's secular democracy party, the CHP. Protesters held up shoe boxes to illustrate the vast amounts of cash stashed in the houses of Ak Party minister's sons, rich builders, and heads of banks, especially Halkbank, one of Turkey's largest banks, which has also been implicated in illegal gold trade with Iran. Erdogan quickly dispatched hordes of police who used water canon, pepper spray, and rubber bullets against the protesters. Erdogan also placed a media block on coverage of the protests.
Turkey still has the highest number of journalists in prison than any other country, and many television stations have seen their employees and even presidents arrested. Only one newspaper, Cumhuriyet, which was founded by Ataturk himself, has perpetutal legal protection from being shut down or disbanded.
The Turkish lira is at a record low, and more Ak Party members may resign. Former culture minister Ertugrul Gunay said the party was "being directed by arrogance."
The U.S. State Department issued a warning to Americans living in Turkey to avoid protests, especially one scheduled in Istanbul last night at 7:00 p.m.
"Taksim is very dangerous right now," an American who has lived in Istanbul for years stated. "My partner could not get home by any other way than taking the ferry from the European side, and even that was filled with protesters. All the train station windows in Taksim are broken, and police fill the streets, waiting for protesters."
"I finally got a little quiet after all the protests last night," an American woman who has also lived in Istanbul for years reported. "The Turks are very angry about the corruption scandal, and the police are everywhere."
"I don't think that Erdogan will step down. It will not be easy to change his regime," a Turkish man commented. "There are still many people loyal to the Ak Party."
Reporter's Update (January 1, 2014): Since the corruption investigation was launched on December 17, 5 AKP Members of Parliament have resigned, including the 3 whose sons are being investigated for corruption, forcing Erdogan to reshuffle his cabinet. Erdogan has fired dozens of police chiefs, and even judges have been removed from office. Erdogan is claiming that the corruption investigation is a " an assassination attempt hidden under the cover of corruption." The country's highest court issued a statement Tuesday, saying it "does not take instructions or requests from anyone and acts according to powers that have been conferred to it by the constitution." About 1000 protester flooded the Taksim Square metro station in Istanbul on Tuesday, December 31, demanding Erdogan's resignation. Protesters also assembled in the capital of Ankara. With 3 months to go before key local elections, Erdogan's Ak Party may be on its way out of power in Turkey.
Police hide behind their shields in Taksim
Police hide behind their shields in Taksim
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