x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Sixth Turkish politician resigns over corruption scandal

Hasan Hami Yildirim had criticised the government for exerting pressure on the judiciary over the graft investigation, which has plunged Turkey into political turmoil just three months ahead of key elections.

ANKARA // Another legislator from Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) resigned on Tuesday over a high-level corruption scandal, further shaking the prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s, grip on power.

Hasan Hami Yildirim had criticised the government for exerting pressure on the judiciary over the graft investigation, which has plunged Turkey into political turmoil just three months ahead of key elections.

A string of public figures including high-profile businessmen and the sons of three ministers were detained on December 17 over allegations of bribery for construction projects as well as illicit money transfers to sanctions-hit Iran.

Five legislators including a former culture minister have resigned from the AKP since the raids, which the government has suggested were instigated by supporters of an influential US-based Turkish cleric.

Mr Erdogan was also forced into a major cabinet reshuffle after the resignation last week of three ministers whose sons were implicated in the probe.

The corruption scandal has exposed a seething feud between the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and a former ally, the influential Muslim cleric, Fethullah Gulen, whose supporters hold key positions in the police and the judiciary.

The latest resignation has reduced the number of AKP seats in parliament to 320 out of 550.

The government is set for a key test in March local elections, which will be followed by an August presidential vote and parliamentary elections in 2015.

“It was not an easy decision,” Mr Yildirim said.

“I wish that the views and opinions I expressed were taken into consideration but I saw that if I stayed in the party I would have been subject to more criticism and I could not take that.”

Mr Yildirim had previously criticised the removal from the probe of an Istanbul prosecutor, Muammer Akkas, who had been set to order a second wave of arrests, reportedly including Mr Erdogan’s son.

“Pressure on prosecutor Muammer Akkas is unacceptable. This pressure cannot be legitimised in a state governed by rule of law,” Mr Yildirim said on Twitter.

The government removed Mr Akkas from the case last week, accusing him of leaking secret files to the media, with Mr Erdogan describing him as a “disgrace to justice”.

The government spokesman, Bulent Arinc, announced on Monday that plans were in the making for legal action against judges and prosecutors accused of wrongdoing or abuse of power.

Mr Erdogan’s government has already ordered the sacking of dozens of police chiefs linked to Mr Gulen or who oversaw the December 17 raids, including the powerful head of the Istanbul force.

The row between government and Mr Gulen followers first hit the headlines in November over AKP plans to shut down a network of private schools run by the movement.

* Agence France-Presse