A number of officials and members of top-management at Izmir Port were detained yesterday, as part of the ongoing corruption investigation in Turkey.
Last night, the government removed 350 police officers from their posts at Ankara Police department and relocated at total of 600 police officers in a massive retaliatory purge.
Many view the tit for tat purges as a desperate battle between the ruling AKP government and followers of the Islamic scholar who lives in self-imposed exile in the USA, Fetullah Gulen.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) launched an investigation yesterday into newly appointed Istanbul Police Chief Selami Altinok, who replaced Huseyin Capkin after Capkin was reassigned as part of the probe.
Yesterday, three senior Izmir officers were fired after initiating fraud investigations in to transactions at commercial harbours operated by the Turkish State Railways (TCDD) when 25 people were detained.
The suspects, including eight TCDD officials, were taken into custody on charges of bribery, corruption, conspiring to rig tenders and leaking information about tenders as part of a fraud investigation launched by the Izmir Public Prosecutor.
Those detained include senior officials such as the director of the Izmir port and his two deputies, while reports also claimed that an arrest warrant had been issued for the brother-in-law of former Transport and Urban Planning Minister Binali Yildirim, who works in the company of a CEO taken into custody during the raids.
The counterstrike came a few hours after the raids as a deputy police chief and two department chiefs at the Izmir Police Department, who were in charge of the harbour investigations, were dismissed.
Deputy Police Chief Mehmet Ali Sefik, the deputy chief of the organised crime unit, Taner Aydın, and chief of narcotics department, Behzat Tuzcu, were all dismissed following a decision that came in the afternoon of 7th Jan
The deputy chief of Izmir’s police force, Sevik was also in charge of the financial crimes unit.
Meanwhile, Yildirim said that he had no idea about the planned detention of his brother-in-law in his first remark that time was meaningful, following the raids.
Yildirim was replaced in the frantic Cabinet reshuffle after he announced that he would run as the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) Izmir mayoral candidate in the upcoming local elections, along with four other ministers implicated in the corruption scandal.
The former minister, who was visiting members of chambers of trade as part of his campaign for |Izmir Mayoralty, claimed that the investigation had been launched three years ago, although most reports in the Turkish media said it started a year ago with surveillance operations that lasted six months.
“According to the information that we have been able gather, the operation was launched following a complaint filed at the beginning of 2011 on the cargo handling workers. If raids are carried out three years after an investigation was launched, the timing is meaningful,” Yildirim said, suggesting that the raids coincided to negatively affect his own mayoralty bid.
“At the very least, this is aimed at sabotaging the election process and creating misperceptions. But we are clean in everything we have done,” he added.
The new raids and ensuing police purges come as the government is engulfed in a vast scandal with the sons of two ex-ministers and the chief executive of state-owned Halkbank still being held in custody.
The fighting via investigations and dismissals highlights the deepening conflict between the AKP and the Gulen movement, the followers of which are said to hold key positions inside the secret services, the police and the judiciary, and who are believed to be behind the investigation.
They also come after a letter sent by Gulen to Turkish President Abdullah Gul was made public. In the letter, the influential scholar specifically deplored the dismissal of “public workers who had no ties to the recent corruption.” He also denied claims that he had influenced state activities or given directives to civil servants, in an apparent response to Prime Minister Erdogan’s claims about the existence of a “parallel state.”
Gulen, left Turkey in 1999 after being accused by the then government of plotting to establish an Islamic state. He was cleared of that charge, but has never returned to Turkey, now living in Pennsylvania, USA.