Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday warned his rivals he would “break their hands” if they used a widening graft scandal to undermine his rule, as thousands of angry protesters called for the government’s resignation.
“Everyone will know their place,” Erdogan told cheering supporters of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in his latest combative response to a high-profile probe into bribery and corruption allegations that has ensnared Cabinet ministers.
“Whoever dares to harm, stir up or set traps in this country, we will come to break those hands,” Erdogan said in a speech in the Black Sea province of Giresun.
His heated remarks came as riot police fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse several thousand demonstrators in Istanbul calling on the AKP government to step down.
Many were protesting against grand urban development projects, but some symbolically held up shoe boxes to show their fury over recent claims of widespread bribery by members of Erdogan’s Islamic-leaning government.
In a further sign of growing public anger, Galatasaray soccer fans in Istanbul chanted: “Everywhere is bribery, everywhere is corruption” at the start of a home game against Trabzonspor.
The words were a deliberate play on a chant that was often heard during the huge anti-government protests that took over Istanbul’s Taksim Square in June: “Everywhere is Taksim, everywhere is resistance.”
The high-level graft probe has shaken Turkey’s political establishment, exposing a bitter feud between the AKP and influential Muslim academic Fethullah Gulen whose followers hold key positions in the police, judiciary and secret services.
Twenty-four people have been charged so far in connection with the investigation, including the sons of Turkish Minister of the Interior Muammer Guler and Turkish Economy Minister Zafer Caglayan, as well as the chief executive of state-owned Halkbank.
Police also seized US$4.5 million in cash hidden in shoe boxes in Halkbank chief executive officer Suleyman Aslan’s home, local media reported on Tuesday last week.
Those detained are suspected of numerous offences including accepting and facilitating bribes for development projects and securing construction permits for protected areas in exchange for money.
Erdogan has described the sweeping corruption probe, which comes ahead of crucial March municipal polls, as a smear operation against his government.
A day after their sons were charged with acting as intermediaries for giving and taking bribes, the interior and economy ministers broke their silence to deny the accusations.
“It is out of the question for us to be involved in any unlawful affairs,” Guler wrote on Twitter on Sunday, while Caglayan railed against a “big trap” set for the AKP government.
Observers have linked last week’s police raids targeting scores of people to tensions between Erdogan and followers of the Gulen movement which boiled over when the government announced plans to shut down a network of private schools run by the Islamic cleric, a major source of revenue for the group.
Gulenists were previously key backers of the AKP, helping it to win three elections in a row since it first took office in 2002.
Erdogan has responded to the mass detentions by sacking dozens of police officials, including the Istanbul police chief, for cooperating with the investigation without permission.
Local media reported on Sunday that another 25 police chiefs had been fired in the fast-moving saga.
The prime minister, whose image was already bruised by June’s anti-government unrest, is facing a key test as the country braces for an election cycle next year starting with the local polls in March.
“The nation will win on March 30, democracy will win,” he said. “We will emerge stronger as long as we remain united.”
An Australian university student who has never visited China and has only a modest social media following would seem an unlikely target for the Chinese government. However, when a Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman personally denounced Drew Pavlou at a news conference, it was just the next phase in an extraordinary campaign against the 21-year-old that has fueled concerns over China’s targeting of critics overseas. Pavlou first placed himself in the superpower’s sights when in July last year he organized a small sit-in at the University of Queensland, where he studies, to protest against various Chinese government policies. Since then, the Global
‘ASKED TO MOVE OUT’: Indonesian coast guard personnel argued with a Chinese vessel over territorial claims after it entered the country’s exclusive economic zone An Indonesian patrol ship confronted a Chinese coast guard vessel that spent almost three days in waters where Indonesia claims economic rights and that are near the southernmost part of China’s disputed claims to the South China Sea. The Indonesian Maritime Security Agency on Friday night detected Chinese ship 5204 entering Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in what Indonesia calls the North Natuna Sea. The agency sent a patrol ship that closed within 1km of the Chinese coast guard vessel and they communicated to affirm their position and their nation’s claims to the area, Indonesian Maritime Security Agency head Aan Kurnia said. “We
BEFORE WINTER COMES: Snow cuts off roads into Ladakh for four months or more each year, so the crunch is on to get food, tents and high-altitude equipment to Leh From deploying mules to large transport aircraft, the Indian military has activated its entire logistics network to transport supplies to thousands of troops for a harsh winter along a bitterly disputed Himalayan border with China. In the past few months, one of India’s biggest military logistics exercises in years has brought vast quantities of ammunition, equipment, fuel, winter supplies and food into Ladakh, a region bordering Tibet that India administers as a union territory, officials said. The move was triggered by a border standoff with China in the snow deserts of Ladakh that began in May and escalated in June into hand-to-hand
A Malaysian student whose cellphone was stolen while he was sleeping has tracked down the culprit: a monkey who took photo and video selfies with the device before abandoning it. Zackrydz Rodzi, 20, on Wednesday said that his mobile phone was missing from his bedroom when he woke up on Saturday. He found the phone’s casing under his bed, but there was no sign of robbery in his house in Johor state. JUNGLE When his father saw a monkey the next day, he searched in the jungle behind his house. Using his brother’s cellphone to call his own device, he found it covered