Turkish corruption probe blocked: prosecutor

Prosecutor Muammer Akkaş said he was prevented from doing his job without a valid reason

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Turkish Prosecutor Muammer Akkaş on Thursday said a case to expand investigation into a massive corruption scandal has been taken from him, essentially blocking him from doing his job.

“All my colleagues and the public should be aware that I, as public prosecutor, have been prevented from launching an investigation,” Akkaş said in a statement to the media.

The public prosecutor’s office in Istanbul ordered this week the arrest of 30 suspects, including top businessmen and people close to the government.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan accused “foreign parties” of masterminding the corruption scandal to overthrow his government.

His interior ministry moved to purge Istanbul police department, removing many officers from their posts and assigning others close to the government.

Akkas said the police did not comply with his order to arrest more suspects.

“By means of the police force, the judiciary was subjected to open pressure, and the execution of court orders was obstructed,” public prosecutor Akkas added in his written statement.

“A crime has been committed throughout the chain of command... Suspects have been allowed to take precautions, flee and tamper with the evidence,” he said.

Though Akkas did not identify anyone by name, his allegations looked likely to add to spiraling anger in Turkey over the case.

Erdogan announced a major cabinet reshuffle late Wednesday, replacing almost half his key ministers after three of them resigned under a huge graft scandal that is seen also threatening the premier’s hold on power.

Erdogan named 10 new cabinet members, replacing the ministers for the interior, economy, environment, EU affairs, justice, transport, family, sports and industry, and the deputy prime minister, after a closed-door meeting with President Abdullah Gul.

Police conducted raids last week and detained dozens of people suspected of numerous offences including accepting and facilitating bribes for development projects and securing construction permits for protected areas in exchange for money.

Erdogan, who has led Turkey since 2002 as the head of a conservative Islamic-leaning government, has described the probe as “a smear campaign” to undermine Turkey’s ambitions to become a major political and economic power.

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