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Turkey police hunt nine suspects in wire-tapping probe

A total of 105 serving and former top police officers have so far been detained

Published: Updated:

Turkish authorities were on Wednesday hunting for nine police intelligence officers still on the run after a massive operation against suspected illegal wire-tapping resulted in the arrest of over 100 people.

A total of 105 serving and former top police officers have so far been detained since early morning raids were launched on Tuesday in Istanbul and other cities, including the capital Ankara as well as Izmir and Diyarbakir.

The suspects are accused of espionage, illegal wire-tapping, forging official documents, violation of privacy, fabricating evidence and violating the secrecy of an investigation.

In the raids that continued through Wednesday, police failed to find the nine wanted intelligence officers, including Erol Demirhan, the former head of the intelligence department of the Istanbul police.

Demirhan disappeared after saying he was going to surrender to authorities in Ankara, Hurriyet newspaper reported on its website.

The arrests are the latest episode in a rivalry between Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his former ally, the US-exiled Fethullah Gulen, involving a huge graft scandal that shook the government.

Police on Tuesday led away in handcuffs dozens of high-ranking police officers, some of whom denounced the raids as entirely political coming just ahead of the August 10 presidential elections which Erdogan is widely expected to win.

In a show of defiance, another former Istanbul police intelligence chief, Ali Fuat Yilmazer, raised his handcuffed fists high above his head and said on Wednesday: “Turkey will see, these (the handcuffs) are medals of honour”.

Erdogan has long accused followers of Gulen of establishing a “parallel structure within the state” by using its sway in Turkey’s police and the judiciary and of concocting the vast corruption scandal.

Some of those detained were reportedly involved in the corruption probe that was launched late last year and were among thousands of officials sacked by Erdogan’s government in a spectacular purge of the police forces.

A group of them are suspected of illegally eavesdropping on prominent figures since 2010, including Erdogan, judges, journalists, cabinet members, as well as the head of Turkey’s National Intelligence Organisation (MIT), Hakan Fidan.

After March 30 local elections that gave his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) a crushing victory, Erdogan had vowed to pursue his rivals “in their lairs” and said he would seek Gulen’s extradition.