Turkey: Police Arrested, Accused of Illegal Wiretapping and Spying on Government

Turkish police arrested 67 senior police officers Tuesday for illegal wire-tapping and spying on Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his cabinet in a wide-scale government sweep against supporters of his political rival, reports Reuters.

The Istanbul Public Prosecutor’s Office said that the nearly 200 raids in the early morning were carried out in Istanbul and 22 provinces in Turkey, says Channel News Asia. According to prosecutors, arrest warrants were issued for 115 police officers.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan

The government claims that thousands of people were illegally wiretapped, including Erdogan, cabinet members, and the head of Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization, Hakan Fidan.

The arrests included current and former top police officials, most of whom held high positions during the investigation of Erdogan and his circle last December that led to the resignation of four cabinet ministers, reports Channel News Asia.

The Prime Minister said the corruption probe was part of a plot to oust him, led by his political rival Fetullah Gulen and his supporters, who he accuses of influencing the police and judiciary. Erdogan claims that Gulen’s network devised a corruption scandal and illegally wiretapped government phones and leaked government information to the media, reports Deutsche Welle.

Gulen, an Islamic cleric, has been living in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999, and Erdogan has called on the US to extradite Gulen to Turkey. Gulen denies involvement in any plot, says Reuters.

Istanbul’s former anti-terror police chief, who was among the arrested, said that the incident is politically motivated due to the upcoming presidential election on August 10, says Reuters.

According to EurActiv, Erdogan’s cabinet asserts that it would continue the fight against Gulen’s group in the run-up to the election, in which Erdogan is seen as the front-runner.