Turkey's parliament meets to take up corruption

AP News
Posted: Mar 19, 2014 11:29 AM

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey's opposition recalled parliament for an extraordinary session on Wednesday to air corruption allegations against Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's government less than two weeks before local elections that are seen as a referendum over his rule.

The main opposition Republican People's Party, backed by two other parties, recalled legislators from recess to force parliament to read prosecutors' files against four former government ministers allegedly implicated in corruption and bribe-taking. Reading the papers would put evidence into the public domain, exposing Erdogan to further embarrassment before the March 30 elections.

The corruption allegations have dealt a blow to Erdogan, damaging the devoutly religious and honest image that had helped him win three general elections since 2002. His party is widely expected to come out first from the elections but in a weaker position and may lose some municipalities.

Erdogan's party, which commands a majority in parliament, was expected to block a public reading of the documents but a party legislator said it would instead propose the establishment of committees that would investigate the allegations behind closed doors.

Erdogan has rejected allegations of corruption as a plot orchestrated by followers of a U.S.-based Muslim cleric to undermine his government.

Documents leaked on the Internet and purported to be the prosecutors' files accuse three ministers of facilitating an Iranian businessman's money transfers to Iran in return for multi-million dollar bribes. A fourth minister is accused of taking bribes in return for construction permits.

Three ministers were forced to resign in December after their sons were arrested in a police investigation and raids while a fourth was dismissed in a Cabinet re-shuffle. Erdogan's son was questioned as part of a second, stalled corruption investigation.

Erdogan's reputation has been hurt by a series of audio recordings of wiretapped telephone conversations anonymously leaked onto the Internet, including one in which he is allegedly heard telling his son to dispose of large amounts of money from a residence on the day of the police raids. Erdogan said that recording was fabricated.

The Associated Press could not verify the authenticity of the recordings or the documents. Turkey's transport minister said Wednesday most of the recordings were leaked from the United States. He did not elaborate.