Turkey's top judicial body suspends graft probe prosecutors: media

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 30, 2014 8:18 AM

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkey's top judicial body has suspended four prosecutors who initiated a high-reaching corruption investigation that targeted the inner circle of President Tayyip Erdogan, local media reported on Tuesday.

The corruption probe, which became public with raids on Dec. 17 last year, led to the resignation of three ministers and prompted Erdogan to purge the state apparatus, reassigning thousands of police and hundreds of judges and prosecutors.

Zekeriya Oz, Istanbul's former deputy chief prosecutor, and three other prosecutors who worked on the corruption probe were taken off the case weeks after the police raids in which dozens, including the children of former ministers, were detained.

New prosecutors were assigned following their removal, who have dropped the charges in October.

Erdogan portrayed the corruption scandal, which posed one of the biggest challenges to his more than decade-long leadership, as a coup attempt orchestrated by his former ally, U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, to undermine his rule.

In July, the High Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) launched an investigation into the work of the four prosecutors facing accusations including making political comments on Twitter and detaining suspects without concrete information.

They will remain suspended until the investigation is completed, local media said on Tuesday.

Separately, a journalist was detained by the police over comments made on Twitter regarding the corruption scandal, local media reported. Police carried out a search in her home.

"Do not forget the name of the prosecutor who dismissed December 17 case," Kabas said on Twitter according to a screen shot of her Twitter feed on local media. She also included the name of the prosecutor in her tweet with a picture of him.

Her tweets were no longer public on Tuesday and could not be verified.

But her arrest raised concerns among Erdogan's opponents who accuse him of growing increasingly authoritarian and intolerant of dissent. The Turkish leader's reaction to the graft inquiry -- tightening control of the Internet, banning Twitter for two weeks and carrying out a purge in the bureaucracy -- has drawn international criticism.

He has also pushed for new legislation which has brought HSYK, the body responsible for appointments, transfers, expulsions and promotions of the country's top judicial figures, under the control of the justice minister.

The council had been seen by Erdogan and his supporters, as a body where Gulen devotees wielded influence over the judicial process. In an October election, government-backed candidates won most seats in HSYK.

(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; Additional reporting by Gulsen Solaker; Editing by Dasha Afanasieva and Ralph Boulton)